Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

Takayama is amazing

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

I love this small town. I loved Tokyo and Kyoto too but I think after a week of big cities, Takayama was a perfect place to come to. I decided on a whim to come here a day or two before we arrived and I can’t remember what it was that drew me here but whatever it was I’m glad I came.

Takayama is full of historic buildings so it has a very quaint and charming feel to it. It’s also small so virtually everything is about 10 minutes from the main train and bus station ( the two are next to each other ) either by foot or by bus. They have th is city mascot type doll that is called a baby monkey that grandmas used to make for their families for various types of good luck — marriage and family, scholarly success, financial success, etc. It is the cutest thing ever (I’ll post a photo when I can).

And the local cuisine is interesting. First there’s the local Hida beef which is amazing. Then there’s the rice flour balls on a skewer cooked with what tastes like soy sauce on a grill. You can find them everywhere — at the morning market it’s 60 yen. At the corner stands they’re 70 yen and you can smell them cooking on lots of these streets. The same with the smell of Hida beef grilling coming out of restaurants here. There are also bunches of small vendors that sell meat on a stick like Hida beef and ostrich and they grill it in front of you when you order it (the ostrich was gooooood). There’re are also lots of places th at sell little steamed buns with Hida beef in the middle. Mmmmmm….the beef is soooo good. Nice and fatty and delicious. I had a Hida beef steak last night for dinner and it was so tender and delicious and flavorful.

There’s also water everywheree. The Miya-gawa and the Enako-gawa rivers run through the city so there are tons of little bridges and the rushing of water and it adds to the city’s charm.

Josh was sick most of today so I wandered around by myself — he wasn’t sick enough that I couldn’t leave him — and it was nice to wander without feeling bad if i got lost and walking around without any direction – just going where the prettiest streets took me. I visited some museums, two lovely coffee shops, and wandered through the quaint streets and loved it. And Josh was fine by dinner time :)

Japanese women are styling

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

One of the things I love about Japan is how stylish the women are here. Their outfits are flattering and attractive and often unique. I love everything about their style here — the hand towels, the umbrellas for sun and rain, those enormous visors, their love of hats, their sun shielding arm bands, and most of all their socks.

It’s so humid here, a lot of people carry around little towels or hankerchiefs. I went into my first department store in the Kyoto train station and couldn’t believe how many little towels they had. They vary in size but are usually larger than an American washcloth, but smaller than a hand towel. Men and women both carry these, though I haven’t seen as many women just carrying them in their hands as I have the men. And designer labels make them. I bought a Laura Ashley one on sale. But high end designers like Burberry even design these little sweat towels for the Japanese market.

And their socks! We in the states get a handful of little toe and footsie nylon type socks for our heels and pretty shoes, but here the sock itself can be a stylish element of footwear. They complement the shoe and are meant to be seen. I was astounded and excited to see the immense number of socks in the sock stores in Harajuku. Our footsie socks are plain, drab nude or black. In Japan they come in every color you can imagine, they have little bandaeu socks, they have faux socks that scrunch but don’t cover the whole foot, they glitter, they shine, they have buttons and ribbons and all sorts of embellishments. They have little socks that look like Mary Janes. I saw a woman on the Metro wearing black flats with no strap, but wearing red socks with a strap and glittering little buttons sewn on the strap. It added some cute flash to her bland shoes. And you can change up your socks and make your shoes look different and it costs less!

I also love how stylishly they keep safe from the sun. Japanese women seem to love hats. Their hat stores are amazing and full of a wide variety of hats, including really beautiful, large visor hats for sun protection. I’ve seen women in the states wearing these on occasion — usually Asian women — but the ones I’ve seen in the States are rather unattractive. Here they can be as nice as the nicest hat. I’m so bringing one home and wearing it everywhere in the Mission. I’m also bringing home arm guards! They’re arm warmers except they’re meant to shield from the sun. Again, they have these in the States, but the ones I’ve gotten there are for the cold — not suitable for humid heat. Here they’re light and airy and some are long enough to cover your hand and have a cute little ribbon at the wrist. I love them for that. I hate being exposed to the sun as much as they do. And sunscreen is nasty sticky.

One night in Bangkok…

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

…makes a hard man humble” And my last night in Bangkok certainly did. So I’m blogging the trip in reverse almost. At least I hope to. You know I kept that paper blog during my trip. What did the ancients call it? Oh, a diary.

By the time I got to Bangkok for my last night before my flight home I was almost desperate for some company. Just someone I could speak some fucking English to. Those 21 hour bus rides and over night trains — no one to talk to. On the local buses I took, I was the only person that didn’t speak Lao. By the time I got to Bangkok, I was absurdly lonely. And for a big, confident, self assured gal, being absurdly lonely is…absurd.

Isaac and Kerry told me they’d gotten prettied up in Bangkok before they went back to the states. So I went to mall. I’d avoided it in Laos because I was busy looking at other things, but I do enjoy checking out malls in different countries so I went to the mall Isaac suggested. Indulged in some Thai underwear because Asian bras fit me (cause I’m Asian) and I spent less than $50 USD for 2 pairs of bras and 2 pairs of matching underwear — unheard of at Victoria’s Secret (and yet they were just as sexy).

I wore my cleanest dress. The one dress I’d brought for special occasions. The one I’d never worn before. It’s a travel dress; I bought it on sale at REI. It’s not that sexy. But at the end of the evening when I ended up at an Australian pub across the street from my hotel (only cause I knew there’d be English spoken there and they were playing MotoGP on one of their big screens), drinking Jamie’s all alone…the one guy who finally talked to me said he thought I was a Thai whore until he heard my English.

I guess part of me has to be proud that I could even pass for a Thai whore.


Traveling in Laos

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

I haven’t been blogging because I’m traveling through Laos at the moment with Isaac and Kerry. At least for another week and then I’m on my own. It’s indescribably amazing. You can read about our adventures at their blog at monkeycaravan.blogspot.com. Laos is wonderful. That is all.

Starting to get desperate

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

The 2nd to last day before my trip and I’m starting to get desperate. I made sure to do all my driving errands today because a) I hate to drive in the city and b) I cannot make another freaking run to REI this week because if I do, I’ll stab myself.

Hello Kitty Luggage tagI was at REI earlier today (twice! I think I lost an earring there so I had to return to try to find it) and completely forgot to get the luggage tag I meant to get there. So I was forced — against my will — to get a Hello Kitty luggage tag at the mall (I tried the travel store but they didn’t have any cheaply priced luggage tags).

I also forgot the Glide at Sports Basement (where I was also at this morning) and was forced to try to find it at the mall (the SF mall is right next to my gym so easy access). I went to Footlocker and Lady Footlocker and asked for Glide and everyone wrinkled their noses at me. I knew what they were thinking. I wanted to tell them, “It’s for chafing. Not for sex!” but I refrained. Seriously though, I don’t know why Glide is not more commonly recognized. It’s sort of like an active person’s fix-all.

So now I have my Hello Kitty luggage tag. And plenty of Glide. Oh, and I went to BevMo to stock up on little tiny bottles of alcohol we can fit into our quart sized Ziploc bags for the flight. Really, I think that’s all we need. Next up: traveler’s checks and a flight to Bangkok!

This is why I don’t wax more often

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

I went and got a Brazilian bikini wax today — you know, maintenance for the Laos trip to minimize any need to shave. I’ve done this now 3 times in my life in probably about as many years. The first time just because I’d never done it before and wanted to, you know, experience something new. The second time as a present to my significant other. This time for the trip.

I do it so infrequently, I completely forget how painful it’s going to be. It’s probably why I wait an entire year to go back because it takes that long to wipe out the memory of the pain. I tend to laugh as a coping mechanism for a variety of reasons and excruciating pain is one of them so every time she’d yank a strip of hair off, I’d start giggling. We were talking about all sorts of things, and everything made me laugh. I probably sounded high.

It started off nice and easy — the edges weren’t as densely populated so it hurt less. Then the searing pain. The “want to gouge out the eyes of this person who’s doing this to me” pain. The “oh my god, what the hell was I thinking” pain. And the “good lord, I can’t take anymore pain”. Oh yes. Anyone who tells you it doesn’t hurt is a big fat fucking LIAR!

Coincidentally, I happened to catch a bit of the Daily Show the other day when he was talking about how Chicago lost out to Rio de Janeiro in their bid for the 2016 Oympics and he makes a crack about bikini waxes. It starts at 4:10 in the clip below, though the whole thing is funny if you want to watch it in its entirety.


The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Chicago Nope
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Ron Paul Interview

Prepping for Laos

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Photo by annamaticI’m in the midst of mad preparations for my trip to Laos. “Mad” because I’m a procastrinator. I bought tickets in July and I’m just now really starting to get ready for my flight in four days. I’m traveling with a couple I know for most of the trip, then solo for a while. You know how I need my solo time.

I’m looking forward to many things on the trip: getting away, seeing lots of new things, experiencing a completely different culture, tasting new food, walking endlessly, rain, heat, meeting new people, seeing new animals (if I’m lucky — you know how I love the furry things), and getting to know the couple I’m traveling with even better. I’ve never spent more than a few hours at a time with them so I’m immensely curious how this will turn out. I’m fairly certain it’ll be easy and fun, but I think the unknown is inordinately attractive to me and having never traveled like this — so intimately with so few people — it will be interesting. I’ve traveled solo and I’ve traveled with significant others and with large groups, but never by myself with another couple.

Photo by Fabio GismondiOther than yoga and the vaccinations I got, preparations include getting legal docs in order in case I die in Laos. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to and I think if my mother hadn’t died so suddenly and we hadn’t gone through probate, I wouldn’t even be thinking about it, but I am. Unlike any other trip I’ve taken before, this time I’ve got an emergency contact list to send to close friends and family which includes any information they might need in case I die like the person who has my will and the person who’d know about all my financials.

Another thing I’ve realized is that when you go away for a month and you’re uncertain of your accessibility to the internet, you have to figure out how to pay the bills. I’m not a big fan of autopay because I hate to store my credit card credentials with any sites so I’m realizing now that I need to prepay accounts or make other arrangements.

But that’s all the boring shite. Fun preparations include getting my travel reading list together, deciding on which camera to take, downloading podcasts, and figuring out what I absolutely want to see during my month in Laos. Goodbye internet, goodbye phone. I won’t miss you one bit!

Yoga is hard

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

Anyone who says yoga is easy isn’t doing it right. One of my preparations for my Laos trip (in 2 weeks!) is to get a yoga routine down so I can have some form of exercise I can do while I’m away. I figure gyms are out of the question, and I’m not sure how much running I’ll get in so yoga is a good no equipment necessary, can do anywhere kind of workout.

Gaiam Power Yoga Total Body Workout DVDSo I bought this DVD: Gaiam’s Power Yoga Total Body DVD with Rodney Yee. I would’ve preferred a female host or at least a video instructor who didn’t vaguely remind me of my ex, but my options were very limited. I wanted an hour long total body workout and thought any yoga without “power” in the title might be too easy. This seemed perfect.

After four hours of sleep, a six hour drive, one meal for the day followed by a one hour nap, I thought it might be a good time to try out the DVD for the first time. My plan is to do it every day until I leave so I get used to the moves. I was wasted — not drunk wasted, but not at the top of my physical form. And the DVD killed me.

Every time I went from a Standing Forward Bend to a Mountain Pose, my head got light, I saw stars, and I seriously thought I’d pass out. And there was a lot of that in the beginning of the DVD. That was followed by several poses I’d never done before. I’ve only taken yoga probably less than 10 times before. I was sweating, uncomfortable, and hoping desperately it would end when I’d only been at it for 20 minutes. At one point I thought I broke something in my shoulder — doing an Upward Bow which I wasn’t quite prepared for.

But I made it through to the end. One day down…14 more to go then I’ll be doing yoga next to the Mekong River!

I love animals and they love me too

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

I took my visiting guest to the Monterey Bay Aquarium yesterday. We saw the well marketed Secret Life of Seahorses exhibit (my favorites were the Leafy Sea Dragon and Weedy Sea Dragon) and it was nice, but what I loved were the sea otters. I could have watched them all day.

One of them would swim up to me, popping her head out of the water and just look at me for half a second before going away. Then she’d come back and pop up out of the water in front of me and look at me again. As if I wasn’t already in love with her, she kept coming back. She retrieved toys off the floor of her tank and brought them up to show me. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her.

I watched them doing all their mundane activities like grooming and sleeping and was completely and utterly fascinated. One of them slept floating on her back with her little teddy bear face to the sun, sucking on her hand. I wish I’d taken a photo.

Today, we stopped by Lemos Farm in Half Moon Bay. I’ve always wanted to visit and even though I lived 10 minutes from there for a short period of time, this was my first time there. There’s no admission to enter the farm so you can go and walk around for free and enjoy the Halloween decorations. I was enamored of the goats. They would come up to you when you stood at the fence and poke their heads out and make that little goat sound. Their chins are so soft. They wanted to suck and bite on my fingers and eat my clothes. I was in goat attention heaven.

Goats at Lemos Farm eating my skirt

Do I really have to go home?!

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

It’s been cold here with temperatures ranging from 3°C to -11°C in the tiny town of Stubben, Germany. It’s one of the coldest winters they’ve had in 22 years. And I’m a California girl. It don’t snow in San Francisco, or in Southern California.

It’s been a different vacation because of how ill I handle the cold weather. Normally I’d want to walk around for hours, but here after an hour or so, my toes are frozen and I can’t stay out. Yesterday I was so cold that it made me cranky all day long. So less walking out of doors, but still a wonderful time. And now that I’m finally used to the cold (I didn’t even wear my jacket today!) I have to go home tomorrow. Bleh.

Quick list of things that I love here:

  • Lighting a wood fire in the stove at grandma’s place as soon as we get home
  • They don’t give you bags at the grocery store; you have to buy them. Most people bring a basket or keep one in the car.
  • Snow! I’m an East Coast girl in heart; I miss snow.
  • The tiny fridges (ensures that you only buy what you need and eat fresher foods)
  • The open fields near here and seeing bucks wandering them
  • Chocolates and cookies and liverwurst
  • Brick houses
  • Centuries old buildings surrounding city centers
  • Trains
  • Double beds with two mattresses (it means that each of you get your own blankie and you don’t have to share!)
  • Fresh bread
  • There’s always a (relatively clean) public toilet available everywhere you go. You probably have to pay for it, but there it is!

I do miss freely given tap water at restaurants, not freezing my toes, and slightly less heavier meal options. But I can live without those things. I love Germany. Whenever I’m here I think about living here. It’s too easy to go home and get comfortable and not think about leaving. It’s only when you leave that you realize how wonderful it might be to live somewhere else.

Christmas

Friday, December 26th, 2008


Wencke w/her new hat
(click on photo to see album)

I got Wencke (Kiru’s sister) the cute, knit donkey hat above from one of the boutiques in Hayes Valley. Kiru had mentioned she liked funny hats and I saw that hat and thought it was perfect. I thought it might be over the top but he said it wasn’t so I went for it.

His brother wasn’t at Christmas Eve with us and has been in the hospital for some days because of some complications with his diabetes, but we visited him on Christmas day. I guess his blood sugar level got really low earlier that day, and he said when that happens he’s a little woozy and can’t see clearly and he’s out of it. And in walks his sister with the donkey hat and he was confused for a moment. I thought it was hilarious — imagine being all out of it and someone walks in with two heads and one of them’s a knit animal.

Christmas Eve was lovely. His dad looks like an adorable Santa Claus and is very jovial. He kept giving Josh alcohol. Josh got wasted for the first time in his life (much to my chagrin — I had no idea he was drinking so much!) His mother and sister are sweet. His sister is funny. His father has never studied English in his life, but knows a few words and pronounces them perfectly (thanks to the fluent Plattdeutsch of his youth).

Today we went to the wild animal park. Kiru was excited to tell us that they have a very nice restaurant at the zoo that serves wild game. I thought this was hilarious. My sister was a little horrified that they serve animals in the park at the restaurant. They were too full to let us eat though.

It is hella cold here. My feet were frozen all day today. There was frost all over everything this morning. Even with layers and layers and layers on, I can’t manage to stay warm. We’re going to Berlin tomorrow and it’s supposed to be even colder!

First day in Germany

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Our first day has been hilarious. Well, first though, let’s start with the not so hilarious story from Sunday where Jess called me to tell me I’d bought Josh’s international ticket in the wong name! In my defense I buy domestic airline tickets for him all the time with his dad’s last name. Somehow, no one bothered to tell me and I didn’t bother to ask about what was on his passport. Hilarity at the airport ensues.

Jess got a lecture from the airline customer service rep at the counter, calls me and tells me I can’t get a refund or exchange the ticket I’ve bought, and it might cost me $7000 to get Josh to Hambug and back and that’s if I’m lucky and can get the flights. I freaked out, started sobbing on the phone with Josh thinking, oh my god…I’m seriously going to have to leave him at the airport!

Almost two hours later, they get it all sorted out, only costs me an extra $250 and they’re on their way to security. Holy fucking shit. That hour of waiting was like the worst hour of my life.

This morning, German boy promptly gets up at 8am to run to his parents house and do errands and get breakfast ready. I didn’t roll out of bed until 2:30pm (he came to the room just before then and I asked him why hadn’t he woken me up?! to which he replied — just rest some more if you want). When I woke up Josh, he said, what?! 2:30?! How’d that happen?

After breakfast, Kiru tells me, I like that reaction — Josh looked outside and said, oh shit! that’s beautiful. Last night Kiru was giving us a tour of the house and there’s a telescope in one of the bedrooms, and someone says, are you spying on the neighbors? He says, no that’s for the pastries. And I’m thinking to myself, what? He’s spying on a bakery?! Turns out he meant pastures! That’s what Josh meant too when he said it was beautiful.

Kiru’s father dropped off the car for us to use. But unfortunately, he parked it in the sloped driveway and didn’t engage the handbrake and left it out of gear (in his defense, it’s not the car he usually drives). When he left, the car had drifted down the driveway and angled into the wall of the garage denting the trunk and ripping a hole in the exterior. Oh shit….happy holidays. Thank god the tires were angled because it would’ve ended up in the pastries if they hadn’t been.

Oahu

Monday, December 1st, 2008

My German boy and I went to Oahu a while ago. I worked like crazy for 5-6 weeks on a project at work and when that was done, I took a week off and flew to Hawaii. I’d been there once before but so many years ago that I didn’t remember much about it except that I’d gotten to see my first Chinese New Year celebration there (it was February). And it was winter there the first time I went so there was rain, but I remembered it being warm and not unpleasant.

I didn’t have expectations for my second trip to Oahu. I just wanted some beach time to relax after that launch and to travel with German boy since we hadn’t gone anywhere together yet for more than a weekend. I didn’t want to do a bunch of sightseeing or hiking like I would normally do on a trip. I didn’t think of this trip as “travel”, I thought of it as “vacation” and vacation is was. We got a little sun, I had the most enjoyable time snorkeling I’d ever had before. The weather was hot and perfect beach weather. In fact, it was really too hot to do much more than lie on the beach. It’s about the start of their rainy season, but it didn’t do more than drizzle a couple of times while we were out there. And it wasn’t overly crowded either.

Ed made us an awesome Google map showing us his recommended spots to visit so I made one showing the sites we actually made it to. Oahu photos on flickr.


View Larger Map

Hotel

We stayed at the Park Shore in Waikiki. It’s near the end of the strip so not as hectic at night, but just a block or two away from the main, congested part of it.

Food

I never did get to have a spam masubi. It either wasn’t available when I was looking for it, or I found it just after eating something else.

On the strip in Waikiki:

  • Duke’s (at the Outrigger Hotel) sucks. Don’t go there. Not even for a cocktail. However, they do have a nice spot right on the beach to sit (if you can find an available space).
  • Yoshitune is located in the Park Shore Hotel and is excellent. I highly recomend it. I had a traditional Japanese breakfast of rice porridge, broiled salmon, plus the assortment of side dishes and it was so good. They also had the most amazing chirashi bowl I’ve had since my favorite little Japanese place in San Francisco closed down. Go. Eat there.
  • Arancino Di Mare (the one on Kalakua Ave, in the Marriot Resort). They have an amazing breakfast buffet and the service is very good. It’s $15/person (at Duke’s it’s $14.95/person and it’s practically inedible compared to Arancino’s)
  • Top of Waikiki: great cocktails and food. We sat at the bar one night (nice bartenders, too) and had drinks and appetizers, and had dinner a separate night. Good food, but pricey. They have a Happy Hour between 5-7 on some weeknights (most except Friday I think) and you can have half off Grey Goose or Tanqueray martinis and reduced priced appetizers.
  • Atlantis Seafood: don’t go. Wait staff is really nice, but the food is mediocre and overpriced.
  • Doraku Sushi in the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center: trendy sushi place. Good food, good drinks, decent service. But doesn’t compare to Yoshitune.
  • Zippy’s: Easy fast food. There’s one about a half mile from Hanamua Bay (East of Hanamua Bay) in the Koko Marina Shopping Center where we stopped before going snorkeling. The mini zip pak ($5.65) is a good lunch for one person (comes with rice, beef, and fried chicken). The regular zip pak ($7.85) comes with rice, bbq beef, spam, a piece of friend chicken and a piece of fried fish. It’s yummy. And cheap.
  • Wolfgang Pucks Express: they have great little breakfast sandwiches there. We got an egg, bacon, cheese on foccacia for $5.95.

Beaches

  • Waikiki beach sucks. There are rocks in the ocean and that makes it difficult to swim without scratching yourself all over them or walk without stubbing your toes. There are sections of the beach that are walled off and cleared of rocks, but it sort of feels like you’re in a giant kiddy pool.
  • Hanauma Bay has pretty calm water (since it’s a bay and all) and the snorkeling is nice (see below)
  • We tried to go to Sandy Beach, but the current was pretty strong — we didn’t end up staying and headed back to safe and warm Hanauma Bay that day.
  • Waimea Beach — pretty little beach and the current (at least the few times we saw it) wasn’t bad. Plus there are rocks you can jump off!
  • And there are sections of beach all along the coast you can stop off at. Some of them have names and some of them don’t.

Sight seeing

  • The Waikiki Aquarium is small, but a fun, quick visit.
  • Polynesia Cultural Center: fun, but I’m not sure it was worth the money we spent on it. We got the whole package deal, but if I were to go again, I’d probably go without the tour guide (I had no idea we’d have to spend the entire day with the tour guide) and wander around on your own. Check the schedule so you can see which shows you want to go to before heading off. They have villages from many of the South Pacific nations and the have shows performing in each village.

    Everyone there is really friendly, and they call you cousin and embrace you as part of their family. The shows are good — the fire making one I saw in Samoa was comedic — the guy was a great actor. They do thank the good Brigham Young University an awful lot. And while I was there I had this slight feeling of exploitation — I think they said 70% of the employees come from the university and if you work 19 hrs/wk, 40 in the summer, they pretty much pay for your tuition and room and board — so a free education to “share” your culture with all the tourists. It’s definitely more entertainment than educational though, but it’s pretty good entertainment.

    The luau was good. Get in line early if you want to sit right in front of the stage and watch the dinner entertainment. Then there’s the Horizons night show (about an hour of traditional dance performances). It was good, but I think by then we were tired of being there and didn’t enjoy it as much as we could have.

  • Chinatown in downtown Waikiki was interesting and we walked around there for a while.
  • So is Iolani Palace — I learned a bit about Hawaiian history (I knew nothing about it before). It just takes about an hour to go through and listen to the audio tour — you almost have to get the audio tour because there aren’t really any signs explaining anything to you. The palace itself is somewhat bare and spacious, then downstairs is a museum of items of Hawaiian royalty and you can choose to do that separately if you want.

    If you walk up South King street towards Waikiki from the Palace, you pass the Mission House Museum. We didn’t go in because it was closed when we walked by. And if you want to keep walking towards the strip, there’s an old cemetary with headstones going back to the 1800’s, including a mausoleum near the entrance gate. Then you can catch the bus on South King St. back to the strip.

  • Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau: preserved temple (though honestly, it doesn’t look like much but a bunch of stones). While there isn’t much to look at, the Hawaiians hold the place sacred. It’s nice because there are few (if any) people visiting, and the place is quiet. You’re not to touch the stones or go over the walls because they’re all sacred. We respected that and just walked around. It’s just above Waiemea Beach Park, and if you follow the trail all the way down, you’ll hit the beach.
  • Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden: we only had a few minutes there, but it was beautiful. We both wished we had another day in Oahu to come back to it.

Renting a Car and Driving

Someone suggested we rent a car a day at a time to save on parking. We did that the first day and realized what a pain in the ass it was. Our hotel charged us $20/night for valet and it wasn’t worth waiting for the shuttle to Avis and then waiting in line to rent a car to save $20 a day. The rental car people send out free shuttles to hotels. If you’re more than 29 min past your drop off time, they charge a late fee. If you return it too soon, they charge an early fee. The quote the guy was trying to give me on Monday wasn’t the same quote I’d gotten from a girl on Sunday, but he honored the rate that got quoted on Sunday for me (though he obviously begrudged it). I also got a nail in my tire my first day with the car, and they switched it out for me without causing any fuss at all.

Someone else suggested we drive counter clockwise around the island so you can pull off to the beach anytime you want. This was definitely the way to go. Plus it’s better sight seeing on that side. I wish we’d taken Ed’s advice and stayed in a hotel on the North Shore at least one day — it would’ve saved us a few hours of driving and it would’ve been nice to spend a little more time on that side of the island instead of coming home to Waikiki every night. Don’t forget to enjoy the fruit stands and the ice cold coconuts!

Radio stations

I think we heard the same songs playing every single day. We couldn’t find any really good stations and driving around the island you’d lose one for a while then pick it back up.

  • 104.3: hip hop / r&b
  • 102.7: same as above
  • 96.3: plays 80s, 90s, and new stuff, but sucks, but one out of every 5 songs was ok
  • 92.5: we found this on our last day with the car. If you’re driving counter clockwise it comes in just after Hanamua Bay. It’s “alternative” music, not unlike Los Angele’s KROQ, or San Francisco’s LIVE105.

Luzern

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

I spent the day in Luzern and it was a perfect day! A co-worker recommended I go saying it was the most “Swiss” town in Switzerland. I didn’t have a plan — someone told me of a museum I should visit, but couldn’t find it listed so I just wandered around all day. It hailed! It was on and off rainy today with bouts of sunshine breaking through. The first real bit of rain soaked my pants and included hail. It lasted for probably less than half an hour — I should’ve sat in a cafe, but didn’t know how long it’d last so I just kept wandering.

I love churches — yes, the atheist in me hasn’t gotten over my love of churches. So I’m naturally drawn to them when I wander and visited about 4 or 5 today, including walking into two services. I sat in one for about 15 minutes (it was in German) and left at communion (that part I understood). The Fransican church was my favorite — very Gothic inside with the most amazing stained glass I saw all day — the stained glass behind the altar is the most impressive. There is a gate, but they leave the door open so you can walk right up to the altar and gaze at the stained glass. I took a few photos and will post them when I have more time.

I also enjoyed the Lion monument and the Glacier Garden located just behind it. I didn’t know it was there, but it was only 12 francs to get in (about $12 USD) so I did and I spent about two hours there — I only left because they told me they were closing the watch tower which is where I ended up, overlooking the city. They have a ton of information and visulations about the glaciers melting and the pre-historical Luzern (the mediterranean oasis the site of modern day Luzern used to be — before the ice age that is), but they also have this weird hall of mirrors in “Alhambra” style, as well as some historical rooms and furniture.

The train ride there and back was lovely — I wanted to ride back while it was still light outside to view the other side of the country side I missed this morning. It’s green and lovely. I saw some hairy and multicolored goats, and the cutest, crimp-haired, golden brown, adolescent cow. But my favorite sights were the communal gardens — at first I thought they were cute little shanty towns with itty bitty houses. But those houses were garden sheds. A small plot of land mostly evenly divided into rectangles where people grew an assorted of vegetables and flowers — it was lovely — probably about 15-20 plots. I only wish I could’ve gotten to walk around in one.

Spatially challenged

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

I caught the right tram to go home but somehow it dropped me off somewhere and it wasn’t my stop. It stopped one stop before my exit and jet lag hit me hard today so I was completely zoned out. We stopped at the last stop — I’m sure the conductor made an announcement and I just didn’t understand it. But I remember thinking to myself, gosh, a lot of people are getting off at this stop, then went back to staring out the window. It was 9pm by this point and still light outside and all I wanted was a glass of wine, then bed. The conductor came walking towards me and said something and then I finally woke up out of my daze and looked around and realized he was shooing me off :)


View Larger Map

So then I start walking in the direction of home. Except I clearly have no sense of direction because I went the wrong way and only after a few blocks did I have the sense to look at a map. I’m an extremely slow map reader, but I can usually figure things out.

Today was the first day the weather has been beautiful — it’s been raining and overcast since I arrived on Sunday morning. As I made my way back home, I saw tons of people filling up all the outdoor spaces, eating and drinking. When I got to the hotel just after 9:30pm, my lovely little outdoor courtyard was full of people having dinner. It wasn’t the quiet peaceful retreat it was last night, but still a lovely place for a glass of wine and an email.

The saving grace of being lost in a new place, is that I don’t mind :) No matter how tired I am, it’s still a pleasure to see streets I haven’t seen yet.

I <3 Zurich

Monday, July 14th, 2008

I love the Swiss. There’s a lock box in my closet for valuables (not that unusual), and a skeleton key to lock my closet (I’ve never seen that before). I used a porta-potty yesterday and it had a) a sink, b) it flushed, c) it had a trashcan and d) a toilet brush to clean the toilet (the only thing missing was soap). The bathrooms at work have (in each stall!) some sort of purifying cleanser for you to wipe the toilet seats down with. I love it when a country understands my need for cleaniness and sterility.

I’m staying at the Romantik Hotel Florhof (don’t make the mistake of thinking the first two descriptive words are actually part of the hotel’s name — the shuttle driver that took me to the hotel from the airport chuckled at me when I said its full name, and all he repeated was the “Florhof” part of it). The service here is amazing. I called on Sunday night to say the LAN wasn’t working for me. The guy wasn’t especially helpful saying I should come to the lobby and use the public computer. But in his defense, he did say it was late and no one was around to fix it (it was near midnight), and b) at least they had a public computer for me to use should I be desperate. I did find one open wireless network with enough signal strength to do what I needed to do. The impressive thing was that the next morning, someone came up to my room to ask me about my internet connection and said she’d have someone look into it. And it was fixed when I got home.

I love the switch near the front door that turns on and off all the electricity to the room — no fear of leaving something on all day. I love the inviting spaces in the hotel where I can have a drink at night and read. This bull is in the courtyard where I sat tonight for an hour or so after work til well after dark. The weather is a bit rainy, but it’s still relatively warm.

There’s something about being someplace new and realizing the things you take for granted — like knowing how to cross at a crosswalk — at home are things you need to relearn elsewhere. And maybe I’m simple and easily amused, but I enjoy the novelty of it all — the feeling of not always being entirely sure of myself. I’ve been in other parts of Europe — Germany, France, Czech Republic, Netherlands, but nowhere have I felt as inconspicuous as I do here. Maybe it’s because I can get away with speaking English, but I think it’s more than that — it’s really diverse here in terms of languages spoken and nationalities floating around — more diverse than anywhere else I’ve ever been.

Everywhere I’ve eaten today there’s been fresh, yummy, whole grain bread. It’s a little bit like heaven. And the Zurich office is as good as I’ve been led to believe it was. The fire poles are a thrill, and the water room is luxurious and relaxing — I slept off a little jet lag in there today :)

First night in Zurich

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

Bathroom in room at Romantik Hotel Florhof in ZurichI don’t know why, but I’m completely enchanted with the bathroom — it’s so white and clean and sterile looking:

Unfortunately, I slept right through the middle of Sunday here, but I’d just arrived and gotten into my room after waiting 3 hours in the lobby (I got here pretty early) and I was dead tired. When I dragged myself out of bed, it was 8am my time.

I love new cities. I’m such an urban girl — my first and most favorite thing to do is just walk around, wandering wherever I fancy with no destination in mind. I’m drawn to pretty alleyways, churches, architecturally interesting or historic looking buildings. Sometimes I walk towards the crowd and sometimes away. I was wishing I had my German boy with me today, but I love wandering around by myself too.

I love all the different languages. People here seem to know several and switch easily. My waiter at dinner knew German, English and Italian. The front desk here knows German, French and English. And who knows what other languages they may speak. I’ve heard lots of German and English, some French and Italian, and bits of Chinese and Korean just today in 4 hours of walking around.

I got a little lost coming home, but I never mind being lost in a new place. I wander around and don’t pay attention to where I’m going. I used the two big churches near-ish my hotel as landmarks and finally gave in and used a map as it started to get dark around 9:30pm and I found myself walking through the quaint cobblestone streets essentially in circles :)

Decadence of Vegas

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

Me, Calthea, and Ineke in Vegas

Vegas is lights, slot machines jingling 24/7, hot women dressed in their sexiest clothes, guys trying to impress, drinking, smoking, dancing like strippers, and money blown like there’ll be no tomorrow. This is good for three days tops. In fact, a three day visit is the ideal length of time — you have at least two full nights of partying, plus a possible 3rd if you’re hardcore (which I’m not). This gives you enough time to enjoy the pool, gamble a bit, try out various restaurants, and still have enough time to rest a bit before each evening’s outing. I didn’t actually do much of any of that because I spent each day recovering from the night before — not in a sick kind of recovering — more a relaxed, sleep all day kind of recovery which was nice.

I was looking around me at the fascinating mix of people this weekend. It doesn’t matter how beautiful you are, there is always someone hotter, thinner, and younger than you in Vegas. Look at us — three cuties about to hit the town, and none of us could stop ogling the other eye candy around us — mostly women because as one cab driver said, Vegas is a place where women wear their sluttiest clothes and don’t look slutty doing it (well, he said something along those lines anyway :)

I thought Justin Timberlake said something clever when he said who came up with this idea that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas? He said he was from Tenneesee and what happens in the backwoods there should stay there, but this shit that goes on in Vegas — everyone should know about that. The next night, I’m in a cab and the driver’s telling me how this thing about what happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas was the best thing ever — cause the girls just go crazy out here. I don’t know what exactly “crazy” means to him, but for me it’s letting go just a little — wearing the clothes I hardly ever wear at home, not being embarrassed about being drunk out of my mind, and dancing with my skirt hiked up to my ass with Ineke. That’s Vegas.

Favorite quote from this trip: She’s a classy broad. That’s why we bring her with us.

Recommendations from this trip:

  • Forty Deuce is always a blast. The girls that dance there look like they’re having real fun, and the 3 man band is great. And I like the crowd mix.
  • StripSteak had both really great food and really great service
  • If you need a safety pin to pop a blister, the Logo Store has a great assortment of sundries (better than The Store in The Hotel at the Mandalay Bay).
  • If you’re staying at The Hotel at Mandalay Bay and you ask for a fold out couch and they say they’ll give you one — they’re lying. They’ve lied to us twice about it now. But they will bring you up a comfy ass cot instead.

More photos from Yosemite

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

I dreamt last night about the PUW shares I blogged about and kept thinking I don’t know what companies are in that fund…how do I really know they’re ethical?! I then woke up in the middle of the night in a panic…where am i?! Cozy, overly warm, and completely clean in my own bed. My backpack stinks like hell. Going five days without washing, wearing the same pants every single day, no deodorant for fear of attracting bears, hair thick with dirt and heavily weighted down by the natural oil production of my scalp. Yummy.

I’m a lazy fucker and won’t get around to posting my pics for a while, but Christian posted his pics (see two borrowed ones below), as did Aaron. Aaron’s Yosemite photos are hilariously annotated.

My favorite quote from the trip: Dude, we’re all white.

First day of hiking in Yosemite (photo by Christian)

First day of hiking…just starting off

The end of our last day of hiking in Yosemite (photo by Christian)

Last day of hiking…the end of the trip

Backpacking trip to Yosemite

Sunday, August 19th, 2007

Too tired to blog about the trip, but here’re a few quick highlights: got stung by a bee on the first day, had to take a dump in the middle of the woods with no cat shovel or toilet paper, girl group “bathroom” trips, climbed up and over this crazy steep and narrow ridge, and met some damn cool people I’d never met before and hung out with some damn cool people I already knew.

me at top of parsons peak

Self photo at top of Parson’s Peak near Vogelsang in Yosemite