Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hank Med, MD- Mexican Version

On our recent trip to Mexico, I had the pleasure of getting sick and using the hotel's concierge doctor. I had only ever seen concierge doctors on TV shows and movies, the most famous being the USA show Hank Med, MD set in The Hamptons in New York.

After 5 hours of being sick and nothing stopping the sickness, even the bucket of ice, 5 bottles of water and crackers we ordered from the front desk to soothe my tummy, we pressed the little 'red cross' hospital button on our room's phone. We were immediately directed to the front desk. With panic in their voices and assurance that the doctor will be here in 30 minutes we hung up and waited. Of course I started to feel better, but I knew I needed something to stop making me nauseous and kill the infection so we waited and waited. It took a good hour and a half for the doctor to show up, even though the front desk was repeatedly calling him and then calling us to give an update every 20 minutes.

Once the doctor arrived, I knew everything would be fine. Dr. Yuri Ayax Real Ramirez was a short man who epitomized the look of a doctor on TV and lived up to his ridiculously long name. He had two fashionable hospital bags with all sorts of medicine and tools which were exactly like what you see on TV. He was very professional and kind and gave me a thorough exam while I waited for the magical shot to stop my nausea. As he filled the massive syringe with meds, he point by point told me what he was doing and what I will need to do in the coming day in regard to antibiotics. The shot worked like magic but the injection spot hurt for the rest of the trip. Ouch. I had a good time saying to John, "My a** hurts" and seeing the hilarious reaction on the faces of other guests.

To our surprise, at the end of the exam Dr. Yuri asked, "cash or credit?" I just about laughed out loud when he pulled out his mobile credit card machine with a big smile. Of course we wanted credit! With pride he swiped our card and told us how they had just gotten the credit card machines and how great they are and how fun it is it use. I was glad we could entertain him at 4am. Although the concierge doctor was expensive, it was well worth not ruining our trip over a Mexican bacterial infection. The total was $355, including the doctor visit, shots and medication. I would recommend using the concierge doctor to whomever needs convenient and reliable service and can afford the extra cost. Its much cheaper to go to the local clinic but at 3am, it was the last thing I wanted to do. The next day, the hotel manager called to check on me and ask what had happened, what I had eaten and if there was anything the hotel could do. It was nice they took the time to call, even though I knew they called just to cover their butts and to see if a full on outbreak was occurring (luckily it didn't).

After two days of antibiotics I was back to normal and ready to enjoy our wonderful trip. Two thumbs up for concierge doctors!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cavallo Point

The Cavallo Point Lodge is located in beautiful Golden Gate National Park, just over the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito. The lodge is literally located at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge. The location may feel remote as you are tucked away on a small cove but you are just minutes from Sausalito and 30 minutes from downtown San Francisco. It's the perfect spot for a romantic getaway, a family vacation or a relaxing retreat.

To the naked eye, Cavallo Point looks like the most amazing camp for adults, but its really an upscale hotel and spa. The hotel grounds are not only lush and breathtaking but historic. Cavallo Point is a former military base from the early part of the 19th century called Fort Baker. The officer's quarters have been restored and the picturesque white houses with their wrap around porches are used as the hotel rooms. Also available is a new contemporary building with modern hotel rooms. All the rooms are perfectly appointed, but I recommend the historic officer's quarters for a unique experience.

Cavallo Point has a plethora of activities for those who want to be adventurous or just relax. The most popular activities are a walk to Golden Gate Bridge and along the trails of Golden Gate National Park, one of the most popular parks in the U.S. The spa offers free morning yoga, an outdoor hot pool and every kind of spa treatment imaginable. Be sure to take advantage of the Michelin rated restaurant, Murray Circle, where you can also take cooking classes. If your idea of a vacation is to do "nothing" then this is the perfect spot for you as well. Popular non-activities include: gazing at the bridge from your rocking chair on one of the many porches, taking a nap in the sun on the lush grounds, or enjoying a glass of wine and a book in the toasty warm bar. The hotel is very animal friendly, which can be both positive and negative. Although the grounds aren't overwhelmed with animals, there are quite a few furry friends running around and lounging on the main porch.

I recommend Cavallo Point as a wonderful getaway from the city. It feels like you are so much further away when really you are just minutes from home. You'll return home relaxed, well fed and happy. I also love taking out of town guests to brunch here as the food and view are amazing and it makes them jealous of the amazing city I live in and me proud.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Wasting Time in Chilled Out Luang Prabang

Check out the article below that I wrote for www.cgrooves.com, an online expat magazine out of China. It will be published in their December issue.

Wasting Time in Chilled Out Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang, located in north central Laos, is the country’s most popular tourist destination. Known for its beautifully preserved temples, monks in saffron robes, and pastel colored French colonial architecture, Luang Prabang sits on a narrow peninsula of land formed by the union of the mighty Mekong and Khan Rivers. The old city, where most of the cultural sites, hotels and restaurants reside, is just 300 meters wide by one kilometer long and resembles a thumb in shape. The manageability of the city’s small size, friendliness of the locals, and old-world feel makes Luang Prabang seem more like a small town rather than a major hub of commerce and tourism.

Since Laos opened to tourism in 1989 little has changed in Luang Prabang due to its status as a UNESCO world heritage site. All buses and trucks are banned within the city limits, keeping noise and traffic at a minimum. The city also preserves its traditional feel by continuing to enact a 11:30pm curfew for both residents and travelers. 
Luang Prabang has an assortment of natural and cultural sites which are easily accessible on foot or by bike. Most of the city’s sites are off the two main streets, Th Khen Khong and Th Sisavangvong, which run along the eastern Mekong coast and down the middle of the peninsula. The best panoramic views of the city can be found at the top of Phou Si Hill, a 100-meter high hill at the base of the peninsula. Dotted with small temples and shrines, the trek up Phou Si Hill is well worth the climb, especially at sunset.

Not to be missed is the Royal Palace Museum or Haw Kham. Built in 1904, during the French colonial era, for King Sisavangvong and his family, the last occupant of the palace was his son, crown prince Savang Vatthana, who took the throne after his father’s death in 1959. In 1975 the monarchy was overthrown by the communists and the crown prince and his family were sent to re-education camps, never to be heard of again.  The palace was later turned into a national museum. The palace contains various royal and religious objects including the Crown Jewels of Laos and the Pha Bang, a gold, silver and bronze standing Buddha.
As a religious centre, Luang Prabang has thirty-two temples. Shoes, and often photography, are prohibited inside the temples and it’s recommended that foreigners wear pants and women dress modestly, although it’s not strictly enforced at all locations. The most popular temples are Wat Mai Suwannapumaram, Wat Visoun, and Wat Xieng Thong.

Wat Mai Suwannapumram,a nineteenth century temple, is conveniently located next door to the Royal Palace Museum making it one of the most visited. The temple is known for its gold relief panels covering its front fa├žade.

Near the northern tip of the peninsula is Wat Xieng Thong, the city’s most brilliant temple. This colorful temple is covered in ornate paintings and mosaics of every color of the rainbow. On the temple grounds is the royal funeral chapel which holds an impressive 12-meter high funeral chariot and urns for members of the royal family.

To the east of town center is the Wat Visoun, the oldest continually operating temple in Luang Prabang. The temple contains a collection of 15th and 16th century wooden Calling for Rain Buddhas and ordination stones. If you haven’t gotten your temple fill after visiting the big three, I suggest taking a “temple tour” by renting a bike and hitting the lesser visited temples located outside of Luang Prabang city limits and across the Mekong River.

Luang Prabang is also a great jumping off point for trekking, rafting, and elephant riding excursions. Tours to the popular Pak Ou Caves and Koung Si waterfall are inexpensive and offered by a plethora of tour companies in old town.

The Pak Ou Caves, located on a cliff face, are full of thousands of Buddha statues. The old and disfigured Buddhas are a memorable site as they cover almost every nook of the cave.

Koung Si waterfall, 32-kilometers away, is considered one of the most picturesque in the country and is set in a breathtaking public park. The 200-foot high waterfall cascades down into a sparkling turquoise pool which provides welcome relief after the arduous walk up hill.
If you aren’t looking to see the sites, Luang Prabang offers an assortment of activities such as taking Lao cooking classes, shopping at the famous Hmong night market, or enjoying an inexpensive Lao or Thai massage. Some of my favorite days were spent sitting in open air cafes on Th Sisavangvong and getting lost wandering the streets admiring the beautiful architecture and people.

This picturesque riverside city is the perfect place to kick back and relax and enjoy the famous chilled out Laotian lifestyle. I recommend staying in one of its many quaint guest houses in old town for at least 4 days, anything less and you won’t have the proper time to decompress. I stayed for a total of 6 nights but could have easily stayed longer because time flies when you are doing really nothing at all.