The Apartment 205 and The Will

The next day we booked not one but two Escape Rooms! Apartment 205 and The Will.

Apartment 205 was an action sort of escape room with your typical senile terrorist that’s left clues all over the place ostentatiously for himself. I was a fun concept but it didn’t appeal to us. Having the actor in the room with us was more obtrusive. Also, one of the first things we did was run down the hall to get to the room, and because there were a bunch of people in the hallway I hit my hand on some guy’s motorcycle helmet. He didn’t drop it so I think it was okay, but I know they’re pretty expensive. I know that it was my choice to run, but if you’re going to spring something like that on someone probably isn’t a good idea to do it in a crowded hallway. Still I think that for some people it will give more guidance and reassurance. It just didn’t work well for us.

At one point my boyfriend knew how to solve a puzzle but because the guy was standing over him awkwardly he felt so weirded out by the situation he didn’t actually do the puzzle. At that point the actor just sort of told him what to do. It would have been more fun and less awkward without that. That was kind of a low point for both of us, but the next room was much more to our taste.

There was a Chipotle across the street from this location so we ended up there for lunch. It was very convenient. There wasn’t really anywhere to hang out around the Escape Room so we just waited in the car after finishing lunch.

The Will is a techy room. Things happen when you solve puzzles, and it really feels really cool. It’s hard to talk about without spoiling things but I enjoyed the room a lot. We finished it easily with two people with plenty of time to spare. I think that we did use one or two hints but they were things that I think we would have gotten eventually. Just stuff we didn’t find or notice. I think that it would be a good one for a new group or a couple.

Okay! That just about finished our trip. Last but not least, we went to the Lunar Lab Escape Room by Maze. I’m planning to talk about that one tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Disneyland California Adventure Park

In the past two years my SO and I have found ourselves passing through LA for some reason or another and we’ve always thought why not stop in Disneyland for a day? We’ve always just bought the one day tickets to keep things simple and definitely had a blast. Being a kid for a day and just worrying about how you’re going to line up your fastpasses was lots of fun.

On this trip we decided to go to Disneyland California Adventure Park. Both of us have never been and we were curious what it was like. I’m so glad we went and I’m going to talk a little bit about some of the rides that we went on, the food and the World of Colors show.

Walking into the California Adventure Park for the first time was amazing. I think the last time I felt like that was probably when I went to Disneyland when I was six years old. Neither of had did any research before we went on the trip so we had no idea what to expect! The only thing that I knew about the park was that I wanted to go on the Tower of Terror ride. My first impression was that this was a Disneyland more aimed at adults. There was available wine everywhere and way less of the cutesy character stuff, although there was still a fair amount.

First, we decided to get some lunch at Cocina Cucamonga Mexican grill. Pretty good TexMex style Tacos with big portions.

Soaring over California was the first ride that we came across with a fastpass. The floor drops away and you really feel like you are soaring over California! Some of the other fun rides we went on was the Grizzly Rapids ride. Somehow I managed to get completely soaked on that ride while my boyfriend managed to stay completely dry! Somehow he always gets lucky when it comes to these type of things. Actually there was a guy across from us and Eric spoke enough Spanish to realize he was talking about how dry my boyfriend was compared to everyone else. He said something like “he’s such a slim guy, he’s not even getting wet!” which he shared with me afterward. Lucky guy!

At one point we decided to go on the iconic Sun Wheel Ride. I actually didn’t realize exactly how the ride moves, so it was a bit of a surprise at first! It’s a pretty long ride so we had a nice discussion with the other couple we meet there. They were originally from the MidWest took some time off and were just living in different places to see the country. They decided to stay in Southern California for a while and pick up annual passes for Disneyland and just go a bunch for a whole month. It sounded like a whole lot of fun! I hope that they’re still having some great adventures out there.

While I didn’t have a huge plan for it dinner didn’t quite work out like I had hoped. I wanted to try the lobster nachos at Ariel’s Grotto, but it was such a long wait and didn’t work with some of the other things we still wanted to do, so instead we ended up getting chowder bread bowls at one of the shops in the Fisherman’s wharf area. I’m pretty familiar with the actual place that is based on having grown up in the Bay Area so that was kind of bizarre. It did look eerily reminiscent but totally cleaned up and made much smaller. Like a mini video game version of it.

I think that it was about this time that we decided to go on the Tower of Terror in the Hollywood Section. It was really fun! I love those creepy rides, and it was not at all what I expected. They sort of lull you into a state where you’re not sure what you think is going to happen will, but it does. Loved the Twilight theme.

I’m actually picking up this entry quite a few months later so unfortunately I can’t remember a lot of what I was going to write. There were a lot more rides than this, lots of snacks, and some just resting on park benches when we were really tired that I’ve left out. The one thing that left a big impression was the World of Color show. Actually, the last time that we went to Disneyland Eric really wanted to see this show and we were so disappointed when we realized that it was only in the California Adventure Park. Funny story, we actually ended up getting tickets for the event by accident. One of the ticket dispensers is right next to a ride and we picked them up by mistake. Lucky mistake! It was packed when we went to find seats but managed to get a pretty decent view.

One sad thing about the trip was that my boyfriend lost his favorite jacket. We really should have gotten a locker. We spent a good amount of time looking for it, and even went to the lost and found but haven’t heard anything back. It was a custom made patchwork jacket that he bought off of etsy before I even met him. I remember that it was one of the things that I liked about him when we first met, it made him seem pretty unique and cool. I keep having dreams of writing up a post on reddit or something and through some amount of luck or just crowd sourcing being able to find this thing but it’s probably way to late now. I hope that someone found it and that they’re out there impressing weird girls with it.

After that we were exhausted and went back to our AirBnb. I remember that my boyfriend was on a big The Captain is Dead kick so we ended up playing that all night. I think that we picked up the expansion just before we left on our trip which was really fun.

We had a lot of fun and I’m glad that we went but I don’t think that we will go back for a long time. I still prefer the original park and we’ll probably keep going to that one in the future. I’m also still sad about my boyfriend’s cool jacket :(.

I’m going to start working on my next entry right now.

LA Escape Room Trip

My SO and I are back state side, but still traveling! Some day I will have to finish up my posts on my trip to Thailand but until then I thought that I should write a little about our recent trip to Los Angeles. We decided to go to Los Angeles to play Escape the Room games.

Escape the Room games are basically an experience where the participants are locked in a room or series of rooms and need to solve a number of puzzles in order to find the key to unlock the last door. They originally started in Japan and have been in the US since about 2014. We actually did our first Escape Room in Bangkok and have both been in love with them ever since. We’ve even toyed with the idea of starting an Escape Room business ourselves.

Somewhat of an unusual reason to go to LA, but all the same we had a wonderful trip! We wanted our trip to be as stress free as possible so we did some research and booked four Escape Room games in advance. I did most of my research by checking out yelp reviews. The ones that we chose were Escape from the Time Travel Lab from Real Escape Room, Apartment 205 and The Will from Enigma Escape Rooms, and finally Lunar Station from Maze Rooms. I’m going to write about my whole trip, but if you’re just interested in reading my Escape Room Recommendations then you can skip ahead to the sections that are highlighted in this post and any following.

Our first room of the trip was the Escape from the Time Travel Lab and it certainly set the bar high! My SO picked this one and he was the most excited about it. The night before our game Real Escape Room called us to let us know that we would be the only two people playing that night, and since it was a room designed for a larger group it would really be a challenge. They gave us the option to change our booking to another time, but we since it really didn’t work with our schedule we decided to keep our original time. Honestly we were excited that we would be able to personally work on all of the puzzles!

The Escape Room was located in Little Tokyo in a mall. Google directions dump you in an alleyway next to a Starbucks, but by walking down the street you will see the main entrance to the shopping area. Go into the main area, then take the stairs to your left. Escape the Time Travel Lab is near the landing and you will recognize it from the advertisements in the windows.

Since we were a little early we decided to eat at Orochon Ramen. We didn’t do any research before hand, but it looked popular so we decided to give it a try. I highly recommend the Miso broth, and the gyoza were amazing. There was a bit of a wait so make sure to give yourself plenty of time. Admittedly it took us a while to order because we did not realize that you need to press the call button on one of the nifty little boxes that are taped all over the place.

Escape from the Time Travel Lab
I’m not going to write about the content of the room at all, but I am going to mention some of the things about this game in general. My overall review is that it was a great experience, the staff were extremely friendly and helpful, and that we enjoyed ourselves immensely. If you don’t want to spoil anything about this room you should just stop reading now and go book it to see for yourself.

About the room: Because we were only a group of two the staff went out of their way giving us hints to help us experience as much of the game as possible. We don’t like getting too many hints normally but in this situation there was plenty to do and I felt like it enabled us to see most of the game. There are a few actors in the room with you but they are very unobtrusive. There are tons of puzzles to do, some are quick and easy while others take a long time to figure out. However you do not have to solve every single puzzle in order to complete the room. If you complete enough of them you can use guesses to get to the next stage which I thought was pretty cool.

While we did not escape, we did get really close. It was such a cool concept and we both had a lot of fun. I might ask my boyfriend to do a separate post on this one because of how much he enjoyed it.

The next day we actually went to Disneyland California Adventure Park! It was the first time for both of us and I will talk about our impressions of it in my next post.

Disaster! Pulled a muscle in my back at the falls

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Last Sunday started out fine, we got a chilly breakfast in Ban Rak Thai, walked around a little then left for Mae Hong Son. We decided to stop at the Pha Sua waterfall, which while it was beautiful I now kind of wish we skipped as I ended up pulling a muscle in my back while walking down the stairs. They were quite uneven and I think that walking downstairs first probably was worse than the other way around. Downhill is more stress on your body and we usually have to walk uphill first which I think warms up your muscles. My boyfriend actually twisted his ankle too, but he was able to walk on it. Downhill first is definitely not for us!

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It got progressively worse during the day to the point that I had to sit out Su Tong Pae, the longest Bamboo bridge in Thailand. There’s a cool temple on the other side and some buildings to check out.

The next two days I spent laid up in bed at the Piya Guesthouse. It was a nice place though I definitely didn’t enjoy being stuck there for two days. It might have been better to go to the hospital but we weren’t sure about the sort of medical care we would receive in Mae Hong Son, plus I was pretty sure that it was just a pulled muscle and I needed to rest it.

The guys were able to rent some mountain bikes and go on a ride through some of the trails near town. They said it was fun but exhausting! They were also able to try the Banpleg restaurant, which according to the Lonely Planet has the best Nam Prik Orng in Thailand. My boyfriend brought me back some and it was so good, especially with the pork rinds. Spicy though!

After two days I was able to get on the scooter and we left for Mae Chaem.

Coffin Caves and Ban Rak Thai

Last Saturday we woke up late and went to the Seven Elephants cafe. The cafe is located at the Soppong River Inn. The dishes that we got were the oop gai, shan meatballs and the nam prik om. The shan meatballs were especially good and the nam prik om was probably the best version of the dish that I’ve had in Thailand so far. My dish was pretty good too, but I feel like it was very similar to other dishes that I have had recently. Afterward I had mango a sticky rice. The mango was not completely ripe but it was still very good. The rice really stood out. Instead of the normal white sticky rice it was black. A little bit chewy and very tasty.

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After lunch we drove a few minutes out of town to the Coffin Caves. The Coffin Caves, also called Tham Pi Maen or “Spirit caves,” are about 30 or so wooden coffins with artifacts from 3000 years ago. The walk up to the Coffin caves is quite steep most of the way is up uneven stairs. My boyfriend and I saw caves 1 and 3. There is a sketchy bridge that the path from Coffin 1 to 2 takes you across. However because the path is a loop you can actually see coffins 2 and 3 without going over it.

After the coffin caves we drove up the winding road to Ban Rak Thai. The road is steep and twisted but in good condition and there was not much traffic. The guys really enjoyed the ride.

Ban Rak Thai was not at all what I thought it would be. It seems to be a total tourist attraction. There are many overpriced resorts and tons of shops selling tea.

After finding some reasonable rooms we went to a nameless restaurant for dinner. It was really weird. We got fried chicken, egg rolls, honey spare ribs and some stir fried vegetables. I did not recognize the veggies, the egg roll was basically a sausage with egg roll coating, which also came with some breaded and fried pork fat, the fried chicken was tasty but actually had black bones and skin. Very weird.

The hotel was ridiculously cold that night and we only had one small blanket. Definitely not enough to keep warm.

Soppong and Cave Lodge

This morning we packed up and left for Soppomg. We actually only had an hour drive ahead of us but we decided to take it slow today. We stopped at this roadside shop for some beverages and to stretch our legs. It had an amazing view!

We also stopped at this market and viewing point. It had a four person human powered Ferris wheel. Eric and Greg tried to get it working with this Norwegian couple. Seemed pretty dangerous so after a few near misses we decided to quit while we were ahead. I took a video of it but I’m tethered to my phone at the train station right now so I will have to upload it later when I get to a wifi spot.

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I thought the Cave Lodge was amazing when we first got there. It’s really up in the trees and has a spectacular view. We got a room with two beds because it was roomier and had a better view. Ate some tasty thai food though they have farang stuff as well. Did some laundry. Communal area with ping pong (guys played after lunch), books (though not a lot of English titles), hammocks and a smoking area. Really looks like a jungle bungalow.

Unfortunately I had a bad time on the only kayaking trip that we booked, the one hour trip through the Tham Lod. The guide pushed a leaky kayak on me and I ended up spending the whole trip in a pool of water unlike the other people in the group that were able to sit on the seats in the kayak. I should have asked for a working kayak but I just didn’t know enough about it to know that something was wrong until I heard air leaking out of it. Also the guide was very evasive when I asked questions about why there was so much water in the bottom of the kayak (unlike the others) or why I couldn’t sit like everyone else. I really felt taken advantage of and I can no longer recommend Cave Lodge as a place to stay or book trips.

We did end up staying the night there and eating dinner at their restaurant. Because it was raining we didn’t feel comfortable riding the scooters but I didn’t feel right about staying there after what happened. We left the next day.

Leaving Chiang Mai and heading to Pai

On Tuesday we said good bye to our apartment and left for Pai. I was sad to go but excited about our trip. I’ve heard a lot about Pai from other travelers things like its so amazing you end up staying longer than you planned and there’s so many incredible things to do there.

We decided to travel to Pai using our scooters. Right now there is a lot of construction and the roads are slippery with lose gravel and wet from whatever work they’re doing.

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We stopped at the Royal Botanical Gardens along the way. Very big complex and lots of amazing green houses, plus a very cool canopy walk way.

We made it to Pai around 5 pm. We were all exhausted and booked the first rooms we found for 400 baht a night. Kind of a bad location but we fell asleep right away.

After our naps we woke up to a completely different downtown. The street was closed off and thick with shops. Clothes food, everything you could think of. We ate some dinner at place down the street from our hotel then got an hour long foot massage. Then we went to a bar where to guys played billiards against some Thai guys.

Next day we went to Pam bok waterfall. Beautiful but really cold. Had to cross rickety old bridge that looked like something out of Tomb Raider. Cliff jump that was mentioned in the article I read was not that impressive.

For lunch we went to this cool Treehouse restaurant and guesthouse. I really liked the ambience of the place. Food was okay.

Because we were in the area we stopped at the Noi elephant camp. Riding the elephant bareback really hurt my butt. I guess that I was sitting the wrong way. If you sit on the back of the elephant over it’s spine you need to sit on your legs. I wish that someone had told me! After 15 minutes I couldn’t take anymore and had to get off. Because we were far away from the normal place you mount the elephant they had her sit in water and then I jumped off. Then the guide had the elephant shake off the guys, like in a rodeo. At first we thought the elephant was just upset, but it turns out the guide was giving her a command to do that. Glad I wasn’t on it, lol. I went back on one of the guides motorbikes.

Afterward we went to the Pai hot springs . Amazing location, you really feel as though you are sitting in a hot spring river. If that’s not entertaining enough you can also buy eggs and cook them at the head of the stream where it’s 80 degrees celsius. We just stuck to relaxing in the warm water. The hottest pool you’d actually want to get into was 36 degree celsius. Little waterfalls separate each pool. We started in 33 degrees, then 32, and last 31 degrees.

Back in Pai we had dinner by picking up street food while strolling along Walking Street. I had a fresh coconut, an eggroll and a curry chicken bao almost as big as my face. Great way to enjoy downtown and have dinner.

Loy Krathong

For the past week I haven’t had a chance to charge my laptop because there were no three prong power outlets at the places that we were staying and I forgot my adaptor in some luggage we left behind. I am back in Chiang Mai and I have a ton of posts to make!

On Wednesday November 25th we were able to celebrate Loy Krathong. Loy Krathong is a holiday celebrated in Thailand and some of the neighboring Southeast Asian countries. It is general celebrated over the course of three days and includes many events such as a parade, many contests, a beauty pageant etc.

This is my Krathong
This is my Krathong

The name comes from the traditional practice of floating an offering, usually of flowers, candles and incense down the river. It is supposed to wash away any bad luck of the past and bring you new luck. While traditionally there were only the water kind of Krathongs now there are also the lantern type. These have some a small ring soaked in karosene that makes them float off into the night sky. We tried both.

To start the night off we walked along the parade route and took in the sights. There were some dancers and a number of floats. There were also vendors all along the route selling both the water and sky Krathongs. We bought a floating Krathong and a lantern type for 40 baht each. That’s a little more than a dollar each.

When we got to the bridge over the river we tried to set our lantern but were stopped by police. We found out that lanterns aren’t legal until 9 pm. We thought it would be prudent to wait until then to send off our lantern but it seemed like everyone else was doing it anyway.

Instead we went down to the edge of the river to release our krathongs. My boyfriend’s brother slipped and got all muddy unfortunately. It was very slippery and I almost fell a few times too. Someone standing in the river helped me get my Krathong in the water. I definitely would have fell in if I had tried to release it myself. Even standing near the edge got my sandals pretty muddy.

Through the night people we shooting off fireworks but around 9PM some bigger ones were let off. I’m not sure if it was official but it was nice to watch either way.

At nine o’clock we went onto a cool bamboo bridge stretched to the middle of the river to release the lantern. It was pretty crowded so I accidentally didn’t record us lighting the lantern, but at least I got the last part.

Afterward we went to a bar by the river whose name I can’t remember. I was Cana-something? It was a bit expensive at 200 baht a drink but we had a great view of the river. We spent the next hour or so sipping our drinks and watching the lanterns and fireworks. A very nice way to end our first Loy Krathong!

Thai Cooking class at the AsiaScenic Farm

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On Sunday while the guys we off downhill mountain biking I took cooking class. I eventually decided on the all day cooking class at the AsiaScenic Farm. The day started with a 9:30 AM pick up at my apartment before we stopped at the MaeJo Market, close the MaeJo University.

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This is Pui(say it with a rising tone!), our guide and instructor for the day. Here she is showing us some of the produce that we will be using in our dishes today. There is actually a ton more at the market than just vegetables and fruit. You can buy rice, noodles, any spices, lunch and any spices that you need there.

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Got to have some delicious peppers when you’re making Thai food. Pui shared with us that the smaller the pepper the hotter it will be. Also that fresh chilis are more hot than dried ones, and that red ones are always hotter than green. Good to know when you’re about to spend all day cooking!

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For some reason the carrots just look more cute in Thailand.

After the market we all piled into the minivan and headed over the the farm. It was about a 20 minute drive. Not bad.

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Our first glimpse of the farm! It is a very relaxin place with an outdoor cooking area, a large garden, and plenty of hammocks to relax in between dishes!

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First thing we did was to put on some straw hats and take a tour of the gardens. Lots of the produce that we used was actually grown organically at the farm. Pretty cool.

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These blue flowers have medicinal properties and Thai people sometimes make a tea from them. Pui said they don’t taste like much so people usually add a little lime or something to it. They’re also great for dyeing food and we are going to use these in our Mango and Sticky Rice dish.

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To get us into the cooking mood we had a traditional snack of lime (with peel), galangal, toasted coconut, onion, peanut, syrup and a chili. We used lettuce leaves here but normally you would use a betel leaf. Surprisingly tasty! I had two.

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My first dish, Pad Thai! While it didn’t come out all that well (I think I overcooked it) it was exciting to start cooking. Once I was more familiar with the utensils and format things went a lot better.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect from this Spicy Chicken Salad but it was really delicious, it came out really well. The egg roll was also very tasty with some sweet chili dipping sauce.

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Next we had to make some curry paste in order to make our curry dishes with a mortar and pestle! It wasn’t so bad taking turns but my arm was really sore by the end. Pui said that our paste was really small and that she was impressed. Most groups still have really big chunks.

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This is my Tom Yum Soup. Easily my favorite dish of the day, but it was really spicy!

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Next I decided to make Kao Soi for my curry. It had a good flavor but because I used a lot of chili paste it was too thick. Not all that spicy however. Everyone else was using only 1-3 tablespoons (not spicy to mild) of curry paste in their curry dish, so I just had to use 5 tablespoons (spicy!). Someone had to do it!

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Last but not least was the mango sticky rice. The blue rice is actually dyed from the flowers that we picked earlier in the day. I’m really glad that I decided to try this dish again. The first time that I had Mango and sticky rice the mango was kind of green and the sticky rice was just rice mixed with a sticky syrup. This was really tasty and I would definitely make it for dessert.

After lounging and leisurely finishing our last dishes Pui gave us a copy of their recipe book and we all piled into the minivan to go back home. I was dropped off at my apartment at around 4:30PM, it was a long day!

Overall I would definitely recommend taking a cooking class and choosing one with a trip to the market. It really makes you feel like it’s something that you could get the ingredients for and do yourself. Cooking Thai food was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I am excited about making it when I get back home!

Lunch at Huen Muan Jai

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After a long week and graduating our 15 day Thai class I was just exhausted. All we did on Friday was relax and check out a new northern Thai restaurant called Huen Muan Jai. The restaurant is mostly outdoors on a wooden deck. Mosquito spray is provided for free although I don’t think we needed it. It was lovely to sit out on the shaded deck and to feel the breeze.

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We got all northern dishes, nam prick ong, gueng hang lay, and kao soi. All were pretty good but the Kao soi really stood out. It’s a pretty cheap and delicious lunch, I think that we will definitely have to get it again.