Bangkok, Thailand

Arriving in a new place is always interesting, we never know what to expect. The traffic is the first thing we noticed in Thailand. Multiple lanes of cars and motorbikes driving in every which way and traffic lights had little effect. Traffic is a constant flow and we had to become one with traffic in order to cross streets. Crosswalks were very unusual; normally we just followed other pedestrians across the street. Public transportation was easy and we especially enjoyed the public riverboat that was just down the street from our Airbnb.

Our second impression of Thailand revolved around its food; which is amazing and the prices are even better. Hands down our favorite thing about Thailand is the exchange rate. We were able to enjoy beautiful rooftop views for dinner almost every night. Our most expensive dining came to $20 and we had drinks and dinner. Not to mention it was one of our favorite views of the city’s skyline.

The street food vendors were another highlight of Thailand. Although they lacked the pretty views, the food was just as good if not sometimes better and we’re only a fraction of the already inexpensive prices. 

The night markets are an incredible experience and do not compare to anything we have seen in the US. The best way to describe the night markets is like a flea market, but even that does not give it justice. The items for sale were things you would find at a mall. Fashionable clothing (with much better quality than expected), off-brand electronics, and services like nail salons, barbershops, and a tattoo booth. 

Bangkok was one of the hottest places we have been, but it was easy to escape the heat and find air conditioning. It was as if there was a shopping mall on every corner, and we are not talking about your average run of the mill malls either. These malls were huge, five stories or more, and absolutely stunning on the inside. Our favorite one was the Icon Siam mall, which is home to the first Apple store in Bangkok, a Porsche and Maserati store, and of course many other name-brand stores. This mall had a waterfront view and entertain their guests with a water show twice a night.

All the locals were very friendly, Thailand is known as the land of smiles and its not just a marketing slogan. Tim stubbed his toe and ripped a deep layer of skin off. It was bleeding pretty badly but thankfully it was not anything serious. Multiple locals came up to us to help, they felt terrible that he had gotten hurt. They gave us bandaids and clean wet wipes. 

The thing that surprised us the most was the grande place and the giant swing, the two most famous landmarks in Bangkok, were located in a very underdeveloped area of the city. It was very eye-opening to see some of the locals ‘houses’. Just another reminder of how blessed and privileged we are.

 Bangkok was the destination I was looking the lest forward to. I was scared of the culture shock and just afraid of how different everything would me. Honestly, we almost took it off our list. Man am I so glad we didn’t do that. Thailand was great and we hope to have the opportunity to visit again. 

Germany

Where do we start? We are extremely thankful that we were able stay over a month in Germany and experience so many great adventures. This was a huge park of our trip where we saw great provision. Europe was added and removed from our travels multiple times. We thought about holding off on Europe entirely and saving it for later in life. It wasn’t a final destination until Nicolai asked Tim if we wanted to go to Oktoberfest with him. Soon after we decided to travel to Europe, my sister Jenny applied for a job in Germany. Not only did she get the job, which was in the same town we were meeting Nicolai in, but her and her family were already there by the time we were scheduled to fly over. We couldn’t have planned it any better.

Germany is centrally located and was easy to explore other countries in Europe. We were able to take a train to Prague, Paris, and other neat towns in Germany including Munchie, Tubingen, and Frankfurt. The train system was very interesting and convenient. It was incredible to watch the country side out the window as we traveled.

We timed our visit to attend the Stuttgart Oktoberfest festival, called Cannstatter Volksfest. This fair / festival is the more local German version of Octoberfest. Although we did spend a day at the Oktoberfest in Munich just to cross it off the list. Volksfest had more of a family feel. We spent one evening inside of a tent with Nicolai and his family where we were able to watch and listen to the local Germans sing and dance. We had a great time eating, drinking, and riding carnival rides. Although the bumper cars could be quite dangerous after 9 PM. 

During our visit we were able to help a local farmer and pick grapes for a Vineyard. My sister Jenny signed us up through the Army Post with around 20 other Americans. For our hard work, we got a free lunch and a few bottles of wine. We also got to tour the processing garage. It was a great learning experience.

It was so nice to spend some quality time with my sister’s family. In addition to the Volksfest, we also went to the Mercedes-Benz and the Porsche museums. We even were able to tour the Dachau Concentration Camp. I could go on and on about each of these places, but there is too much to mention. I will say that seeing an concentration camp was such an eye-opener. The things we saw and learned there will will not be forgotten.

The food in Germany was absolutely amazing and it was so nice to meet up with family and friends and make new friends along the way. Tim and I visited the local bakery down the street quite often. My sister did not have Wi-Fi yet so we went down to the bakery to use the Internet. The owner became quite fond of us and even gave us a couple free treats. 

The language barrier was the least of our worries. Costa Rica had already prepared us, but a lot more people spoke English then you would have realized. Sometimes they were very helpful and tried to teach us German words. Other times you would be sitting on a train asking questions and trying to figure out what was happening and we would have to flat out ask ‘do you speak English?’ for them to help at all.

Overall it was a beautiful city and a beautiful country. We are so excited for my sister’s family to grow up in such a neat area.

Paris, France

Tim and I were able to spend three days in Paris and it was wonderful! The city of lights is one of the most popular cities in the world and a huge bucket list item for most people. We are grateful that we were able to see some of the highlights of this beautiful place. Even Tim would admit that the city blew away his expectations.

We followed the Seine to the Louvre Museum to see the famous glass pyramid. The court yard was filled with tourists trying to get their best photo. We even saw two couples getting their wedding photos taken there. We walked through the front garden, slowly making our way towards the Eiffel Tower.

I didn’t realize how excited I was to be in Paris until I caught my first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. In that moment, all of my little girl dreams came rushing back to me. Neither of us were interested in climbing up the tower, so we walked to the park and sat in the grass taking in the view.

We took the metro to our room that was only a couple blocks from Notre-Dame. Due to the recent fire, the front sidewalk was blocked off and the side and back of the building was covered with scaffolding for the construction.

When I booked they Airbnb I did not realize what a great area we would be staying in. There were countless shops, restaurants, and cafes right under us. Both nights we ate at one of the nearby restaurants and ordered a three course meal for the same price of a meal in Williamsport, PA. I had escargot both nights. We even got to experience a piano bar all within a block or two from our room. The famous Shakespeare and Company cafe was also right around the corner.

It rained all day the second day in Paris. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to waste, so we grab the umbrellas, nicely provided by the Airbnb, and started walking. We walked up and down the famous Champs-Élysées street with all the shops. Tim was happy because he got to see the new iPhone at the Apple store.

We reached the traffic circle at the end of the street and saw the Arc de Triomphe for the first time. The 360 degree view on the top of was absolutely breathtaking. The sun even came out to shine and we had blue sky while we looked at the city.

We didn’t have the best expectations for Paris. We thought it would be extremely expensive and we weren’t sure what we could do with such a short time frame. Thankfully those expectations were proven wrong. Of course we would have loved to spend a couple more days there, but we are grateful for the experience we had!

Dublin, Ireland

Our trip to Dublin started in Frankfurt Germany. We spent the night at the Moxy hotel because our flight left at 6:30am. The hotel had a very modern and interesting atmosphere; definitely somewhere I’d like to stay again.

We met up with Nicolai and his group at the airport. At the Frankfurt airport you did not go through security until you entered your gate, and then you could not leave the gate. This made the security line almost nonexistent, but all the shops and restaurants were on the other side. it was a different system for sure.

We slept on the plane and were ready for a full day of sightseeing once we landed. We only had three days in the city so we woke up early and went to bed late to make the most of it. 

The first stop, the Guinness Brewery. Mostly because it was the closest attraction. The Guinness Brewery was a self guided tour with 6 floors. The top floor had a 360 view of Dublin. During the tour we learned that the roasted barley is what gives Guinness its dark color. We also learned how to correctly pour and taste a Guinness.

To stay with the theme, we decided to go to the Jameson Distillery next. This was our favorite tour. It was a interactive guided tour and had a lot of pretty lights and videos to make it extra interesting. At the end of the tour we had a taste test between Jameson, scotch, and American whiskey, which was actually Jack Daniels. Jameson was hands down the smoothest of the three. After the tours we took a carriage ride to the oldest Irish pub in Dublin, Brazen Head. 

The Airbnb was very modern and large with 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, and a open kitchen and living room. Definitely a place to remember. This was the first time during our trip that we had a large group with us. This was a great benefit because each person had different places they wanted to see. So, Tim and I were able to know about and do more attractions than if it would have been just the two of us.

We started the next morning in the park and watched the very friendly and loud ducks. The locals must have thought we were even more crazy than normal Americans because we were laughing so loud while watching the ducks. Close to the park was a large shopping street that we walked through. We stopped at a gorgeous hotel/cafe for a quick snack and then headed to the next destination for the day; Howth. 

Howth is small fishing town not far from Dublin, about a 30 minute train ride. It is known for its seafood and typical Ireland cliffs. We walked the hiking path around the town and got to see all of its highlights. We even wondered off the path and found a local swimming spot. Nicolai and Tim braved the cold water and went for a swim in the Irish Sea, while I stayed warm and laughed at them.

Since we were in the Dublin area, we went to the famous temple bar street. This is a huge street filled with bar that are three stories or taller. Not somewhere Tim and I would have gone by ourselves, but it was neat to experience the nightlife. Showmen were on the streets trying to make a buck. Tim participated in a bike challenge where the bike’s steering was reversed. Tim failed and the showmen got to keep his money, but it was a interesting challenge and fun to watch others try and fail. One of the bars we went into was so packed, that brain literally had to push us through to get to the exit. 

It was nice to visit Dublin where the national language was English, I could listen to their Irish accent for days! But we could never get used to seeing a child in the ‘passage’ seat but to us it looked like the driver seat. A lot of times we would see the seat empty and have to take a double look, “wait how is that car moving? …ohhh that’s right.”

As much as we enjoyed Dublin, there was no denying that it was one of the more expensive areas. Just as an example, both Guinness and Jameson were much more expensive than in Williamsport, even though they were made in Dublin. If Tim and I ever get the opportunity to visit Ireland again we hope to travel to the North side of the country.

Prague, Czech Republic

This was a very budget friendly area all around. We found a local restaurant right under our apartment that had awesome dinners for less than $5. One strange thing we learned during our trip was that Prague does not sell traditional coffee, not even at Starbucks. Espresso was the common cup of joe and the closest thing to regular coffee was an Americano.

If you do any research regarding Prague you will quickly learn the local motto, ‘beer is cheaper than water.’ Tim and I can quickly say that this motto is indeed true. We ordered a glass of water at one of the touristy restaurants for $3 but the beer was only $2, and at the more local restaurants the beer was only $1.

We spent most of our time in the Old Town Square admiring the old architecture. The powder tower, which you have to walk under in order to enter the square, was built in the 1100’s and got its name because gun powder was stored in it during the 1400’s. The Old Town Square is also famous for the Astronomical Clock and the Charles Bridge that leads to the Prague Castle. This area of Prague was filled with tourists and had tons of shops and restaurants all around. 

Outside of the square, we spent time exploring the multiple parks nearby. All the parks we explored had at least one, if not more than one, beer gardens. We spent a some evening at the park eating, drinking, and people watching. There was always people, families, and dogs walking around. Most of the dogs in the parks never had a leash, it was actually rare for a dog to have a leash while walking in Prague. 

We never had any language issues. All the workers in the tourist areas knew English very well. Anyone outside of the touristy areas knew enough to get by. We learned that Prague started teaching English in school after the 90’s. Before then, they taught Russian in schools.

We enjoyed our time in Prague. It was amazing to see the old architecture and detailing on all of the buildings. It was everywhere you looked.

Los Angeles, California

I hope you are ready for a long post because Tim and I have gone nonstop since we first landed in LA. There was so much to see and do; it was hard to sit still.

Our first night in LA we went to see Joe Rogan at the comedy club. We got to sit in the center of the second row. It was a very neat experience. The comedy club was located on the other end of Hollywood (West Hollywood) and we decided to walk there to sight see before our show. What we didn’t know was how long Sunset Blvd actually was, and we had to walk almost the whole street. However, we were both distracted by all of the neat businesses to really mind the long walk.

We spent the next day walking around the Hollywood Walk of Fame at the Hollywood and Highland shopping complex. There was a beautiful view of the Hollywood sign in the courtyard. A lot of tourist, us including, were trying to take pictures on the walking path above the courtyard. 

The TCL Theater and the Dolby Theater were both located in this complex. The TLC Theater has had the most movie premieres and the Dolby Theater hosts the Oscars every year since 2002. We got to walk up the same staircase the stars walk on for the Oscars.

In the afternoon we did a bus tour that drove us up and down Sunset Blvd, Melrose Ave, and Beverly. We learned all about the popular restaurants and shops in the area and that Beverly Hills has platinum fire hydrants.

After the bus tour we walked towards one of the oldest restaurants in LA, Pinks. It is a hot dog stand that has been around since 1939. A lot of stars have gone there and even gotten a hot dog named after them.

Before heading home for the day we decided to stop and enjoy a rooftop restaurant. The place was called EP & LP and it had a beautiful laid back rooftop. One really neat thing about this was they had a projector screen and played movies on the rooftop.

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour was one of my favorite highlights of our LA trip. We got to see behind the scenes of popular movies and TV shows including the original Jurassic Park, Pretty Little Liars, The Heart of Dixie, and Gilmore Girls. It was amazing to see how one building could be used for multiple sets and you would never know. The front of one building was used as Spencer’s house in Pretty Little Liars and the back porch was used for Sookie’s house in Gilmore Girls. The same building had many other uses that I can’t remember. We also got an inside look of the Fuller House Set and were able to sit in the studio audience seats. 

Other studios could rent the sets and film on the lot. Old Navy rented The Town Square set (which is used for The Heart of Dixie, Gilmore Girls, and many other shows) and painted the buildings bright colors for filming. Once the commercial was completed, Old Navy had to paint the buildings back to the normal colors for The Town Square. Its mind blowing to think about all the costs involved while shooting.

We are pretty sure we saw multiple actors/actress on the back lots. Unfortunately, Tim and I did not recognize anyone and our tour guides were not allowed to point them out.

We also got to be an in studio audience member at the Jimmy Kimmel Live.

We spent a day hiking in Griffith Park to see the Hollywood sign and the Observatory. We walked all the way from our apartment; the entire walk was up hill and became steeper and steeper the closer we got to the Observatory. Once we entered Griffith Park there was absolute no shade and all the hiking paths were up hill. It was a hot day, but we were able to cool off by relaxing in the Observatory and participating in their free shows. 

Oddly enough, this was not the best place for a picture with the Hollywood sign. It was too far away and way too many people. We found that the best place for a picture with the Hollywood sign was at Lake Hollywood Park.

We took the metro bus to Venice Beach and it was a two-hour drive to go 15 miles and that wasn’t even during rush hour.  Yes, the LA traffic lives up to its reputation. Venice Beach seemed to have every type of personality possible from trick Frisbee to dog surfing, its there. If there is a hobby, it is at Venice Beach. 

It was very entertaining to watch all of the people working out at muscle beach. Each person was trying to out do the last and there were all different types of exercise equipment. There was also a very popular skate park on the beach and we got witness a lot of tricks and a couple fails. 

We walked down to the Santa Monica pier and got to see the end of Route 66.

We spent a day in Beverly Hills and the popular shopping streets. We saw dozens and dozens of expensive cars and we’re not talking about Mercedes and BMWs, we are talking about Bentleys, Rolls-Royce’s, and Aston Martins. It’s weird when the average price of a car is worth more than your house. But then again, the average house price in Beverly Hills is $7.2 million.

During the middle of our LA trip were able to meet Tim’s parents near Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon. We rented a car and drove north towards the park. The city lights turned into dessert after driving 10 minutes down the interstate. We saw multiple pullover areas with water for car radiators. Tim and I were really glad we got to leave the city and see more of the state. 

This timeframe was exactly in the middle of our trip and we really appreciated being able to see our family. 

We kept the rental car an extra day in order to drive on US 1 to Malibu. The view of the ocean was beautiful and US 1 lived up to our expectations. We went to Dume Point and Neptune’s Net for lunch. Dume Point is a large cliff with a  below hidden beach. This is the cliff that Iron Man’s house is at but there is not a house in real life, the house in the movie is CGI. Neptune’s Net was in the 3rdIron Man movie in the scene when Tony has his first panic attack. However, the restaurant in the movie was only a replica. The real Neptune’s Net where we ate is in Fast and the Furious

We both had a great time in LA and are glad we were able to see so much. As our trip continues the more we have see God’s hand in our planning. We have put in minimal effort of planning but God allows everything to connect and continues to open up doors. We are grateful for our smooth our trip has been so far. 

Quepos, Costa Rica

We arrived in Quepos on August 10th. The Airbnb host was very nice and picked us up at the bus station. The apartment was located on a very local street with a lot of ticos (Costa Ricans) homes. There was a friendly local family living in the house below our apartment. Unfortunately, they did not speak any English but he introduced himself and we always said hola while passing by. The family had two very friendly dogs and the small Chihuahua would come to visit us on our porch. The larger dog was kept down below, but on our last day, he got out to visit us and was very friendly. It amazed us that he could fit between the columns to access our porch.

 

On our first full day, we went to explore the shops in Quepos. It was a pretty small town, probably about 5 by 10 blocks, right next to the water. There was a very nice walking path around the water leading to the colorful Quepos sign right on the edge of town.

We continued walking on the path in the opposite direction and reached the Quepos Marina. This was a newly constructed plaza with shopping, restaurants, and tourist excursions. We came to the Marina a couple different times just to sit, relax, and listen to the ocean. One day, we walked past the Marina and found a nice park with an outdoor gym and exercise machines.

The biggest highlight from our trip to Quepos was visiting the Manuel Antonio National Park. The entire time we had been in Costa Rica all Tim had wanted to do is see a monkey. He talked about it all the time and anytime we were near what might have been considered a rainforest, he would start calling out for George. You know, George the curious monkey? Well, George never came when he was called until we went to Manuel Antonio National Park. And after that, we saw George and all his friends quite often.

 

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The Manuel Antonio National Park is the smallest, but most popular national park in Costa Rica. The park had multiple beaches and hiking trails, which mostly consisted of walking up and down stairs. My legs were very sore the next day.

We saw a group of monkeys on the path while walking to one of the beaches. They were jumping and swinging from all of the trees. When we were relaxing in our hammock on the beach another group, or maybe the same group, of monkeys invaded the trees above us. One monkey actually tried to steal our plastic bag with our flip-flops. After a short tug a war match between Tim and the monkey, Tim won and the monkey ran away empty-handed.

We were in the middle of the last hiking trail of the park when it started to downpour. We had to get out of the park and run to the bus in the pouring rain (around 3 miles). Who would have thought it would rain in the rainforest?

One evening we went to eat at the Tico Rico restaurant that was located in a hotel on the side of the mountain. It was covered by the trees and had a beautiful view of the water and sky. While we were eating a monkey walk across the restaurant’s roof and jump into the trees below us. Our waiter told us that in the mornings they had to be extra careful because the monkeys would try to get into the kitchen and steal the food. We went back another night to this restaurant and got to enjoy the pool and water slide.

We took an hour bus trip and spent a full day in Uvita and went to Marino Ballena National Park, which is actually just a beach. What makes the beach special is that it has a huge sandbar shaped like a whale tail that is only visible during low tide. Unfortunately, we got to the park right when the tide was rising and we weren’t able to fully enjoy the sandbar. But, we were still able to relax on the beautiful beach.

Our last day came too soon, literally. We got the dates mixed up and thought we had another full day. We were planning to go back the Manuel Antonio National Park and do a couple other last-minute things. Oh well. Lucky our host sent us a message the night before asking us what time we were planning to leave. This allowed us to wake up extra early to pack and clean up.

This was a beautiful area and we are blessed that we were able to create these lasting memories.