2016 Thailand trip – Day 3

It is day 3 of our Thailand trip and the morning after our first day in Chiang Mai. Yesterday, was probably my most enjoyable day so far. Chiang Mai feels different and slower-moving than Bangkok. It moves at a slower, gentler pace. It is cleaner, and people so far have been very kind and patient with our inability to speak more than three Thai phrases.

Last night after we spent the day visiting tigers and deadly venomous snakes in an unnerving proximity, we asked to be dropped off at one end of the town so that we could walk back to our hotel on the other end. We wanted to experience the local market and see the city. It was pleasant and very family-oriented experience. The market stalls were almost always manned and operated by family members. Elena commented that she felt very safe walking the streets and even the smaller, darker alleyways. We meandered down a small one-car wide street peppered with hostels and all the accommodations such travelers require. Good, cheap restaurants. Corner stores selling cold beverages. Pharmacies and laundry services.

Dinner was a highlight for me because we used Trip Advisor ratings to find a restaurant that specialized in grilled fish over open fire. Tour operators, and pharmacies. 24-hour bespoke suit shops that will make a suit in 24 hours. it was a love a family-run business with the father and oldest son manning the grills and preparing most of the dishes, while their daughter and wife took very good care of us in the on-street dining area.

I’ve probably never had such an Anthony Bourdain experience. it was incredible. From the interactions with the family to my dishes of simple yet flavorful grilled meats that were just the perfect amount of painfully hot chilis to the two large bottles of perfectly cold local beers. I was very content. WE ended the night with a beautiful 15-minute stroll down artist and vender-lined streets back to our hotel but not before we found Elena a cool pair of light-weight pants to add to her wardrobe.

Tomorrow, we travel to a working farm and cooking school to learn a few recipes of Thai cuisine.

A few things we can learn from the Japanese people…

I was traveling around Japan in March 2011, and was in the Tokyo when the first of the earthquake tremors hit, and was there for the two days following…experiencing the aftershocks (many of which were big enough to be considered earthquakes), and observing–not surprisingly however–why I think the Japanese people are so amazing.    Below are some of the things we saw.

After the initial earthquake on Friday afternoon, all transportation was shut down.  All trains and buses were not running, and taxicab lines were two hours long, so we found a restaurant and bar to pass the time away.   We found a number of calm Japanese, not panicking, and just watching the news channel with a pint of beer in hand.  I even spoke with one man who was worried about his family, which he could not reach since phone lines and the trains from Tokyo to his rural suburb were not working.

We were in the Tokyo Stock Exchange building when the earthquake hit, and it was probably the best place we could have been.  The incredible architecture of buildings allowed them to sway but not fall, while outside on the streets, some glass windows and tilings on outside walls cracked and fell to the ground, putting pedestrians at risk.

Disciplined queues for water and groceries. Not a rough word or a crude gesture.  People bought only what they needed for the present, so everybody could get something.  When the power went off in a store, people put things back on the shelves and left quietly.   There was no looting in shops.  No honking or overtaking on the roads.  The Japanese were very polite even to us travelers after such a devastating catastrophe.

Restaurants cut prices. An unguarded ATM is left alone.

All the Japanese professionals working in downtown Tokyo knew exactly what to do when the earthquake hit.  They calmly filed out of buildings with their employee-issued white construction helmets.  Even our Tokyo Stock Exchange tour guide calmly instructed us to get under the desks.

They showed magnificent restraint in the bulletins. No silly reporters. Only calm reportage.

Even though I saw first-hand–during the Great Flood of 1993 (I was a volunteer sand-bagger with my dad)–how Americans can come together to help one another, I still think we can learn a few things from the Japanese.

Romantique Hotels

Ever since I visited the Casa Santa Domingo, a 16th century convent that was converted into world-class hotel (see my blog post from my visit), I am interested in staying in historical hotels with wood-burning fireplaces.

Staying in historically significant buildings just adds so many layers to the hotel-staying experience.  Staying in building that is hundreds of years  old makes for a romantic experience, which I describe as a connection to timeless aspect of human life.

I’m not surprised therefore to have discovered Romantique Hotels, which is a network of privately owned, historic hotels in Europe.   I think this selection of hotels make for efficient directory of places to consider for your wedding, anniversary, or just your next vacation.   Order a catalog of all the hotels in the Romantique network here, or browse the different specialties (e.g. wine, gourmet cuisine, etc.) and activities (e.g. golf, culture, etc.) offered by the different hotels.

Casa Santo Domingo (Antigua, Guatemala)

If you ever travel to Antigua, Guatemala (say for a destination wedding like I did), I highly recommend staying at the Casa Santo Domingo.  The converted 16th century convent, now luxury hotel, is a special place.   In January 2010, it was a Conde Nast Gold List Hotel (#681) – World’s Best Places To Stay, and #1 in Guatemala.   Thing seem in balance there.  Nothing moves too quick or too slow.  The centuries old architecture (from the monastery) blends in balanced form with modern accents and accommodations.  The rhythm of nature dominates that of fast-paced technology, making for a relaxing retreat inside the walled fortress-like compound of the hotel property.  Gardens, patios and balconies off every room, tropical plants that grow in the air drape walkways, and even macaw parrots are kept near the pool area.   Everything is kept in proper proportion to remind you just enough of where you are, which is very much still an ancient Spanish speaking village.

The food served at the hotel restaurant is also excellent.  Knowing we were staying in a country where tap water was not safe to drink, we all ate and drank confidently and happily the food and drink served by the resort restaurant.

Pricey, yes, but Casa Santa Domingo is worth well worth visiting if you travel to Guatemala.  If you are looking to get away from it all and just decompress, it may even be worth traveling to Guatemala just to stay at Casa Santa Domingo.    P.S. You would be mistaken to interpret the outdated design of the resort’s website to be reflective of anything more than it being a low priority of the resort.


One style of room at Casa Santa Domingo