Travel Blogging Challenge- Week 7 (Inspiration for Traveling)

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.

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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.

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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!

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Thanks for reading! This is a response to the 21 Weeks of Travel Blogging Challenge!

Interested in participating in the Weekly Travel Blogging Challenge? Feel free to make your own today!

Week 1:  A favorite travel photo of you and intro
Week 2: Little known tips
Week 3: Funny story
Week 4: Misadventures
Week 5: Top three cultural foods
Week 6: Unusual travel activities/photos
Week 7: Inspiration for traveling
Week 8: Five favorite travel blogs
Week 9: Gross/disgusting stories
Week 10: Best adventures while traveling
Week 11: What’s in your backpack?
Week 12: Happy and sad stories
Week 13: Unique cultures encountered
Week 14: Top three favorite destinations
Week 15: Travel regrets
Week 16: Scary and cool travel stories
Week 17: Things to purge
Week 18: Humbling things learned from traveling
Week 19: Confessions
Week 20: Travel bucket list (countries/activities)
Week 21: Your challenge post highlights and what you’ve learned during this challenge

These awesome people are also doing the challenge!!! Click to see their stories!

 

Travel Blogging Challenge – Week 3 (Funny Travel Story) Pandas!

How do I beat the story where I almost fell off a coconut tree? Or the time I saw a buffalo trip three feet in front of me?

I guess I will have to tell you the panda story.

Panda?

How often in my life do I get to see a panda? Only once. And it was awesome. 

I was studying abroad in Singapore for a semester. There, I met my awesome Irish friend Doireann. Among so many other awesome and unique things, she is a zoologist. The first one I’ve ever met in my life. We quickly became good friends and even traveled, motorbiked, and scuba-dived together!

One of my top places to visit was the Singapore Zoo, which features  a 26-hectare wildlife park. Who better to go with than a to-be zoologist? We planned a date, and made it happen. We also had a few other friends joining our little group.

Anyway, she had a long-term obsession with pandas. Dozens of things she owns have panda-related themes to them. She has interned and worked with baby pandas (cubs?), actually getting to hold and cuddle with them, which is awesome!

After about 2 hours of walking though the zoo, we finally reached the exhibit that Doireann was waiting for: the pandas.

Unfortunately…

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They really don’t do much…

We watched and waited.

For over two hours…

I mean, they’re pretty cool. Black and white, you know? But how long can it possibly lay there?

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A long time apparently.

After watching it for so long, we decided to walk around past the panda exhibit. When we came back, the panda had sat up into a furball!

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And then something truly amazing happened!

Are you ready for this?

 

Whoaaaa! I was so impressed. After hours of watching the panda do nothing, in just a few minutes, it sat up, and stood up. For food! Nom nom nom. Like Po in Kung Fu Panda, haha!

Just when I thought we have seen it all….

It started scaling the tree! Watching the magnificent 200+ pound fluff ball body climb up the tree was so amazing, yet hilarious. Lazy panda turns productive and athletic for food. Such is the life.

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What an epic end of a day at the zoo. This panda deserves a trophy! I doubt most visitors at the zoo were able to see this miracle. Maybe it reveals itself to those with patience?


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:

Week 1:  A favorite travel photo of you and intro
Week 2: Little known tips
Week 3: Funny story
Week 4: Misadventures
Week 5: Top three cultural foods
Week 6: Unusual travel activities/photos
Week 7: Inspiration for traveling
Week 8: Five favorite travel blogs
Week 9: Gross/disgusting stories
Week 10: Best adventures while traveling
Week 11: What’s in your backpack?
Week 12: Happy and sad stories
Week 13: Unique cultures encountered
Week 14: Top three favorite destinations
Week 15: Travel regrets
Week 16: Scary and cool travel stories
Week 17: Things to purge
Week 18: Humbling things learned from traveling
Week 19: Confessions
Week 20: Travel bucket list (countries/activities)
Week 21: Your challenge post highlights and what you’ve learned during this 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, Vikkilawman, and Kailin as they will be with me in this blogging journey!

Guest Post: Explore your city – Get lost in London

Happy Friday, everyone! This week’s guest blogger is Josy from A Walk and A Lark. Her blog talks about all the beautiful walks she takes with her husband in the UK, Japan, Canada, and more! I’m a very inspired by the photos she takes while walking. We decided to do a blog exchange on walking in our respective cities (her in London and me in New York). See my post on Walking Around New York City on her blog site and join us in taking exploration walks!


Do you like to explore your own city? Or do you ever just get a little lost to try and wander around a new area? Or, even if you have lived in the same place for a while, have you thought of planning walks close to home so you can properly explore?

I love walking and exploring around London. Winta and I thought it would be cool to share three of my favorite places to walk. I haven’t given an exact routes for any of these as I honestly think the most fun way to explore is just to walk and even get a little lost. I’ve done variations of these walks so many times – so these photos are from all different seasons.

Hampstead Heath
Since I moved to North London I spend more time wandering around the Heath than anywhere! There are so many different parts of the Heath to explore. I’ve written about the gorgeous pergola and hill gardens previously. I love this Western half of the park (close to Golders Hill park and the Heath Extension.) The woods in this area are simply lovely, and normally quite quiet. It is hard to imagine you are so close to central London!

We live close(ish) to the South Eastern corner of the park, so sometimes we start there and head past the bathing ponds towards Kenwood House. You can pop inside the house to see some amazing artworks, or wander around the grounds by the lake and past the bluebells. If you go around to the North Eastern corner of the park there are amazing views down to central London as well as a quiet path along the edge of the park.

The most popular area is the parliament hill viewpoint. I have never been up there when there is not some kind of crowd! Occasionally my husband and I wake up early and take a detour to the Heath on the way to work. Even at 7am on a weekday they’ll be a few people (and doggos) admiring the view!

Regents Canal
Regents canal has a 14 km path alongside the canal that meanders across London from Paddington, through Camden and Hackney ending in Limehouse where it meets the Thames. It actually goes on even further West past Paddington, but most walkers seem to stop before that!! You really don’t need a map for this walk (just follow the canal!) but if you’d like to see the routes, you can find them here.

I like the area near Paddington, in the area called Little Venice, where you can see all the beautifully painted house boats. Then the section that runs around Regents park where you can see incredibly opulent houses with gardens backing onto the canal. The walk goes right past London zoos bird houses so you might see some cool birds as you wander past.

The section near Camden is incredibly busy at the weekend. But you can stop off for some yummy food in Camden market! Then as you head East (you have to take a minor detour away from the canal between Kings Cross and Angel.) Then the secenry becomes gradually grittier as you get further into East London. The graffiti increases, but most of it is beautiful! It is like a mini art tour of London! If you don’t want to walk to Limehouse, you can turn off towards the Olymic park and finish your walk over in Startford if you fancy shopping. I’ve tried all the options and they are all fun in their own way.

I don’t think you can find any other London walk that shows so much of the city’s diversity. You’ll walk through green areas, incredibly posh areas as well as some more arty hipster areas.

Regents canal panda

The Thames Path
This is probably the most famous of the three walks. I always recommend visitors to London to take a stroll along the Thames, but it’s great for locals as well. The Thames path is actually an amazing route covering 128km along the Thames. You can see the whole plan for the walks here. But as you are just following the river, you don’t need to plan it – just walk!

My husband and I have explored south past Greenwich to the Thames barrier (which is a gorgeous quiet walk.) We’ve also wandered West near Syon Park and Kew Gardens. However the most obvious part to explore is Central London. We used to start near Tower Bridge or London bridge, and then walk along the South Bank past the Globe and the Tate all the way to Westminster and Big Ben. This is a perfect sightseeing tour of London. If you like the sun, walk on the South side of the river. If you prefer to escape crowds, walk on the North side. Or keep swapping by crossing some of the beautiful bridges along the walk.

Tips for getting lost:
Download city mapper to your phone. Then wherever you end up at the end of your walk, you’ll be able to make it home!!

Lastly if you prefer a more structured walk, check out the amaaazing Capital Ring walk that loops the whole way around London. These routes always start and finish near public transport. And they go through parks and woodland, along canals, and through pretty residential areas.


Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to check out Josy’s blog at A Walk and A Lark <3

Practical Things to Know About Moving from a Small Town to New York City

This is a message to those who wish to move to the city, but are scared of the dreaded unknown. This is a message to parents or friends who have loved ones wanting to move to city and are afraid for them.

Everything will be okay. 

When I decided to move to New York City, I have been discouraged extensively by my family. It’s expensive, I couldn’t make it. It’s dangerous. People are cunning and untrustworthy. It’s too far from home and family. The list goes on. I have lived in small mountain towns for most of my life. For the past 10 years, I dreamt of seeing the world and living the city life. I wanted to try new things and make a change on my own. Family duties and education had tied me to these mountains for longer than I would have liked. I moved to New York without friends or family there. I moved without a job paved out or plans. My biggest fear is that if I don’t do it now, then I would never do it. 


Now, living in the Big Apple for almost a year, I can say a few things about the city- things I learned, things I wish I knew, and things I want to say to encourage people to make the big step.

Yes, it is expensive, but there are ways to cut the costs. This is perhaps the biggest obstacle for most people who choose not to move to NYC. To be honest, I was quite scared myself. With a few lifestyle changes, we learned to live well in this expensive city. Between my boyfriend and I, we spend about $1000-$1500 a month on everything. We lived in Manhattan and Staten Island in our time in New York.

We don’t buy furniture. All of our furniture have been given to us for free. We have brought home 50″ TVs, mirrors, beds (with bedbug covering), tables, chairs, shelves, printers, you name it. Free stuff are given every hour of every day. People in New York live lavishly and constantly move; we are always able to find people who want to make sure their things are going to good use. Our top three resources are Craigslist, Freecycle, and the curb. 😉 

Check out my posts on free things to do in NYC: Food and Music Festival in Brooklyn and Medieval Festival in NYC

Check out how I supplement income by working from home: Earn $18-30/Hour Working from Home & On the Road

Prepare for culture shock. Coming from a small mountain town in North Carolina, I have always been a minority. The two most exotic cuisines are Mexican foods and Chinese foods. New York City is a wonderfully cultured city. Here, in just one short subway ride, I see people from all walks of life.

Your apartment will be twice the price for half the size. For about $1000/month, we share an apartment with three other people. Our apartment had one small kitchen, living room, and bathroom. We had a 12×12 room with a narrow hallway. Luckily, there are ways to minimize furniture space through wonderful inventions.

Check out cool compact bunk beds storage furniture here!

It was much more expensive than our apartment in North Carolina, but we loved the area. Walking around the area, we can find food from all around the world. People were friendly and positive energy was in the air. Of course, the further from the city, the cheaper the apartment gets. You can easily find $500-600 apartments in the Bronx, Morningside Heights (north Manhattan), Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island.

Public transportation is the best transportation. This is a huge change from where I lived. Instead of relying on a car to get me places, I learned to use the intricate subway system of the city. I love it. I can walk, bike, ride the subway/bus/ferry anywhere I choose. We purchased a CitiBike annual membership for $160, and it became one of our favorite free things to do together.

It’s fast and people are motivated. Either move fast or get out of my way. New York is truly the place to go to get things done. People here have places to be and things to do. It doesn’t mean that they’re rude, it’s just the lifestyle and culture of the place. I have never felt so alive and pumping with productivity as being in the city. While apartment searching, most of the roommates requirement listed “must have a job, cannot be a couch potato.” 

I have never gone negative with my finances while living here. The atmosphere and constant get things done attitude had inspired me to try so many different things. At one point, I had started to work three jobs at a time, not because I needed to, but because I wanted to try all these new things at once.

It’s a hub of constant activity and diversity. From the food, to the streets, to the clothes, to the people, New York has it all. The city is the ultimate place to experience new things. There are so many things to do. So many things to look at. Christmastime is a sight to behold. Halls decked with beautiful light and music shows. Fifth avenue bustles with shoppers and tourists. People laughing and smiling. Ice skating (please don’t go to Rockefeller) is amazingly romantic.

There are a million ways to meet people. Meetup, Couchsurfing, and Eventbrite are great resources for meeting and networking with people. From nerdy game nights to exercise groups to a party night out, they have it all.

Convenience, convenience, convenience! 

Dirt cheap international flights are a subway ride away. I subscribe to the The Flight Deal newsletter, which features daily dirt cheap flights from the biggest cities in the United States to all locations around the world. I have seen tickets to Europe as cheap as $100 dollars round trip! New York is the home to extensive interstate bus systems. For travels 5-20 hours away, I like to take an overnight bus as it is much cheaper than a plane ticket. For a five day getaway, we took a bus to Montreal, Canada for only $50!

Internet speeds are superior than the mountains. With little to nonexistent internet in the mountains, New York City is a wonderful heaven of free WiFi. All over New York are LinkNYC network that provides free google maps access, internet browsing, phone calls, and a phone/tablet charging station.

East Harlem has a wonderful network of stores nearby that made our stay heavenly. Just a few blocks walking offers parks, cheap grocery stores, laundromat, subway station, CitiBike racks, Indian cuisine buffets, karaoke bars, and more.

All things nature are man-made. With an area of about 460 square miles, New York City is home to over 30 parks, and of course, the famous Central Park. However, unless you go to upstate NYC, don’t expect to find any beautiful national parks and nature preserves. New Yorkers love to wind down at local parks after work by taking their pets out for runs, spend family time, or sit and read outside.

In contrast, NYC is home to the most impressive architectures. Some of my favorites places to admire beautiful architecture are:

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Brooklyn Promenade View of Manhattan
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Brooklyn Promenade Sunset View
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Brooklyn Bridge
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Times Square
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High Line

It was a combination of all these things that made me fall in love with the city during our first visit. There is nowhere quite like the energy of New York.


It was never our plan to stay in New York City permanently. Though there is a heartache to think that we will not be biking the beautiful Hudson River Greenway a month or a year from now, we both know that New York is not where we will will grow old. There is always a charm in the small town where I grew up. Each sunset over the Appalachian mountains, each beautiful autumn changing color, the fact that everyone knows everyone else, the hospitality and true friendships are endearing to me.

So, what’s next?

New York will always be a special place to me. It is here that I had truly become independent, and I had come out a better person. I’ve learned so much from the city. I’ve learned to speak better, to work efficiently, to think on my feet, to opened my mind and eyes, to get lost and explore. I have gained the experience I had set out to find. I can feel that it is time to set on to another adventure. We’re hoping to go to a few more Broadway shows and museums, then return home for some time to visit family. In the next year, we hope to pick up and start backpacking Asia.


Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave a comment and some love. <3

Guest Post: An Open Letter to Chicago

Dear Chicago,

Don’t tell Atlanta, but you’re “home” to me right now.

I was never able to explore the inner workings of that city like I have for Chicago. The past three years have been shaped by weekend outings, long L rides and some unforgettable memories. From Lollapalooza to the 606 to Portillo’s, my Chicago adventures have made me a huge fan of the city.

Sure, I don’t actually live downtown, but I’m a college student living next to a huge city. I consider myself very lucky to be able to balance a traditional university experience with the exciting, fast-paced nature of Chicago.

I remember three summers ago when I visited for the first time, the way the metallic curved metal strips of Pritzker Pavilion jutted out, unlike anything I’d seen before.

Just from walking through the streets, I can see Chicago’s industrial history reflected in many building architectures – the dark, heavy iron metals, the sturdy brown bricks…

And sure, every city has its own unique take on food, but Chicago is something else. Who says you need to leave the country to try international cuisine? So many neighborhoods each with its own specialty: Ukrainian, Mexican, Vietnamese.

Over the years, I’ve come to get to know Chicago’s different neighborhoods through the food, the shops and events that take place. Argyle, for semi-regular bowls of pho and cheap groceries, Belmont for wacky consignment stores and eccentric fusion food, and Avondale for standout high quality meals and eye-catching architecture. And of course, seeing the sunshine reflect off the Chicago River as it cuts through the city still catches my breath every time, as though to give me a visual break for when the grey and tan concrete buildings start to blend together.

I’ve loved getting to know your nooks and crannies through concerts, comedy shows and restaurants – the intersections marred with construction work and the L stop stations that I’ve come to recognize from afar. You’ve given me a greater appreciation of public transit and made me a strong advocate for the L – even riding downtown feels like a visual adventure, watching the scenery morph from suburb to city. I can sense the different Red Line stops even before the train begins to slow down.

When Evanston starts to feel monotonous and the people start to look homogenous, you’ve given me an escape, a place to go when all of the purple starts to bleed together.

I don’t know where I’ll end up after I graduate, but Chicago you set the bar really high.

Catherine


Thanks for reading!! See more of Cat at her awesome blog here.

I’m always looking for travel stories to feature. Please shoot an email or leave a message if you have a tale to tell!

The Time I Almost Fell Off a Coconut Tree

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.

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Two-thirds of the way up!

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. 

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Reaping the fruits of my labor.

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

The Drop Off

One of the most iconic hikes in Zion National Park, Angel’s Landing, is not for the faint of heart (or fear of heights) to navigate the part with narrow paths and sharp drop offs of over 1200 feet on both sides. Regardless, this is my favorite trail of all time. The views at the top are truly stunning!

A Blog Response to Photo Challenge: Danger

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10 Things to Know About Norway

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!

Culture

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.

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Our backyard view of the lake

Geiranger Fjord

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.

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View atop Geiranger.

We cozied up in this wonderful cabin for our stay there. Cooked ourselves a hearty meal as we spent time together.

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We rented a beautiful log cabin for the night.

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?

Vigelands Parken

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.

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Together, we stand? (and make a good frame for a photo)
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The pondering twins.

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. 🙂

07/12


Thanks for reading!!! Questions? Comments? Let’s chat below! <3

A Step Into The Past: Medieval Festival in NYC

Once a year, the Medieval Festival brings to life the traditions and spirit of the Renaissance days. Manhattan’s Fort Tryon Park transforms into a medieval market town decorated with eye-catching bright banners and processional flags. Performers and festival goers dress in medieval costume and speak Old English. Visitors are greeted by medieval music, dance, magic, and minstrels, as well as jugglers and jesters. Costumed vendors will be on hand to demonstrate and sell a wide variety of medieval crafts as well as food and drink. The expected attendance this year is 40,000 people!

I’ve been fascinated by all things Medieval since I was little. I was brainwashed by tales of princesses, knights, queens, peasants, warlocks. Finally had the chance to go to a Medieval Festival was unreal. I whipped up the most medieval looking look (mind you, I’m not very fashionable): a scarf to use as a hood, a dark, flowy patterned dress, and a ribbon to braid up my hair. Good enough.

There was zero chance of rain, excellent; a perfect day wander into the Middle Ages. I was giddy like a child at an amusement park as we walked up to the Park’s entrance. Because the event was free, we donated at the wishing well that says “Prithee, Donate a Dollar!” The fort was a beautiful place to host a Medieval Festival, as it is surrounded by a lake, and in the middle the fort is a Medieval Museum. Since the museum is there year-round, we decided to save it for another day. Since there were events scheduled all day, we had no problems with finding things to do.

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Medieval Music

One of the most beautiful performances was this lady playing Medieval, Celtic, and world music on her harp. At one point, two people joined in with her singing. We sat on the ledge, listening to her relaxing songs for a long time. Beside her is a face painter, who paints children’s faces with butterflies, dragons, sparkles, etc. Everything about that moment was magical. <3 There’s something about medieval music that makes me feel light and wonderful.

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This rowdy group of performers, Three Pints Shy, is the best. They performed upbeat music with lots of humor in their lyrics. They mess around and drank mead during their performance. They were everything I imagined musical performers in the medieval ages to be like. They told stories through their songs of their adventures. They danced, they laughed, they fought. That’s my kind of life.

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Mead

Speaking of mead… We tried three different types of mead at the festival! I’ve always wanted to try out mead. Apparently, it is an alcoholic drink made of honey and water with a variety of spices, fruit, and grain. They were pretty expensive at $4 a cup. It tasted like a strong fruity wine. Yummy!

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Jousting Tournament of the Knights

And finally, what everyone has been waiting for. The festival ends with a thrilling joust by four knights, mounted on their steeds. The battle gets heated as the crowd cheers on for their knight in shining armor. When I read medieval age books, knights were always admirable, honorable, and courageous. Seeing them in real life is an amazing experience. In one of the final jousts, the knight fell off his steed, and they begin to sword fight to the death. Funny thing was, kids were there and loving it.

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And More!

There are wood carvers, artisans, storytellers, manuscript illuminators to demonstrate their craftsmanship.

The storyteller was very intriguing. I wish I have the ability to tell stories well. There’s an art to it; even I was hooked in her tales.

The jester was one of my favorites. He looked to be in his 80s, but juggling and jumping around like a child!

There was an awesome dragon right by the bonfire, but he was surrounded by people trying to take pictures with him that I didn’t get a closer shot.

There were tons of cool costumes that I wish I had.

Random Thoughts While Wandering Around the Festival:

  • I wish life was as magical, carefree, and fun (minus the wars) like the Medieval Era. – Maybe I should join a traveling Medieval group! My parents probably won’t endorse that….
  • Just saw Captain America… why??!??!?!!! It’s not Comic Con.
  • There are so many Links from Zelda! I guess that’s better than a superhero, but it seems to be looked down upon by hardcore Renaissance lovers- noted. 
  • Those giant turkey legs look good… too bad I’m vegetarian. /sigh/ 
Check out cool Medieval Clothes from $29.99 on Amazon here!

 

Thanks for reading!!!! Questions? Comments?? Let’s chat below! <3

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I Go Where My Feet Takes Me

New York has been especially beautiful lately. We were biking down Hudson River Greenway when I saw an excellent bench to sit with a great view of the water and the skyline. We brought our books and sandwiches, and have all the time in the world to sit and creepily watch people walk by.

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As I walked through Columbia University, I realized how much I missed college. There’s an energy on campus that is unlike any other.
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I can’t say I’ve ever been to a Flower Carnival before, but Macy’s does it right. How do you fill up an entire floor with flowers and maintain it for 3+ weeks? They worked magic, it smelled amazing inside. <3
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Springtime blossoms on the trees. Typical New York street graffiti.

 

A Response to Photo Challenge: Wunderlust

Like a Mother

We love her. She is beautiful and full of life. She’s is gentle, yet strong. Her anger inspires the worst of fears, but she forgives easily. Her love is bottomless. She gives and gives and gives. She is protective, giving us all that we need to survive. Our food, our shelter, our history. She nurses us into life, and embraces us when we pass on. 

A Response to Photo Challenge: Earth

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Hanging Lake, Colorado

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Rainbow Falls, Hawaii
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Zion National Park, Utah
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Volcan Acatenango, Guatemala

Free New York: Food and Music Festival in Brooklyn

New York is a giant hub of free things to do. There are always free performances on the sidewalk of busy streets in NYC, from street art to live music, from people on stilts to break dancers on subways, there’s a little bit of fun for everyone. My recent favorite is listening to a saxophonist who plays breathtaking music every morning on my way to work on Wall Street. Of course, I can’t always rely on chance to lead me to these free things to do. For free, fun, non-spontaneous day outs, I rely on a mailing list that updates me on big events that go on throughout the week.

This weekend, we decided to go to the Atlantic Antic Festival and Americana Music Festival right in the heart of Brooklyn. A mash of food, music, clothing, and culture can be found at the annual Atlantic Antic Festival where 10+ blocks of Atlantic Avenue closes for hundreds of vendors to sell and thousands of people to walk through.

Being vegetarian travelers, we have learned to never expect people to have food for us. Especially in Central America and Southeast Asia, “vegetarian” can mean very different things.  I have always been very careful while eating out. One can imagine my distress when I found small chunks of chicken in my “vegetable” soup (being vegetarian isn’t really popular in Central America). That said, having food protects us from making rash and costly decisions to buy everything in sight and smell.

We walked past cool buildings full with graffiti of New York innuendos.

At the end of the Atlantic Avenue lies the Americana Music Festival. How awfully convenient for us. We were met with an amazing view of the NYC Skyline, a great crowd in high spirits, and a band that is already playing music. It was a beautiful day to be outside, good thing we came prepared.

 

With our books and sandwiches, we found a spot to sit and picnic while listening to great American Folk music playing. Brooklyn Americana Festival celebrates its 2nd anniversary this year; the festival features country, blues, and folk music in streets, bars, and piers.

As I listened to a banjo player telling the story of an interactive West Side Story, I thought of how a year later, we are once again gazing at the Manhattan Skyline as the sun sets. About this time last year, we had began our road trip around the United States, New York being one of our first destinations. I had fallen in love with the city and was determined to return. Now, here we are, living the dream life. Work on weekdays, travel in one of the world’s most touristic cities on weekends. We’ve come a very long way to get here, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

About 2 hours after settling down, we were greeted with a beautiful view of sunset over the Manhattan skyline. Growing up in the mountains, I never knew what skyscrapers were, or been on subways, or used a bike to get around. Here, in New York, I feel like the possibilities are endless.

The festival was beautiful all the way to the very end. We watched the sun go down as the stage back light and the city skyline illuminate the night sky, a marvelous sight to behold. As the festival was coming to an end, we packed up our things to head home, looking forward to the next adventure.

Floating on the Clouds: Volcán Acatenango

Everyone who visits Guatemala must visit Antigua, and anyone who visits Antigua, must try to climb Acatenango, a dormant volcano since 1972. It is the dream destinations for activities as a backpacker. Cultures, nightlife, colors, foods, nature, ruins… Guatemala has it all! One of the many reasons why Guatemala falls on the top of my favorite list is Acatenango.

Why must you climb this volcano?

Reason 1: Acatenango is a twin peak. That means, sitting right across from it is a twin sister, Fuego, who happens to be a very active and angry erupting volcano. The twin volcanoes Acatenango and Fuego draw hundreds of visits from travelers every day. Fortunately, there have been no casualties of people hiking to see the eruptions.

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Fuego, photo taken atop Acatenango

Reason 2: At over 13,000 feet high, Acatenango is the tallest volcano in Guatemala, and the third tallest in Central America. To put this in perspective, Grand Canyon is only 6000 ft deep. Therefore, scaling it is not for the faint of heart.

Not only is Acatenango very tall, the incline is ridiculously steep throughout the hike, averaging about 20 degrees incline. People who wish to scale the volcano are recommended to join a group guided hike. Cuong and I, being budget travelers and very, very brave individuals, decided to go on this trek by ourselves- no guide.

Going up 13,000 feet stressed the importance of traveling light. I only took the things that I truly needed: cellphone (which unfortunately got stolen on the bus ride there), tent and sleeping gear, outerwear, 4 liters of water (heavy, but paid off), 2 giant bags of red beans, 1 bag of apples, 1 bag of tortillas, and 1 bag of bread. All these things were essential in supplementing our energy. We also invested in two sturdy hiking sticks in preparation for the steep hike.

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This is the outfit I chose for the big hike.

The Hike took blood and sweat to climb all the way up to Acatenango. With the incline, I felt as if I was trying to climb a vertical wall. About 30 minutes into the hike, I was already out of breath. There was still over 8 hours left!

We took frequent breaks, and were able to admire the beautiful views of the nearby Guatemalan cities.

About an hour into the hike, we encountered park officials, who required that we pay an entrance fee of 50 quetzales (about $7, a pretty hefty fee for Guatemala). We thought that they may just be extorting money from us as corrupt officials. So we haggled it down to about 40Q.  It turns out they were legitimate, and were there because they started collecting fees to deter criminals and thieves away from the trail– perfect.

We set off again on long trails of dirt paths, switchbacks into the woods. Once we’re high enough, we started to see beautiful lush green floras. Large vines, thick shrubs, and huge trees surrounded us. The one downside of going on a grand hike without a guide is the inability to know where you’re going.

About halfway through the hike, we were lost. To make it worse, it started to rain. We weren’t going to make it to the peak before nightfall. Thankfully, we ran into two guys who were also hiking to the peak. Misery loves company. We were so happy to meet people who also don’t really know what they’re doing. We set up our tents next to each other and huddled to keep warm and talked through the night. Careful to not deplete our food supply, we restrained ourselves from eating large meals.

The higher we climbed, the colder it was and the thinner the trees became. Pine trees were abundant in this section of the volcano. Soon enough, we reached the cloud forest. It was bizarre to hike through the clouds, and see it around us. I thought of how being above the clouds meant that we can’t be rained on anymore.

Each we start again on the torturous, I would be reminded of why we took the break in the first place. In my head, I was kicking, screaming, and deeply regretted my decision to do this hike.

…. and then…

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Above the clouds!

There it was. A deep rumble coming from within the ground. It’s difficult to describe what I felt at the time. It was a mixture of excitement, adrenaline, and fear. It reminded me of the first time I scuba-dived with a whale shark, completely out of my comfort zone.

It was so large, dangerous and strange, yet so natural and comforting.

We were just a two miles from the lava erupting from Fuego.  We were close enough to hear and feel Fuego. The angry twin sister erupted every five minutes. Every moment I lost hope on this seemingly never-ending hike, Fuego erupted again, and renewed my determination to finish the hike.

Finally, we’ve reached the top! I thought this moment would never happen. Hours and hours of scaling up the massive volcano.

What they didn’t tell us about the peak: it was freezing cold. 

You’d think being on- or near- an erupting volcano would be at least tropical warm. Wrong. There was nothing shielding us from this force of nature. The air is paper thin, the wind is vicious, and it’s absolutely frigid cold. We set up our tent right across from Fuego, seeing first class views of the bright eruptions throughout the night.

That night, we laid wide-awake, freezing, breathing in ashes, and listening to the volcano roar. We watched as the lava fill the night sky with angry, bright red. We were enthralled by the rumble, captivated by the colors, and felt fear of mother nature’s true power. The satisfaction of watching Fuego far outweighs all the hardships we’ve been through. I can’t wait to come back.

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We set up our tent right across from Fuego, giving us first class views of the eruptions.

I would love to hear from you! Please leave your thoughts, comments, questions, and let’s exchange stories!

via Daily Prompt: Climbing

Robot Restaurant Adventures

How often can one say that they’ve been to a robot restaurant? In Japan, the strangest things in the world are easily accessible. As an avid anime and manga enthusiast, I’ve always been fascinated by Japan and its culture. One can say using “unique” to describe Japan is an understatement; Japan comes up with the weirdest and craziest inventions known to the imagination. When I first heard of Robot Restaurant (yes, it is exactly what it sounds like), I knew this was the crazy-Japan-adventure we’ve been searching for. For $40 dollars per ticket, I secured the coolest surprise dinner show for my boyfriend and I on our third night in Japan.

Robot Restaurant was located in Shinjuku- which, in my opinion, is the nerd party central of Tokyo (where you find maid cafes, anime figure collections, manga kissa hotels, pachinko arcades, etc).

Here we are with our very own robots at the entrance of the magical land of robot awesomeness.

Once we passed the entrance, we went down what were probably the best five flights of stairs of our lives. These stairs, walls, ceilings, floors, nooks, and crannies are filled with a million sparkling gems, musical lights, and glittery animations. There was always something to goggle at, and no way to see it all.

If this was all there was to the Robot Restaurant show, I would have already been impressed. But no, this was only the beginning. Once we reached the bottom of the stairs, we arrived at the waiting room before the show. The lounge, if you can believe it, was even more impressive than the staircase.

The bar lounge / waiting room was littered in colorful neon lights. Each table had several miniature robot dinosaurs walking around. While we enjoyed our drinks, we also had the entertainment of a lady-band clad in metal bikinis with wings playing soft lounge music for us.

 When it was time for the show, we were led to another room and were assigned our seats. We were then given our two bento-box meals and two drinks, which were included for us to enjoy while we watched the show.

Dinner items for us vegetarians: sushi rice with sesame seeds, radish, tofu, and fried tempura. As with most bento meals, these were very presentated. The food reminded me of dim sum plates back home. I was skeptical of whether one of the chewy-moist sides was vegetarian, but decided it was probably either mushoom or daikon (radish).

As the show started, we were introduced to beautiful set of drums decorated with dragons and phoenix.

Standing behind the colorful lantern drums are the belly dancers, beating their drums and dancing fiercely. It was an exhilarating and very attention-grasping introduction.

The hour flew by, one performance stranger than the next. I felt as if I was Alice in Wonderland. However, in a nutshell: by the end of the show, we saw Amazonian warrior fights, boxing robots, an alien-eating shark robot, huge motorcycles, a giant snake, and definitely a kung-fu panda warrior. Yes, each of the performers were masked with bright LED lights and accompanied by pounding music. The creativity never ceases; there is always something shiny to look at. I would love to take the kids here one day.

Giant Robots dancing
Robots twirling in their one-wheel motorcycles

Unfortunately, because we were in dumb-struck awe for most of the show, we were only able to take pictures of some of the acts. It was not the most romantic date in the world, but my S.O. and I walked away feeling like champions, having enjoyed a night full of fun, adventure, and feeling like kids again.

Couchsurfing in Yokohama

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!
My favorite photo with all of us together!

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…
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 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

Spending Time with Kids: Asheville Weekend Trip

Growing up in a small town in the mountains, there weren’t many things to do. My parents, who were constantly busy, didn’t take us out much. That’s why whenever I get the chance to come home, I love to take my brother and sisters out to fun day trips. We lucked out this weekend by getting permission from our parents to stay overnight at a big event about 2 hours away.  Whoo-hoo!

Day 1: NC Mountain State Fair – Asheville

Parking was free, surprisingly, but entrance fee was not. The dense mountain fog did not allow us to leave until 9:30 am. No matter, we’re getting out of the house, and everyone was in high spirits. Right off the bat, we took advantage of the vast amount of heavenly, greasy, inaccessible-at-home foods: Blooming Onion, Corn, Funnel Cake. One of the coolest acts of the mountain fair was the pumpkin chainsaw carving. We watched him carve a bear out of wood and sold it for $70! Afterwards, he made a minion (Stewart) and gave it to Winthanh when she asked for it. AWESOME guy. He said yes! We brought our pumpkin friend with us and named him “Bob.”

Next stop: swings. I don’t know how they do it. Just two rounds on those things would make me want to throw up (yes, I have thrown up from a swing ride before). I’ve never really had a great liking for rotating rides merry-go-rounds, teacup rides, etc.

Fairs are always so colorful; so many things to look at… and buy. It is a wonderland for kids. After walking around in the hot sun for awhile, we found a building where tons of booths were set up. We took free samples, ate food, and walked around. In the large performance area was a Kenyan Acrobatic Show. Their performance was passionate, energetic, and amazing that it made me want to do cartwheels and dance with them (I’m no good at either). Leaving the sweet air-conditioned building, we walked around some more before stumbling upon this money pit: pony rides. Children as they are, they begged me to let them ride on ponies. What a money pit this fair is! $5 per child for barely 2 minutes! I can’t wait ’till they grow and understand the concept of money. I guess moments like these are hard to recreate when they get older. I’ll probably look back and find it worth it just to see the smiles on their faces.

Who doesn’t like sliding down a giant inflating dino slide? Me. The friction on the way down burnt the bottom of my feet. That expression of pain was real. Note to self: wear socks. Ouch!

Kids love the hypnotists. Something about creepy mind control hypnotism is just appealing to these little humans. I was skeptical of the “hypnotism act” at first, but I came out a believer. He  chose an unlikely group of 15 people, and brought them onto the stage. He then hypnotized them to do crazy random things that I could not imagine, like fall asleep in the middle of walking, making them believe that a normal belt is a snake. Whenever he makes that sound, the hypnotized people will see a snake. The belt belongs to the one of the girls, so it was really funny seeing her put it on and have it turned into a snake. The boy threw his shoe at the man and hit him on the face. What a fun night! I would love to see another show like this again.

Day 2: Elaida Corn Maze

We left the hotel at 11 am. On our trip there, we saw several streets named after medieval queens and knights: Lancelot, Arthur, Gweneviere, Merlin. There was an air-conditioned room with stage and an inflated pumpkin. The kids watched the movie on display. It was hot day and we were all sweaty but there were lots of things to do at the corn maze! There was a giant jumping pillow, corn box, giant checkers, spiderweb net thing, tic-tac-toe, hay ride, oh, and of course the corn maze.

I’ve never been to a corn maze before. Lesson learned, mazes are hot! We did all the other activities before going into the corn maze. The path we went on was also very long. There were 5 different maze trails. The Elaida trail one took over an hour. Luckily, we brought apples and we ate them to hydrate from the long trail. We didn’t have enough water and we were lost for a long time because Tam refused to use the map. We were exhausted when we finally finished the maze, and immediately seeked refuge at a nearby corn box.

I have also never seen a corn box before. It is bizarre seeing a box full of corn kernels. I thought that it was somewhat a waste to just have an entire box of kernels for filthy, sweaty kids to play in. As soon as I sat it in, I understood why it was there. It was amazingly cool and strangely soothing (like running your hand through rice). As you can see, Winthanh and Winthien wasted no time burying themselves in the corn. The corn box was surprisingly fun and we stayed there for a long time as we recovered from our long maze hike. Afterwards, we rewarded ourselves with Waffle House before going home. A fun filled weekend drained the energy out of everybody. We were ready to go home and watch some TV.

Looking back, when I ask them what their favorite parts of the weekend were, it’s very interesting to see what they remember fondly. Winthien’s favorite activities were jumping on the big trampoline pillow, diving through the corn box, and receiving the Minecraft sword gift. Winthanh’s favorite part was the corn box. Lastly, my favorite part is that the children will remember this weekend as a quality time spent together.

What is your favorite trip to take with children? What are good quality time activities to do together?