Tag Archives: vacation

The Picture-Perfect Beaches of Puerto Rico

Yo sé lo que son los encantos
De mi borinquen hermosa
Por eso la quiero yo tanto
Por siempre la llamaré Preciosa

-“Preciosa,” Rafael Hernandez

Marc Anthony’s rendition of the song, “Preciosa,” a love song to the island of Puerto Rico, still gives me goosebumps. If you ever want to know why I love the beach so much, all you need to know is, it’s in my blood. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, I always have been and always will be most at home near the ocean.

Visiting my family on the island is a rare, special treat these days, but every time I go, I try to see someplace new. If you’ve never been, here’s some of what you’re missing out on: some of the world’s best beaches, three bioluminescent bays, the third largest cave system in the world, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System, the world’s best food (I’m only a little biased), historic Spanish forts, lush green mountains with awesome hiking trails, tiny coquí frogs (our version of crickets at night), “coco, piña, parcha” ice cream at the beach, and so much more.

Our trip to PR in August 2016 was just what I needed — and by that, I mean, lots of beach time. Here are some highlights of our time at Cerro Gordo Beach, on Gilligan’s Island in Guánica, and on Vieques Island. If you’re looking for paradise-like beaches, read on!

1. Balneario Cerro Gordo

Located in Vega Alta, PR, about an hour west of San Juan along the northern coast, this is a government-run beach, part of the Parque Nacional de Cerro Gordo. We went on a Monday, so there were hardly any other people at the beach. I was excited to see the crystal clear and perfectly calm waters. My dad quickly found some palm trees from which to tie our two hammocks. (That’s one thing I love about PRican beaches — there are plenty of palm trees for shade and hammocks. You just have to watch out for falling coconuts!) Continue reading The Picture-Perfect Beaches of Puerto Rico

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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.

IMG_4257 Continue reading From a Grand Palace to Grand Reptiles in Bangkok

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.

IMG_4074 Continue reading Southeast Asia Vacation Part 2: Bangkok’s Ornate Temples & Bustling Streets

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