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.
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!
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!
The next day we were originally supposed to go to Haikou, which is north of Hainan. We got up early and headed to the railway station, which was quite far from our resort. Just our luck, it turns out that even when traveling within the same country (in the same province!), we needed our passports to buy tickets and we had left them in our hotel safe. Darn it! Went all the way there for nothing. So instead we rode all the way back to the hotel and came up with a contingency plan for the rest of our time in Sanya.
On our second day in Sanya we went to Yalong Bay Tropical Paradise Forest Park (what a mouthful). It was only 11 minutes by car from our resort so we took a cab. At the park, our taxi driver purchased a group ticket for us and two other strangers who hopped in for a carpool to the entrance. Cabbies would always offer to buy tickets because they get a kickback (price is the same for us), but what we should’ve done is held onto the physical ticket instead of letting the two strangers hang on to it. More on that snaffu later. It was just the beginning of what would become a long, long morning.
Tie and I decided to visit Sanya, Hainan (part of China) from of our love for Hainanese chicken. As it turns out, the best Hainanese chicken is found in Singapore, which is an adaptation of the original dish, Wenchang chicken. More on that in a later post. Nonetheless, Sanya is often regarded as the Hawaii of China. Now, having been to both, I can say that the two are totally different aside from the tropical climates. I haven’t been back to the mainland in almost a decade. Like most of China, Mandarin is the common dialect in Sanya. It felt strange being regarded as foreigners since Tie and I either spoke English to each other or spoke Mandarin with a Cantonese accent. But it was easily the most memorable leg of our Asia trip, as it felt at once familiar and like unexplored territory.