Bangkok, a city of contradictions

Most cities, like people, have a distinct, characterizing personality that can be summed up in short, among from their several other outlying characteristics. Florence is an ancient, romantic city flooding with culture, the arts, history and luxury. New Orleans is a carefree, jolly city of free-flowing drinks, food and hospitality. San Juan is a colorful, sunny city made for those both looking for a big meal and big spending.

When my boyfriend Mike and I booked a 11-day trip to Thailand via Affordable Asia that included trips to Bangkok, Ayutthaya and Pattaya, I immediately got to work doing research on our various destinations, pouring over blogs, guidebooks and the few firsthand accounts I could find. However, I very quickly found myself running in circles. Information was few and far between and through all of the pieces that I read, I couldn’t define a clear picture of what it would look like in my head.

The streets of Bangkok. (Photo by Jenna Intersimone)

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My 5 top international eateries in Central Jersey

When people ask me what I do for a living, I’m always pretty psyched to tell them that I write about local travel and food in my Tuesday column and our Wednesday Table section.

Immediately, they usually have quite a few questions.

“How do you find restaurants to review?”

“What if a restaurant turns out to be bad?”

Every time, I launch into my usual speech — I don’t review anything. I only write about restaurants that I like in the first place, but as a journalist, I was trained that no one cares about your opinion. So in my food/restaurant stories, which often sneak into my travel column as well as my Table stories, I never critique the restaurant.

Pork barbeque combo by chef Homer Reyes at La Parilla de Manila, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, in Colonia, NJ. (Photo: Jason Towlen/Staff Photographer)
Pork barbeque combo by chef Homer Reyes at La Parilla de Manila, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, in Colonia, NJ.
(Photo: Jason Towlen/Staff Photographer)

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An Asian food fan finds underground paradise in Jersey City

Today, I’m an ever-hungry Jersey food writer for this blog as well as Gannett New Jersey’s MyCentralJersey.com and DailyRecord.com, which congregate from the Courier News, Home News Tribune and Daily Record. But as a kid, I was labeled as a picky eater.

Today, I also know better. I was never a picky eater – I was a selective eater.

I crinkled my nose at bologna sandwiches at lunchtime and my mother’s dinnertime microwave meals. I passed on frozen pizza and plastic-looking macaroni. I wasn’t interested in questionable buffet items or soggy french fries.

However, I was definitely down to try colorful sushi rolls, exotic meats and other eloquently prepared dishes that I had never seen in a school cafeteria or even in my own fridge. I’m still the same way today – I gravitate towards something a little stylish, a little fashionable or a little odd over a burger any day, most of which I’m totally incapable of cooking or creating myself.

Many of these dishes that I love the most tend to be of Asian influence – I could eat Thai, Filipino, Japanese and Chinese cuisine every day of the week. However, there are two outstanding issues with this – one, I frequently don’t really know what I’m ordering and two, I’m often dropping quite a chunk of change at fancy restaurants.

Cellar 335 is an Asian fusion restaurant. (Photo by Jenna Intersimone)
Cellar 335 is an Asian fusion restaurant. (Photo by Jenna Intersimone)

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Lake George for the autumn tourist

Before New Jerseyans are forced to deal with our never-ending winter, we are blessed with fall, a season so packed with colors and activities that I refuse to go on any long-distance trips during September or October – to me, fall weekends are precious, and needed for pumpkin picking, apple picking, haunted hay rides and cider donuts.

However, for the last two years, my family and I have been taking a trip designed for fall – a long weekend getaway to Seneca Lake, the largest of the Finger Lakes. For a few days, we check out fall foliage, visit wineries throughout the Seneca Lake Wine Trail, stay in a rustic cabin and sail down the lake.

This year, however, Seneca Secrets, our usual hangout, was all booked up and we figured we would mix it up and head to Lake George, which has always seemed to be a favorite destination of New Jerseyans.

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The day of the downtowns

Even though Monday was a pretty rainy and dismal day, with a busy week ahead, I was determined to visit Clinton, a small, picturesque town in Hunterdon County, to at least get a taste of it to prepare for my upcoming column about it.

With fall (supposedly) on the horizon, I figured it would be a great destination feature, and I could get some nice photos, of the town nestled in the deep Hunterdon woods with a 1950s-feel and the signature Red Mill Museum Village overlooking the river.

Photography by Michael Politz
Photography by Michael Politz

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How a Somerville restaurant totally screwed me

I really love sushi. But being that I’m also poor, the sushi joints I go to tend to be a little shady, all-you-can-eat, 50 percent off when you pay cash and housed in dingy corners of town.

On most nights when we are craving sushi, my boyfriend, Mike, and I tend to head to Kumo Asian Bistroa much-untapped sushi restaurant in downtown Somerville that offers all-you-can-eat sushi and sashimi for $23 per person on a weekday and $25 per person on a weekend. The huge restaurant, which has incredibly fresh fish for what you pay, tends to be mostly empty, quiet and relaxing.

However, last night, I really wanted to try Shumi, a high-end Somerville sushi eatery that has frequently been called New Jersey’s best sushi restaurant. Mike told me, “Just so you know, it’s a little expensive,” but we had no idea the hits our wallets would be taking until much later.

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This is not Shumi sushi. But it was also still great.

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Get away from the grind at Lake Ariel

Having grown up in Long Valley, N.J., which is possible the most boring place in the entire world, I usually can’t appreciate towns that run a little bit slower and take a journey just to make it to the nearest supermarket. Instead, my Long Valley upbringing has simply made me into a bona fide city dweller who needs to constantly be within 15 minutes to the nearest mall, plethora of restaurants, gas stations, airport, bars and other attractions.

However, when my boyfriend, Mike, invited me to visit his parents with him in Lake Ariel, Penn., a small village in Wayne County about an hour and 45 minutes away from my home in Morristown (which is about my cap for time I can spend in the car) I was pretty psyched. It had been a stressful couple weeks and I figured it would be nice to spend a relaxing few weeks in the countryside.

Cobb's Lake. (Photo by Jenna Intersimone)
Cobb’s Lake. (Photo by Jenna Intersimone)

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Taking a trip back in time through Wilmington

Although I can’t recall much about staying in my grandmother’s outdated bungalow in an area of Carolina Beach full of stumbling drunks and cigarette butts about six years ago, I do recall, quite vividly, our one day trip to Wilmington, about a half an hour drive north.

I remember strolling through the residential historic district, and, even though I couldn’t have cared less about what the tour guide had to say about iron gate styles or wraparound porches, I do recall feeling pretty mesmerized by these stately, colorful homes full of personality and bursting with history, intricate details, elaborate flowers and a deep, cool shade.

I also remember making our way to the commercial historic district, where we flitted in and out of niche boutiques and wandered throughout the cobblestone streets. For someone well acquainted with busy, modern cities like New York, I was pretty enamored with true-Southern Wilmington and its ancient charm at a time when I had yet to visit any other Southern destination.

The streets of Wilmington. Photo by Jenna Intersimone
The streets of Wilmington. Photo by Jenna Intersimone

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Why I will always fly direct

Although in normal life, I like my beds soft, my food hot and my hair clean, in travel, I recognize that these things are not always possible.

Instead, in travel, my mind automatically opens to being more accepting of unpleasant living conditions, dirty clothes and too-late nights. However, there is one thing I never scrimp on – a favorable flight.

I really hate flying. I hate being at the mercy of the airport, the rude flight attendants, bad yet expensive food and early mornings. So, within reason, I make every effort to fly in and out of the airport 20 minutes from my house at a normal hour on a direct flight.

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~File photo

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Pallin’ around Philly – in the daylight

Now that I’m 25-years-old, most of my friends (and I) are starting to find their way. Finally, those closest to me are escaping from the one-traffic-light town that we grew up in and are heading to New York City, across state lines, to small cities throughout New Jersey, and, of course, to Philadelphia.

Whenever another one of my friends packed up for Philadelphia, I cringed a little inside. It’s an uncomfortable hour-and-45-minute drive from my house and, possibly since I’ve mostly only been there under the cover of night, I’m used to odd happenings on shady streets and staying in dirty apartments. It’s a big, hipster change from my existence in ritzy, clean Morristown.

However, with not much else going on during a boring Sunday and having spent way too much time without seeing my best friend, Aaron, I buckled down in the car for the long journey to visit him for the day.

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