Monday, August 3, 2015

Summer Adventures in Asia: Meizhou + Guangzhou

The beginning of our adventures in Asia involved a very busy itinerary with lots of flights, bus rides, trains, and taxis with barely a chance to take a breather. Included in that busy itinerary was a trip to Meizhou and Guangzhou in China's Guangdong province, adjacent to Hong Kong.

Meizhou is a relatively small town so foreigners are rare. This was where my father-in-law grew up and a lot of extended family still live here. The people of Meizhou reminded me that I looked different than everyone else as they stared at me in what seemed to be confusion and/or amazement. It was actually funny because people would stand next to or in front of me like we were going to have a friendly conversation, and yet they would just stare. A young guy walked up to me and attempted to give me a flyer. When I responded in Mandarin that I didn't want the paper, he giggled and ran away (my husband got a kick out of that).

Guangzhou is the third biggest city in China with a population of over 8.5 million people. Foreigners were much more common here so I didn't feel like a reluctant celebrity. One of my favorite things about this city is that you could walk for miles and explore. There's so much culture to take in. I was also able to meet more family members on my husband's side of the family who lovingly showed us around.

Lots of walking and lots of eating - the only way to do overseas adventures :)

Photos: iPhone 5








Favorites:

- Dim Sum in Guangzhou: In college I would meet up with friends to have dim sum on the weekend (all of my favorite things always involve food!). Dim sum is like a Cantonese version of tapas and is often a great place for large groups to gather. There are many places in U.S. that serve dim sum.

- Guangzhou Pearl River Cruise: Not a cruise in the way we think of cruises here in America, but this was more of a 2 hour ride on the river at night and included a dinner buffet. This was a great way to relax and see the night lights of the city after a hot and humid day of walking.

When you travel, do you prefer to have a packed itinerary or leave it wide open for unexpected adventures?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Summer Adventures in Asia: Beijing

For part of our adventures in Asia, we stayed in Beijing for 3 full days. My first visit to Beijing was in 2005 with some friends from college, but it was so fun getting the chance to experience it all over again with my husband since he had never been before. I think it's unanimous in our family that the best part of this portion of the trip was riding down a toboggan slide on the great wall :)

Beijing is a lively, bustling city with over 11.5 million people. There are many well-known historical sites to visit including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and Tiananmen Square. We did a ton of walking - over 14 miles on our busiest day. The transit system is very well built so it's easy to get around and explore. I tried to use what little Mandarin I know, but I'm so thankful that my father-in-law can speak it fluently. For having lived in China an entire year, my Chinese is pretty rusty + horrible (whoops -_-).

Photos: iPhone 5












Favorites:

- The Great Wall: There are several portions of the Great Wall that you can visit. Badaling is the most famous and frequented, often packed with people. I prefer Mutianyu because there are fewer crowds and the chance to ride down a toboggan slide :)

- The Forbidden City: You could spend hours here and see what it was like to live in the imperial palace. The architecture is beautiful, but it does get quite crowded here (of course, you're in Beijing so "crowded" is almost unavoidable!). While you're there, you can visit Tiananmen Square just across the street.

- Temple of Heaven: There are a ton of different to temples to visit all around the city, but this one is very big and there's so much to see. My favorite part was the rose garden that was in full bloom when we were visiting - the biggest rose garden I've ever seen.

- Dong Hua Men Night Market: This is definitely a place for adventurous eaters. I am not one of them, but it was still fun to see all the amazing things they sell like snake or scorpion - if it crawls, swims, or breathes, they can grill it!

What's the craziest thing you've ever tried eating?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Summer Adventures in Asia: Hong Kong

After graduating from grad school this past May, my husband and I went with my in-laws to Hong Kong, Meizhou, Guangzhou, and Beijing. Although we had planned to stop in Tokyo on the way home, we ended up staying in Hong Kong for an extra week to spend more time with loved ones (no regrets!). We ate a ton of delicious food, shopped, walked along the Great Wall, rode ferries, and marveled at the beautiful, expansive city skyline - oh, and caught the flu in the midst of a MERS scare -_-

Hong Kong is one of my favorite cities in the entire world and where my husband was born. The first time I visited was back in 2007 when I was single and living in China. Hong Kong is on the southern coast of China, is inhabited by over 7 million people, and was once a British colony. Although the population is huge, the land mass is not. This results in a beautiful and unique skyline composed of the highest highrises I've ever seen. Not to mention, Hong Kong is located along a harbor.

On this trip, one of the most memorable experiences was attending the Tiananmen Square Massacre Vigil. If you know about the Tiananmen Square Massacre and the political atmosphere of China, then you'll understand the significance of so many people being free to gather together to remember those who lost their lives. This is something we would never see in Mainland China.

Hong Kong is a great place to visit with its unique culture and well-developed transit system. English is one of the official languages so communicating and getting around isn't much of an issue. Although the airfare to Hong Kong may be pricey, there are plenty of low-cost and even free things to do there.

Photos: iPhone 5



 










Favorites:

- Star Ferry: riding across the Hong Kong Harbor at night. One way costs less than $1 U.S.!

- A Symphony of Lights: watch a light show put on by the entire city, along the harbor, and at night. Free!

- Hong Kong Observation Wheel: Another fun way to view the city from way up high.

- Victoria Peak: Beautiful, aerial-like view of the city at night and during the day. There's an observation deck here as well, but there's always a line and it costs money. You can still get a gorgeous view of the city from here without going out on the deck.

- Walking around the city at night with the lights, the crowds, and all the amazing places to eat.

- Eating, eating, eating.

Have you ever been to Asia? If you could go to any country in Asia, where would it be?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Little Miss Four-Eyes Gets a Pair | Warby Parker Review

Several months ago I wrote about my experience trying out Warby Parker's Home Try-On and I finally chose a pair - the Upton.



I tried the Home Try-On twice and would have probably tried a few more times because I'm someone who likes to take my time and research all my options before I make a decision (let's be real, it's called 'being indecisive'). But when I was in San Francisco, I realized there was a brick and mortar location and decided to go for a visit. The staff were very friendly, not pushy, and gave their honest opinions when it came to what frames suited me best. Once I decided on my frames, I showed them a copy of my prescription, they measured my pupillary distance (PD), I paid, and soon received my new glasses in the mail.




One thing I will mention is that when I received my glasses, they weren't fitted to my face and this is normal with all frames no matter where you buy them. If there is no WP location near you as was in my case, they will reimburse you if a local optical shop charges you for a fitting. Honestly, I was very hesitant having a non-WP person fit my frames because they are not liable if the frames were to break during the process. Instead, I waited until I was in a city with a WP location and had my glasses quickly fitted there.

Pros:
- The Home Try-On is free and you can try it out as many times as you'd like.
- Affordable frames with many styles to choose from.
- Even if your prescription is strong and you require high-index lenses (to avoid the coke bottle look), the extra cost is not much more.
- You purchase a pair, someone in need also gets a pair (love this!).
- Many locations in major cities across the U.S.

Cons:
- If you don't live near a WP location, finding a local retail store willing to fit your frames may be difficult.
- Again, if you don't live near a WP location, you must obtain your PD from your eye doctor and some may charge you for this info (plus side: WP will reimburse you up to $50).

Tips:
- All or some of the price of a pair of glasses may be covered by your vision insurance coverage.
- If you find a local optical shop willing to help fit your WP frames and they charge a fee, WP will reimburse you up to $50.

Photos: Canon 5d mk ii | Canon 28mm f/1.8 + Olympus OM-D EM5 mk ii | Olympus 25mm f/1.8

Have you tried the Warby Parker Home-Try On? What are your thoughts?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Exploring California Wine Country | Napa Valley + Sonoma, CA

Between graduation, travels in Asia and a last-minute road trip along the California coast, I haven't had much time to blog (and part of it may also be due to that wonderful thing called 'summer laziness'). But now that I'm back, there's so much I want to share! :)

Back when I was visiting my sister in San Francisco this spring, we planned a day trip to Napa Valley and Sonoma - a much needed girls' getaway. Although our parents never really drink wine or alcohol, we have both acquired a taste for wine and enjoy a good glass every now and then. Neither of us had ever been to wine country, so we thought it was the perfect time to visit! To help keep costs down we brought our own snacks/lunch and split wine samplings (the wineries we visited actually encouraged us to share!).

We played dress up.

We rode in style. 

We sipped wine.

I got slightly dizzy in the middle of the first tasting to which my sister, in amazement and possibly horror, stated, "wait, seriously?! already?!" Helloooo, early 30's!


Wineries:

Although we visited four wineries, we actually only tasted at two places while the other two were more for sightseeing.

Domaine Carneros: Our first stop was this beautiful vineyard for the sparkling wine sampler paired with the sparkling cheese plate (my sister + me + cheese = VERY happy girls). We were encouraged to split the sampler and this helped decrease the cost significantly! This would be a great place to visit with a loved one or even a group of friends.

Arista: This was a favorite for both of us. We shared a wine sampler and received generous amounts of tastings. Afterwards we sat on some lawn chairs in the garden area, snacked on fruit and nuts we had brought from home and just soaked in the sun. The atmosphere of this winery is very laid back and I think that's what we loved most about it (well, the wine too).

Castello di Amorosa: Beautiful grounds with a castle and some farm animals, but very crowded. There were people taking prom and quinceanera photos everywhere. We had been forewarned by friends that this was a popular tourist spot so we opted not to do a tasting here.

Chateau Montelena Winery: Another beautiful chateau and large garden area. Unfortunately, there was a big, private event going on at the chateau so we just walked around the garden area and snacked again. Another popular tourist spot so we didn't plan on tasting here and decided to just see the grounds instead.

Tips: Plan your trip ahead of time as some wineries require reservations. Bring your own snacks so that you're not drinking on an empty stomach and lots of water so that you don't get dehydrated. Some wineries will let you bring your own food so that you can have a picnic. If you don't have a designated driver, then make sure you book a tour group or driver! But if you have to rent a car, a convertible is the way to go (just as we did)!

Photos: Canon 5d mk ii | Canon 50mm f/1.4

Have you ever been to California wine country or another winery? Recommendations?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Karina | Graduation Session | Las Cruces, NM

It's that time of year again where many will be walking across the stage to accept their degrees - a symbol of late night study sessions, lots of coffee, and many years of hard work. Karina is one of those graduates who I have had the pleasure of working alongside these past few years. She is such a shining example to her children and I know there will be so many patients blessed to have Karina as their nurse :)

Congratulations to Karina and everyone else who worked so hard these last few years!

 

 


Shot on Kodak Portra 160