• Vacation Countdown - 10 days until Morocco!

    The poetic side of me likes to think that I can embrace spontaneity. That taking the unbeaten path my whims lead me on, over the well-worn ones, will yield situations for self-discovery and insight into the spirit of a place. That it is truly about the journey and not the destination. 

    The reality is that I really like to plan vacations. I am all about the journey before the journey. I start planning months in advance for a long trip, and a few weeks in advance for short three-day stints in closer destinations (like Philly, Baltimore or Brooklyn). Preferably, if I have enough time, I will max out my Excel skills to create complex spreadsheets for my vacations - listing accommodation options, compiling contact information, devising a travel budget and researching must-see (or more importantly, must-eat) spots. I am a Planner, with a capital P. 

    So, when Pem and I received invites to attend our friends' wedding in Marrakech, I started brainstorming itineraries the moment we booked our Hanoi-Casablanca plane tickets. That was four months ago. Morocco has so many options to offer travelers, it was tough to pare down the stops for our 10-day itinerary. I tried to make my planning mantra "see more by doing less", but in the end, we pinned four places - Marrakech, Skoura, Fes and Meknes.

    Now 10 days away from our departure date, we are officially in the vacation countdown mode. I can't wait to explore Morocco with my own two feet. In the end, whether you're strolling a well-trodden path or bushwhacking yourself a new one, it's your very own eyes that will lead you and your very own feet that will take you - and that makes all the difference.

    Any travel tips or recommendations for the four cities I mentioned above, or others that are close-by? I can always use more! :-) In the meantime, you can find me starting my packing list...

    P.S. -  A 2010 NYT article profiled a study on the relationship between vacations and happiness, which found that "the largest boost in happiness comes from the simple act of planning a vacation" and that these happiness levels can last up to 8 weeks. However, "after the vacation, happiness quickly dropped back to baseline levels for most people." Well, that's rather obvious, no? (article found via Cup of Jo)

    (Photo credit: Jodi Ettenberg, lawyer turned world traveler turned blogger, who has been touring the globe for the last five years and writing a blog about it. Be still, my heart. Her blog, Legal Nomads, has some great fodder for global foodies, with plenty of nice pictures to boot.)
  • NYT Spends 36 Hours in My Favorite City

    If you felt pangs of wanderlust while reading my last two posts, check out the latest NYT's 36 Hours in Bangkok. The intro is spot on - "To travel across Bangkok is to see several worlds at once."

    The recommended itinerary is pretty good and does indeed seem to promise the traveler glimpses into many of Bangkok's different worlds. I would say an absolute must which the article omits is sunset happy hour at Arun Residence's The Deck Restaurant. Get there early. From your seat, you can watch the blazing sun melt behind the Temple of Dawn in a fury of pinks, oranges and reds while sipping on a well-deserved cocktail.

    (photo credit - Pem, with some minor editing)
  • In a Concrete Jungle...

    Bangkok is big. And this concrete jungle of a city keeps growing every day. Even since my visit last April, I feel like more condos and shopping malls have cropped up or are under construction. It's impressive and clear evidence of the upward trend of economic strength and stability of Thailand's capital. It's a little bewildering to think about what this city might look like in five or ten years' time.

    Since my parents moved into my grandparents' home in the middle of Bangkok's shopping district over five years ago, they have transformed their garden into an oasis within the city. The week we were there, waxy pink ginger flowers, bright red birds of paradise, vibrant purple plumeria blossoms, mango trees, white-flowered calamansi, various types of herbs and a dozen (or more!) different kinds of bananas were growing in the garden. Even these mid-April mornings were too hot to enjoy breakfast on the patio, but one morning I set out to capture as much of the garden's beauty as I could. Cultivated green spaces like this are really unique in Bangkok and they are becoming more rare by the minute.