GET TIPSY ON: BELLA LUISA

Bella Luisa

Ingredients:

Apple Slices (approx 5)

Ginger Slices (approx 5)

3 oz Lemongrass syrup

2 oz White rum

approx. 3 oz Sparkling Water

Instructions: 

In a sturdy glass muddle the apple and ginger slices with lemongrass syrup. Strain the mix into a shaker, add rum and about 3 oz of sparkling water. Lastly, mix all the ingredients together and you are ready to drink it.

Cheers!

*Recipe courtesy of Palacio del Inca, created by Alejandro

RHYTHMS OF PERU

From the heart of Lima to deep into the Sacred Valley, 'Rhythms of Peru' takes you not only to Peru's most iconic, but far beyond to experience Peruvian life off the tourist path. Filmed over the course of a month, and in collaboration with several local organizations, my wife and I were able to meet some really amazing people and participate in some really fun events. Although we visited some really amazing places, this is by no means an all encompassing portrait of the country. We did not make it to the north or the amazon this trip. I would love to go back and film a part 2 at some point. I'd like to give a special thanks to Kuoda Travel whom without their help, this film would have not been possible. 

GET TIPSY ON: PISCO SOUR

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Ingredients:

2 oz Simple Syrup

2 oz Lime Juice

0.5 oz Egg Whites

4 oz Pisco

Ice cubes

Instructions:

Combine all the ingredients in a shaker. Shake it well, first without any ice and the second time add a few ice cubes and shake it again. Pisco sour is served without any ice. The drink will be chilled but not watered down. 

Cheers!

GET TIPSY ON: IMPERIAL MULE

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Ingredients:

2 oz Ginger beer

2 oz Italia Pisco

Slice of Ginger

0.5 oz Simple syrup

05. oz Pomelo juice

Ginger Ale

Preparation:

Mixed all the ingredients in a shaker, pour into a glass and top with some Ginger Ale!

Cheers!

Recipe: courtesy of the hotel Palacio Del Inka, Peru

 

GET TIPSY ON: GRAND PALAIS

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Ingredients:

1 1/2 oz Sweet passion fruit syrup

3/4 oz Torontel Pisco

3/4 oz Lime juice

0.25 oz lemon infused Italia Pisco

Ice

Instructions: 

Mix all the ingredients together in a shaker. 

Cheers!

Recipe: courtesy of the hotel Palacio Del Inka, Peru

 

GET TIPSY ON: PERUVIAN SPRITZ

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Ingredients:

1 oz Citrus juice ( Orange and Pomelo mix)

2 oz Aperol

3 oz Sparkling white wine

0.5 oz Simple syrup

Instructions:

Mix all the ingredients and serve in a wine glass.

Cheers!

 

Recipe: courtesy of the hotel Palacio Del Inka, Peru

 
 

Mexico City travel guide

"Muy Grande" is the first thing that comes to mind when describing Mexico city. Although, it can feel a bit intimidating at first, this is a very friendly tourist destination. Like any metropolis, Mexico City is filled with amazing art, museums and beautiful buildings, but somehow Mexico City feels different than every other city. Its streets are colorful, carrying the sound of cumbia and delicious smells of food from street carts. You will never see a place more dynamic and colorful than Mexico city!

The Tipsy Gypsies stayed in Mexico City about a week and there wasn't a day that we got bored. Check out our recommendations for Mexico City!

1. Centro Historico

The main plaza at the Centro Historico is the largest plaza in Latin America. It is surrounded by historical buildings as old as the 16th century. Unfortunately, Mexico city and it's beautiful buildings are sinking, due to the fact that this city was built on an ancient lake bed by the Aztecs. You can see the deterioration with your own eyes; some buildings have sunken more than a few feet on one side, leaving the structures looking crooked.

Perhaps the most fascinating site located in Centro Historico, is Templo Mayor. It's an ancient temple built by the Aztecs. When the Spanish arrived in Mexico in the 16th century, they tried to destroy the existing culture and one of the things the Spanish did was to build over of the aztec structures. The Temp Mayor was accidentally discovered by two workers in 1978, and it has been excavated since then. New discoveries to the site are constantly being made. 

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2. Palacio de Bellas Artes

We started our tour of Mexico city by visiting the Placio de Bellas Artes. It's hard to miss this grand, white marble building located near the historical center. Not only is the building itself gorgeous, but the museum inside is filled with beautiful murals, which are quintessential in Mexican art. Palacio de Bellas Artes is a good start to get aquatinted with the work of the great muralists like Diego Rivera, Siqueiros and many others. We are not going to link any pictures of the murals here because we feel like the pictures don't do justice for expressing the scale and beauty of these masterpieces. If you are interested you can also attend dance and music performances at the Palacio de Bellas Artes.

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3. Chapultepec Castle

We visited this castle as per many guide books recommendations. We don't regret visiting this castle, but we were a bit frustrated to learn on arrival, that all the historical information was written in Spanish only. So if you love history like us, and would like to learn about this place, we recommend hiring a tour guide before going into this museum. The castle itself is very beautiful and well preserved. Since we couldn't understand any of the descriptions, we walked around enjoying the gardens and massive murals. 

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4. Xochimilco

This place is a lot of fun and is popular not only amongst tourists but locals also like coming here, especially on the weekends. What is Xochimilco? It's a series of canals where you can rent a boat and cruise around. It's not quite as glamorous as the Venice canals and gondolas in Italy, but in our opinion it's more fun. Where else can you get a giant 1.5L Michelada, buy food from vendors, and listen to the Mariachis on a boat? Only in Xochimilco!

We paid 500 pesos/per hour for the whole boat. Even though we came here during the week, and the place was dead we couldn't get a lower price. The best option is split the cost with other tourists around.  Even thought this activity was a bit expensive, we enjoyed the whole experience. 

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The Tipsy Gypsies Tips: If you come to Xochimilco be sure to visit the nearby market Mercado de Xochimilco and try some of the local specialties, like grilled corn with cheese (Elotes) or tacos. This is the spot if you are hungry!

5. Try Pulque

Let's start with explaining what Pulque is. Pulque is an alcoholic drink made from a fermented agave plant. The consistency is a bit thick/viscous, but if you can get pass that, the taste is actually quite nice. Apparently, this drink had a bad reputation for a while and many traditional Pulquerias (a bar that serves Pulque) disappeared, but luckily it is making a come back! 

Pulque comes in many different flavors: from the natural, white in color, to fruity like mango, coconut, savory like celery and even pistachio. Our friend told us that it's hard to get drunk from Pulque because the drink is almost like a meal itself, but we had 2 and fell asleep in our uber ride back home. 

The best Pulqueria in Mexico City, in our opinion, is El Temple de Diana located in Xochimilco. This place is a true local's hangout. There is a very small sign on the building, and if you didn't know what this place was you would most likely walk by it. It's like a speakeasy, but its not trying to be one. You enter the bar through some very nondescript glass doors. The floor is covered with saw dust, which apparently helps to create extra absorption against the spit on the floor, and it is easier to clean the tiled floor underneath.

As we were drinking the Pulque, a three amigos band came into the Pulqueria. We paid them to sing a few songs for us an they were great!

We left the Pulqueria feeling happy and drunk.

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6. Coyoacán Free walking Tour

We highly recommend signing up for the free walking tour of Coyoacan with Estacion Mexico. Our guide spoke perfect English, was very knowledgeable and took us to some cool spots that otherwise we would have not found on our own. The tour was about 10 people and we got to ask as many questions as we wanted. We loved it!

7. Hang out at Cafe Breria. Coffee shop and bookstore combined

These bookstores/coffee houses can be found all over Mexico city, and are very popular amongst the locals. We don't understand why this great concept is not trending anywhere else in the world.

The atmosphere is more relaxed than your typical restaurant. People come here to enjoy a quick snack or like us, a full meal. You will see couples on dates, business people and singles reading books. You are not obligated to buy any books but it is very tempting. 

The Tipsy Gypsies Tips: Try their Pozole, a vegetarian chickpea soup. It's the best thing on the menu!

8. La Casa Azul Frida Kaho Museum

The Tipsy Gypsies are big fans of Frida Kahlo, and it was sort of a dream to visit La Casa Azul. The famous blue house, where the artist grew up and now it serves as a museum. 

We tried to purchase the tickets online, but our US credit card was declined, therefore we had to wait about 30 minutes in line to buy the tickets at the museum. We arrived at the museum around noon, which was a bit late hence the long line to get in.

Although the museum was a bit crowded, it was very informative, inspirational and totally worth every penny and the wait. We also paid a bit more for the audio guide, so that we could learn more about the art, house and the fascinating life of Frida and Diego.

9. Museo Dolores Olmedo

Have we already mentioned how much we love Frida's work? There is another great museum, that not only features Frida's work but also her husband's Diego impressive art collection. At this museum you can view a private art collection that belonged to a wealthy woman, Dolores Olmedo. Dolores was an art collector and one of many Diego's lovers.

You can find many paintings here by the famous artist couple, Frida and Diego. One of the best features of this museum is the surrounding property. There are peacocks roaming around the gardens and you can see the "strange looking" hairless dogs here too. The museum it a bit outside the city, but it is an easy and cheap uber ride. Since it is a bit outside the city, you also won't find many tourists here. 

Cameras are not allowed inside the museum, but you can take as many pictures as you wish of the gardens.

10.  Visit the Art University

Academy of San Carlos, located near the historical center, is a great way to see what the talented art students are up too. When we got to the university there happened to be a nude drawing session, right in the middle of the courtyard near the entrance. We stayed till they kicked us out (just kidding nobody cared). Maybe you will get lucky to experience that too. The replicas of the famous sculptures displayed in the courtyard  are all made by the students were very impressive!

There is a great free museum on the 2nd floor that you must visit here as well. 

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We want to say big thanks to our friend Rodrigo Nieto, whom we have met in Mexico city, and was our local guide. Thank you for showing us so many great places, taking your time and making our experience in Mexico City so amazing!!!

Muchas Gracias!! 

 

 
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GET TIPSY ON: CAZUELA

The Tipsy Gypsies recently discovered this amazing drink in Guadalajara, Mexico. We would describe Cazuela as something between a traditional Margarita and Sangria, but much lighter. If you love tequila, refreshing and low sugar cocktails you will definitely love this drink.

Cazuela originally is a popular dish, similar to a stew, served across the latin Americas. Its name comes from the cazuela cooking pot (a shallow terra cotta dish with a wide opening). Some genius decided to throw some fresh fruit with tequila into the pot, making this delicious drink and its been tequila heaven ever since!!! 

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Ingredients

Serves 6 people (or two Tipsy Gypsies)

Fresh squeezed juice from 1 grapefruit

Fresh squeezed juice from 2 oranges

Fresh squeezed juice from 2-3 limes

3-4 cups of tequila blanco 

Fresh cut slices of oranges, grapefruit, lime (one of each)

Fresca, Squirt, *Jarritos or other Grapefruit Soda (about 5-6 cups)

* Jarritos is a traditional Mexican soda and it can be found in the USA in Hispanic grocery stores, but if you can't find it you can use any other grapefruit soda or even a lemon soda. 

Ice

Salt, chile spice (optional)

Straws

 

Instructions:

In a large bowl combine all the ingredients: juices, sliced fruit, tequila, ice and top it with some grapefruit soda. 

Serve the drink in a cazuela or other shallow dish with a straw. Decorate the rim of the cazuela dish with salt and chile. First cut a lime and rub it on the rim of the cazuela dish. Then dip the rim of your cazuela in a mixture of salt and chile. 

Salud!

 
 

Thai Egg Custard in a Pumpkin

We had the pleasure of learning how to make this delicious dessert in Thailand at the Sompong Thai Cooking School. We definitely recommend attending their fun cooking class when visiting Bangkok. This dessert is light, easy and relatively fast to make. If you want to know what Thailand tastes like, try this recipe below.


 

Ingredients:

1 pumpkin (500-600 gram.)

4 eggs

1 cup coconut cream

1 cup palm sugar

1/2 tsp salt

5 pandanus leaves (or 2-3 drops of vanilla extract )

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  1. Clean the pumpkin, remove the top and scrape out the seeds and membrane, but leave the flesh intact. ( you can use a thai soup spoon for this process, which makes this process fast and easy)
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, coconut cream, palm sugar, pandanus leave/or vanilla extract and salt. Mix until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Pour the custrad mixture into the prepared pumpkin, filling until about 1/4 inches from the top. ( You can also use small custard cups, instead of the pumpkin to cook the custard. Pour the custard mix into the cups and add shredded pumpkin flesh on top.
  4. Steam low heat the pumpkin in a stacker steamer or other steamer for 45-50 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the custard comes out clean. It will look set but still jiggle a bit when shaken. The custard firms up as it cool ( about 10 minutes). ( If you are using small cups, steam for about 10-15 minutes.). To prevent your pumpkin from cracking, put it in a bowl that fits nicely around it, and avoid steaming with excessive heat. After the custard is done steaming, leave it to cool before you remove it from the steamer.
  5. Cut the custard including the pumpkin "crust" into wedges and serve! Voila!

RIDING OUT MEXICO'S BIGGEST EARTHQUAKE IN A CENTURY

Doctors recommended dose: take 2oz. per shake.

Doctors recommended dose: take 2oz. per shake.

It was probably 20 minutes after checking into our 10th floor Airbnb in Mexico City when Marta asked her obligatory, "can this natural disaster happen here?" question. This time it was earthquakes. Previous choices have been tsunamis, hurricanes, landslides and of course, volcanoes. 

"Yes, I believe Mexico does have earthquakes" I replied, but I couldn't say for sure. A quick google search by Marta and our question was answered as she stared in horror at photos of the devastation from the 1985 Mexico City earthquake. The death toll from that quake varies wildly from 5,000 - 45,000. Regardless of the actual number, it was catastrophic. 

Marta then expressed concerns about us staying on the 10th floor of a building whose design she questioned. Naturally I brushed her off and said everything was fine. 

A few days later we were exploring the city with our local friend Rodrigo and the '85 earthquake came up. He reassured Marta that most buildings since then were either built or retrofitted to withstand a powerful earthquake. I'm not exactly sure how much this reassured her, but throughout the next few days she kept talking about her feeling that there would be an earthquake. I of course thought she was crazy. 

Then on the evening of September 6th we heard a loud siren blare and a message in Spanish blasted over a speaker. It reminded me of the tsunami and hurricane sirens I heard growing up on Kauai. We had no idea what it actually meant so I began searching for "Mexico City sirens" and discovered that it's a sophisticated earthquake warning system that can give you up to 60 seconds to evacuate before the quake hits. At this point it was too late to leave but luckily nothing happened. I then read further that these sirens go off all the time as false alarms and residents of Mexico City now suffer from "alarm fatigue" and so basically everyone just ignores them. None of this reassured Marta any more while we lay in bed of our 10th floor apartment.

Moving on to the night of September 7th... it was probably about midnight and I had sipped a bit of delicious tequila that evening so I was just heading off into a mariachi slumber when.....

"RRRRREEEEEEEERRRRRRR...... Atención! Something, something in Spansish...."

I looked over at Marta and told her it was going to be another false alarm and that it happens all the time so she had no need to worry. Again, she was not convinced. So I rolled back over and closed my eyes and just as I did I heard her say, "the building is moving". I opened my eyes and I definitely felt something.... but was it the building, or the tequila? 

Then I saw the suspended light start to swing. Okay... it wasn't the tequila. No worries, it will just be a small tremor. Again, I was wrong. Then the building REALLY began to sway and you could hear the walls creaking and cracking. Marta ran into the living room to find our roommate there. She asked him if he had ever experienced something like this in Mexico and he said, "never". 

I threw on a towel and joined them in the living room. As the building continued to creak and sway, we lay on the floor next to the wall. Finally, as things began to ease up, we all decided to vacate. 

So down ten flights of stairs we flew and out onto the street were we were greeted by many other frightened people. As it finally became clear that the tremors were over, I got a few giggles and laughs from those passing by as I realized I was still in just my towel. Safety before clothing right? 

After returning to our apartment and finding paint chips from the wall everywhere, we saw the damage was minimal. Looks like Rodrigo was right! Our building held up well. 

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As we lay sleeplessly in bed watching the news unfold online, we would learn that Mexico City did quite well. But unfortunately the states south of us were not so lucky. Oaxaca and Chiapas received heavy damage as they were closer to the epicenter of the 8.2 earthquake. This was the largest earthquake to hit Mexico in a century!

I must say, I am now absolutely terrified of my wife and her confirmed ability to see disasters coming. Now if she ever questions a flight we take, or a place we go, I'm going to be left shaking in my boots. 

We have since sadly watched the death toll rise from a few to almost a hundred over the last few days and now seen the pictures of the catastrophic damage to the region. Unlike Mexico City, the construction in the south is not as sophisticated and I don't think they have the early warning system either. Many people were fast asleep when the quake hit. 

But what was most surprising to use was the chance to witness this warning system they have in place in Mexico City. Coming from Los Angeles we have heard the debates of trying to build a similar system for years, yet nothing has been done. And here we are in a FAR more impoverished country than America and yet they are LIGHT YEARS ahead of LA or even San Francisco when it comes to preparedness for this type of event. 

Seeing the potential it has for saving lives I cannot fathom how this hasn't been budgeted and implemented YEARS ago. And the only answer I can come up with is yet again, politics have trumped social wellbeing. And that of course, makes me sad. So I bid you adios until next time, as I I take another sip of Cazadores and go back to playing, "Is it Tequila, or is it Tectonic?"

 
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A STROLL THROUGH GLACIER NATIONAL PARK

Even the smoke from the largest active wildfire in the U.S. (at the time) couldn't completely hide the vies of Glacier National Park. We had a lot of fun exploring this awesome place (aside from almost getting eaten by a bear and her cub!)

Visiting the UXO Museum in Luang Prabang

We love to travel because we want to learn the history of other countries and understand its people better. And after visiting the UXO museum in Luang Prabang we were reminded of why it is so important to travel and learn from others.

We visited Lunang Prabang because we read that as a UNESCO heritage site, it was a beautiful and relaxed place to stay for a while. For the first 3 days we enjoyed biking, watching (respectfully from a distance) the florescent orange robed monks as they made their way to and from the temples, swimming in waterfalls, going to the night market and eating way too many French baguettes. But this post is not about that. It’s about the brutal history of Laos and it’s people.

We visited the small but very informative UXO museum in LP (pay by donation). For those who are not familiar with the term UXO, it stands for Unexploded Ordnance. It rarely seems to be more than a paragraph in high school history books, but Laos has had an extremely difficult and tragic history. It first was under the protectorate of France, followed by a Japanese occupation during WWII, and then briefly reoccupied by France, continuing into civil war after they left, and finally was almost obliterated during the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War in Vietnam, is a well documented and talked about event and everyone for the most part knows about the atrocities that took place there and the protests that ensued in the U.S. But what you don’t hear much about, even now that it is public information, is the secret bombing campaign the U.S. led on Laos that left it the most heavily bombed country in the world.

The majority of the bombings took place along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which during the war, the communist fighters never admitted its existence. So the U.S. followed suit and denied the existence of it’s bombing campaign, because if the Trail didn’t exist, there was nothing to bomb, right? Therefor, no one knew this was happening.

The United States forces flew more than 500,000  top secret bombing operations over Laos leaving over 80 million unexploded bombies and millions of other UXO’s that at it’s current clearance rate, will take at least 100 years to make the land safe again. That’s a long time for people to pay for a war that “never happened”.

On average, one person is killed every day by a UXO and many more injured and disfigured. Laos is a very poor country, with a lot of farmland and many of the villagers either die or get injured when working in the fields. It is extremely dangerous for kids to walk to school or play in the yard. On top of that, the land and water are contaminated with chemicals that were dropped too.

Luckily there is the UXO Lao program that helps to clear the land from these dangers but if it’s going to take another 100 years to clear them all, then the program is completely underfunded and understaffed. They also educate people and children about the danger of UXOs so they can take precautions to avoid them.

In 2016, more than 50 years after the Vietnam War, Obama visited Laos and the US government agreed to pay $90 million USD to help clear the UXOs.


To us, this isn’t enough. What was done to Laos should be considered a war crime and if individual leaders aren’t held accountable, then nations should be. $90 million is a drop in the bucket to the $700 billion per year or more that the U.S. spends on military. To leave such long-term devastation on a country that affects generation after generation of people who don’t even know what the Vietnam War was, is unacceptable.

After leaving the museum we were yet again, left with a bad taste in our mouth for our home country. As the “leader of the free world” and “spokesperson for human rights”, America really has it’s own poor track record on these issues and rarely will America properly own up to its mistakes.

Don’t get me wrong; Laos itself has plenty to blame for when it comes to its current status as one of the poorest countries in the world. Because hand in hand with that title, it is also ranked as one of the most corrupt governments in the world, and that is their battle to fight.

But how can a country progress when its kids have to fear being blown up on the way to school, or if a farmer has to wonder if he will make it home from the rice patties because of the UXO’s that he knows are still buried out there? And these are issues we are responsible for.

We know it won’t happen but we’d like to see the U.S. do more. There are a lot of problems in the world that the U.S. sees fit to interfere in at a huge cost, but this one seems to be of little importance. After all, it was a war we lost and a region we since decided to ignore so why should we pay right?

How responsible to do you think a country should be for its actions? Is there a limit or cap to how much a country should pay? How much did you learn about the Laos bombings when you were in school? We’d love to hear your thoughts

 

Best Bars in Siem Reap

Aside from its rich culture and architecture, Siem Reap has one of the best drinking scenes in South East Asia. The most famous (or infamous) place to get drinks in Siem Reap is of course, Pub Street. Pub Street is exactly what it sounds like, a street full of pubs, but also some restaurants and massage parlors. Most of the bars on Pub Street are known for their cheap buckets, a mix of terrible bottom shelf alcohol and your choice of soda. A 20 year old backpackers paradise. Buckets are a fun and fast way to get drunk but sometimes you might want something a little more sophisticated. Every bar on Pub Street is offering the "best happy hour" in town and it can be hard to decided where to go. 

So we did the work. We drank A LOT. The Tipsy Gypsies got completely drunk (again), and although Pub Street is great, we also discovered a lot outside its neon glow. Therefor we've created this list of our favorite bars in Siem Reap, on and beyond Pub Street.

"You see we never ever drink

Nice and easy

We always DRINK nice and hard

We started the night nice and easy but finished it hard"

(thanks Tina Turner "Proud Mary")

Miss Wong

One of our favorites, Miss Wong has the best central location. It is situated in a small alley, just few steps away from the madness of the Pub Street, which is way more relaxing and classy.  Miss Wong is well know amongst locals and tourists, and it is well worth the visit not only for drinks but also the elegant atmosphere.  

We arrived at Miss Wong around 6pm, just when the bar opened and things were just coming to life. We were immediately impressed by the gorgeous interior: high ceilings, crimson red walls, glowing lanterns hanging off the ceilings, lots of paintings and moody lighting. This place is sexy! There were so many great details in this bar and our eyes were constantly traveling up and down the walls discovering new trinkets.

We were greeted by the super cool owner of the bar Dean, who is an expat from New Zealand and has been living in Cambodia for the last 12 years. Dean opened and designed the bar himself 8 years ago. The design is based on a paining that the owner's grandmother had in her home back in New Zealand. The painting is of Miss Wong, a beautiful, mysterious woman painted by a Russian artist, who became famous for his prints of Chinese ladies he painted. The painting was a great inspiration for an asian theme speakeasy and it also reminded him of his home.

When Miss Wong opened the idea was to offer something different from the popular and cheap buckets of alcohol. The owner wanted to serve a top shelve alcohol to his clients, but 8 years ago that was a problem in Siem Reap. The better quality liquor had to be imported and was very expensive. That is why he decided to infuse his his own alcohol. Dean's background is in biochemistry, and when you taste his infused vodkas you can tell that he knows his craft. The infused vodkas, also used in mixed drinks, are very unique flavors like Tom Yum (yes the famous Thai Soup), cardamon or pepper. Vodka has never tasted better!

The Tipsy Gypsies recommend:

Mixed drinks:

Jen Queens Ang-Pau

Jen Queen Year of the Cocktail

Apricot & Kaffir Lime Martini

Spiced Bloody Mary

The Elbow

Shots:

Pepper infused vodka

cardamon rose gin

Tom Yum Gin (so pretty much all of them)

They also serve delicious appetizers. Pictured below: dim sum

Georges Rhumerie

This place is all about rum, but not just any rum. This rum is made in house and to make it even better, it's all infused. This place is a MUST try in Siem Reap!

We arrived to Georges Rhumerie by rickshaw around 8pm and the place was not very busy. Perhaps because G.R  is located a bit "outside" of the tourist zone (aka away from Pub Street), and is why this place is not super crowded. If you want to hang out with some awesome expats and stay away from the crazy drunken tourists of Pub Street, this bar is great! The rickshaw ride was only $3 and it was totally worth the cruise outside downtown. Also, don't worry about getting back to your hotel. They have trusted rickshaw drivers waiting outside so when the bar is finally closed, they will help you get home safely. And after this journey through rum heaven, we definitely needed some assistance getting back.

We sat at the outdoor bar area, which is very casual, but if you need AC they also have an indoor restaurant. The relaxed atmosphere, very friendly bartenders, who joke around and talk with the customers is probably why so many expats (and us), love to hang out here. 

Our bartender served us a flight of rum shots to start with. The flight was 10 different infused rums, and if you think we can tell you what was our favorite, we would have to say all of them! We definitely recommend this sampling experience as all of the flavors are wonderfully unique.

We desperately needed to eat something after our "little" sampler of rums, so we ordered a delicious appetizers plate of samoussa, bouchon, baida and crackers with home-made delicious jams! Trust us, you will want to snack on something while you're sipping on one of their many delicious concoctions. The snacks were well paired with the drinks and we never thought that jam and crackers would go so well with rum, but we swear it's worth it!

We don't know when to say no to alcohol, and so when our bartender suggested that we try some of their cocktails we ordered not one, but two: Bokator and George's Grog, both very delicious, refreshing and light. 

Our master bartender, Houern, who was entertaining us the whole night told us that the staff likes to create their own drinks, and if they are popular they end up on the menu. He mixed us his latest creation, which was not yet listed on the menu, and we hope it has since been added because it was absolutely fantastic. It was hands down one of the best cocktails we've ever tasted. He called it a "Svay" or "Mango cocktail" ( ingredients: mango rum, mango juice, mint syrup, lime juice, milk). If you visit Georges you must try this cocktail!

Park Hyatt

The Park Hyatt is probably the most gorgeous hotel in Siem Reap, and we had the privilege of staying with them. We highly recommend that you go to and splurge at least one night with them and have a drink either on their patio surrounded by fire pits, enjoying a traditional dance performance (check schedule) or you can sip a cocktail in their gorgeous 'living room" lounge, decorated with pinks sofas, fresh lotus flowers, dimmed lights and soft music playing in the background. The design alone is worth the $10 plus drinks.

If you time your visit right, the traditional Cambodian dance performance is absolutely spectacular. Just sit in the patio and enjoy your drink and the show.

The Tipsy Gypsies recommend:

New York Sour

 Singapore Sling

Hemingways Diary

Victoria Angkor

This hotel has a great pool and if the day is hot, which is almost always the case in Siem Reap, there is no better way to cool down than by the pool while sipping on ice cold drinks. The best time to go is for brunch on the patio, overlooking the pool area or directly by the pool under umbrellas. There is also a bar inside the hotel and their drinks are very good, but there isn't much night life going on. 

The Tipsy Gypsies recommend:

Frozen Coconut Mojito

Passion Daiquiri

Mango "Caviar" Fizz

Angkor What?

Did we mention the buckets? Angkor What? is a very popular, if not the most popular bar in Siem Reap and it would be wrong not to mention it. It was probably our least favorite bar because it's a bit loud. Every time we went there to meet with friends they were blasting obnoxious music. We are not saying they should change what they are doing, just keep this is mind. If you are planning on conversing with friends at this bar, forget about it. But if you want to get some cheap buckets and dance your ankles off, this is the right place for you. Angkor What? is located on Pub Street and with it's grungy design and cheap drinks, it obviously attracts a younger crowd. The buckets are large and strong so be prepared to get shit faced or make some friends to share it with. And lastly, don't wear anything white as all those "invisible" stains will be shinning bright in their black lights. 

“The more I drink, the better I write and the more I write the better I drink.”

Disclaimer: We make sure to have at least few drinks before we start to write any bar or drink reviews! Because who wants to write about drinking when you're sober?

Cheers!

The Best of Laos

Before coming to Laos we didn't know where to go or what to do and we certainly didn't plan to stay as long as we did. In fact, we almost skipped Laos entirely because despite the many blog posts we researched in advance, we couldn't get a clear sense of why we should visit or what makes it so different from Cambodia or Vietnam.

Thank god we didn't skip it because it turned out to be our favorite country so far in South East Asia. Thailand is beautiful but it's extremely developed, westernized and crowded. Cambodia is also wonderful but is also growing quickly in western influence and development. 

Laos is like the gentler, softer sister of the other SE Asia countries. It is quiet, empty, tranquil and absolutely stunning. Upon arrival you instantly notice the hospitality of the local people, who constantly greet you in their local language saying with a smile, "Sabaidee!" Laos is full of natural beauty such as waterfalls, natural swimming pools, mountains and rice patties surrounded by small villages.

Although Laos is technically a communist country, people are allowed to own private businesses and practice religion. It seems as if life is moving at a slower pace here and that is what we loved the most about Laos. And did we mention the food?! Our favorite in SE Asia so far. 

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is a UNESCO world heritage site. It's a joy walking around and admiring the well preserved architecture and religious sites. Even though Luang Prabang is a famous tourist destination, it hasn't lost its charm. The streets are dotted with young monks walking around in their orange robes, bathing in the river and chanting in the many temples throughout the city. The monks are highly respected by the locals and every morning at sunrise the locals gather on a street for Alms, a giving ceremony. Alms is an offering of food for the monks, typically rice and fruit. You can participate in the ceremony as long as you a respectful, which unfortunately many tourist are not. If you want to take a photo please do it quietly, from a distance and without flash!

Daily life in the village seems to be very laid back.  It's a place where you can truly enjoy being a visitor because you don't have to worry about being harassed by vendors trying to sell you anything. The city is on a curfew to respect the early rise of the monks, and after midnight, night life is non-existent.

This quaint village is situated by the mighty Mekong and the smaller Nam Khan river. The rivers and the surrounding mountains make this village absolutely stunning. On any day you will see the locals and tourists swimming in the river or watching the sunset.

Laos cuisine is amazing! They are especially famous for their love of sticky rice. Our favorite were the noodle soups, which come with plenty of fresh herbs, lettuce and other veggies. It sounds weird to put lettuce in a bowl of hot soup, but trust us, there is nothing better!

Besides the traditional food, you can also find tasty western dishes here. Laos was a French colony and the baguettes and pastries in Luang Prabang taste just like in France.

Another joy of the French influence are the Bahn Mi-like Laos sandwiches, which are everywhere and absolutely worth trying!

The night market in Luang Prabang is a fun place to visit and try some local cuisine. There are plenty of meats on sticks, grilled fish, sandwiches and noodle dishes. In our opinion the food at the night market wasn't the freshest. We saw the vendors packing all the meats after hours of sitting on a table, and placing in plastic bags to be sold the next day. We were actually shocked that we didn't get sick.

The Tipsy Gypsies Tip: Want the freshest street food? Look outside the night markets and you will find they are cooking smaller, fresher portions, rather than creating mountains of food (which they could never sell in one night) to impress tourists. 

If you want to get out of town you can hire a tuk tuk, taxi or rent scooters and drive 30km outside to see the incredible Kuang Si Falls. This place is no secret, and if you want to enjoy swimming in the fresh pools of water you should be there as soon as it opens. We got there about 9 am and there were few other people around, but by noon it was full of tourists and locals.

The Tipsy Gypsies Tip: We highly recommend you go by scooter as you can create your own schedule when visiting Kuang Si Falls. It only costs a little more but the freedom is totally worth it. We read a lot of blogs saying the road and ride out to the falls was dangerous but we found that to be completely untrue.

There are multiple waterfalls and the higher you are willing to hike up the stream, the less people you will see. The water is cool, and it's very hard not to jump into the turquoise water. But don't worry, you can!

There is also a small bear sanctuary on the way to the waterfalls. Most of these bears have been rescued from poachers, who either planned to illegally sell them as pets or kill them. One of the bears was missing a paw, but it was still very playful. The bears played together, cooled off in the pools of water and it was very entertaining to watch them.

Also make sure to stop at the small UXO Museum, which you can read more about here (COMING SOON). There are several of these museums in Laos so if you don't go to this one make sure you stop at one of the others as it's really eye opening and important to learn about the brutal history these people have survived and the problems they still deal with today.

 

Nong Khiaw

Nong Khiaw is a tiny village a few hours north from Luang Prabang. This place used to be a real off the beaten track place, but it is getting more popular every day. You can start to see the foot print tourism is leaving on this town with numerous restaurants and guest houses popping up.  

The Tipsy Gypsies Tip: We scored an awesome river view bungalow for $9 by staying a 10 minute walk outside the main town. There is a small dirt road near the school and down by the river are a handful of awesome cheap bungalows. 

There is a nice but strenuous hike you can do to see a spectacular view of the valley and the town below but please, don't go in the middle of the day like we did! It was so hot we barely made it to the top. The trailhead starts about 50 meters past Temple of Ban Sop Houn.

Once you reach the top you are rewarded with a nice viewing hut that offers some shade and even a hammock!

Vang Vieng

We are only going to mention this town briefly as it's the one place in Laos we really didn't like. And why? Because it was one the town most ruined and destroyed by western influence. Viang Vieng was famous for many years as an insane, year round, Spring Break experience for young backpackers. Eventually it got so bad that backpackers were dying, doing stupid things that stupid backpackers do. So the government eventually shut everything down and now there are only a few bars left. We read the town has since changed and maybe it has, but to us it still reeked of its previous heyday and although there are some nice day trips you can do, we think the town is completely worth skipping.

The Tipsy Gypsies Tip: If you MUST go to Vang Vieng, you might as well score some free drinks. We got pretty hammered completely for FREE thanks to the extremely competitive happy hours, (which is basically free drinks from 6-8) that the few bars in town offer to try and lure you in. 

 

Thakhek and the Thakhek Loop

This town is located between Vientiane and 4000 Islands. The town itself doesn't have much to offer but it is a must stop for the awesome Thakhek Loop which you can read in detail about here

4000 Islands

Don Det is located at 4000 Islands and just getting there was an adventure. We first took an overnight bus that dropped us in the middle of nowhere at 3am where we had to wait until sunrise, and then we traveled for another hour by a small boat to get there. The island itself is lovely. You can do some kayaking, biking, river tubing and read a book in hammocks overlooking the river.

The Tipsy Gypsies Tip: Internet in Don Det sucks but if you seek out the restaurant/café with the fewest customers, you're much more likely to get a faster connection. 

We visited Don Det in the middle of March, which was good and bad. March is the hottest month in Laos and the heat was hard to deal with, but on a positive note, the island was empty and rooms were cheap. 

 

If you've never been to South East Asia, it's easy to assume that all these neighboring countries are going to be very much alike. But as we continue to make our way through the region, we are quickly learning and loving how different they all are. And just because we said earlier, that Thailand and Cambodia are more developed, it doesn't meant they aren't worth visiting as well. But again, what set Laos apart, and what made us fall in love, was the lack of urgency. In a world that is dominated by the aggressive pursuit of profits and status, the people of Laos, in the city AND the villages, seemed untroubled by these pursuits. It's truly the land of "it's nap time", when and where ever you want! Restaurants and stores almost always had an employee or two dozing in a corner somewhere.

And although we fell in love with the simplicity and slowness of Laos, we are also well aware of the countries tragic past, and the struggles it deals with today regarding it's extremely corrupt government and massive levels of poverty. 

Despite these hurdles, we saw nothing but smiles as we drove through village after village in the countryside. And although we hope for a more honest government and more access to education, healthcare and vital services for it's people, we hope they never forget that it's always the right time to sit back, relax, and take a nap. 

GET TIPSY ON: LAODI RHUM

Ever since the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean" was released rum has become our favorite alcohol. Ok, we don't discriminate on any alcohol (except for you Mr. Wine Cooler!), but rum is really freaking good. We have always associated rum with tropical islands and what we didn't know is that you can find an exceptional rum in Laos. Rum is made from sugar cane, and Laos is covered with sugar cane fields, which makes this country a perfect environment for rum production. On our recent trip to Luang Prabang, the UNESCO heritage village, we tried LAODI, a rum made in Laos by a Japanese man.

According to their website, what makes LAODI rum special is the fresh water from the Mekong river, which irrigates the land where their sugar cane grows. Only 3% of rum production comes from pure sugar cane, which makes LAODI a very small distillery with a unique taste. They also claim that because unlike other commercial rum, which is made with molasses, their rum won't give you a nasty hangover, which we have, um... thoroughly tested and can confirm is true. 

We first learned of LAODI rum at the Luang Prabang night market, where you can have a free tasting. The sales lady kept pouring generous shots of every rum and we left buying two of their classic bottles of rum: BROWN and WHITE. Our favorite, however was their COCONUT flavored rum. It is tasty just to sip on and you can imagine that it would the best liquor to add to any "beach/summer" inspired cocktail with pineapple or milk. Other flavors of infused rum include: passionfruit, sugarcane, coffee and plum.

Although Laos is a very beautiful, laid back country with a unique culture and some of the best foods we have tasted, if that doesn't get you excited, just know that LAODI rum is reason enough to visit.

Unfortunately, we didn't have a chance to go to the distillery, but we have heard that the tour is great. If you are in the area here, is the address:

 

Lao Agro Organic Industries Limited

47kms of the National Road No. 13

Naxone Village, Pak Ngum District, Vientiane Capital, Laos

Tel: +856 20 2829 8789 / +856 20 5233 9920

Mail: info@rhumlaodi.com

GPS: 18°04’28.8″N 102°58’01.0″E

www.facebook.com/rhumlaodi

A Year in Review

After one year on the road complete, it's time to take a look back on some of the amazing experiences we've had. This video also takes the form of a demo reel for Nate as a director.