I enjoy solitude. It’s a time when I distance myself from the voices of the world so I can hear my own. My energy is restored, my mind is purified and I am reconnected with my soul…
If the trees refused to let go of their dying leaves in Autumn, we would never see the beauty of Spring. Let go of what was and believe in what will be!
Sunset is always a great reminder that there is a beginning and an end to everything. What matters most is how one makes the most of what happened in between…
Life is like riding a bicycle. If you don’t want to fall off, then keep your balance and keep pedalling. Otherwise, get off and just go for a walk.
Went running from Marina del Rey to Santa Monica Pier via Oceanfront Walk. It was 13.5kms distance return. Yup, I don’t take vacation from my running routine.
Ocean Front Walk is a concrete track for pedestrians that extends from Venice Beach to Santa Monica Pier. If you are in Los Angeles, this is a place not to be missed. The Ocean Front Walk is lined with residences, souvenir shops and restaurants. The walk offers a beautiful view of the ocean and features many interesting activities. It is populated with colourful locals and tourists alike doing one of these activities: souvenir-shopping, walking, running, cycling, walking dogs, rollerskating, skateboarding, lifting weights at the famous Venice outdoor gym, dining, lazing around on the scattered benches or just people-watching. It is incredibly busy. Everybody is doing something apart from the homeless who are happily catatonic in their made-up tents. Along the walk, you will come across a variety of vendors selling a plethora of souvenirs and buskers who offer a variety of entertainment from fortune-tellers, dancers, musicians, tattoo artists, painters, acrobats, jugglers, pet shows and many other interesting gimmicks to solicit a buck from you. The vibe is festive and the atmosphere is an entertainment in itself. I love it there.
The Grand Canyon is a steep-sided canyon carved by the Colorado River in Arizona, USA with nearly two billion years of Earth’s geological history. If that does not impress you. I don’t know what would.
In this trip to US, I only decided to go Las Vegas as my rest point to get to The Grand Canyon. The drive from Las Vegas to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon was a long 6 and a bit-hour journey particularly for someone who was jetlagged and someone who was suffering from a bad headache. I still don’t know whether the headache was caused by lack of sleep (Vegas rest point, Hello?) or plain hangover. Regardless, I happily missed the dusty and arid view of the Nevada dessert by trying to get some sleep in the car on the way to the Grand Canyon National Park. For the record, it wasn’t me who was driving.
Waking up to the the stunning colours of the Grand Canyon from afar just before the sunset is certainly an experience made to last. The Grand Canyon is 466 kilometres long and 29 kilometres wide with a depth of 1.8 kilometres. It was freezing when we got there but the amazement that this nature’s wonder brought to me kept me warm. The spectacular beauty of the Grand Canyon is indescribable and left me speechless. It’s not called The Grand Canyon for nothing. This part of the world is stunning beyond words. And it is true, any picture of this wonder doesn’t do it justice. You have to see it for yourself.
I’ve seen it in so many movies. From A grade to B grade movies. From Superman to Transformers to Viva Las Vegas to Fools Rush In. What is the fascination? I was in Las Vegas on the way to The Grand Canyon, might as well see what the fuss is all about.
Hoover Dam is in Boulder City in Nevada which is just under an hour drive from Las Vegas. It is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between the U.S. states of Arizona and Nevada. Its construction was the result of a massive engineering effort involving thousands of workers and cost over one hundred lives. It was constructed between 1931 and 1936 during the Great Depression. The dam’s generators provide power for public and private utilities in Nevada, Arizona, and California.
Hoover Dam is a major tourist attraction; nearly a million people visit the dam each year. And I am just one of them. If you haven’t got anything to do in Las Vegas during the day and you woke up without a hangover and have some money left from your night in the casinos, go and hire a car and drive to see the Dam. It’s worth it.
I am back for the 4th time and my impression of Las Vegas remain the same. Below is the my description of Las Vegas in an old post.
” When you are about to exit the Las Vegas airport, a huge banner is flashed across the exit door which says “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!”
I have been to Las Vegas a number of times. Three times to be exact. The first time was with a girlfriend, the second time was with my family (with a child) and the last time was with my husband (without a child). Things never change apart from the tremendously increasing number of casinos that are getting brighter, bigger and better and the increasing amount of carbon footprint due to electric bills. The nightlife with or without the kids is on steroids and by far unbeatable by any nightlife you would have ever experienced in your life. Ever! The unbelievable diversity of entertainments (legal or not legal, for adults or for kids) is endless. The city is insomniac and if it’s a person, it will be psychologically diagnosed as schizophrenic with ADHD.
You can do pretty much anything 24/7 but Las Vegas must be seen at night to appreciate the extra ordinary neon-flashing city with its oversized billboards that is uniquely incomparable to anything that you have seen before. The city is incredibly bright that I’m sure it can be seen from the furthest planet or from the moon. The city is overly crowded with every man and his dog including his wife, ex-wives and grandmother from low-life gawkers to filthy rich individuals both eager to make their Vegas experience worthwhile just staying in Vegas. And anyone who wasn’t there at the time need not know about it.”
I went running in the morning and it is certainly a different world.
State Route 1 (Highway 1) stretches up to 1,055 kilometres in length and is a major north-south state highway that runs along most of the Pacific coastline of the U.S. state of California.It is one of the best scenic drives Ive ever been. Every turn offers a spectacular view of the ocean and beautifully nature-curved cliffs and vivid green hills against the blue sky of California. The pictures don’t do it justice.
This is an amazing sight. Something I’ve never seen before. These seals migrate to molt, breed and give birth towards and during Summer months at Piedras Blancas (Elephant Seal Boarwalk) on Highway 1 which is seven miles north of San Simeon, California.
If you are in Monterey, I recommend you to hire a car and drive through the 17-Mile Beach Drive to Pebble Beach. The 7-Mile Drive is popularly known as one of the most scenic drives in US. Whilst driving, Every turn presents an awe-inspiring vista. The scenic coastal road extends through Pacific Grove to Pebble Beach, from the dramatic Pacific coastline to the majestic Del Monte Forest. The spectacular coastline passes famous golf courses, grand mansions and picturesque sceneries of some of the California’s nature’s treasures including The Lone Cypress – one of California’s best-known landmarks (it has prevailed on its perch for over 250 years); Spanish Bay – a scenic picnic stop and a beautiful place to stroll around the coastline, Cypress Point Lookout and Carmel Bay. You can also see the emerald fairways of The Links at Spanish Bay, Spyglass Hill and the world-renowned golf course – The Lodge which was built in 1919, The Lodge is the heart and soul of Pebble Beach and home to the world-famous Pebble Beach Golf Links. It is open to the public and it offers a variety of dining and shopping options.
Monterey Bay Coastal Trail stretches up to 18 miles along the coast of Monterey. However, we didn’t have the time to walk the long stretch so we only walked 6.5 miles return. We started the walk at sunrise from Fisherman’s Wharf to Monterey Bay Aquarium then back. It was a reasonably short walk for us however, we tasted the fresh ocean breeze and enjoyed the stunning views. Every mile offers a scenic view of the ocean against the beautiful houses sitting on the cliffs, colourful flora and fauna and wildlife including harbor seals, sea otters, sea lions and birds.
Monterey is a beautiful coastal city of California and could make for a great two day trip for those visiting San Francisco (just a little over 2hrs drive) or Los Angeles (just under 5 hrs drive) which is exactly what I did when I was at Los Anegeles.It is best known for its beautiful coastline and its world-renowned aquarium including Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat. You can enjoy actvities such as going to the beach, kayaking, scuba diving, surfing and whale watching in and around Monterey. There are also land-based actvities such as playing golf at the legendary gold courses or visit The Lodge and the popular 19th hole; shopping at Cannery Row which is lined with shops, hotels and reastaurants and driving the spectacular coastline to Big Sur. From Cannery Row, you can walk the scenic Monterey Coastal Trail to Fisherman’s Wharf. Along the coastal walk, you will see harbour seals, sea otters and pelicans in natural habitats on the beautiful waterfront of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. There is certainly something for everyone in this beautiful town.
Hiking to the La Mina Falls. 2.5kms return.
El Yunque National Rainforest is at Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. It covers 28,000 acres and receiving more than 200 inches of rain per year. If you love the nature and enjoy hiking, it’s worth a visit. We did the La Mina Trail which I think is an easy grade. It is narrow and paved and may require stepping off the paved track to let an oncoming traffic pass. Don’t wait to go for swim at La Mina Falls because it can get really packed when you get there unless you get there early. Go and swin at the water holes you will pass by. I think it would be more enjoyable than sharing the waterfall with a hundred and one tourists.
Loquillo Beach is located at at East Of San Juan via the Coastal Highway. We came here to cool-down after a hike in El Yunque Rainforest. It is one of the most popular and nicest public beaches in the San Juan. The beach provides huge majestic coconut palms shades along the beach of fine and shimmering sand. It’s a nice clean beach. However, it’s not white sand so it’s not particularly inviting to me. I’ve been spoilt with white sand beaches in Australia.
Old San Juan lies on a small and narrow island in the north coast of Puerto Rico. Old San Juan is a an incredibly colourful towm and a tourists favourite in all of Puerto Rico eventhough it does not offer any natural beauty so to speak. However it boasts its over 500 years of history, its historic and beautiful colonial architecture, colourful vibes, lively and festive Hispanic culture and an inexplicable magic that makes it one of the most enchanting destinations in the Caribbean. We spent so many fabulous hours just walking around the walled city.
We visited the amazing and massive Fortresses such as El Morro and La Forteza, we dined out at the popular Fortaleza Street, we took a sunset stroll along Paseo La Princesa to the Gate of San Juan and enjoyed the souvenir night market on the weekend. We skipped the salsa dancing due to tiredness. Being in Puerto Rico during the Easter Holidays, we were also lucky to witness the parade of Easter Re-enactment of Jesus Christ Crucifixion.
I love the different colours of the doors in Old San Juan.
The fortress is one of the most impressive and most popular historic site on the island, encapsulating Puerto Rico’s role as a guardian of the New World. Anyone who visits Old San Juan simply cannot leave without visiting El Morro. Within these walls, you could easily sense the awesome power this bastion of defense once commanded, and you can bear witness to nearly half a century of military history that began with the Spanish conquistadores and ended with World War II. It’s an amazing structure coupled with stunning views of the ocean.
Condado Beach is a beach that extends for several miles east of downtown Old San Juan. It is lined with high-rise resorts and populated with sun worshippers. This part of San Juan is perfect for tourists. The beach is nice, clean and the water is warm and crystal clear. The main street (Ashford Avenue) has plenty of restaurants and shops. However, I must say that I’ve been to Bahamas and I’ve been to the South Pacific. I am from Australia. Given that, this Beach is pretty average to me.
I went to Macau as a side trip from my Hong Kong visit. Macau is a city of contrast. The city has the fortresses, churches and food of its former colonial master Portugal and on the other, Macau is unashamedly and popularly known as the Las Vegas of the East. It took an hour ferry ride to get to Macau. As soon as we got off the ferry, the poorer infrastructure and facilities were evident by the stench around the wharf and unhygienic toilet facilities. We were greeted by many overbearing overseas Filipino workers desperately moonlighting as tourist guides.
The Portuguese influence is evident in the main part of the city. They have cobbled back streets, baroque churches, stone fortresses, Art Deco buildings and restful parks and gardens. The fusion of East and West in culture and architecture is interestingly unique. The architecture of the casinos were mostly Las Vegas copies. Given that I have been to Las Vegas myself and have seen the real deal, the sight of the casinos in Macau made me feel that they were almost like fake designer copies. It’s not a city I would recommend as a must-see But if you are in Hong Kong. Macau is another city to see to add to your travel tally.
TIP: You can use the free casino transports to go around the town. You can take them from the Port and from the casinos.
I have never really thought of Hong Kong as a major destination but a place to chill and break the 24-hour flight before a more desirable journey to Europe. It is a place with multiple personalities, as a result of being both Cantonese Chinese and under a contemporary ex-British influence. The mixture of both cultures are evident in most aspects of the city and its people.
My initial acquaintance with Hong Kong was a bit overwhelming. I had to quickly learn how to navigate around the tightly packed and crowded sidewalks with neon signages at every corner that almost looks like a red light district minus the girls selling male gratification.
The city is surprisingly safe and wonderfully well organised. It offers multiple moments of designer shopping perfection and if you can’t afford the real deal, there are plenty of copies at bargain prices at the markets.
Hong Kong also offers simple pleasures of affordable cultural experiences like a $2 tram or ferry ride, tasty authentic Chinese food from the side streets restaurants, a whiff of incense curling from temple rafters, savouring fishing-village sundowners and fresh seafood – that are wonderful experiences of priceless memories.
I must say that there are many historic and interesting things to do and see from Disneyland to Fishing Villages to Chinese Temples and the rest. But I didn’t do all that. I was there to go shopping.
TIP: When buying electronics goods, make sure that you know exactly which model you want to get and your local price for that model. They are not necessarily cheaper in Hong Kong particularly if you are an ignorant tourist. Some shop assistants are opportunists.
Negril is a small lively town in Jamaica which is only about one hour and fifteen minutes drive from Sir Donald Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. If you want to party in Jamaica, it is the best place to be. The laid back and relaxed atmosphere during the day transforms into a reggae and energetic dance parties at night. The small town features a calm 11km-long white sandy beach with eternally warm crystal-clear turquoise coloured water which is apparently rated as one of the top ten beaches in the world. The town is populated with many resorts along beautiful cliffs where you can watch the vivid colour palette of orange and yellow sunsets. It is one of the best sunsets I’ve seen in my life. Given that tourism is the main livelihood in this town, there is a friendly rapport between the visitors and locals, however, as a tourist (–like in any other popular touristy part of the world), be prepared to be treated like a walking wallet. Every Jamaican hustler would want a share of your dollar. Be wary but enjoy the tourist ride.
Our time in Negril was short. We hired a driver and his van for the day to take us around Negril and at the end of the day, we could see the famous 35-feet cliff diving by the locals and tourists alike as well as the world famous breathtaking sunset from Rick’s Cafe. The Cafe is located right on the cliff. It has a bar, a restaurant and a pool which boast a spectacular view of the ocean. It was amazing to watch the brave tourist cliff-divers and the Rick’s Cafe’s skilled divers showing off their daring talent. Watching the risky diving would certainly put back ‘awe’ in awesome. It’s a thrilling experience in itself. The local divers ask for donations and would only jump when they have received enough.
TIP: It is strongly recommended that you arrive at the Cafe in time for sunset or even earlier to grab a good spot at the bar. It can get extremely busy as the sunset is a popular tourist destination in itself and there are many tours that do just that. The sunset ambience presents true Jamaican vibe whilst you listen to a live reggae band playing in the background.
Montego Bay is a slice of tropical paradise in Jamaica and it is popularly known for its energetic vibe, its natural beauty and its friendly and relaxed Rastafarian culture. You can easily picture yourself soaking up the sunny vivid blue sky on perfectly white sandy beaches whilst cooling down with scrumptious Bob Marley cocktails until the sun goes down. The town is equally a party town for the North Americans in their Spring Break and as a destination for those who seek a quiet R & R’s. It offers a variety of water sports activities for visitors such crystal clear-water snorkeling, scuba-diving, kayaking and sailing as well as diverse nightlife and duty-free shopping. The big all-inclusive resorts are located well outside the city. The city itself, however, is an entirely different face – it is a bustling mix of cars and people with all the discomfort that comes with it which gives you an uncensored and gritty slice of Jamaican life.
Mo Bay (as locals call it) offers Doctor’s Cave beach and it is one of the most famous beaches in Jamaica. The beach is clean and has beautiful warm turquoise-coloured water. It is open to the public. Snorkelling and scuba-diving gears can be hired here.
We took a day trip to the famous Dunn Waterfalls in Ocho Rios which took us just over 1.5 hours to get there. The Dunn Waterfalls is 180 feet high and 600 feet long. The waterfalls are terraced like stairs and the waterfalls down cascade beautifully. There are a number of small lagoons that are interspersed among the vertical sections of the falls. We joined a tour group to climb up the waterfalls which is a popular tourist activity. It took about 1.5 hours to climb with short breaks for photographs and video recordings taken by the guides. There are stairs located along the waterfalls, for those who do not want to get wet or are unable to manage the climb on the rocky, uneven and slippery terrain of the actual waterfalls. We climbed up the waterfalls like a hand-holding human chain led by our funny tour guide. The climb is relatively hard particularly if you are unfit and the hand-holding chain provides a bit more stability. It was recommended not to take a camera so I didn’t (hence, the google images) but the tour guides took photographs and videos.
TIP: All inclusive accommodation is recommended.
Clifton Gardens is located in Mosman which is one of the affluent suburbs North of Sydney. Clifton Gardens is a beautiful family park with a stunning view of Chowder Bay. The park features a relatively small beach and a netted swimming bath which is perfect for young children and it is enclosed by a wharf which is popular for fishing enthusiasts. There is no waves in this beach as it is sheltered by the cliffs on both ends of the park. The park has a huge grass area for family picnics with many undercover table seatings. It has electric barbecue facilities with many taps and bubblers scattered around. It also offers a covered and sheltered playground for the little ones as well as a path for little bike, skateboard and scooter riders.
On the Southern end of the park, there is a walking track that will take you to Taronga Zoo. On the Northen end of the park towards Bacino Cafe, if you head up towards Ripples Restaurant or the scuba diving school, you will find a walking track that will take you to Balmoral Beach.
Tip: In Summer months, this park can get really busy, however, the carpark is quite small. It is recommended to come here early, otherwise, you will end up parking on the hilly streets along the residential area. The parking is not free either.
Chichen Itza (means “at the mouth of the well of Itza “) is the most famous and best restored among the Mayan ruins in Yucatán, Mexico and it is 2nd most visited archeological site of Mexico. We took a luxury bus tour from Cancun that served as unlimited shots of tequila and Mexican beer. The tour guide was almost funny with his memorized punchlines. On the way, we stopped at probably one of the biggest souvenir shops in Yucatan.
The Chichen Itza archaeological site contains numerous ruins built by the Maya civilization around 1000 years ago. Chichen Itza was tremendously overcrowded. Every man and his dog was there to gawk at one of the seven wonders of the world. The restoration and the history behind it will impress even the most jaded tourist. The mysteries of the Mayan astronomical calendar were articulately explained by our tourist guide and were made clear when one understands the design of the ‘time temples’. Other than a few minor passageways, climbing on the structures is not allowed. The central building of the site is the remarkable Kukulcán Pyramid or El Castillo (The Castle). Its four sides contain 365 steps (depicting the solar year), 52 panels (for each year in the Mayan century as well as each week in the solar year) and 18 terraces (for the 18 months in the religious year). Not considering the Louvre Pyramid in Paris and Luxor Pyramid in Las Vegas, this the first pyramid I saw.
Chichen Itza was also populated by hawkers and tacky souvenirs vendors and we were warned to just ignore them particularly if they are shouting that the souvenirs only cost $1. It was an amazing and unforgettable experience to see this spectacular wonder even though our Mexican experience has third world inconveniences and we knew we were consistently and blatantly ripped off, the trip was certainly worth it.
TIP: Never go there in Mexican Summer. The killer heat will…kill you. Bring a hat, sunscreen and lots of water.