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.
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.
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.
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.
While our primary focus on the most recent trip to southern California was to take care of wedding stuff, we also decided to spend a few days in Arizona with our friends since we were nearby. Many thanks to Winnie, who helped plan our itinerary before the trip! We made stops at Phoenix, Grand Canyon, Page, and Sedona. I would say that photos don’t do these places justice, but when is it ever better to look at an image than to physically immerse yourself at the actual location? That being said, I hope seeing these images encourage you to visit Arizona in person, too!
This is a question I often ask myself when we travel. Usually, when our friends come back from a trip abroad they bring back a bunch of souvenirs to distribute amongst the group. Truth is, we don’t always use those items or finish the snacks (sorry, guys!). Our first couple of vacations together, I felt these gifts must be reciprocated. There was always the pressure of finding the right souvenir and space for it in our luggage.
Well, these days I am trying to live a more minimalist lifestyle. And that means buying less and making the most with what we already have. Although I don’t wish to impose any type of philosophy on others, I would highly encourage everyone to consume less. And part of that is cutting out souvenirs in most circumstances, or at least being more selective.
To get to Mykonos from Santorini, we took a car to the port where all the ferries docked. Swarms of people getting on the ships made for a very chaotic morning. We just looked out for the name of the ferry line on our ticket and awaited our boarding time, standing in some poorly formed queues. Tickets were purchased online before our trip. Once we got on the ferry, it was way fancier than I had anticipated. Having only been on a shitty, rocky, and tiny cruise ship once as a kid, this was everything I expected a modern cruise should look. There were several levels of seating, beautiful large windows on the sides, clean bathrooms, comfortable chairs, and concession bars. If only ships moved as fast as planes, I would be A-OK with traveling by sea in this fashion.
Every day in Greece ended up with chasing sunsets, and we were lucky enough to have pleasant weather throughout the entire trip (except for one morning in Athens). While Kacey and Daniel stayed behind at the AirBNB, Tie, Albert and I took a cab from Fira and got our drink on at Santo Winery. With an almost entirely unobstructed view of the caldera, it is one of the best places to catch a sunset.
When in Santorini, Oia, all the way in the northwest, is one of the best places to watch the sunset. We walked to the bus terminal in Fira to catch a ride to Oia for €1.60. After about half an hour, we arrived in the parking lot full of cars and ATVs from tourists and locals who drove. Actually, we had contemplated renting ATVs but didn’t have an international driving permit and didn’t want to risk getting arrested or fined. Plus, I had been reading stories about tourists being injured, especially along the cliffs. So we decided to err on the side of caution and paranoia.
As you might’ve already figured out by now, we love having Japanese omakase meals for birthday celebrations. Tie’s was no different. Having heard great things about Kura, we headed to St Marks that night with two friends. There’s a single table for a party of 4-6 people by the window, but every other seat was by the counter watching Chef Ishizuka carefully prepare each course. I loved how intimate the setting was and it felt like an authentic Japanese restaurant, from the minimalist noren outside to the wooden sake boxes inside. Although we made reservations weeks in advance, if you’re lucky you may be able to secure some walk-in seating as we’d seen some people do.