travel: new york city

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New York City
Empire State from Top of the Rock || flowers at Chelsea Market || favorite salted caramel macarons from Ladurée || boyfriend and his Cole Haans || The High Line || boyfriend at SoHo as well as myself || Totto Ramen || Flat Iron || Time Square || and ending it with a night view of the Empire State
Throwback Thursday to a collection of New York photos throughout the years that I haven’t posted on this blog. New York City is probably one of my favorite places to visit. Before moving to Hawai’i, we were supposed to move to NYC but plans change and I still love New York. We’ll be heading to New York sometime in November but most likely the first-ish week. Got to love fall in New York City.
By the way, I know I blogged about Ippudo and it being one of our favorite places to eat in NYC. I mean, it’s way good (especially the hirata buns!) but there’s another ramen spot that we’ve also been to that is also really good: Totto Ramen. It has stellar reviews on Yelp and I’m now wondering why we haven’t been since the first time we tried it (I believe it was the same year we tried Ippudo in 2011…. I think). I think the one thing that deterred me from going was the LONG wait. The place is pretty small. I mean, everything in New York is small but I say it’s small for New York standards. But hey, I haven’t been to every restaurant in New York so I guess what I’m saying isn’t saying too much but I digress. Small restaurants means not being able to accommodate as many people which equals LONG wait. We were waiting outside in the cold, cold winter for this ramen. Charles, if you’re reading this, I think we should go back to Totto Ramen! I like to think we’re ramen aficionados but I won’t officially say it until we head to Tokyo which is REALLY soon!

 

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photo diary #34: LA

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Oh to be in LA again. I was actually supposed to be in LA a lot longer than I was actually there. But at the last minute, the VERY last minute, I postponed my flight to a few days later. But anyway, the trip was short and definitely well spent. Took the first flight out of Honolulu with my brother and landed just in time to grab not only In-n-Out for dinner but King Taco. Yea, the TWO things I miss about living in California: In-n-Out and Mexican food. The following day, my brother dragged me to grab breakfast at Fantastics for some breakfast burritos. I then drove ourselves to Downtown LA to grab coffee and desserts at Urth Caffe, drove home, went to Trader Joe’s to pickup my favorite candied pecans and then to Ikea for some stuff to buy for the house. We then grabbed boba at Cha for Tea and met up with a friend (Hi Diana!) and thanks to my tea, I could not sleep (in combination with the fact that I was on Hawai’i time), still couldn’t sleep and slept only two hours before I had to take my brother to LAX so he can catch his flight, drove home, got ready, went to my hair appointment to get my haircut, got my eyebrows “did”, went home and ate leftovers, met up with friends who then took me to have dinner with her family and then they drove me to see the Rubber Duck in San Pedro. I then packed the little stuff that I had to bring back to Hawai’i, caught a SuperShuttle with my mom to LAX and took the first flight out to Honolulu. Short and sweet.

At the moment, I won’t be flying to LAX next month since Charles and I have plans to travel somewhere. Where to? Who knows? We have an idea on where we are going though and we’re really excited about it. But I will be back in LA to work on a couple photo shoots in October. I’ll be contacting those who wish to do a photo shoot with me about my dates!

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travel: the road to hana

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Disclaimer: The Road to Hana and the hikes (not just in and around Hana but throughout the state of Hawai’i) can be risky and dangerous. If you choose to do any of this, you do so at your own risk. Please exercise caution while driving on the road. Be respectful. Pay attention to the weather when you do hikes. Always prepare. And please, please, PLEASE help keep Hawai’i beautiful by picking up after yourselves! 

The Road to Hana

The road to Hana- Rainbow
Before I ever went to Hawai’i (as a tourist), I think how I envisioned Hawai’i would probably be like the Road to Hana. Not the high rises of Honolulu or the hot and dry Westside of O’ahu. Road to Hana was probably one of my favorite things to do on this island. From experience, I would stay a couple days (two days might be sufficient although I haven’t tried). Having to go to all of the stops in one day is probably pushing it. Not only did it take about 3-ish hours to get from Kapalua to Hana, you have to remind yourself to start the drive back before sundown so that you wouldn’t be driving through the winding road at night.

The Road to Hana has many twists and turns and it has to be one of the most picturesque drive in the entire state of Hawai’i. It can rain off and on but it’s worth the drive. Some parts of the road, we had to drive on a one-lane bridge. We would honk at each bridge to make sure that there wasn’t a car going on the opposite direction already on it. The drive isn’t bad in my opinion (then again, I was just a passenger, thanks Charles for driving!). Just use common sense.

Right when you begin the Road to Hana, you can stop by the Wailele Farm stand to grab sugar cane and/or coconut juice. Behind the stands, on their property, you can follow a path to Twin Falls. It is a short hike (I’ll call it a walk since it’s not too far from the stands). It’ll probably take about 3 minutes to get there from the stand. This is a great place to see a waterfall without a strenuous hike and/or long drive through Hana.
When you get to the town of Hana, stop by the Hana Farms Stand. Amazing banana bread can be found here as well as organic tropical fruits. They also sell other goodies for my foodie friends who want to bring something home such as tropical jam. After a long drive, you’re going to want to stop here!
Black sand beaches. That’s all you really need to know. If you haven’t seen a black sand beach before, then this has to be one of your stops. The beach is full of black large stones (pebbles maybe?) but as you walk towards the shore, you can find the black sand. When we were there, there was a fashion photo shoot going on. Since we were pressed for time, we didn’t get to fully enjoy the beach and I wish we did.
This trail is actually passed the little town of Hana. We had to exercise caution when driving to this hike. It is a scary, scary drive. When I say scary, don’t take that lightly. The road is unmarked at this point (as you can see from the first photo) even at parts where the road was along a cliff; no barriers, just one lane heading in both direction EVEN when the road would wrap around the mountain. At this point, we HAD to honk at every curve to make sure that there wasn’t someone already driving around the corner. It only made sense that if you are driving next to the mountain, you would pull over for the person driving next to the cliff; they had NOWHERE to pull over for you to pass by. I almost had a panic attack and I was just a passenger.But anyway, we finally made it to our destination. Since the hike is part of Haleakalā National Park, there was a parking fee BUT since we had went to the crater the day before, we already paid the fee. We layered on sunscreen and insect repellent and headed our way to hike the Pipiwai Trail. Already dreading the drive back, we had to do this hike in a timely manner. I don’t quite remember how long the hike was but it was long and we did not want to drive that one-lane road when there were no street lights in the evening. We did the hike as fast as we could. But anyway, there’s a bit of sun during the first part of the hike and throughout the hike, there is a gradual incline. I wouldn’t say it was a gradual incline throughout the whole hike (there’s some steps that I guess I wouldn’t call “gradual”), but it doesn’t involve climbing like certain hikes that I’ve been to. We passed by several waterfalls but our destination was the bamboo forest and the last waterfall: Waimoku Falls.

At first, the hike is a little boring. Well, not too boring but it’s a little interesting. The hike, I would say, just keeps getting better. It’s like that saying when people say to not give up, just keep going, it’ll be worth it. Yea, it’s like that. But anyway, you cross bridges and see small waterfalls. Then it gets interesting. You see the beginning of the bamboo forest but it’s not even the best part. It’s just the bamboo forest and a dirt trail. Then you get to the boardwalk and it’s absolutely gorgeous. The sound of the bamboo is soothing. I really felt like I was isolated from the world; birds were chirping, bamboos were swaying; the sounds of nature (despite the fact that there were people on the trail, you don’t even notice them because they too were in awe with nature).

Soon enough, you’re going to have to cross a stream. I’ve learned to never cross a stream when its raining (or when the water level is high); you risk being caught in a flash flood and being swept away. Even now, we stay away from the beaches and hikes if it’s raining. Better to be safe than sorry. At the time we were there, it was a small stream. We crossed the stream and seeing the falls in front of us was an amazing sight to see. There are signs to tell you not to get too close to the waterfall since you are putting yourself in danger by the falling rocks above. Mother Nature is not someone you want to mess with. There isn’t really a pool you can swim in but I don’t like swimming in pools anyway (not just in Maui but even here in O’ahu). So not only are you at risk from falling rocks, you are also at risk from getting leptospirosis. No thank you. I’ll just marvel at the waterfall from a distance; safe from the falling rocks and bacteria.

As we were heading back to the car, passed the bamboo forest, passed the small bridges, and waterfalls, it started to pour and thank goodness we were almost to our car as soon as it happened.

Coconut Glen’s

While we were heading back, I read that Coconut Glen’s was the place to go for coconut ice cream. I’ve never been a coconut fan until recently. I absolutely love coconut now so we had to stop by here. For all of my lactose intolerant friends, this place is the place to go for coconut ice cream because it’s dairy free! Nothing like eating coconut ice cream from a coconut and spoons made out of coconut in a tropical rainforest. While you are here, pick up some coconut candy! When you’re in Maui, I highly suggest picking up coconut candy if you can! It’s delicious!

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things to do in nassau, bahamas

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Things to do in Nassau, Bahamas

Flashback Friday to Nassau Bahamas 2012. I’m writing only about Nassau since it was a port for the Disney Cruise that we went on for my cousin’s wedding (hey Karyn and Mark!)! Just a start of a new series of post that I’m hoping to kickstart pretty soon. Just need to go on more cruises (ahem ahem…. Mediterranean cruise next year hopefully) haha. Anyway, as I was saying, I want to do posts on cruise ports and here’s my first one! This was our second time on a cruise ship and Charles and I LOVE cruising (like a lot). Cruise ship vacations are always fun. Yea, the cabins can be small (we usually aim for the cheapest cabins) but you’re really not staying in the cabin the WHOLE time (and if you do, you might as well have stayed home!). There’s so much to do on the ship!
But anyway, let’s move on to Nassau! I’ve always pictured the Bahamas with blue waters and colorful structures and that’s what I got. As soon as we disembarked the ship, we learned that you can get a stamp on your passport so we asked around and headed to a place (I believe the office was immigration but I might be wrong) where they gladly stamped our passport. I noticed that the people there were really chill and happy. There was so much laughter going on in the office. With that said, the people are incredibly friendly here. The structures here were colorful from pinks to yellows to turquoises. So bright and colorful. I think the only thing that tripped me out was the fact that the cars were driving on the opposite side of the road BUT the steering wheel was the same as ours (on the left side). It there’s one word to describe it, it felt unbalanced? Still had tons of fun here and I’m looking forward to going back!
 
 
Charles and I have been on two different cruises; each with a different cruise line. For this trip, our mode of transportation from Port Canaveral to Nassau was on the Disney Dream. The Disney Cruise is obviously a family friendly cruise ship and they definitely cater to families (and adults who love Disney!). The Disney cruises are definitely on the higher end, price-wise, than other cruise ships but you definitely get what you pay for. I think one of the pluses for the Disney cruise line is that soda is unlimited and free (totally bad if you’re on a diet and such but at that time, I was on that soda machine every single day!). There are tons of activities you can do and if you’re with kids, they’ll love meeting all the Disney characters on board. My favorite part of that trip was the AquaDuck slide. Absolutely fun. Unfortunately, we went on the slide when it was pouring rain and they closed it briefly due to the strong winds but we were able to get on after awhile and it was still fun.
Another thing that I loved about the Disney cruises is that the dining rooms are different every night that we were there (you’re on rotation). My favorite dining room was the Animator’s Palate with Crush the turtle! Super fun how he was talking to our group and especially the soon-to-be newlyweds!
We didn’t get to do the activities while we were there (I actually don’t remember what we did oops) but I know we ate and ate some more! That’s what I love about cruises; food is practically free (not all restaurants are “free” so check the website if they’re additional fees at eating at a particular restaurant). If you’re too tired to go out but hungry, try room service! It was free on the Disney cruise (just don’t forget to tip!).
When I was in high school, Atlantis was one of the places that I wanted to go to so it was imperative that we stopped here while we were in Nassau. When we left the ship, we took a taxi to Atlantis and walked around. Keep in mind that certain parts of the resort is closed off to only guests of Atlantis so we didn’t get to explore too far. We tried our luck with one of the slots (and lost haha) and just browsed inside as well as the nearby shops outside the resort. After browsing the shops, we took a break and had drinks at Starbucks where I ordered a mango drink. Haven’t seen the mango drink in the United States (but you can correct me if I’m wrong!).
 
Vanilla Tortuga rum. Get it and then use it with Coke. Vanilla rum and coke. So good. We bought vanilla rum and used it for Charles’ birthday and people were going crazy for the vanilla rum and coke! We’ve tried ordering it but there’s no way it can get shipped to the United States so when you’re there, definitely pick some up (and you can pick some up for me while you’re at it haha). While you’re there, sample the rum cakes! They’re really good and we bought some to bring home.

Charles and I were on a serious budget for this trip since we were going to Hawai’i the following month and after strolling through Atlantis, taking the taxi to the port, and explored the town, we were heading into the ship to grab lunch in the buffet but we ran into our cousins (hey Aileen and Christine!) who then told us they were heading to a restaurant that was recommended to them with authentic Bahamian food and we couldn’t say no (who doesn’t want to try local food?!). Due to budget constraints at the time, eating at local place didn’t cross our minds but I’m so glad we tagged along! Always, ALWAYS try local foods wherever you go.

The walk is a bit far from the port but it was worth it. Located in The Fish Fry, Oh Andros is definitely a restaurant I would return to the next time I’m in the Bahamas. The place itself was small but felt very home-y. It wasn’t too busy when we were there. Charles ordered a bottle of Bahamian beer called Kalik and he enjoyed it. Along with trying local foods wherever you go, try the different local beers! Whatever we ordered as far as food was really good! The meal consisted of chicken, some rice with a kick (with a really good kick), corn bread, and something else that I don’t quite remember (note to self: always brings a journal so I can write it down). The next time I’m in the Bahamas, I’m definitely trying conch!

 

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things to do in portland

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Here’s another trip that we didn’t plan on taking last year: Portland. I love traveling to new places and when I woke up one morning and found out that JetBlue was selling $55 one-way tickets to Portland, I could not pass up the opportunity. The problem was, I couldn’t find a flight back at the price that was convenient for us so we booked a one-way and crossed our fingers that we could find a one-way back from Seattle (we figured we throw in Seattle in the mix because we were already near Seattle). Luckily, we found a one-way back on Virgin America. As soon as that was booked, we then booked a one-way bus ride on the Bolt Bus. If you buy it at the right time, you can get the bus fare for really cheap. For Charles, Kris, and myself, it cost us about $25 for all three. Super cheap right?
Well anyway, here’s a few things we did while in Portland for less than 24 hours:
 
Mother’s Bistro & Bar would have to be my favorite place to eat in Portland. Mother’s is a cute, little place with delicious food. Charles ordered a stuffed frittata but the migas that I ordered was soooo good. The chipotle sour cream was on point but it was the salsa that completed the dish. I love the decor of the place (if you can’t tell already, decor is something I really pay attention to everywhere I go) and we got wonderful service.
 
Where to stay
The Nines in Portland is a beautiful hotel to stay at. If you’re familiar with the W hotels and the Sheratons, The Nines is in the same hotel company; Starwood Hotels and Resorts. The lobby is located on the 8th floor and when I say this is a beautiful hotel, I really mean it. The decor of the room was amazing with turquoise throughout the room. The bathroom was gorgeous with a cute vanity in the corner. The wallpaper was gorgeous. The whole room was gorgeous. Wish we had spent more time in this hotel room and we were there for only a night! Definitely will be staying here the next time I’m in Portland.
After we landed in Portland and checked into our hotel room, Deschutes Brewery was one of the few restaurants opened that had really good reviews on Yelp. We walked quite a bit from our hotel room but it wasn’t too bad of a walk. My brother likes to say that the burger he had here was the best that he has ever had. I’m not a beer person so I didn’t get to try any but a good chunk of what they had were IPAs if you’re into that kind of stuff.
 
 
Portland Japanese garden
One thing you’ll notice about Portland (or Oregon for that matter) is how green it is. The Portland Japanese Garden was no exception. After we checked out of our hotel room and left our baggage with the front desk, we took a cab to the Portland Japanese Garden (and it definitely was an expensive cab ride), bought our tickets, and strolled the gardens. If you know me, I love Japanese gardens (actually all kinds of gardens) to the point that I was researching Japanese gardens in Japan. Yes, I have a few gardens I need to stop by when we go. There’s a fee to get in but if you love gardens, I thought it was worth it.
 
We needed a place to hang out since we had to wait for our Bolt Bus to take us to Seattle. We decided to grab coffee and not surprisingly, the coffee was really good. The Pacific Northwest is known for their coffee so I wasn’t too surprised that it was pretty good.
When I think of Portland, I think of Voodoo Doughnuts. Maybe it’s from The Travel Channel but that’s the first thing that comes in mind. The Voodoo Doughnuts we went to was opened 24 hours (the 22 SW 3rd Ave) and there was a wait but it wasn’t too long. This was the location that was closest to us. Ordered a bunch of doughnuts (or is it donut? I don’t know) and I’ll say it’s worth a try if you’re in Portland. When in Portland right?
For my book-loving friends, this is the place to go! Powell’s is incredibly huge. I ended up buying two books from here: The Little Dictionary of Fashion by Christian Dior and The Little Book of Chanel by Emma Baxter-Wright. This place, like I said earlier, was massive. Took me awhile to find the books that I wanted (I actually was just looking for the fashion section in general to build my coffee table collection) but I had a lot of fun browsing around.
If you’re in Portland, definitely make a trip to Seattle if you haven’t been. The Bolt Bus is a cheap alternative to getting yourself to Seattle (or vice versa; if you’re ever in Seattle and never been to Portland, head out to Portland!). It was about three-ish maybe less hours to get to Seattle. It was comfortable, clean, and there was WiFi. But I didn’t use it since I don’t do well with cars and reading (hello motion sickness). We got to Seattle in a timely manner. No complaints from me.
We were in Portland for less than 24 hours and it definitely did not give us enough time to explore the city. I wanted to eat at Pok Pok and all of the food stands but we just didn’t have enough time (and when we did have time, the food stands were closed!). Tip: some of the best food stands close pretty early. There were also many, many restaurants that I wanted to try but couldn’t. Definitely going back to Portland (not anytime soon, or maybe)!
 
 

 

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