Thursday, November 30, 2017

Visiting DownUnder!

Wow - talk about checking off our bucket list! First Thailand now Australia! Specifically we are spending a couple days in Sydney then heading over to Brisbane for our conference then up the coast a little to have a look.

Let's start with Sydney! Amazing coast line along Bondi Beach! We love water and rocks so this craggy shore line just resonated with us! They have miles and miles of walking paths along the coast with a road running parallel with various shops, eateries and cafes so the choice is yours - stroll the beach or the streets. Or maybe stroll the beach then stop at a cafe for some delicious fish and chips or an afternoon coffee. The choices are limitless!

We made the most of our short visit to Sydney. The morning was rather overcast so we started our day at the very impressive aquarium and zoo. The aquarium has those tunnels where you are actually walking through the tanks with fish swimming around and over you - it was neat to see the underside of the sharks and stingrays.
Then we caught the ferry and went around the harbor for our first glimpse of the "famous" Sydney bridge and the Opera House. The weather had cleared up nicely so we did a little walk around the Opera House and then we walked back up to the Sky Tower and went up for an overhead view of the area.

We were both very much taken with the atmosphere of Sydney with so many walking paths, activities and shopping options available to make outings always new and interesting.

We flew up to Brisbane and spent a couple days in town for a conference then wandered up the coast. It's a pity for us that the rain decided to come from BC's west coast to Australia with us. The Aussies were thankful for the rain as it hadn't rained there for months but it didn't give us quite as much opportunity to explore with outdoors as we would have liked. However the rain was in no way going to stop
us from exploring the Australia Zoo - what a fabulous location. Imagine being right out in an open area with kangaroos all around or walking through another area and looking up at all the koalas in the trees. My hat's off to them - they really created quite a natural environment for us to interact with the animals. I would love to go back on a dry day and enjoy it more, however, having said that, a rainy day makes for a much less crowded experience.

We went back into Brisbane and enjoyed a couple days playing tourist and visiting with friends in the area. I love the transit system they have in place. Free transit to the downtown area of Brisbane; a walk on ferry system that runs up the river connecting all the suburbs, beautiful walking/bike paths along both sides of the river with pedestrian bridges separate from the commuter traffic. So much attention to making the most of the outdoors. 

Having never been to Australia before I had never really thought much about it so I was quite surprised to realize how big the continent actually is. When you look at a map of the world it really doesn't put it in good perspective. Definitely a country that needs multiple visits or a very long visit. It's so hard to decide what to see as things vary so much. We look forward to returning as I would love to experience the Outback; Melbourne and Perth - so much to see! We'll be back!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Travelling across the water!

Let the adventures continue to expand! We've spent many fun years at our condo in Playa del Carmen but as our online business grows so to does our team of international business partners. It's because of this that we have ventured forth to discover the beauty of Chiang Mai Thailand en-route to a business conference in Brisbane, Australia!

We decided that if we were travelling that far we should make the most of it and see as much as we can with the time available. We chose Thailand because of it is a very inexpensive country to visit and there is so very much culture to enjoy.

We found a great family run guesthouse, Banh Mi Guesthouse. Clean, very affordable and walking distance to all of the inner city in Chiang Mai. We were welcomed to the guesthouse like we were family. They helped us, even before we arrived, to set up one of our excursions. Once there they were most helpful in advising us what would be great to see and even helped us set up the transportation and personal driver for another day outing.

Chaing Mai is a city of temples, every time we turned a corner there was another temple, each one a unique experience. I have never seen such a variety of Buddha statues. We were completely comfortable walking around the city and had no problem with a language barrier either. If we got tired it was very easy to flag down a tuk-tuk to return to our guesthouse.

One of the fun aspects of travelling for us is to experience the local cuisine. We love food - however I do have my limits - I really don't want to eat bugs just for the sake of trying them. I think if I had to eat it because that's all there was to eat then I would but until then I will just look and take pictures - I'll leave the sampling to my husband.

When we travel we like to experience more of the local culture not the tourist culture although we couldn't miss out on a chance to spend a day with the elephants. There are many elephant tours available and many varied opinions on spending time with the elephants. We discussed this with our host, Aay, who is a native Thai lady and she made a very valid point. She said that as a Thai person she does not like the tours as the elephants don't need our help with eating or bathing so to her it's not being done for the elephants sake but for the business owners sake. While I do understand and agree with her sentiment I felt more like we had just been interacting with the elephants as they went about their day - it's like they were allowing us to be present. We picked the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary for our experience. One main reason for choosing them is that they do not allow their elephants to be ridden and we were also pleased to see that they weren't making the elephants "perform" for us. We were just basically hanging out together.

There are many parts of Thailand to visit depending on your personal interests. If it's beaches you like then look into Puket; for temples and walking vistas then we were quite happy with the inner city of Chiang Mai. More to the north is Chiang Rai where you will find the White Temple. Bangkok is more of the modern, big city hustle bustle which held no interest for us at all. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Time to explore

For many years now we have enjoyed the people and town of Playa del Carmen, Mexico. We even purchased a condo there so we would have a home to go to every year. We certainly did not meet Playa when 5th Avenue was only a dirt road a few blocks long but we do feel like it was still a small town when we started going there about 17 years ago. Over the years we have watched the town develop and evolve into quite the tourist town. 5th Avenue now runs from Jaurez to far beyond Calle 60. With so many new modern buildings going up constantly our little Playa is getting a very modern look. It's great for those who love that but the traditional look and flavor of Playa is being lost. Not unusual as a town grows but sad in a way as it was the traditional that appealed to us.

So we are seeking new adventures - it's not that we are saying Adios to Playa forever but we are going to venture forth and experience more of Mexico. A big part of this decision comes from the fact that my brother and sister in law, long time Playa residents, have pulled up roots and moved to Valle de Gaudalupe on Mexico's west coast.

So our future will include exploring the west coast. We are even contemplating a road trip from our home in BC Canada to my brother's new location. It will take, at a leisurely pace, about 3 days to get there and we are already preparing for the first west coast road trip in January - leave the snow behind and drive to Valle de Gaudalupe, a wine region of Mexico just a few minutes drive outside of Ensenada.

I look forward to sharing our adventures - stay tuned!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

An adventure at Isla Holbox

What a beautiful little town! This is what I like to experience when I visit Mexico! We took a trip there with my brother and sister-in-law who are long time Playa del Carmen residents and they tell us that Holbox is what Playa del Carmen was like about 15 years ago.

I love all the colors in Holbox - it has a very Caribbean feel - the bright orange fence being painted as we walked by, with a bubble gum pink building right next to it! There is no fear of using bright colors around town. The businesses are all unique, small individual operations - no franchises here - you won't find any familiar names like McDonalds, Starbucks etc. in this town.

The roads are all unpaved, dusty, sandy roads that just adds to the character of the town. No cars are permitted and the taxi service is "yellow cabs" which are actually golf carts. You need to take note that they can only hold 3 passengers so if you are a group of 4 you will require 2 taxis. It is possible to rent golf carts as well to tour around the island.

There are a lot of things to do around the island - everything from snorkeling and diving to kiteboarding lessons, take a boat to see the flamingos and various water sport equipment for rent. For us, this trip was about exploring the town and relaxing on the beach. 

We knew we would be in town much earlier than our room would be available, but as expected, the resort was happy to supply us with towels and invite us to enjoy their pool, beach area and dining facilities. 

It was an easy walk between the resort and town so we decided after relaxing by the pool and the beach to head into town for an afternoon coffee. Imagine our surprise when we found that very much in Mexican fashion, the coffee shop was closed between 1 pm to 4 pm - I guess it was siesta time. We showed up at the cafe at about 340 pm so we explored around town and we did notice that the town was very quiet during the afternoon. We returned to the cafe just before 4 pm and decided to wait and see if it would open on time. Imagine how happy the owner was when he showed up, just slightly after 4, and found 4 customers patiently waiting for him. You should have seen the smile on his face when we cheered his arrival.

After enjoying a leisurely coffee and having a bit of a discussion about our future adventures it was time to wander aimlessly towards the Raices Beach Club that we had passed earlier. They were advertising a grilled seafood platter - how could we not have dinner there!! It was timed to coincide with the setting sun which in itself was quite beautiful, even with a bit of cloud cover, but it was made even more symbolic by the restaurant staff as they signaled the day's end by blowing on huge conch shells. The restaurant sign gave us fair warning - it says slow food and that's what it was but that's okay because we had some nice music, a beautiful sunset and good company. When our seafood platter for 4 did arrive we were not disappointed - talk about a seafood feast: lobster, prawns, mussels, conch and 4 fish - each prepared differently! We were very happy feasters!

We ended our evening with a quiet glass of wine by the pool and then retired in our little bungalow to be rested for a morning of beach and pool before making the trip back to the mainland. We went into town for a bite to eat then found a cab to take us to the ferry, arriving within minutes of its departure - that was good timing! On the trip back to the mainland we even spotted dolphins and one gave us a beautiful jump - what a perfect ending to our trip.

I enjoyed Holbox so much and look forward to one day returning. It's the perfect place to just unplug, relax and recharge!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Igloos in Mexico - say what?!?!?!

Another fun adventure is in our future! While they not be real igloos they will certainly look like it when all is said and done.

We are blessed with a good family relationship with my brother and his wife. When they first moved down to Playa del Carmen we were able to stay connected by coming to visit them and becoming familiar with Playa.  Now after about 15 years in Playa the time has come for them to move on.

Their plan is to move across country to Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico's wine valley, just 15 minutes inland from Ensenada (a lovely coastal city and cruise port) and about 2 hours drive south of San Diego. My sister-in-law Suzanne has always had the dream to have her own B&B so they are going to make this dream a reality. Having spent time as Suzanne & Shawn's house guests over the years we can attest to the fact that Suzanne is an awesome cook but even more fantastic as a baker and everything she creates is done with love. It gives her so much joy to create happiness for others through her cooking and her infectious good spirit. Always with a smile on her face and a quirky joke now and then you can't help but be drawn into Suzanne's goodness. Shawn just smiles pleasantly at Suzanne's antics - you never know when she will suddenly break out in dance as a tune takes hold of her!

Their new venture will involve creating earth bag casitas (cottages) that really give the appearance of an igloo when they are complete.  They will be creating an eco friendly lifestyle using earth bag construction for their buildings. The benefits of this are:
  • easy to build with;
  • ecological - using mostly earth;
  • durable;
  • earthquake and flood resistant;
  • non-toxic;
  • uses a simple foundation.
Along with the earth bag construction they will also be incorporating:
  • solar power;
  • captured rain water;
  • reusing water in the gardens;
  • the use of natural cleaning products.
They will have a main house for themselves and 6 casitas for guests to book while they explore the wine country and the many vineyards in the valley. They have even included space for us to build our own accommodations above the 3 car garage. So the next chapter and a new adventure begins soon. We look forward to helping with the construction of the casitas and watching this new chapter unfold. 

ALL PICTURES ARE EXAMPLES from their last trip to Valle de Guadalupe, to give you an idea of what they will create.

If you are interested in learning more about this venture you can follow these links:

Ah Amor B&B

#igloosinmexico #lifeisanadventure #bringonfun #werollsuccess #liveoutloud #earthbaghousing #sustainablehousing #ecohousing

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

New friends, global connections!

You just never know who you will meet and where life will take you! Isn't that the truth. I am amazed to think that I have close friends across the globe that I can still keep in close touch with. I'm making new friends from various backgrounds and lifestyles every day! 

In the last year I had the opportunity to meet a new couple from the west coast of Mexico who love to come and spend time at the beach. Highly successful people who know that it's all about enjoying life and having a "job" that fits the lifestyle - not a lifestyle that has to work around your "job".

Our new friend JP has a very successful online business, Veterans Today Live, Independent Net Radio & Media, and he recently interviewed me on living in Playa del Carmen during the Canadian winters.

I invite you to have a listen:

Punish Radio welcomes Cynthia Bandick Temorcioglu; snowbird from Canada to discuss the reality of living in Playa del Carmen during the winter months

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Mexican living - on a budget!

Are you like us that when you are in a hotter climate you tend to eat lighter? Less is more and you just don't eat as much? Well add Mexican pricing to that scenario and you will be in heaven!

What if I told you that dinner for 2 consisting of 2 empanadas, 1 tamales, 1 salbutes and a large watermelon water was only 78 pesos! Let me translate that for you to give you a complete understanding of the value of this - 78 pesos is $5 CDN or $3.80 US - for dinner for 2!!! This is what we had for dinner just the other night at one of our favorite locations - Loncheria Dona Mary on 30th Avenue and Calle 28, don't be surprised to see a lot of locals eating here. Seafood allergies? No seafood served here.

Of course most tourists coming to Playa would probably never eat at the places we go. We don't eat at the tourist locations or any of the restaurants along 5th Avenue because the pricing is, of course, geared towards the tourists - not the locals. The thing to do is once you are acclimatized to the food and drinks in Playa, take a stroll a block or two away from the tourist streets. Have a look at all the small establishments that are everywhere and look at the people - for example, if you walk up Constituyentes to 30th Avenue; just before 30th on the right hand side of the street there are about 4 or 5 restaurants side by side; Don Sirloin's is fairly popular so you will see a number of tables occupied; then there are two more restaurants which may have one or two tables occupied then you come to El Fogon - a huge favorite with the locals and the expats who know where the good food is. You will always see a line up in the evening for people waiting
for a table at El Fogon while right next to it the two other restaurants are virtually empty. So really these people could be seated immediately at those other restaurants but they know a good thing and are willing to wait for a seat at El Fogon. Seafood allergies? No seafood served here.

If you take a walk along 10th Avenue towards Jaurez between about Calle 8 and Jaurez you will find a lot of small eating places, all with great food at really good pricing, even some with pizza by the slice (you will find the same pizza chain on 5th Avenue as well but you will notice that it's a few pesos more on 5th Avenue). The reason, I believe, that you find these small inexpensive restaurants in this area is because there are also a number of hostels nearby so the local businesses know that their clientele in the area are people on a tight budget so they cater to that.

If you're a seafood lover check out La Tarraya; it's been a favorite of ours from day one, toes in the sand with a big fish fillet on the plate - after starting with a great mixed ceviche! Or another seafood place which is really good is El Pirata however it's not on the beach.

Our motto is if it's full of locals this is where we want to eat - why? because we know the food will be good AND very inexpensive!

Personal recommendations:
El Fogon - 2 locations
Constituyentes and 30th Avenue;
30th Avenue and Calle 6 Nte. Bis,
Dona Mary - 30th Avenue and Calle 28 ,
La Tarraya - on the beach at the foot of Calle 2,
El Pirata - between 5th and 10th Avenue on Calle 40

Monday, February 20, 2017

Playa - meet modernization.

Let's see, what do I love most about Mexico and our home in Playa del Carmen? Hmmm, the people, the location, the food, the weather? All of the above!

Playa has certainly grown since we first started coming here in the early 2000's but I still love it and think of it as home, more so than the house that I spend the majority of the year at. Of course modernization takes it toll in every town and especially in a tourist town where the economy is run by the tourists coming to spend their dollars. The sad part, for me, is that in Playa the modernization becomes very American driven as we see more and more American brand businesses popping up such as Haagen Das - you're really missing out if you haven't bypassed them to try the local business, Michoacan (30th Avenue and 18th North) and their espresso or coconut ice cream -with shreds of coconut throughout; Starbucks - try Ah Cacao next time, there are 3 locations along 5th Avenue - support local businesses; or Victoria Secrets - however there are no bras sold there???

There are malls popping up along 5th Avenue and they are being occupied by high end shops. The tourists seem to think that since they are in Mexico they should get the "deals" like you used to find in years past when you came to Mexico. The problem is they think that since these high end shops are in Mexico they should get these same "deals" but it just isn't so, being an American or Canadian shop when the prices go up in those countries they go up in the Mexico locations as well, so don't be disappointed when you go in there.
Like every business person in every part of the world the object is to earn an income and rightly so. You can still find those "deals" from yesteryear, although not from the brand name stores, but you will have to go away from the tourist area to find them.

Even the city structure has changed; a few years ago they built a big highway overpass system so people just needing to go through Playa on their way elsewhere can do so without adding more traffic to the local streets. Then they confused people a bit by changing the road behind Walmart (yes even in Playa) from a one way street to a two way street. There are VERY few 2 way streets in Playa so we tend to only look the one way before crossing so we need to remember when we come to this particular street to be extra cautious. Also as a pedestrian in Mexico please be aware that unlike Canada and the US, in Mexico the pedestrian DOES NOT have the right of way so don't expect the cars to stop because you are standing on the corner or don't think you can just step off the curb.

When we first came to Playa 5th Avenue, the pedestrian street with the nightlife, shops and restaurants started from Juarez and came over to just past Constituyentes. Now you can stroll for miles along 5th avenue. It's a great street for the early morning joggers as the stores are not open so there's very few people about and there is no vehicle traffic on that street; even bicycles are not permitted. Playa is still by far my favorite place to be but I must admit that I miss the more local, traditional businesses in town that are being replaced by modernization. Fortunately there are lots of small local villages that we can easily make our way to, to enjoy a day of local culture and support the people we love.

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Getting Excited!

beautiful beach in Playa del Carmen
Let me ask you something - when you get home from a vacation and you've landed at the airport do you get this feeling of complete relaxation - like an ahhhh I'm home feeling? 

I never do. You know when I get that feeling - every time I get off the plane in Cancun, on my way to my condo in Playa del Carmen! EVERY time! I was made to live in Mexico - the climate, the sunshine, the water and the people - I love the Mexican people I meet - happy, friendly and willing to teach us their ways and words. Really I love to learn from them - it's their country and their ways and I love to respect that. I believe in showing them respect by trying to embrace their lifestyle rather than coming into their country as a foreigner and expecting them to conform to me - I don't think so!

We're gearing up for our yearly time in Playa and I'm as excited as always - actually maybe even more so this year considering how cold it's been here in BC (currently -5 Celsius which is 23 Fahrenheit). I'm ready to go south and thaw out! 

Dirty Martini
When we left last year there was a lot of new construction just beginning - including a new condo right next to ours so it will be interesting to walk around town and see all the latest developments, and let's not forget to stop in at the Dirty Martini for a refresher! There's a new mall coming too - not thrilled about that as it seems to be every 6 to 8 blocks on 5th Avenue another American style mall is popping up - I get that the tourists are looking for familiar shops but really don't you come to Mexico to enjoy the flavors and traditions of Mexico?? 

Mexican culture

The beautiful thing is that there are a lot of small communities near by that we can visit to be more immersed in our adopted country. I'm looking forward to warmth and new adventures soon!

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