Experience Interactive Cooking Classes from Chefs Around the Globe —in the Comfort of Your Own Kitchen

The novel coronavirus may stop us from leaving our houses (temporarily), but it can’t stop us from continuing to build a global community across all borders. This seems like a good time to share a relevant project as the entire travel industry has been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

I wanted to bring to you a special program from The Table Less Traveled, a company with the same mission that we built Oh Hey World and Horizon around: community through travel.

Without further ado…

Experience Interactive Cooking Classes from Chefs Around the Globe —in the Comfort of Your Own Kitchen

  • What It Is: Live, virtual, interactive cooking classes with chefs and friends from around the world.
  • How It Works: Pick a class from the calendar of events, then gather ingredients or have one of their preferred vendors ship them to you. On the day of the class, join the video call with a link provided to share stories, cooking, and a meal with their chefs!
  • Price: PAY WHAT YOU CAN, suggested $0-$150 per class. The goal is to be accessible to everybody; we’re all in this together and hopefully we can be a bright part of somebody’s day by creating a global community around food!
  • Partners: Chefs receive 50% of the proceeds for all the classes they teach. As one chef replied after sending them the first contribution for 3 classes, “Wow. That’s a lot of money. I don’t have enough words to thank you. This will cover what I would earn in 5 days, and I cannot work right now.”
  • Who’s it for: Everyone stuck at home during social distancing. Everyone from families with kids who are staying home and need education and entertainment ideas to companies looking for team bonding experiences during their WFH.

From the comfort of your own home, interact with international chefs in The Table Less Traveled’s LIVE cooking classes.

A Response to My Favorite Travel Blogger on Volunteerism

The author prefers to remain anonymous.

When I graduated college, I knew I wanted to spend time volunteering abroad. I had taken classes on sustainable volunteerism, “ugly Americanism”, as well as culture and leadership. Through classes on Semester at Sea, I saw first-hand how orphanage tourism exploits children and often does more harm than good. I learned that volunteering has significant pros and cons and that expansive research is required to aid development in a sustainable way. When I accepted the position to teach English with a nonprofit associated with the Colombian Ministry of National Education, I made sure that I not only planned to stay with my students until they graduated, but that I was qualified to do so.

As someone who is passionate about travel, I like to follow travel bloggers. One of my favorites, Drew Binsky, recently posted a video about someone he met while traveling named Christian Betzmann. Christian is a German citizen who volunteers around the world. He most recently spent time at a home stay in Thailand while teaching English to young children. The video posted to Facebook quickly filled with positive comments. One comment, however, asked Drew to do a video on the pros and cons of volunteerism. A flood of followers posted relevant articles and information. Christian then commented to the criticism saying “WHAT BULLSHIT” which Drew Binsky ‘liked’. A more reassuring comment may have been one highlighting what made him qualified to be a volunteer, such as work experience with young children or a TEFL certification. Drew taught English in South Korea for an extended period of time so it was a disappointing and confusing response from someone I had followed for years.

I do believe that many of these bloggers and volunteers, like Drew and Christian, have the best intentions. But there are many instances where volunteerism does more harm than good. Shannon O’Donnell, a volunteer tourism expert, wrote The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook. In an interview with the travel blog Nomadic Matt, she describes five steps on finding ethical volunteer projects. Step one is understanding development and aid. She says that “one of the hardest things for new, eager volunteers to understand is that not all organizations — even nonprofits — are doing good, necessary work that ethically develops the communities and ecosystems where we volunteer our time.”

Even Hostel World, a site frequented by almost any frugal traveler, has a great article on avoiding the “voluntourism trap”. A tip they include is examining the requirements when it comes to volunteering with children.

“When looking at these opportunities you should try to imagine a similar situation in your own country. Would a school near you allow any person to teach, interact or be alone with children? Unlikely. The same applies for volunteering abroad with children – the stricter the requirements are for volunteers, the more likely the organisation operates ethically.”

Almost every resource on ethical volunteerism includes a warning against volunteering in orphanages. In 2012, UNICEF reported that while the number of Cambodian orphans has decreased, the number of orphanages has rapidly increased. A state-run investigation was launched and found that many were orphanages run as businesses profiting from tourism. HostelWorld quotes ReThink Orphanages, a lobbying group of NGOs, saying “in many cases, residential care centres are being created as businesses, designed to generate an income from people willing to volunteer their time and donate their money to support ‘orphan’ children. Children are often deliberately kept in poor conditions in order to elicit sympathy from well-meaning visitors who are then moved to donate. In Nepal, there have been documented cases of residential care centres being linked to child trafficking.” A red flag to identify these types of organizations are “little to no volunteer requirements” and no “relevant skills or knowledge for working with children”. When working with children, volunteers should also avoid the “revolving door” syndrome. Short-term volunteering can have a severe effect on children. The goal is to stay a sustainable amount of time.

Drew Binsky did include two sources at the end of his video; WOOF and WorkAway. While those are two great organizations, it did not address Christian’s expertise or the sustainability of the projects he works with.

No one should be discouraged from volunteering but instead encouraged to find a project that fits their expertise. But first, take a step back and do some research.

The Oh Hey World team recommends a few key resources when researching ethical volunteering:

Why Does Horizon Still Exist?

Hi again, Drew here, co-founder of Horizon…

Remember when you found Horizon App and discovered a way to connect members of communities around the globe? We, the Horizon team, envisioned a new way to travel — one that would facilitate homestays among friends, friends of friends, and communities, such as the Peace Corps and StartingBloc. We are on a mission to make travel accessible, make it more personal for you, and give you a way to form deeper connections in each destination you visit.

It’s been an incredible, challenging, and humbling journey. And yes, we’re still here. Horizon exists, but it needs you more than ever. Four years ago, we joined Start-up Chile with a private hospitality networks concept and a small team. We overcame many challenges in those early years, and now, many thousands of dollars poorer, I’m still here.

Years later, you might wonder: Why do I even think Horizon is still a good, viable idea? Does Horizon need to exist at all?

I wonder that, too. Every day bringing new hurdles and challenges, setbacks, and requiring more time and money, I ask myself that question.

Even as the challenges stack up, and the money runs dry. The answer is a resounding yes.

Yes, the world needs what Horizon provides. We need travels involving deep conversations, fascinating new friendships, challenging perspectives, and ways to not just see the world, but experience it through our own eyes. We need more community to counter growing divisiness and isolation.

The need for a platform like Horizon facilitating global communities coming together in person comes down to the importance of humans understanding the reality of the vast world in which we live. It comes down to the importance of traveling in a way that contextualizes our place on a wider scale — understanding that “necessities” such as shoes and electricity are extreme luxuries to much of the world’s population.

Chance is the only thing separating you from someone born into extreme poverty.

It’s this very fact of chance that I know we can address through conscious travel — travel that pairs connected, immersive local travels with a powerful mission to funnel tourism dollars into pressing local social issues. Connecting travelers to the realities on the ground opens entirely new avenues to become the type of engaged and informed citizens we need: Citizens committed to spending their tourism dollars in ways that make a real impact on local communities.

The Road Building to Horizon

After graduating college and backpacking Europe in 2005, I haven’t been able to kick my unabiding love for travel. After using all of my vacation days to travel as widely as possible, I left “startup” America in 2010 to travel full time.

As is the case with traveling, I would meet all sorts of amazing people around the globe in those years on the road and I would learn from them all, be they rich or poor, Russian, Alaskan, or Kiwi. When I returned home, friends and relatives asked me how I did it — the implied question being how they might do the same. After hundreds of conversations, I came to realize the reason why more people don’t travel. It wasn’t just time and wasn’t not just about the money. While those were certainly factors, the underlying thread in every conversation was fear.

We fear that which we don’t know, and that seemed to be the key to unlocking a more powerful way for people to travel. We would build a hospitality exchange network based on existing interests — existing connections and passions. But we wouldn’t stop there, we would help travelers truly connect to the social causes impacting the places they travel, and we would do it by baking our social mission into the very core of our platform.



  • We’ve lost money. A lot of money. I’m personally very far in debt as a result of Horizon.
  • We lost core team members who had to move on due to life and financial realities.
  • We failed at our fundraising effort in late 2014 and early 2015.
  • The need to scrap both our native iOS and Android apps (for the time being) when Facebook changed a few APIs and broke our login system.

Every passing day I increasingly believe Horizon’s platform is needed. I’m not interested in living in the world shaped by screen addiction spreading unopposed. That’s a soulless, lonely world. We needed Horizon back in 2014, but we could have never foreseen what four short years would bring — we need Horizon now more than ever. Screen addiction is at all time high. Empathy is at all time low.

The world needs community more than anything if we are to overcome our challenges. People need to live within other reality bubbles.

The Reality of the Current Home Sharing and Hospitality Exchange Landscape (Hint: It’s Not About Community)

You may point to Couchsurfing and Airbnb as platforms addressing this every issue, but they both fall well short. I’ve said it before, Couchsurfing was one of the coolest social movements created in my lifetime. It enabled millions of budget travelers to take trips they otherwise might have never taken. That said, the world is bigger than one community. We need to build community around shared ideals of not just budget travel, but of travel that changes the way we see the world and how we make an impact.

Airbnb’s early business was “paid couchsurfing,” but these days it’s not really that at all. More than 10 years later, the majority of Airbnb’s business comes from renting entire apartments, homes, yachts, etc., and travelers never even meet their host. With its recent support for boutique hotels and traditional bed and breakfasts, it’s moving farther away from its “community” roots , not closer. The Airbnb “business” is monetizing space, not building community. Which is fine, but it’s missing the chance to form real community connections on our travels.

When we remove connection and community from the equation, we lose a very real piece of what has always made travel so transformational. Horizon is the antidote, it’s the platform where community is not an afterthought: it’s the whole damn point.

Where Horizon is Heading

Horizon removes technology challenges from the world’s greatest communities: Harley riders, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, bicyclists, and more. These groups already share a strong sense of belonging, so we asked ourselves: What would it look like to build the world’s best global hospitality exchange platform? How could we facilitate existing communities rather than build a new one? Rather than building an entire technology platform (both extremely expensive and time consuming), what if these communities could simply click a button and pay a small monthly fee? What if creating a hospitality exchange network to connect your community was as easy as starting a Meetup group?

There doesn’t have to be a what-if, because Horizon is how we’re keeping you connected to the communities you care about, connected to the causes and people who have made your life better.

But we need your help. A member-funded route is the only way we can continue to build community in the physical world. That’s why we’re asking for your support on Patreon, a crowdfunding platform that allows you to support the creatives and creators you believe in.

Do you believe the world needs a community-funded (and ad-free) hospitality exchange platform focused on facilitating true community, empathy and not just “transactions”? A platform that believes in creating real change in local communities through socially responsible initiatives? We need your financial help to continue improving Horizon’s product and unlock travel opportunities to grow our community of global citizens.

I believe there are 15,000 people in the world willing to give up the equivalent of one cup of coffee per month to keep a community-funded and community-owned hospitality exchange platform alive. With Patreon, you choose your level of support, whether that is $10 per month or just $60 a year. Horizon is, quite simply, the best community building tool that’s ever been created. It’s a tool empowering distributed communities to come together in person, strengthen relationships through meaningful real-world interactions, to make a real difference in your life, as well as the lives of those in each place you travel.

Our community is already 13,000 strong. Now we need you to join us on the next step as we transform the way travelers experience cities and countries around the globe. Join us as we build empathy.

This is our big ask. Horizon needs its community’s support and no donation is too small. Make a monthly pledge now. And if you really love what we’re working on, but can’t contribute even $5 per month, we gratefully welcome your one-time contribution here.

I have never wavered in my belief that there is a better way for us to understand the world. Understanding comes through real-world experiences, not screens. Horizon will transform how we live and travel, and we need your help to continue making that mission a reality.

Thank you for your generous support,
Drew Meyers

Co-founder, Horizon

[Originally published on Medium]

Shuttering the Doors to Oh Hey World (aka the Real Eulogy)

Oh Hey World has been a long, hard journey.  I wrote the “Almost Eulogy of Oh Hey World” a few months ago. Following another 9 months of neglect for the product due to lack of resources/money as well as further Facebook API deprecations causing login functionality to cease, the decision to pull the plug was made.  Thus, today is the real eulogy of Oh Hey World (OHW). The final chapter. The shutting of our digital doors.

Note: Legally, Oh Hey World, Inc lives on in Horizon.

While OHW found its mark helping travel bloggers update their current location on their travel blogs more efficiently — ultimately, it didn’t solve an urgent or frequent problem for a large enough addressable market to grow and survive in the world.

For that, I’m incredibly sad.

That said, I’ll forever be grateful for the experience — I wouldn’t trade the journey, experience, learnings, hardships, stress and friendships for the world. It goes without saying — without OHW, there would never have been a Horizon. On that front, we’ve recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to enable supporters to fund continued product development of the best community building tool that’s ever existed. If you’re a community builder with an interest in strengthening a global membership base, manage a home stay network with email and spreadsheets, host or stay with trusted connections regularly, or simply believe life’s magical moments occur face to face, not staring at a screen — please head over to support our Horizon Patreon campaign.

Back to OHW…

Thank You

Thank you, Eric Roland. It took me 7 months of searching to find you — but your skill and efficiency was worth the wait. You made engineering seem easy; sorry I forced us down the path to building a bloated piece of software. Thanks Will Moyer for designing the gorgeous application that OHW was. I’m still bummed the iOS version you designed never saw the light of day. Thanks Shannon O’Donnell for your faith in the company’s mission throughout. Thank you Jessica Na for your design work to bringing my initial concepts to light.

Thank you to all our advisors — Jeff Turner, Spencer Rascoff, Jerry Ostradicky, Andrew Mattie, Matt Duncan, Matt Zito, Ian Ord, and Todd Sampson. A special thank you to Seann Birkelund and Eric Marcoullier for pushing me through the rut. Without all your support, well…I have no idea where I’d be, and Horizon would likely never have been created.

Thank you to all OHW’s passionate supporters — specifically Anna Zalazar, Annie Cheng, Jessie Spielvogel, Dave Dean, Lori Bee, Jan Riedel, Peter Parkorr, Mike Derzko, Martin Bergstrom, and Kristin Henning.

To all my friends & family, and specifically Brandon Matson, thanks for constantly putting up with my thoughts, updates, and ups & downs. Thank you to my mom and step dad for putting me up with food, shelter, and support throughout the early journey.

Shutting it Down

From selling/swapping candy, baseball cards, and used nintendo64 games to offering services such as mowing lawns, house demolition and website creation — I’ve been an “entrepreneur” my whole life. In the “digital” world, I’ve embarked on lots and lots of projects, mostly blogs (Geek Estate, Carnival of Real Estate, myKRO.org, ESM, etc). Oh Hey World was the first real functional “startup” that I forced upon the world.

When I FINALLY finally clicked the delete/cancel account in EngineYard (our website host), it certainly was a weird feeling.


How does it feel? Frankly, I’m at a loss for words. It feels like a small piece of my soul just died. Like I abandoned my first (startup) baby because they couldn’t grow up. Sad I couldn’t provide the direction and capital needed for my baby to reach adulthood.

Why Now?

I grew weary of the $150-$200 per month burning a hole in my back pocket every month continuing to push my credit card farther in the red.

Weary of the mental stress and bandwidth associated with OHW existing in the world.

Weary of asking myself, “Should I keep OHW going next month?”

Weary of not knowing whether a developer would come along to put new energy into the product.

Weary of contemplating which company might acquire the assets.

Weary of wondering who might sponsor the site (with little traffic).

That combined weariness, and stress, could only go on so long before insanity crept into the equation. At some point, I had to decide enough is enough.

RIP, Oh Hey World.


prachuap kirikhan

A Weekend in Prachuap Kirikhan

prachuap kirikhan

This post is about a weekend away in the dreamy seaside town of Prachuap Kirikhan, a few hours south of Bangkok. Tucked away in picturesque Prachuap Bay, the small fishing town of Prachuap Kirikhan is surrounded by spectacular natural beauty, with dramatic limestone outcrops framing an expanse of tranquil turquoise waters, punctuated only by colourful fishing boats bobbing on the waves.

Prachuap has yet to develop the dominant tourist industry of neighbouring town Hua Hin, and remains cheaper, more authentic and more true to Thai life. As such, while the town does rely on tourism, it is mainly from neighbouring cities like Bangkok, and it also has a strong local fishing industry which furnishes the many seafood restaurants along the front with fresh seafood.

Prachuap Kirikhan - Fresh fish at the night market

The first stop for many weekend visitors is the bustling night market that stretches along the prom after dark. There is no better way to acquaint yourself with the intimacies of local life than a leisurely stroll through this hive of activity. From puppies to massages, and beachwear to Thai delicacies, you can find a diversity of goods here that makes for an interesting and engaging introduction to the locality. I found it to be far more worthwhile than the much hyped night bazaar of Chiang Mai, which seemed to offer much of the same mass purveyed wares that could be found anywhere. The range of food available here offers a great opportunity to sit on the waterfront and enjoy an evening meal overlooking the waves.

The next morning, we decided to take a trip to the temple that was situated on a large hill overlooking the town. Overrun with macaques, the monkey temple Chong Khra Chok offers a challenging ascent up a monkey-infested hill to appreciate a supposedly magnificent view above the city. Not that I would be appreciating such a vista.

prachuap kirikhan - monkey temple

An early start was necessary to conquer the hill before the heat of the day made the climb intolerable, so we rolled into the carpark opposite at around seven am, past a group of monkeys loitering at the base of the hill awaiting their daily feed.

On parking the scooter, a kind and wizened old thai lady suggested we move it slightly so she might keep a watchful eye over it, gesturing to the gnawed cover of her own scooter as a warning!

After a few words in Thai, she then pressed a slingshot into my hands, miming the motion I would need to scare away any particularly territorial monkeys who might block our way.

So it was, flanked by soi dogs acting as stalwart security guards, and followed by a guide casting hunks of corn to distract and allow passage, we began the journey up to the monkey temple.

The stairs wound up the hill past curved temple roofs and through trees and undergrowth, around which swarmed tribes of macaques, preening, fighting, playing and protecting their young.

prachuap kirikhan - monkey

Our guide informed us that the monkeys were increasingly hungry towards the top, where a single solitary monk lives and feeds them once a day. As such, the monkeys relied on the guides who conveyed visitors up the hill to provide them with food.

Luckily the slingshot proved effective at startling any mischievous monkeys who ventured a little too close for comfort.

That was until we met a suspicious character, who the guide later informed us was a particularly fearless individual!

As we approached the stairs he sat motionless on the stone wall. Cleaning himself, preening, but watching our approach with eyes wide open.

A moment later we were too close, and suddenly he was prancing and snarling on the bannister, hissing and showing his teeth.  His body coiled like a spring, ready to hurl himself onto my shoulder and sink his teeth into my neck!

Confronted with this I backed away slowly until out of jumping range! And then retreated back to the guide who was feeding monkeys just down the stairway, crying ‘ban ban’ come come eat monkeys!

At this point the slingshot went firmly in the pocket.  Having witnessed a peaceful man walk past with only his sun umbrella for protection, I saw that walking peacefully was the way to go. An obvious lesson for most perhaps, but fear begets fear, and peaceful coexistence was my goal.

With this in mind I decided to have a go feeding the monkeys. The guide offered me a bag of pellets which I initially scattered on the floor, and then placed a few into my open hand for the curious monkeys to scoop out into their mouth. The monkeys swarmed around hungrily eating up the pellets.

prachuap kirikhan - monkeys

I could see the timidity in their eyes, the babyish, almost human concern. I was overwhelmed with a strong sense of kinship. I could feel the hunger in their eyes.

Suddenly, feeling a movement behind me, I became aware that the bag of food pellets i had clutched to my side was gone. A swooping monkey had taken the opportunity to relieve me of it.

Looking up, I noticed on my hand a small scratch was drawing blood, and I began to feel a little faint. Blood was rushing to my head, and I suddenly I needed desperately to sit down. At once the concern of being surrounded by strange mammals was replaced by a sense of utter loss of control. Dizzy and dry-mouthed, my head was swimming.

Sitting on the steps, I took a few moments to rest and gather my thoughts. A few deep breaths later, and after some reassurance by our guide in soft Thai tones, I felt ready to continue, but decided to retreat down the steps, leaving the temple for another day.

The monkey in question was blind in one eye. He had not intended to scratch me. He was hungry, unable to hunt effectively because of his disability, and his poorly aimed swipe was the result of desperation.

At the base of the hill vendors cleaned the small wound with alcohol and offered reassurance. ‘mai pen rai’ no worries! However, being a concerned, hypochondriac westerner, I wanted professional confirmation, and a hospital visit later that day subscribed me to a course of rabies vaccinations and an insight into the efficient medical facilities of Thailand.

Later that morning we visited Wat Aao Noi, a hillside cave overlooking a fishing cove, containing a huge statue of a reclining Buddha. At the foot of the hill stood a magnificent teak temple, aside a lake bristling with carp and catfish.

We ascended up a broken stairway to a mysterious cave. A hole in the hill occupied only by stray dogs and buddha statues.the silence was an extraordinary contrast to the forest humming with life outside.

After a tiring morning of exploration, it was necessary to recuperate, and a taste of familiar western food. Sitting on the seafront metres from the shore, Pizza Khiri Khan is a small pizza restaurant running out the bottom of the owners home, a charming and helpful proprietor.

prachuap pizza

We had visited the restaurant the evening before at closing time, and on seeing the disappointment in our faces when we realised food was no longer being served, agreed to open up early for an exclusive meal the following lunchtime.

This was a great opportunity to enjoy homemade pizza. And sitting on the verandah amongst the palms watching the waves, the setting was unbeatable.


Any visit to Prachuap is incomplete without a refreshing dip in the bay. Ao Manao is a sheltered beach set within an air force base to the south of the town.  Although signing in to a military checkpoint in flipflops and beachwear is quite novel and a little disconcerting, it means that the manicured grounds provide a majestic parkland setting to the white sands of the beach itself, which is fringed with fragrant pine trees providing shade.

The shallow waters of the bay stretch out into the distance providing a basin of water that is so warm to the touch on entering it feels like bathwater, gradually cooling as you tread further into the bay.

Infact they were so inviting I decided to paddle out into the centre of the bay, and was swimming away feeling blissfully free when I noticed my baggy swimming shorts had come loose, and before I knew it were adrift, rapidly sinking from sight into the increasingly murky waters.

prachuap kirikhan bay beach

A moments freedom, as warm and inviting as a baby in the womb, and then panic! My black shorts had sank out of sight, and no amount of scouring the sandy bottom with my feet was finding them.

An embarrassing predicament. I began to ponder the options in my mind. Cast away my dignity and crawl up the beach shielding my dignity with my hands, casing controversy on this sweetly serene beach!

Surely not. I would have to find a remote cove and crawl out, but what then without shorts! In an airbase! As my predicament became increasingly real a panic rose in my belly. As naked as a baby in the womb, i would soon have to crawl out, visible to the world in all my glory!

In my confusion I called out to my companion, who was swimming over on the other side of the bay. Refusing to believe me, she swam over, and by the grace of god happened to catch my drifting shorts in her doggy paddle!

After plenty enough excitement for one day, it was time to board the minivan back to Bangkok.

Bangkok City Tour: An Ultimate Guide

Bangkok is one of the busiest metropolitan cities in Asia. The high-rise buildings and magnificent temples create a perfect balance for the city landscape.

Your travels in Thailand won’t be completed without a Bangkok city tour. There are many stunning places where you can stroll around and explore the beauty of the Eastern City of Angels. Take some time for a sightseeing trip in Bangkok and discover the true Thai culture in every possible way.

Admire the spectacular temples

Thailand is home to hundreds of Buddhist temples known as Wat in Thai. There are more than 400 Wat’s spread throughout the city. Some of them are located in small alleys; others spotted right in between  Bangkok modern buildings.

When you enter the temple area, remember to dress according to the Buddhist tradition. For both women and men, the basic rule is to cover your shoulders and knees.

Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew or the Temple of Emerald Buddha is the most important Buddhist temple in Thailand. The Emerald Buddha is a statue of meditating Buddha in the style of Lanna school of the North, which was built in the 15th century. The temple is located within the grounds of the Grand Palace.

temple of emerald buddha

There is a robe that covers The Emerald Buddha. Every season, His Majesty The King changes the wrapper in an important ritual. The changing robe ceremony is held three times a year, which are in summer, winter and rainy season.

The temple of Emerald Buddha is located on a high platform, surrounded by holy buildings, statues and pagodas. His Majesty the King is the only person who is allowed to go near the Emerald Buddha.

Besides the temple itself, you can enjoy a mini model of Angkor Wat. When Cambodia was under Siamese control, this mini model represented the country’s victory.  Today, the model accounts for a history and celebration of the first centenary of the Royal city.

Wat Pho

Ever heard about the biggest reclining Buddha statue? Wat Pho is where the image lies. Wat Pho is located in only five mins walking distance from Grand Palace. Inside the temple, there is a Buddha statue that is 46 metres long! You might even find it difficult to take a picture of the whole statue with your phone.

wat pho


Besides the massive Buddha statue, Wat Pho is famous for its highly respected massage school. Professional Thai masseurs have been training here since 1955. If you are interested, make sure you add a short course in your Bangkok city tour itinerary.

Wat Arun

Wat Arun is one of the images on Thai currency, you can find it on the 10 Baht coin. Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn is located on the West side of the Chao Phraya River. The name is inspired by its beauty when you see the temple from across the river at sunset time.

wat arun

If you are coming from the Grand Palace or Wat Pho, you will need to cross the river to get here. The temple complex consists of white buildings, shrines and small temples.

Wat Arun central prang is the main attraction of the whole complex. It has a magnificent spire over 70 metres high, decorated with coloured glass and Chinese porcelain.

Wat Saket

Enjoy the incredible 360-degree view of Bangkok from one of the highest spots  in the city. Wat Saket or Golden Mount is a human-made hill crowned with a gold chedi. The chedi is 58 metres high. It takes about 300 steps to reach the top.

At the base of the temple, there is an unusual cemetery covered in vines and overgrown trees, which is a dumping ground for 60,000 plague victims. Approaching the top of the temple, a wall of bells and a panoramic Bangkok view welcome you.

All year round, the temple welcomes worshippers and hosts an annual temple fair during Loy Krathong every November. During this festival, there is a large bright-red cloth covering the golden chedi. A candlelit procession up to the top marks the opening of the one-week long temple fair. During this week, the temple is super crowded with hundred of worshippers and tourists.

Bangkok city tour via Chao Phraya River

The Chao Phraya River adds a beauty charm to the city. It is a perfect place to escape from the traffic-clogged streets and bustling city vibes. The river offers a fresh perspective of Bangkok city and a great mixture of skyscrapers, temples and modern buildings.

bangkok river tour

Chao Phraya River is one of the transportation choices to get around. For tourists, it is a great option to commute because it offers lower costs than taxis and great views throughout the journey.

You can also enjoy a nice dinner on a cruise on Chao Phraya River. With a great view of Wat Arun in the background, lively entertainment and amazing Thai dishes, you’ll enjoy the most romantic moment in Bangkok.

Take a cooking course

Thai food has made a remarkable appearance around the world. It is made of  exotic ingredients that are mostly found in Southeast Asia. Some dishes even take hours to make!

There are hundreds of cooking courses around the city. You will learn how to pick the best ingredients, understand the appropriate cooking techniques and get to know how to cook it right.

Many places offer a one-day course, specifically designed for tourists who want to know the basic cooking skills. You will be able to show off your new skills to friends and family back home!

The top cooking schools in Bangkok are Chef Leez Thai Cooking Class, Sompong Thai Cooking Class and Cooking with Poo. All of these schools start their courses with a trip to a traditional market where you’ll learn to pick the best and freshest ingredients. Then you’ll have a cooking session guided  by a professional chef and tasting time!

The prices range from 1,000 to 2,500 Baht ($29 – $71) depending on the length and level of the courses.

Shop at the Weekend Market

Thailand is one of the best shopping destinations in Southeast Asia. Bangkok offers a wide selection of shopping spots from high-end streets, one-stop shopping malls to traditional and super cheap shopping markets.

If you are a first-timer in Bangkok, Chatuchak market is a great place to start. It is the biggest weekend market in Bangkok. Many locals and tourists come here to shop and eat.

Chatuchak market is massive. You can get lost here so make sure you take a map at the entrance.

people shopping at chatuchak market

Photo Courtesy: flickr

You can find anything here, from vintage and retro collections, Thai merchandises, handicrafts, clothes, sunglasses, accessories to secondhand books! There are street food vendors on every corner.

Why My Favourite Way to See Europe is Cruising

When it comes to traveling Europe, it’s safe to say I’ve done it all. I’ve visited Europe with a large tour group and explored Italy on my own backpacking tour when I was 20. So when my parents suggested getting the family together on a river cruise through Europe I agreed without hesitation. Was I worried I was going to be the only person under 35 on this cruise? Yes, but there was no way I was going to pass up another opportunity to visit Europe.

Before the trip, my family wasn’t sure which cruise company to go with. We had a lot of options and it was overwhelming to decide! There are many different cruise companies that operate in Europe. My dad ended up making the final decision with his eyes closed. He chose a river cruise called Scenic Cruises. I’ve never heard of this cruise line before this trip so I was excited for the new experience.

Traveling across Europe on a river cruise was different in many ways. Everything from the pace of the trip to the people you traveled with varied from my past travel experiences. The luxury river cruise my family chose to go on was everything you’d expect it to be when you first hear the words “luxury river cruise”: lavish suites, five-star guest experience and elegant, world-class excursions. My last Euro trip consisted of cheap eats and a constant go-go-go vibe; this river cruise couldn’t have been more opposite.

The first thing I noticed when I boarded the ship was the size: this was no 1000 plus guests ocean cruiser. With only 85 suites and a maximum head count of 169 guests, the ship I traveled on was designed with comfort and luxury in mind. It was an all-inclusive travel experience which meant I not only had free reign of the mini bar in my cabin but  my own personal butler (you have to see it to believe it). 

As a (relatively) young woman who’s had to make her own bed since the age of 10, I was thrilled to discover that for one glorious week, I wouldn’t have to worry about fluffing my pillows or finding spare change for laundry. On top of having your own butler, the cruise line offered nightly turndown service, complimentary laundry concierge as well as 24 hour room service. There were numerous restaurants available for dining as well as unlimited access to a gym, wellness centre, pool, panoramic lounge and sun deck (which lead me to put my guard down for one afternoon and go easy on the sunscreen- big mistake. Huge).

Obviously, I was over the moon with these discoveries; as seasoned cruisers, even my hard-to-please parents were impressed by the attention-to-detail. With a 1:3 crew to guest ratio, however, I shouldn’t have expected anything less than first class.

Perhaps the biggest difference I noticed between traveling on your own and via boat cruise is the touring schedule. With a river cruise, your travel itinerary is already organized and laid out for you. The daily routine in place aboard a cruise is that the boat will move at night and dock by breakfast. The daily land excursions alternate between half and full day and allow for little independent sightseeing, which I guess is the point for the majority of travelers aboard the cruise.

There is little time to go off on your own since the ship has a set schedule to dock and depart every night. Knowing what I do now, I can say it’s smart to do your research before choosing a cruise line.

Each cruise line will vary in style, itinerary and destination. The river cruise I experienced had every day of the trip organized and planned for guests- while I’ll admit it took a huge weight off my shoulders in terms of pre-cruise organization, the pre-arranged schedule did limit my ability to explore a city independently without another 15 people tagging along.

The land excursions, I have to say, are in a league of their own. Curated by the cruise line’s very own “journey designers,” I saw a part of Europe I couldn’t have possibly experienced backpacking on my own. While the attractions were similar, it was the extra attention-to-detail that made me become fully immersed in the country’s culture.

As an example, on day four of my cruise, I got to taste my way around a local market in Vienna, Austria but with an added twist- a local private chef was there to accompany fellow guests and teach us about the delicacies known to the region (there is a half finished note on my Iphone dating back to this excursion that reads, “How to make Bratwurst from scratch”). One of the highlights of my cruise though took place In Freudenberg, Germany. I had the most amazing day celebrating Oktoberfest with guests and locals alike-there was food, there was dancing and yup, there was a staggering amount of beer (beer everywhere!).

Celebrating a classic Bavarian tradition with a crowd that traveled from all over the world to experience it firsthand took a seemingly simple excursion to the next level. While we all took part in the excursion for different reasons- I came for the beer, my parents came for the bratwurst and Andrew from Australia simply wanted to get acquainted with his German roots- we all left with the same awesome memory.

After 15 days floating down the Rhine and Danube rivers, I have to say there’s something to putting your feet up and shelling out some extra cash (okay, a lot of cash) for someone else to do the hard work of planning a trip for you. That was my favourite part of taking the scenic route; if you ask my parents, they’ll reference “wine night” in Budapest, Hungary.

I personally think traveling around on a cruise is one of the best ways to go on a multi-country trip. Why? It’s easy, it’s relaxing and they make it oh-so-convenient. I will say that it’s not for everyone: if you’re an independent traveler or a club-goer, a luxury river cruise won’t give you what you’re looking for.

At 33, I was easily one of the youngest people aboard the ship; however, I wouldn’t write off a river cruise for that reason alone. I found the crowd to be interesting, educated and well traveled. Many were entrepreneurs with their own successful businesses (which would explain how they could afford the price tag). Again, this too, will vary from cruise to cruise.

In light of my early travel hesitations, I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the river cruise. I am so grateful! I met some amazing people and I got to experience Budapest to Amsterdam all in one shot (thanks mom and dad!)

6 Ways To Enjoy Your Time In Geneva

The second largest city in Switzerland, Geneva is a cosmopolitan center as at home with its deep dedication to the arts as it is with its focus on cutting edge science. A city with ancient Roman origins, Geneva fully embraces its modernity, offering visitors a refreshing range of sights to see and experiences to enjoy.

Wander Through Geneva’s Old Town

With cobblestone streets, sidewalk cafes, interesting boutiques and little museums, the Old Town is the bustling heart of the city and the perfect introduction to Geneva. The Cathédrale St-Pierre is the main architectural attraction, a medieval conglomeration of styles that features an impressive neoclassical front entrance. Visitors can tour the inside for free and enjoy the ornately painted ceilings and elaborately carved wood organ while listening for its nine bells to sound each quarter hour.

Go Straight to the Top

Stunning at night and even more spectacular during the day, the Salève cable car gives visitors a jaw-dropping, expansive view of the city, Mont Blanc, and Lake Geneva. The sparkling lights of Geneva are an enthralling sight at night; during the day, the snowy peaks of Mont Blanc in the distance are an iconic sight. The staging area for the cable car is also perfect for picnics and hiking, where visitors can enjoy the stunning view from the hilltops.


Celebrate the Arts and Sciences

There’s no shortage of museums in Geneva. The excellent Museum of Natural History maintains exhibits on dinosaurs, mammals, insects, birds and other creatures both local to Switzerland and the wider world. Art aficionados will enjoy perusing collections at the Museum of Art and History, highlighting collections from ancient Egypt to the modern era. For those who love physics, a visit to CERN, the world’s largest machine dedicated to colliding subatomic particles at high speeds, is in order. Visitors can enjoy exhibits dedicated to educating the public and can even attend a tour with prior notice.

Live Like a Local

If you’re lucky enough to visit Geneva during one of its famous events, you can mingle with the crowd and take in the whole spectacle. Three days in June are dedicated to the Fête de la Musique music festival, where there’s no genre too obscure to be found playing somewhere in the city. Over 40 stages feature live performances, and there’s also an endless array of stalls selling local delicacies. In August, the Fete de Geneve celebrates the city with fireworks shows and cultural exhibitions. In between festivals, head to one of the city’s green spaces on a weekend, like Parc de la Grange with its views over Lake Geneva and the Jet d’Eau fountain, to appreciate the beauty the way the Swiss do.

Be Sure to Sample the Local Cuisine

Switzerland is known for its delicious fondue, and there’s no shortage of places in Geneva where visitors can try authentic favorite dishes. The Paquis district is a great area to find little eateries dedicated to traditional Swiss cuisine. As a testament to French gastronomic influence in the region, you can also find little creperies selling both sweet and savory crepes. Just south of the Old Town area, Plaine de Plainpalais is a vibrant spot for nightlife, with many bars where you can try Swiss wines and beers.

Take Something Home With You

Chocolate, wine, watches and knives are all traditional Swiss souvenirs and things Switzerland is famous for. But much of the shopping in Geneva is dedicated to the fun and funky as well. The Rue du Marché district has a good range of shops selling all kinds of things, from electronics to toys and everything in between. Another fun area to window shop is Rue du Rhône for upscale items. Shops for signature Swiss chocolates are scattered all around the city, and in a pinch, some quality chocolates can also be found in the local supermarkets.

In the end, no matter what you choose to do with your time in Geneva, I am sure you will enjoy it. It’s a gem you just have to see while in Switzerland!

An Insider’s Guide to Southfield, MI

Next time you fly into Detroit, head over to Southfield to see everything the city has to offer. From golf courses to art galleries, there’s plenty to stay entertained all weekend. Just don’t let anyone else in on the secret so you’ll have the town to yourself.

golf course

Image via Flickr by Vignesh Anath

Beech Woods Golf Course

If you’re looking to improve your golf game, Beech Woods Golf Course is the place to go. There’s even a heated driving range to practice your swing before you get on the course. The pro shop will help with any equipment you may need, as well as club repairs.

Park West Gallery

Take a stroll through Park West Gallery to enjoy some of the finest art around. Local art is often displayed to show the beauty of Southfield through the artists’ eyes.  The artists themselves often make surprise appearances so you can compliment them on their art or ask what their inspiration was. Workshops are also held throughout the year to learn about the techniques the artists use in their work.

Beech Woods Recreation Center

If you have children who need to let some energy out, or you just need to release some energy, head to the Beech Woods Recreation Center. This gymnasium is over 17,000 square feet and includes three basketball courts, four volleyball courts, and a full health and fitness center. Classes such as karate, gymnastics, aerobics, and yoga are also held so there’s an activity for everyone.

Joseph Bourgon from Sommers Schwartz, P.C. is a local who loves exploring his city. He states:

“Some of my favorite things to do in Southfield include going to Star Theatres, seeing a Picasso at the Park West Gallery, and enjoying the city’s 30-plus miles of public trails. When I feel like relaxing I’m always sure to visit Burgh Historic Park, and when I’m looking for some exercise the Beech Woods Recreation Center is always a good choice. If I’m willing to spend 20 minutes in the car I’ll catch a Tiger’s game!”

Star Theatres Southfield

Sometimes there’s nothing better than catching a flick on a lazy Saturday afternoon.  That’s where the Star Theatres comes in with a variety of movies and low ticket prices. Grab your large bag of buttery popcorn and a Coke, and enjoy the show.

Carpenters Lake Nature Preserve

Head out to Carpenters Lake Nature Preserve to become one with nature when the city gets to be too much.  In the summer, the lake is full of fishermen trying their luck at catching sunfish, bass, and minnows among others. There’s plenty of trails to walk around to get in your exercise as well.


4 Can’t-Miss Autumn Adventures in Spokane

Spokane, Washington is absolutely stunning in the fall.  

Though I’m a Seattleite now, the “Lilac City” will always be a second home for me, after living there for several years.  I loved being so close to nature, feeling the stark seasonal changes, and seeing new restaurants and shops open up as downtown grew. 

Every year when the days begin to shorten, I always get a bit nostalgic about my time there.   The heat loses its bite and the city is transformed into a canvas of bright colors as the trees prepare to drop their leaves.  For those of us not lucky enough to live there, it’s a beautiful place for a peaceful weekend away.

Here are some of my favorite autumn adventures to enjoy in Spokane.


Pavillion By Night by Matt Reinbold is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Marvel over the Victorian houses and bright colors of Browne’s Addition

If you’re visiting Spokane for a short trip, you’ll probably be staying in one of the downtown hotels.  Once you’ve dropped off your bags, a good place to stretch your legs is by walking to Browne’s Addition, which is widely known as one of the best neighborhoods in Spokane, and is just west of downtown.  Spend an hour or an afternoon strolling through its quiet streets, enjoying the stately homes and marveling at the bright colors of the trees lining the roads.  The sugar maples, which blaze in bright reds and oranges throughout the fall, are particularly vibrant.


EJ Roberts Mansion by Tracy Hunter is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

If you have extra time, stop by the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture on 1st avenue (which is having a Halloween party this year!), or lengthen your walk by heading north, crossing the Spokane River on a footbridge.  From there, head East on the Centennial Trial to loop through Riverfront Park, where you’ll see more dazzling colors, before heading back to downtown Spokane.

Go apple picking at Green Bluff

A fantastic way to spend one of Spokane’s brisk, sunny autumn days is a visit to the orchards.  Greenbluff excursions are a strong tradition in Spokane, and it was always the day trip I looked forward to the most in the fall.  After your morning coffee, pile into the car with friends and family to make the short drive out of town to the north.  After about 30 minutes you’ll find yourself on a plateau, surrounded by a collection of orchards and farms.  Reserve an afternoon to stroll through the trees, filling a bucket with crisp, bright apples.  There’s a reason Washington is famous for this fruit! In fact, more than 100 million boxes of apples (at 40 pounds each) are produced in the state each year. 


Apples by Shinya Suzuki is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Several Green Bluff orchards also have small presses where you can make a jug of sweet apple cider.  It doesn’t get any fresher than that! Just make sure to enjoy it over the next day or two, since there are no preservatives.  One way to use up that cider is to  try your hand at making a fancy fall cocktail

Taste seasonal beer from award-winning breweries

Though apples are Washington State’s most famous crop, did you know the Evergreen State also dominates the hop industry, producing around 70% of all hops grown in North America?


Beer Sampler by Quinn Dombrowski is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Though cities like Seattle and Denver are well-known as craft beer havens, Spokane has been quietly been producing award-winning breweries.   There are plenty of good breweries around town, but No-Li Brewhouse on the river in the Logan Neighborhood, and Steam Plant Brewing downtown are great places to start. This time of year is particularly special, because “fresh hop” beers are in season, which is a must-try if you’ve never tasted them before.  

If beer’s not your thing, taste a “farm to table” craft liquor from DryFly Distilling or take a distilling class at Tinbender Craft Distillery

Take a scenic drive to Schweitzer and Lake Pend Orielle

When you think of the Rocky Mountains, what do you imagine?  It’s likely you thought of the wilds of Colorado, or perhaps Wyoming or Montana.  You might be surprised at how close Spokane is to the northern Rockies, which spill over into the narrow neck of neighboring Idaho.  Schweitzer Mountain Resort is a favorite skiing destination in the winter, but it’s also a gorgeous place to visit in the fall, and only about a 2-hour scenic drive.


Lake Pend Orielle at Sunset by Bjorn is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Pack a picnic and make a detour to Farragut State Park, where you can explore Lake Pend Orielle or go on a hike.  Or, stop for lunch and window shopping in the quaint town of Sandpoint, located at the north end of the lake.  Shortly after leaving Sandpoint, you’ll begin the zig-zagging journey up the mountain, feeling the temperature cool as you climb.  When you reach the resort, stunning views of the mountain range reward you.  For adventurers who’d like an even better view, grab a chairlift ticket to the top of the mountain, where 360-degree views will take your breath away.  

Exploring the Wild Blue Yonder