A little more than halfway through our trip, we stopped by the hot spring town of Yufuin in Oita prefecture for some much-needed rest and relaxation. Our legs sore from walking around all day and our back and arms tired from lugging around bags from place to place, it was a welcome respite from the busy itinerary. From Kumamoto, we took the Shinkansen to Kurume Station and then hopped on the beautiful Yufuin no Mori train, which looks like one of those classic cross-country sightseeing designs. Felt a bit like we were transported back in time to the golden age of railway travel.
The main reason we visited Kumamoto was for its proximity to Takachiho Gorge. There’s no way to get there via public transportation, so we rented a car and drove along the scenic Mount Aso route. Tie got his International Driver’s Permit back in New York and booked the car through Budget Japan so picking up our vehicle was a breeze. Even more conveniently, we got an automatic instead of a manual transmission. The only hurdles were getting used to driving on the left side of the road with the steering wheel on the right, and learning some new traffic signs (ex. the “Stop” sign is a triangle and not octagonal). I’ll admit, there were a few instances where we veered to the wrong side, but Tie always impresses me with how quickly he is able to adapt while I tried to navigate him on my phone.
This post is very near and dear to my heart. Every time I visit Japan, I make sure to stock up on beautiful, quality stationery. Because I do a lot of calligraphy and hand lettering, I’m always interested in trying out new tools and surfaces. I love the product design in Japan, and there are a lot of specialty stores for people who get giddy over pens and paper like I do. There is no shortage of them in Tokyo, so let’s dive in and get your haul on!
6 six years ago, Tie and I went on our first trip together (albeit not as a couple) to New Orleans. As our first wedding anniversary is approaching, we went back to where it all (almost) started. Didn’t quite make it in time for Mardi Gras, but they do have a number of smaller walking parades leading up to Fat Tuesday. We managed to catch one that totally appealed to the nerds within us. If you’re a fan of sci-fi, pop culture references, cosplay, and puns, then the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus is for you.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.