Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Currently // A Life Catch Up!

There has definitely been a period of radio silence around here lately. Don't worry, it is well deserved, and I'm back now! This is a quick catch-up of life lately and what I have been up to!

Celebrating completing my MBA in International Marketing with a 4.0! That's right - I am officially all done with school! After moving back up to Minneapolis, I took some time off work and tripled my course load with school in order to speed up the completion of my MBA. I was slightly worried about how I would be able to handle the course load, but I had plenty of motivation and was able to push through the last ten weeks of school, receiving A's in each of my last three courses and graduating with a 4.0 overall!

Getting prepped for a big couple weeks of travel: Now that school is over, I decided to take a few weeks off and enjoy some free time, especially in the summer. Along with free time comes a few trips! I have Las Vegas and Miami coming up in the next couple weeks, and am so excited to visit both again!'

Enjoying life in Minneapolis with weekly visits to the farmers market. One of my favorite parts about Minneapolis is the farmers market, located just a few blocks from our condo. This past weekend, Nick and I ventured down there, strolled around for a few hours, and even decided to take our chances and test out our green thumbs. Thats right, we bought a real live plant. This may not seem like a big deal to many, but in the summer months our patio literally becomes the desert - at any point in time, it is a solid 15-20 degrees warmer than anywhere else in the city, and receives constant hot heat from the afternoon and evening sun. We'll see how long this plant lasts!

Working on some new blog posts! I feel like it has been forever - and truthfully, it has been about six weeks - since I've blogged! I constantly have new ideas for posts, and have still not fully caught up on the last few trips to Mexico and Thailand. Between that, and several upcoming trips, I have tons of content that I can't wait to get out there!

Modist brewing Minneapolis
Enjoying a cold one at Modist Brewing Co!
Exploring all of the awesome new breweries in Minneapolis. One of my favorite parts about Minneapolis is how it seems like every week, there is a new brewery opening. Within a five minute walk from my house are at least three (that I know of!) breweries, and within a five minute drive or bike ride are countless more. I haven't been to that many yet, but I'm working on expanding my knowledge of them!

A cool pic from a cloudy run!
Running. Every winter, I go through a phase where due to the weather, I quit running. Every spring, I start running again and declare that next winter I won't do the same thing. Who knows, perhaps I just need a break - but in any case, I've gotten back into running and loving it! I've got a great little route that I do right in downtown Minneapolis which takes me across the Stone Arch Bridge and through Saint Anthony Main (two of the best neighborhoods of Minneapolis!). The only problem with running this route is that often it is too pretty to keep running - I just want to start snapping pictures!

Working on finding my dream job. I have a ton of varied interests - marketing, social media, travel/tourism, restaurants, hospitality, branding, customer service, relationship building - so I'm really trying to find the perfect opportunity! I have taken a little time to enjoy the completion of my MBA, and now I'm ready to really go out and hit the job market. Can't wait to see what I find and put my education & previous experience to use!

Planning a (potential!) trip to Iceland for New Years Eve! A few weeks (months?) ago, Nick mentioned that he thought heading to Iceland for this next NYE would be a blast. Since then, we have talked to a few other couples who might be in for joining us - now that I am done with school, I will finally have time to put together some information and see if it is feasible! I feel like it might be fate, especially as about a year and a half ago I featured Iceland for a NYE celebration!

is this not the best shirt ever?!
Drinking lots of champagne! With the completion of my MBA and subsequent purchase of the above shirt, how could I not be? But seriously.

In any case, this was a great catch up post of the last six weeks of my life! I really don't have much else to tell beyond school work - but luckily, that is done now. I can't wait to catch up on some blog posts, write some new content, continue running, get a job, and then take a couple of amazing trips! What have you been up to lately? And if anybody has Iceland tips, you know I'd love to hear them!!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Five Must Do Activities in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

best things to do in playa del carmen
stunning sunrises in Playa Del Carmen
Oh, the sunrises in Playa Del Carmen. Watching the sun rise is one of my new favorite activities, and likely even beats watching it set. After all, when the sun rises, you are typically one of few people out and about and are able to have those quiet moments to reflect on your upcoming day. Watching the sun rise across the Caribbean is simply a stunning experience and an absolute must-do activity for anyone visiting Playa Del Carmen.

best playa del carmen day tours
When we visited Playa, we spent the day with Local Quickies and our day ended with a three hour catamaran ride on the largest catamaran in the Caribbean. The ride was everything I could have asked for and truly had something for everyone. Relax on the ropes on the front of the boat. Check out the Mayan Ruins in Tulum, and see them exactly as the Spaniards saw them hundreds of years ago. Listen to music. Eat fresh guacamole. Mingle with new friends. And of course, have a few cocktails with the open bar. Catamaran rides are certainly one of my new favorite activities for any vacation!

playa del carmen restaurants
Delicious, fresh baked bread at Chez Celine
Fifth Avenue is the main drag in Playa, and there are endless restaurants and shops. Chez Celine is an cozy cafe & bakery located on the far east end of the main street. Oh, was everything amazing! I ate there twice and I was able to sit both indoors and outdoors and had two vastly different experiences. Outdoors, I watched the people walk by and enjoyed the warm weather. Indoors, I was able to watch the bakers and the dedication that they put into each individual baked good. It was so impressive to watch, and there is no wonder Chez Celine is as popular as it is!

Getting the second shot on a barracuda!
Between my husband and I, we have had tons of different travel experiences. One thing we had never tried until visiting Playa Del Carmen is spearfishing, and I know that Nick is absolutely hooked by now. Spearfishing is a great way to experience fishing in a completely new way, and the best part is that you are also immersed in the water. Whether you actually get anything or not (which, trust me, you or somebody in your group will!) you will be able to see so much amazing wildlife underneath the ocean. My best advice is to just go!

to do in Playa Del Carmen
Colorful streets in Cozumel!
Despite having been to Mexico several times and having heard great things about Cozumel, I had never made it over to this quaint island. On one of our last days, we hopped onto the 30-minute ferry ride to go visit Cozumel. I'll be honest, as much as I loved it - I truthfully have enjoyed other places in Mexico much more! However, it is certainly worth a day trip to go explore somewhere new. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Custom Tailoring in Thailand: Tailor on Ten

where to get custom suits in Bangkok
Nick all suited up!
Two years ago while on our honeymoon, Nick and I were introduced to the world of custom tailoring in Thailand. While strolling the streets, it seemed that at least once every block, if not more often, there was a well-dressed man in a suit asking you to come inside for a custom tailored suit - or shirt, or jacket, or really, anything you could dream up. We decided to take a chance on it, and had some OK things made. However, we KNEW that things could be much better, so before this most recent trip to Thailand Nick performed extensive research to find out who the best tailor in Thailand is. If you have ever wondered where to get custom suits in Bangkok, you've found it right here. After researching tailors over a several month long period, once he received his new job offer, we booked our flights to Bangkok and off we went!

Tailor on Ten Bangkok
Outside of Tailor on Ten - hard to believe you are in the heart of Bangkok!
Now, just a quick discussion on why Nick wanted custom suits made in Thailand, and specifically selected Tailor on Ten. First, you get to pick every detail of them and the fit will be amazing. Second, designing custom suits in the U.S. can take at least two months (if not more), and range in price from $2000-$3000, or even higher. We were able to order six suits, thirteen shirts, and one sport coat - and the entire process was completed in one week for a fraction of the price (and time!) it would have taken in the U.S. Now, these are just a couple of the quick highlights - on to the rest of the review and reasons you should be ordering custom items from Tailor on Ten!

Fast forward past the 24 hour flight and a quick catnap at our hotel, and we arrived at Tailor on Ten for our first appointment. As soon as we walked in the door, we were greeted and asked if we would like a water or a beer to refresh ourselves from the heat of the day. The shop was cool, tidy, and lined wall-to-wall with more bolts of fabric and options for suits and shirts than I could ever picture!

As we were a few minutes late for our appointment (oops - taxis in Bangkok can take forever to get from place to place!), Danny, the guy who would be helping us was just wrapping another task up. We took a few moments to relax and cool off from the heat, and then I started looking at some of the fabric for suits. As somebody who initially had little to no knowledge of suits and fabrics - besides the fact that there is a wide range as far as quality and price goes - I really did not know what to expect. Anyways, on to the good stuff!

Nick working on selecting all of his options
Once Danny was able to assist us, we sat down and explained exactly what we were looking for, and what we had been thinking price-wise. One of the great things about Tailor on Ten compared to other tailors in Bangkok and throughout Thailand is that Tailor on Ten uses fixed prices, and there is no negotiation. Thus, you always know you will get what you are paying for and are not getting ripped off, like you may worry about at other places! We explained that Nick was looking for high quality suits and shirts that he could wear every day, and not only that they would look nice but also last him for a long time. After understanding what we were looking for, Danny gave us brief information and the highs and lows of each of the different suit fabrics that we could select from. He steered us away from some of the fabrics that would not be ideal for daily use, and towards exactly what we were looking for. For example, we had naively assumed we would be purchasing the most expensive fabric, as we thought that meant the highest overall quality and would last the longest. However, Danny informed us that based off the desire to have suits that would last a long time and be worn every day, we may want a more durable fabric and actually steered us to a cheaper fabric. Yes, you read that right - a salesperson listened to what we wanted, and instead of having us spend more money on something we ultimately wouldn't be happy with, told us the best option, even though it was cheaper in price! After determining the fabric type that we wanted, it was off to select colors!

where to get suits in Bangkok
the shirt fabrics we selected
Getting measurements. These two guys alone have over 40 years of experience!
Draping fabric to help envision how it would look as a suit
As a non-creative person, I had a very difficult time envisioning many of the bolts of fabric as suits or shirts. However, this is where Danny was great and was able to assist us in envisioning the final product. When we weren't sure about something, we were able to hold it up to Nick and get a better picture in our minds. After a deliberation process and selecting the final fabrics, it was time to get to the fun stuff- the details.

Now, beyond picking the fabric for custom suits, the cool part is that you pick every single detail. All in all, I would say that for each suit you select about 25-30 different details: the cut, how many buttons, the color of the stitching, the buttons, the monogram, the lining of the suit, the list goes on. For example, just in regards to the lapel you have three styles, two widths, and three button hole options to select from. It is a lot of different options to select, but at any point in the process whomever you are working with is able to guide you towards what will fit your style and the more traditional selections.

On the left, you can see all of the suits - right hand side is the inside of one jacket!
After we had made all of our selections for each suit jacket, pant, and shirt, we reviewed each of the selections made. Many other tailors in Bangkok would just take your selections and move on with the process- however, when custom designing suits, this is a mistake! When going through and double-checking, we found 2-3 things that we wanted to change. Whether we had made the wrong selection initially, or the wrong button had gotten pushed, you want to make sure that the custom suits you are designing are exactly what you want. After all, isn't it better to spend a few minutes double-checking and ensure you get what you want?

The attention to detail was like none other!
After all the selections were complete, we were finished for the day! The next step was to return late the following day. At that point in time, one shirt had been completed, and one suit (both jacket and pants) were ready for Nick to try on and see any adjustments that needed to be made. Again, many other tailors would not have you come back for this step in the process. However, by spending a few extra minutes trying things on, Tailor on Ten is able to ensure that every single item you order is exactly what you want and fits perfectly.

best tailors in Bangkok
Making sure everything fits perfectly
Even the slightest imperfection was corrected 
Besides the initial selection process and initial fitting, Nick returned once more to make fitting adjustments before the final day of our trip. At this point in time, every single item in our order was complete, so Nick was able to try every single item on. Any small detail that didn't seem quite right was noted and sent back for quick adjustments to ensure that the final suits and shirts fit perfectly. Some items simply fit differently due to different fabrics and materials being used, which is precisely why Tailor on Ten wants to see you try everything on to ensure you personally are happy.

best tailor in Bangkok 2016
Somebody's looking pretty happy with his results!
After the very final adjustments had been made, we returned to Tailor on Ten to pick up our entire order! The entire order was nicely packaged for us - shirts carefully folded, suits hung up - and the entire order presented in nice bags to take home. This step of the process, while potentially unnecessary - after all, we were just going to pack everything into a suitcase to sit for 36 hours - just goes to show how Tailor on Ten truly cares about every aspect of the process and wants to make a complete experience for every customer.

This is truly an experience that any businessperson should experience, and is something that is completely unique from every other tailor in Bangkok. When you go to Tailor on Ten, you know that you will be receiving friendly customer service, from people who actually care about your results. Finally, one last kicker about why Tailor on Ten is so fabulous - for any customer that they work with, they will log your measurements into their system, so that at any point in the future you can place an order with them! Their website is 100% user-friendly, and you are able to go through the entire customization process online. On top of this, you don't even have to have physically visited Tailor on Ten to order custom items - you can order online through their website! As a special perk, anyone that places an order (minimum amount $200) with Tailor on Ten between now and April 30, 2016 using the code "ANGELL" will receive free shipping on their first order!

All in all, we were incredibly happy with the entire process at Tailor on Ten. I'll be 100% honest - yes, you can find cheaper suits. However, you will absolutely not find the same quality, customer service, and level of care throughout every step of the process. If you've ever wanted a truly custom experience, look no further than Tailor on Ten. So - what about you? Have you ever purchased anything custom, let alone custom suits and shirts in Thailand? What was your experience like?

Having some fun before his first day at work!

Monday, March 28, 2016

A Last-Minute Trip to Thailand!

Another day, another gorgeous destination! 
First off, Wow! Talk about a whirlwind last four weeks. Four weeks and three days ago, I officially moved back up to Minneapolis. Then, exactly four weeks ago, I woke up sick as a dog, and spent the next two weeks in and out of the doctors office and hospital. In the midst of that, I found out some very exciting news...

Nick and I!
My amazing husband received and accepted a new job offer! Starting today, he is the new Regional Vice President for New York Life / Mainstay Funds. The best part about this? He will be based right here in Minneapolis, covering Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Wisconsin (with the exception of a few cities)!

Once we received this news, things began moving even more quickly. I planned a last-minute trip to Thailand, and things worked out where Nick was able to accompany me! So, off to Thailand we went! I only have time for a quick post today (time to get caught up on homework, unpacking from the move, and cleaning house!), but here is a wrap up of our trip to Thailand!

tailored suits in Bangkok
Making sure every detail is perfect!
We departed on a Monday around noon local time, and did not arrive in Thailand until almost midnight on Tuesday - so yet again, it was almost 36 straight hours of travel to arrive in Thailand! Once arriving, as soon as we settled down for the evening we caught a few hours of shut eye. After all, one of the primary reasons for this trip was to get Nick outfitted with several new custom suits and shirts. So the first full day of our trip was spent visiting Tailor on Ten!

best tailor in Bangkok
On the left, you can see several of the colors of suit jackets we selected. Right hand shows the inner details we were able to customize!
Tailor on Ten Review
Nick all decked out in one of his stunning new suits!
While at Tailor on Ten, we spent almost 5 hours selecting every single detail of 6 suits, 1 sport coat, and 13 shirts. Trust me when I say that despite this being a long time, it was worth every minute of it!  I'll be posting more about how to find the best custom tailor in Thailand (look no further- this is it) - at a later date, so please stay tuned!

private river cruise in bangkok
This was definitely the best way to see ALL of Bangkok!
Besides spending time getting Nick outfitted, we had several other things we wanted to do on this trip. I had loved our previous river cruise on the Chao Phraya, so we elected to do a day cruise instead of a night cruise. I'm not going to lie - 20 minutes into the cruise, I thought we had gotten ripped off - but not long after, I realized that this was a great way to see Bangkok that many people may not. We were able to see many of the beautiful sights, as well as some of the not-so-beautiful back alleyways and canals that are not typically seen. A full recap of this experience will be coming later!

Amari Watergate review
Rooftop Garden at Amari Watergate - beautiful, and so secluded!
Previously in Bangkok, Nick and I have stayed at two different hotels. On this trip, we decided to hop around a little bit and explore some new locations, so we stayed at our third, fourth, and fifth Bangkok hotel. Two of these hotels were in a familiar area of town for us off Sukhumvit near Nana Plaza, one of the popular areas of town. Then, we decided to venture out a bit and experience amazing service from Amari Watergate! While in Thailand, I've never stayed at a traditional 5-star hotel - rather, I have opted to try and save a bit of money to indulge in more street food and massages.  Staying at Amari really gave Bangkok a different feel, and made both Nick and I feel much more ready to embark on a 36 hour travel journey home at the end of our trip!

best place to see sunset in Bangkok
This view of Bangkok just can't be beat!
Overall, the biggest activities we took part in were hopping between rooftop bars and both day and night markets. I discovered that Chatuchak Market is definitely my favorite market in town. The sunset (if you can call it a sunset in Bangkok!) really can't be beat from Above Eleven. Above Eleven is a rooftop restaurant that may take you a moment to find, as the entrance is a speak-easy type entrance with a private elevator at the back of a hotel. Definitely an awesome place!

In addition to all of this, Nick and I had our first REAL experience at Bangkok's Red Light districts. There are three main red light districts, and we had (somewhat) unknowingly visited two of them on our previous trip to Bangkok. This time around, we purposefully visited, spent a few minutes, and then pretty much ran away from them. Lets jus say I will never look at ping pong balls or darts the same way... No worries, I'll be giving you a full detail on what you need to know about Bangkok's red light districts in the future!

Had to get a shot of our new tickets, passport cover, and Delta flight credit!
Finally, our trip concluded on a VERY high note. We woke up at 3 AM to get to the airport in time for our 7 AM flight. Upon arrival, we were informed that our flight was overbooked, and if we were willing to give up our seats in exchange for a $1000 flight voucher per person ($2000 total!) we would be rebooked onto a flight departing two hours later. With zero hesitation, we said yes, hoping that everything would fall in place - and it did!

After several long flights home, we made it back safe and sound. Since then, I've been busy catching up on MBA homework, and Nick has been prepping for his first few weeks on the job. It will definitely be a busy few weeks around here, as I still have posts to catch up on from our time in Mexico, and now a whole slew of Thailand posts to write! What do you most want to hear about from our time in Thailand? I'm so looking forward to catching up with all of you!

Monday, March 14, 2016

A Local Experience in Playa Del Carmen: Local Quickies Review

snorkeling with the Local Quickies in Playa Del Carmen!
Have you ever gone on a trip and taken a tour, only to think "wow, this is exactly what every other person visiting this area has ever done". Isn't that a let down? Whenever I am traveling, I always like to find something a little unique, a little local, and overall - just a little bit different from the same thing that every single other tourist in the area is doing. Which is exactly why a few weeks ago, I was so excited to take a trip with Local Quickies in Playa Del Carmen!

best tour in playa del carmen
beautiful beaches in Tulum with Local Quickies!
Yes, Local Quickies is a tour group - but it is so much more than that! Rather than herding groups of tourists in the same direction every day, Local Quickies is meant to be all about hanging out with friends! Bonus points that your tour guides on the trip are going to be locals to the area, and have some of the best knowledge of the area and are more than happy to spread it. In any case, let's take a quick look at our day!

The day started bright and early with an 8 AM pick up right outside of our condo in Playa Del Carmen. We hopped in the van and headed to Akumal, a gorgeous beach located just south of Playa. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Akumal, Akumal directly translates to "Place of the Turtle" in Mayan language, and boy is it obvious!

Just one of the many, many wild sea turtles we saw!

Once we arrived in Akumal, our group donned snorkeling gear and headed out into the ocean hoping to catch a glimpse of wild sea turtles. Not more than five minutes into the ocean and we had spotted our first turtle grazing on sea grass! One of the best parts about snorkeling with the Local Quickies is that all of the snorkeling is done completely in the wild, with no cages or pens. We were able to see so many sea turtles, and learn about them as we went! It was very interesting to learn that the sea turtles in the Akumal area tend to stay there feeding until they are about 9 or 10 years old, at which time they naturally know to migrate to better feeding grounds that will meet their needs.

Wouldn't you love to kayak or zipline this cenote?
After a morning swimming with the sea turtles and tons of other wildlife, we were off to explore the swiss cheese of the Mayan Riviera! Never heard of it? I'll be honest- I had not either! As we hopped into the van, Mariano, our local guide, took the time to educate us on the local ecosystem. Essentially, the Yucatan Peninsula is somewhat like swiss cheese made of limestone: throughout the entire peninsula, there is an underground network of cenotes, natural sinkholes, that are connected.

Check out how beautiful and clear that water is!
The entire network of cenotes in the Yucatan is comprised of fresh water pools and rivers that are all interconnected, and ultimately empty out into the ocean. Cenotes were very important to the Mayan culture, as the name cenote translates to "sacred well", and many Mayan villages were built on the edges of these cenotes.

Just another day in paradise with Local Quickies
We visited the a private cenote and had plenty of time between our group to relax, swim in the crystal clear blue water, sunbathe, and take a jump off the cliffs! After we had relaxed and dried off, we went for a walk through the stunning, authentic Mayan village before heading off the lunch for the day.

beautiful Mayan place of worship
one of the houses in the Mayan village
a well located within the Mayan village
One of the best parts about taking a tour with the Local Quickies was the great exposure we had to authentic aspects of life. Rather than partaking in another touristy activity, we were able to see how some of the Mayan people actually lived by walking through their village. After our tour through the village, we hit the road again for a quick lunch stop.

our amazing lunch spot!
Again, Local Quickies exceeded our expectations and provided us with an authentic, roadside Mayan meal featuring cochinita pibil, a slow roasted pork dish that has been marinated with oranges and cooked underground in banana leaves. Trust me when I say words don't do it justice! The cochinita pibil is served with all of the fixings, including handmade tortillas made fresh on the spot.

Really, Tulum, could you be any more picture-perfect? 
Once we had all eaten our fill, it was back to the shuttle to spend some time on the beach in Tulum! We were instructed that if we liked, we would walk to see the Mayan ruins on the beach of Tulum. However, it was not highly recommended, as we were told instead to wait until we boarded our catamaran home and could see the Mayan ruins as they were viewed from the ocean hundreds of years ago!

You can see the ruins from the beach in Tulum
from several kilometers away the ruins were VERY impressive!
Of course, I'm not going to lie - I walked over towards the ruins, and I was not that impressed from the beach. The Tulum ruins are built on the cliffs of Tulum, and are believed to have been constructed prior to 564 A.D. Eventually, the city of Tulum was abandoned and not discovered until the Spaniards sailed to Mexico and saw the ruins peeping over the cliff hills. In any case, after time on the beach, we loaded up the catamaran and began our departure back to Playa Del Carmen.

Sailing with the Local Quickies!
Let's take a moment to talk about this catamaran ride. With Local Quickies, you will get to set sail on the largest catamaran in the Caribbean, and my gosh is it impressive! The catamaran raced around the world twice prior to being converted to commercial use. As we loaded the catamaran, we were each greeted with complimentary cocktails and refreshments until departure.

Of course, it wasn't all fun and games! The guys were enlisted to help with the sails, and impressively enough were able to get the sails fully open! After the sails were opened, we set sail for several hours back towards Playa Del Carmen and Puerto Aventuras.

The entire ride was met with complimentary cocktails, refreshments, fresh guacamole, music, dancing, and an overall relaxing yet festive mood. The entire trip followed the scenic coast, and for quite some time as we left Tulum we were able to view the impressive ruins. The ruins only got more impressive the further away we got! Eventually, they slipped out of view and it was the perfect opportunity to relax and take in the beautiful ocean views.

Dance parties on the catamaran are a must!
As always, all good things eventually came to an end and we made it back to Puerto Aventuras. We departed the catamaran and reluctantly said good bye to the rest of the crew and an amazing day. For most of the day, it had been our group of just six people joined by our local guide. Parts of the day we were joined by others, but each individual on the tour was warm, welcoming, and ready for a great time!

Overall, the best part about the day was how generally relaxing it was. Yes, we were off on what could have been a traditionally touristy tour, having irrelevant information tossed at us. Rather, each individual we encountered genuinely loved their job and wanted to spread knowledge of the Mayan cultures and traditions, education about the sea turtles and sea life, and ensure that each passenger had an amazing time. If you are looking for the best tour in Playa Del Carmen, Tulum, Puerto Aventuras, or Cancun - look no further! Local Quickies will make sure to exceed your expectations in every way, shape, and form!

Wouldn't you like to join a tour with the Local Quickies?
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