How I Spent Christmas 2017

There tends to be a lot of pressure that happens around the holidays to attend every party and try to see all one’s friends and family. I personally don’t feel that pressure and chose to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas on an island in Colombia.

After our boat adventure and arrival to Isla Grande, we weren’t quite sure what we were in for. It turns out we had three days of delicious meals being cooked for us and ultimate relaxation in our room and at the pool or beach. This is the type of place where you go to bed shortly after sunset and wake up with the sunrise and it feels amazing!

The first day was truly a day of relaxing but we opted for some snorkeling the next day. The islands are surrounded by a huge coral reef and I was hoping to see a turtle (no luck). I did however step on a dead piece of coral as I was getting out of the ocean and have a nice puncture on the bottom of my foot. That stuff is no joke!

Christmas Eve dinner was served family style with the other 12 people staying at the hotel. They even splurged and brought us champagne (Andre Rosé and it was awful) but I know it’s the thought that counts.

Christmas Day was a repeat of the day before laying buy the pool and reading and relaxing. It was absolute perfection and made me so happy!

It was finally time to leave after 3 days in paradise but never fear, we are off to experience another island for another 3 days!

The Journey to Rosario Islands

There is only one way to get to Isla Grande from Cartagena and that is by boat! You can reach the island of Baru by bus but you would still have to take a boat to Isla Grande. We ventured down to the port to buy our ticket for 40,000 COP with a 15,500 COP park tax (total $18.77 USD). There are tons of people trying to sell you tickets on the street but official booths line the path and that is the best place to buy the ticket to ensure the best pricing. All the boats leave by 10:30am so get there early unless you want to pay for a private speed boat. Be warned, these rides are not for the faint of heart as they fly through the water and throw you around a bit. Anyhow, after being told our boat would leave around 8:30 or 9:00, we were finally packed onto and ready for our hour boat ride!

Our boat was driving a little funny and making some weird noises but I didn’t think anything of since this is what they do for a living daily. I was wrong! The engine was failing and we had to slowly make our way to a random island and disembark and wait for two other boats to come and get us. No one cared and we just laid under the cabanas and others splashed around in the ocean. There are worse places to be stuck.

Once we finally arrived to our hotel it was like arriving to paradise! They only have 8-10 rooms (can’t quite figure it out) and the room rate includes all meals! Many people make the trip for the day so from 10-3 the place is packed but other than that, it’s like a ghost town. Absolute perfection!

For the next three days I will be on this island relaxing and through Christmas Eve and Christmas.

Back to Colombia

First off, recovering from 16 hours of jet lag is no joke! I landed on Thursday morning and had to unpack and do laundry and repack to catch a flight on Saturday to LA and spend an early anniversary with my boyfriend! But you can’t keep me in the country for long when I have the travel bug and on Wednesday, I took off for Colombia still unsure of which time zone I was sleeping in!

I have only been to Bogota in Colombia so this time I am meeting a friend to celebrate the holidays and traveling to Cartagena, Rosario Islands, Medellin and Bogota. It all started with two days in Cartagena to try to normalize my sleep and acclimate to the blistering heat!

I was very lucky to land in Cartagena and have an early checkin to my hotel. I had almost no sleep on the overnight flight and was in need of a shower! I met up with my friend Lisa from Manchester who I met in Rome (this is why I travel) and grabbed a bite to eat and headed back to the room to take a nap. My nap turned into almost 10 hours of sleep where I then was awake from 11pm-5am to wake up again around 8:30am. Once again, lovely jet lag.

Attempting to see a bit more of Cartagena than the inside of my hotel room, we decided to explore the inside of the walled city. Finally, I started to feel like I was in Colombia! We have 4 days in Cartagena over the new year so there will be a lot more in depth exploring, but it was nice to get a feel for the city before our next adventure!

My Last Day in Hong Kong

There are many destinations you can reach by ferry from Hong Kong and have a mini adventure. We decided to head to Tai O and explore this itty bitty little village.

We took the ferry for just 15 HKD (about $1.87 USD) because we were on the slow ferry that takes 50 minutes. There is a fast ferry that gets you there in 30 minutes but we weren’t on that time schedule and just took the first available ferry.

Once we got off the ferry we took the bus for another hour ride and finally we were in Tai O. Tai O is mainly known as the place to see pink dolphins! Yes pink dolphins are a thing! We jumped on a tiny little boat and set off on a tour of the village and then out to sea to try to spot a dolphin. Of course we didn’t see one!

After our little boat adventure, we wandered the streets of the village. There was tons of dried fish, fish balls, squid, and lots of other food to buy!

After the journey back to Hong Kong in reverse, we had time for a quick stop for a last glass of wine at Slim’s before heading to dinner with Leslie’s dad at Peking Garden for some peking duck. It was the perfect way to end the trip!

Some Down Time in Hong Kong

It was time for me to adventure out in my own since Leslie had to go to work. I decided to take the day and head to Kowloon and conquer the Ladies Market. I had a friend that requested a few items and I took my negotiation skills and pictures to the market to find some purses and belts!

The market was not nearly as overwhelming as Beijing or Shanghai but walking through the streets, a constant comment of “copy bag or copy sunglasses” was whispered under hushed breath breath. I was looking at some sunglasses just because I thought they were cute and the guy asked to see my Jimmy Choos I was wearing and told me he had a copy. I pointed and said “these are real” and walked away.

Having had my adventure and also just wandering the streets, I relaxed a little bit back at the house before heading to dinner at Oola Petite. This is another local spot for Leslie and we opted to order some fajitas. With all the various cuisines I was consuming, why not throw some Mexican in there?

The next day Leslie had to work again and I was just plain old tired. I took the day to Netflix and chill. When Leslie got off work, we went to dinner for bottomless sushi! It would seem my last few days were focused on food which is absolutely okay with me!

Shopping Alert

I have USAA for my bank account and they are usually absolutely fantastic! ATM fees are waived and I have never had any issues getting out cash. That all changed when I attempted to get out some money for the rest of my trip. I tried 5 different ATMs and they all failed! I googled USAA in Hong Kong and apparently this is a huge problem and the card can’t be read. I wish I knew this BEFORE I left. After a very frustrating conversation with USAA they finally suggested I find a Citibank and thankfully, that worked! From here on out, I will make sure to always have some cash on me to at least exchange at a currency place.

After that little adventure, we headed towards the bus to head to Stanley Market but of course we hit up a few random stores to browse in along the way. I picked up two necklaces since they are small and easy to pack.

The bus was only 7.90 HKD which is about $1 USD. We browsed through the market and stumbled out onto a Christmas Market. There was mulled wine, wine tasting, food tasting and so many cute Christmas trinkets! It made me feel like I was in the holiday spirit. On our way home we stopped at the grocery store so I could make a home cooked meal and just relax.

First Full Day in Hong Kong

Once again, hanging out with a local means some days are just another day to hang out and enjoy each other’s company. Leslie took me to Wan Chai Market which is full of street vendors selling everything from turtles to cell phone cases and everything in between. I found a super cute pair of shoes but my big feet are not made for shoe sizes here. ☹️

Salted egg. I was not brave enough to try it.

Our main goal for the day was to have some dim sum at Dim Sum Square and get manicures and pedicures. Mission accomplished! It was nice to get off my feet and relax.

Since it was a Saturday night, I had to experience the craziness of Lan Kwai Fong and Rat Alley. This is a crazy part of Hong Kong full of bars and restaurants with people spilling out onto the streets everywhere. We were there during the earlier part of the night so we didn’t see anything crazy but apparently as the night goes on, fights break out and people get sick on the street. Just another night out right? We went out for some Thai food and then headed next door to have a few drinks and catch up.


To end the night, we went to the rooftop of Ce La Vie to see a nighttime view of the city. From here you can see the tallest building in Hong Kong and Kowloon. It was the perfect way to end the night!

Taipa Village

Just behind the glitz and glamour of the Cotai Strip is a tiny little town called Taipa Village. Macau was a former Portuguese colony and returned to China in 1999 making it a melting pot of food influenced by both cultures. Taipa Village is the perfect little area to get a taste of the history of Macau.

We went off in search of some typical Macanese food after crossing the street from the hotel. We ordered some chorizo, sautéed veggies, Portuguese fried rice and what we thought was baked chicken. What came out was a pastry stuffed with potatoes and bacon. Even though I’m with a friend who can speak Cantonese and Mandarin, the language barrier can still be an issue. At least we tried.

When you look up the top things to do in Taipa Village, the tope rated suggestions are restaurants to eat at.  Without much of a plan we wandered the streets to see what we would find. I was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon the market center full of bustling stalls and endless shopping. I like to think I’m pretty adventurous when it comes to food but I draw the line at most dried fish, shark fin or turtle soup and other things I can’t seem to figure out. However, it’s fun to browse and see what is available.

I had read about this place called Guava Juice and figured if we came across it I would see what it was all about. As we stumbled through the streets it popped up in front of us and I ordered myself a guava and passion fruit juice. It was AMAZING!

Finally it was time to head back to the hotel to head back to Hong Kong. On the way this little shutter caught my eye and reminded me of the colors and shutters I saw throughout parts of Europe and South America. There really is a little bit of different cultural’s influence all over the world.

Not yet having spent a single night in Hong Kong, I was excited to leave Macau and experience Hong Kong from a local’s point of view. As we were leaving Macau, flying fish jumped all around the ferry leaving a smile on my face!

Once I was settled into my friend’s place we walked down the block to Slim’s for a little happy hour where a French Rosé is only $5.75 and the peanuts are free flowing with the shells ending on the ground. A quick bite to eat and it was time for bed.

I’m in Vegas…I Mean Macau

After a glorious night of sleep (10pm-11am) I felt like I was ready to take over the world! Let’s be honest, I was still feeling jet lagged and could probably have slept for another day. Leslie and I got our day started and headed to lunch at Festiva in the adjacent hotel. This was no ordinary lunch! This was a Vegas style buffet with a bottle of Portuguese wine for less than $10! (The wine was less than $10, not the buffet).

After a glorious 2 hour lunch, we moseyed our way back to our room to get ready for an evening on the Cotai Strip!

With the promise of unlimited fun we took a transfer to the Studio City Hotel. Whenever you ask the concierge or front desk how to get somewhere, they think anything 15 minutes or longer is just too far to walk and always suggest a free shuttle. Anyhow, Studio City is the end of the strip so we could wander our way towards the show at the other end and take in everything Macau had to offer!

A mini Eiffel Tower at the Parisian

Cotai Strip is a mini Vegas and continuing to grow. The difference is there is no smoking in the casino and everyone is drinking tea instead of alcohol.

Leslie treated me to see The House of Dancing Water which is a spectacular acrobatic water show created by Franco Dragone who also created quite a few Cirque du Soleil shows. The show does not allowed photography but is full of fun acrobatics and a great story line and we were in the splash zone in the 4th row!

We grabbed a quick bite at Tastes of Asia and headed back to the hotel for a good night of sleep!

It Seemed Like a Good Idea…

I was heading to Maui and looked at a map and thought to myself, Maui is on the way to Asia, let’s find some good airfare. Good airfare was found but the route was out of hand! Note to self, check the route prior to purchasing the ticket.

After a glorious 8 days in Maui I jumped on a flight to Hong Kong, via Los Angeles. You read that right. I had to fly back to mainland US to just turn around and fly for 15 hours to Hong Kong! After about 28 hours of total travel time from leaving the hotel to landing, I finally made it! A smart person would have decided to look at a flight from Maui to Oahu and then to Hong Kong. Lesson learned…

Luckily my friend from college lives in Hong Kong and picked me up to the airport and swooped me off to her place where I quickly unpacked, brushed my teeth and showered. What’s the best way to best jet lag? Stay awake! Off to dim sum we went! Having a local to find a place and also order made everything incredibly easy!

One would think after such a long day of travel I would just hunker down and go to sleep. Not this girl! We jumped on a ferry to head on a mini vacation to Macau. The ferry is only an hour ride from Hong Kong and it is the perfect mini vacation! Don’t forget your passport because it is needed to go through immigration.

Macau is like a mini Las Vegas but we treated it as a place for culinary indulgence and time to see a show. We checked into the Broadway Hotel and wandered the streets in search of food. We ended up at a cute outside dining area in food alley for some hot pot which is always a winner. There ended up being a little mini Christmas parade that went past our table which provided a little live entertainment.

With food in the tummies and the jet lag really kicking it, it was time to go to bed. I made it until about 10pm but as soon as my head hit the pillow, I was out! I didn’t even say goodnight to my friend! There is always tomorrow…