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Denver and Boulder, CO

**Check out new 2016 updates at the end!**
I was just excited when I heard from my manager that I could attend a conference in Denver, CO in late June. Upon confirming my trip, I contacted my buddy who resides in Boulder and took up his offer to spend the weekend with him.
I arrived on Sunday and came across a massive Pride gathering. Since I only had some limited time to myself in Denver, I traveled to Jaya Asian Grill, a Southeast Asian restaurant. I ordered the Tom Yum Goung and Char Kway Teow. Alas, my 2 hour trip (2 hours because the rail transit broke down) was  futile. The soup was bland and the noodle dish was plain. I wasn't impressed at all.
I spent the rest of the evening checking out downtown Denver. There is a one-mile pedestrian mall that is home to a variety of more than 500 retailers, restaurants and bars. If one gets tired of walking, just hop on the free bus ride that goes along the mall. 

Another sight to behold is walking along the Platte River. One can spend the afternoon by the clean river reading, kayaking, taking a dip or surfing the tiny waves.

If you are an outdoor enthusiast, then you must not miss the REI store which is located less than a mile from the mall. The REI store also has an information booth where you can ask the personnel there to recommend places to hike, bike, etc. If you wish to get beyond downtown area, you can either ride the public transit (bus and rail) or rent a bike from a B-Cycle station

The 4 days conference was filled of activities and provided lunches and a banquet dinner on the last evening. Despite free food, I was able to check out a couple of restaurants with my coworkers and professor. We had dinner at Wild Bangkok Bar and Grill and Marlowe's respectively. 
The hotel concierge claimed the food served in Wild Bangkok was authentic. I ordered Pad Thai and was not impressed at all. It was too sweet. Marlowe's was a fun place to dine. We had gravy steak fries (a new concept for me) for appetizers and I ordered a seafood bowl. Absolutely divine! I polished  my meal in a go. 

My final stop in Denver was Tattered Cover bookstore. I spotted it as I was walking along the pedestrian mall. It's a pretty unique, "bohemisque" store, not surprising as it is located in the restored Morey Mercantile Building.
After the conference, I packed up my very few belongings (I didn't have a carry on :P) and headed to the foothill city of Boulder. As we approached the city, my eyes were glued to the magnificent, majestic Rocky Mountains. I couldn't believe I was this close.
Boulder city is a pretty easy place to walk around. It has amenities and transit similar to Denver. My friend took me to a number restaurants for meals. I had a mediocre Tom Yum noodle soup in a pretty decorated place called Chy Thai Cuisine. (I did check out a hydrophonics store next to the restaurant!) 

We then shared a frozen yogurt topped with fresh blackberries at Smooch Frozen Yogurt & Mochi. It was pretty good for a hot day. While enjoying our dessert, we started talking to a lady next to us (who was enjoying a lychee mochi). I found out that she grew blackberries as a business and got some growing tips from her.
 The next day, my friend and I had brunch at The Buff. Since it has a logo of a bison, I was hoping that it would serve bison or some wild buffalo meat. Alas, there was nothing exotic in the menu so I ordered a half serving of saddlebacks breakfast. 

My buddy dropped me off at the Celestial Seasonings Tea HQ and manufacturing place.  I joined the free tour and learned how tea and seasonings were made. We got free samples and I purchased 3 boxes of teas. 

I then went back to the city and had a light lunch of eggplant dolmeh and ice tea at Dushanbe teahouse

Eggplant dolmeh dish contained eggplant stuffed with spinach, cucumber, feta, onion, tomato, stewed lentils, braised greens and raita, served in Persian tomato sauce. Very delicious on a hot summer afternoon.  In addition to the fares, the decor in this place is unique. The building was built and dis-assembled in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, a sister city to Boulder, shipped and re-assembled in Boulder. Even the decor and ambiance adapted the essence of Dushanbe.
Boulder has a pedestrian mall located on Pearl Street. The area contains book shops, cafes, restaurants, boutique and retail stores. It is a nice area to bring your family, especially younger kids. They can explore the area, play with sprouting waters or climb rocks. 

An interesting fact- Pearl St folks ban people from asking signatures or "harassing" tourists to support causes. I got into an interesting debate with a guy on supporting family planning financially. I refused to sign my support because one of its ideals conflicted with my values. We ended in friendly terms and I gave him a bubblegum that I purchased from a candy store called Powell's.
 
My friend and I met up for dinner at Tibet Kitchen. I don't think I had Tibetan food so I was quite excited. The place is tiny, with few tables. But I actually enjoyed the small, cozy family feel to it. The owner served us free chai. I ordered Jhasa Shaptak, a local chili chicken dish. It tasted like stir fry and was pretty good. The chili sauce as a condiment was spicy!

The next day, we packed our simple lunch, visited the local farmer's market and drove up to the Rocky Mountains. We stopped at Alluvial Fan Lawn Lake waters and enjoyed the water cascading down over large boulders. I can see where Boulder got its name. We ate lunch consisting of string cheese, PBJ sandwiches, peaches and trail mix. We drove up using Trail Ridge Road, me watching the the alpine trees slowly thinning out until we arrived the highest point around 12,183 ft near Fall River Pass. 

We were above tree line and saw tundra plants. I learned many things during the trip. First, never to apply brakes too much while going down steep roads. It would wear off brakes and occasionally one would lose control of the car. Instead, it is better to drive on low gear. Second, Rocky Mountain Park is one of the fewest places in US where one can observe a plane below you (if you are on the top). Third, there is still a lot of snow in late June!
After throwing snow balls at each other and taking pictures of marmots, elks and ourselves, we drove on and checked in at the visitor center. 

We learned that it takes more than 30 weeks to clear snow for traffic! After convincing my friends to drive a mile or so, we arrived at the Continental Divide.  The Divide separates watersheds that drain into the Pacific Ocean from those that drain into the Atlantic Ocean.

We headed home after the long day in the park and stopped for an early dinner at Larkburger, an all-natural burger joint. I ordered a burger and a milkshake- pretty tasty. I thought the truffle fries were interesting- they were skinny and sprinkled with garlic, parsley and some salt. Maybe drizzled with some truffle oil? I don't know...Here's the truffle fries recipe my friend recommended.

I bade my adieu to ES and his gf. I caught the early bus shuttle to DEN, exhausted but happy that my visit to Colorado was an exhilarating one.  

Modified date: July 28, 2011

I spent 2016 Christmas break in Colorado Springs and made a couple of quick visits in Denver and Boulder. I flew in DIA from SFO via Virgin Airlines, a pleasant 2+ hours flight. My host family picked me from the airport and we had dim sum lunch at Super Star Asian restaurant in Denver. It was quick pathetic because only 3 carts came by after waiting for so long. The restaurant was not event packed. My host family shopped for Asian groceries next door at Pacific Ocean Marketplace which had a decent selection of goods and produce.
Besides attending a wedding and seeing Christmas lights displays in some neighborhoods, I spent most of my time indoors in Colorado Springs. My host family and I made many Malaysian dishes and caught up with stories. On Christmas day, there were strong winds, so strong that a neighbor's trash can was tumbling around the street. I ventured out to take several pictures of snow-capped Pike's Peak, which was beautiful. Nevertheless, I quickly entered the house because the winds nearly blew me away.
I met up with old friends in Denver, had a quick lunch at Marlowe's, and coffee break at ink! coffee. We wanted to visit the US Mint, however, it was closed so we traveled to the Red Rocks Amphitheater. The park is known for the concerts held in the amphitheater nestled in between massive red rocks. Also housed in the park is a museum dedicated to all the musical legends and bands who made their presence known in the amphitheater as well as historical artifacts and fossils found there.
The next morning, my friends brought me to the university campus, which reminded me of my alma maters. We then made our way to Pearl Street, weaving our ways in and out of the stores in the plaza. Not much has changed and I still enjoy the quirkiness of Boulder. We had lunch at Illegal Pete's a local Mexican restaurant and coffee at Ozo.
Overall, the trip was enjoyable.

Modified on Dec 30, 2016.

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