The Palace of Gold, New Vrindaban – WV

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Map of WV.pngOn our way down to Pittsburgh, we stopped by a place that had been on my bucket list for a long time. I actually heard about this place from my instagram. You know the blond haired, alcohol loving girls who are also sporty and got free rides to college? No? How about the girls who request to follow you then unfollow you so they have 1,000,000 followers and only follow 6 people? (Just me still?? Next post: why those people are lame). Anyway, selfie loving girl posted a picture of herself at The Palace of Gold, and despite me rolling my eyes at her post, I realized that it actually looked really beautiful.

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The Temple of Gold is located in New Vrindaban, West Virginia and just as the website explains, you should not follow your GPS directions because it will take you through the hills of West Virginia and your car will not be happy about it. Instead, use these directions:

From North, South, East and West:

  • 1) Enter the following destination into your GPS: “Bethlehem, WV, United States”

  • 2) Take West Virginia Exit 2 on I-470 (“Bethlehem”)

  • 3) Drive 13 miles south on Route 88 and Route 250 till you reach Limestone, here take a left for McCrearys Ridge Road

  • 4) Drive 4 miles to arrive at the Palace of Gold

  • 5) Take a slight left after passing the Palace and drive another 1/4 mile for the Krishna Temple

    IMG_9780Upon arrival, you are greeted by a landing that overlooks the rolling Appalachian hills of West Virginia (see above) and the view from the opposite side is just as stunning. You might find yourself wondering, “Why is this in West Virginia??”

IMG_9829The details of the building were so beautiful, and I loved the animal influence. As we walked around the temple, we first stumbled upon a pond in the distance covered in lily pads. There were just a few lilies in bloom during the time that I went.

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Beyond the lily pond was a farm for cows.

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December 22nd, 2016: Ratchaburi, Thailand

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Although Bangfig3kok was our home base, we began a week long adventure south, with the first stop in Ratchaburi. To be completely honest, I am not sure how I stumbled upon this town; however, I do remember why it stuck out to me so much. Ratchaburi has a rich history with pottery. I read someone’s blog about watching artists hand make beautiful works of art, and that was that! We arrived in the town early evening. It was quiet, and we had a hard time finding a restaurant. We checked into our adorable hotel, and then head out (sweat and all from a long train ride) down the street to the nearest restaurant we could find.

I ordered chicken, and french fries. And I dIMG_0641 (2)on’t know what the significance was, but the french fries came inside of an apple! I did not eat the apple, but I DID feel healthier eating my fries! The chicken was honestly kind of Western seeming, but the sauce they put on it was AMAZING. There were peppercorns, it was kind of spicy (typical Thai). One more thing I remember was how out of place we looked. We hadn’t eaten for hours, it was dark out, and we entered this suburban feeling town, with all of these well dressed Thai people and, well… This is how I looked: IMG_8085Messy bun, you can almost see the sweat on my shirt, and just be thankful you can’t see my face. People kept staring at us, which also may have been because we were speaking English, and looked foreign. In the two days that we were here, we honestly didn’t see any other tourists. Later on at a cafe, someone told us that they see most tourists up north in December, and in the Spring they start to see more tourists in Ratchaburi.

The Hotel: Space 59

We honestly loved this hotel. It was so modern. The pictured I took truly don’t do it any justice. The only bad thing was that it was almost TOO modern. The stairs were so sleek and slippery. I was walking down at a fairly quick pace (I was excited!) and I fell to my butt and hit about 15 steps down along the way. The staff came running out, speaking to me quickly in Thai and I kept saying “I’m okay!” EXCEPT that I just wanted to cry on the inside!! I was sore on my leg, butt and arm the next few days, but I lived.

We ended up spending a LOT of time at Rattanakosin, the pottery company. It took us about 14 minutes on a Tuk Tuk to get there… which is actually pretty far! The Tuk Tuk drivers in Ratchaburi don’t rip you off as much as the ones in Bangkok do. It was HUGE inside. We watched aIMG_8164rtists at work with their dogs sitting next to them. We posed next to the beautiful scraps like hipsters. We bought pottery that would fit inside my backpack (and I carried for the remainder of our stay in Thailand D: so heavy).
<– I bought a vase that looked like one of these, except it was red.

When it was time to leave, we started to walk before realizing it would probably take hours before getting back to town. We asked the staff the best way to get back, and she called a ride for us and helped us get the Thai discount! She had someone finagle the price and ensure that we would pay 50 Baht total for the both of us (the cheaFullSizeRender (3)pest we had ever paid!)

It was so uncomfortable sitting on the motorcycle like this, but this is how
all the girls in Thailand do it!!

DISCLAIMER: I really did like Ratchaburi. It was cute, the people were so nice. There was one thing I really DID NOT like about it though… the wild dogs!!!! We were chased several times by packs of dogs. Every time we turned a corner, a group of dogs were barking at us, with their blood shot eyes. They got close, they growled at us…. my heart pounded in my chest until I could feel it in my throat. I closed my eyes and listened as my travel buddy said “don’t run. They’ll chase us.” I tried my best to keep my calm, but this really upset me for several hours. When we were alone, the dogs chased us up and down the streets. When a native was around, they left us alone. They must have known we were foreign.

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We spent 2 nights in Ratchaburi before hopping back on the train for a new city! Stay tuned!

❤ A

December 18-20th, 2017– Cha Am, Thailand

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I find that the more time I spend back home, the more I miss Thailand. On ocountry_map_thailandur fourth day in Thailand, we traveled down from Bangkok to Cha-Am. All in all, the train ride took us about 4 hours. 4 sweaty hours. We originally only wanted to stay for 1 night, but liked it so much we stayed an extra night! Maybe not my favorite city in Thailand, but definitely gave me some special memories.

The intent on the entire vacation was to avidly avoid all touristy locations as much as possible. All google searches led me to Hua Hin, Pattaya, Pranburi, etc. In a lengthy google search aka desperate attempt at a unique vacation, I stumbled upon Cha-Am: a sleepy beach town overlooking the Gulf of Thailand, only 30 minutes away from Hua Hin (evidently a local favorite!)

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After getting off the train, we immediately found this adorable cafe called Cup Sea Cafe. I ordered caramel toast, some kind of chicken (sorry guys, I don’t remember what it was called) and a delicious Mango smoothie. My travel partner/ real life partner ordered Green Curry (as he did multiple other occasions). All this cost about 200 baht!

We walked for about 30 minutes in peak of the day 90 degree heat, passing sad looking dogs and a caged bird and almost nobody else. There were not many cars, and it didn’t take long to find our beach front hotel… and check out the view!

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Mountains + palm trees are now officially my favorite combination. Everything about this town was quiet, peaceful, cute and sleepy. On our first day, we visited a lovely coffee shop (which we visited the next morning, and the following morning after that — see pictures below), and took an evening stroll on the beach. The beach was rocky, and the board walk honestly hurt to walk on and I didn’t bring shoes!

The beach was admittedly not the best for swimming. One interesting thing I noticed about the beaches in Thailand was that the natives don’t necessarily wear swim suits like we do in Western societies. Many people even wear long pants on days that were 90 degrees…. Americans on the other hand walk around near naked at that temperature (exaggeration, but you know what I mean). I saw some people go in with jeans on, etc.  Actually, many people just stayed in the shade under the umbrellas and watched the water.

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As we said our goodbyes to Cha-Am, we said goodbye to the cute bright colored shops near our hotel and the rocky beach. We decided to travel south for 30 minutes, and get off and check out Hua Hin, the popular touristy beach. Needless to say …. it WAS touristy!

We only stayed for a whopping 2 hours.

 

 

Truly, I didn’t snap too many pictures because there were people ALL over the place, sunbathing in skimpy two pieces or speedos. Seeing this was kind of shocking… just 30 minutes north I didn’t see one person in a swim suit in the 2 days I was there! This made me wonder… do those people venture outside of Hua Hin? Or did their entire vacation consist of this beach? I’ll admit it… it was perhaps prettier than the Cha-Am beach, but the vibes were all wrong. We got right back on the train, and headed back to Bangkok for a day of relaxation and shopping!

Stay tuned for more…..

 

December 17th, 2016: Ayutthaya, Thailand

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Sweet, tropical Thailand…. It’s only been nine days since I left, and my heart aches to be back under your warm sun, eating your delicious food and (dare I say) back on your trains exploring…

On our second day in Thailand, we walked around and found a restaurant. The owner was a young person who spoke great English. He studied in Canada, and asked us about our travels so far, etc. He gave us some advice and explained that we should head to the train station and check out Ayutthaya Historical Park, where we went on the third day. The train ride was only one hour north of Bangkok (it felt long at the time, but it was nothing compared to the 10 hour train ride towards the end of our stay in Thailand).

We arrived fairly early in the day. There were dozens of taxi and Tuk Tuk drivers awaiting the train station, ready to pounce on all the tourists. We walked around for about an hour before I decided to give in and pay someone 200 baht to drive us to the city. Really, the walk was doable, I just couldn’t figure out which route to take to get to the park. The driver was the only girl I encountered as a Tuk Tuk driver. She spent about ten minutes trying to convince me that I needed her for three hours for 600 baht (!!) before dropping me off where I requested for the price I agreed to pay.

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Sometimes this is how I wave to people.

We came on an extraordinarily hot day. I learned to notice that Thai people look fabulous and well put together despite it being a million degrees outside. And in comparison, my eyeliner was running, my hair was damp from sweat and I probably didn’t smell that great.

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Along with everyone else who visits this park, I found that there was beauty in the ruins. Ayutthaya used to be the capital city, an important city for trade and it was attacked by Burma in the 1700s. This Historical park really gave me a good picture on the importance of religion in this culture’s history. Naturally religion is a large part of a culture, but there were temples, and Buddha statues everywhere.

I read somewhere online that Thailand is known as “the land of smiles.” I found that Thai people were honestly the nicest people I have ever met. Perhaps the countries religion has something to do with that — Buddhism is the major religion in Thailand, and the religion promotes peace. (Hm… I know many people in my life who could learn a lesson or two from how these people acted and treated others).

After spending two days in Bangkok, I felt that the break from the hustle and bustle of a big city was much needed. The air didn’t smell like pollution here. There still was quite a bit of traffic, but it wasn’t physically impossible to cross the road. In fact, one of the nice things was that there wasn’t much road traffic in the park, making it easier to get to where you wanted to go.

Before I came to Thailand, I had an image of this park in my head. I saw this image of a Buddha head interwoven into a tree branch on someone else’s blog, and I pictured a fairy-type forest. Mostly, I saw the red brick everywhere. After searching for this darn Buddha in a tree, I asked some people who I thought would speak English if they found it (there were French, and luckily they spoke great English! I really shouldn’t assume that someone speaks English based on what they look like, but desperate times call for desperate measures). Here it is in all it’s glory:

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Finding this was so satisfying. It’s like seeing a story book come to life.

On our way back to the train station, a restaurant owner who spoke broken English asked us where we were going. He gave us directions to get to the train station, although I struggled to understand him. Through body language, I thought I understood, so we headed off in the direction we thought looked right. After a few minutes of walking we were someone calling out at us while running. It was the restaurant owner! He told us, “wrong way! I’ll show you.” And walked with us until we found our way. I was so blown away by how friendly he was, and how helpful. This made me stop and reflect on myself and how I treat others, especially foreigners. Do they feel as welcome in America as I felt in Thailand? I’m not sure….but… my goal after this trip was to try to make sure they do.

Stay tuned for day 4!

-A

DIY Natural Body Butter!!

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Between classes, work, student teaching and endless homework, I’ve been so busy. I decided to treat myself to some much needed relaxing craft time (and you should too!!) I’ve been experimenting with some DIY Body Butter.

Here is one recipe and my thoughts on it:

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup cocoa butter
  • 1 tablespoon sweet almond oil
  • 5 drops of lemon essential oil

Some cool discoveries: cocoa butter is solid! coconut oil is squishy! cocoa butter smells amazing on it’s own, and smells nice with lemon too!

Steps to make the body butter:

  1. Melt coconut oil, and cocoa butter in a saucepan on medium heat. This took me maybe 60 seconds.
  2. Add a tablespoon of sweet almond oil and stir.
  3. Remove from heat and let sit for about 10 minutes.
  4. Transfer to a glass bowl and stick in the freezer for about 10 minutes until it starts to look cloudy. This is when I added my lemon drops.
  5. Use your mom’s good electric mixer (it’s all natural and can be cleaned!) and whip for about 2/3 minutes.
  6. Transfer to a glass jar – I use a mini  mason jar.

My thoughts: basically, coconut oil is very greasy. If you let it soak in your skin for about 5-10 minutes your skin will feel amazing. I’m experimenting with recipes that soak in faster and will share once I’m successful! I wanted to bring my body butter with me and it melted in my car, I don’t recommend doing that. When it comes in contact with skin, it melts.

-Aisha