Mardi Gras!

Hey, look, we are back! Sadly, no, we have not decided to chuck it all and start PigFish Round 2. But we did spend an entire week in New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras before I go back to work. We figured go out big, right? And it doesn’t get much bigger than a week in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Ok, maybe it does. We also decided to go to Bogota this weekend (yes, seriously, for the weekend) to eat ajiaco and arepas. And because our passports were feeling neglected. Yes, we are certifiably insane. But, enough about Bogota, this post is about New Orleans.


In all honesty, we were both a bit nervous about being in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. We both expected insane crowds, belligerent drunks, and a bit more “party” than we enjoy. (You all know we like a good party. But we don’t care for underage drunks vomiting on the street). And, we no doubt could have found that if we had spent more of our time on Bourbon Street. Indeed, simply setting foot on Bourbon Street during the day was more than enough for us and we can’t even imagine the mess it becomes at night. But, by avoiding Bourbon Street, what we found was an absolutely delightful weekend with plenty to see and do.


The parades, of course, were the highlight. There are parades every single night and many day parades as well. If you want to be a bit removed from the crowds, you can buy grandstand tickets on St. Charles Street – we did that and would highly recommend it for a parade or two as we had a great view and caught plenty of throws. If you want to be right smack dab in the middle of the crowds, you can watch the parades on Canal Street. We caught a day parade there and had a blast. And, if you want to catch plenty of throws, you can position yourself near the end of a route. We did that a couple of times – not as many people and the riders are trying to get rid of their throws. We did not head outside of the Quarter/CBD, but our understanding is that there are plenty of fun places outside those neighborhoods to watch as well.


Each parade was different, but we enjoyed each and every one of them. We saw some amazing floats.


And some float riders wearing some pretty scary masks.


Some of the floats carried famous people. We saw Harry Connick, Jr. (of course) and we caught beads thrown by Harry Shearer. We got to see what we presumed was a very drunk Solange Knowles (who, apparently, managed to lose her wedding ring during the parade). Plus, we got to see Nathan Fillion. That is him on this float. Sadly, we didn’t catch any of his beads even though we were the only ones screaming “Slithers” and “Firefly” when everyone else was screaming “Castle.”


By the way, we understand the riders in the big parades spend thousands of dollars on throws each year. And it is insane how crazy people get about catching beads and other throws. On the other hand, it was also nice to see people giving beads to people (not just kids) that didn’t have many yet. It is also insane how hard the riders throw the beads at the crowd. I “caught” beads more than once with my face (and ended up with a bruised eyelid) and we read a news article begging people to put their phones away so they didn’t get injured by flying beads. At the end of the parades, the streets were littered with dropped beads and plastic bags. But the streets were spotless by the next morning. Interestingly, there is also an entire industry devoted to recycling the beads for use next year – our hotel had a bin set up and some school for disabled kids sorts the beads for use next year.


Another highlight of the parades was the marching bands.   This strange-looking marching band was from (if memory serves) Switzerland. But we also saw a ton of college and high school marching bands. If you ever get a chance to see the Talladega College marching band, go. Trust us on this one.


There were also plenty of dancers. We saw people in motorized Lazy Boys. We saw middle-age guys with porn mustaches dancing in tight baby blue shorts – they call themselves the 610 Stompers.


And, we saw the Pussy Footers.


We saw plenty of people on horseback who had no business being on horseback. I’m not sure if this individual knew how to ride or not, but the vast majority of riders looked like they did not have a clue what they were doing. In fact, I truly scared one rider when I pet his horse while they were stopped right in front of me– although the horse seemed to love it and the stable hand guiding the horse was completely fine with me petting the horse and looked at me like “thank the maker, someone else who actually knows horses.”


We also saw some very small parades marching through the streets of the French Quarter. Here is the Grand Boobah at the Bosom Buddies parade.


In addition to the parades, we spent a morning watching the “greasing of the poles.” Yep, a hotel on Bourbon Street has a contest to see which young “lady” can best grease the poles of the hotel. Apparently, it is a 40 year tradition designed to stop drunks from climbing up the poles. I’m pretty sure this one was the winner, but the PA system wasn’t working well so we didn’t stick around for the results.


And, before the greasing of the poles, we saw a plushie somehow affiliated with the New Orleans Saints. (Hey, don’t laugh, we only watch “real” football and, occasionally, the Packers. We have no idea who this character is, but he was having fun.).


We also spent a ton of time just relaxing and enjoying New Orleans. We visited several of our favorite restaurants and managed to eat several beignets. Here we are visiting a bar in an unsuccessful attempt to meet up with a waitress who used to work at one of our favorite Chicago bars.   Even worse, the bar had cheese curds on their menu but it turned out they were out of them.


We saw crazy decorations on the streets.


We got our picture taken with the “big ass beer” sign. Yep, this was another one of those “now you need to give me a tip” moments, but the picture was worth a dollar.


We spent one afternoon watching a plane write messages in the sky.


We wore strange things on our heads.


And, we saw some pretty good street musicians.


Bottom line, if you have any interest in visiting New Orleans, just go. It is still one of our favorite cities in the world.

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Final, final thoughts (until next time…)

Sadly, PigFish version 1 has drawn to a close.  That is right, we said version 1.  You know what that means?  It means that someday there will be a PigFish version 2.  That is right, when we retire for good, we plan to hit the road again.  So, we will leave this blog up so it is ready and waiting when we retire.  And, we will likely post every now and then when we take a vacation so our friends and family can see some of our photos.

For the foreseeable future, we leave you with these random thoughts.


  • There is nothing quite like a J&J Q-tip.  Generic cotton swabs just aren’t the same.  You can bet on PigFish version 2 we will have a large supply of Q-tips in our bags!
  • I made it through the entire year without ever using a squat toilet.  Success!
  • When in doubt, Robert gets to test the bathroom at bars and restaurants.  If he says it is disgusting, you can guarantee I will be holding it awhile longer.
  • Speaking of bathrooms, we learned far too much about each other’s bathroom habits this year.  We never want to live in a one bathroom apartment…


  • You know that horrible song “Africa” by Toto?  We are pretty sure we heard it played in every single country we visited.  Except, oddly enough, South Africa.  People outside the U.S. must love that song.  We don’t get it…
  • There is no better drink than the ginger ale in Sri Lanka.  It was heavenly.  Not too sweet with plenty of ginger flavor.  I will crave that ginger ale for the rest of my life.


  • Why is it that when traditional clothes are worn, it is always by women?  We rarely saw men in archaic outfits….
  • Cell phones are destroying the world.  We saw far too many cell phone zombies stumbling around with their eyes glued to their phones and not paying any attention to the wonderful things happening right in front of them.
  • The income disparity in the world is heartbreaking.
  • Please, please, please, where ever you travel, learn a few phrases in the local language. We lost count of the number of times people were thrilled that we tried to speak their language.


  • The mullet hair cut is strong in Central America….
  • We were shocked at how many different types of rice exist around the world and how different they taste.  If we ever buy Uncle Ben’s (or, even worse, Rice-A-Roni) again, just shoot us.
  • Jimmy Buffet is ruining the world.  If we never hear another Jimmy Buffet song, it will be too soon.


  • Nearly every foreign air line we flew is more comfortable than the U.S. airlines.  And cheaper.  And luggage arrives faster.  And they serve meals for free in coach.  What gives with that?
  • The dumbest thing we saw this year was some stupid business school students from Philly throwing gang signs in the slums of Bogota.  Seriously?  In what world is that a good idea?


  • Query whether police having machine guns is a good or a bad thing….We never saw them use the machine guns, but can you even imagine if the U.S. cops carried around machine guns?
  • The U.S. does one thing better than anywhere else we visited:  Sunday brunch.  Boy, did we miss Sunday brunch this year.  That said, the eggs outside the U.S. are far better than any egg we have ever had in the U.S.


  • All hotels should come equipped with empty mini fridges.  They make all the difference in the world, especially in hot climates.
  • There is nothing quite as funny looking as a pelican fishing.
  • We will never understand why people feed pigeons.  Or why squares full of pigeons are a tourist attraction.  Filthy disgusting creatures.


  • I need to learn to like beer.  Not only is it the cheapest alcohol around, it is even cheaper than soda in some countries.  And, not liking beer means I didn’t get to partake in bia hoi (fresh beer) in Vietnam or street beers in Colombia.  Robert partook plenty for the two of us…
  • We want to know how come in the U.S. everyone says “gin and tonic” but pretty much everywhere else it is “gin tonic”?
  • Our palates really changed this year.  We consumed far less sugar than we would have in the U.S.  In fact, we even find Jif peanut butter too sweet now.


  • Interestingly, although we traveled to places with very diverse religions, the only people who ever inquired about our religious beliefs (or lack thereof) were Christians.  And the only people who proselytized were Christians.  And the only people who made us feel uncomfortable were Christians.
  • Selfie sticks are evil.


  • We saw far more sunsets than sunrises this year.  And we liked it.
  • In nearly every country we visited, it was a constant battle to have a sufficient supply of small bills.  You can’t believe the number of countries where most stores and restaurants can’t break a bill that is the equivalent of $20 or so.
  • One of the things we missed while traveling was building standards.  Who knew how important building standards could be.  For example, who would think places would be built where the steps were not all the same height/width?


  • We want to live somewhere where flip-flops are the only shoes we need.  Or better yet, we don’t need shoes.
  • We really don’t like most people.  Thankfully, we like each other …
  • The fact that so many people can’t afford to travel in their own country is shameful.


  • Turns out we like B&B’s.  Who knew?
  • It turns out that, in most parts of the world, the free breakfast included with your hotel is actually a pretty good perk.  We had some great breakfasts and, in many cases, they carried us right through to dinner.
  • I’m amazed at the different ways I had to ask for water.  In some countries, they only understand “sparkling water.”  In others, “soda” works.  In others, you have to ask for “club soda” because that is what is says on the bottle.  And, in still others, you have to ask for “water with gas.”


  • In all of our travels, we only spotted one famous person.  That was Rick Steves.  In Cardiff.
  • The worst American travelers have to be Texans.  Sorry about the stereotype but, seriously, we so did not enjoy sitting in Scotland listening to people bitch about how Obama clearly wasn’t born in the U.S.


  • We really shouldn’t have spent so much time in the UK and South Africa.  Not only were those among the most expensive places we went, but they are also the only places we gained weight.
  • Seeing American brands in regular grocery stores all over the world is really disheartening.
  • We really want to know who buys all the hammocks that are for sale.
  • We also really want to know who gives money to the people that paint themselves and stand on street corners.


  • We should have learned Spanish before we got to Central America.  Robert picked it up quickly, but it really was necessary.
  • Oddly, it bothered me when the red string bracelet I received from the Buddhist nun in Cambodia finally fell off.
  • The thing people from outside the U.S. seem to have the biggest problem understanding is the American health care system.  And the appeal of Donald Trump.  Nobody understands the appeal of Donald Trump….


  • Oddly, it is always the children of ex pats that are the biggest brats anywhere we go.  And not just American ex pats.
  • Four Non Blonds must be reeling in a ton of royalties.  We heard their music everywhere.
  • I so should have packed the bikini that I took out of my bag at the last possible minute to save space.  If the obese, elderly Russian ladies can wear one, so can I…I did manage to pick up a bikini on one of our flights through Chicago and I actually wore it and, to the best of my knowledge, nobody who saw me got sick.
  • We really miss Asian peanuts.  We don’t know why they taste so different, but Asian peanuts are one of the best things we have ever eaten.


  • Central America was not nearly as cheap as we expected.
  • American banks really need to improve their game.  One bank thought every airport ATM withdrawal was fraudulent even though we had notified them in advance of our travel plans.  I’m sorry, if you know we are landing in London on X date and you see we make a withdrawal at the airport on X date, why on earth would you assume that was fraudulent????  And, another bank refused to take travel notices for about half the countries we visited because of the high rate of fraud in those countries.  I’m sorry, but wouldn’t you rather know we are in that country and that the charges might be legit???


  • I’m pretty sure we saw The Simpsons on tv in every single country except Myanmar.  Generally in English, but in Central and South America it was in Spanish.
  • We really wish tipping culture was consistent throughout the world.  (Note:  And not like it is in the U.S., where tipping is an extreme sport).  We spent far too much time researching the tipping protocol in the various countries we visited.  And, yet, we never felt like we entirely understood who and how much to tip.
  • This was the absolute best year of our lives.  We simply couldn’t have asked for a better year.  If anyone has any doubts about whether PigFish was the right decision for us, we will leave you with the before (fat, pasty, stressed out) and after (tan, happy, 30 pounds lighter) pictures.
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Final thoughts on our third visit to Thailand

Our last three weeks were spent in Thailand.  We did things a bit differently.  We were in no hurry to sightsee.  We didn’t visit the big Buddha on Phuket, we didn’t go to the national park on Koh Lanta, we didn’t go visit the James Bond rocks near Ao Nang, and we didn’t visit a single wat in Bangkok.  Nope, we lounged.  We lounged by hotel pools for hours on end and read.  When that got to be a bit dull, we went snorkeling or scuba diving.  And, when we got to Bangkok, we walked slowly through Lumpini Park and wandered around shopping malls looking at Christmas decorations.  So, we don’t have that much to say about our most recent visit to Thailand.  But, you know us, we always have something to say….


  • As discussed below, the beach towns we visited each have very distinct personalities.  Don’t get me wrong — they all feel like Thailand but each in their own way.
  • On Phuket, we stayed at Kata Beach.  Nearly every single tourist was Russian.  If we ever again see an old Russian dude wearing his banana hammock (and nothing else) to the 7-11, it will be too soon.  And don’t get me started on the women who think their bikinis are appropriate attire for walking down the street (although I’m guessing Robert didn’t mind that as much as I did….).  Kata Beach is very built up and very touristy.  We would go back, but we would likely stay at a nice resort and likely only leave the grounds for dinner and snorkeling/scuba diving.  And, really, if we are going to do that, what is the point of flying all the way to Thailand???


  • Koh Lanta is much less developed than Phuket.  It was much more our speed.  Don’t get me wrong, it is touristy, but it seemed like a place where real Thai’s actually still make a life for themselves doing something other than servicing the tourist trade.  Koh Lanta is absolutely amazing for snorkeling/scuba diving and, in fact, many of the tourists are there for that sole reason — the water is clear and the sea life is amazing.  Unlike Kata Beach where everyone is Russian, a huge percentage of the tourists on Koh Lanta are Swedish.  There are even two Swedish schools on the island so Swedes can take a month off and keep their kids in school.  How crazy is that?



  • I’m pretty sure Ao Nang doesn’t exist for any reason other than tourism.  The tourists in Ao Nang are a healthy mix of different nationalities.  Oddly, the best food in Ao Nang is Indian.  Nearly all the cooks are from India and they kick out some delicious Indian food.  In fact, we ate more Indian than Thai in Ao Nang.


  • Phuket was the only place we saw “fried” ice cream…No worries, everywhere had Nutella pancakes…Bangkok was the only place we saw fried scorpions and spiders.  No worries, neither one of us tried the insect delicacies this trip….
  • Bangkok is the only place where we have ever seen chickens climb a tree.  Seriously, they looked like they were having a blast.  Four chickens, playing in the trees, and making their funny chicken noises.
  • Thai 7-11’s are like the best thing ever.  The vast majority are clean, many are open 24 hours, and they have anything and everything you might need.  Oh, and they sell these yummy snacks called fried broad beans….Robert is going to have to learn to make those back home because boy are they good.  (And, a vegetable to boot!).
  • In a relatively conservative culture, lady boys appear (at least from the outsider perspective) to be completely accepted by most Thais.  And not just in the entertainment industry.  Working at the 7-11, waiting tables at a restaurant, etc. and generally just living life.  How wonderful is that?  (No clue if behind the scenes things are worse….).



  • Some of the towns we stayed in were predominantly Muslim.  And, you know what?  You won’t find nicer, more welcoming, or more tolerant people anywhere.  We wish more Americans realized that…
  • Before this year, neither of us were huge fans of Thailand.  After this year, we plan to come back again and again…
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Christmas in Bangkok

Christmas isn’t a big deal in Thailand, where the vast majority of the population is Buddhist.  That said, Thai’s do like a good party and Christmas is a good excuse for some crazy decorations, especially at malls and hotels.  Here are some of our favorites.  No, we do not understand the fascination with Disney, nor do we know why an Easter basket was included in the Christmas decorations….



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Chilling in Thailand

Yeah, so, things have been quiet around here, haven’t they?  We are SO busy in Thailand that there just hasn’t been any time to update the blog.

You know, we spend hours and hours each day lounging by our hotel pool, surfing the internet and reading our Nook books.  No time to write a blog update while we do that.

We’ve spent some time snorkeling (both of us) and scuba diving (Robert) in crystal clear waters teeming with fish, lobsters, sea urchins, star fish, cuttlefish, and even a poisonous sea snake here and there.  Robert even managed to get his advanced open water certificate.  No time to write a blog update while we do that.


We’ve had a picnic on a beach inhabited by lizards.  No time to write a blog update while we do that.


We also spend an hour or so each night watching an amazing sunset, while drinking gin tonic (Robert – and, no, that is not a typo as nobody says the “and” here) or wine (me).  No time to write a blog update while we do that.


And, once the sun sets, it is off for delicious Thai food, or pretty decent pizza, or seafood pulled out of the ocean that very day.  Yep, no time to write a blog update while we do that.


And, after dinner, we stop and have a Nutella pancake or some “fried” ice cream.  Fried ice cream means flash freezing some ice cream batter and toppings (in the case of the photo below, Oreos) on what I can only assume is a piece of metal over a block of dry ice, then scraping the frozen ice cream into tubes.  Yum.  No time to write a blog update while we do that.


So, bottom line, we’ve just been too damn busy to update this blog, even though we have done absolutely nothing!



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Final thoughts on Hong Kong and Macau

We’ve made our way to Thailand (where we are sunbathing at the pool and don’t expect to have much to write about), which means it is time for final thoughts on Hong Kong and Macau.  Here goes.


Robert at the old fort in Macau

  • If Singapore is Asia 101, Hong Kong is Asia 102 and Macau is Asia 103.  Neither city is particularly challenging.  We found both cities to be clean, easy to navigate with plenty of fluent English speakers and very few “what in the world did I just see/eat” moments.  Although the conversation in Hong Kong where the street food vendor tried to remember the word for intestines was interesting to say the least.  We passed on the intestines, just fyi.
  • The residents of Hong Kong are absolutely insane when it comes to their cell phones.  We have never seen so many people absolutely glued to their phones.  We saw people conducting video calls while walking down the street, people playing video games while walking through the subway, and people texting everywhere.  But our absolute favorite moment was watching some guy take a serious tumble because he was so engrossed in his phone he didn’t even realize the escalator was coming to an end.  Yep, we didn’t feel at all bad that he scrapped his knee and was likely going to have quite the bruise…

A pretty flower in Macau

  • Good food makes all the difference.  We really didn’t like Hong Kong until we had a good meal of soup dumplings (and then grew to really like Hong Kong).  We immediately liked Macau because of all the amazing street food including egg tarts and meat jerky (although, admittedly, the love diminished as we spent more time there).  Bottom line, we probably could never live in a place with bad food.
  • Both Hong Kong and Macau seem to be one big shopping mall.  It felt like we could walk for miles in Hong Kong without ever stepping outside, just going from one shopping mall to another.  And, in Macau, the casinos have huge shopping malls (way bigger than Vegas).  Unfortunately, however, everything is the same.  We lost count of the number of Swatch stores and Tiffany jewelry stores and McDonald’s and Burger Kings.  And, things we think of as “local” to the U.S. were all over as well.  For example, who knew you could get Garrett’s popcorn in Hong Kong?  Or See’s chocolates in Macau?  We miss the days when international trips meant an entirely new shopping experience….(although I am pretty excited that Uniqlo is now in Chicago…).

If only they were Daleks…

  • Although both Hong Kong and Macau are like big shopping malls, they are actually very, very different.  Hong Kong was full of Western faces; Macau, not so much.  Hong Kong has an amazing public transportation system; Macau is pretty much limited to buses as far as we could tell (although the free shuttle buses were a nice touch — the only time we paid for transport was taking a cab to the airport).  In Hong Kong, English was the predominant language we heard spoken on the streets (no doubt because of the large number of ex pats and we are quite confident that there are neighborhoods where that wouldn’t be the case); in Macau it was Cantonese.  Hong Kong has very modern architecture; everything in Macau looked like bad 60’s architecture.  But they both do seem to like their grilled meat on a stick and grilled fish balls!

Cookies being made in Macau

  • In Hong Kong, you have to go into the buildings and/or look up to find anything.  Our favorite restaurant was on the sixth floor of building with a shopping mall on the first four floors (and there were numerous other restaurants above the mall).  Indeed, the vast majority of restaurants seemed to be tucked inside buildings (or the subway stations).  Kind of strange, given we don’t normally think of shopping malls as places with good food.
  • The gambling scene in Macau is surreal.  We have never been in a casino as quiet as the casinos in Macau.  And, everyone looked so serious.  Not our cup of tea.  We walked through a couple of casinos and quickly walked back out.  By the end of the stay, we were actively avoiding the casino in our hotel.

Hong Kong

  • We found bars incredibly hard to find in Macau.  I’m sure there is a scene somewhere, but if you just want a nice glass of wine before dinner, places like that were few and far between.  And, believe it or not, many of the casino bars don’t even open until the evening.  (Don’t worry, we found a bar or two, but we had to seriously search for them).
  • I forgot how much I like a nice cup of tea until arriving in Hong Kong.  In fact, I would venture a guess that I drank more tea in ten days in Hong Kong and Macau than in the previous ten months.  Mainly green tea and jasmine tea.  And at all times of the day and night.  I must remember that I like tea…

Macau old town

  •   After loving the soup dumplings at Paradise Dynasty, we decided to eat at Din Tai Fung in Macau just to see if it was as good as we remembered from our time in Singapore.  Sad news.  It was not….  But, then again, nearly any soup dumplings are better than no soup dumplings.
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Wandering through Macau

Macau is strange.  I really don’t know how else to put it.  We didn’t hate it, but we didn’t really love it either.  In short, there seemed to be very little to do besides eat.  Don’t get me wrong, we love eating, but you can only eat so much.

So, what did we see in Macau?

Well, we saw the ruins of an old church.  Or, more accurately, we saw the old facade of a ruined church.


And we toured an old fort.  It was interesting to see the juxtaposition of the old and the new with the crazy casino in the background.


And we saw some interesting architecture.  Plus, right next to this street was a really nice wine bar that sold Portuguese wine and snacks like speck.  Yum.


We saw quite a bit of meat.  Check out this place with the ham legs hanging in the window.


We visited some casinos.  From the outside, they would have been right at home in Vegas.  But, the inside was a completely different story.  So quiet.  You know how Vegas casinos are loud?  Yeah, not so much in Macau.  And, you know how the casinos pass out free alcohol in Vegas?  Yeah, not so much in Macau.  I guess they take their gambling very seriously here…


And we saw some cool temples.

And we saw some really ugly Christmas decorations.


Plus, we saw some crazy things.  Like this, what is this doing inside a casino?  Your guess is as good as ours.


Or this, what do these guys have to do with Mexican food?


We managed to have a good couple of days.  And we are glad we can say we have been to Macau.  But, all in all, Macau isn’t very high on our list of places to return to in the future.


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