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.

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.

Country Number 42…Portugal!

It seems that my last trip through Europe was repeating places I have already been to meet up with people or visit friends. This time is not too much different except I finally made it to a new country…PORTUGAL!

I did not do much research about where I was heading and was pleasantly surprised when I arrived in Lisbon. I walked through the city late at night to my hostel and immediately felt like I was in a great city and going to have a great time.

One of the best things about traveling is meeting new people and just wandering around discovering things. I met a girl at the hostel and she planned an outing for us to go to a rooftop bar for sunset. Before I knew it, there was a group of us from around the world enjoying drinks and getting to know each other with a beautiful view of Lisbon!

Part of learning about a culture is eating the local food. I went to a market that was full of multiple booths of tons of seafood and other cuisines. I started my evening off with some oysters and then moved on to some chicken curry with a glass of rosé. A few hours were spent enjoying a good meal and relaxing in this great environment.

The last day in Lisbon I took a ferry across the way and went to another little city called Costa de Caparica to hang at the beach and relax. As we were heading back we stopped at a local seafood place for some delicious mussels, crab and shrimp. The food was incredibly fresh and absolutely delicious!

Lisbon did not let me know and I am looking forward to exploring some more of the country in the next few days.

Something other than Quito

I had two nights to spend in Quito between Bogota and The Galapagos. Quito airport isn’t exactly near Quito (think about a 30-45 minute drive) and I had some friends that were renting a car and traveling to some other cities Ecuador has to offer so I decided to tag along with them. I stayed at a cute little place called Hostal El Parque and had my own room with a king bed for just $20USD/night!

I don’t think this is a legal plate

We took a day trip and went to Otavalo and Cotacachi which means as we were driving, we crossed the equator. I thought there would be a line down the middle of the road or something to show it, but it was just a sign. Anyhow, Otavalo is a cute town about 90 minutes from the airport with a HUGE market with tons of local handicrafts and food. I managed to escape with just a few bracelets and some delicious food and good times.

   Our next stop was to Cotacachi which is known as the leather village. I thought Florence had great leather but this place was fantastic! I wanted every purse and jacket and was drooling over some of the prices. Handcrafted leather coats for $150USD or less!!! I had to remind myself that I was I was backpacking and did not have the space or the need for a leather coat in my bag. I did splurge a little and bought a cute pair of leather shoes that were on super sale and I just couldn’t resist.

    We intended to head to Laguna Cuicocha but got a little distracted with shopping and missed the 5:00pm park closure. We drove to the gate and still managed to see some amazing views. The entire drive was full of gorgeous views of volcanoes and cascading landscape with a layer of fog that hovered at all the peaks. It was a beautiful day and a perfect way to not be in the city!

Tour de Provence

Mom and I started the day with a walk into St. Remy for the weekly market. We picked up some new scarves as well as some delicious strawberries, nuts and fresh baked bread for a little picnic lunch later in the day.

We were told to drive to a town called Les Baux de Provence and along the way there were some amazing Roman ruins called Glanum dating back to about 30BC. It was amazing to be driving and just have these pop up alongside you on the road. You can tell how large they are because I am standing in the archway.


We drove through Les Baux de Provence and took in the beauty, but there were a TON of tour buses and we did not want to deal with them. Peter wanted to go to Arles where Van Gogh was inspired to paint the Starry Night painting and apparently cut off his ear. This was another drive through town and there was not stop for us.

Next up was a stop at another little town called Eygalieres and along the way we ended up stopping at Abbaye de Montmajour. I still find it fascinating that there is so much history packed into such a little space.


As we were heading to Eygalieres we happen to see the tasting room for Domain de La Vallongue which has some delicious wines and of course we stopped to make a purchase. We drove around Eygalieres, but it was that odd between lunch and dinner time when everything seems to close.

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Once again, I was the trusty chauffeur for this half day adventure.


Finally it was time for dinner and we had to dine where the locals din.  We ended up at a great little place on the outer circle (makes sense once you are here) called Café de la Place. The food and wine was delicious and the atmosphere was just what you want to not seem like a tourist.

And where did we stay this entire time? The pictures cannot do justice to show how beautiful the Hotel Le Vallon de Valrugues really is. We have been staying in the Suite Prestige thanks to Seth with aXcess Travel who did some amazing work on getting us upgraded AND had breakfast for three included at an absolutely amazing rate!

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Pictured above: Private plunge pool and terrace. View of the outdoor pool from our terrace. Main open bedroom and dining room area. Terrace again. Second room with queen bed. Billiards lounge in the hotel.