Category Archives for "Travel"

February 16, 2016

A Motorbike Adventure from Chiang Mai to Pai – Thailand Adventures

The other day my friend Kyle, who I grew up with in the valley, came to visit me in Chiang Mai where I am currently living. Kyle’s currently living in Vietnam and teaching over there and had a break so decided to visit.

We spent a few days exploring Chiang Mai, eating street food, wandering around looking for cool photo spots and even hit up the Night Bazaar.

One thing that we were told is a must do is to head up to the Northern town of Pai….so we rented scooters and took the trip.

Chris Hughes motorbike from chiang mai to pai

Chris Hughes hopping back on the Motorbike after a quick break on the trip to Pai, Thailand

The night before while eating at a food truck and chatting with some people who were there, the people we met were surprised that we were planning on taking motorbikes up to Pai instead of driving. (These were locals to Chiang Mai)

We had been told by a few other people to just drive slow and keep an eye out for the potholes that used to take over the entire road there.

That didn’t impact our decision at all and the next day we were off to Pai. From my condo it appeared that we only needed to make 3 or 4 turns and follow the signs to get out of Chiang Mai and onto the road to Pai….sometimes I’m not the best with directions, so Kyle and I ended up driving around Chiang Mai for about 30 minutes before we realized that we missed a turn.

That led to some laughs and us having to back-track a bit, but after a little more driving we found the turn that we were supposed to take and ended up on the road to Pai.

From everything that I read about the trip and the road we were expecting that it would take a few hours to get there because of having to drive so slowly to avoid potholes.

We didn’t expect that the road would be in absolutely perfect condition. For the majority of the ride, the roads were in perfect condition. I’m talking about them having just paved one side of the road and were paving the other side for portions of the road, while other long parts of the road were in better condition than roads I’ve driven on in the USA.

There were a few times where one side of the road was closed and we were supposed to wait along with all the other cars so 1 side of the road could go at a time…however the beauty of motorbikes is that you can just go along the side of the cars and avoid a lot of the waits.

After about 3.5 hours of driving through absolutely beautiful hills we arrived in Pai.

I personally thought the best part of going to Pai was driving through the fresh mountain air and just stopping and overlooking the views. There were a few different times where Kyle and I stopped and we just laughed because it really reminded us of the views you would see driving to our friend Colin’s dad’s house in upstate NY when we were in high school.

It felt like being back at home with my bro, but instead of being in cars or walking the street we were on motorbikes.

After getting to Pai we drove around a while to find the hotel we were staying in. That was quick and easy since the town is so small.

Our first order of business upon arrival was to find a good place to get a massage. Sitting in one position for a few hours is pretty rough on the body and certain parts towards the end of the road weren’t fully paved and we were bouncing around a bit on the motorbikes.

We walked around town for about 10 minutes (it’s a tiny town) and were looking for a massage place that had a bunch of flip flops/shoes outside so that we could see it was a good place. In Thailand it is customary to take off your shoes before entering a building.

We found one place and ended up getting an amazing 1 hour Thai massage where they stretch you like crazy. I’m talking about finding that point of stretching and pain and just playing around the with line to get the best stretch possible.

There were a few times where I thought I was going to cry a bit in pain, but then she released the stretch. After this I felt like a million bucks, actually I felt a little high. If you’ve ever gotten a great massage where you feel super super relaxed, you’ll know the feeling.

We then wandered around town for the night and did some bar hopping and street vendor hopping seeing who had the best foods.

Here’s a few of the places we stopped.

Grandma’s Pancakes: we found this place at the end of the night and it was this old woman serving pancakes cooked right in front of you. We chose to get 4 of the pancake sausage combos and honestly I wish we would have gotten about 40 of these. They were so good.

– Ting Tong’s the Living Room: place with the cool lounge chairs

Sabai Bar: we ended up hanging here to listen to some live music and play some chess. Very laid back feel to it.

– Fine Rice: this is where we had our main dinner. It was referred to Kyle as a great place and the food was pretty good, nothing too spectacular especially compared with most of the street food there.

 

 

On the ride back, we decided to stop and see one of the landmarks called “The Landsplit” and it was just that. In 2008 the land split.

Kyle and I weren’t really sure what had gone on but it seemed like it was run by a bunch of ex-pat 20-30 somethings with 2-3 local Thai people hanging out as well.

Chris Hughes The CPA Surfer in Pai Thailand

The Landsplit Pai Thailand

It wasn’t too much to look at, but the best part was that they brought out food and a rosella tea that was delicious. You basically just pay what you want and that’s how they run the attraction.

You also can write in one of their visitor books and we both chose to do that. I put a funny little message in the book with my thoughts so if you can find it you’ll get a kick…

here’s a hint: “been here 3 days, still haven’t found it…”

We were also planning on stopping to visit the #1 tripadvisor spot the Pai Canyon, although we ended up driving past it on our bikes and didn’t realize until about 20 minutes later and thought it wouldn’t be worth back-tracking.

Kyle and I have both seen a bunch of canyon’s so it wasn’t like we were missing much from what it seemed like from reading.

All in all, the trip was fun and it was great to breath some clean mountain air after being in Chiang Mai for the last month or so.

I’d say the best parts of the trip to Pai were simply stopping and just breathing and looking out over the hills and appreciating nature for what it is.

If you are thinking about visiting there, I’d do it. There are a lot of other nature based things to do up there when you arrive but Kyle and I were on a schedule since he needed to head back to Vietnam soon.

Have you been to Pai?

 

Visiting Bangkok Thailand

Time: 4:05pm
Date: Sunday January 4,2016
Location: Windsor Suites Hotel Bangkok, Thailand

Chris Hughes,Windsor Suites Hotel Bangkok, ThailandChris Hughes,Windsor Suites Hotel Bangkok, ThailandOn New Years Eve we flew out of Chicago and flew to Dubai on business class with Emirates, which was an amazing experience. Spending 13 1/2 hours on that plane was quite the treat compared to normal flying.

When we arrived in Bangkok, Samantha got online and read through some reviews of what we should do in Bangkok while we were here. She stumbled across the Thai Tour Guide company and found some great reviews of their service so we booked a 9am-4pm day tour with the company and it was a great idea.

Here’s what we did according to their itinerary and below this you’ll see some pictures and my thoughts about each place.

The Royal Grand Palace & The Royal Temple are the perfect introduction to Thailand’s Architecture, Culture and Tradition, You will visit the highlight attractions around this complex such as

The Royal Temple (Wat Phra Kaew, The Temple of the Emerald Buddha), The Golden Chedi, Pantheon of the Chakri’s Kings, A miniature replica of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Coronation Throne Hall and Royal Reception Hall

Wat Pho (The Temple of The Reclining Buddha) is one of the largest and oldest temple in Bangkok and still an important center for Traditional Thai Medicine and Traditional Thai Massages School

Canal Tour, Take a long tail boat along the bustling Chao Phraya River and quiet Klongs (canals) Passing picturesque scenes of Thai River Life.

By the river see Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn) is an important landmark located on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. The main shrine, decorated with glazed ornaments and ceramics, rises 67 meters towards the heavens. Built during the beginning of King Taksin era, the magnificent temple reflects the glory of the Thai culture. The highest Prang in Thailand symbolizing Hindu-Buddhist cosmology

Pak Klong Talad (Flowers & Vegetables Market), It is known mostly as a wholesale flower market serving everyone from flower vendors to florists, but it also has a good selection of fresh vegetables, which are bought in the pre-dawn hours to be transported to neighborhood markets around Bangkok for sale in the morning.

Pak Klong Talad is the most important flowers & Vegetables wholesale market in town

My thoughts

We started off with visiting The Royal Grand Palace & The Royal Temple.

The Royal Grand Palace & The Royal Temple Bangkok IMG_4124 IMG_4128 IMG_4132 IMG_4135 IMG_4139 IMG_4140

 

This place was unreal. In fact, all of the temples that we’ve seen so far are just so detailed it’s insane to think about how much time it actually took to build and touch up everything. We were told that the whole thing took only 3 years to design but with how much was put into it, it’s almost impossible to imagine it only taking 3 years.

One thing that was pretty interesting is where the inspiration for a lot of these came. Many of the designs have a Cambodian style mixed with some Thai and Chinese influences.

Looking at the pictures right now it’s a shame that the camera can’t capture what it’s really like as good as I wish it could.

Every color just POPS and the gold shines so bright it’s unbelievable. I honestly wonder how it doesn’t all get tarnished.

We did go on a Sunday, so it was extremely busy and the fact that it’s immediately after a New Year made it even busier than usual according to our guide, Tao. He did a great job with a lot of the pictures and snapped them with a minimal amount of people in them, which was great.

Next up we went out on the Canal Tour. We took a long tail boat along the bustling Chao Phraya River and quiet Klongs (canals) Passing picturesque scenes of Thai River Life.

canal tour bangkok

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A lot of the little kids who were out on their docks with their parents waved to us when we went by them, which was great. Seeing kids from around the world is one of my favorite things. Seeing the joy that simple things can bring into their life helps me to be grateful and appreciate what I see even more. 

After the tour we wandered around a bit and ended up walking through Pak Klong Talad (Flowers & Vegetables Market), It is known mostly as a wholesale flower market serving everyone from flower vendors to florists, but it also has a good selection of fresh vegetables, which are bought in the pre-dawn hours to be transported to neighborhood markets around Bangkok for sale in the morning.

Pak Klong Talad is the most important flowers & Vegetables wholesale market in town and holy damn is it enormous. It had more flowers in one spot than I have ever seen and for insanely cheap prices. Sam must have taken 30 pictures of just the orchids and the pricing for them. 

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The current conversion rate is  1 U.S. dollar = 35.9350295 Thai baht

That means the picture with all of those roses that was 60 baht costs about $2 USD…. insane, right?

Next up was visiting Wat Pho (The Temple of The Reclining Buddha) is one of the largest and oldest temple in Bangkok and still an important center for Traditional Thai Medicine and Traditional Thai Massages School

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The third largest buddha in Thailand… our guide said it was about 42 meters long! Sadly, the symbol of Buddha laying down meant ill health and was said to be a representation of the end of life. IMG_4293 IMG_4297 IMG_4301 IMG_4306 IMG_4308

The details on this were unbelievable. IMG_4313

Massage students use to have to study these pictures, but after passing their tests they were able to practice anywhere in the world. Luckily now, they have an actual school teaching them! IMG_4319

Random facts we learned:

  • The halo on the top of Buddha’s head is shown as a way of separating Buddha from man. The images of Buddha with a bald head are actually the monk-version of him
  • The things on the top shelf Buddha’s sitting on are all pointing up to show that Buddha is sitting on elevated ground and the ground moves up to support the Buddha.
  • Buddha is made to be both female and maleIMG_4321 IMG_4329 IMG_4331 IMG_4332

Surprisingly we were allowed to take pictures in here, although you can’t point your feet directly at Buddha so whenever you sit/kneel, you must place your feet in a direction other than directly at Buddha.

 

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What Is It Like Doing the Ride-Along at the Richard Petty Driving Experience?

The other day my brother was visiting me at my current condo in Ponce Inlet, Florida.

He mentioned that he wanted to go do the Richard Petty Driving Experience because he had heard some good things about it and was a fan of NASCAR.

Chris Hughes Richard Petty Ride Along Experience

He also had never been to the Daytona International Speedway and neither had I, so we decided to head on over one morning and do the experience.

This particular time we opted to do the ride-along instead of the driving training because of a limited amount of time (he was flying home later in the day)

It starts off with you getting picked up outside of the main entrance and then a trolley takes you through the old tunnels that I believe used to be the entrance. The car you’re in is an open air thing similar to those open air buses you’d ride in if you were doing a city tour.

The tunnel was pretty small, giving minimal room on both sides so I’m glad I didn’t have to drive my car through it in case I ran into the sides for some reason.

Once you get out of the tunnel it all opens up into the infield, where you get to see just how big the stadium actually is.

Driving in, you can feel and see just how many people can come to the Daytona 500 and see these races take place.

What got me was that each of the seats was painted a different color, where upon first look it seemed like there was people in the audience at all times. I wonder if it’s something that the designer though of to make the drivers feel like there was always people in the stands to help them perform better even during trials and practice races.

It’s honestly a very simple system they have down.

You arrive, check in, ride the trolly into the infield and then check-in and get a little bracelet.

After that, you wait in a little line where they give you your helmet and your racing suit (so that you feel like a badass) Alright, it’s probably for safety…but you feel like a badass racer.

Chris Hughes Richard Petty Driving Experience

Being in the race suit made me feel like James Hunt in the movie, Rush… although we didn’t drive anywhere as crazy as he drove in the movie, and apparently in real life.

So what was it like being in the actual car?

Well, it was like riding a roller coaster…except you’re going about 100 mph faster than a normal roller coaster.

Also, the driver is in control of where you are on the track at all times.

The beginning was probably my favorite part. Accelerating into the first turn was pretty insane. My stomach seemed to pull back into the seat and just hung out there for the 3 laps we took around the track.

It was a pretty weird feeling. Especially knowing that I was being video taped for reactions I wasn’t sure what to do and just had a little grin on my face the whole time knowing that people do this for a living.

They get paid to drive around extremely fast in circles, and within inches of the other cars on the track.

I’m much happier knowing that I don’t have to drive 170mph all the time and be within inches of other drivers. I like keeping my distance between cars on the road whenever I’m driving.

All in all, I’ve got a new-found respect for these drivers.

Another thing that was pretty insane is just how steep the corners are around the track. It’s like driving sideways and defying gravity because of how fast we were traveling.

 

Video About Richard Petty Ride-Along Experience

July 27, 2015

Visiting Peru With Under 30 Experiences

I’m going to start off by saying that this is the first tour i’ve ever done as a group like this.

This trip was also planned way more in advance than anything I’ve done in the past 3 years or so. I’m talking about 6 months in advance of the trip happening, we booked this trip.

To me, that still boggles my mind…

but let’s get right into the review of visiting Machu Picchu and exploring Peru with the Under 30 Experiences team.

I’m going to include a pros in cons list at the bottom so you’ll have a better idea of what I really liked and what I didn’t like about this trip.

My first trip to South America

I’m guessing you know how to read, since you’re reading this… and with that, this was my first trip to South America. I spend a lot of time in Central America and have spent a decent amount of time hopping around the Caribbean, but this was a first.

My girlfriend, Sam, and I arrived a day before the actual trip began with the group, well actually, we arrived at around 12am so we had a full day of just chilling at the hotel before the real “planned” adventures began.

We wandered around the Central business district in the city of Lima and had no real agenda. We were supposed to meet up with some people who were with the group and had already arrived but we hadn’t met anyone and I didn’t get a local SIM card for my phone so we just wandered by ourselves.

That was pretty fun, it was interesting to walk around and see the city. Here’s some shots from that day..

Chris Hughes Peru Chris Hughes exploring peru

 

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We saw a pretty amazing looking church and wandered in, only to find out that there was a mass in session. Turns out it was Sunday, so that makes perfect sense.

The churches here are very impressive and it’s a super catholic country.

The next day we spent with the actual Under 30 Experiences group. We had 14 people with our group, plus Matt, who is one of the co-founders of the company.

Side note: Matt and I have been Twitter/Facebook friends for like 4 or 5 years? and have both lived in Costa Rica, but hadn’t met up until this trip.

The first day of the planned trip involved heading to Miraflores and for me, surfing.

Yes.

Surfing…my life-blood.

I hadn’t gone surfing in over 3 weeks because of visiting Spain (no waves) and visiting Sam’s family in Chicago and I really needed some time with the ocean and a board.

We had to have some wet suits, even though the water temp was around 70. The air temperature was around 66?
Chris Hughes surfing in peru

Only 4 of us went surfing and everyone else explored Miraflores and saw a bunch of pretty odd stuff, like a statue of people making out and exercise equipment randomly on the street?

MAKE OUT STATUE PIC

(Maybe it’s going to become a future Muscle Beach)

After surfing we took a flight to Cuzco.

That night, we ended up grabbed dinner at the hotel and then went out to have a few drinks and see some of Cuzco at night.

This was when the real fun had started, when the group started to bond a little more. Having a few drinks seems to always loosen people up and help people warm up to one another. (Although at the high altitude, you gotta be careful because you’ll get drunk on around 1/3 of the drinks you’ll normally have)

The next morning we all woke up in a bit of a funk, even though we all had 1-2 drinks in total over the course of a few hours…. damn the altitude is a killer on the body down there. (I got really messed up at Machu Picchu from altitude)

That day, we wandered all around the city of Cuzco and saw the Cristo Blanco statue and Sacsayhuaman where we got to see some Alpacas and some of the girls held them. (I took pics)

After this, we went into town and had a planned lunch that was pretty delicious. I tried alpaca for the first time… who woulda thought, you go from petting/holding one to eating it… ahh the cycle of life!

The next step was freedom to explore Cuzco…

This is one area where I feel the Under 30 Experiences team could improve on (I’ve got a few suggestions for them that i’ll include here, but it’s still early in their Peru tour experience at the time I went, so I’m sure it will improve each trip)

We basically had free reign over the city, but none of us seemed to know anything about the city and it would have been nice to have a sort of “Possible options” type piece of paper or guide.

This could be a great add-on for the #u30x team that would give us a sort of “stuff to do” list. We wandered and asked a bunch of people what to do, explored another church that was built on an incan temple and then another museum that was built on an incan temple.

Damn, walking around that day was exhausting. The city is at 11,000ft+ above sea level and I’m used to living by the beach AT sea level… really messes with you.

After this we took the train to Machu Picchu and I had some terrible altitude sickness which caused me to really struggle the whole day we were there…

 

Ahh the look of altitude sickness on the train to Machu Picchu ???? #peru #under30experiences #machupicchu #travel

A photo posted by ✈️Chris Hughes???? (@whoschrishughes) on

This wasn’t the best experience for me because of feeling nauseous the whole day, but it was cool to be able to check off Machu Picchu on my “to visit” list.

While most people consider Machu Picchu to be an extremely spiritual site and something that is life changing in some people’s eyes, it didn’t do much for me.

When I got to the top and looked over at it, it was super crowded and it looked like just a bunch of rocks on a hill.

This could possibly have been because I wasn’t feeling 100%, but even then it was kind of a disappointment from what everyone had said it was like. Maybe I had my hopes up too high or was expecting some type of God or alien to come down and be like “what up Chris” and high five me.

Who knows, that could happen for you.

After Machu Picchu, we had quite the adventure getting back to Cuzco because of train issues and we were sitting on the train for a few hours longer than we’re supposed to. This of course happens a lot when you travel so you learn to live with it.

All in all, I’ve gotta say that my favorite part of the whole trip was just hanging out with the people who were on the trip with us.

We had a great group of people who were from all over and I feel like if we were in an area that wasn’t so high up, we could have had an even better time. (The altitude really messes with ya, so be prepared)

If you can arrive in Cuzco and just take it super easy for 2-3 days before going to Machu Picchu I’m guessing you’ll have a lot better experience and minimize the chance of altitude sickness while you’re seeing it.

Will I go back to Peru?

Yes. I still need to surf at Chicama. (the wave breaks for over a mile and you get to surf on 1 wave for around 3 minutes)

Sadly this trip I couldn’t book a hotel at Chicama because of the big wave surfers coming in and booking everything first. Apparently they were getting 30-40 foot waves which is pretty enormous.

Will I go back to Machu Picchu? Probably not. That is, unless I book the Hiram Bingham train that was overbooked when we tried to buy it. (It’s real luxury based but I’ve heard amazing reviews)

How To Open a Coconut Without a Machete

Hey! So a few weeks back I went to Mexico to Mastermind with my buddy Brendan and discuss growing our business and get a new viewpoint as well as visit a new country.

…and we happened to rent a house on the beach.

…and I happened to notice a coconut tree in the backyard!

Which of course meant I had to have fresh coconut juice. Granted, I had never done this before so it was a new experience for me. I figured it would be fun to share with you how it all went down.

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Thank you to my girlfriend, Sam, for laughing at me the whole time and getting these pictures.

So the first idea I had was to throw rocks at the coconuts and hope I hit them and eventually one would fall…

this worked for a little while, but there has to be a better way, right?

Chris Hughes Brendan Wenzel

 

Next step was to try to hold my buddy Brendan up while he pulled them off the tree…

that didn’t work.

Next?

Why not try a chair!

Chris Hughes Brendan Wenzel Mexico

 

Sure enough, this worked and it was easier than the previous attempts.

Alright so now to open these coconuts…

Step 1 is to break the outer shell.

Chris Hughes Mexico

 

I found the easiest way was to bang the side of the coconut off of an edge of something strong…in this case, the wall.

You can see in the picture how it’s cracked a bit. We found that by cracking the top and then breaking the sides so they had a deep cut into it, we were then able to peel off the exterior layer.

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At this step, you just peel and peel until you have the outer shell completely off.

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Sometimes while you are breaking them you go too far and this is what happens..

Although, you’ll see on the table there that one of the coconuts is entirely peeled…the one that’s sitting on the table is fully peeled.

The next step is to find a shell or rock that has a flat edge on one end and comes to a point on the other.

We tried the knife shown in the picture, but in a normal situation you mind not have a knife to use.

So you’ll place the pointed edge of the rock/shell into the top of the coconut and use another rock to hammer it in. The shell will crack a little bit at the point where you hit it. That’s a good sign.

Once that happens, you’ll want to repeat the process and make a circle of these little cracks in the coconut.

This will make it easier for you to pick out the broken shell and get to the inside.

Once you have cracked it a few times, you can start peeling the hard exterior off. Then all you need to do is poke a little hole in the interior (the white part) and you’ll be getting fresh coconut water!

and if anyone is wondering what it’s like to work while in Mexico this is where I spent a good chunk of my days when not hanging out/surfing..

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Yes, to have my lifestyle you do have to work your ass off. But it’s 100% worth it.