Vacay in Oahu

MG and I recently went on a trip to Oahu Hawaii. It was our first trip together as a couple since our honeymoon (almost 3 years ago!) so a trip to ourselves was overdue.

I was lucky enough to have my parents take me when I was in high school but it had been a while. MG has always lived in the Bay Area and had never been to Hawaii. First let me start out by saying that he’s not a “beach” guy. I KNOW… How is that so?!? His dream vacation has to do with snow and skiing in the Swiss Alps, and I’m definitely a sand and ocean type of girl. My explanation is that he’s only grown up around beaches in the Bay Area, and it’s always so cold here that you can’t get into the water. I accepted this challenge to make him love beaches, especially after a trip to Hawaii, where ocean waters are warm and sand is soft.

I’m happy to say that he’s slowly converting. There’s a small part in his heart to love beaches now. One day, I’ll let him have his snow vacay. One day…

We stayed at the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel, right across from the beach. It’s so convenient to get around because you’re in the heart of downtown Waikiki. Additionally, the hotel is extremely accommodating to their guests. They have lunch box where you can pack breakfast to go for the beach, and they also rent out beach towels, chairs, and mats. I highly recommend staying here!

Look at our amazing view

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Instead of walking through day by day, I’m going to simply list out our favorite sight seeing places and favorite places to eat. Hopefully this list will come in handy if you ever plan a trip to Oahu!

Favorite Things To Do:

5. Beach Hopping

All day, every day. Just go from beach to beach and explore the various beaches. The water and sea life is different. Also the sand varies from place to place. If you’re not the strongest swimming, I would suggest Waikiki because there walls to break the waves. For those that are stronger swimmers, definitely go to North Beach because it’s less packed with people and currents are strong.

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4. Polynesian Cultural Center Luau 

We obviously had to check out some dinner/show since it was MG’s first time. We came across one that was recommended by friends at the Polynesian Cultural Center. It’s kinda like a theme park, where you can visit villages that make up Hawaii. In the evening, there’s a buffet and then a show. We got lucky and booked tickets on the night of the World Champion Fire Knife Competition, which happens only once a year. Now that’s something you don’t see every day!

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3. Pearl Harbor Museum, along with Bowfin, Missouri, and Aviation Museum

Wow. There’s a solemn feel to this place, but in a good way. The exhibits were informative, and there are many first hand videos on the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked. You learn to appreciate America’s involvement in the war, and truly respect those that were courageous enough to fight for our country.

The Arizona is a sight to see. This specific exhibit is free, but you can’t also pay a fee to go to the other museums – Bowfin submarine, USS Missouri, and the aviation museum. I must say, all exhibits were well worth the money! We spent most of our day here.

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2. Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay

Go pick up snorkeling gear before you come here or else you have to rent it for $20. And YES, you definitely need gear. Because there is an abundance of sea life in these waters. Hanauma Bay is a state park with small entrance fee, but it’s totally worth it because you’ll see many little marine creatures, all kinds, sizes, and colors! Stick your face into the water, and I guarantee that you’ll immediately see marine life.

I wish I had a Go-Pro…

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1. Snorkeling with sea turtles at Laniakea Beach

This was our absolute favorite part of the trip. Turtles like to rest on this beach, and there’s always a volunteer that ropes off the area where turtles lay on the sand. It’s a law that you cannot touch the turtles, hence why there’s someone to keep watch.

But there’s an opportunity to get closer. Grab your snorkel gear and get into the water. We were so lucky that during our time here, we saw at least 8 turtles just swimming near us. They weren’t afraid of anyone swimming and some swam less than a foot away. It’s almost scary to be so close because these creatures are huge (some older turtles can grow to be 6ft in length). Most of the time you’ll be swimming, assuming there’s a boulder, but you realize it’s getting closer and closer. Yup, just a sea turtle! It’s an experience of a lifetime.

Oh how I really wish I had a Go-Pro…

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Now for you foodies! Here’s a list of our must-eats (in no particular order)!

Helena’s Hawaiian Food – A local mom and pop for Hawaiian comfort food. Short ribs are yummmmm

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Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck – Garlicky goodness. It’s a food truck located on the North Shore, famous for their shrimp scampi (perfectly cooked!)

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Matsumoto Shaved Ice – Lots of flavors to choose from and top it off with ice cream!

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Rainbow Drive-In – It’s a triple D (Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives) hot spot. Think greasy comfort Hawaiian food. Loco moco heaven!

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Hi Steak – Don’t laugh, but this place is located in a cafeteria and the steak is amazing… Get the garlic butter!

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Ramen Nakamura – two words, oxtail ramen. It’s a small shop with very few tables but worth the wait. This place seems quite authentic in taste and environment. I’m not Japanese but there’s a lot of them in here enjoying the food, so you can’t go wrong with that!

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Musubi Cafe Iyasume – Get yummy snacks here. Lots of different kinds of musubi (bacon, avocado, eggs, and combinations galore!). It’s fun to look at all the different spam gadgets here.

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Ono Seafood – OMG poke! The fish is so tender and soft; no stringy pieces in the meat. It’s more of a take-out restaurant, with a few patio seats outside.

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Bubbies Homemade Ice Cream & Desserts – Mochi ice cream with all sorts of flavors!

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Sushi Izakaya Gaku – The seafood is extremely fresh and so sweet. Sit at the sushi bar and ask the chef what’s fresh for the day. He’ll give recommendations. Definitely get the Negihama (yellowtail) tartar! But look at that amazing sashimi!

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Marukame Udon – This was our all time favorite meal. I had my doubts because udon is just noodles. But WOW! These are hand pulled udon noodles with a bar of all you can choose sides. Go down the aisle and add in your ingredients, like a tempura soft serve egg. Whaa?!? Yup.

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Just some other things worth mentioning:

Pali Lookout – It’s a windward cliff off the mountain with a scenic view, known for it’s strong winds.

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Dole Plantation because dole whips and pineapple gummy bears.

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DSC02959^^^ Look at the cute little pineapple!

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I wish I could go back to sunny skies, clean beaches and clear waters, large sea turtles, and delicious local foods. I just love the feeling of laying out on the sand without a care in the world. MG is already asking if we can go back! Does this mean Hawaii has won his heart over?

Have you ever been to Oahu? What are some of your musts?

When’s the next vacation?
Jay

  

Dubai Trip!

Hai.

I’ve been taking a little break from blogging. Between work and personal life, I haven’t had much time to update. But I’m back!

Lately I’ve been really counting my blessings. I’m so grateful for the things I have in life – my family, my job, and instances where I can take an overseas vacation. My mom came up with the idea of going to Dubai, and I couldn’t say no. We packed our bags, and went to Dubai for 5 full days, with 2 days of traveling.

To simply describe Dubai – extravagance (at least in the modern areas of Dubai). Everything is grand, large, and beautiful. This city is continually being built as construction was everywhere. In 5 years, this city will be a different kind of beast.

If you’re thinking about going – definitely check it out. You don’t need more than a week in Dubai for tourist attractions. To be totally honest, I don’t necessarily think that Dubai should be a trip on it’s own, but it would be a fun pitstop if you’re on your way to Europe or Asia.

Here are some of the things we did on our trip. Feel free to use this list for your own vacation!

  • Shopping! The Mall of Emirates and Dubai Mall are some of the world’s largest shopping malls
  • Ski Dubai (this was my favorite activity)
  • Burj Khalifa – Tallest building in the world
  • Visited the public beach near the Burj al Arab
  • Walked the Souks (this is the marketplace) for gold, spices, and tourist goods
  • Private boat tour
  • Camel riding!
  • Cruised in the sand dunes
  • Visited the Jumeirah Mosque
  • Went to the Palm Islands to walk around the Atlantis hotel
  • Hired a private driver to take us to Abu Dhabi to see the Sheikh Zayed Mosque

Incase I didn’t sell it enough, here are pictures to prove that this trip was amazing!

First off, this was the view from our apartment on the 43rd floor. Every morning we would wake up to the Burj Khalifa. Isn’t that awesome? We stayed in Downtown Dubai, right across from the Dubai mall. Is it recommended to stay here? Absolutely. It’s the center of town.

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Inside the Dubai mall, you’ll find an ice rink, an indoor theme park (it’s an arcade and there are also rides!), and an aquarium. Right outside, there is a fountain show that occurs daily, every 30 minutes in the evening.

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In the Mall of Emirates, you’ll find Ski Dubai! I’m not a snow activity type of person; I don’t know how to ski/snowboard. But I know basics for skiing, and Ski Dubai was perfect for me! It’s basically 1 slope which bends in the middle, and it has 2 levels of steepness. For about $50 USD, you can ski/board for 2 hours and the cost includes equipment and gear. We knew about this indoor ski arena but never thought to go, until we found out the cost. We can’t even ski in Tahoe for that amount! The snow is beautiful and perfectly groomed. It’s cold but consistent. And really fun to look up to see ceiling and lights. What a great experience!

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My second favorite activity was the Burj Khalifa. The elevators will take you up to the 124 floor in 90 seconds. MG, my dad, and I all decided to go to the very top (because when are we ever going to do this again?); the very top is 148 and employees provide refreshments and snacks. We went in the evening, saw the day-view, saw the sunset, and then was able to capture the night-view as well.

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MG and I also took an afternoon to enjoy the beach. The waters are crystal clear, and the sand is made with a million seashells scattered across the sand. One word, gorgeous.

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One of the mornings, we visited the local mosque to experience the culture. We also walked the marketplace to do some local shopping too. Spices, fabrics, and gold oh my! Lots and lots of gold…

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After walking around all day, we were tired and found a private boat to take us around for an hour so we could relax. For about $6 a person, this was totally worth it. However, you can easily get across the water on water taxis for $0.36 a person!

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Some of the desert things that we did – camel riding. This was a lot of fun! I can now say I’ve been on an elephant in Bali, and now a camel in Dubai! We also rode a Land Cruiser and went off-roading in the desert. What’s amazing is the background. The view is miles and miles of desert. My parents really enjoyed this part of the trip.

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On the very last full day of our trip, we were able to hire a private driver to take us to Abu Dhabi for a day trip (only $45 per person). It’s about a 1.5 hour long drive between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The most awe-inspiring part of the trip was the Mosque. It’s so grand and every detail is beautiful.

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^^^ And yes, we had to wear hijabs into the Mosque and dress appropriately to enter (women had to cover up their shoulders and dress to cover up to their ankles/men must wear shorts below the knee).

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^^^ This is the world’s second largest chandelier, made with Swarovski crystals.

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^^^ See how there’s a man’s forehead next to my mom? The security was coming over to let us know to stand further apart. Displays of affection are frowned upon in a religious environment. Whoops!

And then the city line near the water in Abu Dhabi is breathtaking! I love water, and can’t ever get my toes quick enough into the sand.

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Just some funny tidbits:

You know how in the US, you take a road trip and you see cows alongside the road? Here you see camels! Haha! Can you spot them?

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This was also my first time smoking with my dad. Everyone does shisha there!

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If you have to ask me about a downside of Dubai, I would say the food. There is no local food there. Dubai is a city of mixed nationalities. They flourish on having a bit of culture from everywhere. In that aspect, we were only able to eat Indian, Lebanese, and Syrian food. All very delicious, but I was hoping for something more “local.”

But my all time favorite thing about this trip – experiencing the difference in culture. Most of the city is of Muslim culture; prayer calls happen 5 times a day, and you can hear the reminder to pray throughout the city. Women are conservative, while men are more prominent. Men can have up to 4 wives, and for every wife you receive an apartment and 50,000 Dirhams. With government supporting their locals, we didn’t come across any crime or homelessness. It was a major culture shock! These kinds of things always prove to me that other countries in fact do live differently, and it’s always nice to be placed into a new environment and learn.

I’ve been so lucky to travel to many countries this year; First our Europe to trip, to Rome, Florence, and Venice, then Barcelona, Dublin, Paris, and London. Then we went to Asia to visit Hokkaido, Tokyo, and Hong Kong. And now the UAE. I am ever so grateful to have the life I live now.

Count your blessings every day. What are you thankful for today?

Bai!
Jay

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Hong Kong with the Lams

Hong Kong was the last leg of our trip to Asia. We spent 2 full days and 3 nights here, primarily because our flight had a layover in Hong Kong before coming back to San Francisco. So we stopped for a bit.

To be honest, Hong Kong is never a place that is in the top of my travel list. Perhaps I’ve been too many times (3-4 times now in my lifetime). I go because my parents grew up here. I go because I can find Cantonese comfort food around every corner. I go because it brings me back to my roots. Hong Kong is just never that memorable to me… until now.

MG still has family members in HK. They took us around to some delicious restaurants and showed us places that were good for shopping. This part of the trip was mainly for visiting family/friends over meals and lots of shopping.

We ate at Chinese cafes for breakfast. You all get smashed into one small table, order food and tea, and quickly eat and move along. These places are the best for late night meals too!

Breakfast

On one of the nights, we walked through the city and took the Peak tram up to see the view.

City

Peak

View

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If you’ve been following the news, there have been protests in Hong Kong for full democracy. We were not in any areas with immediate danger, but the area near the tram was occupied by protestors. We went on a little adventure to go see how the situation was – fortunately for us, it was calm and peaceful where we walked. I became the butt of the joke, and everyone said I was going to get us arrested for taking pictures of the protest.

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They made stairs to walk over the barricades! So smart!

ProtestThis was the scene at 11pm on a weeknight.

And one thing now crossed off my bucket list – eating Chinese mitten crab, aka hairy crab. As a little girl, I’ve always heard about these little delicacies, but it’s only edible in Asia. It’s basically a small crab filled with sweet, sweet roe. It’s prime season in October in Hong Kong, so when we decided to come here, I knew this was my must-do. And my in-laws satisfied my need (they are so good to me!).

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Crab cooked

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^^^ Look at all that orangey goodness!

And the absolutely best part about this trip? MG spoiled me with a new two-toned rosegold watch. I’m not allowed another gift for 2 years, but this lump sum gift was well worth it. Thanks love!

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Have you been to Hong Kong before? If so, what are your favorite things to do?

I don’t have another overseas trip planned anytime soon, but I want to go somewhere else! The travel bug has bitten me. Where should I go next? Any recs?

Still going through that jet lag though,
Jay

  

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo was the highlight of my trip – it’s the big city! Packed with people, shops, and food – that’s my kinda place!

With over 13MM people living here, there’s always people everywhere. Shops open late in the morning at 11am and do not close until late into the night. I took charge as tour guide in Tokyo because there were many must-see items on my to-do list.

We took the bullet train from Hokkaido to Tokyo. Once we dropped off our luggage and checked into the hotel room, we set off to find food and shops. We headed over to the Shibuya district to do some night time shopping and dinner.

Shibuya Crossing is one of the busiest crosswalks in the world. All lights turn red and pedestrians flow into the street. It’s almost chaos!

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We had dinner at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant nearby the crossing, which was the coolest restaurant we’ve been to! Basically you sit down, order your nigiri sushi on a tablet, and they shoot out plates of sushi to where you sit. To feed 7 adults here was only $60. Can’t beat that!

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After dinner, we shopped a bit at Shibuya 109, a large mall with over 100 boutique shops with the latest trends (basically one huge Urban Outfitters). And on the way home, I had to take a picture with the Hachiko statue. This faithful dog greeted his owner after work, everyday at the subway station. The owner died at work but the dog continually went to the station to greet his owner everyday for 9 years after his death. I can’t get myself to watch the story of Hachiko but it warms my heart.

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The next day was an epic one!

We woke up, got breakfast, and headed over to (it’s my dream come true), a cat cafe!!! More well known cat cafes in Japan have 30-50 cats, and you can enjoy a light snack. There’s a small entrance fee to get in, but once you do, it’s basically heaven.

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^^^ This one is located in the Shinjuku district. It’s two stories, and you can sit and play with cats for an hour. After an hour, you pay for each additional 15 minutes.

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Japanese people love their cats! We saw some cats going for $10k at a pet shop. Lots of Scottish Folds, and I even learned about a new breed called a Munchkin cat. Muchkin cats are characterized by little short legs. Think corgi but for a cat!

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Don’t laugh but I want to say that this was one of the highlights of the trip!

We did a bit of shopping at Harajuku. This is where you’ll find people dressed up in cosplay and some extreme fashion styles!

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Then we looked for beauty supplies – isn’t this a crazy shop?

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And we went to Akihabara to look at gadgets. It’s an entire district filled with all kinds of technology – you can literally find anything tech-related here.

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To top off the night, we went to a Yakini restaurant (DIY BBQ). Little did we know, we would come across wagyu beef. We ate ourselves silly with 4 plates of Wagyu, 2 plates of pork, 1 plate of lamb. It was by far the best meal during our entire trip.

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^^^^ Just look at that marbling!

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^ Grillmaster MG ^

The next day was the big typhoon. Lots of news publications said it was going to the best worst typhoon based on the last 14 years, but fortunately for us, it died down and it was only a half day of rain. We kept it safe by shopping at the malls near our hotel. That stormy and rainy night meant that I needed a warm bowl of ramen for dinner.

We found a place nearby, where locals line up for food. My in-laws (they really are the best) said they were fine with standing in the rainstorm for ramen, and so we did!

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The waiters pass you menus in line and take your order while you’re standing. Once you get into this tiny shop (basically can hold only 20 people), they place your food in front of you, and you slurp your noodles quickly. Japanese people eat so fast! As we’re eating, two groups have already gotten up and left. I would say that we ate fast, but clearly not as quickly as the locals. So much pressure to eat quickly!

But OMG… this was the best ramen I’ve ever had. Period.

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DSC00672Aren’t you craving a big bowl of noodles now?

The food in Tokyo is amazing. Any little shop that you find will have quality food. If you love shopping, this is also the place to be! There are so many shops and so many different fashion styles. People-watching, alone, is a great reason to come to this city.

Have you been to Tokyo before? If so, what did you do? If not, what is your must-see?

Wish I could live there,
Jay

  

Hokkaido

I’m back from my trip to Asia! I love traveling but those long flights are pretty killer… Our total travel time to get to Sapporo was 23 hours, ouch. It’s worth it to see how cultures are different in different countries.

Over the next three days, I’m going to be posting about my trip. We started out in Sapporo and slowly made our way south via a tour bus. Then we took a bullet train to Tokyo and ended in Hong Kong before coming home. Today will be all about Hokkaido.

Hokkaido is in northern Japan, with Sapporo as its capital. It gets cold, with snow in the winters, and this prefecture is also known for produce and meat. It’s where a lot of good seafood comes from! This is going to be a major photo dump – here we go!

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^^^ Otaru is a beautiful little town. It really reminded me of Europe. Isn’t this a cute family pic?

Glass Museum
Japan has some awesome handmade trinkets – specifically this tourist town was known for glass and music boxes

Shopping
We shopped at many outdoor and underground malls

Ski Jump
We went to a ski jump museum on the tour.

Look at this amazing view! Looks so scary though – Don’t think I’ll be trying ski jumping ever…

Ski Jump View

We also went to see the Ainu people, an indigenous people of Japan. We learned about their culture and way of life. They are bear hunters and also have Shiba Inu dogs to help them hunt.

Lower Caste

Bear

Bear

We also went to a Hot Springs area while the sun was setting to end the day. Such a beautiful view.

Hot Springs

Hokkaido is known for their hot springs and public baths. And incase you’re wondering, yes, you have to go naked! Basically you have to shower there for a good 15 minutes or longer before you can soak into the public baths. They are typically gender separated, and all you get to cover up is a little face towel. The baths are filled with mineral water, at the hottest temperature of 43ºC which translates to 109.4ºF. So hot!!! You literally soak in for a few minutes and then immediately go into a cold water bath. All this helps with your circulation and increases blood flow so it’s beneficial for your body. Awkward at first, but it gets easier!

The next day we ventured to Lake Toya, a volcanic lake in Hokkaido.

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And then we got on a boat!

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Look at this amazing view!

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Later that evening, we went to the top of Hakodate to watch the sun set and the city come to life.

Hotate

We went to Towada-Hachimantai National Park to see the Fall colors. We missed the changing of the leaves to red by one week but we got to see a few Fall leaves.

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We also took a little hike – Hokkaido is so green

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Waterfall
^^^ Waterfall selfie

And now Lake Tazawa. Legend has it that a princess desired eternal beauty. A god told her to drink from these waters but she drank so much of the water that the Goddess Kannon cursed her and turned her into a water dragon. Then a prince caught a large fish from these waters and developed an unquenchable thirst. He continually drank the water and was also turned into a dragon. Eventually these dragons fell in love and their passionate love prevents the lake from freezing during the winter months. Also, the princess gets jealous of couples that takes pictures at this lake, which ends relationships…

We took the chance anyway!

Lake Tazawa

Lake Tazawa

Those were some of the main places that we visited. Here are some fun shots from the Hokkaido portion of the trip.

The sewer tops at the fish market were so cute! Lots of great seafood comes from Hokkaido – scallops, cuttlefish, crab, fish.

Fish Market

Remember when I said that produce is a big thing in Hokkaido? Look at the size of this apple!

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Some of the hotels we stayed in were Wester style (your typical hotel), but there were a few that were Tatami style. It’s a traditional Japanese-style room with straw-like mats and no shoes allowed.

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While you go out for dinner, employees come and make the beds for you:

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Dinner
^^^^ Traditional Japanese meal in our kimonos

We wore kimonos every night to dinner – look how cute my little Mingus is!

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Dinner
This is what a traditional meal would look like – all prepped for you. Coolest thing? Look at that ice dome that holds my sashimi!!!

We also ate at a lot of buffets for breakfast and for dinner.

Breakfast
Look at my breakfast tray! Ahem husband… I expect this caliber of breakfast every morning!

Then there are these adorable pancakes that you can pick from during dinner. How could you eat such artwork?

Pancakes

We found a little shop that made fresh mochi – one of MG’s favorite desserts so we had to buy one. You pick a skewer and then add your own paste (miso or black sesame, or red bean). Just for fun, if you choose a skewer with a red tip, you get another free stick! Of course MG gets lucky. He had two servings of these things! You should have seen how happy he was when he found out he won.

Mochi

The roasted mochi from the temple was my favorite dessert!

Roasted Mochi

Tea ceremony
We also went to a traditional Japanese tea house where they served green tea and a sweet cake.

Cow Tongue
And one of our last snacks… grilled cow tongue. My in-laws are the cutest!

Hokkaido is a rural area of Japan, definitely not a city-life feel. Lots of greenery, lots of farms, and not much to do after 8pm. It was such a fun experience to see differences in lifestyle and learn about the Japanese culture.

Have you been to Hokkaido before? What did you do? Is this on your bucket list?

Come back for Tokyo tomorrow!
Jay
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We took a tour by Signet Tours through Hokkaido

  

Disneyland California Adventures

It’s been a week and a half since I went to Disneyland during Labor Day weekend. And I’m still having Disney withdrawals! After our marathon, we were too sore to go to the park. MG and I ended up going the day after (in our half marathon shirts)!

Matching
^^^ Mg hasn’t achieved pro-status on selfies!

Is it cool to like Disney at the age of 26? I think so! The magic never goes away. That warm, fuzzy feeling after you watch Disney movies is the same warm, fuzzy feelings you get as you walk through the theme park. Going as a child is great. There’s so much to see and a few fun rides. Going as an adult is a whole different story. The roller coasters are fun, but what’s even better is that you’re willing to spend money on superfluous foods and toys (I always buy lunch and snack on a turkey leg, soda, and candied apple). More importantly though, you really appreciate the little details that Disney puts into the parks as an adult. For one thing, when you’re in line at the Little Mermaid ride, there are seashells in the pavement. But these details at Disneyland is NOTHING compared to Disney World. If you haven’t been to Orlando for the parks, do yourself a favor and go! It will not disappoint. I’m not over-hyping it, because you really can’t describe the fun in words; descriptions do not do it justice.

Mickey

Disney

Fortunately for us, the lines weren’t too long on the Monday that we went. The longest we waited was 90 minutes for Radiator Springs Racers. In the grand scheme of things, that’s not bad at all!

By far the highlight of the day was walking through Carsland. The designers did such a great job bringing Radiator Springs to life.

Radiator Springs Racers

Willy's Butte
^^^ Willy’s Butte Rock

Route 66

Cozy cone motel
Cozy Cone Motel – everything is cones!!!

Mater

Switch
Watching Lightening McQueen switch with Mater. Then the line got suppperrr long!

Line

The second best part of the day would have to be the Pixar parade. Look at how cute all the characters were. Can you think of some of the movies they are missing?

Sulley

Crush

Mr. Incredible

Bug's Life

Buzz

Toy Story
^^^ Haha someone is the butt!!!

Cars

Third best thing – my turkey leg. Reminds me of home, of the days my dad would come home with turkey legs from work. And it’s delicious!

Turkey

We ended up leaving the park at 6:30pm to catch our flight at 8:45pm. When we gas-ed our rental up and dropped it off, we noticed that our flight was delayed for an hour. We asked an employee if we could get onto an earlier flight, and he told us “run, it leaves in 10 minutes.” We went through security in a hurry, didn’t get a chance to clean off or wipe my sweat down from the day, and boarded our flight at 7:30pm. In an hour we were able to leave the park and get on a flight. It’s never a calm moment with me and airports. Travel with me to find out!

Have you been to Disneyland or Disney World? How did you like it? What is your fondest memory of the park?
Jay

  

Spain & Ireland

Today’s post is a big one! I’m combining my trip to Barcelona and Dublin into one big post!

To be totally honest, I had high hopes for Barcelona. Everyone has told me that it’s a great place. I was also looking forward to relaxing on the beach (spent weeks upon weeks looking for a cute swimsuit for this leg of the trip but no avail). Barca wasn’t bad; it just wasn’t my favorite place. Plus, Barcelona happened after a wonderland called Venice. It’s your typical city with shopping, markets, and a beach. The rain probably didn’t help Barcelona’s cause. I had a good vacation here, and I ate some delicious foods, but it simply wasn’t my favorite vacation spot.

My favorite thing here would, hands down, be La Boqueria. This market has lots and lots of delicious treats! For a person who considers food as her passion (tehehe fatty at heart), this place is something like heaven! Fruit, candies, and juice galore! Mmmmm nom nom noms… Now be prepared for a color overload!

La Boqueria

Chocolates

Juice

SeafoodThis market is one of the main attractions of Barcelona. That doesn’t say much about a city… just saying. Dang, I’m a hater!

I must say though, shopping was great here! I bought a new jacket from Massimo Dutti (see my new jacket in my Dublin pics) and check out my new sunnies! No tax means let’s spend some $$$. Great shops near Plaça de Catalunya! 

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We also went to Park Güell to see beautiful views of the city. Many buildings are designed by an architect by the name of Gaudí. He used a lot of mosaic tiling, ceramics, and stained glass. Buildings with these details can be found all over the city.  

Park Guell

City viewThe clouds look so ominous

Guell

You’re probably here reading to find out what restaurants we ate at, am I right to assume? I will say that I had some of the best food in Barcelona. I’m a huge seafood person so this city was on point when it came to food!

If you’re ever there, do yourself a favor and check out La Bombeta for tapas. When there’s a line of locals waiting to dine here, you know your stomach will be happy. Even the sangria is delicious! Can Majó is a noteworthy mention too. It has one Michelin star, which is well deserved for price and quality. Very fresh seafood and one of my favorite things I ate on this trip, a noodle paella. Seriously check these places out!

Paella - Can Majó

The next day we went to take pictures at Sagrada Família, a Roman Catholic church also designed by Gaudí. Construction of this church began in 1882 and will be completed in 2026. We didn’t buy tour tickets, and I’m starting to regret that… But that just means I’ll have to return.

Sagrada Família

We had a bit of sun peak through the clouds so we were able to spend a few hours on the beach! Not sunny enough to tan but warm enough to enjoy the view (of naked people!!!)

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For our last meal in Barcelona, we bought food at La Boqueria. Mussles and sea snails in a wine broth, pan-fried fish fillets, and razor clams. I’ve never had razor clams before… Why! I’ve been missing out. These things are so sweet.

Seafood dinner

Dinner part 2

Then we headed over to watch the Magic Fountain. The fountain has a music/light show at night.

Magic Fountain Show

Magic Fountain

Fountain
We spent a good amount of time trying to do this ^^^

We had some time before getting on a plane to Dublin so we walked to Parc de la Ciutadella to hang out.

Parc de la Ciutadella

Near Parc de la CiutadellaIt’s near the zoo, hence this behemoth 

Arc de Triomf
^^^ Arc de Triomf in Barcelona

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Then we made our way over to Dublin, Ireland. Most people are surprised to find out that I have relatives here!

My sweet Aunt Kathy bought us some musical tickets for our first day. We watched “Singing in the Rain,” and it was amazing! Katie and I love musicals, and this was one of our top favorite shows.

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DSC07447^ Family selfie after the show

The next day we headed out to see Trim Castle. To be honest, I don’t know much of European history… but there are a few things I remember. Trim is a large Norman castle, it is three stories high, and it’s uniquely shaped like a cross. Coolest thing? All of Braveheart was filmed here. The movie used different angles of the castle. I haven’t seen Braveheart so it’s just kinda cool to me. Perhaps watching the film makes it a better fact. Heheh

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The boys… I kinda love this shot!

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Oh you know… just pondering about life in his castle…

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Are you even allowed to climb these rocks?

DSC07534^^^ Richie, Jay, and Fay Kay

DSC07566It’s so beautiful 

Another really awesome place we toured, the Guinness Storehouse!  You learn how this dark beer is brewed, how to master pouring yourself a pint, and there’s a 360° viewing room to enjoy your beer. 

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DSC07646^^^ Beer staches!

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DSC07666She actually finished her pint!

We also met my cousin Richard’s girlfriend at a cute teppanyaki restaurant called Chai Yo. This place blows Benihana out of the water… It’s an interactive restaurant. They call on you to perform tricks! Our waiter even memorized all our names. I tried to catch an egg on my spatula; caught it but it cracked. MG was to catch an egg in his hat and he did it! So impressed by my man. The guy at the table next to us didn’t catch his egg, and it cracked on his back. Yikes. Not impressed but hilarious! Really random dinner but so much fun.

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Okay, okay. I’m done! I thought that Barcelona and Dublin could be in one post because there wasn’t much that went on. Going through pictures and this post, I was wrong. There was a lot that happened!

Have you travelled to these cities? How was your experience in Barcelona? How did you like Dublin? Are you interested in these cities? If so, why?

Paris and London to come soon…
Jay

  

Venezia

Let me first start off by saying that these pictures do not do Venice justice. This city is overly beautiful and jaw droppingly amazing.

Gorgeous

One thing I remember most about this trip is when we got off the train and left the building. As we walked out, I stopped and literally gasped at the beautiful scenery. There’s no place like Venice. I’m not an avid traveller, but I’ve been to some pretty neat places. Venice, by far, is one that takes my breath away. Venice consists of 118 small islands connected by bridges and canals. It’s a city that relies on water transportation; no trucks and no cars. That alone is impressive.

Pretty

We got into our apartment late in the evening. We found dinner and saw the Rialto Bridge at night. Ended the night early to wake up for a full day of sight-seeing.

Rialto Bridge

For our first full day, we took some pictures at Piazza San Marco. This is where the famous Church of St. Mark and the clock tower can be found. Nearby also houses the Palazzo Ducale, also known as Doge’s Palace, where the supreme authority of Venice resided.

Church of St. Mark

Palazzo Ducale

We wandered over Ponte dell’Accademia to the Basilica de Santa Maria della Salute to sit on the steps and just gaze. This was our rest stop.

Lock bridge

Ponte dell'Accademia
^^^ Family selfie again!

Basilica de Santa Marina della Salute
I love this candid shot of the gang!

Venice
We look like a painting, right?

After a new change of clothes, we went on a gondola ride! While planning for this trip, people told us to skip the gondola because it’s expensive. But I totally think it’s worth it to ride a gondola. When you tell people that you went to Venice, you already know the first question that will be asked, “Did you ride a gondola?” Fortunately for me, my answer is yes! For 60 euro, the boat ride is about 30 minutes for up to 6 people. Since we had the maximum amount of riders, it was definitely worth it for us!

Gondola

Bridge

Gondola

Venice is an expensive place to eat. To save money, we decided to cook at home. Sadly, the fish market is closed on Mondays. We then went to to the local grocery store to pick something up. Whole chickens were on sale, so we picked up two for under 10 euros and took them home to make rotisserie chicken (my recipe here). Ohhh yeahhh! For our first course, I made a creamy ravioli with bacon (refrigerated pasta is even amazing!). Then we had roasted chicken, cauliflower, and risotto for our main course. All this to feed 6 for under 30 euros. We did good!

Homemade

The next morning we were leaving for Barcelona in the afternoon, which meant we had a bit of time in the morning. We visited Venice’s famous fish market. So much to look at! If only we had another night to make a seafood meal. Guess that will have to wait for my next visit!

Seafood market

Tip: Trip guides mention that a vaporetto boat (water bus) is the best and cheapest way to get around. I think walking is the most ideal way to really see the city and alley ways. It’s really easy to get lost because there are few main sidewalks so bring a map! Google maps actually failed us here because buildings are so tall and old so reception is limited. We went old school way!

Just a funny pic. MG and I slept on the pull out couch in the living room. Since there wasn’t a door, we made one out of pillows. Hey, it worked!

Makeshift door

I really enjoyed Venice and would recommend this city as a must-visit in your travel bucket list. Have you been to Venice before and what was your favorite part about the city? Were you as amazed as me? If you haven’t been before, would you go and why?

Happy Monday! Stay tuned for Barcelona and Dublin in one post!
Jay
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Just a reminder, if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll get some extra pics that are not on the blog.

  

Roma, Italia

I’m back from summer vacay! To say the trip was fun is an understatement! So many great memories and laughs! I’m coming home with ~2,500 pictures!

I didn’t expect much from this trip because Europe has always been one of those vacations that consists of a lot of walking, sight-seeing, and not too much food because it’s so expensive. I’m a beach girl. Yes to the walking and sight-seeing, but now that I make money, we ate ourselves silly! Next go around, I want to bring a pedometer to measure walking distance. I’m estimating 3-5 miles a day, which I hope walked off all the bread, butter, and pasta we ate.

For the next two weeks, I will be posting about my Eurotrip. Today I’ll feature Rome. Following that will be Florence, Venice, Barcelona, Dublin, Paris, and London. I’ll show the sights we visited, and some tips that helped get us through the trip. The activities we did is not a definitive list. These are the things we had time for, but each city has so much more to offer. Keep in mind we had 2-3 days in each city, which isn’t enough time to explore everything!

One big tip: Check out Airbnb and VRBO to book apartments for Europe. I suggest apartments because it’s more cost efficient and convenient. We cooked breakfast to start the days and cooked dinners in every city so that we could get a feel for the local groceries/markets and taste the food. That’s a big saver in money, especially in our case for 6 people. We all brought small suitcases that could be used for carry-ons so a laundry machine was to our advantage.

So Roma! We arrived in Rome on 5/19 in the evening. We basically checked into our apartment and then found a place to dinner. We were so amazed at all the street views. It’s your typical movie set with colored buildings, open window panels/panes, and cobblestone streets. Everything looked like a poster!

The next day was a big one. We walked to the Colosseum first thing in the morning. This thing is massive! It’s the largest amphitheatre in the world and was built in 80 AD. The Colosseum ticket also gets you into the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill as well.

Colosseum

Colosseum

Colosseum^^^ family selfie! you’ll see this throughout our trip! 

Palatine Hil

Forum

Then we headed over to the Pantheon. This building had me awestruck. It was built in 126 AD. and is one of the best preserved buildings in from Ancient Rome. Just beautiful. The center is an open dome with streams of sunlight lighting up the interior. To think that this was built without technology and all by hand… just utterly amazing.

Pantheon

Pantheon

Pantheon

My mom’s favorite sight was the Trevi Fountain. It’s the largest fountain in Rome and one of the most famous fountains in the world. Tradition has it that if you throw a coin into the fountain, right hand over left shoulder with your back against the fountain, it will ensure a return trip back to Rome; second coin for romance, third coin for marriage. Believe what you want!

Trevi

Trevi Fountain

Gelato

More importantly, we were able to rest our feet and eat gelato at the fountain!

Our last stop was the Spanish steps. This is the widest set of steps in Europe and a great place to sit and just people watch.

Spanish Steps

Parents^^^ My mama and babi. This pic melts my heart 

After the first day, I showered, laid my head down onto the pillow, and immediately fell asleep. No dreams. Just zzz’s.

Our last day in Rome, we were blessed by Papa Francesco! We had previously reserved papal audience tickets to see the Pope. Pretty funny watching people throw their kids at the pope for a kiss! We also toured the Vatican museum and saw the Sistine Chapel, which houses the famous Creation of Adam by Michelangelo, among other Renaissance painters. Wow!

Vatican CityMasses of people! No pun intended… Tehehe

Pope Gif
“Hai! I bless you and you and you!”

Sistine ChapelNo pics allowed but I snuck one in. I do what I want!

For dinner we bought groceries at Mercato Trionfale – entrees included cioppino, steak, and pan-fried mackerel. Dinner for under 50 euros for a party of 6. Perfecto!

Rome meal

At night we went out for dessert and came across Piazza Navona. There are many street vendors that sell a hodge podge of stuff. We ended up purchasing these plastic helicopter toys that can fly up to over 10 stories high. We played with them until late into the night. Sometimes I think we’re five, and that’s okay in my book!

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona

Rome was the highlight of the trip if you’re measuring the city according to sight-seeing. There’s so much history!

Another useful tip: Circle all the sight-seeing spots you want to visit on a map (or for you techie people, pin each spot on Google Maps). This helps to plan out the day and figure out which sites to visit sequentially according to proximity. It’s how we were able to go to 6 sites on one day!

Have you been to Rome? If so, what did you do? Which are your favorite tourist activities? If you haven’t been, what’s the most intriguing?

Stay tuned for my Florence post,
Jay
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Typically I post by midnight on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. As you can see, I’m a bit late with this post. Due to my work schedule, I’ll be posting when I get a chance. I will continue to do my best to stay on schedule! Thanks for following along.

  

Ciao!

I’m going on summer vacation! During my three weeks in Europe I won’t be posting.

First stop, Austin to see my sister graduate, then Italy!

I’m ready except that I need to leave Chubs… He’s my squishy teddy bear.

Look at him like “Don’t leave me!!!”

Chubs

Suitcase

Wish I could take him and feed him gelato everyday!

Ciao for now! I’ll post pictures when I’m back.
Jay