Dalia Ceja

Dalia Ceja is a Latina in love with sharing lifestyle tips and trends focused on fashion, travel, food, drinks and fiestas.

Thailand Guide Part Two - Chiang Mai

TravelDalia CejaComment
Exploring the Elephant Nature Park with these beauties

Exploring the Elephant Nature Park with these beauties

Chiang Mai, Thailand – also referred to the “Rose of the North” embodies delicate beauty with endless mountains, colorful hill tribes, a playground for seasoned travelers, a paradise for shopaholics and a delicious delight for adventure seekers. Part two of our trip was underway and I couldn’t wait to hit the ground running. Two things were absolutely for certain in our itinerary: visit the Elephant Nature Park and enroll in the Chiang Mai Thai Farm Cooking School.

After two full days in Bangkok, we were ready for a change of scenery of semi relaxation filled with non-stop eating, drinking and exploration. In comparison to the bustling streets of Bangkok, Chiang Mai has a tranquil, mystical and welcoming energy that instantaneously makes you feel at home. We had three full days to explore this ancient city surrounded by history that dates back to the 1200’s. Pretty rad!

Chiang Mai, Day 1 Itinerary:
Agenda: Explore the surrounding ancient temples, get a Thai massage and find the best Thai food

11am - Flight arrives to Chiang Mai - the adventure begins!

11:45am - 4:00pm - Check into hotel & hire taxi driver to explore the temples
Hotel: We stayed at the Jangmuang Boutique House selected for it’s traditional “Lanna Style” architecture located in the Old City and situated in walking distance to Nimmanhaemin Road – the epicenter of artsy and hipster Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai is overflowing with ancient Buddhist Temples (Wats), and within the city and its outskirts, there are over 300 temples that reflect the glory of the ancient Lanna kingdom. Considering our limited time, we selected to explore: Wat Chedi Luang (built around the 1400’s), Wat Phra Singh (best example of Lanna Style architecture and culture) and the Wat Suan Dok (home to the brilliant gold and white Chedis and campus of the Buddhist Monk University). Each Wat showcases intricate carvings, stunning gold Buddhas, painted murals and a colorful display of monks assembled for prayer. I couldn’t get enough!

Beautiful gold and white Chedis at the Wat Suan Dok Temple

Beautiful gold and white Chedis at the Wat Suan Dok Temple

Black stone Buddha figure at the Wat Phra Singh

Black stone Buddha figure at the Wat Phra Singh

Wat Chedi Luang - oldest standing temple built in the 1400s

Wat Chedi Luang - oldest standing temple built in the 1400s

Wat Phra Singh Library

Wat Phra Singh Library

4:00pm - 5:00pm - Take a power break and cool off at your hotel/hostel or neighborhood watering hole for some Chang beer + Thai snacks.

5:15 - 6:30pm - Book a traditional Thai Massage. There are literally hundreds of Thai massage parlors scattered throughout the city walls. Depending on your comfort level, you can choose an air-conditioned parlor or enjoy an outdoor massage on the streets painted with people, bars, restaurants and shops. The most attractive part is the cost. Dirt-cheap friends! A 60-minute massage costs less than $10 US. I highly recommend entertaining a daily massage (we did!).

7:00pm - 9:00pm - Indulge in some delicious Thai grub. Chiang Mai is known for its culinary arts and for all you serious foodies out there you will be in absolute heaven! Through various recommendations, we decided to try Lemongrass Restaurant located off the famous Night Bazaar. It was a hit! We feasted on tasty charred octopus skewers, Pad See Ew noodles and yellow curry with chicken. Amazing first dinner in Chiang Mai!

Chiang Mai, Day 2 Itinerary:                                                                                                                     Agenda: Visit the Elephant Nature Park, find the best Thai food and walk through the Night Bazaar

7:30am - 8:00am - Enjoy a Thai breakfast (hot chicken broth + noodles + fruit + coffee) and wait to get picked up at your hotel/hostel to drive to the Elephant Nature Park.

9:00am - 11:45pm - Arrive to Elephant Nature Park. Dedicate the first part of the morning feeding the rescue elephants. Incredible experience!

Elephant Nature Park is an elephant rescue and rehabilitation center located in the outskirts of Chiang Mai where you can volunteer and visit to help the gentle giants. Before traveling to Asia, I always wanted to ride an elephant not knowing that elephants were being mistreated, beaten, starved and abused. This rehabilitation center rescues elephants that once belonged to circuses, logging camps and other entertainment based companies. There is absolutely NO RIDING of elephants. Period.

Rescue elephants bathing at the Elephant Nature Park

Rescue elephants bathing at the Elephant Nature Park

Largest elephant herd playing in the mud and cooling off. This day was 97 degrees + humidity

Largest elephant herd playing in the mud and cooling off. This day was 97 degrees + humidity

Hanging in the river with 'Happy" the elephant. incredible experience!

Hanging in the river with 'Happy" the elephant. incredible experience!

Baby elephant + family enjoying some fresh fruit

Baby elephant + family enjoying some fresh fruit

12:00pm – 1:30pm – Lunch fit for kings and queens! Enjoy a delicious and healthy Thai buffet including all the classic curries, noodles, soups and sautéed veggies (lunch is incorporated in the cost of the tour).

1:45pm – 5:00pm – Take a long walk throughout the preserve following the gentle giants in their natural habitat. You’ll have a chance to encounter a variety of other animals including buffalos, dogs and cats that were rescued due to similar misfortunes. My favorite part of the day included hiking to the river and giving them a bath! What a privilege it was to feed, walk and help bathe these beauties in a safe and healthy environment. What a dream come true!

7:00pm – 9:30pm – Dinnertime at Cooking Love Restaurant. We discovered Trip Advisor to be an excellent source of information when narrowing down a selection of restaurants for dinner. We were famished and Cooking Love stole the show with its signature and exotic mango infused curries and pineapple-fried rice. What a feast for the eyes and stomach!

10pm - 12am – Explore the Night Bazaar. This fashionista, artisan jewelry and fabric lover couldn’t get enough. It's the best market to buy beautiful Thai clothes, rugs, colorful jewelry, bags, spices and much more! I did the majority of my souvenir and personal shopping here. It stretches until the eye can see and also proved to be an excellent location to people watch. 

Chiang Mai, Day 3 Itinerary:                                                                                                                     Agenda: Attend the Chiang Mai Thai Farm Cooking School and check out a Lady Boy Cabaret Show

7:30am – rise and shine, it’s cooking class time!

8:00am - 9:00am – Enjoy a Thai breakfast and get picked up at your hotel/hostel to drive to the Chiang Mai Thai Farm Cooking School.

For those that know me well, they understand my love affair with Thai cuisine and exotic flavor combinations. My enthusiasm to learn classic Thai dishes had been on my bucket list for years and having the opportunity to learn in Thailand was thrilling.

Chiang Mai Thai Farm Cookbook + Homeade Sticky Mango Rice

Chiang Mai Thai Farm Cookbook + Homeade Sticky Mango Rice

Organic Farms at the Chiang Mai Thai Cooking School

Organic Farms at the Chiang Mai Thai Cooking School

Homemade Pad Thai Noodles. Delicious!

Homemade Pad Thai Noodles. Delicious!

Yellow Curry with Chicken + Sweet Basil Thai Chicken + Chang Beer. Yes, please!

Yellow Curry with Chicken + Sweet Basil Thai Chicken + Chang Beer. Yes, please!

10:00am – 4:00pm – Class in session. In an intimate 10-person class, we started the day by taking a tour of the organic garden where the school grew all of its herbs, limes and certain produce utlilized in most dishes. Our teacher’s name was “Yummy” and it couldn’t be more perfect. Our demonstration kitchen was located al fresco with a cooking station dedicated to each student.

From start to finish we learned the key basics of classic Thai cooking. We had the option to select 5 dishes to prepare (and eat along the way). My menu consisted of: Tom Yam Kung Soup, Chicken Pad Thai, Yellow Curry with Chicken, Fried Chicken with Basil Leaves and Sticky Mango Rice for dessert. Hungry yet?

Since returning home we’ve recreated the magic of Thailand and prepared the same menu we learned at the Thai school for a Mother’s Day Brunch in Napa Valley. Let’s just say our families were impressed and left the brunch with happy tummies and smiles.

5:00 – 6:00pm - Take a power break and cool off at your hotel/hostel or neighborhood watering hole for some Chang beer or refreshing cocktails.

8:00pm – 10:00pm – Watch a LadyBoy Cabaret Show. Night owls have the opportunity to watch the most entertaining show in Chiang Mai! We did and so worth the hype. Located in the Night Bazaar the nightly show features some of Chiang Mai’s prettiest and liveliest lady boys. The performers sing, dance and put on a vibrant show while dressed up in outrageous dresses, full make up and wigs. Yes, please! You might even get a kiss on the cheek. 

Gorgeous (and hot) sunset in Chiang Mai

Gorgeous (and hot) sunset in Chiang Mai

72 hours in Chiang Mai proved to be too short. My heart ached to stay longer but the islands and beaches were calling my name. Next up, Island hopping in Phuket, Koh Phi Phi Island and Railay Beach. Stay tuned for part three of my adventures in Thailand!

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Thailand Guide Part One - Bangkok

TravelDalia CejaComment
Beautiful Buddha images in the Wat Pho

Beautiful Buddha images in the Wat Pho

My trip to Thailand was simply, incredible. I instantaneously fell in love with this vibrant and exotic country steeped in history, rich culture and delicious cuisine! For years, I’ve been itching to explore this beautiful nook of Southeast Asia, which inspired me to get a tattoo in Thai script – Live Your Passions – a few years ago. My excitement grows as I write this, making me nostalgic that I’m not there now but ecstatically happy and fortunate that I went on an extraordinary adventure that will never be forgotten.                                                                                                                              

Since returning home I've had many inquiries about my travel itinerary and daily highlights so I decided to share my two-week itinerary and tips focusing on Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Koh Phi Phi Island and Railay Beach in three installments! My partner-n-crime on this trip was my bf Chase and with much anticipation we dove right into this exotic place. Let's begin in Bangkok, where we hit the ground running doing what we do best: eating, drinking, exploring and documenting beautiful moments and places in every neighborhood.

Bangkok, Day 1 Itinerary:
Agenda: Visit The Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho, 24-hour flower market and Moon Bar for sunset.                                                                                                                                              

7:00am – Rise and shine - the adventure begins!
Hotel: We stayed at the cozy and lovely Sala Arun Boutique Hotel located in the heart of The Old City situated along the Chao Phraya River overlooking the Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn). Bonus: it’s in walking distance to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho.                                                                       

A note about Thai breakfast: traditional western breakfast doesn’t really exist. You could have fried rice or pad see ew noodles with a fried egg on top (I was perfectly happy with those options accompanied by a side of fresh fruit and coffee!).                                                                    

Weather: April in Thailand is hot. I mean you could probably crack an egg on the streets and make Pad Thai with it (no joke). Sunblock, hats and water are a must for exploring this concrete jungle by day.

Breakfast balcony overlooking The Temple of The Dawn

Breakfast balcony overlooking The Temple of The Dawn

8:30am – Touring The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha)  

Dress code: ladies and gents make sure to dress appropriately and cover your shoulders and knees. If you aren’t dressed suitably they will allow you to borrow some clothes. This applies to the majority of sacred temples you visit throughout Thailand – however, not so fun in 95-degree heat.    

The Grand Palace: majestic and beautiful in every aspect that you can imagine. The architecture, Buddha figures, art and history are astonishing. Every corner you turn is surrounded by history so dated you feel like you are walking back in time. Crowds were intense that day so if you think Disneyland is overwhelming prepare yourself. Take your time and enjoy yourselves, you're walking through some seriously cool history!

Yaksha giants guarding the entrance to the Wat Phra Kaew

Yaksha giants guarding the entrance to the Wat Phra Kaew

Golden guardians protecting The Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Golden guardians protecting The Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Hindu figures at The Grand Palace

Hindu figures at The Grand Palace

11:00am - Walk to the Wat Pho from the Grand Palace (The Temple of the Reclining Buddha)
This temple was my favorite historical landmark that we visited in Bangkok. It’s one of the oldest temples in the city and home to more than one thousand Buddha images as well as the largest gold plated Reclining Buddha measuring 150 feet (46 m) in length. For someone who loves history and beauty, you'll be in complete awe.

Buddha galleries at the Wat Pho

Buddha galleries at the Wat Pho

The Chedis at the Wat Pho. Colorful, graceful and embellished in ceramic tile

The Chedis at the Wat Pho. Colorful, graceful and embellished in ceramic tile

Temple of the Reclining Buddha. An imposing reminder of the Buddha's passing into nirvana (the Buddha's death)

Temple of the Reclining Buddha. An imposing reminder of the Buddha's passing into nirvana (the Buddha's death)

1:30pm - Lunch - Escape the heat and find some killer Thai food!
After thoroughly exploring the surrounding temples we were considerably famished and hot and set out to find our first authentic Thai lunch. We walked across the street from the Wat Pho and nestled ourselves into one of the local restaurants. We shared a Tom Kha soup, green curry and pad thai w/ shrimp and washed it down with some extra cold Chang beer. For someone who doesn't really drink beer, I quickly became a HUGE beer fan in Thailand. Beer was the only refreshing beverage that quenched my thirst. Wine just didn’t do the trick in such blazing temperatures. I happily enjoyed my fair share of local Thai beers which included: Chang, Leo and Singha.

3:00pm - Walk through a 24-hour flower market
After cooling off we went in search of the largest 24-hour flower market in Bangkok. With luck on our side we discovered it was located a few blocks from our hotel. On our walk we encountered and bought our first street food find: mango sticky rice and fresh coconut ice cream. Delicious and so cheap!                                                                                                                                                    

A note about currency: Baht is very cheap. You can live like a king and queen in Thailand for very little money. We spent the most Baht on accommodations, excursions and alcoholic beverages. Upon arrival to the flower market I was immediately blown away by the hundreds of colorful flower stands selling every type of gorgeous flower imaginable! This was my happy place.

Largest 24-hour flower market in Bangkok

Largest 24-hour flower market in Bangkok

Hundreds of colorful flower stands. Amazing!

Hundreds of colorful flower stands. Amazing!

Locals selling flowers 24 hours a day

Locals selling flowers 24 hours a day

4:30pm - Siesta time
Take an air conditioned break at your hotel/hostel or local bar.
 
6:00pm - Head to Moon Bar to watch the sunset (one of the highest rooftop bars in Bangkok)
Take in the cities electric skyline while sipping on a classy and delicious cocktail. Cucumber gimlet was my pick of choice and the views were insane!

Sunset at Moon Bar. Incredible views + cocktails

Sunset at Moon Bar. Incredible views + cocktails

Bangkok, Day Two Itinerary:
Agenda: Visit Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Khao San Road, Red Light District               

7:30am - Rise and shine!
Breakfast + Thai coffee (Thailand makes deliciously strong coffee everywhere!)                       

8:00am - Get picked up at your hotel/hostel from a tour company to visit a floating market
We used this company.
                                                                                                                       

9:15am - Arrive at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
It's located in the outskirts of Bangkok but well worth the drive. Bangkok is known, as the "Venice of the East" with its numerous canals and rivers. A beautiful market where locals sell everything from produce, food and clothes all on long tail canoes. Awesome experience! I couldn't resist buying a fresh coconut and mango ice cream and Chang beer. It's also a great spot to buy beautiful Thai clothes, rugs + artisan jewelry. I wanted to take everything home!

Birds eye view of the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Birds eye view of the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Locals selling fruit on long tail canoes. Best purchase: mango sticky rice + coconut ice cream

Locals selling fruit on long tail canoes. Best purchase: mango sticky rice + coconut ice cream

Nicknamed "Venice of the East." Beauty + perspective from every direction

Nicknamed "Venice of the East." Beauty + perspective from every direction

1:30pm - Get dropped off at hotel/hostel from touring company
We immediately hailed down a tuk tuk and made our way to Khao San Road in search of some street food and entertainment. Khao San Road has a reputation as the ultimate backpacker party hub and has been known across Southeast Asia for decades. Budget guesthouses, internet cafes, bars, restaurants, massage parlors, travel agents, bookshops, market stalls, tattoo shops and hawkers line the 1km stretch of mayhem. You want to party hard, go here!

The Pink Pony Tuk Tuk. In route to Khao San Road

The Pink Pony Tuk Tuk. In route to Khao San Road

Street food in Khao San Road

Street food in Khao San Road

5:00pm - Head back to hotel - recharge the batteries with a siesta and a shower               

8:30pm - Enjoy a beautiful dinner along the Chao Phraya River overlooking the Wat Arun
We found a cozy and highly rated restaurant called The Deck. Gorgeous views! Our feast included Tom kha Soup, Pad see eww and a green curry with shrimp and rice. Yum!

Dinner on the river overlooking the Wat Arun

Dinner on the river overlooking the Wat Arun

10:00pm - Night owls out in the Red Light district
After dinner we ventured to one of the world's most famous red-light districts, Patpong is where it all started (Thailand's Go-Go culture). It has even been immortalized in a James Bond chase-sequence. Its two parallel side-streets, found between Silom and Surawongse Roads, house around 100 neon-lit strip bars offering naughty shows and the famous pole-dancing entertainment. Be wary of the ping pong show... we kindly declined every offer.     

Red Light District by night

Red Light District by night

72 hours in Bangkok proved to be exciting, stimulating and magical. Part one of our adventure was almost over. Next up was Chiang Mai, snuggled into the foothills of northern Thailand. Lush in vegetation and colorful neighborhoods, Chiang Mai is a sanctuary of sorts, with a refreshing combination of city accouterments and country sensibilities. Stay tuned for the next installment of my travel adventures in Thailand!

Gold Hill Vineyard & Countryside

Travel, Food & DrinkDalia CejaComment
Gold-Hill-Vineyard-and-Countryside

Easter weekend was the perfect excuse to jet out of town and head to the countryside to visit family and spend the day exploring the quaint and charming Gold Hill located in Coloma at Marshall's Gold Discovery Park. We spent the day wine tasting and leisurely driving through the beautiful and lush green farmland. 

The best part of the day marked an impromptu stop at a goat farm as we drove back from Gold Hill Vineyard & Brewery - favorite wine tasting stop! I've always been a firm believer of enjoying the little things in life and documenting each moment spontaneously. That said, the sight and sound of these adorable baby goats brought such happiness and delight to all. Bahhhh.

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I'm excited to share that I'll be traveling to Thailand this week for the first time! I'm beyond thrilled to visit the 'Land of Smiles' where exotic foods, fascinating culture, vibrant traditions, pristine beaches, elephants, ancient temples and an endless array of adventures await us. See you soon Thailand! 

Gold-Hills-Country

Old Meets New in Sonoma Plaza

Fashion, TravelDalia CejaComment
BCBG Generation Trench Coat, Calvin Klein Dress, Franco Sarto Sandals, JCrew Necklace & Michael Kors Watch

BCBG Generation Trench Coat, Calvin Klein Dress, Franco Sarto Sandals, JCrew Necklace & Michael Kors Watch

I absolutely love juxtapositions especially when old meets new. In this case, I’m referring to my modern day spring outfit in comparison to the Mission San Francisco Solano behind me founded in 1823 by Spanish-Mexican Monks. It’s remarkable to see that we’ve gone through several eras of fashion and the mission is still standing, as well as several fashion trends. So what era am I? I’m a combination of a few and I consider my style everyday colorful Bohemian Chic. I love combining dresses with a variety of patterns and colors which express my love of fashion and the ability to combine old styles with new trends.

Shooting at this historic landmark was pretty special for two reasons: in 4th grade I selected this mission for my California history fourth grade report. Who else remembers this project? Secondly, my family is in the process of constructing our own mission/hacienda style winery paying homage to how wine was introduced to California via the missions. Stay tuned for more winery updates!

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Sonoma Plaza has always captured my heart for it's rural charm, historic significance and eclectic mix of tasting rooms, restaurants, hotels, cafes and galleries. With its winding alleyways, timeworn adobe storefronts, and historic landmarks the square boasts vast stretches of lawn that creates a lush setting for picnics, cultural activities and weekly farmers markets. Definitely one of my favorite local scenes in Sonoma's beautiful wine country! Who else agrees?

48 Hours in San Francisco

Travel, Food & DrinkDalia Ceja2 Comments
Franco Sarto Riding Boots, Alice + Olivia Dress, Banana Republic Blazer

Franco Sarto Riding Boots, Alice + Olivia Dress, Banana Republic Blazer

I've been living in and out of San Francisco since 2003 and no matter how much places, people and life evolves this city will forever have my heart. Here are a few of my favorite things, places and advice for people visiting for a quick weekend trip (mixing tourist traps + local scenes):

Day One: The Icons

1. Golden Gate Bridge. Instead of walking or biking over the bridge head over to Baker Beach in the Presidio district where a gorgeous sandy beach welcomes you with stunning views of the bridge and bay.
Tip: Great for picnicking, sun tanning (when it's hot) and taking your fur babies for a stroll. If you're lucky you might catch a glimpse of some dolphins!

2. Alamo Square Park. End the day watching the sunset at the iconic postcard-ready Victorians below Alamo Square Park.
Tip: Great for a date night. Be ready with a blanket + a bottle of vino and some GoVino cups.

3. North Beach Dinner Plans. Head over to the lively district of Washington Square Park and cruise up the hill to Don Pistos for some delicious Mexican inspired street food goodness.
Tip: Still thirsty? Night owls should cruise over to Columbus Avenue and enjoy an array of bar hopping hubs to quench your thirst.

Day Two: The Real Deal

1. Sunday Brunch in the Mission District. Head over to Foreign Cinema for a boozy brunch filled with delicious California inspired bites surrounded by a hip outdoor space screening films.
Tip: After brunch cruise over to the newly remodeled Dolores Park and find a spot to people watch and enjoy the views.

2. Golden Gate Park. Check out the newest De Young Museum art exhibit or walk across the park to the California Academy of Sciences for an afternoon of fun adult learning.
Tip: If you're feeling adventurous rent a bike on Fulton Street and cruise through the botanical gardens.

3. Dim Sum Dinner Plans. End the day in Chinatown grubbing on some of the best Dim Sum northern CA has to offer. 
Tip: Favorite Dim Sum spot includes Great Eastern Restaurant

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What's the best thing about SF? The lack of pretension for such a cosmopolitan city, the bustling yet comfortable activity in the streets, squares and parks and the diverse food scene the city has to offer.