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.
Santorini is just as beautiful when viewed from atop the caldera and within the caldera itself. On our second day there, we decided on a whim to go on a yacht tour. Winnie had already booked the morning semi-private cruise with her friends and, without telling her, we booked the same one. It was about 135€ per person on Vista Yachting, which ended up being one of the best-valued activities we did during our entire trip. The company picked us up by our AirBNB and drove us to the port, where we were surprised that it was just going to be us and Winnie’s friends. Normally a private tour would be way more expensive (200€+), but we lucked out because no one else booked the same cruise!
A few years ago, Tie and I got to check out Dale Chihuly’s glass exhibition in Seattle during one of our layovers. After we heard there was going to be another Chihuly exhibit right here in the New York Botanical Garden, we leapt at the chance to go. As it is currently summertime in the city, this was the perfect chance for a nice evening stroll to enjoy art in the park. In August, every Thursday night the NYBG stays open past its normal hours for visitors to revel in the glass structures when they are all lit up. Tickets are a bit pricier at $35 apiece (or $31.50 if you use your Mastercard). There’s a parking structure nearby for $15, but we found street parking a few blocks away. We went shortly before sunset and stayed until after dark, which was when it got more crowded and became selfies galore. It was a nice, romantic date despite the mosquitoes attacking Tie’s legs. There were musical performances and a modern dance troupe that rather confused me. When it was still light out, we were able to read the giant posterboards placed around the garden, which contained poetry written by local students inspired by Chihuly’s work.
Visiting Greece was always something on our bucket list, and this May/June we were able to travel internationally with a group of friends (Winnie, Kacey, Daniel, and Albert) for the first time. It turned out to be one of my favorite trips so far. Having friends to laugh and do stupid things with while exploring a foreign country took us out of our usual hotpot-and-board-game-at-home situation. Not to mention, we ate so much delicious food! One of the best things about traveling with a group is being able to family-style every meal and try as many dishes as possible without breaking the bank. Outside of Astoria, New York lacks an abundance of amazing Greek food so of course we had to stuff ourselves given the chance.
Although Tie and I usually plan a pretty thorough itinerary for our trips, this time we decided to be a bit more spontaneous as we were traveling with a group and understood that some of us would have conflicting interests. I admit that not having a solid plan made me kind of stressed out in the beginning, but I eventually accepted that this should feel like a real vacation so just lounging around sometimes should be okay.
This past weekend, Tie and I went to Pennsylvania with our friends to check out the annual Lantern Festival. We’ve seen others post their pictures and videos of the event from previous years and it looked beautiful. Props to Winnie for organizing!
We bought our tickets from Eventbrite months in advance. I didn’t realize just how popular the Lantern Fest was, but it was completely sold out in the few weeks leading up to it. Some friends had to turn to social media to ask for additional tix. Early bird gets the worm! Tickets were $37 and includes one lantern and a smores kit. Kind of pricey, but someone’s gotta clean everything up.
I was inspired to do a self-guided photography tour of Hong Kong after watching one too many old DigitalRev videos on YouTube. After doing some research online for interesting places to shoot, we embarked on our adventure (which ended up taking about two days – Kowloon on the first and Central on the second). I wish we had explored the neighborhoods instead of just snapping a pic and moving onto the next spot. Maybe next time when we have more than 2-3 days in HK. My feet started hurting after a while since we were walking to and fro each place, so bringing comfortable shoes is a must. Now on to the list!