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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Cuba

Cuba

Cuba

Cubans really know how to make a good sandwich.

Cuba

Cuba

Cuba

Cuba

Cuba

Cuba

Cuba

Cuba

Cuba

Cuba

Cuba

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Cuba

Cuba

Cuba

Cuba

Cuba

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.

Cuba

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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.

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Cienfuegos, the Paris of Cuba

Cuba

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”.

Cuba

Cuba

Cuba

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!

Cuba

My favorite building.

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Cuba

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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.

Cuba

Cuba

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!

Cuba

 

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

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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

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: 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: 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: 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: 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.

Las Vegas

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

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

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

Las Vegas

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…

Las Vegas

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.

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

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

Las Vegas

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.

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

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.

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

The fountain show at the Bellagio.

Las Vegas