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!

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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…

Maui!

Where does one start after 8 days in Maui? With a story I guess. A few years ago (20) I met some amazing girls in high school. 20 years later we are still friends and decided on a girls trip to Maui. A few years ago (3) I met this girl in Rome. We became friends and I decided to visit her in Maui before my girls trip. That is how I ended up in Maui for 8 days!

This will mostly be a picture diary of some amazing experiences because what better way to show off a beautiful place?? Landing in Maui I was scooped up from the airport and whisked off to a kegs and eggs house party. From there, Kimmy (my friend from Rome) took me on adventure after adventure after adventure! There is nothing like hanging with a local to really get to know a place.

The favorite local hangout is Down The Hatch where Monday is trivia night and every other night is just a night for some company and good drinks. If you win trivia night, you win lots of coupons towards food or drinks. Don’t try to beat Kimmy, she always wins. Aside from that, we ate breakfast at Longhi’s almost every morning, had happy hour at Spanky’s and had ocean front dining at Koa’s. The best part of being with a local is the 10% discount on basically everything!

It’s not all about the nightlife so off on a road trip we went. The idea was to end with snorkeling but the water was super choppy and murky which meant danger! Instead I was able to see the blow hole, walk through a rainforest, see some flamingos and penguins and have a drink in a cave. Not a bad way to spend the day when you can’t get in the water.

Still having not set foot in the ocean we were off on another adventure the next day on the Road to Hana. Well, the weather decided against that for us and we turned around and stopped at ho’okipa where I finally got to swim! The ocean was relentless and took me down and I have a bruise to show it! Regardless, I was happy to frolic around for a bit.

The next day my other friends were flying in and it was time to switch gears. We stayed at the Fairmont so I went from Lahaina to Wailea and from being a local to a tourist. One has to switch it up sometimes! The next few days were spent lounging by the pool chatting and giggling and going out to dinner. We had J Rosé and yummy blended drinks to keep us going! We went down the water slide and made new friends in the pool. We strolled the path past all the other hotels and enjoyed just hanging out. I even finally got in some snorkeling!

Sadly it was time to go home. The ladies went one way while I started off on another adventure.

Tigers and Deer and Safaris oh my!

A sunrise call time to jump on a safari was much easier to wake up for than I thought it would be! Everyone had said, don’t expect to see a tiger because it does not happen all the time. So, we loaded into our jeeps and were off on our morning safari to Ranthambore National Park.


Once again, I was with my fearless travel partners. The safari was VERY dusty so we had to keep our eyes, nose and mouth covered. I fashioned my scarf into some sort of head cover thing so I could keep uncovering my mouth to breathe!

The animals we saw were pretty amazing. Birds, deer, monkeys, wart hogs, antelope, some monkeys and some more monkeys! Alas, no tiger on this round but we were heading out again in the afternoon for another round of searching.

Finally at the end of the day as we were ready to call it a day, out she came! She just walked in front of all the trucks on the way back to her cubs like it was no big deal. I swear she knows what time the park closes and waits until then to make herself known! All I know is that we were very lucky to spot her as many people take this trip multiple times and never see a tiger!

The pictures were taken with my Iphone so you can gather how close she really was. She is a beautiful and beastly cat!

Driving From Agra to Ranthambhore

After the come down of excitement from seeing the Taj Mahal, I was completely happy and not expecting anything else from the trip and just going with the flow. We got on the bus for the 7 hour journey from Agra to Ranthambhore which I was not looking forward to as I had already finished the book I brought with me. I still travel with actual books because I love that you can just leave them anywhere with a little note and pass it on. The downside, books are heavy and I am limited in the amount I can carry.

A few minutes into the ride our tour guide tells us to always double check that our luggage makes it onto the bus because his was lost. We continue driving for a few minutes and he gets a call that his luggage has been found and someone would bring it to him. We pull over on the side of the road at a local morning market and we are able to get out and explore. Finally we were able to interact with some locals and see what India is really like instead of sitting in the comfort of our bus or hotel as part of a huge tour group.


The market is like a wholesale fruit and veggie market. The street vendors come here in the morning to buy what they need and then sell it at a small profit to everyone else.

The women of the household usually stay home and take care of the house including all the shopping. The vendors will go door to door and sell their produce and the women will yell what they need from their balcony or a window and then negotiate from there. Negotiating is a way of life and 100% expected! When the negotiation is complete, they will ask where their green chilis are? Apparently, those are expected to be thrown in for free! Once all is settled, the groceries are brought up and the vendors move on.

Back on the road again and our next stop was at Abhaneri, known as The ‘Eastern Gateway to Rajasthan’. Founded in 1733 AD, it was once an impregnable well-fortified city, carved out of the region formerly known as Mewat.

We walked around the amazing Chand Baori (Stepwell). Built back in the 10th century, the incredible well of Chand Baori was a practical solution to the water problem in the area. The arid climate forced the locals to dig deep for a dependable water source, one that would last throughout an entire year. The Chand Baori is 30m deep, has 13 floors and 3,500 steps. So many people would gather here to collect water, that any message that needed to be spread would be announced here. It was the perfect news forum!

Goats all over the road. Goats everywhere! I have never seen goats with long ears like this and I just thought they were the cutest things ever (aside from my little squirrels).

We arrived at our hotel and realized that our tour group was taking over the entire thing! The hotel had a dinner buffet ready to go when we arrived with absolutely amazing food! The call time to be ready for the morning was 5:30am so even though we spent most of the day on the bus, it was time for bed! I think it’s amazing how you can be exhausted from sitting on a bus, but I was.

I Finally Saw The Taj Mahal!

We were finally in Agra…the city where the Taj Mahal is located and the ultimate reason for my trip to India! The morning started off incredibly foggy so our tour guide decided we would go to the Agra Fort first and hope that the fog would clear in the afternoon.

There are monkeys all over the fort and they are not shy. I swear this monkey family sat and posed for all of the tourists hoping for a little treat. They got nothing from me except a smile and a clap and a thank you for allowing me to take their family portrait. You’re welcome monkeys!

Okay, so I will admit that I fed this guy in order to get him to pose for the picture. The first two were not very cooperative and climbed all over my body instead of eating nicely out of my hand. They are just so cute that I cannot handle it and I had to hold one!

I promise the pictures of the fort are coming but I love capturing the animals and the people I meet. The tours have quite a few people on them and as human nature would have it, there are only a few I got to know. One was Scott (pictured above) and his uncles. They turned out to be fantastic people and I spent quite a bit of time with them!

Inside the fort was full of beautiful marble. As in more marble than I think I have ever seen outside of the statue section of the Louvre! You can see the amazing marble archway that connects one room to another (and also my travel companions).
Kalindra and I had fun taking pictures in archways all over the place and this was like a changing of the guards or maharanis as I was joking. We each got our turn in the archway and graciously passed the torch to one another.

The Agra Fort is a vast fort which was the home of the Mughal Emperors and their many courtiers during Agra’s era as capital. Enjoying an important position on a bend of the Yamuna River, Emperor Akbar the Great initiated construction, building a vast sandstone fort. However, it was his grandson Shah Jahan, the creator of the Taj Mahal, who added to it and embellished it using the finest marble, intricate carvings and inlaid precious stones. This architectural largesse was not entirely appreciated by his son, Aurangzabad, who thought Shah Jahan was wasting the Empire’s fortune, thus deposing his father and keeping him under house arrest in a tower within the fort – his one consolation, a view of the Taj Mahal, home to his beloved late wife.

It was time for the ultimate of ulitmates…the Taj Mahal. This has been on my list of must see places for a while for reasons I was unclear about but felt the need to see it. This is considered one of the new seven wonders of the world and is now number 5 of 7 for me that I have seen! I still need Mexico and Jordan to complete the list to see Petra and Chichen Itza.

I will just let the pictures speak for themselves!

22,000 men and more than 1,000 elephants spent 22 years constructing this monument. It is the only monument that has two people buried in it because Mughal ruler Shah Jahan wanted to be buried with his wife after he died. This is an eternal symbol of love and inspiration with intricate mosaics, precious designs and perfect architectural symmetry as if they were poetry created by hand from prized marble. No pictures are allowed inside the mausoleum.

The Taj Mahal seems to float above the banks of the Yamuna River, and blends Persian, Indian and Islamic elements in perfect symmetry.

This was such a magical day and I was incredibly happy. We had quite a bit of free time to walk around and explore and at one point I just sat and stared at the magical building!

A Drive From Delhi to Agra

Jetlag is no joke! I woke up bright and early with energy to go to the gym and rocked a workout (I am not a morning person) before a 4-5 hour bus ride to Agra. The thing about these tours that I find pretty great is that you get to see so much in such a short amount of time which is truly an advantage of having the transportation and route already set for you.

First stop was to Humayun’s Tomb. It seems that most of the stops on this tour are tombs since the elaborate architecture is what I find so fascinating and apparently many other people.

An elaborate complex of tombs from the 16th century, set within beautiful gardens as the final resting place for Humayun, the second Mughal Emperor, and his family. Humayun’s garden tomb — India’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site — influenced the designers of the much more famous Taj Mahal.

The little blue things that you see around our necks are our listening devices. Basically, the tour guide could be almost anywhere on the site and speak about the history and we could roam around freely and take pictures and still listen. It may have looked a bit silly but it made the tour much more enjoyable.

I fell in love with these squirrels which at first I thought were chipmunks. You will see more of these coming as the trip continues.

As usual, it was back on the bus and on our way to another destination. Next up was a stop to visit Itmad-ud-Daulah, also known as the Baby Taj. Emperor Jahangir’s queen, Nurjahan, built this exquisite marble tomb in memory of her father, Mirza Ghias Beg from 1622-1628 A.D. The tomb’s elaborate carved white marble with inlaid semi-precious stones reflects major influences from the Persian Empire. Both historians and Agra locals believe this marvelously intricate stone inlay, called Pietra-Dura, also inspired the design of the famous Taj Mahal.

These kids were at the site and would call you over to take a picture and after you take the picture they would ask for money. Our tour guide said that we should not promote a society of begging and try not to hand out the money or offer it for things. To be fair, because of the financial crisis, I didn’t have money anyway!


The entire day, even with all the driving, was incredibly magical. It ended with our arrival to the Courtyard Marriott in Agra where there was a woman selling bangles and offering to do some Henna for about $2! I ended up getting this hand done and the next night my hand and a foot. There is a tradition to have this done the day before a wedding ceremony. My friend’s sister was getting married in Mumbai and so I felt like my henna was justified as more as just something that I find completely awesome.

We went to the bar in the hotel and the bartender had FANTASTIC english although he spoke so fast that sometimes it was hard to understand what he was saying. I learned about Old Monk rum and McDowells rum as well as the most crazy game called kabaddi. Think Red Rover meets Rugby meets capture the flag. I would suggest that you You Tube some of the matches and check out this sport. There is a 13.5 hour time difference from California to India and the jetlag was catching up and it was the perfect way to end the day!

A Quick Trip to India starting in New Delhi

I am not usually the type to go on tours since I like to take my time places and experience things on my own. But when a 12 day tour to India comes up for about $1000, you take the trip!

I have traveled with Worldspree before when I went to China and had an idea of what I was getting into, or so I thought. We received our flights about a week prior to departure and saw that we left on December 4th and arrived into India December 6th…you read that right, two days of traveling. We started our adventure Air China and we were off!!!! LAX-PEK (12hr 50min) and PEK-DEL (7hr 30min).

After landing and clearing customs and waiting for luggage for about 2 hours for 34 people, we made it to the Westin Gurgaon for a nap and breakfast and ready to start what was already day 3!

The day started with a drive taking us from one end of Delhi to the other. I cannot even begin to describe how many cars, scooters, cows, rikshaws and other things were on the road. What should have been a 5-6 lane freeway looked like it was 15-20 lanes.


All the trucks have writing on the back of them which in one way or another say honk, or merge or something indicating how you should use your horn. I am not sure what anything else says. The horn is a way of communicating move or I’m coming around the corner or get out of the way and used A LOT on the streets. To read a little more about Indian driving laws click here.

The first stop for us was at the Gandhi Smriti which is the site where Gandhi spent the last 144 days of his life and where he took his last steps and final breath. To be honest, I did not really know the entire story of Gandhi including his assassination. There is a type of serenity and peacefulness about this place that is very hard to explain. The energy is quiet and you can feel the warmth that was left by Gandhi.

As we were walking around the complex there was this beautiful World Peace Gong. It seemed like no one else was around and we had this complex to ourselves. Once again, absolute peacefulness.

Next up, we went to a mosque called Jama Masjid. Anyone is allowed into the Mosque and you must remove your shoes and if you are not covered enough, they provided gowns. Cameras were not allowed inside unless you paid a fee which I totally respected. This was the first day we were in India and the ATM at the airport was out of money due to the financial crisis and we were not prepared for how difficult it would be to get money…anywhere!

Next stop, a rikshaw ride through the old city. Only two people can go in together (two of us Americans that is) and since I was traveling with her friend and her mom, I partnered up with someone else in the group who ended up having a great new friend.

I wanted to stop at nearly every store that we drove by full of saris and jewelry and wedding dresses and just beautiful things. However, we were just there for a ride to get an experience of how a lot of the locals, including school children, travel around the city.

I was hoping to capture the craziness of the ride but I didn’t seem to film long enough. However, this is an idea of how bumpy the ride was and the entire time I was hoping to just not drop my phone.

 


As we were driving we passed many markets and with all of the traffic we were stuck in, I was able to capture a little snapshot of what life is like for the daily shopping.


The very last stop after an entirely too long of a day, was a stop at India Gate. By this point, we were totally exhausted and I don’t think we fully appreciated this area. This is a war memorial to 82,000 soldiers and is now a “gate” into New Delhi. Many people come here to pay their respect and visit this place.

What you see in these pictures is a combination of smog and fog. New Delhi has a SERIOUS air pollution problem. I was happy to only be here for a day in regards to air quality.

Overall, my first ACTUAL day in India was absolutely fantastic and a great way to get into seeing a little bit of what this country was about.