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I’m Back!

28 Sep

Greetings! It’s certainly been awhile!

It looks like my last post was Jan 2 and now it’s Sept 28 so that will make a whopping 2 posts for the year. Clearly I’m very dedicated to this blogging stuff. Anyways, I’m hoping to get better at that since there have been lots of new exciting changes going on in my life right now. Here’s the quick run down.

I went to Hong Kong which was amazing. The food was so good and the shopping was even better. Lots of cool cultural sites to see as well. I miss the efficiency of their MTR already.

I got a new job in the summer! I’ve been there 4 mo. now so I’m not as new (but really everything still feels new). This jobĀ feels like a new adventure and promotion all in one so I feel very happy career-wise right now.

Another fun thing, I got to see 2 new US cities: New York and Chicago. Both had amazing architecture and great food.

The summer weather has been AMAZING! I’ve felt really lucky to spend so much time in the sunshine. Even in late Sept, it’s still warm enough to wear shorts. So awesome.

Two new trips are in the works šŸ™‚

I’ve also been trying to exercise more, read more, and save more money. I’ll try to post book reviews soon! The exercise portion of this goal needs some serious work before a real update.

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What I Learned on My Japan Vacation :)

4 Jun

ImageI’m back from Japan! Actually I got back a couple weeks ago, but I’m back in the blogging spirit.

My recent trip to Japan was simply amazing and further reinforces my view that if you want to go somewhere and can afford it, just do it! In years past I was always nervous about going back to Japan due to cost, possible language barriers, and worries about getting around. Turns out I was wrong on all counts! It was particularly special getting to take my husband to Japan and show him some of my favorite things from my first trip some 10+ years ago. Some things I learned on this trip:

  • Japan isn’t as expensive as people make it out to be. Food in particular was very reasonable, even in the heart of Tokyo. We only spent maybe $3-$6 each on meals generally. One of our ‘expensive’ meals was $9. It’s not 5 star dining, but it was always delicious and gave the chance to eat a lot of delicious Japanese food. Udon, ramen, and gyudon spots were generally our favorites.
  • Some things are expensive….like Starbucks (400+ yen). Why not enjoy a 144 yen 7-11 coffee instead? Coffee also tastes sweeter in Japan.
  • The train and subway system is not as daunting as it seems. All the signage is in English which helps, but not all announcements are made in English so you still need to pay attention. The subway line which we were closest to (Marunouchi) was a great starting point for exploration. If you’re at a hotel that has wifi, bring an iPad or other hand device to map out which lines to take for where you want to go. This was extremely helpful and saved a lot of planning time.
  • Don’t buy the spendy JR Rail pass unless you’re going to use it (like going to Kyoto from Tokyo). We didn’t buy one and mostly walked places or spent $1.60-$2.20 each time for the subway or train. We still spent way less than the rail pass would have cost.
  • Tokyo is huge! You probably already know this but if you really want to explore Tokyo give yourself a few days. It’s much more similar to a state than a city. Every area is different and has its own special attractions. Shinjuku, Ueno, and Akihabara were our favorite areas.
  • If you like shopping, save room in your luggage or pack extra luggage. We found so many great things and great deals we ended up having to buy bags to pack home all the gifts and souvenirs. If you like Hello Kitty, video games, anime, electronics, or Japanese things in general your head might explode from the vast amount of stuff to buy. The elaborately boxed candies and sweets are particularly nice to get as gifts and will take up space.
  • One of the easiest ways to get from Narita Airport to downtown Tokyo is the Airport Limousine Bus (don’t let the name fool you, it’s just a bus). It’s $30 per person, but definitely worth the 90 min trip. No dealing with luggage at the train station! The extra bonus? They accept credit cards!!!
  • Bring cash if you can get a good exchange rate or use the 7-11 ATM machines (I’ll save the full awesomeness of Japanese 7-11s for another post). Credit cards are accepted at very few places. Japan runs almost exclusively on cash so be prepared!
  • Lastly, if you have time learn some Japanese, it will help a lot. Not everyone in Tokyo speaks English (contrary to what friends/ websites/ etc.. will tell you). I am 100% sure you will use it! If you can memorize hiragana/katakana that’s even better! One of my favorite parts of Japan was getting to use the Japanese I learned in college. I feel even more inspired to keep up with it.

I hope these ‘learnings’ can help anyone who is interested in visiting Japan. I’ll be sure to add other Japan posts in the coming weeks!

Stunning Singapore

11 Nov

Image

As promised, I wanted to recount the other part of my big trip: Singapore!

Singapore is definitely one of the most modern cities I’ve ever been to. There’sĀ amazing architechture and art at every turn. The cleanliness and effciency reminded me a lot of Japan when I was there in 2000. Here are are my top Singapore highlights:

Gardens by the Bay:Ā ItĀ houses two biodomes, one with flowers (Flower Dome), the other with an indoor waterfall and rain forest plants (Cloud Dome). There’s also the Supertree Grove (pictured) with beautiful ‘super’ tree sculpturesĀ that suspend a walking bridge. You can walk around in the trees! Definitely a must see if you are in Singapore.

The Singapore Flyer: This is the world’sĀ largestĀ observation wheel, holding multi-person carriagesĀ that gives you a bird’s eye view of all the main Singapore sights. It was a little pricey at around $20 per person, but still worth it. We did this first and it gave us a great perspective of where everything was in the city. Be sure to go on a clear day!

Asian Civilizations Museum: If you like historicalĀ museums, this is a good ones. There are pieces from China, India, Thailand, Malaysia,Ā Vietnam, and beyond. My favorites exhibits wereĀ temple carvings, calligraphy, and precious jewelery.

We were only in Singapore for three days and unfortunately didn’t get to see everything we wanted too, but we did see a lot. Next time, we’ll check out the zoo, Marina Bay Sands, and maybe even some of the theme parks. If you ever have the chance, I highly recommend a trip to Singapore, especially if you’re in the area. From Malaysia, the airfare was less than $100 USD.

Happy traveling šŸ™‚

Amazing Malaysia!

24 Oct

 

I finally got to visit one of my dream countries, Malaysia. I went to Singapore too, but I’ll save that for another post. Malaysia was just amazing! For our 10 days there, we were able to do andĀ  see a lot. We visited quite a few different cities including KL, Penang, Ipoh, and more! The weather was pretty darn good, in the mid 80s with lots of humidity. I loved the extra hair volume!! šŸ˜‰ It did rain 2 days of our stay, but that was fun too. I like seeing all types of weather.

Highlights:

The food: In Malaysia food is inexpensive and good. You can get a great plate of food for anywhere from $1.50-$4 USD. Roti canai is my personal favorite and I got to try it at many different shops and stands. The good news is I only gained 2 lbs after eating non-stop.

Batu Caves: The caves are amazing and filled with monkeys! The Lord Murugan statue is quite epic in scale. So scenic and definitely worth the visit. I got to drink coconut water straight from the coconut which was a first.

KL Bird Park: Just plain fun if you like birds. You can hand feed many of the birds and there’s a lot of great photo opportunities. The bird show was pretty cute and funny as some of the birds couldn’t quite do their tricks right.

Aquarium at KLCC: It has the aquarium style tunnel tube where you can have sharks and manta rays swim over you, wow! I also saw a piranha feeding which was pretty amazing.

Shopping! (which is everywhere): I didn’t buy much at all, but it was so fun looking through some of the malls which make my local malls look teeny. Designer items are crazy expensive compared to US prices.

Penang beaches: I loved swimming in the warm ocean and soaking up the sun. Beautiful and relaxing.

 

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