Tuesday, August 14, 2012

FOX News Segment: Keep Cool in the Summer Heat

I've dished out dozens upon dozens of travel tips from countries throughout Asia.  Today, I was on my home turf in the U.S. sharing some tips on how to keep cool in the sweltering summer heat.  This segment appeared on "Solution America" on FOXNews.com LIVE and FOX Business.com.

Here's a brief rundown of the products featured -- and their websites where you can find more information.
  1. Magniflex:  Coolmax pillows use a high-tech fabric originally designed to be used under the uniforms of police officers and soldiers.  The pillows' outer fabric is breathable and wicks away sweat to keep you comfortable.  These office pillows will help with your posture, lower back pain and are great for those who have to sit for long periods of time.   www.magniflex.us
  2. Mohan's Custom Tailors:  Mohan's has developed the amazing Anti-Sweat Suit designed to remain breathable, wick away sweat and leave you feeling ten degrees cooler.  Mohan's offers more than 40 suit styles so you can pick the look that's best for you.  Mohan's is located on 42nd Street in NYC, but no worries if you're not in New York -- send in your measurements for a beautiful, cooling custom suit!  www.mohantailors.com
  3. CustomMade:  At CustomMade, you can get anything you want -- you guessed it, custom made!  From furniture to jewelry to beauty products.  That's where I found Cold Creme Soaps by Kelly's Creations.  These are handmade and all natural, turning grandma's cold creme into a fresh soap that is gentle enough on skin for daily use, while leaving you feeling refreshed.  It's a great way to start your day!  www.custommade.com
  4. Arctic Ease:  Cooling patches and wraps that never need to be refrigerated are the perfect item to tote around this summer.  Keep Arctic Ease in your car, golf bag or beach bag and use when needed.  Arctic Ease stays cool for three hours, is reusable and available at national retailers like Rite Aide, Walgreens and Target.  www.arcticease.com
  5. Blu-Tek by Kingsdown:  Kingsdown designed Blu-Tek to keep 4-7 degrees than your typical memory foam mattress.  The trick is the gel and airflow technology that keeps Blu-Tek cool all night long.  Our bodies need to cool-down at night in order to get a restful night's sleep -- and Blu-Tek is the answer.  www.kingsdown.com

Chiang Mai, Thailand: More Amazing Video of Tigers

Cute, cuddly, fierce, intimidating, playful -- all these words can be used to describe the tigers we interacted with in Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  If you want to go -- check out my first Tiger Kingdom video for logistics.  This video is simply a compilation of beautiful shots of these wild animals.  We had so much incredible footage, we could not resist sharing more of it with you!  Enjoy...

Chiang Mai, Thailand: Tiger Kingdom

This was like National Geographic in person.  I've never been this close to such a wild animal and it was absolutely exhilarating.  During our time in Chiang Mai, Thailand we made a stop at Tiger Kingdom.  Tiger Kingdom is different than a zoo.  At Tiger kingdom you're able to actually go into the tiger pens and interact with tigers of all ages, including newborns.  To be able to touch and feed these beautiful creatures literally had my heart racing.  The young tigers are fun, the older tigers are intimidating but beautiful.  We thought the tigers were well cared for, healthy and the conditions were very good -- incredibly clean.  If you want a memorable moment, you've got it at Tiger Kingdom!

It's a very easy trip to Tiger Kingdom.  While many tour companies have tours there, they charge quite a bit more than if you travel on your own.  We flagged down a "Red Truck" (they are taxis in Chiang Mai) and negotiated a price for the driver take us there, wait on us to finish and then drive us back to our hotel - it was quite a bit cheaper than booking through a tour company!  You can also rent a scooter in Chiang Mai for $5 a day!  We did and ended up driving right past Tiger Kingdom - so don't be afraid to give it a go.  Find a local used book store (there are plenty), purchase a map, rent your scooter and you're on your way!

Additional Information:
TEL. (66)+053-299363 , (66)+053-86070

Friday, February 3, 2012

Phuket, Thailand: Island & Beach Review

Phuket is the largest Thai island and it's known for beautiful beaches. That's why I came here!

If you want more than simply surf and sun, this is also a good option. Phuket offers nightlife, shopping and adventure sports. It's also easy to get to. We traveled over land through much of South East Asia, however discount airfare in Thailand is something you should consider. We flew on Air Asia from Chaing Mai direct to Phuket for about $50 per person.

Although this is a pricey spot (for Thailand), during low-season you can find great rates at beach front resorts. If your are looking for a true budget/backpacker destination or that "deserted island" feeling another Thai island may be the better bet.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

New Year's Resolution: Be Generous

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions – I’ve never felt a big pull for that “fresh start.”  I think it’s typically because I’m relatively satisfied with where I’m at – and that cliché resolutions always seem to fail.  So, this year I had no intention of setting a resolution until New Year’s Day -- when I realized I needed to.

My husband and I were out eating dinner when he came up with an idea – he wanted to leave the waitress a tip equal to our bill as a great way to start her new year.  “How sweet and generous you are!” – maybe should have been my reaction.  Instead I felt my chest tighten with the reaction that matches my budgeting/saving/often frugal self.  Prudent Lauren needed a moment to think about this and that’s when I realized that I needed to become more generous.  Don’t get me wrong – I always want to help and am actually quite a softie.  However, getting me to part with large amounts of money can be a struggle.  So, I decided this would be my resolution – to be generous beyond my comfort zone.  It started with that big  tip for our waitress.

Then, I got excited – I needed to give more.  So, I signed up with Kiva an organization that helps arrange micofinancing for people around the world in an effort to alleviate poverty.  Essentially, you are loaning your money to others.  So, I found Noeda in the Philippines who needed a loan to buy supplies to expand her farm.  Then, I found Mrs. El in Cambodia who needed a loan to buy a feather plucking machine that would help her to sell chickens at market at a greater volume.   I pulled out my credit card and made a couple of loans.  It felt good – I loved the idea that I was giving to people in countries I had recently visited – I had fallen in love with these countries and their people.  More than that, I had seen the poverty first hand.  I was amazed how in 24 hours these women had their loans fully funded by generous people around the world.  Once the loans are re-paid, I can lend again – what a great, sustaining idea. 

Now, I don’t expect I’ll be throwing cash around at every corner.  And, I fully expect to feel my chest tighten with the feeling that I must save my money – but I can overcome that for a greater feeling of giving to others who need the money a lot more than I do.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

China Picture Slideshow: The Highlights from Beijing, Xian, Ping An & Xing Ping

We took thousands of pictures on our "Big Trip," and now I have to decide what to do with all of them!  So, my goal is to make picture slideshows by country.  China was our first stop and we spent one month exploring four areas of the country.

  • Beijing & The Great Wall of China
  • Xian & The Terracotta Warriors
  • Ping An & The Dragon's Backbone Rice Terraces
  • Xing Ping & The Li River
We also made quick stops in Guilin and Nanning.  (On a previous trip we traveled to Hong Kong & Macau).

Oh man, was it hard to pick my favorite photos to make up a true representation of our time in China.  So, here's what you'll see:
  • Sights:  Of course, there's us enjoying the must-see spots from Tienanmen Square to the Great Wall.
  • Food:  Eating delicious street food was part of the experience along with seeing scorpions and star fish fried up for the adventurous. 
  • Faces:  Local people both young and old.  The beautiful faces of children who gravitated toward us or the Yao ethnic people who like Rapunzel let down their hair for us.  These are the faces that made our days special. 
  • Scenes of Daily Life:  Rows of bicycles, a water buffalo being led off a ferry, incense sticks raised in prayer.  These are all small moments of daily life that really bring out the flavor of China.
  • Rural Scenery:  Breathtaking scenes of ancient rice terraces and limestone mountains along the Li River.  It was rural China that I enjoyed most.
  • Architecture, Wildlife, Street Scenes...the list goes one.  All of these things together made our trip so memorable.
There's so much left to see!  If I play my cards right I just may get back to China someday to see the mountains of Tibet or the desert towns along the former Silk Road.  Shanghai is on my list, since seeing the airport was simply not enough!

Travel Tip:  In no other country did we find so little English spoken.  However, you need not speak Chinese to enjoy yourself.  Come prepared with a guide book and map that has names of places in both English and Chinese.  This way, you can ask for help.  A simple "Ni Hao" (hello) along with pointing to the name of your location in Chinese will get you pointed in the right direction.  We did this constantly and were tickled at how helpful people were.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Our Return Home to the USA

Our tour through paradise had to end eventually, and then it was time to return home.  Actually, I went home twice.  The first time, “home” was visiting Korea.  We returned for a few days to pick up our belongings and to visit with family one last time.  It was a surreal experience because we were back in Korea, but not at our house, our neighborhood, or back to our routine.  The visit still reminded us of what we enjoyed so much about this country – kind people, neon lights, and delicious barbeque.  We even took a trip to our former school and had a brief visit with the children we’ve loved so much.

Four days later we boarded our flight from Seoul to New York and we were really on our way home.  Door to door it was a 26 hour journey.  Stepping off the plane, I was happy to hear New York accents and tickled to get my first “welcome home” at the immigration check point.  Then I was seeing my parents for the first time in 18 months.  It was a nice reunion, and once at my childhood home it didn’t feel I’d been gone so long after all! 

Our time in the USA has been filled visiting family and friends.  I was thrilled on my first weekend to go to Villanova University’s homecoming with college friends.  I’d missed so many events like this in the past, I was overjoyed to simply be present.  I’ve helped out my brother and his wife with a little babysitting, but truly it was a gift to have one-on-one time with my two adorable nieces.  I know I’ve already re-connected with them and our bond will only grow stronger.

Just as we did upon our arrival in Korea, we are busy comparing everything.  Our once familiar neighborhood grocery store seems strange.  Where’s the aisle of jumbo rice bags and the aisle dedicated to ramen noodles?  Why are sesame oil and rice noodles so expensive?  We mutter these things to ourselves, while at the same time being delighted that we can now afford to eat as much cheese as we want.  Cheese was a pricy treat in Asia.

I’m relieved that life is all in English and therefore easy.  I do not need to spend time with my dictionary, planning an errand before stepping out the door.  It’s routine rather than an adventure to go a post office, restaurant, or shop.  However, my husband and I find we’re delighted to speak with our Korean drycleaners who tip us off to where we can buy kimchi in the area.

I’m amazed at how quickly we adapted to life in Korea.  It really did become a second home to us.  So, as I revel in the joy of being home in the USA, I also find myself missing the familiarity of being a stranger in a strange land.