Hong Kong Trip Report

Ahhh, my four day weekend is coming to an end. We were doggie-sitting so we spent a lot of time relaxing at home and having friends over for an early Memorial day potluck of Korean food (I guess we’re going through Korea withdrawal even months later). Today we went to see X-Men: Days of Future Past, which was a fun movie but didn’t quite capture me the way the Avengers movies have. I’m not quite sure what it is because I love so many of the actors — Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, etc — but I’m just not obsessing or fan-girling about the series. Still recommend it for a fun way to spend a couple of hours. :)

Back to my trip report! Just two more installments, I think…

Before our time in Seoul, Rob & I first stopped over at Hong Kong. I visited way back when with my dad (must have been 20+ years ago, wow) but have wanted to see it again as an adult. Not to mention that Hong Kong Disneyland was calling my name. ;)

Compared to other major Asian cities I’ve visited (Tokyo, Bangkok, Seoul), it is a BREEZE to get around Hong Kong. As a former British colony, most people speak English. I know that unfamiliar situations are par for the course for traveling but when there’s no language barrier, it makes everything so much easier. For us, anyway.

We spent 3 full days in Hong Kong splitting time equally between the city and Disney. It definitely wasn’t enough time for the city but hopefully we’ll make a pit stop there again the next time we visit Asia.



Our adventure started SUPER early on Wednesday morning, 2/12. We had a 7am flight so we stayed at a hotel near LAX and took the shuttle to the airport. We arrived just after 4am and found that the Air Canada terminal wasn’t even open. Apparently there was a power outage the night before so all the systems were taking awhile to get back online. OMG!!! All I wanted to do was check-in our bags and get coffee. ARGH. I am SO not a morning person. We ended up being third in line which was great because the line got long really quickly because of the delay.



Our flights were uneventful (we had a short layover in Vancouver – made me wish we had a few days there) but man, the legroom on Air Canada is tight. That says a lot since I’m so short! Once we arrived at Hong Kong airport, we flew through immigration and customs, hopped in a taxi and made our way to Kowloon.

We stayed at the Sheraton Hong Kong in the Tsim Sha Tsui district and when we were checking in, I was informed that I apparently booked a smoking room. WTF. OOPS. The front desk clerk took pity on me (I was so tired by this time) and managed to change our room to non-smoking and upgraded us to a harbour view room. AWESOME.



This was our view of the harbour! We got up to our room right before 8pm so we were able to see the beginning of the Symphony of Lights, a nightly multimedia show on the water. Our vantage point wasn’t the best so I couldn’t see much and obviously couldn’t hear anything. Sadly we never got the chance to see it live along the waterfront.

We wanted to eat before knocking out so we walked down the main street, Nathan Road, and happened upon the iSquare mall which had a food court. We ended up at a modern Shanghainese restaurant Shanghai Popo where we ordered Shanghai fried noodles (OMG YUM) and beef with pine nuts and rice cake (WOW). The food totally hit the spot.



The next day was Valentine’s Day and I woke up at about 7:30am and couldn’t go back to sleep. At least I was free and clear of jet lag!

First order of business was to go to Tim Ho Wan — a dim sum chain known for its Michelin star (not the branch we were going to though). Aziz Ansari ate here on his episode of The Layover and we’ve been wanting to try it ever since! The location we visited is at Hong Kong station but it was SO hard to find (the station is enormous). When we ended up finding it, we realized it was so close to where we exited the fare gates after getting off the train. Of course.



The herd of people outside was the giveaway. We got there early (maybe around 11am?) so we only waited about 10 minutes. Seating is mostly communal and we got two seats in the middle of a long table. It was a tight fit, lol.

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Seoul Trip Report

Last year our friend Leah mentioned that she would be traveling to South Korea for work sometime in early 2014. A few of us threw out the idea of tagging along with her and at first I thought it was just a bit of wishful thinking until all of a sudden we were requesting time off and booking flights. !!!

We spent 4.5 days in Seoul this past February which was just enough time to visit the more popular tourist attractions and neighborhoods. English isn’t widely spoken in Seoul at all so we were lucky to be traveling with our friends Rob & Sebastian who acted as our tour guides (they both speak Korean and lived in Seoul for awhile after college) — they not only accompanied us everywhere but they translated for us too. We would have had an extremely hard time getting by without them — so grateful!

Also, the weather is typically in the 40s during this time of the year. I was so scared I would freeze (I’m a Californian, what can I say?) but it wasn’t bad at all. Seriously!

Some highlights…

One place I definitely wanted to visit was the Korean demilitarized zone, which is the area that serves as a buffer between North & South Korea. The USO runs a tour that visits various points of interest in the DMZ but most importantly includes a stop within the Joint Security Area where you can actually step foot into North Korea. !!!



The tour starts at Camp Kim in Seoul where everyone checks in and boards the bus for the drive to the border.



The first stop was the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel, which is one of four known tunnels between North & South Korea (supposedly there are 20+ more that haven’t been found yet). The tunnel was built by the North Koreans in order to launch a surprise attack on Seoul. Their cover story is that they were digging for coal — they even went so far as to paint coal dust along the tunnel walls. Too bad geologically it’s not possible to find coal in this area and dynamite markings were found in the tunnel as well. Tourists can walk a portion of the way to see the barricades that were put up to block tunnel access. We went down to the tunnel but didn’t get very far before we decided to turn around. The space was TIGHT, the ceiling was LOW (thank goodness for the hard hats they made us wear) and it was HOT. Not to mention that on the way back we were faced with a steep incline. OH MAN. THAT WAS THE WORST. Sadly no photos are allowed in the tunnel.

Next up was Dorasan train station, which is the last stop on the rail line before North Korea.



In the past, goods were transported through this station and into the Kaesong region in North Korea. But in 2008, the North Korean government closed the border crossing due to political conflicts.



We were allowed to see the tracks after paying a few South Korean won to get a souvenir ticket.

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The Last of 2013: Van City, NYC & Paris

I think this might finally be my last 2013 blog post. LOL. Thanks for bearing with me. :)

Last year we took a couple of long weekend trips to Vancouver & NYC and also traveled to Paris for a half day at the tail end of our Disneyland Paris trip. I wanted to share a few fun photos before I officially bid adieu to 2013.



We took our annual trip to Vancouver back in May. Fourth year in a row!

One of our very favorite shows, Psych, filmed in Vancouver (*sniff*) so we decided to drive south to the city of White Rock BC, which the show used for many of its location shoots.



The Psych office!!! SQUEE. Ok ok, in real life it’s the White Rock Museum & Archives.



Rob doing a Shawn Spencer impression. LOL.

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Turks & Caicos

I watched The Lego Movie a few weekends ago and STILL have the main song in my head (“Everything is awesome!”).

And last weekend I made sure to watch the Veronica Mars movie that I proudly backed on Kickstarter. :) I didn’t think the movie was as strong as season 1 (my favorite season) but it was so great to see all the characters I love and see where they ended up. If only for the nostalgia factor, I loved it. Please go see it!

Anyway, I realize we’re in 2014 but I still have a few travel photos to share from last year so bear with me. Back in October, my brother in law and his wife invited us to go along with them on their trip to Turks & Caicos — specifically the island of Providenciales (otherwise known as Provo). I have to admit that I had no idea where the islands are located but OF COURSE we took advantage of the invite. We would never turn down an opportunity to travel!

Provo ended up being a perfect and much-needed destination. I tend to favor “city” vacations so often we come home feeling like we need a vacation from our vacation. LOL. But the island vibe is so laidback and easygoing that we really had no choice but to unwind and relax.

We did a lot of bumming around on the beach and even more eating. It was awesome! Food was soooo expensive though. Lunches and dinners were AT LEAST $20 per person (although the ingredients like fish were super fresh) and something like an iced latte was $7. OUCH.

Some highlights…

We visited the Chalk Sound area which is known for its shallow, family friendly beaches. It took awhile to find the beach access trails though — but the persistence is worth it! First up was Taylor Bay Beach.



I loved that I could walk a significant distance from the shore and still be able to stand and see the bottom.



Adjacent to Taylor Bay is Sapodilla Bay Beach. No other souls to be seen except us!

I should note that we visited during the last week of the off season (last week of October). Crowds were pretty much non-existent everywhere we went. It was fantastic! A few restaurants and sights had limited hours but nothing that affected our plans.



We also visited Long Bay Beach and its miles of gorgeous white sand.



The first day we visited Long Bay Beach we got totally rained out! As soon as we set our stuff down, it started POURING. We were soaked! We ran back to the car and headed back to the comfort of the condo.



The second time was picture perfect. The water was so beautiful and clear. Just the perfect shades of blue. We even picked up sandwiches and snacks at the supermarket and had a lovely picnic on the beach.

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Paris Trip Report: Disneyland

Of all ten Disney theme parks I’ve visited so far, Disneyland Paris is the most gorgeous. The park is lush, rich in detail, and is expansive without feeling too big or losing its charm. I’d rank it as my third favorite park behind the original Disneyland in Anaheim and Tokyo DisneySea.

Random note – during the planning of this trip, I read reports online about rude cast members, maintenance problems, and issues with attractions/entertainment closures. I did notice more ride closures than usual (easily attributed to the off-season) and the parks aren’t as immaculate as their American counterparts but the cast members were nothing but friendly. Anyway.

We’re here!



Disneyland Hotel is situated above the entrance turnstiles to the park.



The park’s 20th anniversary was actually in 2012 but they were still celebrating while we visited in 2013.



You can walk down Main Street outdoors as you would normally do but as a compromise due to rainy weather, Main Street was also built with covered walkways known as arcades on either side. You can access all the stores with the advantage of shelter.

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Paris Trip Report: Walt Disney Studios Park

I pretty much spent most of January sick. UGGGHHHH. WHY?! I went to the doctor for antibiotics last week and I think I’m finally on the mend. Just in time for February.

Anyway, I think everyone knows I’m a huge Disney fan. :) Visiting each of the 5 Disney resorts across the globe is on my bucket list and so far I’ve made it to 3 of the 5 (Walt Disney World in 2011, Tokyo Disneyland in 2012 and Disneyland all the time). After our Mediterranean cruise last year, Rob & I flew to Paris and checked off Disneyland Paris. !!! WOOHOO.

We spent 2.5 days at the resort, which was the perfect amount of time. I really wanted to stay at the Disneyland Hotel since it’s located at the entrance to the park but it was ridiculously expensive. So we opted for Sequoia Lodge. It’s a charming hotel that’s inspired by American national parks and I loved it because it reminded me of the Wilderness Lodge, which is where we stayed at Walt Disney World. It made a great home base for us!



The hotel exterior.



We booked a Golden Forest Club room which entitled us to a continental breakfast in the mornings and snacks in the afternoon. Guests visit the Golden Forest Lounge for these perks.



You never know who you’ll see at breakfast!



We loved coming back from a day at parks and hanging out here with snacks and coffee or soda.



It’s an easy 10-15 minute walk from Sequoia Lodge through Disney Village (basically Downtown Disney) over to the entrance to the parks.

There are two theme parks within the Paris resort — Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios Park.

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Mediterranean Trip Report: Disney Magic

I started writing this entry way back during Thanksgiving weekend. ?!? Totally forgot about it in all the craziness of the holidays.

Oh! Before I forget – my blog celebrated it’s 12th birthday on 1/17! WOWOW. Awesomesauce.

So I’ve recapped all the ports we visited while on our Mediterranean cruise and now I thought I should share some thoughts and pics from the time we spent on the ship itself.

Neither Rob nor I had ever been on a cruise before and I have to admit we were a little apprehensive. I mean, what if we hated being stuck on the ship with no other options for food and/or activities? And the recent disasters on the Costa Concordia and the Carnival Triumph were fresh on my mind. But we figured a Mediterranean itinerary would be a good way to get our feet wet since we’d be spending more time on shore and using the ship primarily as a hotel.

We had no reason to worry, though — we had a GREAT time on the cruise! I’m pretty sure we’ll go on another one just as soon as I find an interesting itinerary. :) I’m also convinced that a cruise is a great vacation option for a family with young kids because accommodations and most food and beverages are included and there are tons of activities and kids clubs available on board to keep them busy.



The first sight of the Disney Magic was amazing — I got goose bumps! It’s such a beautiful ship! When our taxi driver asked us where we were going, he said “Mickey?” Haha. Then he even took a photo of the ship for his kids. Love it.

The entire security & check-in process was easy and we even lucked out and got an upgrade to a navigator’s veranda for only $340. Woohoo. When I completed our check in online, I got a port arrival time of 11am which put us in boarding group 4 but by the time we arrived and got through check-in, they were already on boarding group 25+. OOPS. Since we weren’t in a rush we got our picture taken with Minnie and then hopped in line to board.



When you get on the ship, they ask for your family name and announce you as you board. Such a fun, welcoming touch.

Random note since everyone seems to ask — I DEFINITELY felt seasick that first night after we set sail. Like an idiot, I had packed Bonine (motion sickness medicine) but forgot to take it the night before as recommended. The movement really got to me for a few hours making me feel really nauseous and just unbalanced somehow. It completely went away after a good night’s sleep (and a dose of Bonine!). Rob had no issues at all.

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thanks 2013!

Oh man. I can’t believe the holidays are over. AND that I haven’t written anything since BEFORE Thanksgiving. YIKES!

Rob, Diesel & I had a wonderful holiday season. I hope all of you did too! I want to finish up my blog series on our trip to the Mediterranean (and eventually our other 2013 trips) but before I do that, I thought I’d share some random moments from the last half of the year… basically another one of my photo dumps. :)



To celebrate our 5th anniversary back in August, Rob & I had dinner at a favorite of ours — Napa Rose.



We ate at the Chef’s Counter once again, which I love because you get this great view of the kitchen…



It’s really such a fun experience.



To many more anniversaries!



We spent one day at the biannual D23 Expo. We wanted to see the Walt Disney Studios panel but only made it as far as the secondary viewing room (still fun to see live though). Outside of that, there really wasn’t enough to capture our attention for a full day. Not to mention that the lines for exhibits were pretty darn long. They definitely need more panels and activities to distribute the crowds better. BUT. The expo had two of the best photo opportunities!

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Mediterranean Trip Report: Amalfi Coast

It’s been a really busy few weeks. Immediately after getting back from Turks & Caicos at the end of October, I made two trips up to San Francisco for work. I seriously don’t know how frequent travelers do it. I was tired after three weeks of traveling. Then this past week I got sick with a cold and sore throat. Just what I needed.

And now here we are with the holidays upon us. YIKES! I feel so behind at life.

Ok, continuing on with my Mediterranean trip report. Today I’m covering our day along the Amalfi Coast.

Thursday, September 5

The port was Naples, which is another one with multiple destination options. Some people visit Naples itself, Pompeii, or Capri. Rob & I chose to visit the Amalfi Coast, specifically Positano and Sorrento. We seriously considered Pompeii but I knew it would be way too hot and we’d end up being too tired for that. The Amalfi Coast seemed more scenic and relaxing, which is what we needed at this point in the trip.

We decided to use Rome in Limo again and even went with two of the same people (a hilarious mother/daughter pair) from our Rome excursion. It ended up being just the four of us (we were originally scheduled to have a group of 8 but the others bailed) making it a really intimate day.

Our driver Giovanni picked us up at the port and right away I knew it would be a good day. He was hilarious! He had that really dry, subtle Italian humor. SO GREAT.



Almost immediately after we started our drive, Mount Vesuvius came into view on our left. But the more spectacular vantage point came once we got to the other side of the Gulf of Naples.



This is the view looking towards Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. The island of Capri is just beyond this peninsula.



The stretch of coastline on the southern side of the Sorrentine Peninsula is the region known as the Amalfi Coast. The roads are winding but the view is so beautiful you don’t even notice.

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Mediterranean Trip Report: Rome

Rob & I just got back from a week-long trip to the island of Providenciales (aka Provo) in the Turks & Caicos Islands along with my brother-in-law and his wife. It was HEAVENLY! I’m one of those people who gets a little stir crazy at the thought of spending hours and hours at the beach but that’s pretty much what we did each day. :) I’ll share some pics whenever I get around to downloading them from the camera.

In the meantime, let’s head back to the Mediterranean — this time to Rome!

Wednesday, September 4

Since we only had one day in port, we knew we wanted to go on a guided excursion to do and see as much as possible. It was my second time in Rome but Rob’s first so of course we wanted to hit the main tourist spots like the Colosseum, Vatican Museum, etc. Thanks to Cruise Critic, we not only discovered Rome in Limo but we also found a couple of other parties to share our tour costs. We had a small group of 8, an air-conditioned van, a driver (Nick) and a private guide for the Vatican Museum (Katarina). It was an awesome experience!

Nick picked us up promptly at 8am at Civitavecchia harbor and kept our van entertained the entire 45 minutes it took to get to central Rome.

Our first stop was the Pantheon.



Rob at the Fontana del Pantheon.



The exterior.



The Pantheon Dome with an opening to the sky.



So much to see inside — paintings, sculptures, the tomb of Raphael.



On the way to our next stop, we drove by the Piazza Colonna.

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