Shenandoah in October (Part 2): What to do in VA

After visiting Shenandoah National Park, we stopped by Charlottesvilla, VA.

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Brasserie Saison:  Amazing meal! For 2 of us, we were satisfied with 3 small plates and 1 large plate, and dessert. (Yelp)

We got chicken liver toast, fried & raw brussel sprouts, crispy scallops (MY FAVE), and steak frites. The steak was cooked perfectly medium rare, and the fries were great. REALLY LOVED THE SCALLOPS — get them if you can. They rotate items depending on what’s in season, which means everything is always fresh and tasty!

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We got their pineapple ice cream which was out of this world.

Timbercreek Market:

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Amazing butcher shop (Yelp)! We wanted to get dinner here but they were closed for an event. So we bought prosciutto and they were the BEST we ever had. Came back the next day to get more (and we finished them in one sitting).

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Their duck rillettes won the Good Food Award so we got that to eat outside with a baguette. They’re prepared with orange zest and rosemary! Love what they do with everything here. They also have beers and frozen foods you can buy to bring home to cook.

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HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Luray Caverns: 

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Pollak Vineyards:

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Tastings were $10 per person.

I got an additional glass of their Viognier which was excellent. Sat outside on the patio with the best view ever! A pond on one side and the vineyard on the other.

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Shenandoah in October (Part 1): Skyline Drive

From NY to Shenandoah (Virginia), it was about a 5.5-hour drive. So we made some pit stops.

1) Philly. Gotta get Dalessandro’s cheesesteak!!!

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2) Washington DC – Maine Avenue Fish Market – Captain White’s Seafood 

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Pleasant Pops Farmhouse Market & Cafe:

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La Pop:

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3) Front Royal, VA

Happy Creek Coffee & Tea: 

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Love the wooden tables with their unique shapes. Love the decor and everything in it! Loveeeeed my Valencian: orange zest, milk, espresso, mocha, happiness. GET THE VALENCIAN! Wish they had this in NYC!

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And finally, we reached Shenandoah National Park.

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Driving through Skyline Drive, we saw a lot of cyclists.

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We stayed at the Big Meadows Lodge and went out at midnight to try to catch the stars. It was way too cloudy but we saw glimpses of the moon here and there. And a bunch of deer… in headlights… literally.

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Gabriel Kreuther: 6 Course Carte Blanche (NYC)

Gabriel Kreuther currently has 1 Michelin Star as of 2018. It is located in the Grace building, right across from (my favorite) Bryant Park. The restaurant serves classic French, specifically, Alsatian cuisine.  I took my parents here to celebrate Mother’s Day and we each had the six course carte blanche, wine pairing for myself since my parents didn’t drink.

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Savory Scallion Kougelhopf 
chive fromage blanc
Of all the breads that were offered that night, this was my favorite. I also enjoyed how light and tart the fromage blanc was.

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Tarte flambée is an Alsatian dish, composed of bread dough rolled out very thinly, topped with onions and some form of lardon – reminds me of pizza but more delicate and light. I’ve only had it once at La Tarte Flambée in NYC.

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Earth & Air 
beet bon bon, horseradish
yuzu-lychee cloud, rosewater glass
I loved air. These were little bites that just melted in your mouth. Of course, I’m a sucker for yuzu.

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Fire & Ice Pate de fruit
cucumber, gin, mint
mezcal margarita, kumquat, chili
Ice was refreshing while fire had a kick to it. Kind of like a refined jello shot.

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Foie Gras Terrine & Pistachio Praline
medjool date jam, strega, fennel pollen waffle
This was a pleasant surprise since I didn’t think that foie gras should be mixed with anything, but the praline added a nice crunch to it. I still prefer whole foie gras though, like a barbarian.

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Langoustine Tartare
flying fish roe, salty fingers, cauliflower-macadamia puree
Cracking through the creme brulee-like top, you reach the scrumptious langoustine inside. This was one of my top dishes that night.

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Green-Walk Hatchery Trout 
scallion crema, rye cracker, champagne sauce 

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Castle Valley Mill’s Polenta 
poached farm egg, parma prosciutto, green tomato

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Rosemary Buckwheat Rolls
whipped lardo, chili, garlic
There was ample bread to go around all night.

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Black Angus Beef Tenderloin
green asparagus, roquefort, leek vinaigrette 

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Cucumber & Citrus 
cucumber granita, lemon cream, crystalized mint
This was a refreshing prelude to dessert.

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Decadent – Chocolate Caramel
mixed media crumble, chocolate mousse, caramel ice cream
So decadent I couldn’t finish it!

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Chocolates, petit fours 
Sugar overload. I had heard about Gabriel Kreuther’s famous chocolates and these did not disappoint. Loved the setting.

I also had the wine pairing but the menu they sent me had some errors on it – amateur mistake on my part for not jotting down the wine names as they were presented. I had assumed they would print me the correct menu. Oh well.

Gabriel Kreuther 
41 W 42nd St
New York, NY 10036
Reservations available via OpenTable

Yoho and Radium

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On my birthday, I wanted to see the sunrise, so we started driving in the total darkness.

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Weather did not cooperate; since it was so cloudy there really was no sunrise.

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But we did get to check one thing off my list…

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Canoeing at Emerald Lake was $60 CAD (as of Sept 2017), muchhhh cheaper than Lake Louise which charged $105 CAD (per hour).

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I loved the color of this lake – so much more than all the other lakes we saw on this trip. It was also less touristy and not as crowded.

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After hitting up Takakkaw Falls, we decided we still had time to go to Radium…

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Dinner at Old Salzburg Restaurant – Austrian food which means schnitzel, spatzel, strudel!

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It was around $6 CAD to get into the Radium Hot Springs.

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It was pretty awesome soaking in a hot pool while staring off into the mountains.

On this Canadian Rockies trip, we checked off a lot of things on our bucket list! The next time we come back (and I hope we do), I want to:

  • Finally get to Maligne Lake
  • Hike to Lake O’Hara
  • See the Northern Lights
  • See more sunrises and sunsets!

Driving through the Icefields Parkway

From Banff, we were set to drive through the Icefields Parkway (and stop at all the lakes in between, of course) to get to Jasper. But in the end, due to the weather (rain/snow), we weren’t able to get to Maligne Lake. However, the drive through the Parkway was beautiful, and we got to walk on glacier. Our original plan was to camp out but that was not possible due to the wind and snow, so we ended up booking the Overlander Mountain Lodge at the very last minute — and it was an amazing stay (highly recommended)!!! In September, you need to be flexible with your plans here because of unpredictable weather.

Remember to fill up on gas before you begin the drive.

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Bow Lake

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Peyto Lake

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Mistaya Canyon

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Ice Explorer!

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Walking on glacier (We did the glacier ice walk as part of the “ultimate explorer” package from here)

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Skywalk (also part of the “ultimate explorer package”) – check the weather before you go! We couldn’t see a thing!

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Athabasca Falls

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The whole drive is supposed to take 3 hours to drive without stopping BUT of course, you will stop to take pictures… a LOT. So it really takes up the whole day.

Found this hidden gem in the town of Jasper called Downstream where you can get this ginormous burger: Alberta beef, chicken breast, smoked muscovy duck, double smoked bacon, cheddar and mozzarella.

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I kept finding these coffee+alcohol drinks on the menus in Alberta everywhere… so delicious.

We scrambled to find a hotel that night in the middle of a storm, and all the hotels in Jasper were quoting $350+ that night. Thanks to a staff member at the Jasper Visitor Center, she found us the Overlander — it was beyond amazing.

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View from our room.

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We continued our drive and found some big horn sheep crossing the road.

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Maligne Lake Road Drive was closed due to the snow storm, so we weren’t able to go there. I guess that means we have to come back!

 

 

 

Banff Lakes: Louise, Agnes, Vermilion

We started our hike from Lake Louise. It started snowing in the middle of the hike and at one point, hailing!

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The snow made for interesting pictures though.

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Mirror Lake

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Went into Lake Agnes Tea House to sit out the hail – apparently everyone else had the same idea. It was crowded, dark (no electricity), but we somehow got seats. Cash only! They take CAD and USD but will only give change back in CAD.

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Lake Agnes after the storm.

After the hike, we drove to Vermilion Lakes for sunset.

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Vermilion Lakes are a series of 3 lakes – we drove from one to another to check out the best spot for photographing the sunset. Honestly, all 3 were spectacular. We decided on the last lake since we didn’t want to risk not being able to park and miss the short window.

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The colors shifted right in front of our eyes. One of the most stunning sunsets I’ve ever seen.

Again, we camped out at Tunnel Mountain Village 1 Campground (highly recommended).

Banff in September: Moraine Lake, Larch Valley & Sentinel Pass

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For my birthday last year, I decided to check out the Canadian Rockies. We stayed in Calgary the first night. The drive from Calgary to Banff was only 1.5 hours. I liked Calgary a lot – there were a lot of hip restaurants and bars, and outdoor art installations (free interactive musical see-saws!) at the Riverwalk.

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First thing we did after arriving in Banff: went on a boat and cruised around Lake Minnewanka. Then we walked around the town of Banff. I was unprepared for the cold weather in September, which gave me an excuse to buy a new down jacket (love shopping in Canada, feels like a bargain with the Canadian dollar: 1USD=1.3CAD).

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Lunch at Park Distillery – pretty good meal and extremely friendly service. Highly recommended.

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Did the touristy gondola thing.

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This view though.

We camped out that night at Tunnel Mountain Village 1 Campground – it was perfect, clean, and I highly recommend it. Much better than Lake Louise Campground which we later on discovered.

Breakfast at The Bison – pretty good bison burger!

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We passed by the parking lot leading to Lake Louise and there were long lines of cars outside the entrance waiting to get in. For Moraine Lake, we got lucky. If you wait a bit inside the parking lot, you’ll eventually get a spot – seems like there were fast turnover rates for people visiting the lakes.

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Moraine Lake – where you go to start the hike to Larch Valley. September is the perfect time to see the golden larch trees!

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Sentinel Pass via Larch Valley

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Those larch trees.

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Loved the wide open landscape here.

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Hiking through Larch Valley was easy, but going up to Sentinel Pass was a little more strenuous. Worth it though.

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After this point, turn around and proceed to the top…

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Waiting for sunset at Moraine. There was a huge rock pile for people to scramble up. The higher you go, the bluer the lake looks. It was nice to relax here after the hike.

Bacon Omakase at Belly

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I was very fortunate to have been invited to this private supper club at Belly and briefly met Chef Johnny Wooh. His staff was warm and welcoming, and there was just enough bacon. (Just kidding, there can never be enough)

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We started off with toast with kimchi butter, which was already amazing.

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BACON SUSHI – in my opinion, the best dish.

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Rib & pork bellyyyyyyyy

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Bacon taco. Yes, you can fold it in half.

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Spicy stuffed pepper (sausage inside) – bringing the heat!

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Of course you musta have-a pasta.

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They even make vegetables tasty.

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Donuts with (HOLY) SMOKY CREAM mm mmmmm.

BELLY OMAKASE

355 WEST 14TH STREET
(BTW 8-9 AVE)
NEW YORK, NY 10014

Reservation is required (Omakase dinner is available exclusively for 12 guests per day every Friday and Saturday)

2017 PBP Plate by Plate LA

Last year, I flew to LA for a long weekend for food.

No really, it was just for food. Particularly for this one event called “Plate by Plate” presented by Project by Project. That’s a mouthful.

Since their annual tasting event is happening this year on August 4th, 2018, I decided to dust off the old photos from last year’s event and post them here. (I was just lazy)

So here we go…

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Inside the Wallis Annenberg Building at the California Science Center. Can you spot a celebrity?

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Bobagasm!

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Kazu Nori had the longest line, of course.

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SOOO GOOOOOOD.

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And then this photo was taken outside the venue with my Samsung Galaxy S8, using the pro mode (just thought it was cool).

City Tour of Havana, Cuba

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We booked a Havana city tour through Havana Journeys, which was great with communication about dates and times. They picked us up from our casa particular in Centro Habana and we began our day with Cafe Fortuna, which was a cool, eclectic cafe with hipster decor inside.

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Cubans really know how to make a good sandwich.

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We bought cigars from here, but later found that they were similar priced at the airport – if you are looking to buy souvenirs, just get them there.

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We learned a lot about the history of Cuba.

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A pharmacy!

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We bought tickets here for the concert that night. Can’t go to Cuba without going to a live music concert!

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The singers would walk around to your tables so you felt like you were a part of the show.

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$5 breakfast at our casa particular.

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The end.

Cuba: Viñales: Cave, Cigars, Horseback Riding

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I booked a tour through Havana Journeys to check out Viñales. Our driver and tour guide were great! The car was air-conditioned and clearly well taken care of. Highly recommended!

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Coffee with that sugarcane.

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Cave tour. $5.

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Tobacco farm.

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Rode a horse. It was sad because the horses looked weak and skinny.

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Great view at this restaurant.

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Ropa Vieja again. Food was okay here; tourist prices.

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Back in Havana, dinner at Castropol:

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Seems like there are always great views at restaurants in Cuba.

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Cienfuegos, the Paris of Cuba

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The taxi driver that I booked came to pick us up in Trinidad and asked if we wanted to take a look at Cienfuegos, since it was on the way back to Havana. We pretty much had him for the whole day and could go wherever we wanted at no extra charge, so why not? Inside my head I was screaming with joy because I had researched about the city before, and it was nicknamed “the Paris of Cuba”.

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The colonial town of Cienfuegos was founded in 1819 as a Spanish territory but was settled by immigrants of French origin. Since it was a coastal city, it became a trading place for sugar cane, tobacco and coffee. I love that there were so many beautiful buildings with French influence!

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My favorite building.

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There’s always music everywhere you go in Cuba.

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We walked into a random restaurant because we were hungry and wanted a sandwich.

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It was just a cheap, simple sandwich with ham, cheese and… tuna?!?! That sandwich ended up to be one of the BEST things we ate on this trip. For some reason it just worked. We should’ve ordered more. It’s called El Palatino, in case you ever want to check it out!

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Back in Havana, we ate at an unlimited buffet place called Ana’s. It was recommended by our host and very affordable ($10 per person). All the meats were dry and salty… but the view of the Malecón was great. I would not recommend it.

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Cuba: strolling through the streets of Trinidad

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I hired a taxi through BestCubaGuide.com. They emailed me to make the arrangements. The price for a Modern Taxi from Havana to Trinidad was 160cuc(160 USD) back in May of 2017.  We paid the driver directly in CUC. When the driver arrived, he had his wife/partner with him. He didn’t speak much English so we communicated in Spanish. Afterwards, I made arrangements with him directly to come back the next day to pick us up.

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Havana to Trinidad by car: 4-5 hours. In between, we stopped for a bathroom/snack break. Bought a hot dog for $1 and it tasted very strange… We saw a lot of local people getting it but it didn’t jive well with us.

Once we arrived at our casa (also through Airbnb, and I highly recommend this one!), our host Yacquelin presented us with ice cold fresh mango juice which was amazing. She didn’t speak English at all so we communicated through Spanish. For some reason, I understood her more than I understood the driver — maybe she was used to tourists so she spoke slower and used more simple vocabulary? Yacquelin was the perfect host.

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The casa was a house connected to their family-owned ceramics factory, where people took tours! You can also buy souvenirs here.

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After our mini tour, Yacquelin helped us order a taxi to go hiking.

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We hiked to this waterfall and spent some time in the water.

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Our casa was about 15 minutes walking distance away from the city center (Plaza Mayor), so we walked through the neighborhood, which was interesting.

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My favorite part of the Cuba experience was live street music.

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What I noticed while walking through the neighborhood was that you can see through most homes and stores – there were no glass, no curtains. We saw family pictures, furniture, beds, people sitting on their couches watching television — everything could be seen from the outside. It was bizarre, like looking into someone else’s life. Passing through the neighborhood, we saw a lot of locals sitting in front of their houses just chatting and spending time with each other. It was nice to see that they weren’t on their phones typing away in silence, like we often see in the U.S. When we went back to our casa that night, we hung out on the balcony, sitting outside feeling the breezes, just like the local people. Even though it was hot, the breeze felt nicer than the AC.

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We encountered a couple of local Cuban people who asked us for our “things” — my friend’s plastic wrist band, my pusheen keychain hanging off my bag, in exchange for some goods that they were selling. It broke my heart when a father of a little boy begged and said “please, we can never get it here…” A little girl asked my friend defiantly for his wrist band, and her mother said it was her birthday (the father of the little boy also pulled the birthday card). We got the feeling that it was a common thing to do — foreigners would give away “things”, just little things that we usually don’t even notice, but they would treasure them because it was nearly impossible for them to get them. They never asked for money, just things.

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Our host recommended this restaurant, Esquerra – right next to Casa de la Musica, and they had a live band too!

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Complimentary drinks.

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Ropa Vieja

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Casa de la musica at night.

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Casa de la musica during the day time.

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Staying at a casa meant home-cooked breakfast for $5! Our breakfast here was the best meal we had in retrospect. Yacquelin prepared all this for four of us. I LOVED THE FRESH MANGOES.

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Trinidad was my favorite part of Cuba. Definitely worth the trek.

New York to Havana, my Cuba trip (Part 1)

The Basics: 
Non-stop flight from JFK to HAV (back in May 2017): $272.56 USD
Visa: $50 USD

At JFK, there was a level below the general check-in floor just for Cuba check-ins. We paid for our visas there right before our flight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Money Exchange:
– $1=1CUC, but if you use USD to exchange, there’s a 10% penalty. We bought euros from the bank beforehand to exchange.
– US debit/credit cards do not work
– Some places will take USD if you run out of CUCs
– You can exchange money at Cadecas, which we did
– We were planning to exchange money at the airport, but the counter was empty and this well dressed taxi driver approached us and said he would take us to cadecas in the city and then to our airbnb for 30 CUC (=$30). He was helpful and did not kidnap us.
– Be careful when you buy with CUC (the foreigners currency), they might be priced at CUP (the local currency). We also found that some places add 1 cuc to whatever you’re buying for no reason at all so check your change! We didn’t bother arguing for 1 cuc but it was inconsistent. There’s no tax so there’s no reason to pay extra.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WiFi:
Unless you stay in a fancy hotel, internet will only be available at government sanctioned hotspots, usually public parks (you will see everyone sitting/standing around on their phones together and then you know there’s wifi). To access the internet, you need to buy access cards (1 hour increments) from the kiosks (maximum 2 per person per purchase) You must have ID (passport or driver’s license) to purchase the card.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We saw buildings like this everywhere in Centro Habana, where we stayed at a casa particular (via Airbnb). The host was great and spoke English, and we were lucky to have working AC which some places did not. We did run out of water for a couple of days because it was being rationed.

 

 

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In Havana, you can get around by taking taxi or just walking — taxis are everywhere and easy to catch; just ask for a price beforehand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Local grocery store.

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Entering La Guarida, a Paladar.

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Food was just ok but the building itself was amazing, beautiful and some parts looked dilapidated, almost felt a bit forlorn.

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Malecón at sunset.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For updated rules and tips on traveling to Cuba as a U.S. citizen, check this site.

 

Texas road trip: Dallas & Austin

DALLAS highlights

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  1. Walk around Deep Ellum: a neighborhood that is quirky and has lots of wall murals everywhere.

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2) Get a donut from Glazed Donut Works 

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3) Get BBQ from Pecan LodgeGet here when it opens! Beef rib is where it’s at. One of the best BBQs I’ve ever had. Also got brisket but man, that giant beef rib is SO worth it! We got there at opening time and there was already a congregation of hungry people waiting around.

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BEEF RIB.

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*A little out of the way, but if you’re in the neighborhood, stop by 9 Rabbits Bakery.

On the way to Austin, there is a stop in between that’s called Czech Stop. Open 24/7, they sell kolaches which are these:

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AUSTIN highlights

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1)  Hamilton Pool Preserve such a cool place with a waterfall and places to sit and chill. $15 per car (cash). Plenty of parking. The day we went there, the water had high levels of bacteria so we were not allowed to go in. Would’ve loved to dive right in!

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2) Salt Lick BBQ was one of the highly recommended bbq places but kinda out of the way. We still made it though! They also helped us take pictures in front of the meats that were being smoked.

3) Next, we have LA BARBECUE (Fave of the trip!!!) — I preordered via email and they didn’t have a weight minimum like Franklin’s, so it was pretty easy. We got there at opening time and there was already a huge line wrapped around a few times, but I walked right up to the window to pick up my meats. #winning

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Again, BEEF RIB IS WHERE IT’S AT.

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4) Barton Creek Greenbelt – turns out there’s some hiking in Austin.

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5) Go for sunrise at the Austin 360 Bridge aka Pennybacker Bridge A short 5-10 minute hike up to the overlook.

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6) Check out the graffiti walls at Hope Outdoor Gallery

Tanoshi (NYC)

Tanoshi offers one of the most affordable omakases in NYC, and it’s quite easy to make reservations online. I also love that it’s BYOB. For $99, you get 10 courses of amazing fresh fish, and you can add more if you want from their menu on the wall (which changes according to what’s in season).

Tanoshi

Tanoshi

Tanoshi

Tanoshi

Cherry trout

Tanoshi

Amberjack with cherry blossom leaf

Tanoshi

Sardine

Tanoshi

Botan with uni (one of my faves)

Tanoshi

Blue fin toro

Tanoshi

Tanoshi

XXX (FAVE)

Tanoshi

Tanoshi

Miso soup

Tanoshi

Tanoshi

Tanoshi

Additional courses that we ordered a-la-carte.

Tanoshi

Tanoshi

Salmon belly

Tanoshi

I had to get more of this!

Tanoshi

Yellowtail belly.

Tanoshi

Nakaochi

Tanoshi

Sea eel

Tanoshi

Crab brain

Tanoshi

 

Tanoshi
1372 York Ave
New York, NY 10021
b/t 73rd St & 74th St 
https://www.yelp.com/biz/tanoshi-sushi-sake-bar-new-york

Eleven Madison Park’s 11 course menu (2017)

It’s been one year since I last updated this blog. I guess I’ll get back to it and start off with food. Last year, Eleven Madison Park offered an 11-course retrospective tasting menu featuring signature dishes from the years it’s been opened, for a limited time only. Named “The World’s Best Restaurant” of 2017, I booked a table right away, since I had never been there. Pro tip: ask for a tour of the kitchen. They brought us to the back after the meal was over and mixed us dessert cocktails! That was probably the highlight of the entire meal for me.

Eleven Madison Park

Gougère with grated gruyere (2006)

Eleven Madison Park

Eleven Madison Park

Sea Urchin – cappuccino with peekytoe crab and cauliflower (2006)

Eleven Madison Park

Little neck clam – clambake with velouté and parker house rolls (2011)

Eleven Madison Park

Eleven Madison Park

Prawn roulade with avocado and yogurt (2007)

Eleven Madison Park

Eleven Madison Park

Foie gras torchon with maple syrup and pain d’epice (2004)

Eleven Madison Park

Eleven Madison Park

Eleven Madison Park

Carrot tartare with rye toast and condiments (2012)

Eleven Madison Park

Eleven Madison Park

You have to put in a little work here, mixing according to your liking.

Eleven Madison Park

Eleven Madison Park

Turbot poached zucchini and squash blossom (2007)

Eleven Madison Park

Winter in Provence – black truffle, celery root, potato and chèvre frais (2009)

Eleven Madison Park

Eleven Madison Park

Suckling pig confit with rhubarb, leeks and cipollini onion (2010)

Eleven Madison Park

Milk and honey with dehydrated milk foam and bee pollen (2010)

Eleven Madison Park

Chocolate palette with peanut butter and popcorn ice cream (2008)

Eleven Madison Park

More desserts.

Eleven Madison Park

Eleven Madison Park

Complimentary apple brandy at the end.

Eleven Madison Park

Goodie bag with the menu and granola.

Eleven Madison Park

Barcelona: Disfrutar – Best Meal Ever? (Feb 2017)

Spain

Making a reservation at Disfrutar (in English meaning “Enjoy”) was super easy — I used their website to book in advance. They hold one Michelin star right now, but I believe they deserve more. It was reminiscent of Alinea in Chicago, where I first experienced the world of molecular gastronomy. When we arrived at the restaurant, I instantly felt the warmth from our host, who received us and gave us a quick tour that eventually led to our table. Every single person who served us was welcoming and explained everything clearly.

Spain

You can choose between the Classic Menu or the Festival Menu, and both featured an option for 20 or 25 courses. I went with the “Classic” since it was my first time there and I wanted to experience it as a newbie. Of course, I had to get the wine pairing with my meal.

Spain

Spain

Frozen cocktail with passionfruit, rum & coffee

Spain

Lychee and roses with gin

Spain

The beet that comes out of the land

Spain

Spain

Spain

Salted candy walnuts with mango, tonka beans and whisky

Spain

“Multipescadito frito” with fresh trout roe

Spain

Spain

These were NOT olives! They were made of hard chocolate shells filled with soft chocolate inside. SO surprisingly tasty. One of my favorites and it looks so simple! Together with the olive oil and bread, they worked quite beautifully. Amazing.

Spain

Mille-feuille of Idiazabal

Spain

Spain

Crispy egg yolk with mushrooms gelatine

Spain

Perfectly crispy on the outside, runny egg yolk on the inside

Spain

Spain

Mushroom “dumplings”

Spain

Spain

Ceviche decontruction

Spain

This was my favorite wine of the meal, tastes like… mushrooms?!

Spain

Macaroni carbonara

Spain

Spain

Liquid salad, anyone?

Spain

Spain

Langoustine “al ajillo”

Spain

Red mullet with pork belly and eggplant gnocchi

Spain

Spain

Moroccan style pigeon

Spain

Dessert #1: mango sorbet sandwich

Spain

Dessert #2: Cheesecake cornet

Spain

Spain

Dessert #3: Chocolate peppers, oil and salt – another mind game, these were not peppers at all!

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Favorite dessert of the meal: Cotton of cocoa and mint — the waiter had to point out which were the real cotton and which were candy, and we picked them off the stem to eat! Really tasty, loveeeeeed the mint!

I loved this meal so much! Everything from start to finish was a delightful surprise, and I hope to go again the next time I’m in Barcelona. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Madrid: Where to eat & run (Feb 2017)

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Madrid airport. I was in love with the architecture here already.

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Plaza Mayor at sunrise.

Many people told me I should spend more time in Barcelona and that I would like it more, but they were wrong. Not that I didn’t like Barcelona, but I feel like Madrid is underrated. I loved Madrid for its old cobblestone streets, the architecture, the random flower shops, the huge park where I went for a sunrise jog, and all the colors and history.

Spain

Spain

Spain

Spain

Spain

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CaixaForum 

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Spain

Templo de Debod

Spain

Mercado de San Miguel was a food hall with lots of vendors selling jamon, wine, tapas, and I loved it. I loved walking around trying out different things.

Spain

Spain

Tapas for 1 Euro each!

Spain

Spain

Jamon everywhere.

Spain

Spain

A glass of wine was only 1 Euro more than water, so I ordered wine everywhere I went.

Spain

Chocolateria San Gines for churros and hot chocolate

Spain

Spain

Street XO, a casual hip gastronomic restaurant whose menu features these:

Spain

StreetXO is Chef David Muñoz’s more casual and affordable restaurant. We waited for maybe 15 minutes before getting a seat at the bar where we got to see the chefs work right in front of us.

Spain

Spain

PORK BELLAYYYY! All of their dishes were creative and the decor reminded me of a Willy Wonka world.

And amazing, unique cocktails:

Spain

Spain

Suckling pig at Botin, “oldest restaurant in the world” — tourist destination

Spain

Rioja is a must.

Spain

Of course I played around with some nighttime photography.

On my sunrise jog the next morning, I stumbled upon a glass palace inside el Parque del Retiro:

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Loved the details.

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This park reminded me of Central Park in NYC. I loved running solo here, and I felt safe. I used my offline Google Map (that I downloaded ahead of time) to get from the hotel in Plaza Mayor to here (~1.5 miles) and back. Highly recommended if you like to run on vacation.

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Sunrise + rainbow!

 

 

Travelogue: Nashville (Dec 2016)

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

BEST THING ABOUT NASHVILLE? HATTIE B’S HOT CHICKEN! Go there go there go there go there go there. We went twice on this trip and we only had 2 days!

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

We went to Puckett’s as per my coworker’s recommendation — I love how there’s always a live band at restaurants here!

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

After dinner we headed over to Honky Tonk Central because it’s the most touristy thing to do and we had to check it off the list!

It was actually pretty chill there, we grabbed some beers and sat down near the stage — the music was so good I didn’t want to leave.

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Biscuit Love for breakfast. SO MUCH GRAVY.

Had a tour of the Belle Meade Plantation (photos not allowed inside) and ended up buying wine from their wine tasting!

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Acme Feed & Seed — another casual restaurant with a live band.

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Food was mediocre, but what we were REALLY here for was the rooftop view. Take the stairs all the way up for it!

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

We HAD to get more hot chicken.

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Bolton’s spicy chicken & fish.

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

THESE RIBS WERE FINGERLICKING GOOD.

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

The hot chicken here was hotter than Hattie B’s. Be warned. Not as juicy as Hattie B’s though.

Next — Pepperfire Hot Chicken. Even hotter! But we still concluded that Hattie B’s was #1!

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

That’s it for our short/long-weekend trip to Atlanta & Nashville!

I loved Nashville for its live music, hot chicken and wall murals!

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Travelogue: en route to Nashville (Dec 2016)

Chattanooga!

On the way from Atlanta to Nashville, we stopped by this town for the night.

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Champy’s boasted having the best fried chicken in town. I only went to one here, so I would agree.

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

There’s a huge parking lot but there were no spots! So we parked across the street, which is not bad at all. It’s a very casual Southern diner kind of place.

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Clumpies featured a lot of unique ice cream flavors like sweet potato casserole… very interesting.

Next morning, we went to Maple Street Biscuit Company for… well, biscuits.

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

After we fueled up on food, we drove about an hour and 40 minutes to the Jack Daniel’s Distillery for some whiskey tasting.

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

It’s strange because this county is “dry”, but you can taste alcohol here. According to Wiki, “while it is legal to distill the product within the county, it is illegal to purchase it there. However, a state law has provided one exception: a distillery may sell one commemorative product, regardless of county statutes.”

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Next up — Nashville!

Travelogue: Atlanta (Dec 2016)

Long weekend means road trip time! We flew into Atlanta and began there.

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

I’ve always wanted to go to the largest aquarium in the U.S. — the Georgia Aquarium.

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

It reminded me of the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans, which to this day remains my favorite (for blog post on that, click here).

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Next to the aquarium is the World of Coca-Cola.

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

With the admission fee, you get a “free” coke at the start of the tour:

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Here you can test out all the flavors of Coca-cola products from all the continents in the world.

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

After loading up on excessive sugar, we went to eat some BBQ because Atlanta.

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Twin Smokers BBQ

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

The brisket was good but the BEST part was their DINOSAUR RIB!

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

The picture does not do it justice. And also the corn souffle (SO GOOD):

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

 

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Ponce City Market reminded me of Chelsea Market in NYC, with lots of food options and retailers selling hipster things:

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

The “Beltline” also reminded me of the Highline in NYC, attached to Ponce City Market like the Highline is attached to Chelsea Market.

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

I saw a lot of people riding bikes here.

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

And of course, the main reason for coming here was for the wall murals nearby:

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Dinner at King + Duke:

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

My chartreuse!

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Bone marrow and amazing steak.

After dinner, we went to the Ivy for drinks and met up with a friend from college.

Of course I had to do a long exposure night shot of the city skyline:

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

Next morning, we went to grab some amazing banh mi for $3 (SO FAST AND SO CHEAP):

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

GET THE BANH MI DAC BIET!!!!!!!!!

It’s located inside an Asian shopping center which means lots of parking space and bakeries.

Tea House Formosa for bubble tea:

Atlanta & Nashville 2016

And that was it for Atlanta! It was a fun 1.5 day(s?) there, lots of good food and wall murals, kinda rushed because we were short on time. We could’ve eaten more fried chicken there. Next, we head to Chattanooga on the way to Nashville, Tennessee!

LA: Santa Anita hiking & eating (Nov 2016)

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Started off the morning with some baked goods from Duke Bakery. Their buns are huge. Look!

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They’re like buns for giants.

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We drove to Santa Anita Canyon.

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Pretty easy hike to the waterfall (note: since there is a drought, there is a very little stream and not as much water as it used to have). Only 1.8 miles to Sturtevant Falls!

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

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Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

After hiking, we went to the Westfield Santa Anita mall nearby for food.

Los Angeles 2016

Side Chick had these Hainanese chicken over rice, but what I really liked was their soy sauce egg… The yolk was golden. I can’t stop thinking about it. I’d come here just to order some eggs.

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Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Also inside the mall is Sweet Lab, which makes nitro ice cream and cereal balls infused with nitro.

Los Angeles 2016

“Dragon’s breath”

Los Angeles 2016

 

LA: Arts District, Korean ice cream, and finding angel wings (Nov 2016)

Uber and Lyft were SO cheap in LA (compared to NY). If you want to avoid looking endlessly for parking or spending a lot of money on parking garages, just take an Uber. I took one to Downtown LA.

Los Angeles 2016

Chimney Coffee House.

Los Angeles 2016

BEST. BURGER. EVER. They call this the “Rogue”.

Los Angeles 2016

The “Rogue” sandwich has 2 eggs in it. TWO. Scrambled eggs and thai style fried egg, separated by juicy sage-black truffle pork sausage, cheddar crisp (omg crispy cheese), and sriracha yuzu mayo on a toasted house made milk bun. This combo is bomb. I was amazed at how all the flavors complemented each other and surprised my tongue at every bite.

After that, I was stuffed, but I had to get ice cream at Ihwamun.

Los Angeles 2016

I got the citron and ingeolmi (their signature flavor). They’re known for their Korean flavors — try Choco Pie! Their matcha is also really good. Some of the best ice cream I’ve had.

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I always seek out wall murals wherever I go.

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The Arts District Co-Op reminded me of Chelsea market in NY. Lots of vendors selling their own unique clothing and jewelry.

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Finally found my wings.

After that, I took an Uber to Rowland Heights (20 bucks for 1 hour in traffic, crazy affordable right?!?!) and serendipitously found another set of wings.

Los Angeles 2016

Zero Degrees.

Los Angeles 2016

Boba ice cream.

Los Angeles 2016

LOVE the unique bubble tea flavors here, and they come in a glass bottle as an option (+$1.50). Everything is so fresh and they don’t use powder.

Los Angeles 2016

Water drop cake with matcha.

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Next up, Korean food at Junkabok by Mokkoji.

Los Angeles 2016

They offer 3 set menus in addition to a la carte options: the Piglet, the Piggy, and the Pigzilla. I got the Pigzilla, of course.

It comes with: small stew or hot stone + small BBQ dish + seafood pancake + braised pork cartilage. It’s enough food for 3-5 people…

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

SOOOOO GOOOOOOD.

LA: tacos, santa monica, claw machines (Nov 2016)

Los Angeles 2016

Top left: Tokyo Shrimp: tempura shrimp | avocado | spicy mayo

Los Angeles 2016

Crispy Fish: panko crusted fish | blackened onions | garlic mayo

Los Angeles 2016

Ya Mon: grilled fish | pineapple relish | jerk sauce

Los Angeles 2016

Taj Mahal: coconut shrimp | curry sauce | diced red bell pepper

Los Angeles 2016

Southern Decadence: fried chicken | bacon | BBQ sauce | ranch dressing | diced tomato

After eating these unique tacos at Mondo Taco, we headed to Santa Monica Pier.

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Los Angeles 2016

I got pooped on by a seagull after this.

Got some bubble tea (without the bubbles) at Macchiato.

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Went to Round 1, my favorite place for claw machines!

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Helluuu my babies.

LA: The Broad, Little Tokyo, Griffith (Nov 2016)

Eggslut time.

Los Angeles 2016

This one is located in the Grand Central Market.

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

We sat at the counter and chowed down on the most delicious magical egg sandwiches ever. They give you so much bacon and meat!

Los Angeles 2016

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I ordered the “Slut”, which is coddled egg with warm potato puree, it was like a warm delicious blanket covering me in the middle of a blizzard in New York City. Also, it’s fun to hear them yell out “Slut” to each other repeatedly.

Los Angeles 2016

We walked over to the Broad Museum. I reserved advanced tickets so that we didn’t have to wait on the standby line. The earliest time I could get was 11:30AM. In order to sign up for the Infinity Room, you had to be inside the museum, so I wanted to be there as early as possible.

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

As soon as we got inside, I signed us up for the Infinity Room. The wait was around 2 hours, so we explored the rest of the museum.

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

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Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Finally, we got a text to notify that we will be able to go into the Infinity Room shortly. We lined up on the first floor. There was a short queue. You can choose to go in with your friends or go solo. We decided to go one at a time.

Los Angeles 2016

The lights flashed periodically, so it was hard to get a good shot at the right moment and enjoy the moment at the same time. You get 45 seconds in there, and you can only step onto the platform. After 45 seconds, they open the door for you to get out and the next person to go in.

After the Broad, we walked over to Little Tokyo for lunch!

Los Angeles 2016

The original Daikokuya.

Los Angeles 2016

Their takoyaki (octopus balls) were actually pretty good. Ramen was okay. I’ve had better in NYC.

Los Angeles 2016

Mikawaya has lots of flavors of mochi.

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

We walked around Little Tokyo’s cute stores.

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Then we Uber’ed to Griffith Observatory for the sunset.

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Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

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Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Hello LA.

Los Angeles 2016

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Los Angeles 2016

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Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

LA: Irvine, Laguna, LACMA (Nov 2016)

My first stop after getting out of horrendous LAX traffic: Irvine.

Sit at the sushi bar at Taiko and tell the chef what you want. The sushi there was amazingly fresh and I loved everything we ate! Very affordable too.

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

At the Irvine Spectrum Center:

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Check out Honey & Butter and their unique macaron flavors!

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Los Angeles 2016

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Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

The matcha one was so good!

Right inside the same shopping center is Hello Kitty Cafe.

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

Los Angeles 2016

We drove to Laguna Beach, just in time for sunset.

Los Angeles 2016

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Los Angeles 2016

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Los Angeles 2016

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Stumbled upon a wedding shoot!

Back to LA…

Los Angeles 2016

Fat Sal’s — I love that everything here is “fat” and it’s good to be fat. My fat sandwich had cheesesteak, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, crisp bacon, fried eggs, fries, mayo, ketchup, etc. How could you resist?! Best sandwich ever. Also got the milkshake but it was too thick to sip.

Los Angeles 2016

We headed over to LACMA to take pictures with the “Urban Lights”. If you’re only there for this outdoor exhibition, you can just park your car temporarily right outside where the signs are. We didn’t know this and looked for parking forever.

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Travelogue: Salt Lake City, Utah (Sept 2016)

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The drive to Salt Lake City was long. 4 hours long.

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The view from the hotel was awesome. Mountains!

We upgraded to the VIP floor, including happy hour (unlimited drinks and food) at the lounge.

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I loved the view! Sunset time.

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Free breakfast.

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We went to see the Salt Lake Temple and churches around the city.

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Next, we drove 2 hours to the salt flats.

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Because it had rained a couple of days before, there was still water on top of the salt, which made a reflection and really cool pictures.

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Exfoliating!

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Utah 2016

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Salty.

Utah 2016

Utah 2016

Utah 2016

Back to SLC.

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We found yet another amazing taco truck!!!!!! El Paisa Mariscos Y Tacos.

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BEST fish tacos I’ve ever had.

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Went back to the hotel for VIP happy hour (free unlimited drinks).

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…And sunset.

Then amazing food at Whiskey Street.

Utah 2016

Utah 2016

Peach mule!

Utah 2016

Utah 2016

And that’s all, folks.

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Travelogue: Arches National Park, Utah (Sept 2016)

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Note: If you want to go to Fiery Furnace, you better book months in advance! We missed out on it. You can also risk it and ask for any last minute spots at the visitors center. (More info here)

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Devil’s Garden.

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Landscape Arch is the longest of the many natural rock arches in this park.

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Time for sunset at…

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Delicate Arch.

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Walking to the middle of the arch was amazing. It was windy and the view was kind of, well, majestic. I was surprised at how polite people were, letting others have their photo opportunities and not crowding the arch.

If you plan to see the sunset at Delicate Arch, I recommend you start hiking up an hour before the sunset time (check the weather). Also, bring flashlights or headlamps. We were the only ones with headlamps so people were following our light source going down the trail afterwards. It was pitch dark.

Utah 2016

I really liked camping out in Utah. The campgrounds we stayed at were all really good. There were lots of convenience stores around. The Utah night sky was the best part.

The view at the campsite next morning:

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We went back to Arches.

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Windows.

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We drove back to the Mexican truck/re-purposed gas station (Tacos La Pasadita) in Green River because it was SO GOOD.

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GET THE VAMPIRAS!

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Green River is known for their melons. So many different melons and cantaloupes.

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Yellow watermelon.

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Back on the road. Next, we go to Salt Lake City!

Travelogue: Canyonlands National Park, Utah (Sept 2016)

When I told people I was going to travel to Utah for my birthday week, most reactions were “Why? Of all places?”

Other than checking off my bucket list for hiking and road tripping across 5 National Parks, what I really wanted to do was to start my day with the sunrise at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands.

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The weather forecast was not looking good. We experienced torrential downpour for an hour up until we got into the actual park. After we got in, it was fine!

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The “hike” to Mesa Arch was easy, 15 minutes and you’re here. Along with fifty other photographers.

Utah 2016

Utah 2016

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I love sunrises. You start the day from darkness to light, and then you have a whole day ahead of you.

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Utah 2016

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After seeing the sunrise, we went to hike other trails at the park. There were many easy hikes.

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Some crater.

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Island in the Sky.

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We then took an impromptu side trip to Dead Horse Point State Park (entrance fee: $10).

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Colorado River. This view was the main attraction of the park. We spent around an hour and a half there.

On the way to dinner, we saw a rainbow.

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We ate at The Blu Pig. Southern barbecue!

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Then Moab Brewery.

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We stayed in a campground in Moab for the night, since it’s right in between Canyonlands and Arches (for the next post)!

Campsite info:
Archview RV Resort & Campground
U.S. 191 Moab, Utah 84532
435-259-7854

Travelogue: Capitol Reef National Park, Utah (Sept 2016)

Back on the road.

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Stumbled into a cafe…

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…With the perfect view.

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Grand Staircase.

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Hickman Bridge. Easy hike, feels like you’re on  Mars.

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Of course if you come to Capitol Reef, you have to go to their orchards. The fruits vary by season, and when we visited in September, apples and pears were in season.

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You can pick as many as you want and eat them right on the grounds for free. But if you want to bring some home, you’ll have to pay (the prices are ridiculously cheap, it’s like you’re robbing them)

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Get some pies and jam while you’re there.

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Continuing our drive through Capitol Reef, we saw lots of cool rock formations and hidden caves. Like Oyler Mine in Grand Wash Canyon, for example, where uranium mining occurred wayyyy back when… before they found out it was dangerous.

After 3 nights of camping out, we stayed at a hotel in the town of Green River, where we found an amazing Mexican food “truck” at a former gas station.

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Their vampiras were SO good. Like quesadillas but even better.

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Tacos.

Check out La Pasadita if you’re around the area!

Next up, sunrise at Canyonlands.

Travelogue: Bryce Canyon, Utah (Sept 2016)

We camped out at Ruby’s Inn Campground (info in the previous post) so that we could get a head start on hiking at Bryce Canyon National Park the next morning.

The Fairyland Loop is an 8-mile trail that takes you all around many spectacular hoodoos and viewpoints. It was probably my favorite hike of this trip, strenuous but amazing views that I could never even have dreamed of. It takes about 4-5 hours, especially if you stop and take pictures/snack.

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Depending on which part you start at, you go up and down in elevation — going up is always harder for me… I felt like I couldn’t breathe (I know I’m weak).

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So many hoodoos.

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After the Fairyland loop, it started getting really foggy and cold — we decided to drive through the loop to stop at the various viewpoints instead of hiking another trail.

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The Amphitheater

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We drove to the end of the loop to try to get more pictures, but it became so foggy that it was impossible to see beyond two feet. So we gave up and went to the general store to get some food to cook at the campground.

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There are plenty of general stores right outside the park for everything you would possibly need. I bought stamps and postcards to send out to friends. We also bought ramen and spam and cheese.

Side note — I really liked the name of this beer but didn’t buy it:

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Ruby’s Inn Campground
300 So. Main Hwy 63,
Bryce Canyon, Utah. 84764

Travelogue: Zion National Park, Utah [Part 2] (Sept 2016)

Observation Point. Take the shuttle to the Weeping Rock stop.

If you’re short on time and deciding between Observation Point or Angel’s Landing, I’d pick the latter. Angel’s Landing has more of a thrill factor with the chains and the narrow paths — lots of picture opportunities and you can be done in 2.5 hrs. Observation Point is a strenuous 5-hour hike, 8 miles round trip, and has similar views as Angel’s Landing (but higher and has a nice panoramic view). It IS longer and steeper, so I would start earlier in the day to avoid the sun.

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Definitely bring some snacks and lots of water. This is really good, by the way. Rip van Wafels! Dark chocolate sea salt. Sorry for the dark picture.

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This was a similar viewpoint as Angel’s Landing (previous post here).

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Some people rock climb in this crevasse. Pretty cool.

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After this hike, we left Zion and drove towards Bryce Canyon National Park.

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The drive was insanely awesome. Very scenic, no boring roads here.

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Checkerboard mesa. Look at the checkerboard marks!

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You can see we’re leaving Zion when the road abruptly stops being red.

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We stopped by this gift shop/restaurant for huckleberry ice cream.

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Onward to Bryce!

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We got to the campground (near Bryce) around sunset. After we set up camp, we drove into Bryce Canyon to eat at the lodge restaurant. You can drive right into the park after hours for the restaurant.

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Hoodoo beer!

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Some notes about the campgrounds: I recommend all the ones we stayed at — they will be listed at the bottom of each post. They were all very clean and had great individual showers, which was important to me…

Campsite Info:
Ruby’s Inn Campground
300 So. Main Hwy 63,
Bryce Canyon, Utah. 84764
$62.78 for 2 nights

Travelogue: Zion National Park, Utah [Part 1] (Sept 2016)

Zion

We drove from Las Vegas to Zion National Park, Utah. You’ll know you’re in Zion when all the rocks turn red.

Since it was September, we had to park the car in the parking lot at the entrance and take the free shuttle to get to different parts of the park. In the winter time, they let you drive into the park since there are less visitors. Get there early to get a spot!

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The Zion Canyon Shuttle stops at nine locations in the park. Buses run frequently throughout the day, as often as every seven minutes.

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I wanted to hike up Angel’s Landing ever since I heard of it — it’s so narrow at the top that “only an angel can land on it”, and I wanted to conquer my fear of heights. There are chains for you to hold onto!

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Yes, we were down there.

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Calm down. That’s a temporary tattoo.

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Moar chainz.

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Once you get past this point, you can do anything. In life.

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Afterwards we went to the gift shop to look around and I found this:

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No, I didn’t buy it… but it looks cool.

Campsite Info: 
Zion Canyon Campground and RV Resort
479 Zion Park Blvd.
Springdale, UT 84767
$39 

Travelogue: Las Vegas (Sept 2016)

For my birthday this year, I wanted to do a hiking trip to Utah. We flew to Las Vegas and stayed there for one night before a week of hiking and camping.

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We stopped by Pokeman for a sushi burrito and a poke bowl.

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Brew Tea Bar – I got the hokkaido milk tea: very milky and sweet.

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They also had other unique flavors. You can adjust the sweetness and ice levels. They’re so friendly there and will accommodate to your taste. I love that they use real tea and not powder.

We headed to the middle of the desert 20 minutes away from Vegas downtown…

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The Seven Magic Mountains! It’s a temporary outdoor art installation and worth a visit. According to the website, “The exhibition opened May 11, 2016 and will be on view for two years.

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For dinner, we went to the famous Bacchanal Buffet in Caesar’s Palace.

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You go to the kiosks and get a ticket. You can walk around until you get a text notifying you to “check in”, but you’ll still have to wait on the physical line. The lady let us go on the line before our turn and we still had to wait for about 45 minutes before we sat down.

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This was my second time in Vegas and Bacchanal didn’t blow my mind. I can’t say it’s the best buffet, but I did enjoy the dessert options and beautiful displays.

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The fountain show at the Bellagio.

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Sushi on Jones (NYC)

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Sushi on Jones 
Bowery Market
348 Bowery
New York, NY 10012

The timer starts. It counts down from 30 minutes. You have 12 courses of sushi presented to you individually and beautifully seasoned. Plus a hand roll for $12 extra. The omakase is only $50, quite a steal in New York City. Oh, and it’s outdoor seating only — 4 seats, for which you have to make reservations for (via text (917) 270-1815). Late for 2 minutes and you don’t get to eat.

We made sure we would be early — in fact, we were in the area an hour before. A few blocks away is Coffee Project, where the deconstructed latte lives.

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But I digress.

Back to the Bowery Market.

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This outdoor foodie paradise has quite a variety of eateries — tacos?

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The Butcher’s Daughter.

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Still waiting…

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There it is. The 4 coveted seats.

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Tea is $2.50 extra. And it’s Yogi tea. Felt a little jipped. No real matcha? Boo. But that’s not what we’re here for. Ready?

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One of the creamiest uni I’ve ever had.

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What you come here for. Uni on wagyu action.

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After the last course, the chef asked if we wanted anything else. We asked for the uni wagyu hand roll, of course!

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At the end of the meal, I wasn’t quite full yet, but the quality is definitely top notch. After the extra hand roll, tax and tips, it came out to be about $84 per person. Try it and let me know what you think.

Travelogue: Puerto Rico (July-Aug 2016)

The streets of Old San Juan.

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The food.

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Mallorca.

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Trifongo at El Jibarito.

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Lavender mules at La Factoría.

And the beauty of nature.

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El Yunque.

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Time standing still.

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Vancouver: Seawheeze Half Marathon Recap (August 2016)

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Race day! 6AM.

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A lot of entertainment along the way.

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After the finish line, everyone waited on a crowded line to get to the goodie bag and freebies… and of course, the free runner’s brunch!

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Even the brunch line was long.

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We saw the Japadog truck nearby and I realized I didn’t have any Canadian cash, but a stranger overheard us and gave us cash to buy this! She was a fellow Seawheezer from California and didn’t ask for anything in return. She just wanted us to be able to try it because it’s just so good! Thank you!

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After we went back to our Airbnb to rest up, we came back out to the Convention Center for the shuttles to Stanley Park for the Sunset Festival. But on the way, we got another Japadog…

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The croquette was SO good, crispy, tasty sauce, with a hot dog underneath. It was perfection.

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With the Seawheeze band that they put on us at the Expo, we can access the Sunset Festival too.

We got shuttled by old school yellow cheese buses to Stanley Park.

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Once we got in (after we showed them our IDs), there was a huge line forming… to the exclusive store! We had to line up immediately because we wanted to get our sizes. My friend stayed on the line while I explored the vicinity.

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There were lines to get food, but not nearly as crowded as the one for the store.

And beer…

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You’re allowed ONE beer per person. And you were not allowed to bring one back for your fellow runner. It was a safety precaution I guess, but silly.

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The Lululemon brand beer! They have one every year. This year, it’s called the “Courageous Blonde” — it’s very light and didn’t have much depth. Easy drink.

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More photobooths.

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Another yoga session!

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Stanley Park Summer Ale

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Stanley Park pilsner

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Poutine & corn dog!

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And the night ended with a concert.

Now…

Onto my goodies!

The freebies post-race:

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It was kinda annoying how they gave everything one by one. It took so long for everyone to grab everything along the way and people kept crowding around to get their stuff. They should just put everything into the bags ready to be handed out. I really like the runner’s cap, although it’s one size fits all and I feel like my head is on the larger side. It still fits nicely though! The water bottle is plastic, which I’ll probably never use but will sit nicely on my dresser. The sunglasses also. The Saje essential oils are cool, stress relief anyone? Nuun tabs and Kind bars.

What I purchased from the Expo store:

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  • Fast Lane Singlet: $58 CAD
  • Run with the sun tank: $58 CAD
  • Speed Short: $58 CAD
  • Hotty Hot Short: $64 CAD

What I purchased from the Sunset Festival:

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  • Scuba Hoodie III: $138 CAD

“Mission Accomplished”

 

Vancouver: Grouse Grind, Seawheeze Expo (August 2016)

The Seawheeze Lululemon Half Marathon. This is their 5th year! I’ve always wanted to do it & finally got the chance to. First of all, the registration process is intense: You definitely need reliable internet. I was on a computer at work 10 minutes before it opened and clicked into it right away. I got in with no problems, but I read that a lot of people couldn’t get through and had to use different devices to get into the server. Second, because the registration is a year in advance, I took the chance that I could get out of work to go. I had to make a lot of switches with coworkers and it was well worth it. The flight was around $555 but thanks to Chase Sapphire points, it was free!

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Cathay Pacific meals are so good. Smoked salmon mmm.

I took a late flight and got into YVR at 1am.

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At YVR. Jellyfish!

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Because my Airbnb check-in wasn’t until 10AM, I looked for a place in the airport to sleep until 6 or 7am to go into the city. The security guards approached me when I tried to relax on a bench inside the baggage claim area (I read some forums saying it’s possible to sleep there, but it was quite noisy and bright anyway) so I left to go to the departures area.

Going through customs was easy; they use kiosks and there weren’t many people getting in that late/early so I finished in 5 minutes.

It was actually dim and quiet at Departures, so I was glad I came here. I walked around both floors just to check it out, and a LOT of people were sleeping! I was lucky to have found one bench that was clean and available… right across from this random stranger lady who didn’t seem to care about her luggage being stolen while she napped:

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At around 6 or 7AM, I woke up and washed up in the bathroom and went to take the train to the city:

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From the airport, you can take the skytrain which was SO easy.

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I bought a compass card ($6 CAD) because I figured I’ll come back to Vancouver. Also, I wanted to be able to reload easily. But you can also just buy a single-fare ticket. I bought a day pass which was $14.75 from the airport (there’s a $5 surcharge for buying it here) but would’ve been $9.75 from other stations.

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I stopped in Richmond for breakfast at a HK diner I visited last time called Lido. After I got off the Skytrain, I took a bus to get there. Buses in Vancouver tell you what the next stop is, unlike some buses in New York where you have to guess when you can get off (and risk getting off too early or too late). T-mobile lets you use data and texting for free in Canada, so I relied on my phone for maps and directions.

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Vancouver is so green.

Nothing was opened at this hour (9AM). The Aberdeen Centre opens after 10AM, so I was sad that I had to leave but I had to meet the Airbnb guy for keys. So I took the Skytrain to downtown… to West End.

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Colorful neighborhood. Lots of pride.

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This was a great location. 20 minute walk to the Convention Center, 5 minute walk to the beach and Granville Island ferry.

After I got settled in, I headed out for coffee:

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Honolulu Coffee — their hawaiian latte was so good, coconuty but not overpowering.

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Matcha mousse was also delicious.

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Canada Place. From here, you can see the mountains!

After circling for half an hour, I finally asked for directions to take the Seabus across. You have to go to “The Station”:

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I used my compass card with the daypass to take the SeaBus to Lonsdale Quay. It took about 15 minutes.

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This is also how you would get to Capillano Suspension Bridge and Lynn Canyon. But that’s for next time!

The SeaBus is just a small boat — sit next to the windows for great views. After that, I took the 236 bus to go to Grouse Mountain. They do offer shuttles from downtown to Grouse, but you have to purchase a package that cost about $50 (includes the ride up and down the mountain). I wanted to hike up the mountain, so it wouldn’t be worth it.

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The Grouse Grind, notorious for its 2,830 flight of stairs. It wasn’t bad because there were tall trees for shade and some benches along the way. I stopped to take water breaks. I did not bring enough water.

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I liked that there were clear markers and signs that tell you how far along you are. Especially when it says 39/40:

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The 2nd half of the hike seemed easier and the numbers advanced much quicker.

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Finally reached the top! This is where you can purchase the gondola ride ($10 CAD) down — they won’t let you hike down yourself because it’s so steep, although I did see a few people do so.

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There is also a smoothie place inside and a gift shop. I walked around the perimeter before heading inside.

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I got a smoothie and bought my gondola ticket — then had to wait on a long long line to go down! There were tons of people who just took the gondola up and spent time there, and only a few who attempted the Grind, so everyone happened to leave at the same time!

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The ride down was pretty cool. Great view. It only took 5 minutes to get down.

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After I took the bus, back on the SeaBus again.

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I walked to Guu Original Thurlow (Yelp review here)

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After dinner, I headed back to nap before my friend arrived on a late flight. We had to wake up at 4AM for the exclusive Seawheeze Lululemon shop…

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We got there around 5:15AM and the line wrapped around and around and around and around… to the back of the Convention Center. We expected this already — the first person on the line had been there since 11AM the previous day. We were not about to do that. People had sleeping bags and chairs.

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We watched the sunrise and made friends with people on the line.

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The line behind us.

After we got inside the Convention Center, we still had a long line to the showroom. As soon as we were allowed in (they let a number of people in at a time), we ran in and grabbed everything off the shelves. They organized by size, so I ran straight to size 6 and 4.

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We made a big pile in the middle of the floor like everyone else did, and started to sort through them.

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The checkout line.

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There were entertainment while you wait to check out.

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There were lots of freebies too.

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Free hair braiding… but long lines. I braided my own hair.

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Nooner yoga. They did not provide mats (only a few to be borrowed) but I brought my own travel mat (free from Athleta from Times Square yoga years ago — felt blasphemous at a Lululemon event).

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Freebies at yoga. Inside were some oils for headache and to relieve muscle tension.

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Free manicures but also very long lines. I already had gel on.

After that, we walked to Marutama Ramen! (Yelp review here)

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EGG SO GOOD

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After we got back to the Airbnb and dropped off our stuff, we decided to nap and go to Granville Island via the ferry. It was only a couple of dollars to go across! And you can buy roundtrip to save money.

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This is my 2nd time at Granville Island, they have a lot of gelato stores so we just had to.

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I saw standup paddleboarders! They were kneeling and paddling.

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We went back to the Convention Center for Sunset Yoga to end the night. Next day: Seawheeze Half Marathon! Stay tuned.

 

 

Travelogue: Hong Kong Wedding (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

It’s my cousin’s wedding day! But first, dimsum. Hoi Yat Heen is located inside the Harbour Grand Hotel in Hung Hom, Kowloon — dimsum was excellent and we got window seats.

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Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

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Shark fin stuffed wing — SO GOOD

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Inside the shark fin stuffed wing.

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Birds nest egg tart – didn’t really have much taste, it was just ok.

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Lunch with a view!

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Shopping at 2% at The One. Miffy!

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Suzuki Cafe at The One.

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Purple Yam latte.

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Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Mango molten lava cake.

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Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Wedding time at the Sheraton!

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Cat & Rick

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Travelogue: Hong Kong Day 3: Eat & Yoga & Eat (Dec 2015)

I took the MTR to Causeway Bay on a Sunday morning and felt like I was the only one awake in this whole city. Only a few people (domestic workers) were on the train and the streets were empty! It certainly did not feel like HK. Nothing was open so I walked around…

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I walked around until it was time for the free yoga class at Lululemon in Hysan Place. I was the first one there, of course…

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I was surprised when the class started filling up. I had registered ahead of time (I always look up free Lululemon classes before traveling!) and asked to borrow a mat. They were accommodating.

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The yoga class was led by the lovely yogi-extraordinaire Héloïse Chong in English and I felt invigorated!

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They even had free apples.

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Héloïse Chong! She was really lovely to talk to.

There was a LINE store at Hysan Place for a limited time so of course I went.

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Got a drink to go.

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Star Wars at Times Square!

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Christmas decorations in HK are the best! This was at Elements.

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Pretty elaborate and detailed.

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Naked bear!

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

More bears.

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Bears.

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

A bear.

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

My cousin Eunice took me to Tai Cheong Bakery in Central for their AMAZING egg tarts. Really good when they’re fresh out of the oven!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Others may disagree, but I loved their egg tarts. I personally don’t care for the flakey crust and prefer this instead.

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

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Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

PMQ! The former Police Married Quarters located in Sheung Wan, in the middle of SoHo, has been converted to an arts and design center with shops, exhibits, food — a great place to show off to your friends and hang out.

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

I really enjoyed walking around this area.

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

We turned the corner and went to Little Bao for a snack.

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

LB fries – THEY WERE SOOOOO GOOD!!!!!!! Pretty much the best fries ever.

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Pork belly bao! Slow-braised pork belly, leek & shiso red onion salad, sesame dressing, hoisin ketchup.

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Fish tempura bao! Fresh market fish, tamarind palm sugar glaze, pickled lemongrass fennel salad.

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

DESSERT. Ice cream baos!

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Next time I’ll get the matcha with condensed milk! Can’t wait.

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Went to a store called “Homeless” and bought some trinkets as souvenirs. Loved browsing here!

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Cupping Room – another coffee place recommended by a friend.

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

They’re serious about coffee here.

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

More random HK pictures.

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Walked out to the pier and it was time to meet up with my friend Melody from Primary school! Back to Causeway Bay…

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Via Tokyo!

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Down the block is “I see I see“, an ice cream pop place.

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Chunks of mango!

After dessert, it was dinner time.

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Blogging about this has made me very hungry.

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Travelogue: Hong Kong Day 2: Eat & Run & Eat (Dec 2015)

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Day 2 in HK. Random pics from this day:

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Pandan ice cream and pandan eggettes from Modos.

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Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Knockbox Coffee Company — recommended by a friend.

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My latte was pretty good.

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They featured coffee from Africa, Central & South America.

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I didn’t get to try their beer on tap!

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Old

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New

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I love walking around the shopping malls for holiday decorations. This was at Olympian City.

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I got to run during this trip yay

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Time for seafood:

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Let’s pick them out…

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Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hehe

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Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Next, we go into the restaurant and feast!

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Seafood Thai

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Travelogue: 5 days in Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Last December, I made some last minute switches with coworkers and somehow got 6 days off in a row (wow!) for my cousin’s wedding… in Hong Kong. The flight was uber expensive since it was in between Christmas and New Years, but it was worth it. Also, I felt pretty badass hopping on the plane at Newark with just a backpack. The guy at the Cathay front desk noticed and asked if I was going home, and I answered “…yeah.”

Hong Kong is where I was born. I lived there for 10 years until I moved to New York. I don’t fly back often since it’s expensive, and every time I do go back, it’s completely different. Yet, some things still feel familiar. Listening to random dialogue around me in Cantonese, it feels natural. But at the same time, I’m sorta like a foreigner. There’s always so much to explore, so many places to eat and shop at.

My trip begins…

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From Manhattan, I took the NJ Transit to Newark Airport. It was only $13 and took less than half an hour.

The Cathay menu (we got 2 meals):

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In the back, the English version:

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In the morning, there’s congee.

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I love Cathay.

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I arrived at 6am. Welcome to Hong Kong. And Merry Christmas. There’s free wifi at the airport woohoo!

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I bought a one-way ticket from the airport to go to the city (Kowloon stop): $90HKD (~$12USD). You can also put money on an Octopus card if you have one already, or you can purchase it there.

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The seats were comfy and it took less than half an hour to get to Kowloon.

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I love seeing these buildings in HK. There’s so much character.

After I found my dad’s apartment and met up with my parents, dropped off my stuff, we went to eat because that’s what people in HK do. We eat continuously.

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HK diner food

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Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Second breakfast. Dim sum at City Chiu Chow.

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Quail egg siu mai

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

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Iron Buddha Oolong Ice Cream from TenRen’s Tea ($20HKD=$2.58USD)

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Stopped by Kam Wah Cafe 金華冰廳 for their pineapple bun with butter

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I got to spend Christmas with family.

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Ladies and gentlemen, my cousin at the grill.

Hong Kong (Dec 2015)

Polar wants steak too.

 

 

Lavender & Wine: North Fork, NY (June 2016)

went to North Fork almost 3 years ago and had been meaning to go back since then. I love it there! It’s quite a long drive from Queens (2.5-3 hours), but worth it.

I love road trips (when I don’t have to drive)!

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I’m responsible for feeding driver.

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We found a campground in Suffolk to camp out the night before. Wildwood State Park! No grill at the campsites though, only in the designated picnic area.

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No unicorns were harmed during the trip.

I liked this campground because it has clean & spacious bathrooms and is next to a beach. But mostly because of clean bathrooms.

The next morning:

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Lavender by the Bay opens at 9am — go to their website for hours and facebook for updates on blooming. Due to my busy work schedule, we only had this one weekend to spare. The lavender field just had its first bloom of the summer, so some parts you’ll see are still bare. It usually lasts for a month depending on the weather, so there’s still time to see them!

$5 admission.

North Fork 2016

North Fork 2016

North Fork 2016

North Fork 2016

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North Fork 2016

North Fork 2016

Obligatory frolicking pic.

North Fork 2016

North Fork 2016

North Fork 2016

North Fork 2016

North Fork 2016

North Fork 2016

North Fork 2016

North Fork 2016

North Fork 2016

Some parts were not blooming yet.

North Fork 2016

They also sell them!

North Fork 2016

North Fork 2016

North Fork 2016

North Fork 2016

North Fork 2016

You can find SOME of these products at the Union Square market in Manhattan, but they have more here!

North Fork 2016

North Fork 2016

After that, we went to Wednesday’s Table for lunch. IT WAS AMAZING. Seriously, go there.

Wednesday’s Table
53345 Main Rd 
Southold, NY 11971

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Mushroom truffle grilled cheese – Truffle-scented mushrooms, caramelized onions, sharp gruyere and soft provolone cheese on sliced sourdough bread

North Fork 2016

Fried jumbo shrimp roll – Panko-crusted jumbo shrimp, pickled kale, daikon, & carrots drizzled with a wasabi-soy mayo nestled in a toasted long brioche roll

& Arnold Palmer (with green tea)!!!!!! So refreshing.

Next: wine time!

Mattebella Vineyards
46005 NY-25
Southold, NY 11971

North Fork 2016

Mattebella for their sangria:

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This sangria sure is unique — it’s made with triple sec. The mint and apples were so good.

North Fork 2016

They make amazing wine.

North Fork 2016

North Fork 2016

North Fork 2016

I liked that it’s a small family vineyard with comfy chairs and sofas outside (don’t worry, there’s shade!). I also really appreciated the music in the background.

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North Fork 2016

North Fork 2016

After one drink each, we drove to the nearby Sannino Vineyard for flight tasting (now one of my FAVORITES).

Sannino Vineyard
1375 Peconic Ln
Peconic, NY 11958

North Fork 2016

North Fork 2016

The ladies there were so nice and friendly! Definitely felt the warmness from their staff.

North Fork 2016

North Fork 2016

They give you a blank sheet of 6 wine spaces where you fill in the number and they’ll give you the corresponding wine in each spot. Love that there were lots to choose from.

North Fork 2016

His.

North Fork 2016

Took a stroll in the vineyard.

North Fork 2016

North Fork 2016

North Fork 2016

We quickly stopped by Harbes Family Farm for some fresh strawberries…

Harbes Family Farm
715 Sound Ave
Mattituck, NY 11952

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SO SWEET.

Driving back to NYC, we had to eat again of course.

Lobster Roll Northside. Despite the mediocre Yelp reviews, I really liked it!!

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If you go to Lobster Roll Northside, of course get a lobster roll.

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Martha Clara white blend, $6 and SO GOOD.

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Soft shell crab sandwich was real good.

North Fork 2016

 

 

Memorial Day Weekend Part 2: Whitecliff Vineyard & Dia:Beacon (NY)

This was a hidden campsite off the side of some road that I will probably never be able to find again. No itineraries, just winging it. I set my alarm for midnight to watch the stars. It was spectacular but I suffered the wrath of mosquitoes afterwards (one on my palm!!!?!)…

Anyway.

Memorial Day Weekend 2016

In the morning we ate another Mountain House product for breakfast:

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The breakfast skillet. It was SO delicious! Well, for what it is.

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Hashbrown!!!! Just add hot water.

Then we headed over to Wallkill View Farm Market in New Paltz.

Memorial Day Weekend 2016

Memorial Day Weekend 2016

Cinnamon apple cider donuts!

Memorial Day Weekend 2016

ICE CREAM! The bourbon pecan and kahlua calypso were soooo good. Ice cream for breakfast!

Memorial Day Weekend 2016

They also sell jam, sauces, anything you can cook with or bake with, they have.

Memorial Day Weekend 2016

I wanted to buy some plants too – they got rosemary, thyme, all the herbs!

Next up: Whitecliff Vineyard

Memorial Day Weekend 2016

(You get to keep the glass if you buy a tasting flight, which you should anyway)

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The menu for wine flights. I got the fruity one and Rosé one. I enjoyed the 2014 Traminette the most out of all of them. They’re also known for the Awosting White and Redtrail.

Memorial Day Weekend 2016

Memorial Day Weekend 2016

Now I have glasses from Robibero (also nearby!) and Whitecliff.

After that, we went to Dia:Beacon. $15 admissions. As we approached the museum, we saw lots of people walking over from the nearby Metro-North station. We were about to be turned away from the full parking lot when one car came out and we got to take the spot!

I loooooved this place. All natural light. The exhibitions were spaced out so that you’re not crowding around people trying to get a good look.

Memorial Day Weekend 2016

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I thought it was cool how the lights show up as different colors on phone pictures (the top was taken with a DSLR, this one was taken with my phone)

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Notice the difference when you tilt the phone vertically vs horizontally.

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Secret agent pic.

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I highly recommend Dia:Beacon if you are hiking nearby or visiting the wine trails.

For lunch, we went to the nearby Kitchen Sink (recommended to us by the nice lady at Whitecliff).

Memorial Day Weekend 2016

Chicken liver biscuit sliders

Memorial Day Weekend 2016

Memorial Day Weekend 2016

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Memorial Day Weekend 2016

Grandma’s Brisket Grilled Cheese — SO delicious

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24-Hour Banger Banh Xeo

Memorial Day Weekend 2016

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Panna cotta with rhubarb

Memorial Day Weekend Part 1: Hiking Indian Head/Twin Mountain (NY)

The Indian Head and Twin Mountain hike is an 8.4 mile loop that involves steep scrambling (getting on your hands and climbing). Its difficulty was rated 10/10 according to this site, which I use quite often to find new places to go.

The first half of the hike had several sections of scrambling, which I enjoyed. The second half was pretty boring going downhill, with lots of rocks and twigs on the ground. The views were okay, not as grand as I had expected.

For activities on the way back to NYC: (on the next post)

So back to the hike.

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Indian Head first, then Twin Mountain. Follow the red markers to Indian Head.

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Continue with the red markers to Indian Head.

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Here’s where we went the wrong way. Once you see this sign, don’t follow it. If you do…

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This is when you know you’ve gone too far. Turn back. Go back to that sign. Find the red marker and turn into that path instead. The path wasn’t well marked, which is where we got confused.

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Outlook!

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Panorama. It was just an okay view.

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Some steep rocks. We saw a couple with 3 dogs trying to figure out which peak to hike up to. I wonder if they made it.

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Perhaps it would be better in the fall?

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Twin Mountain.

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Another panorama.

The way back down was pretty boring. It felt like we were walking in neverending forests. It took us about 5 hours total.

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This Mountain House rice & chicken was really good. Just add hot water.

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Dat camp lyfe.

 

Travelogue: Valparaíso, Chile (Dec 2015)

We booked a tour through our hotel in Santiago (~$50 USD) to go to Viña del Mar and Valparaíso. Nicknamed “The Jewel of the Pacific”, Valparaíso was declared a World Heritage Site in 2003. What I really wanted to see were the street art and wall murals!

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Isn’t he/she cute though?

Our tour guide picked us up with a small van.

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That’s not our tour guide, but it’s too adorable not to post.

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Quinta Vergara Amphitheater — where they hold the International Song Festival every year. It is the largest and best known music festival in Latin America.

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Legend has it that if you take a picture with this clock, you will one day return to Viña del Mar. We had lunch here and walked on the beach.

Without further ado, our next stop: Valparaíso.

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A city built on hills, people use these funicular lifts called ascensores (steeply inclined carriages) to get up and down.

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Colorful houses!

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Every corner there is art.

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We got on a funicular lift.

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Love the downtown architecture.

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Finally got one! It’s called “Mote con huesillos”. There’s a peach in there along with beans… very sweet and refreshing drink (and cheap too!). They sell them all over the streets of Chile.

Chile: Puerto Natales, Punta Arenas, Santiago (Dec 2015)

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Breakfast at Refugio Las Torres was good. So much better than the other refugios.

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Our view from the dining area.

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We walked around the area before catching the shuttle to Puerto Natales.

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After catching the shuttle to get out of the park, we got to the bus station to purchase tickets (Puerto Natales –> Punta Arenas). There were lots of bus companies and you can pretty much get on any and it’s the same price.

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Buses Fernández.

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Buses Gómez.

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Since we had some time before our scheduled bus, we explored the city center some more.

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When we got to Punta Arenas, it was already bed time.

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Next morning’s breakfast at the hotel.

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I love these trees.

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We walked around the city. Yes, we do that a lot.

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At the airport going from Punta Arenas back to Santiago. Paro!

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Naoki in Santiago. Sushi in Chile? Why not…

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It was easy to catch a taxi back to our hotel.

We booked a tour through our hotel (about $50 USD) for our last day on this trip to Valparaíso. To be continued…

W Trek: Sunrise at Las Torres (Patagonia, Chile) (Dec 2015)

Trek time: 2 hours

So at 2AM, we woke up with our backpacks and clothes ready along with the most important things: headlamps & flashlights. Las Torres is what we came to here to see, since the park is named after the three towers.

Since we would be going back to the refugio after this sunrise hike, we left most of our things behind and carried only the essentials.

Tip: Bring hand warmers and a jacket, it is freezing up there at sunrise!

After a lot of scrambling in the dark (yay for headlamps) over large boulders, we got to the top to catch the sunrise.

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I love the color change

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You can see the moon. Turn 180 degrees and you see the three towers…

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Turn back around and you see Boo…

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As the sun beams touch the top of the towers, people are staring intensely.

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Some camp out on random rocks to sit for hours.

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After breakfast, we hiked to Refugios las Torres, which was to be the best refugio we stayed at with the cleanest facilities and best food!

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Refugios las Torres

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We were hungry so we got a chicken sandwich for pre-dinner snack, it was SO GOOD and juicy and tender.

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Menu

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Amazing pork for dinner. Definitely the best refugio in the whole trek.

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Finally, dessert that tastes like dessert.

We leave for Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas the next day. There are only 2 scheduled bus times that leave the park, so make sure you check the schedule beforehand!

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