Archive for the ‘Travel’Category

A Philadelphia Story

Location | New York, NY

Every time I think of Philadelphia, I always get the theme song to Fresh Prince of Bel-Air stuck in my head – anyone else? Then I have to sing the whole song in my head before I can continue. This entry is going to take FOREVER.

Temple, recreated.

Well, I went to Philly to hang out with my friend Amy. She’s one of my very best friends and I love hanging out with her. We had noodles, then ate Vietnamese, but most importantly, we went to The Philadelphia Museum of Art


Japanese village, recreated.

There were a lot of great exhibits and we just slowly made our way through them. It’s actually not a very large museum, but it’s impressive. They had temples and village re-created inside. I thought those were just as good as the ones at the Met in NYC.

Outside the museum

We even took a (short) walk outside. It was a little cold, so we hurried back to the car before Amy took me to check out UPenn (and go find a Wawa to get a hoagie). Christine kept on saying how good the hoagies were, so I made Amy take me – ha. It was actually not bad, but I prefer Potbellys!

Flickr Set.


10 2010

Magnolia Plantation

Location | Charleston, SC

Today we decided to go to the oldest plantation in the Charleston area – Magnolia Plantation.

Old Slave Quarters

We took a tour by tram that basically took us through A LOT of swamp, but what used to be rice fields.

Do you see the ducks?

We also walked around their garden path – it’s the oldest garden in America. Um, it wasn’t very impressive, but nonetheless, it was relatively enjoyable.

Boat for pretty photos

I'm not really smiling, oh well.

Pretty bridge

It was an expensive tour, but it gave me and my mom something to do. Plus I got to take photos – always a bonus.

Flickr set.


09 2010

Breakfast, Coffee and the California Academy of Sciences

Location | New York City

Well, back to New York on an awful red-eye flight. (Don’t fly red-eyes, it’s so not worth it). On my last day in San Francisco (Monday) I woke up at Anna & Eric’s place and put everything away for them. Then I headed out to have breakfast with my friend Albie at a Crossroads Cafe, which was near my friend’s apartment.

The weather was bad – torrential downpour – so Albie and I opted to take public transportation to the Ferry Building so that Albie could meet our other friend and I could meet up with my college friend, Justin (whom I refer to as Twurtleson, don’t ask).

After parting ways, I went to Blue Bottle and ordered coffees and more granola (so damn addicting) and was picked up by Justin. We drove to a Taiwanese restaurant called, Spices, located in the Inner Richmond area of San Fran. We had lunch and then headed to the California Academy of Sciences. Can I tell you, it was pretty sweet.

This fish is grumpy.

Justin was in control of my camera, so I don’t have full artistic integrity over these photos, but the boy wanted to play with a new toy. So the ones w/o him in them, are photos taken by him.

Justin explores the seas.

There was everything, a lot of fish, I touched a sea urchin (weird), jellyfish, alligator, stingrays (you’ll see one of the photos he took at the end, I highly suspect that was his favorite part since I found a million stingray photos), butterflies, fossils… and just a lot of cool things.

A butterfly lands on a boy's finger.

We also checked out the roof top, despite the rain.

On the "Living Roof"

There were about 50 more pictures that look exactly like this...

After all of this, we went to pick up my friend Eric, go pick up my baggage, then head to meet my (other) friend Angel for dinner. We just had some food and Justin and I parted ways while Angel drove me to the airport.

Overall, it was an amazing trip. I was so happy to be able to hang out with Ngoc and company, as well as see old friends and make new ones! If you’re interested, full set of photos here.


05 2010

Old Friends, Reunited.

Location | SoMa, San Francisco

The morning began in a slight frenzy. I found my friend, whom I call Panda, in his room practicing guitar. I got ready and we went to have brunch with our two friends, Angel and Andrew. They met us at a restaurant called “Bill’s Cafe” in San Jose. After polishing off our food (we are kind of beasts with food… we’ve known this since our time together in Taiwan), Angel, Andrew and I headed to Palo Alto to check out Santana Row, an outdoor shopping mall and Stanford‘s campus. Panda headed off to church.

Santana Row - Andrew, Angel and me.

Santana Row was ok (and unaffordable). We ended up going to Stanford’s campus pretty quickly and just walked around. The campus was eerily quiet, but they were in the midst of finals (plus it was the weekend). We hung out in the oval lawn in front of their main campus building.

The famous columns at Stanford's campus.

Panda met up with us again, but we had gone to downtown Palo Alto by that point (we were sitting at Starbucks eating a crepe I had bought across the street and drinking iced tea and coffee). Panda drove us to San Francisco where we met up with some of his friends (one was Jeremy Lin‘s older brother – random coincidence) and we had really good Vietnamese food at Turtle Tower in the area of Outer Richmond (not the one in the Tenderloin). I hadn’t had good Vietnamese in a very long time, so it was especially nice to have good spring rolls and a hot bowl of noodles.

My friends are really hungry...

We headed out to Humphry Slocombe, one of the most unique ice cream places I’ve been to. They only have a few special flavors a day, but flavors included things like Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee, Chocolate Sea Salt, and Strawberry Balsalmic. I chose the Chocolate Sea Salt and Strawberry Balsalmic (so good!). My friends were a little freaked out by the flavors, but I loved it.

Me, Panda, Angel and Andrew at Humphry Slocombe

After wards we hung outside for a bit, doing some awkward dances (thanks to one of Panda’s friends) and then I was dropped off at my friend’s apartment near the Embarcadero.


05 2010

Prison. Bread. Middle Eastern Food.

Location | South Bay, San Francisco

We went to Alcatraz, despite many of us being hungover (not I apparently). Ngoc’s sister and I actually woke up early and walked down to the Ferry Building (which is NOT a short walk) and got coffee and the absolute most wonderful yogurt and granola combination that I’ve ever had in my life. I’m absolutely addicted to those flavors. The yogurt was the lemon flavor from St. Benoit, a local French-style yogurt. The owner was selling the yogurts in these adorable ceramic containers in the farmer’s market. Combine the yogurt with the delicious granola of Blue Bottle and you have yourself the most winning combination. You would not believe the flavor. It is an absolute MUST If you’re in San Francisco to combine the 2 flavors.

Alcatraz was interesting. It seemed almost TOO CLEAN for a prison. I think it’s because I went to the State Penitentiary in Philly last year, so this one wasn’t as interesting because it wasn’t as dilapidated. Ngoc and James went completely though the whole audio tour. I think I got through about track 26 of 40 something before I couldn’t listen anymore.

First part you see of Alcatraz

After Alcatraz we went back to the Embarcadero where we said goodbye to Ngoc’s older brother who was flying back to Vegas. We then walked around all the piers and went to see the sea lions at Pier 39.

They were all floppy and noisy

We were picked up by Justin at Boudoin Bread at Fisherman’s Wharf. He was taking us to dinner, but the original place we wanted to go to was packed, so we had to settle for another option. Furthermore, Eric and Anna had a nightmare bus situation, so they were very late in meeting us. It was fine, we ordered some delicious Middle Eastern food before we ran back to Justin’s car because it was freezing. Justin dropped me off at the BART and I was on my way to the South Bay while he took Ngoc and James to the airport.

In the South Bay, I was picked up by my favorite Panda, Eric Chang! And he took me back to his house where we sat around chatting into the night until it was time to pass out.


05 2010

San Francisco, Fisherman’s Wharf, Australians and Hookah.

Location | Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco

The morning didn’t begin any more different than the morning before. We woke up and took the trolley to the Ferry Building where I met up with my friend, Albert. I had the best cup of latte that I’ve ever consumed at Blue Bottle. Just thinking about the wonderful smoothness of the espresso with a hint of honey and a beautiful whip of soy foam makes me so happy.

The barista made this one especially for us since we were raving about the latte.

We stood outside enjoying the coffee and looking toward Oakland. Then it was off to the Mission District. We walked down to the BART and rode it to 24th St-Mission St and went to El Farolito. Now, this may or may not be the one my friend recommended, but there was a line and it looked as if it was mainly locals. Always an excellent sign. We went in and ordered burritos, nachos, and various other goodies. It was heaven. I love Mission style burritos! The only problem was that we were so full afterwards it was hard to walk.

I <3 Burritos!

We went up to The Castro, which is a fun bustling area of SF. We walked back up to the streetcar and rode that back up to the Ferry Building. From there we walked up the Embarcadero to Pier 39 to meet up with Ngoc’s sister, Van. We then took a walk up to Coit Tower, which believe me, was not an easy walk/hike.

Coit Tower is supposed to resemble a fire hose nozzle.

After hanging out around the tower, we hopped a bus ride back down toward Lombard Street. It was a good day to take a hike apparently. I’ve driven down the street before, so it was interesting to see all the tourists taking photos and driving down the street. I wonder what the residents on the street must feel like?

We headed toward Ghiradelli Square where Ngoc and her sister indulged in some ice cream while I shopped around for stationary (I know, random). We ended up heading back to the hotel for a few minutes before walking down to meet Eric and Anna for dinner. We had a really wonderful Italian meal at Sotto Mare. Despite all of us still feeling slightly full, we completely ate our meals as if we were famished.

Eric took us to a nearby bar where we ended up playing drinking games and being obnoxiously loud. A table near us wondered what we were doing, and decided to join in on our drinking games. It was a bunch of Australians. Well 2 Australian guys, and 2 American girls they had met. Since I kept winning the drinking games… I obviously turned out fine,  but some of our other… friends, were not in such good shape.

Haha, the following conversation cracks me up:

Eric: Would you like to go with us to a Hookah bar?

Australian fellow w/ strong Australian accent: What!? A Hooker bar!?

That was amazing. They didn’t end up coming with us, but we got outside and tried to get cabs. Now, SF is nothing like NYC, so cabs are not easy to come by. The girls hopped into one and we were ALMOST to the Tenderloin district when… well let’s just say Ngoc’s sister’s stomach did not like the alcohol… and we got into a major fight with the cab driver who was screaming at us and demanding money…. it was not pretty.

The owner of the Hookah Bar saw the whole thing and told us that he’d take care of us and hook us up with some free flavors. We ended up there until around 3 or 4am when we got back to the hotel and fell into our beds exhausted.


05 2010

Welcome to San Francisco

Location | Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, CA

It began on the BART. Finding my way to one of the last trains to the city, I made it to Powell Street. There I found the streetcar. I held $5 in my hand, but they did not ask for anything. I got off at the last stop 20 minutes later near Fisherman’s Wharf. I asked the man for some directions, and he pointed me in the right direction and I made my way to the hotel.

There I met up with Ngoc’s brother, Truc. I waited for Ngoc and James to get back. They came back and since we were all exhausted, we just slept.

In the morning we had to decide what we wanted to do. Ngoc and James’ friends, Audrey and Erik were picking us up to go eat $1 oysters. Despite this, we headed to Mama’s and had brunch. The place was interesting, you walk in and order from a counter before sitting down and being served. Between the 4 of us, we ordered 3 dishes.

Eggs Benedict at Mama's

Afterwards we walked back to the hotel to wait for Ngoc and James’ friends – Audrey and Erik. They planned on taking us to Hog Island Oyster Company and then to Berkeley.

We drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and stopped to take some photos before continuing on to the north bay.

Me and Ngoc at the Golden Gate Bridge

We drove for a long time along Highway 1. I fell asleep (of course), but we arrived at the Hog Island Oyster Company an hour later. It was such a beautiful place for an oyster farm. A huge bay, picnic area and oysters for $1.

View at Hog Island Oyster Company

We had 5 people, so we got 50 oysters. I wish I wasn’t so full from breakfast, so I could’ve eaten more! Audrey and Erik also brought guacamole, fruit and other snacks. It was such a fun day to sit out there eating.

Oyster Cheers!

After the oysters, we took a drive to Berkeley. The campus was really great. It really made me want to go to school there. I’m considering business school there in 2011. We’ll see where that takes me.

We had some tri-tip sandwiches before we headed into campus. We walked around, bought some things, but mainly, we headed to campus to check it out. The campus is really nice. Some parts are a little weird – ie: the architecture building was not pretty. The sciences building on campus was really nice.

We also chatting with some squirrels, looked at the protesters, watched students walk by… it was a nice college visit. After Berkeley, we went to get Cheese Board Pizza. We sat in the median in the street and ate the pizza. After that we headed to get some gelato. Overall it was an AMAZING food day.

Cheese Board pizza



05 2010

Philadelphia (For Amy’s Birthday!)

Location | New York City

Headed to Philly for a beautiful Sunday to see the lovely Amy because her birthday was last week and I didn’t get a chance to see her!. Took the Chinatown Bus with Jiye who was heading back home.

Here’s the big problem: I took one whole picture while there. Ok,  three. Two of which were on my cell phone.

Sign at Reading Terminal Market

So, here it is, the one grand photo I took. I’ll go back to Philly soon, so no worries, much better photos in the future!

Highlights from the trip:

  • Mussels & Duck Sandwich from Monk’s Cafe
  • Chocolate Banana & Mango Champagne Gelato from Capogiro
  • Sushi (unmemorable, so I don’t remember the name)

Of course I have no photos. Of course. Anyway, more postings soon and maybe an exciting update if I find the time to do it!


05 2010

The “Horrifying” Side of Philadelphia

Location | New York, NY

This past Sunday, I went to Philadelphia to meet up with my cousin, Jessie. Billy, Jessie’s brother, drove us there. We left around 9 and arrived around 11. We met up with Jessie and her research assistant Yi-zhen. The first stop was South Street. We headed to Ishkabibble’s Eatery to have some Philly Cheesesteaks. I noticed that the line for Jim’s Steaks, the typical tourist stop, was already out the door and down the block. Ishkabibble is rated highly on Yelp, which tends to be my bible for finding delicious places.

Although I wasn’t elated about the quality of food, I wasn’t quite disappointed either. Between the four of us, we ordered 3 South Philly Cheesesteaks (red pepper, spinach, provolone and beef), 1 South Philly Chicken Cheesesteak (same, but with chicken), a large order of fries, 2 Gremlins (half grape juice, half lemonade), 1 Diet Coke, 1 Apple Juice.

The inside of Ishkabibble’s is tiny, but we found a space for the 4 of us at the counter. There we chowed down, but I was only able to get through half of mine, but I also ate half of the large fries (oh man!) and also downed the Gremlin, which was amaaaaazing.

Making Philly Cheesesteaks!

Making Philly Cheesesteaks!

After Ishkabibble’s, Jessie needed to get back to the conference center (she was there to give a speech on public health), so we dropped her off and took Yi-zhen to the Eastern State Penitentiary. I called up Danny (my friend from college) to come chill with us as well.

The outside of the Eastern State Penitentiary looks like a castle. It looks completely out of place in the outskirts of Philly. Due to Halloween, the haunted house decorations were still up. $8 for a student ticket, and $12 for regular adult. With every entrance ticket you get an audio set to take you on your own tour. There’s also free tours with guides if you go at the right time.

Creepy Hallway

Creepy Hallway

Walking in, you just go between a thick wall and you see the old buildings to your left. When you enter for the first time, you realize that it’s cold. Not just cold temperature wise, but just like that eerie cold you get when you feel like you’re all alone. It was actually a nice day outside (where jackets were not needed), but I was practically shivering inside the building.

Who is this prisoner!?

Who is this prisoner!?

Walking hallway through hallway, I knew that I would never want to experience prison or jail. Even if it is supposedly “nicer” these days (whatever that means).

We walked down the different cells peeking in doors (if possible) and just feeling the eeriness of the prison. We went past death row, the greenhouse, outdoor area, and completely dilapidated cells. It was a great and surreal experience.

We walked by Al Capone’s old cell (which was “beautifully” furnished). Over all it was highly recommended.

After the penitentiary, we headed back to find my cousin. We went to Capogiro Artisan Gelato and had some truly divine gelato. Pera, heirloom apple and bacio (chocolate w/ hazelnut). Not only those 3 flavours, but also a huge dollop of homemade whipped cream! YUM!

Delicious gelato! YUM!

Delicious gelato! YUM!

We walked a mile or so to a small store that sold some Japanese goodies, but otherwise, we didn’t do much besides drop off my cousin and her assistant back at the hotel and then my cousin and I headed back to NY.


11 2009

Last Days of Taiwan

Location | Taichung, Taiwan

Wow, this trip went by incredibly fast. I’m going to miss Taiwan a lot. Now that I’m older, I have more money, I can appreciate Taiwan a lot more than I used to. Even though my best time in Taiwan was still the summer of 2005 (I miss you TTT-ers!), this time was just as great hanging out with family and old friends.

We got back from Sydney around 6pm and back to Taichung around 8. My cousin and his girlfriend stopped by with bubble tea and their dog Manto. It wasn’t very eventful except the unpacking.

Friday started out early. First I woke up early to go get my eyeliner tattoo redone on the left eye. The under-eye line was faded. After another horrific 20 or so minutes, we were off to go do some shopping. We went to Mei Hwa Tai, Sogo and Net. At Net I spent US$400 on a new wardrobe… heh. I’m a big spender.

We had lunch at Chun Shui Tang. I got the Kung Fu Noodles, turnip cake and bubble tea. We spent the afternoon chatting at my Grandma’s before my aunt took me home with her to use the internet. I hung out with her, my cousin, Jack, and their dog Manto until it was time to go back to my Grandma’s so I could quickly change and we could go to teppenyaki!

This is Manto. He says "hello!"

This is Manto. He says "hello!"

Teppenyaki was easily the coolest part of the night. We went to this fancy-looking place where they have impeccable service and really delicious food. It was French-style teppenyaki. Here are the things we ate in order:

Amuse Bouche

Amuse Bouche

Fish Soup

Fish Soup

Nicoise Salad

Nicoise Salad

Duck Breast!

Duck Breast!



Sakura Fried Rice

Sakura Fried Rice

Ice cream covered in a shell of chocolate

Ice cream covered in a shell of chocolate

Milk Tea w/ Grass Jelly

Milk Tea w/ Grass Jelly

It was a really satisfying and filling meal. Looking at the pictures makes me really hungry. I’d really love to eat some more of the Sakura fried rice. It was really amazing, but I couldn’t enjoy it that much because I was completely STUFFED.

Oh yeah, the chefs and waiters are all extremely attractive. Apparently it’s part of the way they choose employees. You have to fit a certain standard of good looks. I didn’t think our chefs were that good looking, but not bad.

Our Chefs

Our Chefs

After dinner I got dropped back off at my grandma’s and my aunt took me and my mom to go see my aunt on my dad’s side. On the way there I learned that the uncle of the youngest aunt (my dad has 5 sisters) was (or still is!?) in the Taiwanese mafia… and apparently he’s on the lam after doing some jail time? Interesting…

Anyway, my aunts (the oldest and the 4th oldest) run a food stand on a small street. There they sell fried leek pancakes, oyster pancakes, noodles, fried leek, fried tofu, etc. I took a few shots while I was there.

Giant Fryer

Giant Fryer

Fried Foods

Fried Foods

Later that night we headed of Fong-Chia Night Market. My cousin, Jack, his gf, Zhiyan, me and my cousin, Jessie just roamed around. Jack and Jessie ended up eating stinky tofu while Zhiyan and I walked around searching for accessories. In the end we ended up in this store with an absurd amount of stuffed animals. Here’s me with a giant pig.

Giant Pig!

Giant Pig!

Now I’m back in the states scheming about when I’ll go back to Taiwan next!!


11 2009