Enjoying Washington, D.C. // Vintage Game Night

If there’s something I love about Washington, D.C., especially in the summer, it’s that many of the historic mansions in the city take full advantage of the high nerd level in the city and host a variety of interesting events. I’m going to be exploring many of those this summer and sharing them with you.

Earlier this week I tried something new: Vintage Game Night at the Woodrow Wilson House. I’m not sure what I was expecting but it certainly wasn’t scores of young professionals leaning elegantly against their croquet mallets, and playing card games circa the early 1900s with strangers while sipping white wine.

The entrance fee of $15 includes two drink tickets, light snacks, several games with instructions, but most awesomely for me, the historic venue to lounge around as if you were personally invited by President and Mrs. Wilson themselves.

I didn’t sense any of the pretension that I often find at events in D.C. There was none of that “where do YOU work?” business, which was beyond refreshing. Some of the games were super confusing and made me think that back in the day people didn’t have television, Twitter or blogs, so that had more mind space to make sense of the instructions. However, as we were leaving a group of people pulled us into this game of Pit which was so much fun. It’s a trading game where you yell at everyone trying to trade your cards until you have a fully matching set. It was a great way to make new friends. While we’d been getting ready to leave about twenty minutes early, we ended up staying twenty minutes after closing time.

Want to experience Vintage Game Night yourself? It’s hosted every first Wednesday from 5:30pm-8:00pm.

A few pictures…

 

Asian Adventure: The Wrap-up

I didn’t take the time to write about day nine because it was basically just a travel day and involved a 30 hour journey back home. I was pretty sad to say goodbye to Koh Samui! What a wonderful and peaceful place, I will definitely be back! 

Surprises

I’ve been asked a few times what surprised me the most about my first foray into Asia. I guess I would say how foreign it didn’t seem to me. Maybe after all of these adventures I’ve just gotten used to being on the road. Or, it could have to do with the fact that there were a lot of other brown people walking around so I didn’t stand out quite as much as I do in other parts of the world. I didn’t expect to feel as comfortable as I did in a country where I had very little understanding of the language, was the farthest away from home that I’ve ever been, and one where 97% of the country was something other than Christian.

I was also very surprised by how HOT it was. And it wasn’t just me! Multiple Thais were like..”man, it’s hot.”

Most Enjoyed 

Everything in Thailand is pretty relaxed, with a few unsettling exceptions like the number of cops walking around with serious artillery. Even in the mad rush and insanity of the city traffic, people were taking time to be polite in a way that I rarely see in Washington since we’re all rushing around all the time. There acceptance about the fact that we were all stuck in traffic as opposed to the anxiety and frustration that exists here. I felt like I could appreciate the not-so-dull roar around the city without being overwhelmed by it.

Lessons Learned 

I can survive traveling for 30 hours straight. Upgrading to business class on the way home was the best decision I’ve ever made, and being pampered on the last leg and longest (14 hours) leg of the trip was worth every single penny. I’m sure this isn’t something that I won’t be able to do every time, but I did answer the question of whether or not it’s “worth it.”

Still to Explore 

I will absolutely be going back to Thailand. I want to go up to Chang Mai, which is in the northern part of the country, and I guess I should see what all the noise is about in Phuket as well. Though that party scene isn’t really my jam.

Where next, you ask? 

I’m not quite sure yet. I can admit that I was looking up flights to South Africa on while on my layover in Doha. Perhaps there or somewhere in South America. Now that I’ve broken out of Europe the world is my oyster. Let me know if you have ideas.

Until next time…

Wanna read the adventures from the beginning?

Photos! 

 

 

Asian Adventure: Day Eight

It’s our last full day in Thailand! This turned out to be my favorite day, and we were planning to spend it on the water.

Are We There Yet?

I found a tour that would take us on a traditional Thai yacht to Ang Thong Marine Park. It would be a full day trip that would include snorkelng, kayaking, a Thai lunch, and a hike up to the Emerald Lagoon that was made popular by Leonard DiCaprio’s movie, The Beach. 

A shuttle picked us up from the hotel, which was really nice, because we were finding that taxis in Koh Samui were way more expensive than taxis in Bangkok. Granted we had been spoiled and taxis were so freaking cheap in the city. Anyway, we basically drove around the entire island to where the dock. The actual dock looked more like a river inlet with a few ships that had run aground, which definitely made me a little nervous but I found that to be a theme in Thailand, really nice things juxtaposed with areas that I wouldn’t consider to be nice. 

Before we knew it, we were off! There were so many incredible views that after awhile I just stopped taking pictures. 

Kayaking!

Our first stop was to go kayaking. The guide took us under these islands and through the marine park. I wish we hadn’t been needing to kayak because I just wanted to float and take in the views. 


Snorkeling

Next, we sailed a few to one of the other islands and went snorkeling. This was my first time snorkeling and I was so struck by this underwater world that existed. 


A 150 Steps

And lastly, we went to the Emerald Lagoon which is a hidden lagoon that you have to climb over 150 steps to get to. I will say that “steps” is a little misleading, it was more like climbing up a rock face on a very steep ladder. We did it though and the view at the top was well worth it. 

Sunset
By now everyone on the boat was pretty exhausted. We all relaxed and enjoyed the ride back to Koh Samui. We were treated to an amazing sunset on the way back. Sitting on the bow of the ship watching the sunset I was struck by the incredible beauty of the place, and was so grateful to God that He’d brought me to that place to enjoy that moment.

UP NEXT: A few hours at the market before the 30 hour journey home.

Asian Adventure: Day Seven

Today was going to be relaxing. We were on an island town, we didn’t have much planned, and we were so excited for the day.


Another Market!

What we planned for the day was a Thai cooking class. We met Stephanie, a French chef and ex-pat, at the Bophut Fresh Market. I must say that this was one of my favorite experiences in Thailand so far. Stephanie went through nearly every fresh vegetable and item and explained to us what they were and how they are used in Thai cuisine. It was fascinating! 


Then she took us to this stall so that we could try some street food. In Thailand there is street food everywhere. Literally on the sidewalk someone will set up a grill sell food, and while it always smells good, we hadn’t been confident enough in the past that it wouldn’t make us sick! So when Stephanie could vouch for this chef and tell us that she prepares the food daily, and it’s always good, and we can trust it, I was in. I choose a spicy chicken dish and I don’t think I’ve ever tasted something so flavorful and delicious. I wanted to buy more but I knew that we were going to be making several dishes for lunch so I refrained.


Cooking Class!

Stephanie took us back to the villa that served as her cooking school. We were greeted by three Thai ladies who would be helping us for the day. Since we got to choose items from the menu I went with  stir fry ginger chicken, Thai spring rolls, and chili mixed vegetables. There was another guest from Australia who joined and chose two curry dishes. What we didn’t know was that he was also a chef which made sense because he made everything look so easy. The cooking was a lot of work but we had a wonderful time doing it and the meal afterwards was totally worth it.

When in Thailand

Next it was time to go to the spa. I got a sea salt scrub, a Thai massage, and a face mask. I don’t think I’ve ever been more relaxed in my life. I’d never had a Thai massage before and didn’t know what to expect. It was like a yoga class with hands-on assist the whole time. They gave me a Thai outfit (kind of like pajamas) and she pushed, and stretched, and pulled me until I was so very relaxed. Somehow, I managed to get my act together enough to slide out of the spa but let me tell you, it wasn’t easy!

UP NEXT: Our last full day in Thailand! We’ll be going on a boat tour of the Ang Thong Marine Park. I can’t wait to see some unspoilt natural beauty! 

Asian Adventure: Day Six

Today was mostly a travel day but by the end of we’d find ourselves in beautiful Koh Samui.

Lovely Breakfast

We were craving some croissants, so we followed our noses to the Paul that was about two blocks away from the hotel. After eating a delicious breakfast, we made our way to the airport, excited to slow things down and cool off for a few days. 

View from the Plane

There was a delay on the Tarmac in Bangkok, but before we knew it, we were cruising over the beautiful Gulf of Thailand. We landed at Koh Samui airport which is basically a whole bunch of connected huts. Our hotel sent a shuttle for us and we were greeted with cold towels, and iced bottled water. What a warm welcome! 

Koh Samui 

I guess we really shouldn’t have been surprised by this, but even though the temperature was a few degrees less than Bangkok, the humid was way higher. So much for getting away from the heat! The island was pretty interesting. Though the mopeds still ruled the road, they seemed a bit more polite here. Not everyone was rushing around. And why would you want to when you consider the amazing vistas there were around every corner?

We weren’t staying on the beach but instead in the hills so that we could maximize our view. Watching the van navigate the crazy inclines on tiny roads was really taking me back to driving around in Scotland. 

Finally we arrived at the resort. The reception area was completely open air and before we knew it they were taking us up in a cart to our lovely room. For awhile we just soaked in this view.


The hotel was offering an evening yoga class so I decided to take advantage. It ended up being a private class as I was the only one there! I had pretty much the same view as from my hotel room, and when I was on my back looking up, the sky was my ceiling! It was so lovely. 

For dinner we got sushi at a restaurant close by. It was a lovely and relaxing way to finish a day of travel!

UP NEXT: A cooking class and the spa!

Asian Adventure: Day Five

Today we’re leaving Bangkok to go explore the Summer Palace and some ancient ruins. 

Bye, bye Bangkok

It was an early morning, I can admit that. I’m still not completely on Bangkok time, but still it wasn’t painful to get up, but I wouldn’t have minded a few more minutes in bed either. 

A bus picked us up from our apartment to take us to where the coach would be leaving from. We got to drive through Bangkok’s Chinatown which I had wanted to do on our first day here but it just turned out to be too hot. 

Before long we were headed North of Bangkok, the traffic wasn’t too bad leaving the city but I felt bad for those trying to head into the city because it was bumper-to-bumper!


First Stop: Summer Palace

Our first stop was Bang Pa-In which was the Summer Palace for the Royal family originally constructed in 1632.  Being here definitely took me back to exploring the summer palace in Vienna, but instead of one massive building, this was actually a complex of ornate buildings surrounded by peaceful park land and lakes. 


Ayutthaya Historical Park

The next stop was the Ayutthaya Historical Park which was founded in 1632, but was pillaged by the Burmese in 1767. The grounds of this park were so extensive that we didn’t even get a chance to explore everything before it was time to go. It’s such a shame that these are basically ruins because I can image that it must have been an awe-inspiring place.


Wat Phra Si Sanphet 

The last place we visited was Wat Phra Si Sanphet which was a very holy temple near the old capital. It was completed in 1351 and you could feel the Old was of the city. I felt like we were in an Indiana Jones movies exploring some archelogical dig. 

Boat Ride!

Instead of taking the bus back to Bangkok, we went to a boat and floated down the river back to the city. This was lovely because it was over 100 degrees and while extremely cool to be on these sites, it was also extremely, extremely hot. There was AC in the boat and they served a delicious Thai buffet for lunch. Thai food in D.C. is never going to be the same. 

After we got back to the apartment I was done in. I passed out in my room while the girls went to the pool. For dinner we decided to go fancy and went to dinner at this wine bar that was on the top floor of a hotel close by. I had a delicious tuna tare tare and finally a nice bourbon cocktail. 

Overall a steamy but wonderful day!

UP NEXT: We’re leaving Bangkok behind for Ko Samui. I’m excited to see another part of this lovely country. 

Some Photos 


Asian Adventure: Day Four 

Another day in Bangkok! There wasn’t much sleep that happened last night due to jetlag, but we set out determined to make the most of the day!

Breakfast

Today we went the American route and enjoyed a delicious breakfast at Dean & Deluca. It was light and lovely inside, and the food was amazing. I had to refrain from going grocery shopping there though, I didn’t love the idea of getting Scottish shortbread that I usually bring home from Great Britain on this trip to Asia. 


Visiting the Jim Thompson House 

After breakfast we headed across town on the BTS to the Jim Thompson house. Thompson was an American who fell in love with Thailand after WWII and decided to stay here. He helped to bring the amazing silk trade to the company and is very mysterious because he suddenly disappeared at age 61 and no one knows where he went! The house was lovely, and we got to see some traditional Thai housing.


Tuk-tuk

After  touring the house, we decided to take a tuk-tuk up to Pratunam Market. This was quite the experience, let me tell you!  A tuk-tuk is like a motorcycle with a large basket on the back. Since driving can be a bit crazy in Bangkok, it made for quite a nerve wracking experience to be slung around the city in the back of that thing. I’m glad that I did it so that I could say that I did, and because even with the element of fear it was pretty exciting.

Soon enough we arrived safely at Pratunam Market. I think perhaps we went on the wrong day or at the wrong time because there was not much on offer at the market and we left pretty much as soon as we got there. Instead, we decided to go across the street to the Platinum Mall, mostly because it was indoors and air conditioned. I’m not sure what we were expecting, but what we found inside with consistent with the rest of Bangkok – well-controlled chaos. Picture six floors of a mall with two banks of escalators and literally hundreds of little stalls more in the way of a market than a mall that we’re used to in the States. 


We were able to find a couple of once items before we were heading to House on Sathorn to try Thai afternoon tea. We were seated in the courtyard, in the shade, and next to the fan. They were able to serve our tea iced and it was so delicious and refreshing. After tea we headed back to the hotel to relax for a few hours. 

Dinner Time! 

For dinner we went to this little tavern called Lady Brett. It was small but enjoyable and I had the most juicy and delicious chicken thigh with grilled sticky rice which mean that it was brown. At first I thought that it was burnt, but when I tasted it. Yummy, yummy, yummy!  

UP NEXT: We’re leaving Bangkok to the day to go explore ancient ruins!

Asian Adventure: Day Three

It was our first real day in Bangkok and we were ready to get our explore on!

Rise & Shine

Usually, the first morning in a new country is really tough for me, but after an amazing night of sleep, I awoke ready to take on the day as opposed to constantly wanting to hit the snooze button. We got up and got dressed, and then headed to breakfast at Rocket Bar, an adorable little Scandanvian restaurant that was a few blocks from our apartment. I had a delicious herbed omelet and some crispy bacon. We sat outside and soaked in being in Thailand!


To the Old City!

Next, we hopped on the BTS train which was super easy to navigate and very clean. From the BTS we boarded the water taxi which was an interesting experience for sure. The way that the driver knows to keep driving after a stop is because of the way the guy working in the back of the boat whistles. One short whistle followed by one long whistle seemed to mean “everyone’s aboard, head to the next stop.” One short whistles meant “move closer to the dock.” That’s all that I could decipher before our short ride before arriving in the Old City. 

In every major city there’s a tourist center and this is Bangkok’s. We were surrounded by humanity and it was so incredibly HOT. Additionally, out of respect for the temples that we were going to, we were required to cover our shoulders and our knees which made things even hotter! You’ll notice that I’m practically dripping in all of our photos.

Walking into the Grand Palace was amazing. The architecture is a different from anything that I’ve ever seen before, and it was so ornate. The heat and overwhelming number of people walking around diminished the experience a bit, but it was stil so cool to see.


Next, we walked to Wat Pho or the reclining Buddha, this huge statue. It was much cooler in temperature and had less people so we were able to enjoy it more.

Lunch Time 

Next we walked back towards the river to enjoy some lunch at our first traditionally Thai restaurant. It had an amazing view overlooking the river and man was the food delicous! 

Exhausted from the sun beating down on us, we went back to the hotel to rest up. I planned dinner in a New Zealand restaurant that was close to our apartment. The design was modern and lovely, and the food was great. I had pan seared fish and chips. Yum!

Overall, a wonderful first day in Thailand!

UP NEXT: Visiting an old historic home and a market. Basically Classic Jess 

Asian Adventure: Day Two

Well, it was another day in the air and after over 30 hours traveling across the world we were finally in Thailand!

Landing in Asia
The flight from Doha to Bangkok was  uneventful; I was really lucky because once again the middle seat was empty which meant that I got a chance to stretch out on the 6.5 hour flight. Before I knew it, wheels were touching the ground and we had arrived!

Border Control was quick and efficient! We filled out a landing card, got our passports stamped, and were on our way! The drive into the city revealed several interesting things. First of all, I’d forgotten that they drive on the left side of the road here, this would mean that I’d have to be extra careful crossing the street. The next thing was that there were lots of advertisements for AC units on billboards,  I wouldn’t understand the full significance of this until the next day. And lastly, they drive crazily but also very politely in Bangkok. The speed limit that everyone was blowing through was 80 miles per hour, no one was really using their turn signals, and the mopeds were clearly on the top of the vechicular food chain. 

We checked into the apartment and rested for a bit, then we made a little journey to the local Boots for a few items. Here I was struck but the overwhelming buzz of the moped, there were so many! They really don’t seem to care too many for pedistrians and crossing the street was a bit dramatic. We were able to learn on the fly, though!


Roof Top Drinks 

I thought that for our first night in Bangkok, we should do something that was pretty popular in the city, enjoy drinks on a roof top bar. The one I chose, out of the scores of them, was called the Speakeasy. Yes, I flew across the world to go to a restaurant that styled after something American, but it was worth it! The view was stunning, the food was delicious (I did get an Asian dish), and the atmosphere was wonderful. All of the wait staff dresses the part, and the door to get all the way up to the roof was hidden.


Market Time!

After lingering over our dinner, we headed to the Patpong Night Market. If you’ve read of any of my adventures, you’ll know that I love market shopping. This market met my expectations. I’ve always said that I don’t like to haggle, but I have to admit that I may be a changed woman. I was able to get some awesome deals! What is interesting about Patpong is that it’s so close to the red light district, which meant that small gifts and clothes weren’t the only thing for sale. I knew what I was getting into by being in this part of town, but still sometimes it shocks me.


And Finally, Some Dessert

When walking out of the market, we happened upon Haagen Daz and decided to go for some ice cream. This was more of an ice cream cafe than just an ice cream shop. We sat down and they gave us menus. I ordered caramel ice cream on a warm waffle with rainbow sprinkles. Hmmm…it was so yummy. After that we walked back to the apartment, ever so ready for blessed sleep. 

UP NEXT: We’ll be visiting the Old City!

Asian Adventure: Day One

It’s time for another adventure! After six years of exploring Europe, I’m headed to Asia! We’re going to Thailand to explore for ten days and see what the country has to offer. Okay, let’s go! 

Boarding Time 

I’m going to be honest, it was a really busy day prior to heading to the airport. I hosted Easter linner at my house before heading to the airport. For once, I didn’t cut it too close and got to the airport in plenty of time to check my luggage and breeze through a practically empty security line. 

Though boarding took forever, it was pretty smooth and before we knew it, we were headed on our Qatar Airways flight aboard a Boeing 777. The first leg of our flight was 12 hours and had us traveling to Doha for a nine hour layover. 

The flight was pretty smooth, though a little bit bumpy. Because my day had been so full, I was able to take an Advil PM and slept a full SEVEN hours. It was glorious! 


Hello Doha!

Before long I could feel the heat coming through the window of the airplane and I knew that we must be getting ready to land in the desert! Unfortunately, the wing blocked my view so I could only see a little bit of the Arabian gulf, but what I could see was beautiful blue waters. 

Qatar Airways is amazing and they have this three hour free tour of the city they gave to those who have long layovers. We landed in Hamad International airport and were amazed! This is one of the closest airports that I’ve ever seen. They have free Macs for people to use, a playground for children, excellent free wifi (that I’m currently on), and a warm open atmosphere.

We easily found the tour desk and after going through security again, we made our way into the city. The tour stopped first at the Corniche Promenade close to the Museum of Islamic Art which had amazing views of the Doha skyline. Then we went to the Pearl Island which is a man-made island that has a whole bunch of luxury shops. Lastly, we went to Souq Waqif which means the Standing Market in English. It was so busy with people! I feel like this is where the Qataris hang out. There were sidewalk cafes, fabric shops, as well as a few tourist traps. I didn’t see anything worth buying, but when I came upon the bird market!! There were cages and cages of parakeets, cockatiels, and Indian ring necks. It was so cool! I did make me a little sad because some of the birds were clearly not being treated well, but they generally seemed so happy and noisy. 

Back to the Airport 


Before we knew it, the tour was over and we were back in the airport. We found a nice Arabian restaurant to eat a classic meal in aiport to wait out the rest of our layover. I had a delicious lamb wrap, and delicious chai. We’ll be in Bangkok in six more hours!
UP NEXT: Exploring Bangkok! We’ll land and then relax, and then go try out something that’s super popular in Bangkok – a rooftop bar!