WANDERLUST “a strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world” I have been vacationing with my family since I was young, but ever since I took my first trip without them, I have had a burning desire to go and explore the world on my own terms! Although I went straight …
By the time someone came up it was mid-afternoon and we still had the entire day ahead of us. So instead of chilling out by the pool or going to an air-conditioned museum, or something else that would ease us into this completely different culture, 90 something percent humidity, and the mid forty degrees weather, we went sightseeing. We took off first tuk-tuk of the trip to Wat (temple) Pho, aka reclining Buddha number 1 out of 7 I think. The ride there taught us some valuable lessons in the unspoken traffic rules of Thailand and for the most part South East Asia. Such as:
- If there is an open space, be it your own lane, the oncoming traffic’s lane, or a sidewalk, you are free to use it.
- If the light is red you don’t actually have to stop, just honk a bit as you go through to make your presence known.
- Stopping for pedestrians to cross will cause an accident, instead weave around
- Just an extra: Tuk-tuks are like roller coaster rides, minus the safety
Around 3 pm, even after a popsicle, I was really beginning to feel the humidity, heat and lack of sleep. Luckily we were done sightseeing for the day and headed back home for a quick dip in the pool, which was quite refreshing. After, a bit before 6 pm, we ventured out to look for someplace to eat. There was a restaurant on the top flour of our hotel but we wanted to go someplace different for dinner. Since Thailand is so close to the border the sunset around 6 pm year round so we were walking around in the dark, finding all the restaurants to be closed… at 6. Yes, there were roadside stands with meats of a sort cooking over a fire, however, it was our first night in Thailand and we weren’t feeling all that adventurous just yet. Accepting failure and too tired to continue looking we headed home to the restaurant on the top floor.
This brought us to about 4 hours of sleep in the last 30 hours, 24 of which were spent travelling, add to that the culture shock, heat, and humidity my brother and I were exhausted. The restaurant was basically empty. My brother and I were more tired than hungry so we just decided to order chicken and cashew nut at out mom’s recommendation. (This lat became my favourite dish to eat in Thailand. I often had it at least once a day.)
The food came around 7 pm and I really didn’t care that much. Sleep had overtaken my thoughts, our lack of thoughts since I was starting to doze off, only to awaken multiple times with my mom trying to get me to eat. At some point, she figured my brother and I had had enough, let us roll out heads back a fall asleep for a bit. At which time she took a picture of us, heads back, tilted to the left and mouths wide open.
We went up to our room and I was ready for bed, but I still had to brush my teeth, so toothbrush in hand I decided to just lie down, only for a few seconds, on my bed on the way to the bathroom. So I fell I sleep, toothbrush in hand, face planted on the side of my bed. I was woken up just enough to get me to roll on the way onto it and that’s where I slept at 7 pm.
Only to wake up 4 am in the morning. Safe to say I was a little jet-lagged and stayed that way for a good weak. That being said it did help us get an early start on the day, which meant being back home by that time the afternoon heat came around.
And by day I mean 48 hours, except because of the timezone difference it was more… or less. Safe to say I was 15 years old and confused as heck, over the time zone change.
The flight was not until 12 pm at night, which meant we- my family- had the entire day to pack and try to remember if we were forgetting anything. My brother still ended up forgetting his retainer and me my favourite capris, but that’s fairly minor.
After boarding the flight I was fully prepared to go to sleep. It was midnight, I was tired, but what I was not was hungry… for airplane food. And yet at 1 am that is what they came around to serve. I mean I ate the fruit, obviously. By this time I was past the point of tiredness and was feeling that second wind, so I watched a movie. finally, I felt tired and was able to turn the “T.V.” off, put the remote into the slope of the armrest, the inside of the arm armrest, and go to sleep
Only to be woken up every time I moved, which, on a regular basis, is a lot. This was because, as I mentioned earlier the remote was on the inside of the armrest, therefore every time I moved, subsequently bumping it, the bright blue screen in front of me would turn. Safe to say I got about three hours of sleep out of the 13-hour flight.
At Taipei, Taiwan we switched flights for the last six hours of air travel. Getting off the plane we were immediately hit with the immense humidity and heat of Thailand, and we hadn’t even stepped foot outside the airport yet. Driving in from the airport the first thing I noticed there was an abundance of was giant billboards. Not the small to medium ones you’d see driving on a highway in North American, these things were 2-3 times the size of those billboards.
When my family travels we tend not to book things ahead. We arrive in a new place, “set up camp” at a cafe and search around for a good place to stay. The only time we book a place ahead of time is if we know we will have travelled most of the day and will probably just want to go “home” (where ever we happen to be sleeping that night) and chill out for a bit.
On our way up to our hotel room, we passed this 3-foot wide jade cabbage. It was magnificent. My dad found it hideous and tacky, so naturally, I save it on his phone as the lock screen and the home page. He did not know how to change it back.
I guess our room hadn’t been cleaned yet, so my dad ended up calling down to get someone to clean. However, when you got someone on the line he began to talk around with the corded phone in hand, which in turn cause the phone to fall off the table every time. And by every time I mean, he did this a total of four times.
THE TEMPERATE rain forests of the West Coast of Canada are magnificent to behold. You could say that forests are our sacred groves. In a young and secular country with a small population and vast expanses of pristine wilderness, our forests are our natural temples. This is where we go to worship the beauty and majesty of nature, and what attracts many of our visitors. But you don’t have to be a rugged explorer to appreciate our northern paradise. The West Coast temperate rainforest can be found lovingly preserved at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.
As you walk softly on a thick carpet of reddish pine needles you feel enveloped by the lushness, moist air and sun-dappled greenery. Iridescent ferns, bright mosses, and trickling streams of fresh water catch your eye at ground level. Crowds of evergreens — cedar, pine and fir trees — soften the middle distance. Birds twitter among the branches, while squirrels gambol up and down tree trunks and butterflies alight on lush ground-level foliage. There is a quiet sanctity, a reverence in the air that slows the gait and lowers the voices of casual visitors.
I also learned there was indeed a connection with the Native people of this area. In fact, the word Capilano is derived from Kia’palano, a Squamish word for “beautiful river.” And Chief Joe Matthias Kia’palano was hired in the 1930s to tell stories and teach visitors about the Native way of life.
Via Rail, the company that’s been running The Canadian since the 1970s, is well aware that this is a big trip, across a big country. They support the excitement and anticipation in so many ways, from announcements about passing landmarks through on-board activities and superb menu options.
We ate our first meal in the dining car that evening as we left Ottawa. I had halibut, cooked to order without breading, vegetables, salad, a gluten-free chocolate mousse dessert and peppermint tea.
The train is a relaxed way to see the breadth of the Canadian geographic experience.
In the meantime, the attendant had lowered the bed in my room, tucking away the chairs underneath, and leaving me a shower kit with soap and towels and a single chocolate on the turned-down bed. I retired to my private room, nothing else to do but crawl into bed and read, everything I needed within arm’s length distance. I slept very soundly in a surprisingly comfortable bed, rocked to sleep by the motion of the train.
I expected the diverse scenery we passed to be a highlight of the journey. But what I didn’t expect is that the culture inside the train is even more absorbing than the passing scenery.
Ottawa is Canada’s capital, a small city of about one million people that spreads out from the scenic place where three rivers meet. This is the political heart of Canada, a storied area with sweeping views, steeped in history, and the perfect place to begin travels in Canada.
Ottawa is beautiful, the best of Canada is here.”
My friend and I spent about three days exploring Ottawa, and learning about the history of the country and some of the many attractions this city has to offer. “Ottawa is beautiful, the best of Canada is here,” he said.
Parliament Hill is a great place to start your Ottawa tour. That’s what we did. We walked around the entire hill, on the promenade that runs along the Ottawa River shoreline. You get great views of the Parliament Buildings from below and the Canadian Museum of History across the river.
After our walk around the back of the Parliament Buildings, we walked to the front, and stood near the Centennial Flame. In front of us was Centre Block, with East and West Blocks on either side. It’s a very grand site, massive Victorian Gothic buildings flanking a huge expanse of lawn. The House of Commons, Senate, Library of Parliament, Peace Tower and Memorial Chamber are in the Centre Block, and this is what most tourists come to see.
Another highlight is the War Paintings in the Senate Chamber. I loved going up to the top of the Peace Tower, which offers 360 degree views of the Ottawa region. The final stop was the Memorial Chamber, another moving moment, as this sunny, uplifting room, the colours of heaven, contains the names of all Canadian soldiers who fell in battle.
This week, my friends and I wandered the Haliburton Highlands in search of art, culture, and natural beauty – and opportunities to enjoy them. We found a profusion of all three. In fact, it is safe to say, the Haliburton Ontario region can be characterized by the thriving art and culture scene, and the beauty and serenity of the rugged Haliburton Highlands. Haliburton Ontario is home to some very good artists and a surprising number of arts organizations.
The Haliburton Sculpture Forest is adjacent to the Haliburton School of the Arts, in and among the forest that surrounds this rural location near Haliburton Ontario. My favourite piece of art in the Sculpture Forest is by one of my favourite Canadian contemporary artists, Mary Anne Barkhouse. An Indigenous artist, Mary Anne’s bronze sculptures are devoted to giving animals a sense of majesty, and they are all over the province – including in front of the Museum of History in Ottawa. In the Haliburton Sculpture Forest, her bronze dog “Gelert” honours the dramatic legend of a Welsh prince and his dog. You read the legend of Gelert here.
Craft is also a big part of the Haliburton Highlands, and there are some great craft artists here, as well as a few who blend their work into what could easily be called art. Our trail took us to Blackbird Pottery, a three-year-old studio owned by artist April Gates. The addition of Blackbird Pottery to the Haliburton Highlands. Blackbird Pottery is a very good example of where art and craft meet. The quality of the work reflects someone who takes a serious and professional approach to art and craft. Blackbird Pottery is located in an old school house just outside of Haliburton village. It’s an airy room that easily merges retail space with room for workshops, and it’s open to visitors four days a week.
This is a how-to, for a beginner, for a beginner. Yes, I’m lacking in experience, but I am also lacking in bravado. Again one would probably be wondering how lack of experience and lack of bravado is at all a good thing. Well, it isn’t really, however it is useful in attempting to relate this post to other similar to me. No experience scared to ask for a lower price.
Note: in reference to a bargaining I am not talking about Western-style shops. Please don’t go into Garage and start low balling the cashier on a $20 tank top. Most, okay, all my bargaining experience is from countries in South East Asia.
This is my usual go-to strategy
- Once you see something you like, pay very little attention to it. Once the sale person knows you want something they’ll budge very little on starting price. I find it best to act fairly indifferent towards the desired object. Once you know what you want and are looking at other things in the store.
- Start thinking about how much you’d pay, then mentally convert that into the country’s currency. If you don’t have an already basic currency conversion knowledge for the country you’re in then, well, you should. You really should.
- If anyone asks if they can help you I go with the usual “just looking” This again shows lack of interest and also gives you so more time. Or you could ask pricing for other things in the store
- Finally, when you mentally have everything together point to what you want and begin the negotiation process by asking “how much”. It is always best to look a little surprised when they say the first number, and pretend that it was so high you are willing to walk away
Note: If you really want something and you most likely won’t be able to get it anywhere else, just get it. Even if the price is a bit higher than you wanted.
Note #2: Do not, I repeat do not, get caught up in I-will-not-pay-that-much mode. Like if the pants are, let’s say 100 Thai Baht ($4) and you want to pay 80 Baht ($3.30). It is a 70 cents difference, if you want it, just get it.
I feel like Disneyland is just one of those places that you can go to at different stages of your life and experience different things. There’s really just something about the magic of Disney. Now that I’m going as an adult, I wanted to research all the tips and tricks I needed to know to maximize my time and experience at the happiest place on earth. From reading blog posts to watching YouTube videos, I took notes and then went and tested them all out there. Here are my top 20 tips and tricks to make the most of your day(s) at Disneyland:
1. Download the Disneyland App on your phone before you go. Seriously the most helpful thing ever. It tells you wait times for rides, Fastpass times, and is your map to the park. There is wifi throughout the park that you can utilize.
2. Before heading to the parks for the day, be prepared for the security checkpoints upon entering the parks. Have your bag open and ready to be searched, and everything in your pockets available to take out to put in the tray before you go through the scanner.
3. If you have Magic Morning or Extra Magic Hours, make use of it and make sure you show up early! The extra hour is great to get some extra time in with less lineups, but beware that not everything is always open.
4. If you have park hopper tickets, after Magic Morning ends, hop on over to the other park for their opening. If you don’t have Magic Morning, always start your day at the park that does not have Magic Morning that day.
5. If you will have cellular data, consider making use of Maxpass and Photopass. For $10 per person per day, you can utilize this new feature which allows you to get Fastpasses on your phone, as well as download all the photos that you get taken inside the parks! It will also tell you where to find Fastpass stations for things, which is super important because the stations aren’t always near the ride!
6. Get Fastpasses. This is a huge time saver and is free! You insert your park ticket into a machine to receive a ticket that gives you a specific time window to return. Perfect for popular rides that usually have insanely long wait times. You can only hold one fastpass at a time, and will need to wait either 2 hours since you last got one, or when the return window opens for your current one. Warning, they can run out of Fastpasses, especially for the rides in California Adventure!
7. Have a Fastpass runner or designated MaxPass person. For us, my boyfriend was in charge of holding all our tickets and getting our Fastpasses. If you utilize MaxPass, just have one person load all the tickets on to their phone.
8. Fastpass stations aren’t always located near the attraction they are for! Use your Disney app to look up where the Fastpass station is first, otherwise you could go in circles and waste lots of time just trying to figure out where to pick them up.
9. First thing in the morning, grab a Fastpass for the evening show you want to attend. Show Fastpasses count as separate from the ride ones! These run out really quick for the evening shows at each park: Fantasmic! at Disneyland and World of Color at California Adventure. I cannot stress enough that you need to grab one, otherwise you won’t have a spot to stand and watch the shows. World of Colour stations are by Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, and Fantasmic! stations are near Frontier Landing. Disney does an incredible job of sectioning off areas for those watching and making sure walking areas are indeed used for people only walking by.
10. The first ride Fastpass you’ll want to get is for Radiator Springs Racers in California Adventure. This ride is guaranteed to run out of Fastpasses and guaranteed to have the longest lines at all times of the day. The station to pick up Fastpasses is beside the entrance to A Bug’s Land, not in Carsland. If you want to ride it more than once, hop in line first thing in the morning for it as well, and consider utilizing the single rider lineup.
11. As I kind of mentioned above, for rides that are popular and have long lines, consider going in the single rider lineup. Yes, you might not sit with your friends or family, but you’ll skip the long lines!
12. Have a game plan. Plan out your must-do attractions, and prioritize them. We would often grab Fastpasses for the big and busy attractions, and then just wait in line for the smaller ones. As I mentioned before, you’re gonna want to minimize the amount of walking around back and forth you’ll have to do, so plan accordingly to try to plan it out so that you don’t most things in one “land” at a time.
13. Park hop – but only when you have to. We chose to do this on the last day when we knew which rides we wanted to do again. I would only recommend park hopping when you need to (such as heading back to California Adventure for your Fastpass for Radiator Springs) because honestly, it wastes a lot of your time walking back and forth. You also do a ton of walking on concrete all day, so your feet will hurt eventually so you’ll want to minimize that.
14. Have meals during off-peak hours. Don’t eat lunch right at noon, or dinner at 6. Use those times when everyone is eating to enjoy the somewhat shorter lines, and eat at other times when restaurants aren’t as busy, and you can find seating for quick service places.
15. Bring your own snacks and water. Drinks are by far one of the most expensive things to purchase at the parks and are almost never worth the money. Bring your own water, your own juice boxes etc. Also be sure to pack some granola bars for those moments you’re hungry and waiting in line. This little tip will be sure to save you some money too.
16. If you’re looking for water inside the parks, buying a bottle isn’t your only option. You can actually go to any restaurant, or up to any quick service place and ask them for a cup of water!
17. If you want Dole Whip, the booth has two sides. The one inside the Enchanted Tiki Room never has anyone there, whereas the line on the Adventureland side is always super long.
18. There is a “secret” bathroom inside the Enchanted Tiki Room. For some odd reason, no one knows it’s here and so there’s never a line. Don’t waste your time lining up to go to a bathroom when you can line up for rides instead!
19. You can ask the Photopass photographers to take photos on your phone or camera! If you’re not getting a MaxPass, those official Disney photos can be pretty expensive. Though these Photopass photographers look like they’re only available for those purchasing photos from Disney, that’s actually not true. They’d be more than happy to help you take photos of you using your device!
20. If you want to shop, do it at the end of the day. Shops are open an hour after the park closes, so you can do all your shopping then.
Hawaii, Hawaii, Hawaii. Words and pictures that float in our mind when we hear about this place often consists of the bluest beaches, palm trees, summer vibes, relaxation, and all the resort-related things. One important thing we’re missing is the FOOD ! That should be at the top of the list. Hawaiian food can be quite underestimated because people are too caught up with the impressions of their resort like experience. The best dishes/ restaurants listed below will be an addition to why you should visit Hawaii ASAP!
PIONEER SALOON (serves various meat/fish platters)
Pioneer Saloon is located slightly past the city streets of Honolulu but it’s worth the trip. This is the Rib- Eye Steak with Ponzu Vege which is $14.00 USD. Portions here are L A R G E. I love how customizable the sides are and I took advantage of changing my white rice to beans rice… (healthier option, I tried!). The meat was so fresh and although the temperature was fairly low, it was still super juicy. First they have freshest fish, next they have the freshest meat. How ?! The price may seem relevatively on the higher end but it’s worth a try for its portion and quality.
Eating prawns in my home city isn’t a huge thing because I find that it’s kind of tasteless, unless the sauce is made with perfection. But the garlic shrimps from Hawaii is such a delicious dish and I still miss it everyday. It’s a simple preparation of tiger prawn, butter, lemon, and garlic but Hawaiians cook everything with the perfect amount of each ingredient and the shrimp itself is just very juicy. I never recognized how well butter and seafood goes together until this experience and meat is just so delicate and sweet!
Whenever I travel, there’s one meal where I’m willing to spend a lot of money on to experience the city/country’s luxurious meal. AZURE restaurant is one of the best high-end places I have ever visited for dinner, and I think that it’s a must-go-to place in Hawaii for a special occasion. I have never encountered such great service until I came here. The server was absolutely perfect with explaining everything about the menu and providing me and my mother with the greatest time dining. I can ensure that all the employees here guarantee their guests for a beautiful experience at AZURE! They’re all just so positive, caring, and amazing. Moving onto the food (most important part) , every dish is served with a bowl of different types of bread and they were all really good! I usually do not finish all the bread that’s served before the ordered food, but this one came through. I actually asked for seconds … I know that’s a big bowl but don’t judge me!
This place offers seating by beach and the whole experience just becomes 5x better when you’re just in such relaxation mode with the ocean view.
Tip: AZURE Restaurant is not very large and limited on both patio seats. All spots in general tend to fill up very quickly. It’s best to reserve through Open Table at least 1.5 to 2 weeks prior as spots fill up fast. Make sure to also input specific requests on seating like my experience (ocean view) in the comment section!
Sadly, I forgot the name of the dish my mother ordered, but this was also the best cooked fish I’ve ever tasted in my life (I believe this is the sable fish). I always thought Japan would be the only ones at the top for providing the best fish, but I’m now voting Hawaii for freshest fish in the world! All the dishes at azure are heavily based on seafood, and even if you’re not a seafood fan, I promise you will LOVE IT HERE!
There isn’t much anything exceptional with the individual components of this dish, but when its all put together, it’s so satisfying. I call it the ultimate comfort food not only in Hawaii, but in general. The loco moco comprises of plain white rice, hamburger patty mixed with onion seasoning, fried eggs, and beef based gravy as the sauce. The meat doesn’t really resemble a hamburger but more of a meat loaf, and yolk from the egg blends in so well with it! There’s really nothing that can go wrong with a dish that requires you to pop the egg yolk.
I’ve heard some people rave about this as the best breakfast, energy boosting meal but it just seemed like a dish for a diet… until I came to Hawaii. I can now see how people would take the time and want to eat this in the morning because of how filling and delicious it is. But I already know that this bomb experience can only be done in Hawaii and no where else. The acai berries is made in frozen puree form and gets the perfect texture needed. Combination of this smoothie/slushy texture with fresh fruits is an essential food in the laid-back Hawaiian experience. I can seriously devour this every single damn day. My favorite and general recommendation by the public for the best Acai Bowls is located at Island Vintage Coffee inside International Market Place!
CAUTION: Beware of brain freeze!
You can take a two hour train ride from Cairo and arrive at one of the coolest cities you will ever travel to. Alexandria is a city rich with culture. It is home to many stunning historical sights while having an amazingly vibrant modern youth culture. It was founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BC and has many historical sights that date back to the time. One of which is the beautiful library that was once the largest library in the world. It has now been rebuilt but still features a collection of extremely rare books.
It is a port city and most of the attractions are right by the water. There are lovely cafes and restaurants facing the water where you can relax and see beautiful views all around you. You can also take a boat ride with one of the locals and get an excellent view of the city from the water.
In the evening you can walk by the water and witness one of the most stunning sunsets you will ever see. The sun casts a beautiful glow on the old buildings and the sky is painted by vibrant colours. The locals then set up stalls at the local marketplace where you can find anything from clothes to some delicious street food and really immerse yourself into the culture.
Thinking of going to Disneyland for a vacation? Yay! But before the fun begins, there’s a lot of planning that goes into it before you go, and you definitely want to make sure you’re prepared. Below I’ve outlined my top 10 tips for planning your Disneyland vacation:
1. Buy your tickets online ahead of time. For Disneyland and California Adventure, buying ahead of time could make you eligible for Magic Morning (1-hour early admission), as well as a little bit of a discount. For Canadians, check to see if there is a 25% deal on tickets for 3-days +, Disney has been running this promo to offset the bad exchange rate. If you decide to go to Universal Studios, buying in advance will allow you to save $10 off the regular price, and give you early admission to the park 1 hour before it opens.
2. Plan to go off-season and check crowd calendars. Although Disney undergoes a lot of refurbishments during the early months of the year, it’s way less busy than during peak times of the year such as the summer. You want to visit during a time of year when the crowds aren’t as big to maximize your time and enjoyment. Do check what is closed for repairs though so that you avoid any disappointments when you get there.
3. Keep an eye on the prices of flights and hotel. This goes hand in hand with the whole idea of going during the off-season. Not only are the parks less busy, usually flights and hotel and cheaper too! Do your research, and keep an eye on the prices – I like to use Google Flights to look into this. For flights especially, usually the earlier you book the cheaper it is. If you are located in Vancouver, be sure to check the price difference between flights out of YVR and Bellingham. Sometimes it’s worth driving down to Bellingham and taking the flight out of there.
4. Also, considering booking a vacation package. I’ve never found vacation packages to be cheaper, but you never know unless you check! For our trip, we ended up booking a vacation package through Westjet pretty last minute (less than a month before), and that turned out to be a lot cheaper than if we were to book them separately.
5. Consider staying off-property. Disneyland neighboring hotels are often a lot cheaper than the official Disneyland hotels, and they can be just a quick walk away. Take a look at your options and make your decision accordingly.
6. Check the weather forecast and plan accordingly. Weather in California can fluctuate. Chances of rain, boiling hot sun, etc. are all possibilities. Plan and pack accordingly, last thing you want to do is be rocking a crop top and shorts on a day it’s windy and raining.
7. Which brings me to mention that you should pack outfits so that you may dress in layers. At least for visiting in the winter months, mornings and evenings were cool and windy, but the daytime was often hot and sunny. Temperature really fluctuates, and you’ll want to make sure you dress in layers so that you can adjust your outfit accordingly as you go through your day.
8. Almost most important thing of all for your planning is to set a budget in advance. Know how much you’re willing to spend, and ensure that you plan out the financials. It’s super tempting to buy a ton of souvenirs or eat a lot of food inside the parks, and so it’s really important you plan out how much you’re willing to spend.
9. Buy your souvenirs ahead of time. Sounds weird because doesn’t that defeat the purpose of souvenirs? But they’re expensive at the parks, so if you’re wanting to wear Minnie ears during your visit, or having a little autograph book for your favourite characters, buy those before you go.
10. Take an Uber or Lyft if you’re going anywhere far. You’ll most certainly need a ride to and from the airport, and these ride-sharing options are a lot cheaper than taking a taxi! If you can fill a whole car (4 people), these options are especially great to save you some cash. Be sure to do the math though and look around, sometimes a shuttle could be cheaper, but not usually. We used Lyft to get to and from Universal Studios from our Anaheim hotel and to get to the airport for our early morning flight on our last day.
I hope you’ve found this useful for planning your next Disneyland trip, and that you have an awesome time at the happiest place on earth!
As a novice snowboarder passing through BC in January, there is one place you go – Whistler.
Whistler is pretty much the Mecca of winter destinations, and I had been hearing about it for years from all my friends in Hong Kong who have done winter seasons there. It’s big. It’s epic. It’s famous. I had to see what all the fuss was about.
I wanted a solid week somewhere with great snow, easily accessible lifts and long, varied runs of all levels, where I could really focus on improving AND feel comfortable. Whistler ticks all of that. Also, there is an entire cafe/shack on the mountain that sells different grilled cheeses called Ollies.
Anywho, I was nervous Whistler would be too commercial or too touristy, but holy crap I loved it. Like, I-looked-into-changing-my-flights-to-stay-longer loved it. It was just what I needed at just the right time. Yes, yes there is a reason it’s consistently ranked North America’s #1 resort.
Which also leads me to my second point, for those (like me) who are unaware, the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort is actually two mountains – Whistler and Blackcomb, makes sense right? There are dozens of chairlifts and gondolas that go up both, and there is an incredible freestanding gondola linking the two mountains with the village sprawling below along both mountains.
My days were pretty similar. I would wake up, go get coffee and walk over to Whistler mountain, catch the gondola up and spend most of the day riding on the mountain before catching the Peak 2 Peak Gondola and crossing over to Blackcomb and riding down. I ate a lot, I spent a lot of time in my onesie, and I read. It was so chill and great. Each day I felt like I was riding better and better.
With so much snow, I was fizzing. I knew the trip was going to be great, and oh my was the village of Whistler so cute. It was a real-life winter wonderland. Whistler is one of those places that gets under your skin. I know I’ll be back. Have you been to Whistler? Do you ski or snowboard? Are you a fan of winter wonderlands? What’s your dream holiday?
This past Christmas, whenever my man asked me what I wanted, my response was always “a trip to Harry Potter world”. And so, we decided we would slowly try to save up for it. In my mind, it would probably take us a few years before we got a chance to go. But, not even one and a half months later, he made it happen. Luckiest girl in the world here.
Visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Poter at Universal Studios Hollywood is a dream come true for Potterheads of all ages. But with any trip to an amusement park packed with people, research is required to make sure I was prepared for my visit. And now that I’ve visited and experienced it, let me unveil to you 10 tricks I found helpful.
1. Buy your tickets online for Universal. This makes you eligible for early access to the park in the morning, and this hour is the perfect time for you to head straight to the Harry Potter section of Universal.
2. Your first stop of the day should be Harry Potter world. Being the newest attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood, it’s a popular place and definitely gets busy. You’ll see the least amount of crowds and lineups first thing in the morning.
3. The Forbidden Journey is the best ride in the whole park. Ride it first, ride it again if you can. The lineup for this ride is your tour through the castle, so be sure to pay attention. You can find details such as the actual desks and chalkboard used in the movies inside the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, a talking sorting hat, and moving pictures in the corridor. The details of the castle are impeccable, and as you’re walking through you won’t even remember you’re technically in line.
4. Have lunch at the Three Broomsticks. Apparently, the food here was approved by J.K. Rowling herself. It looks and feels just like the restaurant in the movies, and since you need to eat lunch anyway, why not make it an experience.
5. Try Butterbeer, either from one of the stands in Hogsmeade or inside the Three Broomsticks or Hogs Head Pub (which is at the back of the Three Broomsticks). It comes in cold or frozen, so take your pick and enjoy.
6. The Ollivander’s experience is fun but only do it when the line is short. You can Google all about how to get chosen for the wand choosing ceremony if you’re really keen on it, but know that even if you are chosen, you would still have to purchase the wand. After all, Harry had to buy his wand, so why wouldn’t we?
7. If you want a wand, they have interactive ones that allow you to do spells throughout Hogsmeade. You can purchase one at Ollivander’s, but do prepare yourself for the steep price you’ll have to pay. I chose to pass on this one as $50 USD just seemed a bit too much for me.
8. Flight of the Hippogriff is a very family friendly ride. Nothing thrilling, and very short. You can feel free to skip this one if the line is long, but if it’s short, go on it. You’ll experience some fantastic views of the castle and Hogsmeade, and you’ll get to see Hagrid’s house in line.
9. Enjoy your time here. Take a slow walk through everything, go into every shop and check it all out. The details of the wizarding world is honestly incredible, and you’ll be in awe the whole time.
10. Once you’ve finished going through the big things everything here (you can always hop back later to walk through Hogsmeade more), your next stop should be the Lower Lot at Universal where you’ll find the Jurassic Park, Mummy and Transformers rides. This area tends to get busy midday, so head here next, and come back to Hogsmeade again after!
There are definitely more tips and tricks that can be found on the internet, but these were the ones that I found especially useful. Be prepared for a fun-filled day at Universal Studios, and specifically at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Having been to Platform 9 3/4 in London last year, next on the list is the Orlando location to check out Diagon Alley!
24 Hours in Washington, DC
I’m not going to lie, the idea of only having 24 hours to see all of this incredible city really stressed me out. Before getting there seeing all the things that I wanted to see (which was basically everything) in such a short period of time seemed impossible, but much to my surprise, we were able to do it.
Our morning began with a two and half hour road trip from where we were staying in Southern New Jersey into Washington where we checked into our hotel on Embassy Row by early afternoon. Dupont Circle was a short 5 minute walk from the hotel, so after grabbing a quick bite to eat we hopped on the metro and headed towards our first stop of the trip: the US Capitol. We got off the metro at Union Station and walked the Capitol for our tour.
The tour lasted about an hour, and after it ended we walked from the east side of the building down around to the west side and the rest of the National Mall. We took our next stop at the pond out front of Capitol to enjoy the beautiful view of the Capitol as it reflected in the pond before continuing on towards the Smithsonian. Because of time constraints we were unable to actually go inside the Smithsonian, but seeing it from the outside was amazing nonetheless. After taking a few more minutes to soak in the view of some of Washington’s greatest sights on such a warm and beautiful day, we took the metro back to Dupont Circle where we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the pink sunset and an incredible street performance before heading back into the hotel to freshen up before dinner.
For dinner we took a quick Uber ride over to Georgetown, a charming and bustling neighbourhood of the city outside the more popular tourist destinations. Georgetown is known for its dining, shopping and recreational waterfront – definitely not a spot of the city to be missed. For dinner we chose Clyde’s, a semi formal restaurant right in the heart of Georgetown on M Street that served classic American cuisine. After dinner we took another walk down M Street where we window shopped and visited Georgetown’s University, one the world’s leading universities.
The next morning was an early one, after eating breakfast at a local bakery in Dupont Circle called Firehook, we hopped back onto the metro and headed back towards the National Mall to see the rest of the sights. We started with the Washington Monument, and then headed towards the Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King Jr memorials.
After visiting these two memorials, we headed across the street and towards the Korean War Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. The Lincoln Memorial looked exactly as it does in the movies and TV shows. The architecture of the memorial was breathtaking, and made to look even more so sitting on top of a high marble set of stairs. After climbing the stairs to the larger than life statue of Lincoln that sat inside the building, the most beautiful view of city was all discovered.
After finally checking off all of the great sights in the National Mall, we headed towards 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to see the White House. This is the one sight in Washington that in my opinion, did not look how I pictured it, but was still of course, amazing.
By the time we finished all of this, it was late morning and almost the afternoon. After a quick stop for coffee, we were back on the metro again and headed just outside the city and into Virginia where we visited the Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon. The cemetery it the nations largest, and houses the burial sites of John F. Kennedy and his family.
After visiting the sights in Virginia and one final ride on the metro, we headed back to our hotel and gathered our things as we prepared to depart the city and head back to New Jersey. Although the trip was short, it truly was an amazing 24 hours and we were able to see everything on our list. Washington DC now officially holds a special place in my heart as such an amazing experience I was lucky enough to have. I’ll definitely be back, and next time hopefully for more than a longer stay.
Agra was one of my favourite cities to visit on my trip to India. The city is best known as the home of the Taj Mahal which has been declared one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Upon entering the city, you will clearly see the beautifully rich legacy of the Mughal Dynasty. The stunning architecture is well preserved from the 1600’s when the city was the capital of the Mughal Empire.
There are many historical sights to visit such as the Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri which were both built during the Mughal Era and features exquisite architecture and stonework that catches the eye.
The most magnificent feature of the city is of course the Taj Mahal. To be honest I did not have great expectations of the Taj Mahal. I assumed it would be an underwhelming architectural structure that just became a popular place for tourists. However, when I first saw the majestic tomb, it took my breath away. The rising sun set a striking golden glow upon the white marble structure which made it look heavenly. The amazing stonework and intricate carvings add great detail to the structure and make it even more stunning and unique.
Behind the Taj Mahal you will find the Yamuna river and a beautiful garden with the sights and scents of lovely bright flowers as far as the eyes can see. It is a beautiful place to sit at the end of the day and watch the sun set over the Taj.
February 5-7, 2017
What’s it like to leave everything I’ve known and loved for almost half a year on my own? I had gotten my acceptance letter to go on exchange at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia a few months ago and was finally leaving. There was a heavy mixture of excitement and nervousness the days leading up to my departure. Even when I was saying goodbye to some of the most important people in my life, it was only starting to hit me then that I was leaving for a while… It felt odd to utter sentimental words of a farewell because although I knew I would miss them, how was it possible to mean those words completely when I couldn’t even believe that I was leaving.
When I got to the airport and was ready to leave, it wasn’t easy saying goodbye to my parents without choking on my words. I was already missing going home to them with warmly cooked food ready on the table, having them listen to me talk all about my day, and open arms to embrace me in a hug. I also received a call from my sister and a friend before I boarded the plane, and it was comforting to chat with them during my last few moments in Canada. During the first half of my flight, I sat by the window, two seats away from a huge Super Bowl fan who exploded into cheers on the quiet plane ride at random moments and a seat away from a woman who had her earphones plugged in and a book in her hand during the entire flight. Tired from staying up until 6am the night (or morning) before with last minute packing, I slept through my flight from Vancouver to Los Angeles, staring down at the snow-covered Vancouver and then at the endless sky of blue in between fluttering eyelids – the views were beautiful. Walking from one building to the other to get through customs on my own was an experience in itself. I was surrounded by people of diverse culture and ethnicity – devout monks, nervous Chinese families, hippies in silver hair and unique wear, groups of black people, and CBCs like me. I wish I could have stayed in LA to explore some more, and I wondered where everyone was going. My neighbours during the second half of my flight from LA to Australia were an elderly woman traveling with her husband and also a soon-to-be international graduate student from Mexico. I slept for half the time and then watched one and a half movies – The Great Gatsby (which I absolutely loved!) and Interstellar. The plane ride was enjoyable. I was bursting with curiosity to find out what the other side of the hemisphere looks like! Yet, it also felt like the longest plane ride ever. I’ve been on longer plane rides before and I didn’t even have enough time to finish my second movie, but perhaps the thought of being faraway from home made the distance feel further… Holding a cup of apple juice in my hand and a glass of wine in hers, the Mexican girl and I toasted to studying abroad in a new country with expectancy and smiles, and before I knew it, I was looking out onto a wide, open field of yellow grass and scattered Eucalyptus trees.
Dear Australia, you have been my dream since the beginning of my post-secondary years. I’m here – with mixed emotions of fear, excitement, anxiety, and anticipation – but I’m finally here. Here’s to five months of adventure in a country that will become my home soon.
During Remembrance Day long weekend, I visited a small town in California. I was craving pasta and we stumbled upon this Italian restaurant. Their pasta meals comes with garlic bread (picture below, top left) and a soup or a salad. If you know me, you would know that I’m not a salad girl. The soup was surprisingly good. I was expecting soup similar to Olive Garden which tends to be salty but the soup was surprisingly good with little noodle pieces and it was not salty.
We ordered the Fettuccine Alfredo which was better than what we expected. The noodles were thinner than the usual fettuccine we had (thinner as in flatter). The sauce was creamy but not too thick so it wasn’t too filling. We also ordered the lasagna, which we were a bit disappointed with. The sauce was a bit on the sour side and the cheese on the top was just one big layer of cheese which made it hard to cut through. The layers was a bit lacking.
We also ordered the four cheese pizza. Their pizzas are thin crust which I like because when you have less dough you can eat a lot more (at least that’s my way of thinking). It was a cheese pizza so I didn’t expect anything to go wrong and it didn’t. I would definitely go again to try out some other items on their menu.
PASTA CUCINA RUSTICA
ADDRESS: 2086 Foothill Blvd #D, La Verne, CA 91750, USA
PHONE: +1 909-593-8800
I’m not a travel expert but I have been on quite a few flights. Carry-ons are tricky but I’ve managed to pass through security every time without any problems! So now let me show you what I bring with me on a flight in my carry-on bag.
- travelling is so much easier with a backpack, I bring around my red Jansport backpack and it’s super sturdy!
- Always plugged in! Keep yourself entertained and some planes have a standard audio jack so you can use your own headphones! I just use the standard iPhone ones!
- neck pillow
- Better than nothing! Bring a full sized pillow if you want, that’s what my best friend did. I got mine from Muji and it has a buckle clip so I can just clip it on my backpack strap.
- You might want to take a stroll and stretch your legs in a long haul flight, make yourself comfortable with slippers.
- sheet masks
- Flights are super dry so treat your skin with something nice, plus no one will really pay attention to you anyways. Any from the Korean brands are really good, maybe Innisfree, Faceshop, Nature Republic?
- hand cream
- You might be able to find some in the washroom but it’s more convenient if you bring your own! I’m currently using Crabtree & Evelyn’s “La Source” hand therapy.
- lip balm
- Keep your lips hydrated! I use Maybelline’s Baby Lips in “Cherry Me”. There’s also a little bit of red tint so I look alive!
- Better safe than sorry, they really blast that AC!
- phone charger
- You can find a USB outlet for most flights now, keep your phone alive since you’re probably going to use it the entire flight.
- Bring a pack of tissues, in case of any messes.
And of course, bring your documents and dress comfortably.
I spent years obsessing over, Apple of My Eye, a Taiwanese film about a pair of high-school sweethearts, who end up breaking up due to an immature argument aroused by misunderstanding. Then, with only two days of planning, my sister and I finally had time in summer 2015 to travel to the famous filming location in Pingxi, New Taipei City to participate in the popular activity of releasing lanterns, an imitation of a scene in Apple of My Eye and a cultural practice of pleading for peace. We were reunited after a month of completing separate programs as overseas students, with her program being lessons in Chinese and mine being English-teaching in the rural town of Fuguang. The spontaneity of the trip excited us, but our lack of research resulted in several mistakes, arguments, and dangerous situations. Ultimately, though, we learnt to take care of and appreciate each another.
The air was thick with humidity the morning we left. We walked over to Tsinghua University from our aunt’s apartment in Hsinchu to catch the Kuo-Kuang eBus, a frequent shuttle bus that would took us to Taipei City in 45 minutes. Then we took a train to Badu Train Station to transfer to Pingxi via the Pingxi Branch Rail Line towards Jingtong, which took approximately two hours. During the three-and-a-half hours’ journey, my sister and I caught up about our past month. There was so much to say that even the lengthy ride did not allow enough time.
Since the day was still too bright to set off lanterns, we agreed to start exploring from Shifen, the second last stop on the railway line, and travel backwards. Walking along the train tracks through the bustling Shifen Old Street, we marveled at the low pitch roof houses and little shops selling cultural artefacts, traditional souvenirs, and street food. Never had I imagined the outskirts to be so charming; I was in awe. My favourite local delicacy was an ice cream and peanut wrap, a dessert inspired from the original run bing (spring roll).
Our first stop was the Shifen Waterfall. My sister and I took a detour to hike up it after reading signposts of its must-see beauty. It was a strenuous one-hour walk, but we admired the stone houses, hanging bamboo chimes, and danced in the middle of empty highways on the way up to relieve our minds. The unoccupied road had us assuming that the destination would be quiet, but our encounter with crowds of tourists, who we later found had taken taxis and tour buses up, proved the contrary. We watched the graceful cascades of the broadest waterfall in Taiwan plummet into the Keelung River, as the cool air refreshed our sweating faces. Boulders surrounded the river and there was a steep stairway on one side that led to different vantage points for observation of the waterfall.
After treating ourselves to pineapple slush and exploring the pathways near Shifen Waterfall, we caught the train to our next stop, Wanggu, a strangely quiet region. The landscape seemed to whisper secrets of the past. Towering over the train tracks was the destroyed Qinghe Suspension Bridge, historically used for coal mining. Since the train only came once an hour, we wandered around aimlessly. Had we done more research though, we would have discovered the Wanggu Waterfall hidden next to the station. We spent the hour laughing and singing, our voices ringing in the desolate wild. It felt like the world was ours.
There was still an hour left before the sun went down, so we hopped on the train and headed to Jingtong. We weaved in and out of numerous shops including the Jingtong Railway Story House, fascinated by the handmade objects sold and the small-town vibe of the Old Streets. We were amazed at the spectacular view beyond the village too – a mountain of trees and vertically rectangular houses enveloped in fog. There was a path to walk down and a love bridge strung with bamboo tubes of written wishes below that arched across a gently trickling river. The bamboo tubes sounded like windchimes when the breeze knocked them together. Time escaped our minds… and that was when we missed the train.
Not wanting to wait another hour, my sister suggested walking to Pingxi, which was fortunately just a station away. On the train tracks we walked – past the huge Jingtong Mining Industry Life Pavilion, secluded farms, and lonely houses – as the sky grew pitch black. I was frightened and weary, but we talked and sang into the distant skies to have our echoes keep us company.
Finally, we arrived at Pingxi. We hungrily ate wraps for dinner just before the shops closed for the night. It was only 7pm, a time when Taipei city would have just begun stirring with commotion, but it is bedtime for the rural towns.
When we reached Pingxi Sky Lantern Story House, one of the many shops that sold lanterns, the compassionate shopkeeper kindly agreed to handcraft two more multi-coloured lanterns. What I had imagined to be an experience with a crowd was now an experience solely shared with my sister. We talked about our dreams and filmed each other writing them down on the lantern as we struggled printing with the calligraphy brushes. An hour later, we were ready to release our lanterns. We couldn’t help shouting with joy, as we sent our wishes into the stars. Watching them float away was beautiful – two lone lanterns flickering in the night sky. It had truly been a dream.
After thanking the shopkeeper for staying an extra hour with us, we hurried on to check the train schedule and were relieved when it read that there was one more train departure left. By now, me and my sister were the only individuals left in the whole village. 9pm felt like midnight as we sat waiting, fearful and exhausted, for what felt like forever. When we arrived at Ruifang Station, however, we were horrified to learn that we may be homeless for the night. The hostel we had planned to stay at had no entry sign and the manager’s direction to meet him downstairs of a building suggested danger. As for the other hostels nearby, they were either occupied or required an earlier check-in time. We were almost in tears, call after call, until a manager we phoned offered us residence for the night. Although the price was two times higher than our budget for accommodation, we accepted the consequences of our ill planning.
The journey to Pingxi has been me and my sister’s most unforgettable trip to date. I can still recall the rhythm of the waterfall and the bamboo tubes, the chipped paint of the old houses, the honest faces of the local citizens, wanting to understand the secrets of the wild, and the mixture of excitement, fear, and bliss I felt during the time of. Moreover, there is something about spontaneity, the danger and adventure of it all, which has given me renewed gratitude for who I was traveling with – my sister. Throughout the ups and downs of life’s many more adventures, there is no one else I am happier to share them with than her.