Friday, June 30, 2017

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday Travel Tip - Thailand - Night Markets

Just about every city in Thailand has night markets, I only say “just about” because I have not visited every city, however every city I ever visited had a night market. Some of these markets are huge while others can be fairly small. The markets themselves can change in size depending on the days as well as the seasons. Weekends are often the busiest time for these markets and therefore the markets are often much bigger then.

On some days in some places there are night street markets. These are similar to regular night markets, except they're temporary, and on the street. Since these markets are only on special days they tend to be very crowded. During peek times in busy areas you may find it difficult to see much as you'll be focused on just getting through the streets.

As far as what you can buy at these markets, that all depends. For the most part you'll find some items that repeat themselves. These are often tourist souvenirs, fake copies of high end items, and some craft items. The smaller markets are more often full of these items with fewer legitimately hand made items. As you would imagine, most of the time when you see an item available at several different kiosks in a market, it's likely not hand made (or at the very least it’s hand made in a mass production facility). Don't let that stop you from getting something you like, there are several very beautiful touristy items for sale at the markets, even the mass-produced items.

The only piece of advice you must always keep in mind is that it's safe to bargain, in fact my advice is always bargain. The price they're giving you is not the best price, in fact it's nowhere near the best price. When bargaining start by at least half the price suggested. Go even lower if you want, be prepared to walk away, and never feel bad for the vendor. They will not sell you an item unless they're making money, so never feel guilty about the amazing deal you got. Finally, be creative with your bargaining, once we teamed up with another person to make a package deal, and on another occasion we added a free massage to our package.

Later

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Friday, June 16, 2017

Friday Travel Tip - Thailand - Street Food

Thailand is truly a street food country. There is not one street corner or large public space that doesn't offer you some kind of street food. Life in Thailand revolves around street food with many Thai people eating street food as one or more of their daily meals. For the foreigner in Thailand, street food might come off as intimidating. While a majority of the food on the streets is likely safe for you to eat, you should keep in mind that sanitation conditions aren't the same as back at home.  Depending on the person making it, you might have a problem explaining any food allergies you might have as well.

Having said that, experiencing street food in Thailand is more often than not safe, and is a great way to get into the local culture.  For the most part, street food vendors offer one food item, sometimes they'll have a few variations, however variety is rare at each street food vendor.  Because of this you'll often find street food vendors in groups each offering something different.  This can be a great way to sample different dishes in a group.  Often what you see is what you get, so don't be afraid to watch them cook other people's food, to get an idea of what to expect.

Many street vendors also offer a few low tables to eat at.  At busy times, at popular vendors, these seats can fill up fast.  The seats are nothing fancy, but will allow you to take in the local atmosphere while eating dinner.  In some cases, when vendors clump together, you'll find that they have almost a mall food court situation for dinning. This can be a great way to relax and maybe meet a few locals.

Later

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Friday, June 9, 2017

Friday Travel Tip - Early Tips For Canada Day 150

Canada is turning 150 years old this year, and you the proud Canadian (and even if you're not actually Canadian you can still play along) wants to enjoy this occasion in the center of the celebration, Ottawa. If you've been to Ottawa in the past for Canada Day you'll know it's a bustling fun time, however this year we're expecting the biggest crowds ever. So if you're new to Canada Day in the capital, or if you've been before, here's a few tips to help you organize your visit for this very special celebration.

The most important first step is making sure you have a place to sleep. At this point if you're thinking about booking a hotel (expensive or cheap) in the downtown core near all the action, you're a little too late. Hotels downtown have been booked up for this celebration for a while now, many booked up the day after Canada Day last year. Your next step is to look outside the city, Ottawa is surrounded by many smaller communities, and many have hotels or bed and breakfasts. The thing is, you should book now. Even if you're planning on camping you'll find that everything will book up quickly, if it's not already. Don't expect to come down a few days before, even if you're camping, and find anything available. I had friends visit a few years back and try this on Canada Day and they ended up camping in my back yard, and that year wasn't as big a celebration as we're expecting this year.

While you're making those reservations, why not stick around for a few days. Canada Day in Ottawa is a big deal, and this year it's going to be massive. You'll likely find yourself getting caught up in all the festivities, and you'll likely miss a few things. The good news is that many events this year will be stretched throughout the week or longer. Already the city has started to celebrate with special events, and these events are likely going to increase the closer we get to July first. And if this is your first visit to Ottawa you might want to take in some of the local culture and in particular visit many museums in the area. The city is going to be at its best this July, so make sure you have the time to enjoy it all.

On the big day you're going to have to make a choice, do you get yourself a good seat for the show on Parliament Hill or do you adventure around town and see all the other events. You'll likely be able to wander in and out of the Parliament Hill front lawn a little early on in the day, but once things get going, moving in and out will be difficult or impossible. If you want a good seat for the festivities on The Hill getting there early and staying put is your only option. If you're not stuck on seeing the whole show then wandering around is a great way to see what's going on in the city, keep in mind that the main show stage will fill up, so you may not get too close later in the day. While you might not be able to watch the stage show later in the day, the grand finally fireworks are viewable in many parts of the city, so you won't miss any of the big bangs.

It goes without saying that dressing for the day is very important. Beyond putting on your Canada Day colours, making sure you're prepared other ways is also important. You will be walking a lot, if you lucked out and got a hotel downtown you're likely going to be walking around a lot, or if you choose to watch the show on Parliament Hill then you might be standing a lot. If you didn't luck out with a hotel in the center of the city, then you have to get yourself downtown. Don't drive, you won't find parking or you'll pay a fortune for it. So the bus is your best option, and they won't likely be running much in the downtown core, so you'll probably get dropped off a few blocks from the action and you'll have to walk.

Dress for warm weather, but be prepared for a chilly evening, and just to be safe bring rain gear, a cheap poncho will do wonders. You should also bring food, either pack a lunch, or at the very least bring snacks. There aren't many food options around Parliament Hill, so if you're going to the show you might not have an opportunity to get anything great to eat. If you're walking around you'll have many more options, the Byward Market being the most interesting. Make sure to grab food when you can as many of the actual attractions (museums and such) will have limited to no food available. Also keep in mind that everything is going to be busy, so you might find yourself waiting a long time for sit down or take out food.

Later

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Friday, June 2, 2017

Friday Travel Tip - Thailand - Wat Pho Temple

The Wat Pho temple in Bangkok is a site you don't want to miss. This is particularly true if you're not going to be getting out of the city. This is a group of temples that's truly what you would expect from Thai temples. It's a large complex of buildings each with a unique temple or temple use inside. The most famous temple of this complex houses the reclining Buddha. It's also the most crowded of these temples, but well worth waiting for. The rest of the temples are all very pretty, but you can decide if you want to explore them by poking your head into the door and making an assessment.

The best part about Wat Pho is the fact that you can wander. There are all kinds of little passageways and gardens well worth checking out. As well as the temples, there are also schools, various shops, and even a massage place. Not all of the buildings are open to the public, but we had no problem walking around the complex without being stopped.

The most difficult time you'll have is getting to these temples, particularly if you're staying in the new part of city. The Wat Pho temple is located in the old city, and is not serviced by the sky trains. This means you have two choices to get yourself there, taxi/tuktuk, or boat. If you take the boat you'll not only get to the temples, but the view along the river is spectacular. There is a Sky train that will drop you off right at the boat dock where you can get your tickets for the boat that will drop you off right outside the temple.

Later

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