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[Epic Travel ] – New York, New York!

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Well, first of all, apologies for the missed posts in uncountable weeks. I’ve been sick, and also stressed with work lately (office drama is never fun). Now that’s out of the way, on to the blog at hand.

New York has always been on my bucket list, this past Christmas I finally got to go! I had made a friend from New Jersey while teaching in Korea, so this time I went to visit her. Her and her sister were kind enough to give me a place to sleep, and take me around this giant city. I didn’t actually get to do all of the things I wanted to do, but that just means another visit needs to be planned! My flight was a red eye from YVR straight to JFK, it was with Cathay Pacific that was originating from Hong Kong, with a lay over at Vancouver. Plane ticket was super cheap, at  just a little over $500. I didn’t have to worry about accommodations, and ended up not spending much on this trip.

My first day in the East Coast was a bit of a disaster, I  wasn’t able to sleep much on the plane, possibly due to the excitement of finally being able to see New York, normally I just pass out on the plane no problems. I arrived at 6am NY time, and after breakfast, it was straight to an outlet mall in New Jersey, where I didn’t have much energy to do a lot of shopping. I bought a pair of yoga pants. We were all really tired after that, and decided to go back to the sister’s apartment and just crash for a bit.

Since I found out that New Jersey had a Paris Baguette, I had been itching to go. This was one of my favourite bakery when I was in Korea. When we walked in, it looked exactly like all the ones I’ve been to in Korea, all those memories came flooding back.. Sometimes I do indeed miss the days in Korea. IMG_20131226_231859

Day 2 was far more eventful. We took a ghetto bus into New York, and went on a boat to see the Statue of Liberty. We didn’t bother taking the boat that would have dropped us off at the island, instead the boat looped around Hudson River, and I snapped pictures of the iconic statue, as well as other building. I nearly froze my face off, it was so cold.
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And of course, one cannot leave New York without trying a real New Yorker hot dog!IMAG0172

 After the dog, we headed south bound towards Philly, because apparently there are some amazing Philly cheesesteak that I must try out. We arrived pretty late, at the Fat Zone (because Dieting is Un-American! LOL it’s in the fine print)
IMAG0182 IMAG0187After we got our tummies full of steak and cheese, we moved further south, to Alantic City, the poor man’s Vegas. I must say, after Vegas, Alantic City just seems like a dump.
IMG_20131228_010349We stayed a night at Alantic City and drove back to New Jersey in the morning. Then is was a day spend in New York.

We, again got on the ghetto bus and headed into the city. The sister’s boyfriend, who actually knew his way around the subway system took us riding on the subway! How exciting! NEW YORK SUBWAY!
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Out first stop was the Guggenheim Museum. After we got off the subway, we had to make our way there through Central Park.

These buildings look exactly like those on Law and Order: SVU!! I’ve always loved the looks of these buildings.
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The view in Central Park was surreal.
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After 20mins of walking or so, we arrived at the Guggenheim. I for one wasn’t exactly big on the art display, but the building itself. Those that don’t know, the Guggenheim was designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the building is cylindrical, with one single ramp that looped the entire building from the bottom to the top, it was just breath taking.
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The view from the bottom, the glass ceiling made it even better.
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After an hour of walking around in the Guggenheim, we heading towards The MET. I couldn’t believe how big it is. We spent nearly 4 hours in that building, and still didn’t see everything. IMG_20131229_035804

After the MET closed, we were kicked out, and headed to Rockerfeller Centre. You may wonder what’s a picture of the Empire State Building doing on Rockerfeller’s picture collage, because it was taken at the Top of the Rock (top of the Rockerfeller Centre). IMG_20131229_040000When we got to the Rock there were a million and one people lined up waiting to skate on the little patch of ice rink, and more people trying to take a picture with the Christmas tree. To be honest, I thought both the ice rink and the tree were overrated, mostly due to movies and TV shows. The tree wasn’t that big, and the ice rink was dinky, my local ice rink at home is bigger than that, and definitely not as expensive to skate on. We went straight to the top of the building, and that’s the New York I wanted to see. For whatever reason I’ve always been intrigued by skylines, especially of cities like New York. I was glad we went at night, the view was pretty unreal. 

And lastly as any real tourist would do, we went to the Empire State Building. When we were going in, we were stopped by some scalpers. They were going to sell us tickets for $44 a piece! I couldn’t believe it!! Little did they know, I came pretty prepared, with a pre-purchased ticket. In the end, they told us to go in and get tickets from the real place, it was $27. Can’t really say you’ve experienced New York if you weren’t getting scammed right?
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On our way back to Time Square, to take the ghetto bus home, we passed by Lord & Taylor’s window display, and I had to take pictures. Too bad it was too late for the stores to be opened. We ended up getting home at nearly 4 am…it was a pretty insane day.  
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My last day in New York was pretty uneventful, the only note worthy place is this deli. It’s call Katz, and you can see how popular it is. It wasn’t a small place by any means, but there were more people than fire code would allow. We had to fight for our table! The boyfriend said he has been to the deli many times, but never seen it this full!
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I ordered a brisket on rye. holy was it good! and BIG! It was about $16, but will worth it. Their stake fries were also delicious!
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We wanted to get to the airport on time, so we left the city pretty early, we ended up getting there 2 hours before my flight. But with JFK, delays were the norm, I ended up waiting another 2 hours on top of that.

So ended my adventures in New York. Things I didn’t get to do, go to the Chelsea Market, Soho, Meat Packing, walk over the Brooklyn Bridge and watch a Broadway show. Next time, I am going to save up enough, so I can stay in the city. New York is definitely worth another visit.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2014 in Epic Travel, Out of the house

 

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[DIY] – Wedding Card

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Weddings, weddings weddings! Today’s blog is a bit different from previously. Don’t know if any of you have noticed, but I enjoy doing crafty things, including making things from polymer clay, painting, drawing…etc. So a close friend of mine is getting married, originally I was only going to buy a card, but any decent looking card is at least $5, and it’s really just a piece of cardboard with some imprinted silver writing. I thought I could do better, so I went home, and made this…it took longer than I had expected, but I think it turned out really well!

The background frame was something I already had in mine, and then I did some googling of  wedding cards, and I really liked the idea of having the groom and bride on the front of the card, so I went with that. I regretted not seeing my friend’s wedding dress, so that I could customise the dress…all well.

Anyways, here’s the first version of the card. I thought the dress was a bit plain, but I really liked the suit. I also found that the dress was a bit too puffed out, and I could see the inside from under the skirt, not exactly nice.

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I tried a couple of things with the dress. A deep pink flower, I felt that was too eye catching and made it a bit un-wedding like.
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The final version of the dress. I also pulled in the bottom and tucked it in a bit more. I thought the bow was really classy and made it look so much better.
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And the final version of the card.
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I really enjoy doing these kinds of things, hope you guys liked it too 🙂

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2014 in Randoms

 

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[Epic Travel] – Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto, Japan

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2012 saw me check off many of the cities on my bucket list. Most of the cities were located in the country of Japan. Kyoto being one of them. This is from one of my visits to Japan in 2012 sometime in October.

Many many years ago, I saw this Japanese drama that had the story set in Nara, Japan. It made me want to go to Nara, then I found out the place I saw in that drama was actually in Kyoto. Fushimi Inari Taisha was the temple I saw in that drama that made me want to go to Nara. This place was absolutely divine. So much so I actually went twice.

The temple is the head shrine for Inari. They worship the fox, who is seen as a messenger of the gods. And it is believed that the gods would bring good fortune for businesses and merchants. What caught me was the rows and rows of toriis. It was endless red, and so very beautiful.

Unlike most of the temples in Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Taisha did not charge you for going into their sacred grounds. (other places usually cost some where between 300 to 500 yen). And in order to pray to their gods, you must make appointments. I am not a religious person by any means, so I wasn’t really there for the praying.

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Even the train station was a bit old temple style. The ticket was 140 yen one way from Kyoto station to Inari station through the JR train, 1 stop. 

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The entrance shows a fox carrying a blade of rice grass (inari) in its mouth. And a HUGE torri right at the entrance. (you can see part of it on the left side of the picture)
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This is the washing station. At any Japanese shrine, there is always a washing station. This is for you to cleanse yourself before you enter the scared grounds of the gods.
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you cleanse yourself by using one of the ladles. Ladle a cup of water with your right hand, pour it over your left, repeat for your right hand. Then you ladle some water pour it into your cupped hand, and splash it on your cheeks. Or some people put it in their mouths, swish it around then spit it out (NOT into the pool of water, into the outer drain area). After that you may enter.

The shrine is located at the base of a mountain, and the torries actually follow a trail up the mountain. 
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So it was a pathway just lined with these torries. These torries were all donated by businesses, merchants, some were donated by family that wish to build one in honour of a dearly departed member. The size of the torries vary according to the amount of money one donates. It was so very amazing. The entire walk was so spiritual, you could breath in the mountain air, and feel the light breezes that bring the scents of grass and trees right under your nose. Hear the chirping of the birds and see the light shining through the torries ever so slightly…It’s hard to describe how amazing it was…It is currently my favourite place in Japan.

Here’s a very short video I took, because I wanted to experience and not be bothered by technology.

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2014 in Epic Travel, Out of the house

 

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[2014] – Happy New Year!

As that 3 turns into a 4, so begins another year of unknown adventures. Except, not really, because it’s too expensive to have adventures here in the great North America. The last few months of 2013 saw me cross off a couple more cities off my bucket list, but having been spoiled by Asia traveling, I forgot how expensive it is to be traveling in North America…

Well, I don’t mean to be a downer on new years, but I honestly really miss my life in Asia. I know now that I have a stable job and somewhat good income I should be happy with my life. But I can’t help but feel like I haven’t achieved anything in my 30.5 years of living. Passion is something I lack and still need to find.

My new year resolution? To find myself, to love myself, to enjoy the companionships of my friends & family, and lastly, to live life to the fullest.

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2014 in Randoms

 

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[Epic Travel] – Chayi, Taiwan

20130310_092941Hellos~I think this one post per week thing is getting too much for me to handle, with work now, I prefer to lay around and do nothing on my weekends LOL. I’ll be cutting down to 1 post per 2 weeks and see how that goes.

After my home town Kaohsiung, we headed northwards to my other home town Chayi. This is where my dad is from, and where I spend a lot of my childhood time at, because my grandma still lives here. Chayi is consider a small city, and fairly rural area, in Taiwan anyways. It’s not odd to see fields of rice paddies and farms. 20130310_102922Here is the view from the train.

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Our final destination was not the city of Chayi, but actually the famous Alisan Mountain within the city of Chayi. Obviously, a train would not be able to take us up the mountain. Our original plan was to take a bus, while waiting for the bus, a lady started to hound us about taking a taxi instead. This wasn’t like regular taxi, it’s more of a shuttle van (pictured above). A couple of ladies would walk around the train station and what not, and gather up people who are willing to hop on this ghetto shuttle van, and they fit as many people as they can, each paying a certain amount of money depending on the final destination, and they’ll drive people up the mountain and dropping them off. So we paid about $155NT each, which was about the same price as a bus ride would have cost us. But instead of a bus stop, we get to be dropped off at our hostel.
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Our hostel was about half way up the mountain, and it was cheap, very very cheap. It’s probably a better hostel for people that drives. It was about 1 km away from the closest convenient store.
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View from the hostel. The owner was kind enough to drop us off at the convenient store 1km away, as we were dead hungry after our journey. He told us we can either walk down or call him and have him pick us up. While on the way up, he pointed out some scenic spots that tourist buses would stop at and let passengers take pictures.
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We quickly found food at a restaurant. Chayi is actually famous for their shredded chicken/turkey on rice (火/雞肉飯), but we didn’t find any around this tiny little area, so we opted for fried pork chop on rice.

After getting food in our bellies, and buying stuff for the night from the convenient store, we decided to walk down to our hostel instead of calling the owner, because we wanted to see the scenic spots he pointed out. And just so you don’t think we were being wussy about walking the 1km, thinking there are side walks and all that. Nope.
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Yup! A narrow shoulder lane that we barely fit in, with cars and buses zooming by us. It was a pretty interesting experience. But the view made it worth while.
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Just Miles and Miles of tea fields. Breathing in the clean, crisp mountain air that is almost non-existent in Taiwan. It was just breath taking.

Oh! I forgot to mention Alisan is also famous for it’s tea. Our hostel is actually also a tea shop, and the owner has his own tea field. He told us if we wanted to buy tea the town we were in, Shizhuo (石棹), was the place to buy authentic Alisan tea. Otherwise they’d be selling you Vietnam tea at the price of Alisan tea, which costs about 3 times less.

Our adventure continues the next day, at 3 am in the morning. We asked the hostel owner what was the best way for us to go up to Alisan National Park. He asked us if we wanted to see the famous sun rise, we didn’t mind either way. He suggested another shuttle service that would pick us up at the hostel drove us up to see the sun rise, then down to Alisan National Park. Give us a tour of the park, then a tour of the town of Fenqihu. And at last drop us off at the train station. All for the low price of $1800 NT! What a deal! They even included a ticket for a lunch box at Fenchihu. So we decided to do it this way. We called the number the hostel owner gave us. and quickly arranged the trip. When the getto shuttle bus came to pick us up, there were already a few young people in the shuttle. I suppose that’s their way of making sure they make enough money. 20130311_043744 - Copy (2)

We first got dropped off at a shenmu (神木) or sacred tree. This one was about 2000 years old I believe…
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Then it was the big show! we were lucky enough to have a clear day and able to see the sun come out of the mountain. This is actually the 2nd time I’ve seen the sun rise from Alisan. First time I was very very little, so I don’t remember much. when we got up there, there were already a bunch of people and a bunch of abandoned cars and buses on the side of the road. A guy dressed in aboriginal clothing was standing on top of a step ladder announcing to people where to look, and what to expect.
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And here comes the sun!IMG_3006 - Copy IMG_3017 - Copy

I know for us Canadians, or even North Americans, this isn’t a rare sight, but for the people of Taiwan, where cities are mostly engulfed in pollution, and the people too busy to pay attention to nature, this is a rarity.
IMG_3021 - CopyOur next stop was this “Couple Tree”  When I asked the driver which one was the male, he said, “the one with the extra wood!” I laughed.
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On to our tour of Alisan National Park! Originally the tour guide was going to get us to take a shuttle bus, but we all thought we were going to be taking the famous Alisan train. So after everyone voted for the train, we headed to the train station instead. The tour guide told us to buy a ticket for the sacred tree, as the ticket is much prettier than if we had bought one for the actual stop we were going to. Look at that steam engine!

No doubt, we were pretty disappointed when we found out we weren’t taking the steam engine train. It only runs in certain months, when it’s high season. All well…

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Look at the crazy amount of tourists! And if you were wondering, yes they are pretty much all Mainland China people.
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Here’s a picture I took while we were on the train.
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Walking amongst these trees are what we call “Forest bath” (森林浴) to be bathed in nature. Then I got really annoyed, because tourists were smoking, they were chichatting non-stop, and I couldn’t enjoy nature as much as I would have liked.
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This is one of the oldest sacred trees in the park. I believe it’s 1800 or 1700 years old.
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Here taking a picture from the distance, because I didn’t feel like being squished by tourists is the “Cherry Blossom King” of the park. My friend and I chuckled, because we have bigger cherry blossoms than that on our residential streets back in Canada. But again, you have to think in the mindset of Taiwanese people. Trees are rare, cherry blossoms, that don’t do well in the subtropical temperatures of Taiwan , pretty much only exists on top of mountains.
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Here a tile mural of the famous scenes of Alisan. The steam train, the cherry blossom, the sun rise, the sacred trees…All of it was great, minus the loud disrespectful tourists. 20130311_112130After the tour of the park, we were dropped off at Fenchihu to explore on our own. It’s a tiny tiny area where little eateries and shops selling trinkets are set up through out the streets. It also contains one of the old train stations, that has since stopped running. Suppose they are renovating the train stations so that eventually trains can be connected to the Alisan trains, and people can just ride the train upwards to Alisan, instead of taking the ghetto shuttle bus. That was actually my original plan, until I found out they shut down the trains because of the renos.

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Here’s the lunch box that was included in our touring price.
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A display of the old trains.
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At at the end of the day, we were dropped off by the high speed train station in Chayi. Our next stop: Kenting.

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2013 in Epic Travel, Out of the house

 

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