Phra Nang Beach Penis Cave, Ao Nang Thailand

Thailand – So much dick, and not in the sexy way (for me anyway).

* Surgeon General’s warning: this explicit post not to be consumed by parents or children, you are moving forward at your own risk *

So when people tell their miscellaneous horror stories in Thailand of a sexual nature one would expect it mostly involved lady boys, prostitutes, or lady boy prostitutes. These stories are of a different nature. This post is neither helpful, nor containing pictures, but merely two penis filled stories that caused me to think “only in Thailand”.

1. Free sex show in a Patong hostel: You may remember my briefly mentioning in an earlier post a horror story of sorts that took place in my dorm on my first night. Allow me to regale you…

After hitting the town with my beloved VT crew (yes friends can be beloved after only knowing them for an hour) for the evening, I climbed into my top bunk, popped my ear plugs in and prepared for a not blissful at all nights sleep. All went well until about 5:00 am when a couple hopped into the top bunk next to mine. I assumed they were going be getting busy and just chalked it up to my first experience dealing with hostel sex. Well, being the inquisitive person I am – ya okay maybe just a pervert – I peeked at the situation, and the individual going down (boom! puns for days). I noticed the male figure was moving down on the bed in preparation of providing his bed mate a special treat, and was momentarily horrified at the thought of putting ones mouth on something that has no doubt been in sweltering sticky heat for at least the last 4 hours. Well, my horror was short lived as the treat I expected turned into head bobbing and I realized i was witnessing – for purely anthropological reasons – two MEN in a quite passionate no holds barred pillows sesh. These two went at it without a care as to if anyone was watching in our mixed gender dorm. Part of me applauded their exhibitionism (and their impressively tanned asses), but most of me got annoyed by their full volume pillow talk when they were done. I’m good with a movie but when it turns into a book on tape just shut the fuck up and let me sleep please.

The following morning, as if the universe wanted to remind me that I did in fact see what I did, I woke up to naked man ass staring me right in the face…I mean I suppose it was super hot in there and rough to sleep with clothes on but shit man I would have tossed you a thong to cover the bits for the dorm-mates sake. And that kids is how you see a full moon, first thing in the morning in Thailand.

2. Bangkok? I’d rather just Jerk it: 

Calm down Mom! I didn’t jerk anything. While in Bangkok on my second to last day, my friend and I were up bright and early one morning to grab breakfast before hitting the Floating Markets. [Sidebar: in Siam Square, NOTHING is open at 5am, not even McDonalds] As we were staying in Siam Square, directly in front of the Sky Train, we had to cross the street by walking up to the platform and down the other side. Well, upon initial approach of the stairs leading up to the platform I noticed a man looking over the side of the railing moving his arm rapidly near his leg. I immediately thought he was masturbating on the overpass until we got up there and I saw he was in running clothes with nothing exposed. I chalked it up to him probably hitting the sides of his legs to loosen his thighs up (as I do sometimes when i run). No such luck. Once we got to the other side of the platform, preparing to walk down the stairs, I turned to look at him one last time and saw that sure enough, he was full exposed beating off while watching the traffic, and us, go by.

And so I ended my trip just as I had begun it, sleep deprived with dick in face, and to that I can only say. ONLY IN THAILAND.

 

The view en route to the ice cream cone caves

Adventures in Phuket – James Bond Island, to go or not to go?

When I was researching my trip, I couldn’t help but find myself to feel a little preumtively jaded by the “touristy stuff” because so many bloggers had advised against them. In the spirit of giving all opportunities a fair shot, I went ahead and did them anyway, and I’m very glad I did.

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Ice Cream Cone Caves (there are sleeping bats in the ceiling)

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Ice cream cone stalactites and stalagmites that gave the cave its name #science

The first of the touristy things I did after meeting up with my group in Patong was jump on a speed boat for a tour of Phang Nga Bay. Name not ring a bell? Well, you may be more familiar with the area under the name of it’s most famous attraction, James Bond Island (Ko Khao Phing Kan).

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Rad patio decor where we prepared to head down to the boat

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View from the speed boat and the beginning of my obsession with how gorgeous Thailand is

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Big difference from the brownish greenish ocean i’m used to seeing

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First order of business after cruising by several gorgeous limestone cliffs was a trip to the Ice Cream Cone Caves. Named after the stalactites that include a bit of a stone “dripping” shape towards that top that resembles a melting cone. This is worth seeing, and even more worth it because a quick glance up with find you surrounded by hundreds of harmless sleeping bats that call the cave home.

After a quick exploration of the caves,  we were off to the main attraction, Ko Khao Phing Kan aka James Bond Island. Many bloggers will call this too touristy and not worth seeing, however, I disagree. As a fan of the Bond Franchise (I have seen every single one), and beautiful photo op’s, I found it to be well worth the visit. Yes, its extremely crowded and nearly impossibly to get a shot w/out someone in it from certain vantage points, it is still extremely beautiful and really  neat to see a piece of Hollywood movie History in a different country.

The view en route to the ice cream cone caves

The view en route to the ice cream cone caves

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Knowledge Bomb: The famous protruding limestone rock is called Ko Tapu, and between 1974 – when it became famous thanks to “the Man with the Gold Gun” – and 1988 it was actually permitted for boats to get right up next to it for tourists to ooh and aah. Unfortunately, since then it is not longer allowed in order to prevent erosion of the limestone that may cause the landmark to collapse.

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In addition to viewing Ko Tapu, do take the time to take a mini hike around the island. There are some beautiful vantage points for photos sure to make your friends jealous. There is also an interesting “leaning rock” which is two halves splitting and one sliding lower than the other, causing an area for people to stand under and hole everyone likes to stick their finger in, in the wall for some reason.

Now if you’re not really into Hollywood History, James Bond, Photography or Natural beauty (minus the vendors), this probably isn’t a trip for you. It’s not really a beach people lay out on, and the shopping is over priced – you really wont need more than about 30 minutes or so here. If your sole reason for going is because “everyone else did”, maybe skip it, I can assure you, you will leave disappointed. On that same note, if your only reason for skipping it is because of the crowds, then perhaps an all inclusive resort is a better way to spend your day, as most things I marveled at on this trip were crowded.

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Can’t blame them for trying to make a baht or two

All in all, I would call this a do! Make sure to include other stops in your trip as well, such as kayaking, a trip to the above meantioned ice cream caves, and perhaps a lunch stop on Ko Panyee village (post on all these to come). 

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Me and the famous rock

Happy Travels!

 

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Adventures in Phuket – First impressions, misconceptions and a friendly smile.

It is really really difficult to compartmentalize Phuket into a post that doesn’t involve me just word vomiting experiences all over you guys, but I will certainly try.

Before I get into the real “meat” of this Thai sandwich, I thought I would offer up some immidiate tips, reviews, and misconceptions I had while on the Island.

When you arrive at the airport: 

First it must be stated that this was the prettiest landing I’ve ever experienced. Your view on decent is crystal blue coastline and lush green palm trees. My smile started here and never got taken off my face. Anyway, my understanding prior to arriving is that I would be swarmed with taxi’s and shared van’s trying to scam me into being over charged and taken to various gem shops. Contiki was even guilty of printing that there were no longer any metered cabs available and Phuket airport. WRONG WRONG WRONG. When I exited the airport, there were people peddling their transportation services, however, NONE were aggressive and they each went along their way with a simple friendly shake of the head. Also, it’s important to those new to Phuket to know that if you hang a right and cross the small street, there is yellow metered taxi stand that will provide a safe, cost effective ride to your destination of choice. A price estimate is provided up front (about $and the meter is turned on so you can see what cost you are at the entire ride. Pro Tip: If you are a member of the motion sick tribe (such as myself) and are heading to Patong form the aiport (*raises hand again*) take a motion sick tablet. There are twists, turns and hills on the route and no fucks are given when it comes to speed and actually staying on the paved street. It was an exciting but nausea inducing ride.

Touchdown! So much green.

Touchdown! So much green.

Where I stayed in Patong: 

Budget- Bodega Phuket  ($12-$20): After 26 hours of transit I walked into being greeted by Kristin who runs the place as if we’ve been friends forever and knew immediately I made the right choice. The 8 bedroom dorm I selected was both spotless and secure with a key to it’s door. Additionally ,there were two bathrooms and two hot water showers. The beds were bunkbeds and the room – which was serviced daily – had 8 safes in the corner assigned to each bed. I had the choice of using a lock they provided or using my own which was cool. Towels were also provided which was good to know. I did have a little bit of a situation in my room but that’s for another post (and has nothing to do really with the hostel itself but rather my dorm-mates). After setting my stuff down I joined Kristin and some other backpackers downstairs for some cheap beers and rich stories (via inviting myself to sit at their table) and quickly found my gang for the evening. We walked across the street for our $10.00 bottle of Jameson and hit the road on a nigh time beach drinking mission. Bodega, also offers transfers to various islands such as James Bond, Koh Phi Phi, etc and Kristin was happy to help with suggestions and tips.  They have wifi here but for the most part it only works in the main and common areas, not in your room. Finally, it is a super short walk to the action of Bangala Road. Protip: There is a 711 across the street (and scattered everywhere around Phuket), get your booze and random packaged snacks here. Makes it super cheap. But don’t count on the water you buy being cold. Also, immediately outside the door to your right, you will see a water dispenser that allows you 1 oz for a baht. Cheap way to fill up your water bottle. Also, do yourself a favor and get a smoothie at Bodega – matter of fact, double that favor and tell them to surprise you with the flavor. BEST SMOOTHIES I had in all of Thailand.

Not so budget  – Sawaddi Patong ($100.00 for 2 double beds): This hotel was the starting point for my Contiki tour and holy moly did it ever impress. The staff was incredibly helpful in storing my luggage prior to check-in time, and in booking myself and some friends private transport to the Big Buddha and other place on our free day. Included in the price is a delicious buffet breakfast that goes until 10:30 am which is a more than reasonable time. The rooms and grounds were gorgeous and it did have a pool with a beautiful view of the hills. They did have wifi available through the resort. The restaurant had some of the best Massuman Curry I had the whole trip. The bar, however, was pretty overpriced. Just head to 711. Bangala Road is also walk able from here, you’re looking at about 15-20 minutes. Tuck Tucks are about 300 baht. Protip: Walk outside the hotel, accross the street and head to your left. You will find a lady selling Chicken on a stick. Get the Chicken with the red sauce, life changing and only costs like 40baht.

Sawaddi Patong pool view

Sawaddi Patong pool view

Tuktuks in Patong: I’ve come to find you really wont get anywhere for much less than 200 BHT. You can try and barter lower but it seems that 200 BHT is pretty much the starting point in town. It’s worth it to approach the brightly lit “party” tuk tuks and they really add to the atmosphere on a wild night out. For longer distances, if you approach a pack of Tuk tuks with a set (reasonable) price point in mind, ONE of them will eventually relent.

This whole thing with the land of smiles: I realize that I was in highly touristy areas for the most part, but I honestly didn’t find Thai people to be any more or less “smiley” or “friendly” than they are anywhere else in the world I’ve been. I ran into the same amount of good and bad attitudes I would have here in the US. I do however agree with the consensus that when bartering or dismissing a sales attempt you should remain upbeat and pleasant as people do seem to be more responsive to a good attitude – both in price point and in leaving you alone if needed. I had a friend shout Mai au khah (No thank you – female version) in the face of someone offering her a ping pong show and all that did was bring 3 more of them to get in her face with the peddling. Had she simply smiled and politely given the same response she probably would have been left alone.

Just outside Bangla Road

Just outside Bangla Road

Don’t underestimate the mosquitos or the sun: Oh man these sneaky little mosquito bastards..they were the WORST on Phuket. I had OFF! with 15% deet and they still nailed me at least twice per day. Make sure to keep yourself covered. Also, the sun is brutal! Apply and make sure to reapply sunscreen on your days out. I even had a had every single time I was at the beach just to ensure i would burn myself to a crisp.

The tipping thing: So I had read everywhere on the internet that tipping isn’t really standard in Thailand other than rounding up a bit to the next 10 baht. This isn’t really true. I found that as a westerner, it was pretty expected that I tip 50-100 baht for various services such as manicures, pedicures, massages, longer taxi rides (ie: airport), and larger “fancy” meals. I mean I doubt I would have gotten chased after had I not but I noticed a difference in the service provider mannerisms for those patrons that were less generous.

Towels: No need to pack your own towel (I did), all the hostels I stayed in had them.

Your phone: Sim cards here are super cheap so don’t bother pre-ordering cards or doing international data packages with your phone carrier. They are available already at Phuket airport. Additionally, all hostels, hotels and most restaurants I went to had free wifi too. I ended up sticking with that.  

Helpful Phrases:

i. Greeting: sawadee ka if you’re female, Sawadee Krup if you’re male.

ii. No thank you: Mai au ka if you’re female. Mai Au Krup if you’re male.

iii. Thank you: Kob khun kah if you’re female. Kob khun krup if you’re male

 Now that we’re done with the boring “helpful” stuff, stay tuned for the Booze, Buddhas and Beaches of Thailand’s biggest island!

(faux)Leather + Hot  humid weather = great idea!

Poor packing skills exposed – Further Adventures in first time traveler mistakes

While I slowly drag out the process of writing about my Thailand trip I thought I would highlight another lesson learned from my previous trip to Australia. Some of you may remember the series of “mishaps” I had suffered before even hitting the ground on that trip.

One thing I neglected to highlight was some of the absurd things I chose to pack. I thought everyone, particularly seasoned travelers, might get a kick out of some of the following items that were in my last suitcase:

1. High High Heels:

6 inches of not-made-for-travel

6 inches of not-made-for-travel

Why it was stupid: They took up a bunch of room, added to the weight, and I wore them one. friggin, time. Not to mention even without them I’m 5’9, so it’s not like I really needed the boost to begin with. Thailand got me in flip flops the whole time.

2. A facial cleansing brush with all it’s attachments:

Why it was stupid: It’s a facial cleansing brush..that’s why. A simple towel would have saved me so much space both in my suitcase and on the counter, AND a deep cleaning really isn’t necessary when I’m really just going to be sweating and burning my skin all day anyway. Particularly in a hot/humid environment. This time, good ol’ fashioned travel wash cloth and facial scrub did the job.

This is JUST the tool itself. Not pictured= spinning gadgets that attach to it.

This is JUST the tool itself. Not pictured= spinning gadgets that attach to it.

3. A full sized purse complete with studs and tassels:

In case of 80's rock n' roll emergency?

In case of 80’s rock n’ roll emergency?

Why it’s stupid: I mean I love it but look at the thing. How is that practical for travel? Try putting that bad boy in your suitcase without the fringe hanging out. Or hopping off a boat with it dunking into the water. This time my camera bag was my day as it fits everything I need and I was able to pull out the camera sleeve to put in my backpack when I needed more room in the bag. Night time I rolled with a roomy but small clutch.

4. An electronic toothbrush:

Why it’s stupid: This wasn’t terribly stupid but it was again more space being occupied that could have been cut down. I had planned on getting just a regular standard issue toothbrush for Thailand but forgot and the electric came with me.

5. Jeans (specifically skintight jeggings):

Why it was stupid: Well, these aren’t always impractical should the environment neccessitate the thicker slow drying material. Australia and Thailand environment does not. In Oz, I again wore them one time and they were miserably uncomfortable because of the humidity. In Thailand I brought only a single pair of leggings and they were only worn on the plane.

6. A pile of jewelry:

Why it’s stupid: It’s just more stuff for me to lose, misplace, and forget to put on anyway.

7. A leather pleated mini skirt.

(faux)Leather + Hot  humid weather = great idea!

(faux)Leather + Hot humid weather = great idea!

Why it’s stupid: Because it’s a leather pleated mini skirt in a beach town where I was swimming and sitting on a bus most the day, and dancing on tables in bars at night (not skirt friendly). Again, one wear, again, not worth the space.

8. More clothes than I really needed: I mean I’m not any kind of fashionista, but I had a hard time wrapping my head around wearing tops/dressed multiple times. So while I did wear everything I packed, looking back I could have cut it down by half. Towards the end of my trip I ended up in the same dress 3 days in a row.

Now, with all the ridiculous things I brought with me, I do have several non-negotiables that some may find silly.

1. iPhone AND iPod: Because i really can’t live without music…like really I’ll die.

2. Decent iPod Speakers: Because I wouldn’t be a decent American stereotype if I didn’t force my music on everyone around me.

3. More bikinis than I’ll really need. Because I’m more (less?) half-dressed more of the time than you’re average bear.

4. My Kindle: Duh

5. A blanket for the plane: I know, planes have blankets, I know it wont get used one time once I’m off said plane, but it smells like me and makes it easier for me to fall asleep. Plus on occasion I bet I can double it on a beach or use it as a wrap when cold on a bus/ferri/boat etc.

With all those lessons learned I can safely say my suitcase for Thailand was packed MUCH lighter and more sensibly than the one for Australia. I even came home with a suitcase that still had room in it! Simply by omitting half the clothes, odd electrics, silly shoes and piles of jewelry. If you’re too impatient to wait for the upcoming Thailand posts, check out my snaps on Instagram to get you through the agony.

A sensible alternative

A sensible alternative

Happy travels friends!

 

The Jumbo tron displaying the logo of the evenings festivities.

Hockey and a Concert in the California Sun – LA Kings v Anaheim Ducks Stadium Series

“What did you do this weekend?” “Ohhh watched Kiss play at a Kings game at Dodger Stadium. Wayne Gretzky came to hang too, no big” Yes, Kiss (THEE Kiss) played at a hockey game, at a (outdoor) baseball stadium, and all was awesome in the world.

Paul, Gene, Eric and Tommy of Kiss

Paul, Gene, Eric and Tommy of Kiss

If you know me then you know the sports I follow usually involve half pipes and neck tattoos; BUT, this is not a simple Hockey Game, the Stadium Series is a full blown, first of its kind event. Quick little knowledge bomb drop: The Stadium Series is a set of 4 NHL games that will be hosted at Stadiums across the country; specifically Soldier Field in Chicago and Yankee Stadium in New York (who will host two). Los Angeles, however, is the only warm weather climate host. Meaning we were watching the game in frigid 63f  (17 celsius) temperatures while a refrigeration truck continuously pumped 3000 gallons of coolant to keep the ice cold. Anyway, the setup..

Dodger Stadium in Kings Make-up

Dodger Stadium in Kings Make-up

What was once a run of the mill (but also kick ass because it’s home to the Dodgers) Dodger Baseball Stadium, was transformed into a sports/music festival arena. The visual carnival included two stages, a beach volleyball court, the game rink and even a little rink next to it for wee little Kings and Ducks players to play on during the period breaks. While they were at it they through some yoga and Frisbee tossing in there too. JUUUUST to ensure our comrades experience the polar vortex back east fully grasped that we were far from cold on our side of town (douche move?).

Wee little Kings and Ducks

Wee little Kings and Ducks

The opening ceremony was a spectacle in and of itself. The crowd was treated to pyrotechnic filled performance by the one and only KISS, who performed two songs, the second of which being their trademark, “Rock and Roll All Night”. IMG_1520 IMG_1525 The Rockers were followed directly by the USC Marching Band entering center field (to a stadium of boo’s) leading in the men of the evening among Palm Trees and Stadium lights. Following a few words said by the Legend himself, Mr. Wayne Gretzky, Dodger fans were awarded another special treat as well. Next to the field was another Los Angeles sports icon, Dodger  announcer Mr. Vin Scully, who graced the crowd with those timeless words – with a slight twist- “It’s time for….NHL Hockey!” And we were off…but not before American Idol, Jordin Sparks, CRUSHED the National Anthem to the delight of the crowd. IMG_1485 IMG_1486 IMG_1487 IMG_1490   IMG_1503 {I won’t rattle on about the game itself as I’m not a Hockey Fan and only understand the basics of the game. Plus there are a zillion well informed sports writers that can, and have done a much better job than I can} IMG_1539 IMG_1534 IMG_1505 Unfortunately, the Ducks grabbed a quick 2-0 lead early in the first period, which they held on to all the way through the game until scoring one final point at the end of the 3rd. Making it a pretty uneventful game if I’m to be honest. But that doesn’t mean fans weren’t rewarded with more spectacle. IMG_1474 IMG_1469

Five for Fighting

Five for Fighting

The first period break brought another performance by Kiss and with the second came Five for Fighting who crooned their (his?) hits “fifteen” and “superman”. The game ended with a 3-0 kings loss which prevented it from being a perfect “show” but all and all I can definitely say I was not left disappointed. Even if Kings fans were forced to rub elbows with the opposing Ducks fans thanks to the close proximity of the two teams. I think I can safely say, good times were had by all.

Thailand here I come – The countdown is on for the battle between Tours and Solo Travel

BOOM! Time for me to formally announce my next little getaway and first one to a pseudo 3rd world developing country.

In about a month I will heading off on a 15ish day adventure to the SE Asian destination of Thailand. While my initial intent was to do it solo for the entirety of my trip- Drifting to and fro with no actual plan other than to wing it the whole time – a knock down drag out argument with my Mother forced me to do an organized tour for half the time. While this isn’t ideal for me personally, I think it will a great opportunity to explore the benefits and setbacks of both methods of travel on the same trip.

The plan: I will be touching down in Phuket (to my dismay not pronounced F-it) with a day to myself before setting sail with Contiki for their 9 day Island Hopper West adventure. On this tour we will hit Phuket, Koh Phi-Phi & Krabi (Ao Nang) with approximately 2  days in each location. After bidding my tour mates farewell, I will be heading off on a solo adventure (or be joined by some new friends) to a destination that I don’t yet know. Part of me wants to continue playing in the Islands by heading over to Koh Tao and getting my open water certification thanks to spending too much time on Alex’s blog. The other part of me wants to hit Bangkok and Chang Mai for shopping, a taste of city life, and to get a Sak Yant tattoo thanks to another fellow blogger, Kristin, over at Be My Travel Muse.

I’m so ecstatic so experience Eastern cultures, beaches, and shopping (i mean duh), and most importantly to make some more new friends from all over the world. Please bear with me while I over-post (and over share) about my thoughts,  feelings and processes leading up to the trip.

 

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Solstice Canyon Hike- Malibu

Happy New Year Bloggers and Blogee’s!! I’ll write some completely narcissistic, self serving deeply profound and/or reflective New Year post sometime this week I’m sure, but in the meantime I figure I’d dive right back into fun and interesting (sometimes) places and things…and running..anyway…

One thing that bums me out a lot when I skim travel blogs is the general distaste for Los Angeles. I promise you that while there are some frustrating aspects (public transportation) and super lame people (usually not native Angelenos)  that permeate my city, there’s a lot of really great stuff too. Hiking always being in close proximity is one of those things. With that, I present one of my favorite hiking spots, nestled in the hills of the world famous Malibu Coast.

{Warning: Over abundance of photo’s beyond this point due to gorgeous scenery and a new camera, which you know cause you follow me on instagram @jamiebollo}

Where else can you see the ocean, a waterfall, and some sweet burned out of a burned down mansion all in one hike. The loop described below is about 4 miles long. There is a second trail that can be done to extend it but since I haven’t conquered that just yet I wont be covering it.

Turning onto the Corral Canyon Rd from Pacific Cost Highway, you’ll immediately begin to see cars lining the side of the road as you get closer to the trailhead entrance on your left. There are about 4 parking spots directly inside the gate and if you continue on the one lane road, you will find a bigger lot further in. It’s usually full so you can either hang here for a minute and see if someone leaves OR head back down and park outside the gates along the road.

After you park you’ll head to the north end of the parking lot, just passed a gate to be presented with your trail choices. Directly to your right you will see a stair case leading the way to the Rising Sun Trail which will start your hike off with a nice steep climb.

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Have a nice swig of water, throw your hat on and lets get to it kids!

Have a nice swig of water, throw your hat on and lets get to it kids!

After a few feet you’re quickly greeted by some interesting and photo-op worthy sites.

7.windmill 8. Machine (1 of 1)Head onward and upward on the well maintained, yet un-shaded trail (so make sure to wear sun screen) and you will find yourself intersecting the paved fire road. Continue straight ahead on the dirt road you will see in front of you. Just in case another sign will point the way toward the TRW loop on the Rising Sun Trail and more stairs (woohoo!).

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Right about here I would do yourself a favor and turn around. On a clear day (which sadly this day was not) you’re able to see the ocean the entire time you’re on this side of the mountain on the way up.

After ascending these stairs your will come to yet more gravel which serves as a bit of a wonky parking lot-or perhaps did at one time. You will again find clear and concise signs pointing the way. You will also get to see some of the homes of rich and possibly famous up on the hill to your right.

Oh hey rich folk! Anyone need a girlfriend or daughter?

Oh hey rich folk! Anyone need a girlfriend or daughter?

Once you head up yet a 3rd set of stairs – don’t worry none of them are very long – you be back on the trail and slowly meandering to the other side – more specifically the valley side – of the mountain. for about a mile or so you will have some rolling hills and will slowly start descending towards the Solstice Canyon Trail at the bottom of the Canyon. Again, let me reiterate the lack of shade on the most difficult parts of this trail, a hat and sunscreen is strongly suggested.

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First thing you’ll notice is that the flora and fauna on this side of the mountain is significantly greener providing even more fantastic photo ops. Next thing you’ll notice is the stairs that you will be descending down. They are indeed a bit on the steep side and if you’re like me and are blessed with a temperamental knee, it would be wise to perhaps pop a Tylenol prior to starting this hike.

IMG_0806-2This is about where you’ll start seeing the beginning of the Tropical Terrance house – or what remains – peeking out from the foliage below.

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A quick but slippery hop across a refreshingly shaded stream and you’ll find yourself immersed in another world. To you’re north, a waterfall that invites you to scramble behind or take a rest if you fancy. To the south you’ll find the burned out ruins of Tropical Terrace house, complete with porch, fireplaces, and stove.

stream1IMG_0818-2 IMG_0826-2 IMG_0830-2After you’re done running around the ruins, you can continue heading south on the now widened trail. This mostly flat trail will take you right back to the parking lot. With perhaps a few more surprises along the way.

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If you take a quick detour across the above bridge you’ll get one more glimpse of Solstice Canyon pre-fire via the ruins of the oldest house in Malibu.

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Quick rub-a-dub-dub anyone?

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A few notables:

1. I was fine wearing my old running shoes. If you have un-perfect balance it may we wise to wear trail-shoes or hiking boots if only because of that stream you’ll be crossing. While not deep it would be a painful fall.

2. Solstice Canyon Trail is mostly flat, so if you’re bringing a stroller or someone with a bit of a mobility concern (such as perhaps some of our Moms and Dads) this might be a good trail to do as an out and back.

3. Dog friendly! But not over-run.

IMG_0796-3Happy Hiking everyone! Once I get the opportunity (read: stop being too lazy) too do the Deer Valley extension I’ll make sure to add that as well.

vegas

Getting around Las Vegas – The return to my home away from home

Ah, Vegas, the town I can’t get enough of when I’m on my way there and never want to see again every time I leave.
There are very few places in the world that I feel qualified enough to say I know the in’s and out’s of in terms of the scene, and Vegas is one of them.

Thanks to my second family, (bestie’s family) I am currently spending a weekend at my home away from home -marking what I would guesstimate to be my 35th trip here- to see none other than Miss Brittany Spears during the opening weekend of her residency at Planet Hollywood.
Now that I’m done with my humble brag, lets get down to the actual HELPFUL components of this post, transportation to and around Vegas. I’ll do this in list format to prevent myself from rambling.

Note: This is NOT for my Vegas regulars or really for anyone living in states at all. I’m well aware you all have this stuff down ;)

1.By Car:

If traveling by car, a lot of first timers aim to drive down to strip to get to their hotel in hopes of reenacting the beautiful street pans often seen in movies and TV shows – and I don’t blame them! The strip above street level is gorgeous…the traffic on hit however, is not. My advise to someone renting a car in California to drive to Vegas would be to stay on the 15 (freeway that brings you into town) as long as possible, forgoing the strip altogether. Most hotel’s have access to their valet and parking garages  on side streets rather than on the strip itself anyway. That 45 minutes that you save avoiding the strip will allow you to get checked in, pre-gamed (booze in the room), and back out to see the exact same lights you would have seen had you driven up the strip coming in. Another thing to note, Vegas hotels are HUGE, so from the vantage point of the car you can’t really see the hotel your driving by beyond the first few floors anyway. My advise for finding the quickest route to your hotel would be to give them a call and ask. Most map software will not account for traffic and will throw you right onto the strip proclaiming it “5 minutes from your hotel”. While is indeed possible, it’s not probable with traffic AND constant construction. Important note: once you arrive in Vegas, park your car for the duration (Save for perhaps a grand canyon trip, or something off the strip). Do NOT drive you car to the various bars and clubs. The mileage on your shoes or couple extra bucks for a cab are worth saving yourself from the horrific accidents I have seen due to drunk driving.

Tip: Don't let the drunk girl ride shotgun or the poor cab driver will end up in her hat.

Tip: Don’t let the drunk girl ride shotgun or the poor cab driver will end up in her hat.

If you do have a sober driver in your crew, most hotels do have free self parking, it will just involve a bit of walking. So grab a road soda and prepare to hoof it a bit.

2. Traveling by cab:

You’ve just gotten off a long (or short if you’re from LA) flight filled with booze, scenario building, and whooping it up with your friends in anticipation of your upcoming weekend. You deplane, skip baggage claim (cause your a pro and did carry-on) and find yourself in the longest cab line of your life…buzz kill. The cab line actually isn’t always horrendous I was just being dramatic. The thing to watch out for with cabs, should you get lucky with a short line, is cab drivers like to screw people by taking the long way to the hotel. Jumping on a highway, through some back streets, under a tunnel, over the river and through the woods. It helps to be vigilant in knowing where your hotel is in proximity to the airport and noticing or even requesting that your driver go a certain route. If heading to the North Strip hotels such as the Wynn, the tunnel/highway route will get you there quicker due to less traffic but will be more miles and therefore a pricier route. The local roads route will take a bit longer but will be less expensive due to lesser miles. I’ve paid about $20.00 for a cab from the airport to Harrah’s which is a few hotels closer than the Wynn. Another important thing to make note of when paying your driver. If you pay by credit card there will be a $3.00 fee added, so best to get cash out before hand.

Cabs are also a ladies best friend in getting around Vegas as contrary to the song, these boots were NOT made for walking. Again, be mindful of where your destination is in relation to where you are. Unfortunately a lot of times the quickest way to get form one hotel to another is indeed dealing with the traffic of the strip. Getting from the Luxor (Northern most) to the Stratosphere (southern most) you’re looking at about $20.00. So anything in closer proximity shouldn’t be any pricier than that.

Pro tip: When you’re going to a particular club, make sure you let your cab driver know, as a lot of hotels will have a closer entrance for club access. This goes for the pool parties as well. Also, if you’re staying at one of the off-strip properties (ie: Hard Rock/ Palms) prepare for some super intense cab lines. You may want to consider the following option…

3. Limo:

Now this might sound outlandish at first but it’s a really fun route to go should you have a big group of friends with you. From the airport costs usually aren’t more than $15.00 per person and the benefit is you usually have enough time within your required 1 hour limo hire to stop at a market to pick-up some water and booze for the room on the way to your hotel, or you can pop a little something open in the limo itself to continue the good time probably started on the plane. The company I’ve used personally and have found to be fair in cost and reliable in service is Presidential Limo, but poke around to find what’s best for you.

The cab lines in Vegas can get a bit (a lot) intense at times, again if you have a lot of people in your group look into grabbing one of the limos or suburbans out front. They’ll be waiting with the cabs. You can usually negotiate a marginally reasonable rate with them and it allows your entire group to skip the line and maintain the party atmosphere right up until you get to the destination. I can’t give you an approximate cost on this method as it will fluctuate depending on the weekend, demand, amount of people, etc.

Also, for the gentleman (and some fun loving ladies): most strip clubs do have free limos to their clubs. So make sure to inquire about that before spending money on a cab to go.

Limo = Everyone gets to cruise together

Limo = Everyone gets to cruise together

4. Vegas Monorail:

I haven’t ridden personally but it’s another alternative that can give you a mix of walking and riding depending on what your destination is. Information can be found here.

5. Walking it:

Obviously walking is always an option, however, I want to take a moment to talk to the ladies about street feet. Street feet is when a lady removes her shoes due to them paining her resulting in walking around the club or on the nasty streets of Vegas barefoot. First of all, this is dangerous. Both the clubs and streets are subject to bodily fluids (spit) and broken glass being spilled on their floors. Should you cut yourself you’re subject yourself to infection and the club to liability or at a minimum a lot of paperwork. An alternative to being a dirty bird is to get yourself a slight bigger clutch and grabbin’ some of these bad boys. Roll up flats are awesome for walking to and from your destination at night as well as when your heels are hurting once in the club. I’ve personally used my Dr. Schoels roll up flats for about 3 years now so they’re pretty sturdy.

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My Favorite shots from Australia

With the holidays in full swing I figure our bellies are too full of food for our minds to want to read too many details. That being said it is time for me to wrap up my Australia posts but not without getting a few more of my favorite pictures out there of the gorgeous country. Presenting, an Australian Photo Dump….

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My first view of OZ from the plane

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A sleepy Koala at Zoo

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A beautiful break in the sand on Frasier Island

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The most stunning sunset I’ve ever seen in person in Noosa Beach

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Some street art in Byron Bay..little slice of home

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Brisbane Cityscape via (recently flooded) river

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More art in our room at Surfaris Surf Camp in Crescent Head

I was out tutu'd by a dog. Least she was cute.

Gobble Tov! – Turkey Trot LA Race Recap and Review (week 4)

..get it…cause Chanukah fell on Thanksgiving?..anyone?..tough room.

Anyway, the day finally came, my first race “back”, the Inaugural Turkey Trot LA.

2013 is the very first year of this (hopefully) annual race, taking place on the shut-down streets of Down-Town Los Angeles, Ca on Thanksgiving morning. The race included 5k, 10k and half mile “Widdle Wobble” options. They were also selling Thanksgiving pies by Homeboy Industries as well as T-shirts and hoodies to commemorate the race. I of course went for the 5k.

As I don’t get the opportunity to ride the metro (subway) terribly often I was very excited that this race was promoted as being very public transport accessible. Unfortunately as stoked as I was to test out said accessibility, turns out when you set your alarm for 6:00 am Saturday, it does not help you get up for a race on a Thursday – yeh I’m not a thinker sometimes what do you want from me.

Pro Tip: Setting an early alarm for a Saturday is great for being woken up on time…unless it’s Wednesday, and your race is on THURSDAY!

So I wake up with a start about an hour before the guns going to go off. I shove a piece of toast in my body, throw my sweet ensemble on and head out the door; frantically texting my race buddy about what an idiot I am – the news doesn’t surprise her at all, sigh.

So stoked to race I'm shooting sunshine out of my finger tips

So stoked to race I’m shooting sunshine out of my finger tips

Pre-Race:

Parking was extremely well organized, with traffic guards directing us into one of two driveways to ensure parking went quickly and streets weren’t backed up. The race had taken over a massive parking structure and offered parking for a flat rate of $10.00 for the race; along with an option to prepay to get it at a slightly discounted rate. Because of my intention to take the subway, and running late, I neither had prepaid my parking nor did I have enough cash to pay for it (cash only, no credit cards). Bless the guys heart that let me get away with $3.00.

Walking to the race I noticed two things:

  1. I was already out costumed in my tutu by a guy in a full head to toe turkey costume
  2. We were walking down a GIANT hill that had a mile marker on it…shit were we going to have to run up this bad boy?
The streets of downtown LA completely shut down for the race.

The streets of downtown LA completely shut down for the race.

Packet pick-up was quick and organized as well. They had it set up by bib number which I was able to look up on a board.  Swag was just a kick-ass trucker hat, which I was good with, and our timing chip which would be attached to our shoes then returned. Gear check is what I think the need-to-work-on factor is for them. There were only 2 lines and 4 people working the booth; and their gear organization consisted of throwing everything in a plastic bag, sharpeeing our bib number on it, and throwing them into a pile – not the smartest or most efficient system.

I was out tutu'd by a dog. Least she was cute.

I was out tutu’d by a dog. Least she was cute.

Racers hanging out by the vendors waiting to line-up

Racers hanging out by the vendors waiting to line-up

 

The MC (announcer) was good at getting the crowd psyched up and letting us know when to get to the start line. The only problem there was the speakers allotted to him were the ones next to the starting line. If you were in the back near the (minimal) vendors and the packet pick-up area, all you heard was loud music, which leaves room for people to miss the announcements. In my humble opinion, next year they should make sure he could be heard throughout the entire venue.

The race:

Once the gun went off, Tricia and I bobbed and weaved our way through a few people to get some space to breathe. Tricia, you’ll remember, is my speed demon friend from an earlier post. I decided I would try to do my best to keep up with her – even though on her slowest day she’s 2.5 minutes faster than me. We had plenty of room on the nice wide closed down roads and for the first block or so I was A-OK. Then we turned a corner and it was straight up that nasty hill, then around a second corner for ANOTHER nasty hill. I made the mistake of trying to go full speed with Tricia and waaay over exerted myself during the toughest and earliest part of the course.

Gorgeous Giant Christmas Tree we stretched by and of course posed at. PS say hi to Tricia!

Gorgeous Giant Christmas Tree we stretched by and of course posed at. PS say hi to Tricia!

Running through the streets where the road mercifully flattened out.

Running through the streets where the road mercifully flattened out.

 

Good news is what goes up must come down and we were soon shooting down a nice long hill and back on to flat ground. Aside from a slight incline at the finish line the race was completely flat from here. Crowd support was dismal for the most part but that’s to be expected given it’s a new race and it was about 8:00am. It was super cool running down the cities deserted streets with its massive buildings and hipster-esque coffee shops. We did get a little bit of cheering in the form of some playful dogs that voiced their disdain in not being able to join us.

The race participants came in all shapes and sizes. I saw parents trying to keep toddlers focused enough to jog with them, several people who were running their first race, a couple strollers, and even a guy kicking some ass in a head controlled Power Chair. The Power Chair particularly warmed my heart as I volunteer with a child who has just been approved for a similar chair, and was thrilled by the idea that she could someday race in some capacity as well.

Water stations were at about miles 1ish and 2ish, the volunteers did a great job of holding them out for those not intending to stop and walk. On the flip side the racers were all kind enough to thank the volunteers which is nice. I, of course, forgot my headphones which allowed me to take the time to enjoy the Urban landscape I was running through.

I was at a pretty steady 11:00 miles 1-2.5 and then all of sudden my steam had just COMPLETELY run out. I was walk/running the last .7 miles, finally getting some energy the last .2 to sprint when I saw that finish line. I ended up running my slowest 5k ever with an 11:30 minute mile. The way I see it, I have a time to beat.

The finish area was the top of a slight incline and is the most major area that needed some work. We had timing chips attached to our shoes that had to go back, and said go-back was about 5 steps inside the finish line causing quite the frustrating back up when crossing it. From there, the water/banana station was a few feet further directly in the middle of the finish line area, which wouldn’t have been an issue had there not been barricades on either side causing a bottle neck situation. last thing you want to do after running with tons of space is to be stuck in a bottleneck with lots of other sweaty bodies.

Post Race:

I met up with Tricia -who CRUSHED me to the point of getting 8th in our age group, she continues to impress me – and set off to pick up my “gear” (see: hoodie) and see what else there was to see. The 10k’ers were dropping of their gear at the same time the 5k’ers were picking ours up. So pick-up was a giant mess as we had to wait in those same two lines and then remain patient while they sifted through non-organized piles of identical plastic bags.

Once my hoodie was recovered we looked around to see if there was any kind of finish line party or refreshments/samples being given out and gave up after a yummy couple sips of Coconut Water. Getting out of the parking lot was a breeze and then it was off to IHOP (Pancake House) along with apparently every other family in Los Angeles to celebrate the race.

Official Time: 35:31 at 11:27mm

Celebrating our finish (and Tricia placing 9th in her age-group)

Celebrating our finish (and Tricia placing 9th in her age-group)

All in all I did very much enjoy the race and would definitely do it again next year, gnarly hills and all. The people working and volunteering all had great attitude and were as helpful as they could be with any questions or concerns that were brought to them. If I were to suggest any changes to the race they would be:

  1. Organize a better system for storing gear
  2. Readjust the speakers so the announcer could be heard throughout
  3. Move both the chip return and the banana station much further back and outside the barricades.
  4. Maybe add a bit of a finish line festival/ more vendors (which I’m sure will come naturally with time).

My personal changes would be:

  1. Again, be better about conserving my energy in the beginning of the race.
  2. Eat much more than one piece of toast to ensure I have more energy throughout the race
  3. Do some morning running to get my body more used to exerting that kind of energy first thing. I do all my running in the evening.
  4. Hit some hills at least once a week – as much as I don’t want to.

Now time to look for a 10k!!