Tag Archives: tourism

Strolling Among the Cherry Blossoms in DC

Last year, we were fortunate enough to be living in Asia during cherry blossom season. We saw the beautiful blooms in Seoul, Tokyo, and Osaka, along with the large, excited crowds that flocked to view and photograph them. We’re talking tripods and selfie sticks everywhere. But when you see them in person, it’s easy to understand why. The white and pink petals brighten up any landscape, as if straight out of a fairytale.

So when spring finally reared its head in Northern Virginia, we knew we needed to make the trip to Washington, D.C. to experience the short-lived cherry blossoms.

First, a little history on how these cherry blossoms even ended up in the United States. The existing 3,000 cherry trees arrived in D.C. in 1912, a gift from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo. (The first batch of 2,000 trees arrived diseased in 1910.) According to the National Cherry Blossom Festival website, “in a simple ceremony on March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two trees from Japan on the north bank of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park.” The annual festival celebrates the lasting ties between both countries.

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I have to admit, we weren’t expecting much. After all, we’d seen “the real deal” in Japan — how could these possibly compare? I’m happy to say we were pleasantly surprised. We rode the motorcycle into D.C. to avoid any parking headaches, and made our way to the Tidal Basin, where we found eager throngs competing for the best photo ops. Continue reading Strolling Among the Cherry Blossoms in DC

The Dating Years: Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo & Hearst Castle

As we approach our second wedding anniversary next week, I’ve decided to embark on a new blogging journey — The Dating Years. I’m sifting through all of my old photos and videos from the five years we dated, looking back at some of the adventures we had before becoming husband and wife. There were many! It only makes sense to include them in this blog. After all, it’s a big part of what brought us together in the first place, our knack for traveling, seeing new places and trying new things.

In May 2009, we drove up to San Luis Obispo from Los Angeles. Our first road trip as boyfriend and girlfriend. If you’ve ever driven along the Pacific Coast Highway in California, you know what a treat that is, in and of itself.

Driving up the PCH

Driving up the PCH Continue reading The Dating Years: Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo & Hearst Castle

Southeast Asia Vacation Part 3: A Week in Phi Phi Islands Paradise

We knew we wanted to end our vacation with some beach time. But how do you decide where to go, when Southeast Asia has some of the world’s best beaches? Since we were already going to be in Thailand, the question became, do we go to Krabi, Phuket, or the Phi Phi Islands? Ultimately, we liked the thought of getting away from the mainland and hopefully being around fewer tourists.

Thailand’s Phi Phi Islands (pronounced PEE PEE) are comprised of two main islands, Ko Phi Phi Don and Ko Phi Phi Leh, and several tiny islands — “Ko” means island. Ever since the movie The Beach (2000) featuring Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed there, the islands have become an increasingly popular tourist destination.

Getting there was an adventure in and of itself. We flew into Phuket, drove to the Rassada Pier, took a ferry to the Tonsai Pier on Ko Phi Phi Don, then took a long-tail boat to our resort. Pulling up to the islands was an experience I’ll never forget:

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IMG_4513 Continue reading Southeast Asia Vacation Part 3: A Week in Phi Phi Islands Paradise

From a Grand Palace to Grand Reptiles in Bangkok

The Grand Palace in Bangkok is the very definition of opulence. It has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam since 1782 and is only partially open to the public as a museum, since it still houses several royal offices. The large complex also features other buildings and pavilions, including Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha). Everywhere you turn, you see some amazing building or detail, it’s almost overwhelming. Everywhere you turn, you also see droves of fellow tourists … and their parasols.

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Seriously,though, what an incredible place. Again, you have to cover up before going in. If you don’t have a wrap, they provide you an outfit.

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Southeast Asia Vacation Part 2: Bangkok’s Ornate Temples & Bustling Streets

Bangkok, Thailand, seems to be a popular destination among people who travel to Southeast Asia. Personally, I think we could’ve skipped it. That’s not to say we didn’t have fun there or that the city doesn’t have anything worthwhile to offer, but we could’ve happily gone without a big-city experience during our vacation.

We were surprised during the drive to our hotel to see such a sprawling city with so many high-rises and skyscrapers — wow! I’d argue there are way more high-rises in Bangkok than in L.A. We also spotted numerous mosques and halal-friendly hotels and buildings, which was a first for us (we’d never seen entire hotels with a golden dome on top).

From humongous billboards along the highway and super luxurious shopping malls to crowded markets and dilapidated homes along the Chao Phraya River, Bangkok was a hodgepodge of sceneries. Here’s the view from our hotel, the Hotel Icon Bangkok. It was nice, our room was spacious and clean, and the hotel provides free shuttle service to the main avenue where you can catch the train.

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Our favorite Siem Reap temple & the Cambodian Circus

I mentioned in my previous post that Cambodia wasn’t what we expected. It’s a very poor country. At least in Siem Reap, we saw many dirt roads and wooden shacks on stilts. If you’re one of the tourists who stay in a hotel in the center of town, you may not really notice the level of poverty. The area by the Angkor Night Market and Pub Street is littered with restaurants, shops and hotels.

Our hotel, however, was quite removed from the center of town. We had to drive over many dirt roads, huge potholes, past dozens of stray dogs, past many bareboned homes where residents killed time outside watching a small TV set or lying in their hammocks, past many hole-in-the-wall local businesses — hair salons, barber shops, massage parlors, seamstresses, mechanics, laundromats — to get to our resort. It was one of those experiences that just puts life into perspective. Especially the night we were riding back in the tuk tuk and a roach flew smack dab onto my chest! Will came to my rescue. But seriously. Our hotel even had literature warning against giving money to child beggars (or buying things from them), as it encourages the cycle of begging and keeps them from seeking a proper education. We had to turn down many children during our visits to the temples.

So, on to our favorite day in Cambodia. To visit Banteay Srei, we had to take the tuk tuk about an hour outside of Siem Reap. This ride gave us the chance to see the Cambodian countryside. We drove past many rice paddies (dried up, as the dry season had just ended) and lots of farmland, skinny cows and chickens, past kids playing in the dirt pushing soda cans with sticks, past locals relaxing next to their cows outside. There was a curious sensation of being near the ocean and feeling the ocean breeze, even though we were nowhere near the ocean. Beautiful, lush, serene. Take a look:

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Banteay Srei is unique in that it’s built out of red sandstone and it’s of a much smaller scale than many of the other temples in the Angkor area. Continue reading Our favorite Siem Reap temple & the Cambodian Circus

Southeast Asia vacation Part 1: The Ancient Ruins of Siem Reap

Living in South Korea presented us the perfect opportunity to travel around Southeast Asia. It’s one of those parts of the world that’s just so far from California, that we’d likely never visit it otherwise, I’m kind of ashamed to admit. (Unless Will had to go there for work, which is very possible.) So, we decided to vacation across Cambodia and Thailand on our way back to the states.

Why Cambodia and Thailand? We didn’t know much about either country until we started to research and plan our trip. In the end, the many ruins, temples and paradise-like beaches lured us there.

Our two glorious weeks of vacation kicked off in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Tip #1 when traveling to Cambodia — bring U.S. dollars! You’ll need them for everything, most importantly, to pay for your tourist visa (they don’t accept credit card) and then for pretty much anything else in-country. Let’s just say we learned this the hard way, having flown in straight from Seoul with only South Korean Won in our wallets. Continue reading Southeast Asia vacation Part 1: The Ancient Ruins of Siem Reap

Jet lag = vacation teaser

Up since 3am or so — can you say jet lagged?

Perfect time to post some teaser photos of our vacation to Siem Reap, Bangkok and the Phi Phi islands. I can’t wait to share with you all about our trip, from exploring ancient ruins of Buddhist temples, riding tuk tuks and hanging with monitor lizards at the park, to kayaking and getting attacked by monkeys, scuba diving and swimming in some of the world’s most amazing beaches.  I have so many videos and photos! Here’s a sneak peek:

Siem Reap traffic
Siem Reap traffic
Bayon temple in Siem Reap
Bayon temple in Siem Reap

Continue reading Jet lag = vacation teaser

Talking to the Animals at Seoul Zoo

For our last weekend in Seoul, we decided to do something somewhat relaxing and visit the zoo. Seoul Zoo is located inside Seoul Grand Park — a huge recreation area about an hour’s subway ride south of Seoul. In addition to the zoo, it houses Seoul Land (an amusement park), a themed Rose Garden, a Children’s Zoo, a museum, camping grounds and more.

We happened to visit during the current MERS outbreak, so the park was practically empty, what with many people choosing to stay home. That made for a very lovely, crowd-free day at the zoo.

Our ride on the Sky Lift cable car to the entrance of the zoo was a treat in and of itself. (Though I always try not to think about how we’re just dangling off a thin cable….) It takes you over a big lake, over the children’s zoo and the rose garden, and gives you great views of the mountains, the green countryside, and the amusement park in the distance.

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Hiking Under Surveillance along Seoul Fortress Wall

Trekking the Seoul Fortress Wall is one of those “naturey” things you can do without leaving the city. The stone wall goes in a large loop and connects the four mountains surrounding the center of Seoul: Bugak-san to the north, Nak-san to the east, Nam-san to the south, and Inwang-san to the west. It was built back in 1396 and runs for more than 18km. We hiked the stretch from Waryong Park to Changuimun Gate, heading westward for probably 3km.

If you remember, we hiked another wall back in April, at Namhansanseong Fortress. Aside from the fact that they’re both fortress walls, I wouldn’t even compare the two experiences.

Seoul Fortress Wall, for one thing, offers really great views of the city. The weather was perfect that day, sunny and clear skies. Everything was green now, too. This path is also better maintained and mostly paved. Sure, there are some stretches of dirt you can walk along if you prefer, but if your goal is to walk along the wall itself, you’ll mainly be climbing concrete and wooden steps. Namhansanseong felt more woodsy and natural.

Probably the biggest difference is that this particular stretch of the hike took us “behind” — north of — the presidential Blue House of South Korea, located at the base of Bugak-san (as you can see below).

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