update

I forgot I had a blog, oops!

I was going to document Stanley and my Portland/Seattle trip, but I keep forgetting to upload pictures and now it’s been a few months so I’ve pretty much forgotten all about it already. Goldfish memory for sure. So here is what I do remember:

  1. It was ridiculously hot – over 90 degrees for most of the day, and stayed hot til sun down around 8pm. This meant that we had a good reason to get Salt & Straw multiple times though, which I will not complain about. Honey and lavender was my favorite.
  2. Blueberry bourbon basil donut from Blue Star Donuts was the first Portlandia food consumption and possibly my favorite edible thing from the entire trip. Oh wait, that or the Off the Waffle liege waffles??? Or the kouign amann from Little T Patisserie??? There is a trend here.
  3. We rented crappy bikes and biked around the city – you could smell sweet overripe wildberries in the air, which was amazing. No wonder there are always claims about PNW berries.
  4. Tax free!!! Should have bought more stuff… nah. But next time, yah.

And then we dropped by Seattle for a few days to have Adult Conversation with the Parents and get fed delicious top-notch Seattle food. Of note: Goey-duck sashimi. Not of note: Starbucks Roastery.

Things have been busy in Cupertino – Stanley moved in and has just started working at Thumbtack in SF. The commute is really long and he gets back late every day, but we’ve been getting used to it. Je and Mike and Linus moved in, too, since Mike started working at Synaptics all of a sudden as well. One big happy family in the condo!!! Which is not as bad as I thought, I guess we’re all pretty quiet people and the condo is spacious enough (until all their stuff arrives from MN). Plus, all our work schedules are segmented; I get home the earliest around 4-4:30 which gives me enough alone-time to not get too tired from people. JK LINUS I LUV U

WordPress tells me this blog is #1498. Have I really written that many posts? That’s cray.

What’s up with YOUALLLLLL lately????

seoul

Stanley and I went to Seoul over Winter break with Kristen and Steph. He wrote about it here. I posted a few pictures here.

I planned the trip many many months in advance, when I had some slow days at work. I found out that I’m a pretty detailed trip planner; In general, I like to have most of each day planned (80%?) and have addresses, directions, etc. detailed out before even getting on the plane. I don’t know if this is normal or not. But it’s definitely in line with my detail-oriented like-to-be-in-control personality. You can see our itinerary here.

We were able to follow the planned schedule pretty well, with only a few issues. On 12/24, we rushed through Gyeongbokgung palace to make sure we could get lunch at Ssalgage, which only serves 100 meals a day. The rush was unnecessary though, since we arrived right at 11am and were the first 4 people served. On 12/27, we ended up going to Insadong for fried chicken dinner at Han Chu. And then late 12/28 Stanley got food poisoning, so I swapped and simplified the plans for 12/29 and 12/30. On the 29th, Koh brought the 3 of us (Stan stayed in bed all day) to Hongdae for lunch (gamjatang), a bike tour, and delicious pastries. We ended the day early again around 3pm because of lingering stomach discomfort for Steph and myself. On 12/30 we went to Suwon around 11am and only stayed a few hours. We skipped dinner on both days because of fragile stomachs. On the 31st, our last day, we just stayed in Itaewon and got bbq at a local place (after finding out Orum was closed for lunch), which was pretty delicious and a nice way to finish the trip.

I’m glad I had planned the trip to the details I did, since we ended up not having portable wifi. Most places around the city (and even the city itself) had free wifi available, but it wasn’t guaranteed. The subway system was amazing – super convenient, cheap, and easy to get around. We took the bus a few times but they’re much less suited for foreigners, as the announcements for each stop are unclear and really quick. I was so thankful that I knew how to read Korean (it’s phonetic and super easy, I picked it up in middle/high school) because it helped a lot to be able to read street signs, restaurant signs, and in general prevented us from getting lost.

But overall, my impression of the city was nothing special. I was disappointed to find that typical South Korean citizens have the same priorities and similar moral character to us typical Americans – we’re all heavily influenced by the media, social media is big, consumerism is part of life at every age. It was a fun trip, and I’m glad we went… but food costs were about the same, even food tastes were on par with Korean restaurants in California. Korea checked off my list. What’s next?

road trip

This post has gotten ridiculously belated (about a month and a half) because of a major change in priorities in my life. I need to figure some things out…


Stanley and my first stop up the coast of California was Santa Barbara! I had only ever been when Je was visiting colleges (2003?) so I was kind of excited to see what the area was actually like, having heard of the amazingness that was SB by the ocean. Because of LA traffic, we arrived later than expected and missed our tour of the Santa Barbara Courthouse. We walked around and enjoyed the weather and took some photos at the top of the tower.


Since Stanley and I were both vegan during our trip, there was a dearth of appropriate eateries :( In Santa Barbara, we had an average kale salad and an above average vegan+gf “thin mint.” I should have gotten more of those thin mints… We stopped by Mission Santa Barbara (without going in…) before heading to Solvang!


We walked around Solvang, being unhappy that we couldn’t eat any Danish danishes. The Hans Christian Andersen museum was a tiny room with old books in all languages. I didn’t know that he wrote some of the stories that were there!

We stayed the night in San Luis Obispo, and woke up early the next day to go hiking!


We went to Bishop Peak around 9am – the weather was nice, and it was a really nice day for a hike. The trail was about half shaded, and we saw a good number of people also hiking that day. And even a few people running up and down! (I think the total hike was about 4 miles, don’t remember.)

Super annoying thing: On our way down, we saw a couple girls with a dog on their way up. They weren’t carrying any water bottles or anything, and their dog was obviously parched. As we walked by, the dog sat down and didn’t want to keep going – obviously tired and thirsty. The (presumed) owner was getting frustrated at her dog, trying to pull it to keep walking. I offered some water for the dog, and told her to make a bowl with her hands. The dog drank it up and probably could have used much more. I mean, you don’t have to bring water for yourself if you’re lazy, but please, please always take care of your dog. Made me super sad.

After our hike, we went to Big Sky Cafe in downtown SLO for lunch. We were starving! We filled our stomachs and water bottles and got back in the car to continue our way up the coast.


I had considered stopping at Big Sur, but it didn’t really seem convenient. Instead, we went to the teeny tiny Limekiln State Park. It was a quaint little campground with two short (5 minutes?) hikes. One went to the lime kilns in question (used to purify? lime that was mined from the mountain/vein) and the other to a waterfall. We rested here (I needed a break from the curvy PCH) and ate some snacks by the ocean. When we were about to head out, a couple of guys came back from their kayaking with their day’s catch in haul! They had caught maybe 20 or so giant fish. They were super ugly and amazing, and I wondered what it’d be like to roast a fish you just plucked out of the ocean. Possibly made it a bucket list item.


Our last city stop of the road trip was Santa Cruz. We spent nearly a full day hanging out at the Natural Bridges State Park and Boardwalk. At the Boardwalk, Stanley and I got the most amazing salad ever at The Picnic Basket. It had olive tapenade, avocados, asparagus, citrus dressing, pistachios, kumquats… and some how worked together spectacularly. It was the market salad of the day, but I do plan on going back there for another go at their salads someday soon.

After Santa Cruz, we headed to SJ. Home sweet home!

summer travels part 4

Day 6: Arrival in Bangkok, Wat Saket, wandering
Day 7: Wat Pho, Samphran Elephant Ground & Zoo
Day 8: Ayutthaya day trip, Khaosan market/area
Day 9: Chatuchak marketplace
…then home!

Layla and I arrived in the wee hours of the morning on Thursday, and decided to KTFO at our hostel until whenever. We ended up lazily waking up in the late morning, and making a vague plan for the day.

First order of business was to get us some Thai bahts (exchange rate about 30 THB to the dollar, same as NT$), preferable from a Citibank where I would be able to feelessly withdraw from an ATM. The nearest one was a ways away, so we looked up a bus route on Google maps before heading out. Near our hostel was a Thai bank, from which we exchanged just a bit of cash for the road. Then we made our way to the bus stop, which was an adventure in itself.

Bus stops in Bangkok are more like general bus slow-down areas. There are not always signs posted/visible, especially at busy intersections, and the bus only stops if you flag it down. On each bus is a driver and a fare collector. The fare collector carries a cylindrical container that rattles with coins and rolls of tickets: tell him/her your destination and pay up, and s/he’ll return the appropriate change along with a ripped up ticket. Buses with A/C cost about 16 baht per trip, double that of a ghetto wooden non A/C bus. All this we learned from a nice white guy riding a bike, getting his morning Thai tea near our “stop.” Thanks, stranger!


We got ourselves some Thai tea as well, as per recommendation of said white guy. It came in a bag, surprisingly, as we found out later all street foods do. Here I feel obligated to note that Thai tea in Thailand tastes just as good as Thai tea in California.

We headed to a mall (Central World, maybe?) and wandered around for awhile. Layla decided to get a haircut (for 100 THB = $4), and I adventured around the huge mall shopping for misc things like phone cases (not cheap!) and earphone jack plugs and Asian BB creams. I found a giant UNIQLO at the top level, where I bought a pair of jeans, parachutey PJ pants, and shirt 😀 While we waited for my pants to get hemmed (for free, thanks, UNIQLO!) we went outside to peruse the mini-market on the streets surrounding the wall. I got a shaved ice dessert with misc things in it, and some fried chicken parts. When we finished at the mall, we were ready for our next adventure.


Since we knew where we were on a map (not always a guarantee) and our next destination was just along the street for a mile-or-so, we decided to take a tuk-tuk instead of a bus or taxi. It was important to me that we ride on one during our trip, so we seized the opportunity! The driver of the empty one we flagged down tried to extort us (I think he said 100THB?), but having already taken the bus we knew how cheap travel could be. We took the ride for 40 THB (I think) :)

We got to Wat Saket (Golden Mount Temple) and got to see a view of the city from the top. I was happy to overlook a city full of green trees, compared to Los Angeles’ concrete jungle.


Next, we tried going to the Grand Palace, but it had closed for the day already (at around 4 or 5). The infamous tourism swindlers were at the entrance, ready to bring us on various alternative! boat! trips! instead, but we rejected them and decided to wander across the street and get some food. I had some mango sticky rice (40 baht) but the rice tasted salty? so I just ate the mango itself. So yummy :) After dinner we headed home to ktfo; I slept and Layla went to adventure at Khaosan Road.

On our 2nd day in Bangkok, we woke up early and headed to Wat Pho for our Thai massages! It cost about 350 THB for an hour of massage, which was a great experience. It was cool to see how the masseuses manipulate their bodies to massage yours, and it was obvious afterwards that “Thai massages” in the US are toned down versions of the original. We also took a look at the biggest reclining Buhhda in Thailand, which had giant 10+ ft tall feet made out of mother of pearl.


After Wat Pho, we got on a bus to head to the Samphram Elephant Ground and Zoo. The ride was about 40 minutes and took us far from the city. 600 bahts later, we were in the zoo!



It really depresses me to think about animals that should be wild but have been trained for humans’ entertainment (and not practicality, ie horses). The first show we watched involved two guys pulling around a number of crocodiles and doing tricks, but it was primarily things like not getting their heads/hand bitten off, which just required the crocs to stay still. (Less unnatural, since crocs spend like 90% of their lives staying still.) But the elephant show we watched was super depressing, because they made them dance with one or two of their feet in the air, and shake their bodies and heads around, and ahhhhh it made me so sad and I don’t want to think about it anymore. Our ride around the park on the elephants’ back was not as depressing but still kind of sad, since with all the gear + guide on the back we must have been 4-500 lbs. (Although I just looked it up on wiki and it says the average Asian elephant weights about 10,000 lbs. Maybe it’s not a big deal after all…) But we got some amazing pictures! So I’m mostly glad about that.

On our way back to the city, it started crazy thunderstorming and raining. The bus we were on (a non A/C one) started leaking in a number of places, through the roof and windows, and the wooden floor got soaked. It was definitely an experience, especially noting that the locals were not phased at all.


The next day, we had our day trip tour planned to Ayutthaya, the old capital city of Thailand. Our tour cost 1800 baht/person, and included a bus ride to the ruins, a few stops some temples and landmarks, and a boat ride back down the river to central Bangkok. It was really nice to get away from the smelly city, and have a planned day instead of just wandering around. (The city was really hard to get around and not especially tourist friendly.) The picture above was taken at the Bang Pa-In Summer Palace, where the royalty still visit sometimes during the summer. Compared to the Summer Palace in Beijing, it was tiny… but still pretty interesting to see the Chinese influence/gifts to the Thai.


The actual ruins of Ayutthaya were really amazing. I’m not sure how much of it was restored, but it seems like a lot of the ruins are in great shape. There were super tall monuments and steps in tact, everything made out of brick. You could see where the buildings and rooms were set, with some doorways still around. A few years ago (15 or 20, I think) there was a big flood in the area, and there were still water damage marks on the sides of the ruins (and buildings in the surrounding villages). Crazy to see how time passes.


Delicious pad see ew from the street! For less than $2. It really hit the spot; Layla and I devoured it in minutes.


We got back to our hostel and rested a bit before heading out to see Khaosan Rd. The area we stayed in is a popular place for backpackers to stay, and so there were a bunch of American/European style bars and restaurants a few streets away. It was a weird backwards culture shock to walk down a street with loud English music playing and drunk young people having fun. It definitely felt a little bit out of place! On the street there were many carts selling typical “Thai” food (for the tourists) so I tried some pad thai. Tasted very similar to the US version, but not orange! And no peanuts!


On our last day in Thailand, we took a bus north to the Chatuchak weekend market. It was a huge market with all vendors for everything over a large area, maybe a square mile big. We wandered around and saw shops selling toys, furniture, artwork, clothes, Ikea-type shops, pet fish, other animals… it was ridiculous how many shops there were crammed together. Oh yeah, we even saw a bunch of stalls selling used/worn/dirty American sneakers? If I had more money and space in my luggage, I would have definitely bought more stuff! As it was though, I left the market with a couple of colorful tanktops ($3 each), some voodoo keychains, a giant safety pin, and a mango rice :) It was super delicious and I want more.

I wouldn’t really recommend visiting Bangkok as a primary destination. It was difficult to get around, and a lot of the interesting things (besides temples) were far from the city. I was kind of disappointed and thrown off by how low-tech and dirty the city was, but I guess that might have been post-Taiwan-relativity. But I’m glad I visited, and now I have a better idea what to expect from a Southeast Asia trip :)

summer travels part 3

Day 1: Taipei west side – ? hangdoufu, Longshan temple, Botanical Garden, CKS memorial, DTF, 3 Brothers shaved snow, dinner
Day 2: Taipei east side – Xiangshan (Elephant Mountain), TP101, Duxiaoyue, SYS memorial
Day 3: Northern Taiwan – Jiufen, beef stew, shrimp fishing
Day 4: Yangmingshan Nat’l park, Xinbeitou, Danshui
Day 5: Foot massages, Ximending, flight to Bangkok

I had planned another excursion away from Taipei city for Tuesday, and found that it was a popular day trip to hit up a number of the places I was interested in one day. Early morning (around 8am) we left our hotel and went to Taipei Main Station. From there, we took bus 260 which brought us all the way to Yangmingshan, which took about 40 minutes. We were hungry from not having breakfast, so we took advantage of the 7-11 near YMS and had us some 30NT steamed buns :)


I’m pretty sure the park is free, but you have to pay to use the shuttle service that makes rounds around the park. It’s 15NT for one ride (no matter the distance) or 60NT for unlimited on/off. Since we didn’t really have a plan, we just all got the 60NT pass for the park shuttle. The shuttle was super ridiculously cramped all the time, and the drivers drive FAST when turning sharp and steep corners. It was a major arm/core workout to stay standing on the minibusses.

We started our self guided park tour by walking the distance from the main entrance to the Visitor Center. There was a huge line at the main entrance to get on the shuttles, which is why we chose to walk instead of shuttle there. But turns out, the short walk was more like a serious trek, and we were already pooped by the time we got to the Visitor Center, which was only about .6 km away. The Visitor Center wasn’t amazing, there were some historical facts and displays inside, and a slightly better map than the one on the shuttle bus ticket, but not really recommended to stop there. (Although I guess we did bypass the long shuttle line, so, maybe…) We perused the map(s) and decided to hit up Mt Qixing (Seven Stars) and the Lengshuikeng (Cold Hot Springs). There were maybe 10-15 points of interest that the shuttle stopped at, but after realizing that the shuttles were mostly always all full, we decided just to hit a few of them. We weren’t planning on spending the entire day there, anyway.



We went to the Xiaoyoukeng bus stop and headed up the trail to reach the peaks of Mt Qixing. It was 1.8 km up to the first peak, then 2.1 km to Lengshuikeng, passing through the second peak. We covered a total of 400 meters of elevation up and down. It was a ridiculous hike that took us ___ hours. And afterwards, our feet were totally dead. But it was still pretty amazing and I don’t regret it. My favorite part about hiking up the mountain was that the atmosphere changed so drastically from where we first started to the peak. About 1/3 the way up, our surroundings got way greener and we could start to feel the fog and mist in the air. At the top, you could no longer see down the mountain anymore! Super awesome.

After we headed down, we took a short break at the cold hot springs. They’re called cold because the’re only 40 deg C instead of the usual 90 deg C… but that’s plenty hot if you ask me, haha. Layla and I rested our feet in the sulfuric water for awhile and then took the shuttle back down to the main entrance. By then we were starving, having exhausted all our energy on the mountain, so we took a long lunch break back at the same 7-11. :)

After our “lunch,” we took the minibus (from the bus stop across the street) S9 (or A330) to Xinbeitou. Beitou is an area famous for its hotsprings, so after getting off at the wrong stop and unnecessary walking for which we were saddened by, we went to the Hot Springs Museum in a big park thing. The museum was just ok, and I wouldn’t really recommend it if you’re already pooped. The park was surrounded by a number of hotels and hot spring resorts, so after the museum we made our way down the hill/park and inquired with the hot spring resorts as to their prices and such. The first few we saw had deals for public baths (150 NT/2hrs) and private (300 NT/room/2hrs), but some were fancier with only in-room hot springs. We continued our way down to find a hot-spring-front which was just a straight up old style hot spring resort. It cost 50NT per person to enter. Since we weren’t prepared with any towels or anything, we each bought a small towel for 40NT. For 3USD, we went to a hot spring much like I had expected/wanted to experience.

First, take off your shoes in the dry area, and walk through to put your stuff in the cubbies behind the bath. Strip down (including jewelry, which gets really hot) and rinse with cold water from the taps available. Once rinsed, head to the hot hot hot bath. At first, I sat at the edge of the pool and just put my feet in. It was scary to feel like you might just fall in by accident, but the water was just too hot. The ladies at the hot spring told us that if you leave just your feet in for too long, it’ll actually be more difficult to completely submerge later. This makes sense to me, because if you let your legs acclimate but not your upper body, there’s a bigger temperature difference in your entire body and you’re more sensitive to the changes. Their tip was to straight up go all in and sit on the jacuzzi-bench-rock, and stop moving. When you struggle and move around, it feels more hot. So after a re-rinse, I did what they suggested, and the temperature was surprisingly bearable. I stayed in the pool for about 5 minutes before getting out. Apparently, the right way to do it is to go in for about 10 minutes, come out and rinse with cold and rest, then repeat a few times. Too bad though, I decided once was enough for my first hot spring experience. (The water was 42 deg C.)


We all felt refreshed after our hot spring excursion (but our feet still hurt) so we decided to head to Danshui. We took the MRT to the Danshui station (easy) but promptly got confused as to where to go. The plan was to go to Danshui old street, a famous area for food and tea shops, but instead we wandered the wrong way and headed to a mini night market. I blame the confusion on the construction happening at the station, but possibly we were just too brainfried to figure out where to go. Since it was around dinner time by then, we decided to just shop and eat at the night market. Happily, we found a cart that sold Shuijianbao (water-fried buns, I think 10NT each) right next to a boba cart and made a dinner of it. Perrrfect. By then we were so pooped from the day’s activities that we decided to bypass the original plan to stop by Shilin night market and just head home to knock out. Which we did.

The next day, Layla and I had just half a day before having to head to the airport to go to Bangkok. We spent our last day wandering around Ximending. First stop: a necessary foot massage. We found a place recommended by the Internet and got one hour shoulder + leg massages costing 300NT/person. Those massages hurt SO BAD! It was amazing how much pain I felt in my muscles just from pressing, but I suppose we were quite tight from all the walking. Are there people who get massages so frequently that their muscles are crazy flexible and aren’t tight at all? Is that a bad thing?


After our massage we wandered around to check out shops, get boba, and eat. I finally found a fried chicken chop and we also got some of that brown intestine noodle stuff. After lunch, we just headed back to the hotel to rest and get ready to head to the airport. Then, Bangkok!

summer travels part 2

Day 1: Taipei west side – ? hangdoufu, Longshan temple, Botanical Garden, CKS memorial, DTF, 3 Brothers shaved snow, dinner
Day 2: Taipei east side – Xiangshan (Elephant Mountain), TP101, Duxiaoyue, SYS memorial
Day 3: Northern Taiwan – Jiufen, beef stew, shrimp fishing

Day 4: Yangmingshan Nat’l park, Xinbeitou, Danshui
Day 5: Foot massages, Ximending, flight to Bangkok


On Sunday, we left the hotel around 8am and headed to Xinyi district. The plan for the day was to beat the TP101 crowds in the morning, then go hiking, followed by a late lunch with some friends. When we got out of the subway though, we realized it was way too hot to be hiking around noon, and we flipped our plans to go hiking first. Slightly southeast of TP101 is a small group of mountains called the Four Beasts Mountains – Tiger, Elephant, Leopard and Lion. The closest to the city is Elephant Mountain, our destination for the morning. To get there from TP101 area, we took a bus two large blocks south (saving energy/being lazy!) then walked about the same distance east until we saw signs for the hiking trail. It was surprisingly easy to find, and there were a few locals already heading up when we got there.


After the first few steps, we were already exhausted by the humidity. We consulted the maps and decided to make our way ~30 minutes to the first vista point and then head back. In hindsight, it was pretty much as much we could have handled anyway. It was humid and hot, being surrounded by nature the entire hike, and there were mosquitoes everywhere landing on and biting us every few seconds. I wasn’t expecting so serious of a hike, so I was totally not prepared and got a lot of bites :( The view of the top was really amazing, but we were probably too pooped to enjoy it. I read later that this group of mountains is a really popular photographer destination during day and night time. I think if I ever come back, hiking the (paved) trail at night (when it’s cooler and I can stand being clothed to protect from bugs) would be pretty cool.


After our short hike, we headed to TP101. (It was our most expensive activity in Taiwan, 450NT/person. If you bring your student ID, it’s discounted to 400NT but I didn’t think of it.) It was my second time here, so it wasn’t too exciting but it was nice to rest for awhile after the hike. When we finished at TP101, we went to the nearby malls to look around and get some Tenren. I was happy to find that a regular iced jasmine tea was 30NT, 45 with boba :) Afterwards, we met up with my friends Calvin and Kailey from RISD 2008 and took a taxi to Duxiaoyue on Zhongxiao district. We got a bunch of yummy things (Layla loved the noodles and wanted them every day after that) and then headed to Ice Monster for shaved ice. There was a CRAZY line maybe 100 meters long out the door to eat-in, so we did the American thing to do and got our shaved ices to-go. We brought them to Sun Yat-sen memorial nearby to enjoy. (It was just ok, I don’t know why there was such a crazy line…) We chilled awhile there and then parted ways.

Layla and I went back to Zhongxiao Rd to check out the local shops – I bought a sheer teal button up for 100 or 150 NT, and then we headed back to the hotel via MRT.

My parents had planned a fancy catered dinner on one of the top floors of the Sheraton we were staying at. Ironically, although probably our most expensive meal in Taipei, it was the least tasty. Lots of so-so dishes and nothing that made me want more. Dinner was fun because I got to re-meet a good handful of extended family members that live in Taiwan. I was surprised to find that my level of Chinese was enough to socialize and everyone seemed to have a lot of fun. Including paternal grandfather who kept trying to make people drink. (“You’re a graduate student now? Cheers!”) After dinner I was too pooped to go out to the night markets, so we just knocked out.


On Monday, the group headed to northern Taiwan for a day trip. Our main destination was Jiufen, an area known for 9 old buildings/homes/temples? We wandered around the market and ate legitimate Taiwanese food. I had the best grass jelly I’ve ever eaten (probably because it was freshly made) and wanted to buy freshly made taro chewy ball things that I love but didn’t know about bringing them home :(. We had lunch at a teahouse, where my dad taught us the steps to brewing Chinese tea.


After lunch, we went to an old gold mining village, saw a waterfall, saw a view, and then headed back to the city. By the time we got home around 5pm we were hungry and since I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied if I didn’t have beef stew and noodles in Taiwan, we headed to my parents’ old favorite place. I don’t remember what it’s called or where it was (I’ll find out and update later) but it was amazing and exactly what I wanted. NOM.


We left the restaurant to wander and get shaved ice on the street (traditional style, with red beens, barley, boba, taro balls) before heading home around 8. After resting for about an hour, Layla and I headed out to go SHRIMP FISHING with Maggie and Derek. Shrimp fishing was hands down the best thing we did in Taiwan during our five days. I was so excited when I caught my first shrimp that I jumped up and down and screamed and all the locals thought I was crazy. But it was amazing! Layla and I caught four shrimp in about an hour :) We fished from the mixed male/female pond which costs 500NT for 2 hours per fishing rod. Bait and stuff is provided, but you are also allowed to bring your own.


After you catch your shrimp, there’s a kitchen area where you wash your shrimp, salt them, then put them in a giant toaster. It only took a few minutes (10 ish?) to cook them all the way, then we sat in the dining area to EAT! They had wasabi and soy sauce, but I chose to go plain for the freshest shrimp I’ve probably ever eaten in my life. Amazing. I’d love to do it again, or bring this recreational activity to the US, haha. SO FUN SO AWESOME.

sunday

It’s the weekend so there are almost no cars in the parking lot; is it lame that I got so excited that I’d finally be able to make a near perfect diagonal to minimize the steps required to get from my entrance to the exit?

Heading to the nice patch of grass in front of the newly remodeled Hershey Hall because it’s secluded from the street but surrounded by the botanical gardens. To tan. And read my Kindle. Happy Sunday!

vancouver

Last weekend my family and I drove up to Vancouver from Seattle. It took about three hours to get there, including the half hour wait at the border crossing.


We spent a total of three nights and three days in the city, which I thought was probably a little bit too much time. The first day, we wandered downtown, checking out Canada Place and Gastown in the morning. We ate at Salt, which was a chacuterie and cheesery. The entrance to the place was a sketchy alley, but it was definitely a cool place to experience.


In the afternoon, the weather cleared up so we headed to Stanley Park. A lot of this trip felt like chasing the sunset, since so far north dusk started around 4pm. But it was nice to catch so many sunsets; I only wish we could’ve taken our time observing them. And that it was less cold.


The second day we headed out to Capilano Suspension Bridge. Definitely my favorite part of the trip. Even though the weather was gloomy and overcast, the forest really seemed to thrive in the wet weather, and I was amazing with the smells and atmosphere. I got some great portraits of my family on the bridge :)


After Capilano, we had lunch in downtown at The Keg, a steakhouse, then we headed to Richmond. I convinced my family to take a detour to check out the Gulf of Georgia, which was just a vista point on the coast. It was a really nice view but the winds were so strong near the ocean!! This shot was from Garry Point Park. On our way back to downtown we stopped by Granville Island to eat at Twisted Fork, which was a delicious, tiny French bistro. Hat tip again to Yelp :)

Using my camera so much during the trip made me really excited to start my 365. I also realized that I seriously need to get my sensor cleaned, or at least get a hurricane dust blower for when I change lenses. I also really loved using Yelp internationally, and was super happy to try so many well reviewed restaurants. Now that the trip’s over, it’s time to pay for all those impromptu desserts with hours on the stationary bike…

commenced

If I remember correctly, commencer means “to start” in French. J’ai commencé :)

After graduation, my family headed down to meet the new baby of the family, Amara.


This baby is ridiculous and tiny in every way. Tiny feet. Tiny nose. Tiny ears. SO CUTE. As I was taking pictures, she totally started spacing out while looking right into the camera. It was great. :) I cannot wait to see this baby grow up! Her birth makes me an aunty-of-sorts, so I get to spoil as much as I want…right?


After a few days of relaxing in LA, Stanley and I headed up to Seattle to visit my family and see the sights a bit. The main mission of the trip was to take engagement photos for my sister and her fiancé (that makes deux e avec des accents aigus). Seattle surprised us in a good/bad way by being sunny the day we took pictures, but we still got a couple of nice shots despite the harsh lighting. It was my second commission-type photo shoot, and I realize now that even if a photographer has the skills to capture a moment, it takes a whole other skill to encourage those moments to happen during the shoot.

We ate so much delicious seafood in Seattle, but I’m glad to take a break from all the restaurant food. Kind of.


Stanley took this shot of me while the four of us were heading out to brunch at Capitol Hill in Seattle (at Sitka & Spruce, and I like it. Lately I’ve been spending so much time behind the camera that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be in front on it. There’s something so mysterious and fantastic about staying behind the lens though, that I barely think (read: slight cringe at the thought) of being in pictures these days.

On another note, I’m cleaning and packing up my room for the impending move to the apartment next door. I have surprisingly less stuff than I expected, and I’ve been doing a relatively good job this year of organizing things into smaller boxes to be neat. But still, twenty pairs of shoes is a lot.

greece

A few weeks ago, I went on a spontaneous trip to Athens with my family. When I booked the flight, my single class was not too busy, and my research was a bit slow, so I figured it wouldn’t be a problem to skip a week of everything. Unfortunately, as the trip grew closer, our robot project was consuming more time for my group and myself, and more was to be done for my research. This made me feel a bit reluctant in going and guilty throughout the trip, which was :( at first. Still, when I got back and things went back to normal after a few weeks, I realized that the trip was nice and I’m lucky to have visited.


Our hotel was near Astir beach, a little while from Athens city but very close to the ocean and pretty. This is the view from my sister’s and my room!


My sister and I took a bunch of pictures on the beach (of course) :) Too bad the water was crazy cold and I couldn’t keep a straight face!


This is the view of the Temple of Zeus from the Parthenon. We didn’t get a chance to go, but I wish we had. The Parthenon was kind of disappointing because it was crowded and under construction (with sand colored cranes?) and it just threw off the entire feel of the place. So sad.


Gyros! They were not as delicious as I’ve had in the US (????) but still pretty good. More real, I suppose.


We took a day trip to Delphi, which was really great. Highly recommend you go if you’re in the area! The ruins were pretty much left alone and the story behind the place is fantastic. The architecture ande engineering behind the walls and everything was really cool!


On one of our last days, we went to visit the Lake Vouliagmeni (Sunken Lake) that was just a few minutes from our hotel. The lake is warm year round (ranging from 24-27 deg C) and holds salty water, so it supposedly has healing properties for things like… RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS! So we went to the lake and swam around in the warm water (there was a warm cave!) and hoped to heal me but… alas, no healing powers :( Still, it was a really fun experience to swim with fish and seaweed in ocean-like water that wasn’t freezing. Best. Plus this cute cat though I was its best friend :) So I took his portrait.


On our last day, we took a trip to the Temple of Poseidon. It was built next to the ocean so the air was fresh and it was relatively empty and not too touristy. Plus, I’m Poseidon, so *thumbs up*.


The view of the open ocean from the Temple of Poseidon!


The best part of the trip for SURE was spending time with my sister :) We got to hang out and talk and I’ve missed her a lot. Hopefully she visits me a lot next year when I’m living in LA! <3