GESSELL + LEE: EXPAT LIFESTYLE & FAMILY TRAVEL

Gessell and Lee

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Winter Escape: 25 Places to Warm Up in Southeast Asia (p2)

5. Phnom Penh, Cambodia

There is a new wave of youthful enthusiasm: making a country rocked by genocide become a new era. You can gain your historical knowledge at Royal Palace or Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and then come back to the present by enjoying a cultural evening at Meta House with a sunset dinner by the side of Mekong River. Embrace the daily lives of Russian Market and try tasting a traditional Khmer meal at Eleven One Kitchen.

6. Chiang Rai, Thailand

Besides the sandy beaches of Thailand, Chiang Rai is the northern city which is said to be the perfect stopping point for the Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia between Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos. There is more than one reason for travelers to visit Chiang Rai, concluding its stunning landscapes, aornate temples, and the best khao soi soup at Phor Jai restaurant also.

7. Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok is stick to food and temples for the daytime experience and to the parties for the nighttime experience. The Grand Palace should be taken on every foodie’s list. The most popular backpacker nightlife of Bangkok is on Khao San Road, but if you want to avoid this type of crowd, the better choice is Sukhumvit Soi 11.

8. Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Bordering Myanmar in the North of Thailand, Kanchanaburi is more than just a stopover destination. It is suitable for the outdoor adventures with Erawan National Park and Sai Yok National Park, which provide some of the best hikes, waterfalls, and cave exploration of Thailand.

9. Krabi Province, Thailand

Krabi is all about the coastal life with white sand beaches, full moon parties, and overwater cliff climbing. It has summoned travelers from all parts of the world for more than two decades. Visit Krabi and go swimming at Phra Nang Beach, paint yourself neon on Koh Phi Phi, and catch a sunset in Kantiang Bay.

Winter Escape: 25 Places to Warm Up in Southeast Asia

Do you hate the cold? Travel to tropical Southeast Asia on its best season. Here are 25 must-visit sites, cities, and islands.

  1. Kampot, Cambodia

Known as the favorite weekend getaway destination in Cambodia, Kampot is a worth reprieve from Phnom Penh’s chaos. Eco resorts such as Eden Eco Village and Ganesha line the river while secret waterfalls and lakes abound are suitable for early morning swimming and canoeing. Rent a motorbike and take a drive on the winding roads of Bokor Mountain or lead to the organic pepper farm of La Plantation.

  1. Koh Rong Sanloem, Cambodia

Near the border of Thailand, just off the coast of Cambodia, Kong Rong Sanloem is unaffected by the worries of city life. Staying at places like Saracen Bay Resort or Lazy Beach hotel gives you the chance to enjoy white sand beaches and a full view of the Gulf of Thailand. Try sunset cocktails for full vacation mode.

  1. Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Visit the Mondulkiri’s forest and experience a Cambodia which most travelers never know exists. This oasis is full of waterfalls, hikes, and winding paths for motor riding and is said to be one of the best-kept secrets of Cambodia up to now. The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) protects a substantial amount of the oasis and there are eco-accommodations such as Nature Lodge which make the environment here a priority.

  1. Siem Reap, Cambodia

Best-known for the temples of Angkor Wat, Siem Reap has quickly developed to be a bustling city. The famous pub street with its competing street parties attracts all sorts of visitors while the town’s edges are home to more docile retreats. Bees Unlimited, a guide to protecting the local bees and honey, and Artisans Angkor, a silk farm providing free tours and a social business concept, give the experience to explore modern Cambodia.

 

Top 6 Best Countries To Travel Alone In 2019

The dream to travel around the world always lingers in the mind of many people. Here are the best-traveling destinations based on some criteria such as culture, ease of transportation, safety, and suitable for traveling alone in 2019:

  1. Bali Island, Indonesia

Indonesia is one of the cheapest countries to visit. Staying in a comfortable room, being served three meals a day with a few beers for only $25 per day! Accommodation, service, food and drink are cheap everywhere, especially when you go further to the North.

  1. Scotland

Scotland is a popular destination famous for whiskey, wildlife, landscape,  and welcoming locals. Traveling here gives you the chance to engage with nature, watch the tumbling rivers, epic scenes, and wild camping.

  1. Italy

Italy is one of the most romantic traveling destinations in the world. It has many beautiful spots with hilltop towns, olive trees, and extensive beaches. Italy is also famous for the wine-cooked barbecues and abundant wine.

  1. Vietnam

Vietnam is a must-visit country in Asia with friendly locals, vibrant landscapes, affordable services, and cheap food (must try the Bun Cha). Cab services here are about $10 compared to cab services in the states which can get up to $30 for a couple of blocks away.

  1. France

People don’t talk about France without mentioning the Eiffel tower. It helps you get the most incredible view of France at night. Book your trip earlier in order to avoid the long lines to the tower.

The Notre Dame and its surrounding will intrigue Catholics or historians with its ancient mummified cats, while Les Invalides military shows all world war weapons types.

  1. South Africa

One of the main cities to visit in South Africa is Johannesburg, which is known as the City of Gold. It is also the heart of entertainment, shopping, and City adventure. The Kruger Park, 250 miles from the city, is one of the most significant game reserves in Africa.

 

8 Tips for Traveling With Baby

Traveling with baby is like traveling with a rock band: it’s all about tote and carries. So you have to prepare well. If you are prepared ahead of time, you and your child will be best suited for a successful travel experience.

  1. If you travel by plane, book a seat that has a bassinet connection, and another separate seat for your older child, if needed. During the pre-boarding phase, pre-board the bassinet, then de-board until it’s closer to take-off time. This way, the bassinet is ready to go, you and your child can use the extra 30 minutes walking around instead of seating on the crowded plane.
  2. Bring some non-perishable snacks and fluids with you. Keep baby hydrated because airplanes are dry. You should also bring a sippy cup or bottle in order to suck on to help relieve air pressure for your baby, especially during take-off and landing.
  3. Bring lots of extra clothing and diapers. Dress your baby in layers that can be taken off easily if your child gets hot, or layered back on if he gets cold. Whether you travel by plane or by car, messes can happen, so always have extra outfits and diapers easily accessible.
  4. Bring favorite sleeping items of your child, maybe his favorite toy, favorite blanket, or favorite pillow, anything that makes him comfortable and cozy. If traveling by car, you can use sun shades to block light out from the windows. All of these things can help your baby calm down and go to sleep.
  5. Bring wrapped toys, treats, or activities. I usually wrap up toys for my children, so that it takes time for them to open and keeps them occupied. This can be an exciting activity for a toddler, who will focus on whatever is hidden in a surprise package. Give him these toys when he starts getting tired or cranky so that you will have something exciting to distract him and pique his interest.
  6. Tell your baby stories about the countries or states you will visit. Pack a portable DVD or load apps or games on your smartphone. Thus, a family trip can also become a teachable moment.
  7. Don’t take trips that are longer than 6 hours. It’s unhealthy for Children to sit in a particular spot for long periods of time. If you travel by car, try to plan stops along the way that are safe, and allow you to walk around a bit.
  8. Always sit beside your baby. You are home to him, parents are everything. So if you travel by car, have one parent drive while the other one sits in the backseat with your child.

Five Best Places to Travel in Asia

From vast, islands, sprawling cities to ancient temples, Asia is one of the top travel spots in the world. With low visiting costs and an expanding tourism infrastructure, Asia has become a hot-spot destination for travelers from all over the world. Here are some of the best places to travel in Asia in no particular order.

  1. SEOUL

If you’re looking for a city that perfectly merges the old and the new, Seoul should be at the top of your list. The capital of South Korea is a smooth blend of contradictions by having both the modern streets and towering skyscrapers and ancient temples, shrines, and villages.

Seoul’s shopping districts stretch for miles and miles, with hot nightclubs in between. Besides, if you want to discover the country’s history, old Seoul is just a few paces away. You could spend hours touring the city’s five large palaces to see some more traditional wooden homes.

  1. HONG KONG

Hong Kong was a British colony up until 1997 when it was returned to China. It is not quite China and not quite British, that make the city blends both cultures to create a hub that is eastern but with roots deeply influenced by the west. Hong Kong has both sprawling, vibrant metropolis, and sandy beaches with plenty of fresh air. There are also some great museums, and plenty of bustling street markets to wander.

  1. TOKYO

If there is a word that describing Tokyo the best, it must be “animated”. Japan’s capital is constantly buzzing with movement – feet clacking down sidewalks, cars zooming along streets, subway trains humming below ground, ships cruising in and out. Visitors may hardly keep up with its bright lights, loud signs, and crowded streets. But travelers should enjoy Tokyo’s energy and unrivaled shopping scene, not to mention the world’s best sushi. On the other hand, one of the greatest things about staying in Tokyo is that many of the best sightseeing hotspots are free and cheap. Besides, the museums and historical sites in Tokyo are world-class.

  1. SINGAPORE

The city of Singapore, perhaps best known for its cleanliness, is the perfect place to take a relaxing holiday. The city maintains a remarkable balance of green space and skyscrapers, which has brought to this former British colony something special.

With clean streets and a dedication to preserving its traditions and connections to the world (like Chinatown, Little India, and some distinctly British-Colonial style architecture), Singapore is perfect for the trendy, culture-loving traveler. In addition, remember to spend your time exploring the city’s green spaces, like the Gardens by the Bay and the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The city also has some great shopping centers, especially on Orchard Road.

  1. MALDIVES

Miles from civilization in the Indian Ocean, this far destination is made up of about 1,200 islands with unparalleled white sand beaches, crystal blue waters, beautiful coral reefs,  and spectacular sunsets dipping into the horizon. The beauty of Maldives is something you can’t quite understand until you’re there yourself.

The Maldives is popular with both honeymooners, travelers seeking relaxation and adventurers who want to explore the depths of the sea. However, getting to and staying in this tropical paradise requires a big budget.

3 Cool Fireplaces in Amsterdam

My latest video for Amsterdam Calling is perfect for anyone in Amsterdam this winter. I explore three very interesting hangouts with pretty cool looking fireplaces.

Mr. Porter
Located in the W Amsterdam Hotel, Mr. Porter is very beautifully decorated in gold. The view over Dam Square is breathtaking. You can even relax in a rooftop pool! Food and drinks your thing? They have some amazing cocktails and are also known for having top notch steaks.

Pressroom
You’ll find Pressroom in the INK hotel. Relax in a cosy living type space in what was once a place where newspapers were made. Offers great drinks in a chill atmosphere.

5 & 33
Very hip decor with sculptures you won’t find anywhere else. 5 & 33 offers a spacious bar with a variety of cocktails and delicious popcorn to go with them.

A Better Alternative to Standard Postcards

One of the best things about traveling is being able to share those memories with the people that you care about. Most people just upload and share their photos without doing anything special to them. This can result in some pretty crap quality pictures. But what if I told you that I found a website that helps turn those boring snapshots into something personalized and really cool?

My Postcard

Recently I came across the website My Postcard . On this website you can design your own photo postcards to share online or by snail mail. With other 10,000 templates to choose from you can rest assured that your end result is going to be something unique. Say goodbye to boring photos and hello to your next viral picture.

Personally I’m a fan of doing things the old fashioned way. There is something personal and special about doing things by hand. Lee and I send our parents postcards from our travel destinations around the world. Now I’ve come across an even cooler way to do that with My Postcard. Here instead of buying some generic postcard from a corner store, I can upload a picture of myself with the baby and my husband and send this to our parents. They love being able to see us on our foreign travels rather than the standard touristy postcards that they would otherwise receive.

There’s an app for that

If you’re like me, then you probably leave your laptop in the hotel room. But I bet you always have your smart phone handy, right? My Postcard is available in the App Store and Google Play as a free app. It’s even already had an amazing one million downloads!

More than just postcards

Besides being able to personalize and send postcards, My Postcard does other types of cards as well. They have a whole array of occasional cards as well.

You can choose from:

  • Thank You Cards
  • Happy Easter Cards
  • Birthday Cards
  • Mother’s Day Cards
  • Valentine’s Day Cards
  • Birth Cards
  • Greeting Cards
  • Invitation Cards
  • Postcrossing
  • Wedding Cards
  • Happy New Year’s Cards
  • Christmas Cards

Easy to set up and use

Some websites are not very user friendly and can make trying to use them for the first time super complicated. I did not find this to be the case with My Postcard. They make it very intuitive and simple. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3.

Step 1. Select a Product. This can be a postcard, greeting card, or photo prints.

Step 2. Choose your style and customize. During this step you can add your pictures, frames, and personal notes.

Step 3. Order and pay. You can choose Paypal, Mastercard, Visa, or American Express as your payment methods. Then you just send your finished masterpiece anywhere you would like worldwide.

Final Thoughts

It’s not often that I get so excited about a new product or service but I just love My Postcard. They have allowed me to create extraordinary postcards to send to our friends and family of special moments in our lives. Has anyone else used them? I’d love to hear about your experience!

Family Weekend Getaway to Winterberg Germany

So after the snowboarding disaster that was our trip to ŠPINDLERŮV MLÝN when we got invited by friends to go snowboarding in Winterberg, we jumped at the chance. It ended up being a fantastic family weekend getaway. Winterberg is a fantastic destination for anyone looking for somewhere to snowboard or ski with the family that isn’t far from Amsterdam.

Why Winterberg?

  • It’s close to Amsterdam

Winterberg is only about a 4 hour drive from Amsterdam. While there are also options to take the train or a bus, we chose to rent a car and drive. This way we didn’t have to haul all of our luggage and a baby. Plus, the little one travels better in a car seat then she does on a bus or train. Plus this meant that we could arrive and leave when we wanted and we were able to arrive directly at our hotel rather than having to get there from a bus stop or train station. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, now that we are traveling with a child I tend to prioritize convenience over cost and I don’t regret that decision at all.

  • Winterberg offers babysitting

While there are no babysitting agencies in Winterberg, there are babysitters available. In order to get the list of babysitters, you’ll need to email the Winterberg Tourism Office at info@winterberg.de and they will send you a list of people that are available to babysit. You will have to individually call the sitters to find one that can speak your language if you don’t speak German (not all of the sitters speak English) and that is available during your trip. We found a lovely sitter for our little one so we were able to snowboard worry free.

  • Winterberg has well connected slopes.

The hotel we stayed at was a ski-in/ shi-out hotel. This was perfect since we could then just walk to the slopes rather than having to drive our rental car and find parking. What I found even better was how interconnected the slopes were. There were plenty of beginner and intermediate slopes and we could take them all around the city. Instead of being stuck in one area or having to drive to get to other slopes, we had a ton of options to explore by just using the ski lifts.

Final Thoughts on Winterberg

Lee and I had a fantastic weekend snowboarding in Winterberg, Germany. It is close enough to Amsterdam that you can do it as a day trip or a weekend getaway. Plus, once you’re in Winterberg, there is plenty of trail for beginners to explore. Winterberg is something I highly recommend for families looking for somewhere easy to get to from Amsterdam for a family winter vacation getaway.

When the Hotel Ruins your Vacation Plans

So when a hotel offers 24/7 babysitting service, one could reasonably assume that at least one day during our week long stay that we could in fact get a babysitter. Maybe my first clue should have been when we called Hotel Olympie to verify that they would have a sitter for us and they gave us a number to try to arrange it ourselves. Despite the advertisement of English speaking babysitters, the lady on the phone did not speak English. Fail number 1. But since the year before Hotel Olympie had done a wonderful job of finding us a babysitter over the Christmas break, I figured that once we were there in person, we could get this all sorted out. Boy was I wrong.

The plan for the trip was to do a couple of days of snowboarding and a couple of days of things with the baby. This way my husband and I could spend some quality time alone and as a family. So when we arrived at the hotel we inquired in person about the babysitting. The staff at the hotel pointed to this sign with the same number that I had called before. Apparently their 24/7 babysitting did not in fact exist at all during our weeklong stay. The sign was a lie. There was no one to watch our daughter. And this being a ski and snowboarding town meant that our options for things to do with an infant were limited.

Making the most of a ruined holiday

Maybe it sounds dramatic, but when you are looking forward to a family vacation for months in advance, travel very far to get there, and put good money down for it to happen when something this royal gets screwed up it can leave even the best of us bitter.

It was a beautiful scene of a mountain covered in snow. Ideal for Christmas, right? Perfect conditions to snowboard. In fact, from our window overlooking one of Spindleruv Mlyn’s ski trails we were in fact able to watch people do just that. Without a babysitter though, we had to find other things to do during our family holiday.

Outside of our hotel was a small road that I was able to take the baby sledding on. This was one of the few things to do directly in the vicinity of the hotel with a baby. Fun for about half an hour at a time and of course, only during the daylight hours.

A majority of our time was spent in the children’s corner of the hotel. Thank goodness they had this area set up with kids toys for the little one to play with. Without a car and with the hotel not being located in the downtown area of the city, traveling in Spindleruv Mlyn is not the most convenient during the winter. It is possible to walk down the mountain and into town from the hotel. But, there are no sidewalks to do this so you are left to take your chance on the icy, snow covered roadways in traffic.

We did take one afternoon as a family to go to the water park. Here they had a salt cave as well as water slides to enjoy. If you’re looking for things to do with the family in Spindleruv Mlyn that doesn’t involve skiing or snowboarding, then this is something that I can recommend.

Lesson that I learned

Maybe it was a bit of the sunken cost fallacy, or the fact that the year before we had such a good trip that lead me to believe that the hotel would come through for us. But unfortunately our snowboarding trip turned into a family vacation spent mostly at our hotel since there are very few things to do with a baby in Spindleruv Mlyn. While it was not the ideal way to spend our Christmas vacation, it did solidify one thing in my mind. Next year, we will be going somewhere entirely different for our annual family winter vacation.