grand canyon- a name well earned

Two things that are true about my mom are: she gets her way, and she knows best.

After I did some actual research about driving from LA to the Grand Canyon, I realized it was a good 8 hour drive. I originally just thought it would be like 4 hours from LA. Nope, a good 8 hour drive (485 miles). I tried to persuade my mom that maybe the best use of our time would be to go somewhere closer to LA. We were only in LA for a week. However, she then started to Korean mom guilt trip me. “But, I’ve never been the Grand Canyon. I may never ever have a chance to go back again since I’m getting older,” she lamented.

First of all, she’s not that old. And second, since my brother and wife moved out to L.A., I had a feeling it wouldn’t be the last time on the west coast. Well, like the obedient daughter I am, I agreed to her long time wish of seeing these grand canyons and booked hotels a week before the trip.

So 8+ hours later, in our trusty Hyundai Sonata rental car, listening to hours of Descendants of the Sun soundtrack (thanks to Spotify), driving in the hot Arizona skies, we made it to the promise land. Our entire 3 day roadtrip trip looked like this: LA-Vegas (1 night)-Hoover Dam- Grand Canyon Sky Walk- Grand Canyon National Park(1 night)- Antelope Canyon-Horseshoe bend-Utah-LA.

It was utterly amazing. I’ve never seen anything in my life like this before. It definitely lived up to it’s name. You can’t help but feel in continual awe as you go from one view place to another. From people hiking in the trails, to wildlife along the trails, and just stopping to take incredible photos from all angles. We only had 2 days there, but I can’t wait to go back. I would love to hike some of the trails in the canyons and camp overnight the next time I come back.

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the cali life

I finally made it to L.A. this summer. Yes, it was my first time in this beautiful city. I was expecting L.A. to be more of a “city” like NYC, but what I encountered was quite different. It kind of felt like the suburbs because everything was so spread out, there were big houses, but it was still a “city”. In the end of the week, I got used to the traffic (kind of), perfect sunny weather (not too hot or humid), and delicious and affordable Korean food.

One of my favorite places I went to was the Ghetty Center. As I took the tram up and explored the art outside and inside, I couldn’t believe this place was FREE. No admission costs and no suggested donation (ahem, the Met). Some of the other highlights from my LA trip was Griffith Observatory, Hollywood Walk of Fame, Santa Monica Pier, lunch at the Farmer’s Market at the Grove, eating Korean food Ktown (Ssam & Su nong Dan) and of course meeting my favorite nephew for the first time.

In addition to exploring LA, we went on  road trip to Las Vegas and the grand canyon. I highly recommend making a pit stop at the bottle tree ranch on Route 66 and the In & Out at Barstow. I’ve never seen such a busy and packed In & Out!! I guess everyone must stop there. More photos from the grand canyon coming up soon. Stay tuned…

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city life @ reykjavik

During our stay we enjoyed some time to rest and rejuvenate in Reykjavik, which was much needed at times. Some of the highlights (in no particular order) in the city were:

  1. Lunch at bergsson mathus– Delicious local food, place to people watch, and wifi
  2. View of the city from the tower at the hallgrímskirkja church.
  3. Waffles at Mokka-Kaffi
  4. Exploring inside the Harpa building
  5. Lobster soup at Saaegreifinn
  6. Fish & chips (obviously) at Icelandic fish & chips (Make a reservation beforehand online if you can.)
  7. Walking and shopping on Laugavegur and all the side streets.
  8. Ice cream from valdis
  9. Burger & fries from Roadhouse
  10. Hotdog with everything from the famous hotdog stand- baejarins beztu pylsur

Despite what people say, I thought the food was pretty good! We also did buy snacks and food from Kronan. It definitely was worth getting an airbnb and being able to cook for some of our meals, since eating out can get quite pricey. Being Korean, we also brought a good stash of shin ramen, seaweed, and rice (microwaveable).

I do have to say, I think in our week stay in Iceland, I never ate so many hotdogs in my life. The hotdogs were definitely different tasting because I heard they use more sheep meat. Also, I loved the fried onions they put inside. It added a good texture to it. So if you are heading off to Iceland, be prepared to eat a lot of hotdogs and Skyr yogurt. DSC_0133DSC_0140DSC_0143DSC_0144DSC_0147DSC_0150DSC_0151DSC_0155DSC_0162DSC_0183DSC_0182DSC_0175

a green iceland

Even though we saw glaciers at Jokulsarlon on one end, there was much more green that we saw throughout Iceland. One of the highlights was a hike from Arnarstapi to Hellnar at the Snaefellsnes peninsula which was right next to the water and had some beautiful views of cliffs and ocean. It kind of reminded me of some of the cliffs I saw in Sydney during the coastal walk from coogee to bondi! During the hike we saw all the moss covered rocks, which makes you feel like you are on another planet and the cutest succulents sprouting up through the crevices of rocks. Seriously, Iceland.

Another highlight was the svartifoss waterfall at skaftafell. It was a short, but hilly hike up to the waterfall. Even though I was sweating and a bit tired by the time I got up there, it was impressive. I took a few photos at seljalandsfoss waterfall as well below. If you are wondering where are the photos of all the other waterfalls that we sas, let’s just say I did get lazy at times, and I just didn’t want to carry my dslr camera when my iphone takes decent photos.😉DSC_0093DSC_0095DSC_0110DSC_0113DSC_0117DSC_0213DSC_0225DSC_0227DSC_0240DSC_0239DSC_0233DSC_0244DSC_0246

icy iceland

Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to really expect from Iceland. I heard a lot of great things from friends that have visited. Let me just say, Iceland exceeded any expectations I had. Everyday there was an adventure and I couldn’t help be overwhelmed by the beauty of nature. The change in terrain after driving 30 minutes or so was incredible. From  purple lupine flowers scattered on luscious green fields, moss covered rocks, black sand beaches, snow covered mountains, waterfalls from incredible heights, and hot spring geysers, there was much to see.

Here are a few shots from outside the blue lagoon and at Jokulsarlon. The glacier lagoon at Jokulsarlon was probably one of my favorite things we saw in Iceland. It was about a four and half hour drive from Reykjavik, the farthest place we drove to during our week long trip. One quick tip, if you are at Jokulsarlon you’ll see a lot of birds (seagulls?), and if you see a baby bird walking on the grass on it’s own, don’t go near it to take photos. We almost got attacked by the momma bird flying above us as we attempted to get some photos. Luckily, we survived. I’ll share more on our itinerary and tips for Iceland soon.

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facing fears- one breath at a time

[Part 1]

There are moments in your life where you ask yourself- why am I doing this?  It was 5:35pm and I was planning on leaving my home at 5:30pm. I thought to myself, it’s not too late now. I could just call my friends and let them know that I couldn’t make it. Even though my bags were packed, I had a throbbing headache and this was my last opportunity to back out. Every inch of my brain was telling me to not go. Do the smart thing and stay home. I had to keep telling myself that I was not a quitter, even though that’s all I could think about doing.

There are different levels of fear. And honestly, I don’t think I’ve been so scared to do something as I was that weekend. Tell me to move to a country halfway around the world that you’ve never been to, run a half-marathon after completing 3 days of training teachers in Cambodia, or teach a classroom of  32 middle school students in a NYC public schools at the age of 22 and I wouldn’t think twice about it. Tell me to dive deep into the ocean and depend on a tank of air for 50 minutes and my brain goes into panic mode.

I managed to get myself out of my home and to the location of where we would depart for our scuba diving trip. As I was on the van to Tioman, Malaysia, there was no turning back. (Well technically I could have gotten out at the border at Woodlands and taken a taxi back home, but at this point, I might as well go to Malaysia.) Worst case scenario would be to get there and not dive. Luckily, I had friends by my side that kept encouraging me as they could see the anxiety and fear written all over my face.

After a very long drive to Malaysia, we took a two and half hour ferry ride to Tioman and made it to our island “resort” around 2:30am. We had to wake up around 6:30am for breakfast and our first dive. I think I slept, but I kept waking up every hour or so to check my watch. I woke up before my alarm went off and felt that nervous pit in my stomach. It wasn’t the nervous, but excited feeling before a first date, or the adrenaline, but nervous feeling before an important race. It was the oh crap, I’m really doing this feeling.

To be continued….

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