Playa Del Carmen, MX - August 2013

If you don't like reading you can just watch the video:

We take some variation of a Mexico beach vacation every August and it is always a great way to end the summer.  Some things we repeat but we are always in search of new adventures in an effort to keep it challenging.  After dozens of Mexico trips we are always learning about new things to do and places to visit.  There are always many things to do outside of locking yourself up in a beach resort and the best things are located right outside the front gate of your resort.

First thing is get a car at the airport but make sure you take the rental company insurances.  Unlike the United States the rental car companies will look your car over carefully to seek out any damage.  Even though it makes it more expensive the peace of mind is worth it in case of theft or accident. It still is cheaper than hiring a driver and the freedom is worth a lot.  

It is important for us to seek out a good balance of adventure, culture and relaxation.  For the adventure part of the trip we went to go zip lining at Selvatica which is located in Puerto Morelos.

After a brief orientation we got suited up and climbed up the ladders into the canopy.

 Even when you are not zipping you are tethered into a safety rope so you are never in danger of falling.

Everyone was friendly and very safety focused.

After completing all the stations they took our group over to the water zip line where you can ride a zip line and drop into a cenote, jump off a 15' platform or just swim around.  Life preservers are available for non swimmers.

At first Elliot didn't want to jump or zip but he eventually built up come courage and after that first leap he was unstoppable.

 He must have jumped off of this platform at least a dozen times.


After drying off we changed back into our clothes and said goodbye to our guides. 

Roadside Mexican ice cream.    We passed this place every day and visited several times to try new flavors.

Breakfast tacos at Taqueria Ely in Puerto Morelos (this is on the north bound lane of Highway 307 at the exit to Puerto Morelos).  At least a dozen fillings all stuffed in hand made tortillas that are fresh off the grill.   If you are eating a cheese omelette at the all inclusive you are missing out.    

Categorize this under adventure or relaxation.  We returned to one of our favorite snorkeling sites in Akumal to snorkel Yal-Ku Lagoon which is a protected lagoon that is perfect for snorkeling with kids.  If you visit here be mindful that the water can be a little cold because fresh water is entering this lagoon from underground cenotes.

After snorkeling we had a nice relaxing lunch on the beach at Buena Vida.

Simple fresh fish tacos 

For the culture/history part of the trip we went to Coba which is an ancient Mayan city, about a 90 minutes drive from Playa Del Carmen.

Unlike some of the other Mayan cities the main structures here are quite far apart.   You can certainly walk it but we preferred to rent bicycles (as most people do) which were only a few dollars.

The main pyramid at Coba is 130 very steep and irregular steps to the top.  Unlike Chichen Itza you can still climb to the top.

The main pyramid at Coba is about 140 feet high and offers amazing 360 degree views of the surrounding jungle.

Climing the pyramids is a lot work, especially in August.  On the way back we stopped for a swim break.  Just a few miles from the Coba sitie is a complex with three cenotes.  We bought a combo ticket to visit all three (Tamcach-Ha, Choo-Ha and Multun Ha) for about $9.  Kids are free!

After a climb down some very slippery wooden stairs you enter a giant cavern with beautiful blue water.

The water is cold but very refreshing.

At the Coba archiological site there is a single zip line that goes over Coba lake.  It starts at 125 feet and zips you 500M down to the bottom.  It is only a one way trip but they pick you up in a truck to take you back to the starting point.

Tacos are typically served early morning or late at night.  The specialty of the afternoon is seafood and mid-day all of the seafood restaurants will be open and busy.  Simple grilled fish but amazing and very inexpensive.

As we already mentioned we are always learning new things with each trip.   These are alambres which is basicaly a DIY Mexican cheese steak kit.  The variation we ordered was grilled steak, onions, spicy poblano peppers and melted cheese.   We can't beleieve we never knew about this.

Of course we got some relaxation at the beach.

What's the difference between Costco in Mexico and the US?  Not much but the domestic beer selection is much better in Mexico.

The food court is pretty much identical also.   They even have Churros.

Hasta Pronto Mexico!

We'll be back again next year.

Singapore - April 2013

On the tail end of the Bali trip, we scheduled  2 days in Singapore.  In retrospect we would have been better off staying in Bali a little longer but when you plan out the trip in 3 minutes these things can happen.  The sole reason for returning was for the food.  Go to Italy and focus on the art but in Singapore the food comes first. Be warned!  Do not read this if you are hungry.  There are too many food photos ahead and we don't want you buying plane tickets to Singapore on an empty stomach.

We had favorites from our last trip but  we ramped up our efforts to find old favorites and new treasures. We started at the Lau Pa Sat Festival Market. 

Lau Pa Sat was originally a commercial fish market and has been in this location for over a hundred years.   There are dozens of different food stalls here and deciding on where to eat is overwhelming.

These are not your typical chicken wings from your local pub.  They are grilled over a charcoal bed, carefully seasoned and cooked to perfection with meticulous attention to detail.  Yes all for simple chicken wings.

The simplest of foods like this chicken satay will blow your mind.

Orchard Road in Singapore is one of the major commercial streets and is similar to NYC's Broadway or Paris' Champs-Elysees.   On our last trip we didn't stay in this area and we regretted it because we had a long walk just to get anywhere.

The next day we headed to Sentosa Island for an official "Elliot Day" in Singapore. We stopped at a local Hawker Stand by the bus station and had some new delights.  Unlike Lau Pa Sat this hawker stand is mostly frequented by locals and commuters.    We found the busiest stall and got in line.

This is roti prata which is a type of flat bread originally from India and Pakastan.  It can be served plain for filled with sweet or savory fillings.

Each one is made to order.  We went back for seconds.

Pink Drink?  We have no idea but it was based on some type of tropical fruit, not a ground up pink panther.

Our destination was  Sentosa Island, which is a popular island resort in Singapore. There are many attractions on this self contained island  including a Universal Studios theme park, beach resorts,  Casinos, and an Aquarium.

Our first activity was the Skyline Luge which was really fun.  We took a chairlift to the top and raced each other to the bottom.

Who could resist "The most favorite cheese balls."  These were cheese filled mini hot dogs and tasted exactly how you would expect them to.  Purely junk food and not representative of true Singaporean food.

The Segway Tour was our next stop.

It was a great experience because most places require you to be much older than 9 years old to ride them.

On to the Aquarium, where they have the world's largest viewing panel.  They also have great air conditioning which was important because Singapore is HOT and we needed a break from the afternoon heat.

The main viewing area is 118 feet wide.

Fish and Crab at the Aquarium food court just seemed wrong, so we headed to another food court on the island where we were rewarded with one of the food highlights of the trip ... Heun Key Claypot Chicken Rice.

Within the Sentosa complex there is a food court called Asia Street which features famous street food vendors found in neighboring countries.  This is Heun Key Claypot Chicken Rice which is a baked rice dish from Kuala Lumpur Malaysia.  Like many food here, the simplest of ingredients make the most amazing dishes.

Baked chicken and rice cooked to perfection.

Afterwards, we headed to the famous Singapore Zoo for the afternoon and Night Safari. We remembered that the elephant show was great, so we returned for a second visit.

This guy is just too cute!  It is not a doll.

Our last day of the trip began with a visit to the Maxwell Food Center.

This is famous dish in Singapore which is Haianese Chicken Rice.  A simple dish of boiled chicken and white rice with very delicate seasoning that is carefully prepared.   It was featured on an episode of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain and ever since then the lines have been extremely long.  We enjoyed it but we didn't think it was worth going out of the way for and definitely not worth waiting in a long line when there are so many other amazing dishes.

This is a Malaysian dish of fried noodle cakes which is very popular in Singapore.

Next up was the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum

Followed by the Singapore Flyer which is the second largest Ferris Wheel in the world.  Each of the cabins is connected on the outside and rotates around to keep you horizontal.

The view from 500 feet are spectacular.  All of those ships in the background are container ships waiting to dock at the port.

Last stop was the Food Opera @ ION Orchard Road which is another food court.  Unlike the others we went to on our trip, this was a very high end version located in the basement of a shopping mall.  Even though it was more fancy and formal the prices were not expensive and the food was outstanding.

The automatic dipping machine.

Roast pork over noodles.  Simple but amazing.

We settled in for our flight home with a stopover in Frankfurt.

Singapore and Bali were fantastic, and we dream of returning one day.

Melihat anda tidal lama lagi (see you soon)

What do you crave after a week of amazing Asian food?  New Park Pizza in Queens which we all agree is probably the best New York City pizzeria.   It is also a great remedy for jet lag, conveniently located 5 minutes from JFK Airport.