by Saturday, February 6, 2016

On the last week of January, 2016, I visited Costa Rica for a project I was working on for the blog, on the subject of “dental tourism”. I spent two nights on Playa Jaco, which was the closest beach to San Jose and located in the Central Valley. This happened to be one of the most visited beaches, because it is the closest beach to San Jose (just under two hours away).  I was fortunate enough to get to stay at Jaco Laguna Resort,  Jaco’s only 4-star beachfront resort, which is on the quiet south side of the beach, but within walking distance to the town center, where you can find shops, restaurants and activities that the area has to offer. The location felt as if you had your own private beach away from it all, but wasn’t isolated from things you  may want to do if you chose. It was like the best of both

I have never been to Costa Rica before and was hoping to be able to see different regions in my short stay. The dental office I was working with was in San Jose, however, I did manage to visit the ocean, the mountains and the jungle on my visit. This entailed a lot of driving, sometimes on very difficult roads, but was it totally worth it. However, the ocean and my stay at Jaco Laguna Resort, was by far my favorite part of the trip and just to note, the roads to the ocean aren’t hard to travel on, the mountains, is a whole different

I was traveling with my husband, my adult son, and his girlfriend. Each couple stayed in an oceanfront double queen bedroom on the third floor, rooms 21 and 22, which I feel had the most direct view of the ocean and the amazing sunsets every night.

Each room was appointed with a Caribbean vibe themed decor. It’s amenities included: private entrance, air conditioning, alarm clock, cable television, laptop safe, flat-screen TV, clothes rack, closet, towels, linens, hairdryer, bathrobe, shower, telephone, radio, desk and free toiletries. Did I mention, free WIFI (which is always a plus)?

The 26-room, intimate beachfront resort had everything you could want in a tropical destination. With rooms overlooking the pool, just steps away from the Pacific ocean and surrounded by palm trees, you couldn’t help but feel instantly relaxed when first entering the property.

The pool was extremely clean and at a very nice temperature, not to warm, not too cold. The pool area provided lounge chairs and lounge beds that you could enjoy sunning, napping, reading, sipping on a cold drink, nibbling on some snacks from their Tiki bar, or just relaxing. They also had a children’s pool.  Jaco Laguna Resort also had many on site activities including; massages, surf lessons, stand up paddle-board lessons and bike rentals, not to mention their full-service restaurant, offering Costa Rican dishes, as well as a variety of offerings that would please even the pickiest of

On our second night, we had dinner at their restaurant, during sunset, at a table situated right on the beach. The food was delicious and the ambience of the sunset was stunning. We started with a chilled fish ceviche, perfectly marinated in lime juice and served with tortilla chips, then each of us got a traditional Costa Rican dish that we all enjoyed very much. I had the red snapper with hearts of palm in a vegetable cream sauce, my husband had beef tenderloin, flavored with Costa Rican coffee, my son had the teriyaki tuna and his girlfriend had their chicken dish with gallo

The next morning we dined in their open air, second-floor restaurant for breakfast. They offered a choice of traditional Costa Rican style breakfast, as well as traditional American style breakfast. I , of coarse, wanted to eat what the locals (ticos) eat, so I got the gallo pinto with eggs, my husband got the burrito desayuno, which was huge and he was full for the day, my son got the pancakes and his girlfriend also got the gallo pinto with eggs.  The view was even as spectacular from the second floor as it was, directly on the beach. It was a lovely start to our day, especially the Costa Rican coffee. It’s the best!

They also have Tiki bar on the beach that has snacks and casual fares, and of coarse tropical drinks and cold beers. This is considered a favorite spot to have a cocktail and watch the sunset by locals and tourists.  The restaurant and tiki bar is open to the public and as far as I could see for miles down the beach, it was the only one directly on the beach. Most all of the bars and restaurants in town were on their main street and a few blocks away from the beach.

The staff was very friendly and welcoming and the entire property was spotless. They had a guard at the gate in the main entrance and safe parking for their guests. Besides the beach, pool and the restaurant and Tiki bar area, they also had pretty landscaped gardens and grassy spaces that surrounded the building.  Next to the resort was a town beach for the public that didn’t get too busy. There was a building on the other side under construction, but the noise wasn’t even noticed at all. In my opinion this was a perfect location in the Playa Jaco region. If you are traveling as a couple, family, with friends or alone, it has something for

We felt very safe and comfortable our entire stay and appreciated all the polite and gracious staff members that were always smiling, with an, “Hola” and was eager to assist us with any questions we had. Although we weren’t able to book any activities because of time restraints, the hotel would have been able to make any arrangements for local excursions if we were interested.

Our stay at  Jaco Laguna Resort was even better than I anticipated and I will never forget the sunsets on that beach. My only regret is that I couldn’t stay longer. I hope to return to Jaco Laguna Resort in the very near future and I highly suggest this as great spot to stay if you are visiting Playa Jaco, Costa Rica. Please visit their website here to book your stay at Jaco Laguna Resort. I have stayed at many beachfront resorts, all around the world, but I can’t think of one with a better sunset than they have here at Jaco Laguna Resort.




Would You Eat Rabbit For Dinner?

by Monday, September 21, 2015

Fine dining in New Hampshire has come a long way. Before, there were only a few choices, or you would have to go over the border to Massachusetts, to find an upscale restaurant. Today, there are a number of restaurants with highly skilled chefs, showing off their mastery in food artistry, in  places such as Bedford, Nashua, Manchester Salem, and Portsmouth New Hampshire, that would impress even the most critical foodies.

I had the pleasure of trying a restaurant that I’ve heard a lot of rave reviews about, called TekNique (,  this past weekend, in my new “home town” of Bedford, New Hampshire.  I recently moved to Bedford this past August. Since it was literally, a five-minute drive from my house, I just had to check it out.

TekNique Restaurant
Bedford, NH


TekNique Restaurant is the creation of Chef Matt Trottier, a life-long chef, getting his start, right here in New Hampshire. He started out as a dishwasher at The Bedford Village Inn, also in Bedford, where his uncle was a chef and later found himself at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY(, earning his own culinary degree.

Chef Matt Trottier

*a funny side note is I currently live in the owner of The Bedford Village Inn’s  house

He fine tuned his unique take on food combinations and presentation at renowned favorite restaurants, such as Inn at Little Washington (, Stone Hedge Inn (, The Bedford Village Inn(, CR Sparks (, Micheal Timothy’s(, and Giorgio’s(

The restaurant is considered casual, fine dining and was opened in 2011. Not long after Trottier’s opening,  he was already getting nods from New Hampshire Magazine (,  in 2012 for his dish Free Form Seafood Lasagna” as an “Editor’s pick”,  in HIPPO magazine (, being voted as “best new eatery” in 2012, has been featured on Phantom Gourmet( television show and currently still has a 4 star rating on

Here is the link to the Phantom Gourmet’s segment on TekNique



My husband and I made the reservation, last-minute on Saturday afternoon, for Saturday evening. I wasn’t sure if there would be any availability, but it was no problem. We made our reservation for 6:30pm through

The restaurant is located at 170 Route 101 in Bedford NH and is easily accessed from both route 293 and 93. It is situated in a plaza with plenty of parking, in the central part of the town.



Tek-Nique: “the manner in which details are treated.”

Walking in to the restaurant, they had autumn decor on the outside door, that look seasonal and inviting. Once you entered the main entrance,  there is a large display with the definition of “technique” on the wall, giving the customer an idea of the chef’s vision for his restaurant.

We were warmly greeted by the hostess and welcomed in by the general manager, Brendan Kelly.

The setting was dimly lit with modern decor with hues of earth tones, that was trendy, yet subtle. They played French dinner music that was loud enough to set a mood of relaxation, but not overly loud so you could still have intimate conversion.

diningroom at TekNique

Our waitress was very pleasant and knowledgable about all of their offerings on the menu. She brought us our menus and listed the specials. She gave us a moment, then brought us waters and took our drink order.  We only ordered soft drinks, but they have an extensive wine list and



When she returned with our drinks she also brought us their bread offering. This night it was a homemade lavash topped with seeds, served with a parmesan cream, dressed with olive oil.  The cream was very light and fluffy, with a consistency of cappuccino foam. It was salty and creamy and a perfect accompaniment to the crispy lavash.

parmesan cream and lavash

After finishing the first dish we were excited to browse the menu.  They had a good range of items, categorized in sections: Garden, Sea,  Field, and Game. I spotted their famous “Free Form Seafood Lasagna” and knew that was the one I had to try. My husband decided to get a little daring and try the “Braised Rabbit Strozzapreti” . Neither one of us has ever tried rabbit and it isn’t something that we normally see on a menu. I almost didn’t let him. I just couldn’t imagine eating a poor rabbit, but who was I to tell him what he can and can’t order.  He said, “For the blog!” and he was right. I should let him so that I can tell the readers if this dish is worth killing a bunny for.

We also wanted to try an appetizer. We looked at a few options, like Oysters on a Half Shell, Charcuterie (chefs choice of cured meats) and  Tuna Poke, but both wanted to try the Pork Belly.



pork belly appetizer at TekNique

Our appetizer arrived in a timely manner and the presentation was enticing.  The Pork Belly was introduced, plated on a grilled tortilla, topped with avocado, queso fresco and salsa verde. It had a great combination of Mexican-inspired flavors with the saltiness of the pork belly, the crunchiness of the tortilla, the creaminess of the avocado and freshness of the salsa verde with hints of lime and cilantro. We devoured it and longed for more, but just as we yearned for more pork belly, we knew we should save our appetites for the main course.

The waitress came to collect our finished plate and asked if we like it. We both nodded and said, “Yes, it was delicious!” She soon returned with our main entrees. My husband Brice’s rabbit was set in front of him, and my lasagna in front of me. She asked if we wanted fresh cracked pepper or needed anything else and we both declined,  on the edge of our seat, excited to dig in….but wait!  First, the dreaded, food pic.  My husband still rolls his eyes every time I make him wait to eat so that I can get a picture of what we are about to enjoy. One of the drawbacks of being married to a blogger.



The “Braised Rabbit Strozzapreti” was served in a shallow dish and seemed to be a sort of stew. It is made with mirepoix, mushrooms and a vermouth demi. It had a brown gravy that looked very tasty. My husband took his first bite and said,  “Wow, this is really good!  You need to try this!”  I was hesitant and didn’t want to.  He said,  “You have to so you can write about it.” I said that he could just explain it.  He said the rabbit tasted almost like steak, but much more tender. He said it wasn’t gamey or had an after taste, like how lamb sometimes does.  He said it did, in fact, taste like a stew. That the mushroom flavors along with the straw noodles and brown vermouth sauce was a perfect complement to the delicate meat. He felt like it was a perfect dish for the fall or winter months. Again, he kept taunting me to try it and putting a small fork-full in front of my face.  Over and over he said, “Come on, just try it!  You will regret it.”

No, I don’t think I would regret it, but what the hell, I’m eating other meats now, being a born-again meat-eater, after three-and-a- half years being a vegetarian.  Why is a rabbit’s life any more special than a cow’s right? Because they are cuter? Cows are cute too.

Braised Rabbit Strozzapreti at TekNique

I did it! And you know what? It was really good!

Time to see what all of the rage is about with this popular dish at TekNique, the Free Form Seafood Lasagna. The dish looked huge. The square, layered, and freshly made sheets of pasta were delicately placed one sheet at a time,  with pieces of shrimp, scallop, lobster, Maine crab and drenched in an orange lobster cream sauce that looked mouth-watering.

The texture of the pasta was soft and the cream sauce was out of this world. Each piece of seafood was moist and sumptuous. It was lavish, but still had the overall feel of  comfort food. I was extremely pleased I made the decision to try this. It was fantastic!

Free Form Seafood Lasagna at TekNique

After dinner, my husband said we should try a dessert. Especially after the impressive dishes we just ate, they got to have some awesome desserts here.  I was extremely full, and actually had to bring home the rest of my plate, but was totally down for trying, at least a bite of a dessert here.

The dessert menu was brought to us and it was with a heading “sweet endings“. How appropriate. We were looking through and a few items caught our eye, like the Baked Alaska, Lemon Tart and the Molten Chocolate Truffle Cake, but we ended up deciding on one to share, the Tiramisu Donuts. I was looking forward to having a few bites of this decadent dessert with a cappuccino to end our lovely meal.

Unfortunately, they didn’t have cappuccino or espresso there, only regular coffee. Not a huge deal, but I must say, I was a little disappointed.  That is something  I’m sure people would like at a restaurant of this caliber.  (I would like to suggest that to the manager/owner, if he reads this article.)



Our dessert was brought along with our coffees and was served with vanilla ice-cream. It was very rich and tasted like good old-fashioned donuts but with a twist. The coffee mascarpone, ameretto, chocolate and cinnamon sugar adorning each donut square, brought this dessert to a whole new level.  This was not Dunkin Donuts!

Tiramisu Donuts at TekNique



TekNique was a very good restaurant that offered a casual, fine dining experience, right here in Southern New Hampshire. I can see why people love the Free Form Seafood Lasagna so much and why this is a highly recommended spot in Bedford.  In town, we would normally go to The Bedford Village Inn, Canoe or the Copper Door for this type of dining, but now we will be putting TekNique at the top of our list. Not only is the food just as good, if not better, than the other surrounding fine-dining options, but the prices are much lower overall on every dish type. I may not order the rabbit dish next time, not because it wasn’t delicious, but because of my psychological reasoning, that won’t escape my thoughts,  but if eating Bugs Bunny doesn’t make you cringe, it’s a must try!  I will tell you, however,  that I’m craving the “Free Form Seafood Lasagna” as I write this.

Maybe we will go back again next weekend?


Tip: For locals who normally dine at the very popular and always busy Copper Door, and can’t seem to get a reservation on a weekend night (like us), try TekNique.  We got a reservation last-minute and it wasn’t over crowded and loud. I think you would be pleasantly surprised at just how good the food is and  you would taste the attention to detail, that Chef Trottier puts into every single one of his dishes. They may not have cappuccino, but everything else is on point.


If you don’t live local or can’t get to TekNique to try Chef Matt’s signature dish “Free  Form Seafood Lasagna” he shares his recipe and a cooking demo so that you can make it at home. Here’s the link:



Best Beignets in New Orleans: It May Be Not Who You Think?

by Sunday, June 28, 2015

Beignets are a staple in New Orleans, Louisiana. Before visiting this city I had no idea what a beignet was, nor even know how to pronounce it.  The beignet (pronounced ” ben-yay”) is a deep-fried fritter type dessert, made with dough and served warm with heapings of powdered sugar on top. It resembles fried dough found in the New England area, where I’m from. This recipe was brought over to New Orleans in the 18th century by French colonists.

I had the opportunity to try these delicious treats on my visit to the Big Easy. I kept hearing everyone around talking about them and just had to try one for myself. Tourists and locals alike flock to the well know Cafe Du Monde to get them. A serving is 3 beignets and it is recommended to accompany them with a cafe au lait. I was also informed that it would be a good idea to not wear black when enjoying this dessert. I quickly figured out why this tip was given. The amount of powdered sugar they put on is massive. No matter how careful you are in trying to be a neat eater, there is no way one can eat these without getting the sugar all over yourself. I did happen to be wearing a back shirt, of course, (just my luck) and yes, I made a mess. Even if I was wearing a white shirt this would happen. It was worth it though.

On my first day in New Orleans I went to go find this infamous cafe, but couldn’t. I went to the wrong address (thinking this was it) and the place did have beignets, but was closed. I asked locals and they were shocked that this could be. Cafe du Monde is always packed and is open 24 hours a day/364 days a year, except for Christmas. I did however find a great little spot that served them, that also had live jazz tunes playing in a little courtyard at a restaurant called, Cafe Beignet, right on Bourbon St., across from our hotel.  It would have to do.

Cafe Beignet

I asked the counter person if I could get a beignet and struggled pronouncing it. She immediately knew want I meant, as I’m sure I’m not the only tourist with this trouble.  I asked her if these were as good as the ones they serve at Cafe du Monde. She responded with great confidence, “They are better!”

I got 2 orders, one for me and one for my son, each with the traditional 3 count in a bag with about a cup of powdered sugar. This was not an exaggeration.  I was shocked at just how much they give. It seemed a bit excessive, but as I spent more time in New Orleans I realized that everything they serve is over the top excessive.

beignet from Cafe Beignet

They were warm and sweet, and doughy. It was definitely delicious and reminded me a lot of fried dough we have here in New England. I could see why people liked them. They are surely not a healthy snack, but they were… oh, so good.

The next day walking around the French Quarter I started to get a craving for these sweet morsels of goodness. As you walked by the plethora of restaurants you could not help but smell the wafting of the oil and sugar in the air, that helped mask the offensive smells of urine, mustiness and stale beer on the streets of this water engulfed, Crescent city.  The heat and humidity of New Orleans only magnified all of these smells around.

My son and I decided that we had to try the most famous beignets, at Cafe du Monde.  After all, it is said to be “a must” when visiting New Orleans. We justified it as something we just couldn’t pass up and had to experience it for ourselves. In reality, I think we just wanted more beignets.

We found the restaurant on Decatur and it was as we were told, completely mobbed and chaotic. We almost decided to not bother, but couldn’t resist the urge to know if this was indeed, the best beignet in New Orleans or if this local was right and Cafe Beignet made a better one.

We made it a game. We would do a taste test. We walked in and saw that every seat was taken and weren’t sure if we had to go to the counter to order or wait to be seated. Quickly we noticed that everyone just seated themselves and waited for a server, unless you wanted take-out or wanted to purchase things from their gift shop, then you order at the counter. That line was also enormous. We scoped out a seat with people just leaving a hurried to claim it for our own, even though there was powdered sugar all over it. This is what you had to do to get some beignets here.

We sat for a few minutes and looked around at the mass of people everywhere and the poor overworked servers scurrying around as quickly as they could.  It was not unlike any other summer day in New Orleans, it was hot and humid and about 95 degrees. We felt sorry for the workers in their uniforms with beanie hats and thought how hot they must be and then wondered how the heck do they keep track of the tables? There was really no rhyme or reason. There was no number system and no one seated you. It was amazing that this somehow works.

Cafe du Monde

We asked a customer next to us just to be sure, if they do in fact, come and take your order. The woman assured us that they will but they are a little slow. I bet! The place was a zoo!

After only about 5 minutes a young man approached us and cleaned off our table and asked if we were ready to order. We said yes and order 2 orders of beignets, 2 cafe au laits and 2 waters. He told us the price, around $11.00, and we paid in cash. He told us he was on an exchange program and was from Turkey. He continued that about 80 percent of the workers were also Turkish and on this summer program and was happy to be able to work and travel the world, especially in the US.

He came back with our order in a surprisingly short amount of time. We were impressed. I gave him a big tip and thanked him for his service. He was very pleased and was smiling from ear to ear. I told him I have always wanted to go to Turkey and that I heard it was beautiful. He said excitedly, “Oh you must go to Istanbul, you will love it!”  I then asked to get a photo with him. He happily obliged and then ran off to help other customers.

Me and the Turkish exchange student who was a server at Cafe Du Monde

The beignets were served on a plate with, again, piles of powdered sugar blanketing the warm doughy balls of deliciousness. I took a bite and my taste buds sang as the familiar taste hit them. The dough was a little thicker than how they serve it at Cafe Beignet. It was good and I could see why people loved it so much, but honestly I agree with the local that Cafe Beignet did indeed, have a better beignet overall. I think the history and the hype of this place is more why people like it so much. It just wasn’t the same excitement, getting them from a place where you don’t have to fight for chance to get your own. People always want what they can’t have. It’s the chase. My son also felt the same way and said, ” I think this place is a bit over-rated” I could see his point.

On our last day in New Orleans we thought, we couldn’t leave without having just one more beignet. After all, who knows when the next time we will have a chance to get them, if ever. Another way to justify our incredibly unhealthy eating we did the entire time we were visiting New Orleans. Everything was so rich and fatty and full of carbs. I don’t know how anyone living in this city could eat healthy. I would find it very hard with all their tempting goodies.

We kept passing another beignet restaurant that was called New Orleans Famous Beignets & Coffee while touring around. (it was actually the one that was closed the first day). It was also on Decatur, hence my confusion.  We had to check them out. Now we would have 3 to compare. This would be a great way to decide who really has the best beignet in New Orleans. Well, in our opinion anyway.

New Orleans Famous Beignets & Coffee (it was closed when this was taken)

We walked into the place. It was very slow and only one customer  was in line in front of us. This made us skeptical, but still interested on how theirs would compare.  We saw the list of items and they also did the traditional serving of three, but they had a few other additions to their menu of beignets. The had a 2 stuffed ones, one stuffed with sausage and one stuffed with seafood. We considered trying one of these versions, but then thought we should stick with the original kind.  How else could we perform our “taste test”?  Again we ordered 2 servings, each with 3 beignets. The came in a bag, warm and loaded up with the powdered sugar. There was something different about this one though. The dough was much lighter and thinner and was more shaped in a flat square than a doughy ball. “Hmm?”, I thought and then proceeded to carefully bite into one, trying to avoid the powder from getting on my clothes. Wow, this one was awesome! It was so good and less doughy, with the perfect amount of crunchiness on the outside without being overly heavy. I exclaimed, ” This is by far the best one of them all! ” My son was in complete agreement.


Our conclusion to who makes the best beignet in New Orleans was, without a doubt,  New Orleans Famous Beignets & Coffee. We actually put Cafe du Mode in last place of the three.  Not that any of them were bad, I mean, I would never refuse an order from any of these places, but it was clear to us that sometimes hype and tradition outweighs taste. Popularity is


Who Makes the Best Beignet in New Orleans? (in my opinion) 

1. *New Orleans Famous Beignets & Coffee

2. Cafe Beignet

3. Cafe Du Monde


Visiting New Orleans is a great way to try foods that you can only find in this area. From beignets, to muffulettas, to po boys, to  Cajun seafood, to  crawdads, to alligator bites, to charbroiled oysters, to gumbo, to jambalaya, the list goes on,  your taste buds will experience a whole new world of flavors. The French creole influence and Cajun spices makes for unique and sought after recipes passed down from generation to generation. If you visit New Orleans, you must try their foods to help better understand their culture and the people, but just don’t expect to be eating healthy. Calories don’t count on vacation anyway.

Phi Phi Relax Beach Resort-Hotel Review

by Tuesday, May 12, 2015

thewanderlustyogi.netNo words will ever give Phi Phi Relax Beach Resort the justice it deserves for how amazing it is. Located on the small island of Ko Phi Phi Don, just off the southern coast of Thailand, where the only way to gain access to its location, is by boat.

There are public ferries that do 3 daily departures from Krabi and Phuket piers to the Phi Phi pier.  The hotel is another short boat ride from the Phi Phi pier to get to the other side of the island, where the resort sits (the quieter end).  The hotel provides a shuttle boat round trip for 500 baht, that is charged to your room (per person) and coordinates with the public ferry schedule. The ferry schedule can conflict with arrival times from airports ect. so if you are booking this hotel, keep in mind of the times and try to plan accordingly. I thought I was ahead of the game and was well prepared. I planned my flight from Bangkok to Krabi to be perfectly coinciding with the ferry-boat schedule from Krabi to Phi Phi, but from out of my control, Air Asia (who I was flying with) changed my flight schedule to come in way later than expected.  I tried to talk to the airline and explain my dilemma, but they said all earlier flight were sold out. Bummer!

I contacted the hotel and asked what I should do. They suggested that the only solution would be to stay one night in Krabi and then come over in the morning.  I prepaid my hotel room and asked if I could have a credit for the one night. Their policy was not to give any refund, for same day cancellation, plus I booked it through Travelocity, which was also a non-refundable rate.  It was such a cheap rate, but I thought I’d try.  It seemed like this was something that frequently happened.

sunset on Ao Nang Beach, Krabi Thailand

We did end up sleeping one night in Krabi, which was nice, but after getting to Phi Phi, we realized we would have been so much happier if we would have had that one extra night in Phi Phi. I shouldn’t complain. At least we got two nights of paradise and it’s not like Krabi is a dump! Plus we saw an amazing sunset that night on Ao Nang Beach.

When my daughter and I stayed here for only two nights at the end of April (2015), we laughed about how people would not believe us that we thought it was the best hotel we have stayed. Lets put this into perspective of what I’m talking about here. My daughter and I stayed at 7 hotels total on our 2 week tour, our past trip, most being 5 star, and many 4 star hotels.  We stayed in two hotels in New Delhi,  two in Bangkok, one in Dubai, one in Krabi and the Phi Phi Relax Beach Resort.  Some of them were exceptional, some very good, some fair and then some that were really bad.

view from in the ocean, looking at Phi Phi Relax Resort

Phi Phi Relax Beach Resort in definitely not a  5 star resort, nor would they want to be.  That’s part of their charm. This secluded resort, on its own private and quiet beach, feels like you are in a secret village on a deserted island.

The resort is a nature lover’s paradise, with wild life everywhere and even monkeys visiting now and again. Its accommodations are little single-unit bungalows. They are pretty campy, rustic if you will, and look very authentic “thai style”. These bungalows, in truth, are open to the wilderness, have no air-conditioning, no electricity from 6pm to 6am, and the bathroom doubles as a toilet (no separation).  Not only that, but you need to sleep in a mosquito net or who knows what will happen? We didn’t dare try to find out.  Even with all that, and just coming from 5 star luxury hotel stays, we were in heaven.

This is exactly the experienced we were looking for from this island, and we were getting it, whether we wanted to or not.

thewanderlustyogi.netWhen selecting our room on Travelocity, we opted for the beachfront bungalow. The price was so reasonable, we thought it would be so much more enjoyable to be able to step right outside our door, right onto the beach and also be able to hear the sounds of the waves as we slept.  The rate is almost laughable, compared to USA hotel rates.

Ours was the most expensive room, at $65.00 USD!

The other choices were:

Top Seaview Bungalow- $51.00 USD

Garden Bungalow- $36.00 USD

This was a total no-brainer for us. But clearly if you want to spend time on an amazing island getaway, you can do it for hella cheap here in Thailand! One of the many reasons why I love this place so much!

After arriving and seeing our bungalow first hand, and then seeing the up hill path into the jungle for the other ones, we were so glad this is what we chose.

Banana pancakes served with honey. Jack Johnson would approve!

The resort had a restaurant in the central area and had a great selection of Thai dishes as well as American style and kids meals for the pickier eaters.  The food was so delicious and we ate the best banana pancakes of our lives there. We ate them for breakfast everyday and even ate them for dessert (served with honey).

pad see you (another fav)

we loved, loved, loved the spring rolls!

The prices (again) were so cheap. The best part was there was no fuss.  You never had to bring your wallet. You just told the waiter the room number and they would add it to your tally.  After a few meals you didn’t even have to say, they just remember you. Even additional services such as excursions, snorkeling equipment rentals, and massages could be added with no problem.

one hour Thai massage for 260 baht (thats $7.71 USD). My masseuse said, ” if you scream, you pay more!”

The workers were so friendly and always smiling, Isn’t that the saying about Thai people, “the Land of Smiles”? Well, in my experience, it is true.

awesome peeps we met that were also staying at the resort (a few were even from the Boston area too!)-small world

The way the tipping worked at Phi Phi Relax, was they all share. So you do your tipping at the end of your stay in a tip box, for all the staff to split.  It makes it very convenient, but I supposed you could tip an additional something separately to a person that you especially liked. I felt they all worked very hard and seemed to be great team workers, helping each other out when things got busy. I may be assuming this, but it seemed to be a family type company. There were all ages working, males and females alike. They definitely had a system down to a T.

thewanderlustyogi.netChecking out to me was so funny. On the morning of our departure, we had to catch the early morning shuttle, at 8:30 am so we would make it to the Phi Phi ferry to Krabi for 9am. We packed up our stuff and headed to the restaurant for breakfast and asked how to settle our bill.  The women at the restaurant said that she would give me my total and I could just pay there at the restaurant register. Nice! Well, when the waiter ever handed my bill, I literally started laughing out loud! It was a little book. On the outside cover was engraved  with “B1” and on the inside pages filled to about the middle half of the book.  He handed it to me turned to, I guess my page. It was two pages, one for each day of my stay, with two columns on each page.  One column for the description ( food bought at restaurant or services-like massages, and one column for the price.  At the bottom was the total of all of it in baht.

My total bill for two days on the Phi Phi Relax resort A total of $126. 42!!

My total for 2 days, with food (breakfast/lunch/dinner), drinks, snacks, snorkeling equipment rental, shuttle boat rides (for two), massage (for two), was a whopping 4,265 baht, which is equal to $126.42 USD!!!

snorkeling the coral reef at our beach

We had the best time at the Phi Phi Relax Resort and so happy that we found this special place on earth.  We were able to get a glimpse into island-style living, met amazing people (who were also in search of just this sort of experience) and have life-long memories that we will cherish forever.

thewanderlustyogi.netIt does take a lot of work and planning to make it to Phi Phi Island, but when you finally do, you know that you are lucky to be there. 



Movenpick Ibn Battuta Gate Dubai-Hotel Review

by Tuesday, May 12, 2015

thewanderlustyogi.netApril 30, 2015- May 2, 2015, I had the pleasure of staying at the Movenpick Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel in Dubai. Movenpick Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel Dubai It was a planned stopover coming from a two-week trip to India and South East Asia. I flew on Emirates Airlines and Dubai is the layover, so naturally, to break up these long haul flights, I would want to stay a few days in Dubai. Do you blame me?

I’ve heard so many things, as of late, about this extreme city and how it has become a hot tourist spot. Not only does this futuristic city offer sightseeing of over-the-top attractions, boasting the tallest building in the world Burg Kalifa, and the largest man-made islands, The Palm Islands, but it also has some of the best high-end shopping in the world. (although I can only window shop)

Movenpick is a 5 star hotel chain, and in Dubai, they have 3 locations. We opted for the Movenpick Ibn Battuta Gate location for two reasons.

1. it was right across the street from a mall

2.It has a private beach

Since this was at the tail end to a 2 week nonstop action trip, we felt like lying low and relaxing on the beaches of Dubai, would be a perfect end to our vacation. The sight-seeing things weren’t really a must-do for us, all except the camel safari in the desert experience.   We really wanted to do that excursion. Other than that, relaxing was the main goal.

thewanderlustyogi.netWe arrived around 2 pm at the hotel and were pleasantly greeted by the hotel staff. Everyone at the hotel seemed extremely friendly and helpful. From the bellman, who was dressed in Arabian attire, ( I couldn’t stop thinking about Aladdin) , to the concierge, to the front desk.

The front desk women took all the information, and quickly found my reservation. She offered an upgrade to the pool floor (on the 8th floor) and explained that breakfast was included as well as the shuttle bus to the private beach.  I was a little surprised and can’t say, not slightly disappointed, that we had to take a shuttle to the beach. My impression was that the hotel was directly on the beach. This was probably my mistake, and although it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, still fine.

Every staff member at the hotel spoke English, which for some reason I didn’t realize . I thought they may speak Arabic, with English as a second language, but this was not the case. At any rate, it made it that much easier to communicate.

hotel lobby

We took a walk around the main lobby and the restaurant area.  It was very beautifully decorated with Middle Eastern inspired lamps hanging from the ceiling and ornate decor.  The hotel did a great job of embodying the essence of the Middle East, or at least felt authentic to  how I would imagine the United Emirates to be.

thewanderlustyogi.netThey have 5 restaurants with a variety of cuisines including Moroccan(Al Bahou), Indian(Chor Bazaar), Italian (Sicilia) and Chinese(Shanghai Chic) and global (Mistral) which has an array of cuisines and live cooking stations for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

thewanderlustyogi.netWe only ate the breakfast at Mistral and were overly impressed of the diverse food choices and the sheer amounts of food offered. We could have anything we really wanted, literally; from made to order of omelets, sushi, salads, cured meats, fruits, cuisines from all over the world, you name it, they’d probably have it. You could eat for days and still have options. It was certainly the highlight of the

Our room was with two full beds. My daughter and I have been traveling for weeks sharing a king-sized bed mostly, we opted for the two beds, but did have a

The room was very clean and modernly decorated. It had a storage closet for luggage with draws and a safe.

a perfect spot to keep passports, credit cards and extra money

The bathroom was very roomy, with a toilet to one side, next to a large mirror and wash vanity, then at the opposite side, a rain shower style shower and a tub. It had the glass open view into the bedroom, like many hotels we’ve stayed at have.  thewanderlustyogi.netThey did have a privacy wooded type slide door if you wanted.  This was the funny thing when traveling with your daughter, all the romantic and seemingly normal rooms for couples, didn’t quite fit for our type of

The 8th floor pool was small, but looked classy, had a city view, and seemed like a very nice place to relax.  thewanderlustyogi.netThe pool staff were very attentive, being sure we had sun if we wanted to, or shade if we preferred not. It was very busy the day we went to the pool with no chairs available when we first arrived. The staff kept watch and organized two chairs together for us within minutes.  They also moved our chairs when the sun became blocked by the building, and brought our things to an area with perfect sun exposure.  We laughed at how obliging they were on providing us the conditions for achieving a perfect tan!

It was hot beyond what we are used to, to say the least. The desert heat that day was around 101 degree’s, but the pool was, although a tad warmer than one would like, still very refreshing after just sitting for 10 minutes,  a quick dip was a must.  The pool attendants also came by with fresh squeezed fruit drinks for everyone at no charge. It was a great pool day and I don’t remember having such great service by a pool before. I honestly don’t even remember having pool attendants in previous hotel stays. Now that I think about it, all except The Leela Palace- New Delhi, which were extremely accommodating too. It’s funny how the pool service really made a difference in our stay.

Hotels that pay attention to seemingly small details, create a much more pleasurable experience, but its clear that the ones that do, already know that.

The next day we planned on hitting the beach. Relaxing was what we were all about.  We were very excited! We already shopped the mall the night before and have booked our tour excursion for a camel dinner and show in the desert for that night. Thankfully the concierge let us know on the first day that, although we have free shuttle service to the beach, we needed to reserve a time.  It ran every half hour to and from the beach.  (on the hour at the hotel, and on the half hour at the beach) We booked from 9:00 am-1:30 pm,  that way we could have a few hours on the beach, and then have time to get ready before our tour pick up at 3:30.

waiting for the beach shuttle with our new beach hats we bought the night before at the Ibn Battuta Mall (such tourists!)

We waited for the shuttle with other hotel guests, only about 8 others. The concierge gave us all VIP wrist bands and said it gained us access to the beach, pool area, and restaurant near the beach. It  took about a 20 minute ride through the city towards the beach, and we were dropped off at an executive apartment building.  We had a to take about a 10 minute walk through the parking lots, and down some stair cases towards the beach area. (which would be hard for some seniors, the handicapped or people with small children). Good thing we followed another guest that looked like they had done it before or at least knew where they were going, because otherwise we would have had no clue of how to get tot the beach. The bus driver didn’t say a word. It was all very vague.

Movenpick beach shuttle bus

When we reached the bar area of the pool, they had a towel lending booth. It was free, but you  had to give them your room number and return it before you leave. We noticed quickly that the pool, which looked like a huge lazy pool, was behind fences and under construction. This was too bad because we would have had access to it, and the thought of floating around on a lazy river would have been awesome.

thewanderlustyogi.netNot that this wasn’t  bad enough, but when we got down to the beach it was more than lack luster.  It was a very small beach, away from everything and filled with lounge chairs end to end.  It felt like you were in a bay area that really wasn’t meant to have a beach there.  It was actually the Dubai Marina and the beach was called Jumeirah Beach.  We were both at a loss for words for a good 10 minutes. We could not believe that this was the beach. We imagined a beautiful white sand beach with camels walking by, aligned by a strip of cool Arabic style shops and restaurants and an amazing backdrop of this skyscraper filled city. It did have a city view (the only kind of cool thing about it), but not the one with Burj Kalifa or that area of the city like we were thinking. It was like a hidden and abandoned area, with nothing else there.

I think we are at the wrong beach? We must be!

We both thought that. We swore we saw youtube videos and pictures of Dubai and their beaches and it looks nothing like this. At all! Suddenly I got a sinking feeling, we had reserved the bus back to the hotel for 1:30 pm, it was now only 10ish. That means we are stuck here at this excuse of a beach for 3 and a half more hours! No!  Theres no way we were doing that!

We went up to the bartender and started expressing our disappointment and confusion, even asking him if we could get a taxi to a better beach.  He said we were probably thinking about the beach at the Atlantis-The Palm, Dubai.  I think he was right. I asked if you had to be a guest to go on that beach. He said no, and that there was a beach club that you could pay a daily fee to enter.  We looked at each other and said, “Lets do it!” Ahh rescued. But not so fast. On further information given, he said that the cab ride would be about 45 minutes long and would cost around 250 AED which is approximately $70.00 USD, each way! Then, also keeping in mind we would have to pay the fee to get into the beach club, which was 225 AED ($61.00 USD).

If we were to pay the cab fare, take the 45 minute ride (each way), and pay the beach access fee, we would be spending around $260.00 USD to sit mainly in a cab and spend maybe 45 minutes, max, on that beach. We passed. It just didn’t make sense.

We asked if we were allowed to at least go back early on the shuttle. We were.  We looked at the clock and instantly started running to the shuttle pick-up site, knowing that we probably will miss this one and will have to wait for the next. Luckily we made it. We figured that we would go back to the hotel pool. It was very nice and was extremely convenient to our room if we wanted to use the bathroom etc.  We would have a little poolside lunch and sun.  So it wouldn’t be a total wasted afternoon. And since we would already be right there, when it was time to get ready for our dinner in the desert, it would be easy.  It was a better alternative than the beach.

thewanderlustyogi.netOverall, on the positive,  the hotel was very nice, clean, modern, had a helpful staff, and great food. The less positive aspects, would be the beach (no surprise here),  the beach pool being under construction, having to take the shuttle to the beach, and that the hotel itself is located quite a distance to the city center and where most tourist attractions are.

I would stay at a Movenpick again for sure, I’d just have to stay in one with a better location. I was told by an Emirates flight attendant who lives in Dubai, that next time we come, to see the real authentic Arabic part of Dubai, was to visit the  Deira area of town. This area is filled with old souks, selling spices, gold and perfumes.  We were so bummed out that we found this out at the airport on our way home.  This is exactly what we would have loved to see.  I clearly didn’t do enough research for my quick layover in Dubai. If I go back I will definitely have to check out this area, and  Movenpick even has a hotel there. Perfect!

Best Cambodian Food in Boston: The Elephant Walk

by Friday, April 17, 2015

This week for Boston is a tough one. It was the two year anniversary of the marathon bombing on Wednesday and the sentiment of remembrance, sadness, as well as hope, was lingering all around us. Springtime in Boston around this exact time is always special, there’s the Boston Marathon, opening day for the Red Sox and the city is just starting to come out of hibernation.

My husband’s birthday was yesterday and we decided that we would both take the day off and spend it together, going to lunch and whatever we felt like, or should I say, he felt like.  We checked the weather and it looked like it was going to be a gorgeous spring day. Yay! What a nice thing to hear after this ridiculous long, cold and snowy winter we’ve had. This of course made us instantly think about doing something that involves being outside, at least for a little bit.

Maybe Portsmouth?

That’s a great idea, we could take a walk on the beach and then grab lunch at a restaurant downtown. Then he said that he thinks the beach might be a bit too chilly. It’s usually around 10 degrees colder, plus it was windy. He thought I’d be cold, I’m always cold. I said I would dress appropriately if he wanted to go and if it was just about me why he was saying that.  He said it was just what he was feeling and wanted to figure out something else.  I’m glad he scratched that from the list of where to go, because on further investigation, none of the restaurants in the area open until 4:00pm or 5:00pm, only serving dinner.  That wouldn’t work for a lunch date!

I started thinking of ideas and suggested the city. I’ve been wanting to try this Cambodian restaurant, my Cambodian friend raves about, and my husband loves ethnic food, any type. So I thought he would be interested in that.  Then we could also take a walk through the city, which we love doing on nice spring days. He thought it was a perfect idea.

Boston it is!

thewanderlustyogi.netThe restaurant is called The Elephant Walk I’ve heard such great things about this one Cambodian restaurant in particular, and not just from that one friend, but by food critics such as, the phantom gourmet, articles from the Boston Herald, the Improper Bostonian, and many other local foodies; all being positive, noting the authenticity and  top-notch dishes they serve. We were excited to try it and this was a great opportunity to.

thewanderlustyogi.netWe headed into Boston a little after 11 and arrived at noon. We live only about 40 miles north, but with traffic that can be anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 and half hours. Driving, not during rush hour always makes me feel like Boston is so close, “why don’t we enjoy the city more?” I would always ask myself, but then I remember the hellish commute in the morning time or dinnertime and instantly comes flooding back to me why.

We walked in and it had just opened. We were one of only 3 tables seated. We asked for a window seat and they obliged happily. The waiter greeted us and asked if we have ever been before, we of course replied, “No,  but we are very eager to try it, as it was suggested by a friend.”  He was pleased to hear and offered some suggestions of the popular and signature dishes. I was in no way going to question him and ordered everything he recommended.

thewanderlustyogi.netThe restaurant menu had a selection of French and Cambodian cuisine, which I wasn’t really sure why the two were combined, either way, each dish description sounded wonderful.  I did a little research of the history of this restaurant and answered my question about the French food selections.  The owner, Longteine de Monteiro, lived in  Cambodia until 1975, but moved when the Khmer Roughe took over Cambodia. Her family had to flee, but her mother and her brother were not as fortunate to escape, they died, along with 1.7 million other Cambodians, killed by the Khmer

They ended up in France and she started cooking for a living there. She learned French cuisine, but always added her style learned  from her mother’s cooking, infusing a Cambodian twist into her dishes. She later opened France’s first Cambodian restaurant, called Amrita.  Her daughter Nadsa,  also joined the family business, as well as her French husband, Bob Perry.

thewanderlustyogi.netThey all moved to America in 1991 an opened the first Elephant Walk in Somerville, Massachusetts, a suburb or Boston.  That location has since been closed, and today there are two locations, one in the South End of Boston and one in Cambridge.

They right from the beginning had outstanding reviews,  Esquire magazine, in 1992, the year after,  named them one of American’s best new restaurants,  heralding Longteine’s food as “absolutely delicious and enlightening!” and other reviews described the food as “a rare taste” and “exquisite”

Our meal 

thewanderlustyogi.netWe started with some special drinks. Non- alcohol ones, sorry to disappoint, but nonetheless, still great! They did however have a vast list of unique alcoholic beverages, cocktails, beers, wines, soft drinks, coffee and teas, by the pot.  We ordered their special iced chai drink and a raspberry spritzer -both delicious.

thewanderlustyogi.netNext we had the spring roll appetizer called Rouleaux,  that he suggested. We would have probably ordered it  anyway, since we love spring rolls. What was interesting about them was not only their flavor blend of spices, and perfect crunch on the outside, yet moist on the inside, it was how you were supposed to eat them.  I’m so glad our waiter told us, because we would have never figured that out ourselves.

You are to take the lettuce leaves and put a spring roll in the center, add the toppings provided; (bean sprouts, mint leaves, peanut sauce, and chili sauce), and then wrap it and eat it.  It really added a special flavor mix to the palate, eating it this way.  The mint especially, gave it a fresh taste.  He said he told us because he knew we wouldn’t have known, since most people just think the side arrangement is for garnish, We thanked him and told him how much we enjoyed it. He smiled.

thewanderlustyogi.netOnto the main course. My husband had the beef dish called Loc Lac which was a cubed beef tenderloin in a lightly caramelized sauce of black pepper, garlic and mushroom soy, served over lettuce and a dipping sauce.   I had a chicken dish that has been the staple dish for over 30 years, that he urged me to try.  It was called Poulet a La Citronnelle which was made with sliced chicken breast sautéed with lemon grass onion and red bell pepper sprinkled with crushed peanuts. We shared both dishes to be able to get a taste of each, both were absolutely delicious and you could easily taste it’s  authentic ingredients and expertise in the

The waiter came back to check on our satisfaction and we gushed on how great everything was and that we will definitely be back soon and will tell others to try it.  He was very happy and let us know, if we were interested, and were sticking around the South End for the afternoon, that a Buddhist monk was coming to give a water blessing to the restaurant at 3:00.

I was instantly interested,and gazed to my husband to see if he was. He said sure. We told the waiter we were going to walk around a bit and be back around that time to watch the ceremony.

He said, ” Great, see you later guys and go out there and enjoy this beautiful day!”

thewanderlustyogi.netWe were in a wonderful area of Boston, the South End. It is known for its brownstones, and residential friendly area, with shops and restaurants sprinkled throughout. If I were to ever move to the city, this is where I’d want to live.

thewanderlustyogi.netWe walked through little tree-lined streets and neighborhoods of brownstones, towards Tremont St. It was sunny and breezy, with people walking on their lunch breaks from work, and students from the local school just getting out. We walked and talked and just had a leisurely stroll, it was a quintessential Spring day in Boston.

While walking and feeling a sense of contentment and happiness, I couldn’t help but see in the corner of my eye, a glimpse of a spray painted sign of the city’s slogan “Boston Strong” on a construction site. It made me stop dead in my tracks and switch my feeling of happiness to the feeling of empathy.  I walked over to the sign, took a picture,  and then took a moment of silence in remembrance. Life in the city continues to go on, and the people are thriving, but we can never forgot those who have lost their lives here on that day, two years ago.

thewanderlustyogi.netWe headed back to the restaurant and since we would be a little early, we decided we would have dessert and tea there, but first checking our time at our parking meter to see if we needed to add more quarters. Good thing we checked, because our time was almost out. During lunch, we were much too full for any dessert, but now that we’ve walked around a few hours, our appetizer came back a bit and we could definitely squeeze in a dessert each. Why not? It was my husband’s birthday after all and besides, their desserts looked awesome!

They were!

thewanderlustyogi.netWe got a pot of green tea and my husband got the Le peche’ au chocolate, which was a creamy rich chocolate truffle cake, paired with raspberry coulis and I got the Mousse aux fruits de la passions, which was a tart with a passion fruit mousse served in an almond lace cup, garnished with mango. They were both meticulously plated, as well as

As we were finishing up dessert, we saw the car holding the Buddhist monk pulling up to the restaurant. The owner was driving; she parked and walked him in.  She was also with her husband. They came in and she seated him in the front of the restaurant. She started preparing for the ceremony, placing a rug on the floor in front of him, making an altar with a Buddha image, flowers, a candle, rice and cocoa leaves and placed it in front of him, along with a bowl of water (used for the blessing) and a hot

She instructed the bartender to lower the music and locked the doors of the restaurant. The people in the room were the owner, her husband, the monk, a PR photographer, the bartender, a waiter, a cook and us. That’s it! I’m not sure how we were allowed to stay in there, since we were just guests, but I was happy they welcomed us to watch.  Every so often a patron would try pulling the door open and then peek in, confused why it wasn’t open? And each time the bartender would send them

The ceremony began. The owner and her husband bowed and sat on their knees in front of the monk, her first removing her shoes and draping her shoulders with a white scarf.  They began bowing and chanting a mantra in Khmer. Then the Monk started chanting back to them. It seemed like he was saying a phrase and then they would repeat him, but I don’t speak Khmer, so I could be wrong. This went on for close to 40 minutes, and then the monk started chanting a little louder and began lightly splashing them with the water for the

A Cambodian Buddhist water blessing is a Cambodian sacred ritual that is believed to bring good luck and prosperity that dates back to ancient times.

The owner waved over the manager and he reluctantly went over. She strictly pointed out that he hadn’t removed his shoes. He quickly removed them, joined them on the floor and sat on his knees in prayer position.  You could faintly hear her whisper, “Don’t you want to be blessed?” and he nodded, yes, but you could clearly see the whole thing made him a little uneasy. He was definatley out of his comfort zone, but he did it to please her and to be respectful. I would have done the exact, same

As it closed, the monk proceeded outside and began splashing the holy water on the outside windows and the owner asked the manager to set the altar table in the front entrance area, and stated that it needed to be kept there for at least 3

It was time for us to go. We had stayed in the city longer than we originally planned, so we could avoid rush hour traffic, and now it was past 4:00 pm, which means we were sure to be in the midst of it.  We didn’t care. It was worth it and an honor for us to be able to witness this special tradition that means so much to the owner and her family.

We said our goodbyes and thanked the manager and he was glad we enjoyed it. He also mentioned that they usually do this, at all the locations, during this time each year, to celebrate Khmer New Year.

As we drove home, sitting in bumper to bumper traffic, I looked over at my husband and asked if he had a nice birthday.  He smiled and said,” It was perfect!”





%d bloggers like this:
Skip to toolbar