An Underground World at Carlsbad Caverns

The day we drove to Carlsbad Caverns, the temperature dropped significantly to the low 40s. It was cold and windy, but fortunately the drive was scenic as we curved around the bends up the mountain in Lincoln National Forest. I wish we had more time, because this was definitely worth a stop on its own. In some parts, you’ll see lush forests partially covered by clouds. Or you might see rocky mountains or snow-covered grass. Plenty of hiking trails and scenic outlooks, too. Sure beats the barren land we keep driving past during these long car rides.

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White Sands National Monument – A Snow-Like Landscape

On our third day in New Mexico, we drove to the famous White Sands National Monument early in the morning. As the name suggests, the sand dunes compose of beautiful white gypsum sand that make them look like snow-packed hills. It is about a 3-4 hour drive from Albuquerque. Along the way, we made one interesting pit stop and one that was, well, unexpected.

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Flying High at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2018

I first found out about the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta after watching a timelapse video covering the event on Vimeo. Since then, it has remained on our bucket list for several years. Tie and I have been to another hot air balloon festival in New Jersey, but it was nowhere near as big and organized as this was. People came from all over the world, which explained why hotels, flights, and rental cars experienced surge pricing that weekend. Luckily, we had booked our stuff seven months in advance and were able to use points on Jet Blue and Holiday Inn. On the day we went, there must be have been at least 100,000 attendees total for the day and night sessions. We bought tickets to both (it was only $10 a session).

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Getting Trippy at Meow Wolf

On our first day in New Mexico, we drove about an hour east to Sante Fe from Albuquerque to check out Meow Wolf. All right, I’ll admit that I first heard about it because George R.R. Martin bought the bowling lane that now houses the exhibition. It’s a bit difficult to describe exactly what Meow Wolf is, but it’s kind of like a mix between a fun house and an interactive art installation. The theme centers around what they call “The House of Eternal Return.” From the outside, it looks like an ordinary house, but each room feels like it’s own unique art piece. Indeed, it’s a giant collaboration of many mixed-media artists. The whole place made us feel like we were tripping on acid; bright, neon colors and bizarre paintings, props, and sculptures that don’t seem to make any sense at all but were entertaining in its oddity nonetheless.

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Our Week in Kauai

Having been to Maui and Oahu back in 2014, we knew that one day we’d return to Hawaii to visit the other islands. Well, 2018 might not have been the best year to go given the volcanic eruption on Big Island and then Hurricane Lane shortly after. Somehow we lucked out and flew out the week after the hurricane. Nonetheless, it’s true what they say: it’s always raining somewhere in Kauai. Mount Waialeale is amongst one of the wettest places on earth, averaging about 450 inches of rain a year! We always had an umbrella in the trunk and tried not to let a little downpour put a damper on our plans.

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What We Ate in Thailand

Get ready for some serious foodporn because we pigged out all across Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Chiang Rai. I love Thai cuisine and had been fantasizing about it weeks before our flight. Even after the trip, I cannot wait to go back and indulge some more. While writing this post, I could feel myself drooling and entering some next-level bliss, living vicariously through pictures we took ourselves. So here is a summary of our food recommendations (cooking class will be a separate post). Let the salivating begin!

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Going Home to Guangzhou

I haven’t been back to Guangzhou, my birthplace, in over a decade. When I was younger, my family used to return every five years or so to visit relatives during the summer (bad time to go unless you’re a fan of the heat, by the way). Since they have mostly immigrated to America and sold off their homes in the mainland, there hasn’t been much reason to go back. This was my first trip to Guangzhou without my parents, but the wave of nostalgia I thought I would have was noticeably absent.

China is changing at such a rapid pace that every time I return, it feels like an entirely different place. My mom’s ancestral home has been torn down to erect new apartment buildings. If you’re lucky, the government will displace you to a new home in a well-developed part of the city. Few street vendors can be seen anymore since the major crackdown right before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, in an effort to improve the image of the country. Sadly, that’s one of the things I miss most. Ordering fish ball skewers dipped into hot sauce from metal carts, sipping Mexican coke for 1RMB a bottle before recycling them into a plastic crate, or shopping for stationery with my cousin as vendors lined all sorts of pretty pens, notebooks, and art supplies along the road. All vestiges of a past China.

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Review: The Andaz Maui

Back in September of 2014, we took a trip to Hawaii and visited Honolulu and Maui. This trip was actually a continuation of a previous trip we took to Europe in November of 2013.  At the time, American Airlines allowed one stopover at a North American gateway city for international AAdvantage awards provided that itinerary be completed within one year of the first flight. Living in an American Airlines gateway city, this policy essentially gave us a free one-way to anywhere in the United States, including Hawaii, within one year of the original flight. So the return flight itinerary was basically Europe -> NYC (stopover for 10 months) -> Hawaii. In April 2014, American Airlines changed their policy and no longer allowed any free stopovers, killing the free one-ways. So luckily, we got to take advantage of it before it was gone. In this post, I will be reviewing the resort we stayed at in Maui, the Andaz Maui At Wailea.

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Venice: Places of Worship, Places of Art

Although much of Venice is very walkable, don’t be fooled by the small size of the city. We found there were lots to see and do during our 3-night stay. Like many other places in Italy, the food was fantastic and the art was abundant. I didn’t know what to expect other than a bunch of buildings that happened to be built on top of water, but it kind of felt like we were in a period drama thanks to the gorgeous architecture throughout. It’s no wonder places like Las Vegas and Epcot has created replicas of this famed city.

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Nagashi somen at Hirobun ひろ文

After watching an online video about nagashi somen, Tie and I knew we had to try it on our most recent trip to Japan. It’s a dining experience where somen noodles flow down a bamboo shoot for you to catch with your chopsticks and dip into a savory sauce to eat. Because the noodles are cold, it’s usually only available during the summer months of May – September, where diners sit on a deck overlooking a waterfall for a refreshing meal. We just made it at the beginning of May, even though the weather was still slightly brisk.

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