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Monthly Archives: February 2016

Are they cute?

Yes they are. But do you know how vicious they are? They ate two of my brother’s rabbits recently 😑 well, we think it’s raccoons who ate them but it’s not confirmed.

Unfortunately I do see raccoons more often than I would like.  I usually think “aww they’re so cute,” then I remind myself of what they’re capable of and keep a distance from them.

Today I saw two raccoons in Golden Gate Park. Find them in this pic. Cute, yes???  

Oh hell, they’re united.  

Then, one thought “Oh sh*t!!”  

You can’t blame the raccoon. A dog was really excited to see the raccoons.   

I was afraid they would get into a fight and one of them would get bitten or eaten before my eyes.

Thankfully that wasn’t the case. The raccoons stepped away. I didn’t stay to watch what happened later. The dog’s owner was giving me the stink eye at this point.  

Anyways, I spent some time today preparing a homecoming meal for someone.  Thai pumpkin curry with chicken.   

Fun fact: I cook for myself 2-3 times a week and I had not cooked chicken for the last 3 years or so! But I did today and probably will not again for a LONG time! Vegetarian food tastes just as good without bad conscience. Chickpeas or tofu would be lovely in place of chicken breast in this dish. 

The dog here got a bite of chicken and he looked pretty happy about that 🙂




Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

My rating: 👍👍👍👍1/2

It’s very rare for me to find books that are so engaging from start to finish. And very rarely do I feel sucked into a book like this.  I come across page-turning books like this probably one out of ten books I pick up, so I try to savor them when I find them.  Only that the savoring lasts just a couple of evenings.  If I’m lucky. 

No spoilers.

The book is about a flu pandemic that wiped out 99% of the world population (think of the movie Contagion but much worse) and about the lives of the survivors before and after the event.  

Surprisingly the book isn’t dark or depressing.  The chapters switch back and forth from a few weeks before the apocalypse to 20 years after the apocalypse.  The lives of the characters are intertwined in the past and the presence throughout the book.  It makes you think about the civilization, what we have today, and what will become of us if we don’t have what we have today.

It’s a beautifully written book that flows well (maybe too well since I couldn’t put it down) from chapter to chapter. No surprise the book has won many major awards including one from NPR.

My other recent book reviews:

Angela’s Ashes

The Martian

The Girl in the Spider Web

I would only review books that I love or hate. Sadly many of what I read end up somewhere in between.

It’s been 9 days since I got back.  I’ve been catching up at work and with friends, family, and relatives since I got back. It’s nice to be back!  

I have to say though that taking a vacation is good for your soul and it sure makes you appreciate your daily routine/life when you get back!  You live out of your luggage for days or weeks and experience unfamiliar yet exciting things. Then you feel removed from reality to some extent after a while. I don’t know if this makes sense.  One of the best things about coming back from a long vacation is to be HOME and back to the routine that you love (and if you don’t love your daily routine or your everyday life, it’s a wake-up call to make changes.)

Having said that, I’m back to my running routine.  I’ve been running long distance for the past couple of years.  This was the longest break I’ve taken from running and lost quite a bit of fitness.  Last month, I ran only 39.5 miles total. That’s less than how much I typically run in a week last year during training! It’s gonna be a long road back to fitness.  

After watching the dramatic finish of Shalane Flanagan and Amy Cragg at Olympic Marathon Trials past weekend, I’m feeling more inspired to kick-start my speed training.   


So…… I am registered for a few half marathons this year to keep my running fresh and motivating.

March – Oakland Half

April – San Francisco Rock n Roll Half

September – Giant Race Half 

So I will say this here for accountability that I will train for a PR at the September event. My half marathon PR now is 1 hour and 43 minutes.  Last year I wasn’t able to focus on half marathon pace since I trained for a 50K and two full marathons at much slower paces. I’m excited about this change of pace!  

You all know I love to blog about food all day long. I kind of miss taking photos of food 😊 I have not been eating anything so exciting lately to be honest.

XLB on Geary: 

Chinese New Year Picnic with relatives. Apparently my aunts forgot to bring main dishes so we ate what we had 😁  

My Valentine was out of town on Vday so I spent it with my parents. (My dad and I were sitting on the bench at first and my mom swooped in quickly for the pic. Hehe)  

Hot pot with family:  

Some home cooking:  

My favorite way to make salsa.

Finished a page on my coloring book:  

Bought these in Thailand and love them in my skincare routine! Good to know that I can buy big bottles from Amazon when I run out.  

Have a nice day!!

If you remember my posts on the pigs in Can Tho (here and here), I just wanted to update that the mama pig gave birth to ELEVEN piglets two days ago!


Piglets from the previous batch(litter?):img_1769

Pig farm in the back:img_1852

The papa and mama pigs were camera-shy when I was there. They’re huge in person, I think they’re about 250 lbs. 

It’s been 3 days since I’m back from my trip and I’m settling back into my routine.

I flew over 30,000 miles in the last 1.5 months and checked off many things from my travel bucket list!  I am taking my time to go back to my normal here 🙂

I compiled a list of my Travel Entries since my blog is hard to scroll back to old entries so I organized the links there.

SF > Chicago > Paris/Belgium > SF > New Mexico > SF > Myanmar > Vietnam > Singapore > Cambodia > Thailand > SF

I’m glad I kept a journal here.  It really helped me remember many things that I would’ve forgotten if I didn’t write them down.  We saw some travelers who journaled in physical books but I had the advantage of posting pictures along with my thoughts…. A picture is worth a thousand words right? 🙂 I normally take too many random pictures on trips, but they are usually forgotten and saved forever on my computer and never seen the light of day again.  I’m glad to have the blog to share our experiences with my family and friends and those from the web who found my entries interesting.

Paris holds a special place in my heart since V and I got engaged there on New Year’s Eve.  But for the purpose of this post, I’ve put more thoughts on the Asia trip alone, and here are some of my opinions on the countries we visited on our Asia trip (minus Taipei because it’s a layover.)  Keep in mind that we were there for only three weeks total, so my opinion of each country was based on the short amount of time I spent in each place.  So please don’t be offended if you feel differently about the place and I would love to hear your thoughts especially if you disagree with something I wrote.

Countries I visited: Myanmar, Vietnam, Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand

Most exciting country to try new food: Vietnam

Favorite food in general:  Myanmar (always ;))

Most scenic: Phi Phi Islands

Least favorite destination: Phuket island

Dirtiest in general: Myanmar

Cleanest: Singapore

Most developed: Singapore

Most underdeveloped: Can Tho and Bagan (Myanmar)

Worst traffic: Phuket

Least favorite thing ever on trip: Squat toilets and toilets without paper OR water. Luckily I didn’t have to use any sh**hole toilets on this trip.

Least amount of international tourists: Yangon and Can Tho

Friendliest, most helpful locals: Myanmar and Vietnam

Friendliest tourists: Americans without a doubt

Cheapest alcoholic drink: 50 cents for a draft beer in Cambodia

Most expensive alcoholic drink: $15US for a draft beer and $17US for a glass of house wine in Singapore (I would be forever sober if I live there)

Cheapest food: Bagan (Myanmar)

Most expensive food: Singapore

What I missed the most about SF/home: family, friends, cleanliness, cool weather, home-cooked vegetarian meals, running routine, and just not having to live out of my luggage.

Most unusual things seen: dead kitten on the street in Phuket, many “no durian” signs posted in public areas in many of the countries we visited, hundreds of rats being sold in a big cage on a street of Can Tho, motorcycles driving against traffic and not getting hit in Saigon, having live-in maids in Yangon homes at most of my relatives (not unusual to me since its normal in Yangon but may be so weird to others), snail face cream (popular in Thailand and sold everywhere)

Favorite food items I ate on the entire Asia trip: See below. These food stood out to me the MOST and I would eat them over and over and over again!

Pae Palata (refried peas with flat roti)img_0398

Seafood in Yangonimg_0879

Kaya Toast in Singapore

SO GOOOOOOOOOD – sweet cream butter  with pineapple jam insideimg_1063

Dry Hu Tieu in Saigon w/ blanched Tong Oh vegetables on the side.

Banh Cuon in Saigonimg_1262

Rice dumpling at Rex Hotelimg_1421

Roasted rice paper snack in Can Thoimg_2247

Green curry in Phuket

Several people asked me what my favorite country was on my Asia trip.  It’s very hard to answer this because every country we went to were different in big ways.  There were temples, beaches, urban cities, rural towns, etc.  and I have sentimental attachment to certain places and V was the same with certain places. I cannot pick one favorite place because they all have their own charms.  My least favorite was easily Phuket and I’m so glad we weren’t there for our honeymoon because it would’ve disappointed us greatly.  (But we LOVED Phi Phi Islands.)  I enjoyed Vietnam more than I expected.  I enjoyed Thailand less than I expected.  But then Thailand was my last stop after a very long trip and I had food poisoning there, so I may be biased with my opinion there.  I would definitely go back to Thailand some day.

This wraps up my travel posts for now.  Mission accomplished 😉 !


Happy Lunar New Year to everyone who celebrates it! My cousins in Taipei said they’re off from work for the entire week for the New Year!

I had over 10 hours of layover in Taipei on my way back to SF. I decided to visit my relatives in Taipei. My little cousins picked me up and they took me to Taipei 101 World Trade Center.  It’s that tall building right there at the center of Taipei.

I’d never been to Taipei. The only time I’ve been to Taiwan previously was also during a layover in 2013. A friend came to see me at airport and took me to a mall at Taiyuan which is near the airport.

This time I have a longer layover and I decided to take advantage of it to go to the city.  But because it’s new year’s eve here, the city was really, really quiet. Many people have gone back to their hometown or were with their families at home.

Taipei 101 is of course huge and one of the major landmarks in Taipei’s skyline.

While the streets were quiet, there were a ton of people waiting to go up to the observatory.  It was 40 minutes estimated wait just to purchase tickets, so we decided not to go up.

It has 3 or 4 floors of high-end shops. Chanel, Cartier, you name it they have it.

Not many people were shopping at the stores. But the food court on the first floor was packed at 3pm. 

I would’ve never thought Chicago’s Garrett would open a location in Taipei.  My cousin wanted to try it but the line was one and a half hour long. Umm, what?!?! 

We got some XLBs to go from Din Tai Fung (10minute wait only for to-go orders) 

Pork XLBs and Shrimp XLBs

So good and juicy with rich broth inside!

My cousins said this fried chicken place is really popular here, so we had some to-go. It’s good! It’s marinated in Asian flavored marinade, battered, and fried. A little sweet. The place’s name is 1973. 

And that was pretty much it for touring Taipei. Haha.

We went to my aunt’s place and I stayed for a hotpot.

I enjoyed this black tea caramel macaron from TWG Tea. It’s so rich and good even though it turned my tongue blue 😋 

A couple of hours later, I went back to the airport to catch the flight back to SF.  I saw 4-5 fireworks happening along the way.

The airport was pretty quiet and empty.  That’s not so surprising! It is New Year’s Eve afterall.


Miniature of Taipei 101


China Air served two meals back to SF and one of them was a “special Chinese New Year” meal which was an incredibly small meal.

Now I’m back in SF and seriously jetlagged!  
Thanks for following our journey through Paris and South East Asia! I will not abandon the blog just because I’m done with traveling for a while. I will continue to write random bits happening in my life. Stay tuned 😁 I will also gather some thoughts to summarize the major takeaways from the trip.

First I need to get back into running shape and maybe I will even be motivated to chase the dream of breaking 1:40 in half marathon this year… uhh maybe, fingers crossed! And get my life back in order!


End of the trip is here. We started in Chicago on Christmas Eve and we’ve been around the globe from Europe, to back to the US, to Asia.

We spent the last day of my Asia trip in Bangkok (V continues for three more weeks in Asia.)  Bangkok was not originally planned but I still needed to come to Bangkok in order to fly back to San Francisco, so we decided to spend a night here.

We checked into Best Western Premier.  

I learned that the US hotel chains like Best Western and Holiday Inns are pretty nice hotels outside of the US.

As we were drinking our pineapple juice at the bar, a transgender woman who works there (one of many) walked by and posed for a selfie with us 🙂  

My first impression of Bangkok was that it’s a lot more developed than I expected. It has many high risers and is also clean and traffic was organized (for Southeast Asian standard.) 

We took ARL railway and then MRT to get to central Bangkok.  The train stations and trains were very clean, organized, and efficient! What a surprise! That’s how little I knew about Bangkok. 

The pink cabs are cute!   

We crossed this river to get to Chinatown from MRT station.  It looks like someone already started a love lock trend.

Since the Lunar New Year is tomorrow, we wanted to see what’s happening in Chinatown.


The streets were decorated as expected and there were so many street stands selling food.  

We had some street food:      

We walked by one of many Thai temples. It looked magnificent.


We then took MRT to Si Lom Road. 


We saw a mall so we went in to check it out. It turned out to be a pretty big mall.    

I like the Daiso here. The items carried here are different from their US stores.   

After some more strolling and shopping, we took MRT back to our hotel. (Anyone else finds this amusing?)


Went to the pool at the hotel.  Bangkok weather felt comfortable in high 70s, that meant the water was not very warm. We swam some laps and played then quickly left. 


For dinner, we walked to a restaurant closed by and luckily the food was pretty awesome!


So much coconut milk in their seafood tom yum soup! We put rice in it to eat.


And the karaoke party was getting started as we were eating. I participated in two songs which V didn’t recognize because I’m a horrible singer. 


And that’s all, folk. The end of the trip.

I have a 10.75 hour layover in Taipei tomorrow so I will be visiting some relatives on Chinese New Year. Maybe I’ll see some interesting stuff but I won’t be staying out there very long.

I have some more updates on the trip so stick around… 

Our last full day in Phuket.  Since we enjoyed enough of sun and sea yesterday, we took it very easy and relaxing today. We had our hotel breakfast buffet. Not too exciting but acceptable.


We spent the morning hanging out by the pool. We went to the Jungceylon shopping mall in Patong area in the early afternoon.  It’s a really big shopping mall consisted of 4 buildings. It reminded me of Sentosa in Singapore.


We did some shopping for snacks.  

And some pastries. Like 6 pastries for breakfast tomorrow…

A dragon fruit to eat later. Possibly my last dragon fruit on this trip.  

And we did some other shopping for knick knacks.  It’s a nice shopping mall with good working ACs. Always a big 👍in my book!

For lunch, we went to the mall’s Food Bazaar.  They’re decorated for Lunar New Year.  Or maybe this is their everyday theme. I’m not really sure.  

It’s basically a food court. I chose this rice plate place and ordered a green curry and broccoli stir-fry. She made the broccoli stir-fry fresh in the wok after I ordered. And she heated up the green curry also in the wok for each order.


The curry and broccoli were both really, really tasty. 


V got Hainan chicken and fried chicken with garlic rice from another place. It looked simple but tasted really good as well! Wikipedia says Phuket’s most notable cuisine is Malay-Chinese. That’s why we saw many hokkien and Singaporean dishes today at the food court. 

Mango with sticky rice for dessert! I like the coconut cream they poured over it.  

This was for sure for the lunar new year. Still not sure about the food court’s decoration. 


Stopped by a KFC for a soft serve since we don’t have that at our KFC back home.


While we were browsing through the shops, we stumbled upon this XD theatre calling out our names for an illusion thrilling ride. It was 7 minutes of screaming fun for us. We realized afterwards that there’s a live cam of us posted outside in the mall!

My manicure from Cambodia started to look really awful. I don’t know what brand they used but dirt kept sticking to my already chipped polish.

While we were walking in the mall, I passed by a nail salon that uses OPI and CND nail polishes. So I opted for a gel manicure 😁 I’ve never gotten a gel manicure before so that was cool.  They supposedly last 3 weeks.  The girls were so cute and nice. They asked me where I’m from. I said America. And they said “but you look Asian!” 

I love how smooth and flawless the gel manicure looks.  

After we were done with the mall, we walked down the Bangla Street. It’s known for wild night life but it’s not that crazy during the day. Just a bunch of bars and shops.


Saw some street food stands too.  

We came back to hotel and enjoyed the pool for a bit. 

Later for dinner, we went back to Pad Thai Shop again. We both got Pad Thai. It’s so good.  It’s not overly sweet and noodles were done right.  I can’t think of any Pad Thai I’ve had that’s better than this, so I’m going to claim this THE best Pad Thai I’ve ever had. (Many people on Tripadvisor claims this as well!)


Big bowl  

And we had cake and dragon fruit by the pool (taking advantage of easy access to pool one last time.) 

Our stay in Phuket had its ups and downs but we made many memories for those reasons. Tomorrow we will fly to Bangkok for a day.    


Today we went on an all-day tour of Phi Phi Islands. We started with a safety briefing from our tour guide.


Our speedboat was already waiting for us. Her name is Sofiya.   The boat ride from Phuket to Phi Phi Islands is normally 2 hour long. With a speedboat, it’s 45minutes to an hour.


And off we went! One thing we noticed right away was the number of Americans in our tour group. 14 out of 18 were Americans.  Everyone was under 40. It was a fun crowd.  

We arrived at Maya Bay as our first stop. Our guide said we came early to avoid the crowd.    

We took some pics and swam toward the end of the rope. Since I only have my iPhone for photos, I didn’t take that many pictures today. It’s nice to take some photos, put the camera away, and just enjoy the moment.


GoPro picture from V. Maya Bay was just as I expected. It’s breathtaking and is the reason I am in Thailand!

Because it’s so beautiful, it’s no surprise that it’s very popular. Within 15 minutes after we took our photos and swam back to shore, it’s gotten more crowded on the beach.  

We walked into the jungle behind Maya Bay. It has interesting trees.  I felt like I was on an island in Life of Pi. (Random)   

It has a view point to look out to the bay. There were people snorkeling.


We left Maya Bay and were taken to a snorkeling spot.


It was near big rock formations. We saw schools of fishes and a seaturtle! Some people saw baby sharks but we missed them. I probably would freak out. I got stung by baby jelly fish several times. They felt like electric shocks.  

After snorkeling, our boat passed by Viking Cave which is famous for the bird nest collection.

Our third activity was at Pileh Lagoon to  jump off boat and climb up the rocks for those who dare. I don’t dare climbing and I’m definitely not fit for that.  So I jumped. First jump went down lousily.


I jumped two more times while everyone was watching the rock climbers 😁

Second jump was satisfactory. Feet down first.


Third jump was close to “corgi flop.” I was going for a head-down dive but instead this awkward flop happened.  


It hurt!! And my goggles flew off and I lost them.

Our third stop was a quick visit to the monkeys by the beach. We fed them Longans. They’re so cute and chubby! They’re probably well-fed by the tourists.  

Then we were well-fed by the tour.  It was a good spread of Thai dishes. My favorites were green curry and sautéed shrimps in spicy sauce.  There were also Massaman curry and Tom Kha Gai.  I was so happy to have my appetite back, almost to full capacity.  

Our last two activities were on or near Bamboo Island. It felt like a private island because it’s pretty quiet and no crowds.    

I enjoyed some alone time on the rocks in water after the photo was taken. It was hard to swim or walk in barefoot there (maybe it explains why this beach doesn’t get crowded.) 

V had his water shoes on so he was able to walk over the rocks and snorkeled in deeper water.

I stayed on the shore to relax in the shade until it was time to go to our last stop.

We were taken to our second snorkel spot. This spot was a lot more beautiful than the first one. The reefs were huge, I had never thought they could be that big. And when the sun shone, the colors and patterns came to life.  It was as if I was in a cartoon that came to life. So many reefs so close to us.

We could not capture the reefs in pictures. They were gigantic and cartoony. And so many sea urchins. 


Back in shallow water. 


We snorkeled for about 45 minutes but I wanted to go for at least another hour. I didn’t want to come back to boat!

That was the end of our Phi Phi Islands tour from 6am to 5pm. There are hundreds of tours that go there and we were so glad to have chosen this one. It’s highly rated on Tripadvisor and must be well-loved among Americans. We saw other tour boats full of Asian tourists (very loud 😒) and tour boats full of European tourists.  It made me wonder how they happened to be not diversed.

They dropped us off back at our hotel. I enjoyed a bottle of wine cooler in the pool.     

And for dinner, we went back to The Pad Thai Shop and we both had beef noodle soup.


The noodles were so thin, we were not expecting that.   The soup was so delicious and we pretty much ate in silence (rare for us lol) until the last sip.

We walked back to our hotel in pouring rain without an umbrella. It was all worth it 😅


Our second day in Thailand was MUCH better than the first. We loved the tour and highly recommend it!

Captain Mark’s Phi Phi Islands by Speedboat


So I’ve been hit with a stomach bug 😭 it started yesterday as we were traveling from Cambodia to Phuket.

Our hotel is in Kata and Karon beach area.  We booked a room that has its own pool and we are loving it! We’re not at a luxury hotel, we are paying $65 a night! Maybe that’s considered luxury here, I do not know.   


For dinner previous night, I had absolutely no appetite and knew it’s a start of food poisoning.  I had about a third of my tom yum soup and didn’t want anything else.  I couldn’t eat, it meant more crab for V. I had a bite of the crab and the meat tasted really sweet. I just wished I could enjoy it more.

Pad Thai was not great. Noodles were undercooked and too sweet (normal sweetness but I dislike pad Thai that are too sweet.)

And this is the tom yum soup that I couldn’t finish because my stomach was really off. My taste buds told me it tasted good but I didn’t enjoy it. FML. The broth was creamy and I would really love it if I weren’t sick.

Something we noticed right away was the amount of European tourists in Phuket the moment we stepped onto the plane here. Here at the restaurant, we saw some old, really really old and sleazy looking European man, drinking with a Thai girl at the bar. V said to look away as its normal here.  I just felt so sad for the girl because she was laughing at something the man said and seemed as if she’s having a good time. Maybe she was, who knows, but we know what kind of work she was doing.

First night was just that. Walked to dinner, then to pharmacy to get some medicine for me, 711 to buy some water and we called it a night.

This morning, we got up and had hotel’s breakfast buffet which was decent but my appetite was still off. I felt much better than last night though.

And we walked to Kata Beach 15 minute walk away.

We chose a spot that’s not too crowded. We did very little lounging and mostly swimming/dipping in the ocean.  

The water was cool to first touch but it’s very nice once you’re in. 

I actually felt like myself  again when I got in the water!  I didn’t swim, I just walked around in water and soaked.

Water was soooooo nice!

Then we walked 20 minutes over to Karon Beach where the water is bluer but it’s also more crowded.

There were people walking around in thongs and obese men in speedo.

Thongs and speedos are probably considered proper beach attires in some cultures but in Americans’ eyes, they are eye sores. Actually I saw more speedos than thongs today.  Some speedo-wearing men have their belly skin sagged down to their balls, I’m not even kidding.   I now really appreciate American men for wearing swim trunks.

V enjoyed some snorkeling and saw schools of fishes! I tried to swim there but got scared once I got to the site because it was very steep and waves were strong.   I swam back to the shore.

We were done with playing in the ocean by 11:30am. My appetite was still lacking in a big way. I had TWO coconuts (coconut water and flesh) for lunch. That’s all my stomach could handle.

V had some pad sew and steamed clams, both were forgettable. Thai iced tea he got was mostly condensed milk.  We were directly in a European tourist streets and most of the restaurants there have Russian menu and have food like pizza and spaghetti. Thai food is not a focus in the food scene near the beaches we went to.

So I started to wonder if we are just at the wrong place but a little Internet search confirmed that Phuket island has an influx of Russian tourists and the businesses here feel threatened by the Russian mob here.  The tourists we’ve seen are mostly old, trashy, and rude. We didn’t see as many young people.

V bought me a bag of jello from supermarket.  How did he know that’s exactly what I needed?!

These were my favorite as a child. When I was young, my parents let me and my siblings have only one piece each at a time to control our sweet tooth.  I remember I told myself that when I’m older, I will buy a whole bag and eat then all to myself.  That dream had been forgotten for over 20 years and today it came true 😁

But in terms of finding good food, we will just have to avoid certain touristy streets in the future.

So for dinner tonight, we found a non-tourist restaurant just 10 minute walk from our hotel and outside of the tourist streets.

(Oh there’s a dog taking crap in this pic, hehe)  

The restaurant has all local customers.

I had chicken krapow medium spicy but it’s more like level 10 spicy. I liked it but my stomach was burning. I was able to eat half of it! It was the first real meal I had in 24 hours.

V had Pad Thai (the restaurant’s specialty) and it’s pretty legit! So much better than what he had previous night.

We are planning to come back here again to try other things!

After dinner, we had to stop by street stands for some BBQ and Thai iced tea boba.  We brought those back to our room and had them by the pool 😄 I only had some of the milk tea, it’s slushy and so refreshing.  
Tomorrow we are going on a boat tour to visit a few islands including Phi Phi Islands. I will not get my hopes up but I am hoping it will be better than Phuket.  It will be a busy day!