Summer is here in NYC, and a park that often goes over looked, but should 100% be checked out this summer is Madison Square Park. With an interactive performance piece, sculptures, and views of the flatiron building, if you are visiting New York City this summer, make sure to check all of this out! Not to mention if you plan accordingly you'll have an amazing view of the sunset through the buildings.
One of the coolest capitals in Europe.
Lisbon has recently become a popular destination for travelers from all around the world and it’s no surprise why. Named one of the top 10 friendliest cities in the world, Lisbon is not only charming, rich with history, and full of cultural diversity, but also a great location if looking to venture to other parts of Portugal.
Think San Fransisco meets Barcelona, and that is Lisbon. Hills and and a breath-taking coastline dominate Lisboa, which create stunning views at all different parts of the city.
It’s easy to get lost in any number of the different neighborhoods that Lisbon has to offer as there is so much beauty and color encompassing this European city.
I tend to be a last minute traveler, which means I don’t have a ton of time for researching where I’m going, so when I decided to embark on my 3 day journey to Lisbon, I knew I wanted to stay somewhere central and get to see as much of the city as possible.
Here is a breakdown of my trip.
I stayed at Destination Lisbon Hostel, which is located in Rossio Train Station and about a 30 minute bus ride from Lisbon’s airport. The bus cost 4 Euros one way or 6 Euros if you buy a round trip ticket. Just make sure you check that your travel times fall in-between the operating times.
A lot of people have misconceptions about hostels, but places like Destination Lisbon put all those fears to rest. This perfectly located hostel is: full of cool people, a fully loaded kitchen that guest can use, an awesome breakfast that is included, eco-friendly showers, and a ton of group activities.
My total stay for the 3 nights was $98, which for Europe is super cheap. There are a ton of other options if looking to do things on a tighter budget, but what you get, where you are located, and the activities offered make this place super worth it.
I highly recommend wandering around Lisbon and just venturing into any little hole in the wall restaurant as the food is delicious, but definitely check out Time Out Market located two minutes from Cais do Sobré train station. This awesome market brought 5 of the best chefs in Lisbon together to give tourists and locals a taste of their incredible cuisine, but not break the bank.
Make sure you try Ginja in a chocolate shot cup, Cataplana de Marisco, and Bacalhau Fritters!
Scroll through my slide show above to see what I saw and get the vibe this city has to offer. Lisbon offered me a very welcomed culture shock of colors, patterns, and way of life. Remember never stop traveling!
After spending 3 weeks, and going on 4, in Thailand, I've come up with a few tips, a bunch of advice, and a list of my favorite places to make your travel to this truly incredible country that much smoother.
Top 10 Tips
Things to do/know before you head to Thailand:
- Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months before traveling. I learned this the hard way when I got to the Cambodian border. To enter Thailand you only need 3, but if you plan on going anywhere else around South East Asia, which you will most likely end up doing, you need 6 months validity. Extra tip: the US embassy can get you an "emergency passport," which gives you a year extension, 5 pages to travel with, and is processed in 5 hours.
- Learn how to ride a motor bike. This will save you a ton of money in taxis, and get you feeling safe and comfortable on something that a lot of people just jump onto and injure themselves with.
- Make sure you have a phone that is unlocked. I switched from Sprint to Verizon partly for this reason. This will allow you to save a ton of money, and get a Thai SIM card. I've been adding a certain amount of money and when it runs out I add more at a number of locations like 7/11, yes they have those here. Extra tip: save your data by switching to airplane mode and use wifi whenever you can.
- Bring half of what you think you need. Everyone I've spoken to has agreed we all brought too much. Almost anywhere in Thailand from Bangkok to Phuket to Krabi will have amazing street markets where you will end up buying a ton of stuff from. The goods are cheap, well made, and way more appropriate for the weather than most of what you'd bring on any other trip, especially if you're backpacking or doing humanitarian work. You can literally buy your suitcase here as well. I'm talking like $3 for fake or possibly real Nike, Adidas, or any number of brands shirts, shorts, shoes, etc.
- The Thai are super friendly but give zero fucks when driving. They literally have 3/4 people on one motor bike and this includes babies. They fly through the streets, don't wear helmets, and are crazy when driving, so again if you think you're going to drive or ride a motorbike be prepared.
- Bring a spare bank card. The ATMS may eat your card, you may lose your card, or you may just find you need a backpack for a number of reasons.
- Don't ride the elephants. This may be obvious to some, but I've encountered a lot of people that didn't realize what they were contributing to by riding these gentle giants. In order to ride an elephant their spirit must be broken, and these beautiful creatures are made to roam free and wander, not have you on their backs.
- Download Travel Apps. Trip Advisor, Kayak, Agoda, and Rome2Rio are all super helpful when trying to figure out ease, expenses, and effort when traveling around.
- Get lost, be open, and say hello to people. Yes, you want to have a plan and know where you're generally going, but my favorite days have been when I had no plan at all except to pick a spot and just wander. You'll find incredible people, street food, and sights that aren't listed on any travel blog, website, or app. Part of the magic of traveling is experiencing new things, so just go for it.
- Know there is so much more to see than you realize. You can either rush through Thailand or take weeks/months to really see everything. Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi, and a number of other places are huge in their own right and can take weeks to see everything they have to offer.
With that said here are the places I visited and my recommendations for them.
This huge city surprised me in so many ways, and I can't believe I almost didn't see the magic and electricity the city has to offer.
- Khaosan Road. This wild street, which is about a 45 minute taxi or 2 hours bus ride from Suvarnabhumi Airport, is what you've probably seen in the movies. Think Vegas meets backpacker central. The street is a cultural experience where you can buy cheap goods, eat a number of insects or creepy crawlies, get henna tattoos, and party hard. Super fun, but you probably don't need more than 1-2 nights here. There are a number of cheap hostels and hotels that you can stay in right on this road or off to the side for under $10 a night.
- Lumphini Park. This gorgeous park sits in the middle of the main city center and is truly picturesque. I accidentally came across this park and it was such a happy occurrence. I took a swan boat out for a ride on the big lake in the center of the park, which has cranes, komodo dragons, fish, and amazing people watching. The 30 minute boat ride costs 40 TBH (about $1).
- MBK Shopping Center. This wildly busy street will put you in the thick of it and has over 2000 shops to get lost in. Beyond the shopping, the food, the people, and the infrastructure that makes up this part of the city are a welcomed culture shock that shouldn't be missed.
- The Temples. Thailand has so many temples to see, but the two I got to in Bangkok are highly recommended and beyond breathtaking. Wat Arun and Wat Phra Kaew are across from one another on the main river that runs through Bangkok and are must sees.
- The Grand Palace. It's an opulent former residence and museum that I didn't get the chance to go into because of the King's passing, but from what I've been told is insane.
- The Jim Thompson House. This amazing museum and former residence of American entrepreneur Jim Thompson is breathtaking and full of art, antiques, and lush gardens. A tucked away gem that was highly recommended to me, and one that I would definitely send any tourist to. You'll take a required guided tour for 150 TBH (about $5) that is very informative and entertaining.
- Charm Restaurant. An accidental find that was really tasty, very cool, and gives you an insider look into Thai culture in a trendy way. They're open late, which is perfect if you're used to late dining like I am. Located in a perfect little area for bar hopping afterwards.
Let me know some of your tips for Bangkok in the comment section below!
When I found out that I was going to be heading to Vienna, Austria for the AIDS Life Ball, I have to admit I didn't know what to expect. For some reason Vienna was never really on my list of top cities to see, and the AIDS Life Ball was something I had heard of, but didn't know much about.
After exploring this amazing city, and attending what I can only describe as one of the most spectacular events, I can honestly say I've been blown away.
Vienna is hands down one of the most gorgeous cities I've ever seen. Every where you walk looks like you're about to approach a palace or botanical garden, and there's definitely a reason why it has been voted for countless years as one of the top 5 most livable cities in the world.
AIDS Life Ball is Europe's largest charity event supporting people with HIV and AIDS, and is an incredible thing to witness first hand. The amount of things to look at, the overflowing energy of love, and the pure fun that you have makes this one of those event you'll remember forever.
If Vienna isn't on your travel list that needs to change ASAP, and it's that much easier to get to now that Austrian Airlines offers direct flights from both LA and NYC. This airline is one of the best I've ver flown, and regardless if you are sitting in Business or Economy you're sure to have a pleasant and easy flight with great service.
Below you can find my photo journal of Vienna and a list of recommendations that includes places to see, where to stay, and where to eat.
Vienna you are a total 10 in my book!
Additionally, I have to say a big thank you to Tom from the Vienna Tourism Board who made our time in Vienna amazing, Andreas from Austrian Airlines who made our travel perfection, Nikkie who expanded our minds, and Tiefe Kummernis who was the most epic Drag Queen tour guide ever!
Where to stay:
I absolutely loved stay at 25 Hours Hotel in the Museum Quarter as we were perfectly located to see and do just about everything!
Things to see:
- Belvedere Castle + Gardens
- Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum)
- Naturhistorisches Museum (Natural History Museum)
- Hofburg (Imperial Palace)
- Naschmarkt and the surrounding area
- St. Stephen's Cathederal
- Ringstrasse Boulevard
Places to eat:
- ON Market - great asian dishes and located right in the Naschmarkt.
- Labstelle - delicious and very cool.
- Das Loft - amazing service and food, but the view is what really sets this superb restaurant apart from everything else.
- J. Hornig Cafe - Barbie the owner is amazing, and this place has some of the best coffee I've ever had!
- Vestibul - a total splurge, but a total must if you can get reservations. Opulant and it truly feels like you're going back in time!
- Veganista - a vegan or any icecream lovers dream. Innovative flavors, super cute, and beyond affordable.
Every year in April the blossoming of cherry blossoms, or sakura as they are known in Japanese, become a spectacle across the Northern Hemisphere. In New York, we have our own cherry blossom season at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and for the first time ever I went to witness their incredible bloom.
Hanami is the centuries-old practice of picnicking under a blooming cherry blossom, and was originally limited to the elite of the Imperial Court; however, centuries later this relaxing practice has become one that people from all walks of life enjoy.
In conjunction with Buddhist influence and Japanese culture, cherry blossoms are thought to represent the ephemeral nature of life, and embody the concept of mono no aware or "the pathos of things.". I've always found these gifts from nature to be dazzling, but after learning about their symbolism I feel even more connected to these pink wonders.
If you have the chance I highly recommend going to take part in hanami for yourself, and dozing off underneath these Japanese symbols for clouds.