I saw that joke in a video on the internet, and related to it too much. Which reminded me of the blog posts I have not been writing and the endless list of things I want to put on there. It’s been awhile since my last post and I have not updated on my Vietnam trip.
It really is a lot easier said than done, while everything is a work in progress. The more things I do while traveling, the less time I have to write about it.
But as I am too familiar with it, all it takes is to get the first post out to get the ball rolling. I hope my readers will forgive me for my absence and understand that I also owe it to myself to have a good time on vacation. This post will be one that will hopefully kickstart my routine, so it’s really for me, not you.
As I get back into the groove of being in the United States again, blogging is not the only thing on my priorities (though it is, because I did decide to buy a hosting plan that costs plenty of monies). I’m once again making money by working from home.
A short version: Vietnam was awesome. We had absorbed so much during this 2.5 month trip with family. I’m in much more control and aware of myself and my surroundings.
Though I did not come up with as many posts as I’d like, here are some that I had written on Nha Trang. Please peruse and enjoy our photo adventures of Vietnam.
Unless we have a Couchsurf host arrangement already made, we typically spend our time visiting popular free destinations in the country. We’ve been here for a week now, and all family we’ve made have been incredibly hospitable. Experiences like riding motorbikes, grabbing tropical fruits like coconuts and mangoes from the garden, eating traditional (vegetarian) foods, etc. There is no better way to reconnect with our language and culture like getting acquainted with family.
Vietnamese foods that take 2.5 hours to get to back in the US are accessible here within a short 5 minute motorbike ride, and at a fraction of the price. The closer we get to the holidays, everyone celebrates by making lots and lots of food.
Vietnam has a prominent Buddhism background, which means that finding artificial vegetarian meat is pretty easy. It also helps that a lot of our family in Vietnam has been buying at local vegetarian shops all these years.
Today, we’re making banh tet!
Bánh tét, a traditional rice cake with mung bean filling, is usually eaten during the Vietnamese Lunar New Year.
My mom and I have made banh tet back in the United States as well, but this is a whole different process. It’s not so easy when you have to keep a fire alive in heavy rain, keeping the smoke from your eyes, and trying to evade mosquitoes.
When it comes to making banh tet, my grandma is a pro. She’s been making delicious banh tet for decades, and her techniques are near flawless. Years ago, she made 100+ banh tet’s to sell at our local market during new years. Today, she makes it specially for family and friends only.
The ingredients of banh tet is pretty simple: sticky rice, banana leaves, mung bean (fried and seasoned to taste), and any additional filling you may like. There are many variables to make good banh tet, which is where my grandma comes in.
quality of sticky rice
well-seasoned mung bean filling
cook time and method
Compared to our banh tet in the US, my grandma’s are much bigger, almost twice as big! She also uses a different kind of fiber that is really strong, and (I’ve noticed) used to tie up a lot of vegetables at the market.
My grandma’s banh tet can afford to be so big because it’s made over wood fire in a giant pot. Because they make it in such large size and quantity, Vietnamese people typically set up a giant pot outside and cook it outdoors (back “yard”). It’s pretty cool how we used just scrap wood and log pieces to fuel the fire. We have to cook it a total 7-9 hours, depending on how consistent the heat is!
We set up several bricks to support our pot of banh tet. Thank goodness I’ve had experience with camping, as it made me not so ignorant in front of my more experienced aunt and grandma.
Dark Clouds Settle In
Receiving news that an incoming storm, we had set up a raggedy umbrella right by the pot to save the fire from getting soaked. We also put on a tarp to keep the wood from getting wet. The umbrella had done a wonderful job in protecting me from the pouring rain. However, the smoke and steam caught under the cover is highly deadly.
Sitting around for 7+ hours is a perfect time to connect with family. During this time of the year, families would gather around the fire, tell stories, and listen to festive Tet melodies.
Power outage, reminded me of my first time in Vietnam where the power had cut out every other day. Today, the internet in Vietnam is better than the United States (where I live anyway).
Despite the gruesome, humid, dirty, hot, dangerous conditions of making banh tet, this is the most authentic experience making it.
What are some tough, but worthy, experiences you’ve had while exploring culture?
As I approached this last post, I feel nervous and excited. Nervous because I feel as if I have exhausted my writing topics. What else is there to share aside from all the experiences I’ve had?
With the end in sight, I’m excited because I’ve stuck to this challenge through the end. There were definitely weeks where I did not feel like writing, but this challenge had motivated me to get back into my blogging grind. Furthermore, this challenge was born from one of my monthly goals list, and I’m quite happy about being able to finish it.
I’ve learned a lot from this blogging challenge. I have practiced determination by pursuing a hobby and passion of mine through long, lazy days. I have learned to flow my writing better. Best of all, I’ve made great fun blogging friends along the way.
Hi everyone! Welcome back to another week of my Travel Blogging Challenge. It feels like it was ages ago since I’ve written my first challenge response. So much has changed since then. Funny how time flies, yet can still be devastatingly slow, huh?
This week’s challenge theme: Confessions. Regrets.
I have many, many things to confess.
I have always tried to live my life as if it were my last days. I want to do things as soon as possible, but with these impulses comes dire consequences.
Time and time again, these are oversights I find myself making…
Not being in the moment
I always look ahead. It is my both strength and my weakness. I don’t wallow in my mistakes yesterday if I know there’s nothing I can do to change it. However, I always find myself eager and worried for tomorrow and whether everything will go smoothly.
To relate, studying abroad in Singapore was such a big and fun part of my life. Between all the tests, studying, presentations, the semester had passed by in a wink of an eye.
Today, I look back and saw that I participated in many clubs/events, studied abroad, made lots of friends, but it passed by with all the fretting that I did over my curriculum.
You may have seen in my previous post, I am not a huge fan of the constant dead zombie glowed faces from browsing cell phones. I am also guilty of being reliant on technology. Though I am pretty good about self control with social media, because I work online and I keep track of my travel photos, it’s quite difficult to stop myself from using the net. Only when I got my phone and wallet stolen did I finally realize how dependent I was.
This is perhaps one of my biggest flaw while traveling.
Once I have a thought planted in my head, I take immediate action– sometimes recklessly so. I am haunted by the fear of waiting- and then losing the opportunity.
I don’t give enough time to people and places. I’m always anxious to move forward, failing to realize that the now is what makes me happy.
Looking back, I am appalled at my own ignorance while traveling.
In my first years, I never took the time to research the cultural and environmental impact of the actions I’m taking. Animals are endangered because of ignorant tourists. Locals’ livelihood are affected by my actions.
Moreover, I’ve never taken ample time to research the history of places I visit. What struggles they’ve been through, what their culture is like.
Though I’m not doing anything to harm the citizens, I’m not taking enough measures to ensure I’m leaving a green footprint behind. Leaving it a better place.
I made it through and, as always, learned important lessons that help make me a better, more conscientious person. Though I’m not any more perfect today, I am much more aware of my actions and what I can do make myself a better traveler.
Are there things in your life, decisions, choices, paths that you felt could have been done better?
Thanks for reading! This is a response to the 21 Weeks of Travel Blogging Challenge!
Whether you’re an avid manga reader, or lover of Japanese culture, or just fascinated about Japanese technology, there is always something mystifying and beautiful about Japan that draws millions of tourists in the past decade.
Today, I’m thrilled to share one of my three favorite cultures encountered while traveling: Japan. This is a three part series response to the 21 Weeks of Travel Blogging Challenge, so please check out the rest of my responses!
The Ultimate Guide to Traveling Japan for Beginners
Who is this Guide For?
This guide is for anyone and everyone to peruse. Though, I am writing it specifically for:
People who have general knowledge of Japan and want to catch a glimpse of the magnificent country in 3 weeks.
People who like cool technology and want to see it in person.
People who like anime, but want to know what real life Japanese culture is like.
People who like adventures, because really is one big adventure.
When to Go
The timing of going to Japan is very important as it could change your itinerary completely. Japan is a very versatile country. On top of a million reasons to visit the country, here some highlights of seasonal activities in Japan.
Winter for the hot springs and skiing/snowboarding.
Spring for the famous and beautiful Cherry Blossoms.
Summer for the fireworks and climbing Mt. Fuji.
Autumn for the beautiful foliage amidst Japanese culture.
Japanese Festivals (Matsuri) occur year round, entailing large parades, floats, food, traditional clothing, and costumes. Each shrine has its own local festival, so you will encounter one unique to the location you are visit.
Japan is mostly accessible by plane, where tickets are typically quite expensive to buy, unless you could find the cheap off season ticket deal. Throughout the year, there are various Japan flight deals from theflightdeal.com, as little as $600 for a roundtrip ticket!
Once you’re in the country, there are railway systems everywhere. Tokyo Metro is the subway system of Tokyo, taking you anywhere you need with in 30 minutes. Be mindful of the time though, because unlike NYC subways, this one is not open 24/7. These are much more economical than taking a taxi, as those could run you a hundred dollars. We had to take the taxi on hour first night in Japan because our flight had arrived too late and the metro had closed.
If you want to catch a good glimpse of Japan in a short amount of time, I highly recommend purchasing the Japan Rail (JR) Pass, which was by far the most expensive thing we bought (about $200/pass). However, it is entirely worth it to ride a bullet train (on my bucket list) and cruise through the country within hours. They also have an option for regional passes, which are more economical.
Luckily, through Couchsurfing, we met our good friend Keisuke, who had a car and showed us around Yokohama for a couple of days.
Biking is a great way to explore the streets of Japan, especially while exploring architecture in the rural areas. Imagine riding around Kyoto on a beautiful afternoon by beautiful temples in the Autumn. /sigh
Useful Things to Bring
If you’re traveling with backpack, check out my comprehensive guide to what to pack! However, I just want to reiterate the importance of bringing:
Smartphone, with pre-installed:
Walking down the streets of Tokyo, there are minimal amounts of English in writing or speaking. We heavily relied on our translation apps, including when we interacted with our Couchsurf friend.
Generally, accommodations in Japan are cheaper than the United States, but only by a smidge.
For those who aren’t familiar with this site, it is a fantastic accommodation option for travelers to stay with hosts (though still like a hotel, because all bedding and linen are provided). We used Airbnb throughout our travel in Japan. Without knowing language or pricing in Japan, Airbnb provided us an authentic, cheap, and no nonsense stay with our hosts. Do get $40 off your first stay with Airbnb through our referral link here!
Sleeping in a Japanese Capsule Hotel is exactly as it sounds, and has always been on my bucket list. I finally had my chance! Surprisingly, it not as cheap as you would expect, pricing around $30 to $50 per capsule. It features exciting amenities of a tiny door with blinds, a tiny TV, and a tiny desk to eat on!
Have you slept in a manga book store before? It’s actually quite common in Japan! The pads in our private cubby makes a great bed for tired souls. This was our chance to take a break from wandering, and sit, read manga, cruise the internet, and sleep.
Where to Go
Tokyo is the capital of Japan. One of the the most populated urban areas in the world, and a giant hub for technology, business, travel, culture, foods, weirdness, and much more. Tokyo is made up of several large districts with its own character.
Akihabara– electronic, anime, video games center.
Shibuya– temples, culture, foods. Don’t forget to check out the Shibuya Crossing (just a really busy pedestrian crossing that looks like a giant ant colony collision from above)
Do visit the Kyoto-Osaka-Nara for the rich, authentic culture and traditions. The temples are beautiful and palaces magnanimous.
We were touched by the remnants of the Hiroshima bombing during World War II. Such a sad history for such a beautiful city. We were taken through a heart throbbing journey of recovery. History class lecture is nothing like being in the city itself.
Things to Do
Check out the Tokyo Tower! It’s essentially a version of the Eiffel Tower, except it’s 13 meter taller!
Explore Culture and Temples
Asakusa Temples – this area features a variety of beautiful temples. Traditional foods and souvenir items are bountiful here as well!
Explore strange, but cool things in Japan
Cup Noodle Museum – We made our own cup noodles!!! I’ve been a huge fan of Ramen since my youth. Now, I finally made my own unique label and packaging (and eating it!), standing in front of the wall of ramen– feels amazing.
Robot Restaurant – possibly the craziest dinner show I’ve ever been to. Our tickets were $40/person (includes dinner and drinks). No regrets, because this gave me just the experience of Japan that I expected. See my post on our adventures at the Robot Restaurant here!
Using the Toilet is an adventure in itself. No English to indicate whether or not there’s going to be water splashed up my butt. Awesome.
Feed your nerdy interests:
Ghibli Museum (anime fan) – Upon going to Japan, I knew I had to visit Studio Ghibli. I’m a huge fan of the animated films and their soundtracks. The studio is as amazing as I imagined!! Don’t forget to order your tickets early, as they are booked out veryyyy far back. <3 Let me know when you go!
Manga Kissa – Rows on rows on rows of manga! *drools*
Pokemon Center – My favorite starter Pokemon, Torchick!
Hop on the Hogwarts Express at Harry Potter World!!!
Feed your love for cute things:
What to Eat
Great Tea Kit Kats – 258 yens ($2.30 dollars), whereas in the US could run up to $6/bag. If you’ve never heard of this, it may sound a little weird to you, but they are so delicious.
Sushi – What’s Japan without Sushi? Even though we’re vegetarian, there were awesome options for us on the Sushi belt!
Soba Noodles, Ramen, and Tempura
Dango (Sweet Japanese Dumplings)- if you’ve seen Clannad, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Onigiri (Rice balls) – sold across all 7/11, possibly one of my favorite Japanese foods, it is so delicious. A perfect snack with all the ingredients I love.
Fun Culture Facts
Walking and eating is frowned upon. We ate our home-cooked meal out of a grocery bag on the sidewalk.
Tokyo Metro rush hour in Japan is BAD, even comparable to NYC rush hour subway. The trains are so cramped! The best way to step into the cart is by facing the other direction and stepping in, so that no awkward looks pass as you shove yourself into the crowd. Very professional.
While there is an endless amount of things I could write about Japan, I would love to hear any questions, stories, and comments you all have! I would happy to write more or clarify, and especially to hear your thoughts!
Thanks for reading! This is a response to the 21 Weeks of Travel Blogging Challenge!
This week, I’d like to share some of my best adventures while traveling! I have always considered myself lucky and forever thankful that I have had so many opportunities to see someplace new.
When people ask me where I get all the money to travel… well, I don’t. I really don’t have much money. In my post on how I travel cheaply, I talked more about ways I save.
Still, I have never regretted a single dollar spent on traveling. Here are some priceless memories I’ve had from my adventures.
Studying Abroad in Singapore
I know this may seem cheesy and a cliché, but studying abroad in Singapore was one of my favorite adventures.
It was where I lived overseas for the first time. I was scared, homesick, and constantly active with all the planned school activities. I made some very close friends there, where I bonded with other international students.
We shared our immersive cultural experience and struggles at the university. We explored fun night adventures, and always looked out for each other. If you get an opportunity to study abroad, I would 5000% recommend it!
Best of all, in the convenient location of my university, I was able to take trips around Southeast Asia during school breaks. While I was in Singapore, I had the opportunity to visit Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia! Afterwards, I took the opportunity to backpack around Southeast Asia. I guess you could say that Singapore had started my travel bug.
Full Moon Party in Thailand
Have you ever been to the Full Moon Party in Thailand?
We’ve all heard of it. Every month, tens of thousands of people flock to Koh Phangan to celebrate the full moon party. I have always loved dancing, and that night, I truly danced the night away. I danced the entire coastline and back. People standing in each other’s space, filling up the beach, sharing food and drinks.
It’s a night for a spontaneity and fun.
National Parks in the USA
I always feel ashamed when people ask me whether I’ve been here or there in the United States. I have neglected traveling my own country until most recently, my boyfriend and I took a trip around the United States. We had a National Parks pass and had visited every single National Park on our way in the US. I’ve never realized how beautiful our country was! Here are some of my favorite hike photos.
Working for Stay While Abroad
Have you ever worked while abroad? We primarily use HelpX. But there are other great resources for work! In our work, we exchange work for our stay. While in Mexico, we lived in cabins by the sea and received guests coming in via cruise ships every week! We met other work for stay travelers as well as partied with locals. Unforgettable memories indeed!
Wandering Around New York City
I’m sure I’ve worn you guys with my endless stories of New York, but it is honestly one of my best adventures yet. We had just returned from our backpacking trip in Central America and decided to move to NYC. In New York, I had my first corporate job on Wall Street, I found my first apartment, paid my first utility bills.I had to figure out how to adult very, very quickly because it is a very expensive city to mess up in.
I have very fond memories of figure out how to use the subway, walking and biking around the city, going to job interviews, eating cheap food, seeing Broadway shows, and many, many more.
Korea has my Seoul
Second only to NYC, Seoul has the coolest energy I’ve ever felt. The culture is so authentic and unique. The people so colorful, bright, and happy. Everyone is dressed super cute. And street food! Tons of loooovely street foods!!
The country was beautiful, the food exotic, and energy out of this world. I want to revisit sooo bad.
You might also like some of my other adventure posts:
Thanks for visiting my little corner of the blogging world! What are your favorite adventures?
As I’ve shared in my latest reflection, I have started my journey with my 2nd remote job. The past weeks, I have been training and getting in the groove of work, so I haven’t adventured (or write) as much, but I really appreciate all the support from my lovely travel blogging friends and readers!
Thanks for reading! This is a response to the 21 Weeks of Travel Blogging Challenge!
There are three types of people: those who travel, those who want to travel, and those who don’t, can’t, and never will.
At 23, I’m not quite a kid and not old. People around me are getting jobs, making families, buying houses, etc. I often think to myself… what have I done with my life? What brings me satisfaction?
I would like to share my philosophy and story on why I started traveling and what nudges me to keep doing so.
Life’s too short. Optimistically, I estimate I will live another 80 years (haha, bear with me). That’s not a lot of time. My family always tells me that that’s a weird outlook on life. I grew up in a small, majority-whites town where people go to retire. People are born, raised, and live their lives there. Unfortunately, a static life not a life for me. I left. Moved to Asia, traveled the United States, backpacked Central America, moved to New York. I feel that being stationary wastes what little time I have left, which leads me to my next point.
I want to see and do something new everyday. Like many other parents of travelers, my parents want a stable, happy, safe life. They were 110% against my traveling. They were refugees from Vietnam, fleeing the country from oppression and seeking a better place. I understand that they would want me to go to school, get a stable job, and live my life happily. I am forever thankful for what they’ve done and proud of how far they’ve come since leaving Vietnam. I can’t say how much I respect them for their decisions. If I had lived in my small town forever, I would know nothing. There’s a million and infinity things I don’t know out there, and I want to change that.
Beneficial to my mind and body. Travel relieves my stress. It tells me my troubles aren’t that significant in the grand scheme of things. It shows me different sides to myself that I never knew, food that I never thought I’d like, people I’d meet, ordeals I’d surpass. I pushed my body to do crazy, amazing things while traveling more than I ever did while I was at home. It’s amazing.
What am I saving money for? Nobody knows when they’re going to lose it all. When I lost phone and wallet on a rickety bus in Guatemala, I thought I wasn’t going to make it. I realized that no matter how much I save, it would still be for naught if life takes it away in a whirl of wind. I save more money, pay more bills, save more, spend more, pay more bills. The cycle is never-ending! In my life, the only thing I’ve been happy to give my money for is to travel. I never regret spending anything on a trip out of town. Now, I save my money for travel and cultural foods around the world. 😉
If I don’t do it now, I might never do it! Goals change all the time. Today, I might love traveling, tomorrow, I might not. I might lose motivation, get lazy, change directions unexpectedly, die, etc. A few years ago, my bucket list had included going to the Amazon Forest. Today, I want to go on a cruise. I changed, because I don’t want to risk getting eaten by a giant snake, a fear I didn’t have a few years back. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but just a small missed opportunity. I just hope what I replace it with is a bigger jump for great adventures.
Share my travels. I’ve always loved traveling, even if alone. When I met my boyfriend, I experienced what it felt like to travel together. My horizons expanded. When I see/eat/go/read something great, I want to share it with my loved ones, and traveling is on the top of my things to share. It’s amazing to come home after a travel and cook the crazy dishes from around the world for my family to experience. I want so much to take my siblings to New York and show them how big the world can be.
My list of inspirations are endless. But that’s all for today, what are your inspirations in life and travel???
Hope to connect with you soon! Peace!
Thanks for reading! This is a response to the 21 Weeks of Travel Blogging Challenge!
Over the years, I’ve learned so many things from trial and error. I’ve slept on the border, I’ve fallen from a motorbike, I’ve almost drowned while scuba diving, I’ve lost some of my most prized possessions, I’ve almost fallen from a coconut tree, and many more which I can tell you about in Travel Challenge Week 4 (Misadventures). This week, I want to tell you what mistakes I’ve seen people make (including myself).
Little Known Travel Tips, by order of importance
For an authentic experience, skip the tourist destinations, do what the locals do. … I know right? Easier said than done. But from my experience, touristy landmarks are always crowded, commercialized, and expensive. They are almost always full of street sellers, all up in your face.
On the other hand, I’ve done some really cool things and met awesome locals through Couchsurfing, an excellent resource for meeting locals and have a free place to stay. Talking to other travelers also help in my decision for the next destination! Here are some awesome experiences I’ve had, off the beaten track.
To get the most authentic things to do, I turn on my creep mode, and start watching the locals. I steer clear of tourists, and follow the locals to the best spots in town. For example…
Food is a big part of my travels. I always seek local foods while walking about. Here are some platos tipicos from Couchsurf hosts and local markets! Delicious~~ <3
Don’t plan everything. I know it’s really hard to do when you only have a week of vacation. I’ve met people who visit New York City with their every hour scheduled out. It becomes more of a chore than a vacation. You’ll start stressing out when things don’t work out as planned… and altogether unpleasant.
I like to put in an extra free day or week so that I can just wander around serendipitously. My partner and I always travel slower than we planned out. When we moved to New York, we had only intended to stay for 3 months. We ended up staying for almost a year!
Don’t be too stingy. I am so guilty of this. Spending, especially in a foreign country where the money value is lower than the United States, can be tricky sometimes. I have once slept in a tent outside someone’s house (with permission) in the rain instead of paying $15 to get a motel room. Yeah, I know. It’s crazy that I didn’t do it. But $15 was considered a lot of money in Honduras!! Another time, I rode on a rickety bus for $1 instead of paying $20 for a shared private van. There, I got my brand new cellphone stolen.
Phew! So be it whether I missed out on experience or end up losing things, I have made it a goal to learn when to spend and when to save. Being too thrifty can hurt.
It’s okay to travel alone. I’ve felt the most freedom and met some of the coolest people while traveling solo. I loved it because I was free to do anything I wanted. I traveled on my own on some days, but more than often, I met dozens of people at random hostels and traveled together. Spontaneity is 80% of the fun. After I met my partner, I experienced the joy of sharing my experiences with a significant other. I appreciate and love both travel styles. Don’t be the one who is scared of traveling alone!
Working while traveling is a wonderful substitution for a 9-5 job. In today’s digital age, people can now work with flexibility. I teach English as a Second Language, earning $22+ an hour. Learn more about my post on it here!
Invest a little bit in the right gear. For a year, I lived out of my backpack. That means a few things. All the clothes I wear needs to be hand picked carefully. I’ll admit, most my clothes are cheap, mostly from thrift stores. However, I want to stress the importance of travel gear.
Because I carry so much stuff on my back, I decided to buy a backpack with a suspension system. This was my best decision ever. I chose a 40L bag to easily fit the bag as a carry on on a plane. It fit everything, including my tent, tent poles, and clothes. On my back, with straps on correctly, I hardly felt any weight!
I would say my backpack was the most expensive thing I owned. I would also invest in down feather jackets for its warmth and light weight, a lightweight backpacker tent, and an ultra light inflatable sleeping pad. Clothes were cheap where we traveled, and I knew I would be shopping, so I didn’t bring that many. My shoes were just from Walmart. So take my advice with a grain of salt. 😉
Immerse in the travels,get off your phone. When I lost my phone (pick-pocketed in Guatemala), I thought my world had ended. Then I began to realize how much my phone had controlled me. I began to see independently, outside of my selfies. The freedom was eye-opening. I suggest everyone try it. Instagram can wait!
That’s all folks!
Thanks for reading! This is a response to the 21 Weeks of Travel Blogging Challenge!
Read more of my posts from the Travel Blogging Challenge:
This challenge showcases your experience through travel stories, cultures, foods, advise, lessons, and more. You don’t need to be a world traveler to join. I encourage everyone to write and share your cool experiences, near and far! You can check out the entire challenge in the original post here! Please also visit Julie and Vikkilawman as they will be with me in this blogging journey!
Celebrating my first Vietnamese New Year Tet in my motherland and experiencing traditions passed on for thousands of years. Wearing the traditional Ao Dai, holding red packets (with money inside), red and gold peace and prosperity decorations, and vibrant flowers of all colors for the best luck of the year.
I’ve always been jealous of people who can climb coconut trees. Growing up in the Philippines, I loved the easy access to cheap coconuts. I’ve often sat and watched people climb up the trees with ease, grabbed a coconut from the top, and slide back down like a boss.
In tropical and humid countries, coconuts are the fruits of choice. They are known for their many uses as seen in this awesome and catchy song in Moana:
On a hot and humid day, thirsty? We drink the coconut juice. Hungry? We eat the meat inside. The leaves are used to fire, basket-weaving, shade, and more! The trees are easily accessible, can be seen everywhere on the streets. I’ve always wanted to climb one. The problem: the coconuts are super high up in the air. Since there are no branches to climb up on, people rely on pure arm and leg strength. /ugh/
Being a less than capable climber, I mostly admire these coconut climbers from afar. While traveling in Central America, locals showed us new methods to help the coconut harvest process safer and go faster, and can be learned by newbies. Yes! The group of Italians who stayed with us were too smart to try something like this and had only watched us from the hut. My boyfriend, Cuong, who has always been more physically fit than me, climbed first on the tree about fifty feet in the air.
How it works: Using two rope loops, wrap them around the tree. One rope loops around your thigh, and the other rope is used to step on. You can lever yourself upwards by shifting the ropes up. See a video of coconut climbing in action here.
My turn. Still in my flip flops, I decided to give it a try. Skeptical of my abilities to go all the way up, I was hoping to maybe climb a few feet. Before I knew it, I was already a fourth of the way up the tree. Wow, it was easier than I thought. The ropes dug into my thighs and the tree scraped against my arms and and legs, but it was do-able! I decided to keep going, despite the lack of proper shoes.
Two-thirds of the way up, the tree curved to the side, the ropes didn’t have enough friction to grab onto the tree, and slid loose. I lost my footing. My heart jumped out of my chest.
I was so scared that for the next five minutes, I hugged and cursed myself for climbing so far up in the first place. One fall like that could definitely break a bone. After what felt like an eternity of panic, I realized that no one is going to be able to help me. I have to get out of this mess on my own. I decided to keep climbing up (since I didn’t know how to get down and that was a problem for future Winta).
The top of the coconut tree had dry fibery leaves, which made it difficult for the ropes to grab on. The coconut was more difficult to pick than I thought. I had to twist it a dozen times before it broke and fell to the ground. My first coconut picked from the tree.
As with any cat that climbs a tree and can’t get down, I looked at the ground faaaarr below me. I realized I didn’t know how to get back down. Great, fifty feet in the air and I’m experimenting on ways to pull the ropes and lever back down. After a series of trial and error, I was finally able to shimmy myself back down.
Here are a couple of celebratory pictures of my difficult climb:
I should also mention that both our climbs took about 20-30 minutes, and the locals probably take 5 minutes to go through the whole process. I imagine that they were highly amused by our determination through this ordeal. Despite my incredible thirst, I spent 15 minutes clumsily cutting open my coconut and drank the sweet, sweet reward.
I’m quite proud of this day, almost falling off a coconut tree, but reaching my goal. I came out with only a couple of scratches, aches, and bruises, but I had learned something new: that it was all possible. Perhaps, in the far future, I will climb for coconuts again.
Thanks for reading!! I would love to hear your thoughts on my dangerous heist in comments below. <3
Norway was recently declared the happiest country in the world, and rightly so. I love Norway for so many reasons. The country is gorgeous, and the people are free spirited and friendly. But my main reason was that it had ignited my love for traveling.
When I graduated high school, my uncle, who had immigrated to Norway over 20 years ago, insisted that I visited him in Norway.
Being born and raised in the Philippines, we’ve only talked to each other on the phones. I would talk to him for hours- about everything: my goals, school, culture, travels. When I expressed interest in Norway, he said that if I wanted to visit, he would fund my trip for me! Back then, I knew next to nothing about travel. Looking back, I realize that he must have spent a fortune for me to visit and do all the things we did.
I packed enough clothes for the month that I will be staying there. I chose them carefully, so as to not embarrass myself in front of people. I will be flying by myself to a foreign country, and will be meeting my uncle for the first time!
In the short amount of time I was there, I learned so many strange facts about the country. Here are some of my impressions:
Oslo airport smelled weird.That was literally the first thing I noticed about Norway, so I thought I’d write it down. If anyone else had been to Norway and experienced the same thing, please let me know so that I know I’m not crazy.
There were 20 hours of daylight. This is something I learned in books and school, but never expected to experience in real life. Depending on the time of the year, it never really gets dark in Norway. Mind blown. That aside, people really get up around the same time, and sleep relatively early. I had blinds in my room to keep the light from coming in.
Norway is expensive. Norway’s cost of living is almost twice the cost of living the United States. My uncle owns a repair shop in a mall, and I found out his shop was actually the size of a walk-in closet! He pays about $2000 per month to keep the shop, and only has the bare essentials for his tools and a small fridge and microwave.
Norway has very strict driving exams, and it is ridiculously expensive. There are four painstaking training stages to go through before he could even take the practice test. Each stage costs money. The entire process of training and test taking costs about $3000! If he fails any of the stages, he will need to repay and retake the training/test. To think I only spend $25 to get my driver’s license. My uncle had studied for years, and was very careful so that he doesn’t fail; while I was there, I hoped to help him study for the test. It was all in Norsk- bummer. We took the bus to get places. I didn’t mind that. I lived in a small town, I had to drive to get anywhere. Public transportation is a nice change of pace. I also noticed that instead of highway exits, Norway has roundabouts. Definitely different.
People are tall. Very, very tall.I come from a small town in the United States, so I don’t get exposed to that many tall people (or people, really), but I know when people are extraordinarily tall. The average height for a Norwegian male is almost 6 feet!
Norsk is unbearingly difficult to learn. While I was there, I picked up on a few phrases, destination names, etc. I was very impressed that my uncle could speak it so well. Luckily, Norwegians also spoke English. Here is how to say, “How are you? Nice to meet you!”
Korleis har du det? Kjekt å treffe deg!
People are overly generous. When I arrived in Oslo, my uncle and his friend had come to pick me up at the airport. Since my uncle didn’t have a car, his friend agreed to help drive us around on our road trips, while also taking a vacation himself. My uncle’s friends went out of their way to make me feel welcom. They took me out to restaurants, cooked me food, bought me clothes, and (my favorite) complimented me often! They showed me so many places; I felt incredibly spoiled. I went to my first IKEA there (again, I lived in a very small town). At the time, I thought it was a Norwegian mall- turns out it’s Swedish. It’s less cool, now that I’ve been to several IKEAs in the United States.
In 2005, Geiranger Fjord was listed as an UNESCO’s World Heritage Site for its beautiful fjord, carved in by glaciers. It is the host of several impressive waterfalls, including the Seven Sisters Falls.
Eight hours drive northwest of Oslo, Geiranger is surrounded by snow-covered peak, cliffs, wild waterfalls, and deep, green vegetation Geirangerfjord is a sight not to be missed.
The fjord was absolutely stunning. We had magnificent views of waterfalls, birds, mountain goats, and the valley. Here are some of my photo highlights of the trip:
The images speak for themselves. I felt as if I was in a lost paradise, a sort of part of heaven that I never knew about. We hiked, climbed, and trekked through places where we were completely in nature.
We cozied up in this wonderful cabin for our stay there. Cooked ourselves a hearty meal as we spent time together.
Animals in the mountains seem to have no regard for tourists. While we were driving, a goat came by and stuck his head in our passenger window! Can we keep him please?
Home to over 200 sculptures by Vigeland is Vigelands Parken, accomplished over a 10 year period. Vigeland Parken is also known to locals as the Sexy Park or red light district. When my uncle said that he was taking me to a red light district, I was both surprised and distressed. He told me that this park is just full of people, hanging around, naked. He refused to tell me any more.
It turned out it was just a park full of sculptures. /exhale/
Why was it called the red light district? All his sculptures are nude. Not many parks showcase nude sculptures, but this in this park, it’s the main attraction.
The park covers the Circle of Life- birth, childhood, young adult and finally old adult. It tells stories of betrayal, passion, hate, jealousy, mother’s love, regrets, death, and so many other emotions. Each sculpture seemed to tell a story.
There were so many fountains and gardens in the park. Walking through the entire park could take up an entire day!
Over the years, I’ve been to countless of parks, but I can honestly say there are none quite like this one. Impressive and unique. Worth the time to visit!
What made Norway a truly happy country to me is this: Despite the expensive cost of living,people have are carefree and don’t get stuck up on money. They spend on what they want, they are generous, friendly. My uncle, who owns a small repair shop in a mall, was so generous as to buy me a plane ticket to give me this amazing experience. His friends, who are perfect strangers to me, brought me shopping and bought me clothes, took me out to restaurants, made me food, and let me stay in their houses. It shows me people here just thought and lived differently from home. They care more about the other joys in life. So I ask myself this? Why can’t we all do that?
Looking forward to my next trip to Norway. 🙂
Thanks for reading!!! Questions? Comments? Let’s chat below! <3
Couchsurfing is a traveler’s best friend. For those who don’t know, it is a community of traveler-friendly enthusiast who host people as well as “surf” couches. A CouchSurf host is a friend in a who is also eager to foster cultural exchange; it’s the best way to experience local culture. To learn more about this awesome community, see this post for my little guide to Couchsurfing.
Our best Couchsurfing friend in Japan is good guy Keisuke. Our relationship with him as a little different as he did not host us in his house (which is typically the norm). I had just finished studying a semester abroad in Singapore, and he had helped us by holding on to my luggage while we were traveling in Japan.
We had met him at the Yokohama train station, which was daunting for several reasons. We chose to not buy a sim card, therefore we did not have data to text him. From two of his profile pictures, we might not have recognized him in a sea of Japanese people. The station was bustling with activity, so we weren’t sure if we would miss him. As we paced around, fretting, it turned out we didn’t need to look for him. Two people standing around, looking lost, with 2 luggages, and two backpacks tend to stand out. He found us pretty quickly. We liked him at first sight. He was so friendly, polite, and considerate. He offered to help me carry my luggage to his car. He had a car! Awesome! In the 6 months that I spent in Southeast Asia, I have only walked, taken the bus, or used the metro station. Keisuke had a car! I felt really spoiled. As we kept thanking him over and over for how awesome he is, he was very humble and said it was his pleasure. He drove us around for a long time, taking us to different places. He didn’t mind, that he “loves to drive!!” I’ve never met anyone who is so excited over driving. ^_^ After walking and taking the metro everywhere in Japan, it was an amazing change to ride on a car. He explained that he only recently received his driver’s license, and that he should thank us. Where could we find a Keisuke in the US, please???
He took us to a mall where we had our first Japanese food court meal. We both had Yakisoba, which were delicious. Keisuke kept insisting on paying for us, as we are guests in this country. He spoke limited English (which is much more fluent than our non-existent Japanese), and occasionally we needed to use a translator app to get our thoughts across. It was a really interesting experience.
He then drove us to his work place “Trattoria Pesce D’oro”! We tried a delicious dessert sampler platter, courtesy of Keisuke, as he had employee discount.
The restaurant has delicious dessert!
Our dessert sampler!
Keisuke welcomed us warmly and was incredibly helpful in recommending things for us to do in Yokohama. One of his best recommendations was to go to the Cup Noodles Museum, which I never knew existed! I love noodles. I’ve been a fan of ramen since I was born (a little exaggeration). I would eat if everyday, if my family didn’t stop me.
Does anyone else see that this is a logo of a girl falling? That’s the first thing I noticed about it, and apparently only I was able to see it…
Thanks to our fantastic host, we were able to take a photo with the famous Yokohama Ferris Wheel. We will always remember him as the best host in Japan. <3