Saturday, March 12, 2016

Europe Calls, and I'm Answering

This will be a short post, but I'm returning to Europe for Spring Break! This will probably be my only international trip for at least a year, so I'm really stoked. I'll be visiting Brussels, Bruges, Stockholm, and finally home sweet home - Lund! It still feels like just yesterday that I was walking down the snow-covered cobblestones, on my way to Lund Centralen for the last time. More blog posts to come after my trip!

Friday, October 16, 2015

20 for my 20's


People in their 20's are invincible - or at least they'd like to think so. While I realize that immortality is a bit out of my reach, I have some grand dreams that I would like to fulfill in this next decade. As summer fades into fall (eventually...one of these days), I put these dreams in a bottle and put that figurative bottle on display here as a reminder, for myself and hopefully others, to never settle for a mundane life - whatever that may mean.
  1. Go on an adventure. Pick a starting point and just go where my feet lead me.
  2. Take a gap year to pursue a passion project while traveling.
  3. Backpack Southeast Asia (top three: Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia).
  4. Make beer. Or moonshine.
  5. Go to the theater and watch a movie in a completely foreign language (no subtitles).
  6. Get drunk in a really bizarre setting with friends.
  7. Unexpectedly run into an old friend in some corner of the world.
  8. Make a special dish that people really like.
  9. Have a conversation in Swedish.
  10. See the Northern Lights.
  11. Go to Stockholm. I really mean it this time. 
  12. Be able to read and write Chinese.
  13. Visit my students from AID Summer 2012 (teach English program) in Taiwan . 
  14. Master one more foreign language.
  15. Host travelers from Couchsurfing.
  16. Become a Burner (Burning Man 2016??).
  17. Rave around the world, then go to Tomorrowland, where the world comes together to rave.
  18. Find my travel soulmate. Bonus points if they're my rave & dance soulmate. 
  19. Learn something from each place that I travel to and retain that knowledge. 
  20. Live in the moment, but find meaning in that moment. Be content, if only temporarily. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Under the Eternal LA Sunshine (Pt. I)

A summer exploration of my home city - 2/3 of which I have never seen. Here's to the place that Dorothy Parker described as "72 suburbs in search of a city."


A fews weeks ago, I discovered that the Metro Gold Line, in fact, did not end at Union Station. The other half circles through East LA, an area that I had never seen before. The first stop is Mariachi Plaza in the historic area of Boyle Heights. Here, groups of mariachi players gathered for years to advertise their art and bargain for performance opportunities. As in many parts of LA, gentrification is a real concern for many residents.


By crossing a bridge, we found ourselves in the LA Arts District, a medley of artisan shops and restaurants meshed with apartments housing the artists themselves.



As the once-capital of street art, there were murals to be found on every available wall space.




Looking for a hipster California fresh place for lunch? Try Eat. Drink. Americano.


Next up...exploring the heart of downtown LA.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The German Christmas Market Crawl

Germany, germany. One of, if not the best, economy in the EU. Really safe place. Nice. But it just didn't strike the right chord in me and I'm sorry to say I didn't find this trip particularly memorable.

But what did I like about Germany this time of year? CHRISTMAS MARKETS aka the most magical places on Earth for feeling warm, cozy...and spending more money than you intended. I couldn't believe that even tiny little Cologne had FIFTEEN christmas markets? What??? I literally stumbled on a new market every few blocks. So without further ado, feel free to vicariously experience the pure holiday spirit of German Christmas Markets.

P.S. Merry Christmas, a half-year too late.

 Hamburg train station welcomes 
visitors with Christmas lights!

 Drinking hot wine by the lake

 Winter Pride market

Winter Wonderland in Cologne

 Cuz you're a sky full of stars...

This one is in Bonn,
Beethoven's hometown 

 Munich's medieval market


 Peeking into Marienplatz,
the heart of Munich 

Just walking through the park and
I stumble on another market!

Tollwood, an animal/human rights
conscious christmas market (I think they
can make a market out of anything...)

Friday, March 6, 2015

My 25 Must Visit Cities

Got wanderlust? Even though I'm an absolute sucker for articles listing top (insert arbitrary number here) most beautiful/ must visit cities on Earth, I always wonder if the author has actually been to these places or if they just paraphrased some lines from a guidebook. So I thought - why not generate my own list based on personal travel experiences? 

I tried to select photos of locations which I believe hold some character of the city, so they might be a little different from the usual Buzzfeed travel photos. Also, with the exception of some US cities, all these pictures were taken by myself with a point and shoot camera. I'm no photographer, but I think this is a testament to the timeless beauty of these cities. 

So here I present: my totally biased, completely honest, and 100% sponsor-free list of the world's must-visit cities. 

Europe

1. Prague, Czech Republic

2. Budapest, Hungary

3. Vilnius, Lithuania

4. Riga, Latvia

5. Tallinn, Estonia

6. Rome, Italy

7. Lisbon, Portugal

8. Sintra, Portugal

9. Seville, Spain

10. Cordoba, Spain


11. Granada, Spain

12. Gdansk, Poland

13. Torun, Poland

14. Krakow, Poland

15. Berlin, Germany

16. Copenhagen, Denmark


17. Barcelona, Spain


18. Ibiza, Spain

19. Malmo, Sweden


Asia

20. Taipei, Taiwan


United States

21. Los Angeles, California

22. San Francisco, California


23. San Diego, California

24. Las Vegas, Nevada

25. Washington D.C.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Being Back

I thought that the first few weeks would hit me the hardest, like withdrawal from a drug or waking up from the perfect dream. Instead, I felt absolutely great being back home in California. It's bright and sunny every day, my university campus is stunningly beautiful, and I quickly fell back into the rhythm of school life and extracurricular activities. I think in keeping busy, it kept my mind off thoughts about my life in Europe. I didn't long for the road - I was content being home.

Then, it slowly creeped into my everyday thoughts. A flash of memory here, whiff of familiar scent there. Dancing through throbs of people on the streets of Bairro Alto in Lisbon, where the streets become the party. Stepping off the plane in Copenhagen and seeing a white wonderland for the first time. And the people I knew - I can still picture their faces in my mind even though faces are the hardest to remember. The way he'd crinkle his face after taking a shot of tequila. The way she'd smile and shake her head at my crazy dancing. Just brief moments of unexpected flashbacks.

It was not immediately obvious to me that I would miss Sweden and my time abroad. It almost seems like a distant memory compared to the immediacy of the here and now. People post oversaturated photos with captions like "I left my heart in ____," and I laughed at the corniness of those quotes. But the truth is, part of me still lives in my memories of Sweden and Europe and will never quite escape into the present day. It's nostalgia, it's the saudade my Portuguese tour guide so aptly described - a deep and profound longing for someone or something which can never be regained.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Through the Baltic States (...where's that?)


Had you asked me this question 6 months ago, I would have been at a loss. But honestly speaking, the three Baltic countries (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia) are hidden gems of Europe and well worth a visit! Each capital, a mere 4-5 hours apart, holds a unique culture and history.
(Side note: I put all the places I recommend in bold letters, in case you want to visit them too!).

St. Anne's church, Vilnius

After a LONG bus trip from Krakow to Warsaw to Vilnius, I excitedly hopped off the bus to explore the capital of Lithuania. A thick morning fog hung over the city, making the atmosphere seem a little dark and uncertain. I was really relieved when I navigated to my host's home, even though it was only 10 minutes from the station. As I watched the sun rise from his apartment window, I gradually saw the skyline of a really beautiful and majestic (though small) city.


I meant to take a little nap before going out, but I ended up waking an hour late for the city walking tour! Actually, I thought I was right on time but I had no idea that I crossed over one time zone and an hour (?) ahead. Fortunately for me, I caught the tail end of the tour just as they crossed the main square and sprinted after them. The guide took us to the independent artists' republic of Uzupis. This "country" actually has its own constitution and national holiday (April 1st)! Vilnius is sort of known as the eccentric sibling of the Baltic States, but in the awesomest way.


Jesus, the world's first backpacker

I also loved the Literatai (literature) street, a collection of artwork depicting quotes and images of Lithuanian writers (or anyone connected to their country in any way).


I was soon joined by my travel friend, and we spent the rest of our time in Vilnius enjoying the view from atop the Gediminas' Tower, walking about the Old Town area, and...



... and drinking! We had to take advantage of the cheap prices before we got to Latvia & Estonia, since both use the Euro. Sorry future travelers, but Lithuania is also joining the Eurozone in 2015 so we were lucky.

į sveikatą from Snekutis Bar!

Bidding farewell to Vilnius, we set off for the largest of the Baltic capitals - Riga, Latvia! Riga definitely was a big change from Vilnius. The whole area felt busier, more people and sound and presence. I especially loved the architecture in Riga! One street in particular, Elizabetes Iela, is an ornate masterpiece of Art Noveau design.



Love the design of House of Blackheads

Outside of sightseeing and nightlife (we did spend Halloween in Riga, after all), there was not much else we saw in our brief 1.5 days there. However, I will never forget how happy I was to find this LIFESAVER of a buffet. Lido is a chain restaurant that serves traditional Latvian food in a self-serve style, so you pay for as much as you eat. Delicious food, good prices, and charming decor! A+



Our last stop, and sadly the shortest, was Tallinn, the charming capital of Estonia. Out of the three Baltics, I liked Tallinn's Old Town the most. However, the weather did not reciprocate my feelings because as soon as we stepped into the city, it started POURING. I've never seen it rain so hard in my life! By the time we sloshed our way to the Tallinn city museum, we were soaked from head to toe.



The city museum was really great (especially since I've grown a little tired of city museums), and featured interactive and detailed exhibitions of the city's history. Another place I highly recommend! To dry off even more, we went to this chill restaurant called Must Puudel. The decor was a little tongue-in-cheek throwback to Communist times, with an artistic twist. I ordered a delicious beet soup - sounds strange but it's perfectly sweet and salty (and warm!).




It was completely dark outside by the time we finished eating, but we wanted to see more! Tallinn is the perfect place to wander about and get lost, with it's winding cobblestone streets and little shops.



We also stumbled upon the Luscher & Matiesen Wine Museum, a wine cellar + exhibition room that provided the perfect hideout from the cold. I think they usually charge admission, but the guy just waved us in (maybe we looked really sad and cold). There was nobody inside, so we just took a bunch of pictures and even sampled some glögi (mulled wine). 


Our wandering soon came to an end, and we faced a looong night ahead of flying, overnight layovers, and running out of money (me). I actually was alone and stuck in the Copenhagen airport, just 10 krona short of buying my train ticket to Lund because the currency exchange screwed me over. That situation sucked, to say the least, but I was so incredibly thankful when one man gave me his leftover change and sent me on my way. I have never been so glad to fall in my bed and sleep soundly, knowing I finally made it back home.