miss saigon: weekend in HCM City

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Vietnam is one of the most popular places in the world to travel, probably because it has everything: culture, art, delicious food, natural beauty, miles upon miles of beaches, history, welcoming people, hospitality and above all else, affordability.  You can live like a king on a moderate budget, every dollar goes super far here, while not sacrificing quality.

When traveling to Vietnam, you’re going to want to traverse the entire country, as there are unique landscapes, disparate culture and people throughout.  Even though it’s a smallish country, citizens from each region are very proud of their own distinct communities, from food to style and everything in between.  Just don’t get into a debate about who invented pho…there’s no winning with that one (it was the northerners ;).

The south of Vietnam is a great place to start.  Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is the country’s largest city by population.  The history of this city is rich, from its origin after Vietnamese conquered Khmer area, to the capital of French colonial rule to the then doomed epicenter of the Republic of Vietnam.  Because of the timeline of all sorts of different influences, the city is a mishmash of architectural styles.

Above all else, this is probably the epicenter of the future of Vietnam, with skyscrapers sprouting up everywhere and a population that is projected to be near 15 million in the next few years.  Not as cramped as Hanoi, this area is certainly still very crowded with motorbikes and people teeming into the streets every which way…and it’s ever changing.

blink and you’ll miss saigon

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know before you go: ATL

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Welcome to Atlanta where the players play…it’s that time of year again, when droves of Otolaryngologists flock upon one lucky city for their annual society meeting.  This year, it’s HOTLANTA, so watch out, many  mild mannered surgeons will be heading your way.

The world’s busiest airport, Atlanta Hartfield-Jackson, is like a city on its own.  Luckily there’s a train that connects the terminals because no one would ever make their connections due to the vast nature of the complex.  Speaking from experience x multiple times.

There’s MARTA and SkyTrain transport that can get you to the airport from the city, which is convenient as it is about 10 miles or ~30 minutes in Atlanta traffic.

There are five (count em, 5! runways that serve two terminals, which are where you check in and retrieve your baggage.  The Domestic terminal is further split into a North and South.  South houses Delta, which has its hub at ATL.  North has all other domestic carriers: American, Frontier, JetBlue, Alaska, United, Spirit, Southwest. In between the terminals lay the 209 gates in the seven concourses A-F and T.  T is connected to the Domestic terminal, F is connected to the International side.

You can fly anywhere from this airport.  I’ve gone to Central America, Africa, Europe.  Literally it is a microcosm of the world, as is its dining options (albeit Americanified).  The shopping could be better, but the international terminal does have a bunch of duty free shops.

Remember: ✈️ = stomp the yard to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = ATL

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️ (MARTA, SkyTrain available to domestic terminals)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (there’s a train, but be prepared to walk)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (every type of fast food you can imagine, all major chains including Burger King, McDonald’s, Chick Fil-A.  There’s Panda Express, PF Chang’s and Peiwei.  Are you thinkin’ Arby’s? Cuz you can because there’s one in there.  There’s a lot of southern fare, too, if you want low country food at high country price)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️✈️  (depends on the concourse, but clean and plentiful)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available, good amount of charging)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️  (not a ton of high end shops, although there’s a Sean John store? American, Delta and United have lounges, there are Xpress Spas and art)

 

24 hours in Vienna

Austria is one of those fly under the radar countries.  Like, in the way that it’s surprising you don’t hear about how amazing it is all the time.  Because you should.  Because it truly is.

Especially it’s capital and largest city, Vienna or Wien (they speak German here).  Not Ween, that’s an alt-rock band.  This is a European city: there’s sprawling boulevards, a backdrop of rolling hills and mountainous terrain, miles of shoreline along the Danube river, awe-inspiring art, stunning Roman and Baroque architecture, amazing food, interesting if not dubious history (umm home of Freud, Hitler and Lenin?), innovation and culture, and…it’s the sound city of music.

plan your travel soon because vienna waits for you

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36 hours in phoenix & scottsdale

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Phoenix is hot.

Literally and figuratively.   Phoenix has been one America’s fastest growing cities over the years, and it seemingly hosts every major sporting event possible (BCS bowl games, Super Bowl, Final Four, etc) because of its world class stadiums and ample hotel facilities.  No doubt it’s in part by having the tony suburb of Scottsdale and college towns of Tempe and Glendale nearby adding to its metropolitan area mix.

The capital of Arizona, Phoenix is your perfect desert getaway for a weekend, that’s why so many snowbirds head south to Phoenix, especially in the winter.  And for the rest of us: there’s spas, shopping, golf and fabulous chain restaurants.  Jk there’s obviously great local stuff including a rich art and cultural scene (so many murals!).

phoenix is rising

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know before you go: IAD (Dulles)

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Originally the black sheep of the three airports serving the Washington DC-Baltimore Metro area, Dulles International Airport has been coming into its own lately with the rise of more Dreamliner and Airbus 380 transatlantic flights.  Hey, if you’re one of the 9 cities that has gates for Airbus 380 then you fancy.

Dulles takes the share of the International business that comes into this area, but still has less passenger volume than BWI and DCA.  It is located a marathon distance away from the District, so it’s not the most convenient.  But…there’s some interesting features that make this airport stand out. For one, this is one of the last airports to use plane mates.

You heard me. Plane mates are large people movers that carry passengers from the plane to the concourses or main terminal.  They look like transformers or those oil rig grasshopper things.  They are being phased out (nothing gold can stay) for the Aerotran underground train system, so fly United into Concourse D if you want to experience one.

There are ~123 gates in one terminal building and two midfield terminals split into Concourses A/B (all non-United and United Express) and Concourses C/D (United).  Because there is a ton of International traffic to this airport, there are tons of lounges: Air France, Etihad, Virgin, British Airways, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, United.

Remember: ✈️ = dulles to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = funnest, am i right?

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️ (once the metro line is connected it will be a little more convenient, but until then you can really only get there via beltway or bus)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (Any airport that has a Chipotle or a Pei Wei is A+ in my book, I’m a simple person.  There’s also Five Guys, multiple Dunkin’ Donuts and even a Starbucks Evenings (ooh la la), but I’m taking away a star because multiple Potbelly’s)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️ (need more)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available, fair amount of charging)

Amenities:✈️✈️✈️✈️ (So many lounges, perfect for the business class traveler.  There’s an interfaith church, lots of pet relief areas, express spas, and a little bit of shopping: Burberry, Tumi, Vera Bradley, Thomas Pink)

 

life is beautiful: las vegas stripped

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I’m one of these weird people who visits Las Vegas and doesn’t really spend much time near the Strip.

I know, I know — what’s the point right?

Well…I prefer to lose my money in different ways than gambling (see: shopping), I have family in the city, and I’ve left my clubbing days where they belong…back in my twenties.  And honestly? The locals’ Las Vegas is cool AF (except when it is literally scorching hot outside), there’s so much to offer visitors and natives alike.

And there’s so many big events in Vegas all year round, like this weekend’s Life is Beautiful Music & Arts Festival.  And really, in Sin City, there is no lack of feeling that life is grand.  It’s a city of hopes and possibilities.  After the tragedy last year at Route 91, Las Vegans showed they are truly a strong community, and that they’re resilient and proud.

Obviously, if you’ve never been to Vegas before or if you’re there for some sort of celebratory shenanigans, by all means, strip ’til you drip.  See: the Hangover.  But as a warning, don’t sleep on the other parts of the city because you’ll be missing out on delicious ethnic eats from all corners of the world, arts and design rivaling any coastal cities, and architectural and natural delights all around.

Viva Las Vegas!

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24 hours exploring Charlotte’s web

Charlotte (and a lot of the rest of the Carolinas and the lower Eastern seaboard) is starting to recover in the aftermath of tropical storm Florence.  It’s one of the friendliest, cleanest cities I’ve ever been to, with a wicked sense of humor, and so here’s a little post to underscore the strength and resiliency of the community.

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Charlotte, North Carolina is one of the country’s financial centers which draws in a lot of young professionals and individuals with money.  With a growing population, the demand for restaurants, attractions and entertainment rises, and the city has stepped up.  It honestly does not feel like much of a Southern city, other than its hospitality, the downtown feels like mini Wall Street with its city of skyscrapers.

The cool thing about this city is that there’s a real sense of humor about it. There’s quotes all around town, and whimsical public art displays.  Not what you might expect from a city that boasts the Nascar Hall of Fame.  The unexpected it what makes this city so special, and a great place to spend a short weekend.

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weekend in krakow

When I was in fourth grade, one of the books required for reading was called The Trumpeter of Krakow.  This was a tale of persecution, crystals and alchemy, a haunting brass pronouncement, and arson.  Things that every child should learn about.

Flash forward some years, who’d have thunk I’d be standing in the middle of Pope John Paul II’s hometown, staring at that very tower where the Trumpeter was murdered?

Not 10 year old me, that’s for sure.

Poland is one of those former Eastern Bloc countries that typically flies under the radar, which I guess is a good thing for them because it’s not yet completely overrun by tourists.  I really loved visiting it, from the metropolitan and bustling capital Warsaw to the low key and casual Krakow.  Of course, there is a very storied history of this country because of role as the incendiary event of WWII (when the Germans invaded) which then lead to them being occupied by USSR from then until the end of the Cold War in 1989.  Lots of history.  Don’t sleep on Poland, I guarantee you it will be one of Europe’s must visit destinations in the next few years.

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know before you go: PHL

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if you’re a bird, i’m a bird

Thank goodness another football season is upon us, after what felt like an endless summer of baseball.  At least we had the World Cup to break up the boredom (just kidding, I love you MLB).  NFL kicks off tonight when the Falcons take on the defending champ Eagles. Fly Eagles Fly, to catch the game tonight!

And the only things that get more air than Matt Ryan and Carson Wentz are the planes coming and going from Philadelphia International (PHL).  See how I tied that up nicely?  Like a pair of cleats.

PHL is an old airport, but it’s undergoing a major renovation/expansion over the next few decades.  It is becoming more of a favored international destination for bargain European airlines, and serves the large Delaware Valley.  There are 7 terminal buildings, A-F with about 125 gates.  A West (Philadelphia, born and raised…) serves American, Lufthansa, British, Icelandair, and Qatar Airlines.  A East is Aer Lingus and American.  B  and C are American.  By now you can probably tell American has its hub here.   D is Air Canada, Alaska, United and Delta.  E is JetBlue, Frontier, Southwest and Spirit.  F is regional American Eagle flights.

Remember: ✈️ = streets of philadelphia to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = philadelphia freedom

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️ (SEPTA trains are pretty cheap to and from the city)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (if you want, you can walk all seven terminals)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (There’s Chick-Fil-A and Cantina Laredo.  Need I say more?  Yes? Bar Symon, Chickie & Pete’s (crab fries), Chipotle, Dunkin Donuts, Pinkberry and Red Mango, Legal Seafood.  Oh yeah, Geno’s and Tony Luke’s for cheesesteaks 😉

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️  (will get updated with the expansion, I’m sure)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available, lots of charging stations — the kind with actual desks and seating)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️  (typical airport stores, not a ton of luxury brands, but there are minute suites, Admirals, British Airways, Delta and United lounges and rotating art exhibitions.)

3 days in New York

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As I spent a lot of this Labor Day weekend watching the US Open, I got serious green tennis ball colored envy.  I need to go to Flushing, NY stat (my friend goes every year, I have no excuse).  I mean, what a perfect way to spend a long weekend, exploring the last few days of summer in the city and then enjoying Primetime tennis!  Until I make it there, all I can do is dream of past New York adventures.

concrete jungle where dreams are made.

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