#MerryMonday Diani Beach and Maasai Mara, Kenya, 2009

Countdown previewing past Christmas vacations, in preparation for this Christmas’s reveal!

Tomorrow’s December. Wait what. Christmas time better not pass by as fast as time seems to be passing right now.

By the way, enjoy the old, and very limited, photos from 2009!

Episode 2- DIANI BEACH AND MAASAI MARA, KENYA


Welcome to Heaven on Earth, travel doves.

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(Don’t you just love my over-editing back in the day?) Regardless, it’s a brings me straight back to beautiful, Diani.

Diani (1)

My family and I spent almost three weeks in a rented house on Diani Beach, Kenya. Diani Beach is located in the South of Mombasa; in order to get to our house, we had to take a boat from Mombasa.

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Diani (3)

Our house came with a chef- Chef Samuel, a wonderful, kind-hearted man, that cooked up a storm. I even had the opportunity to learn to cook some of my family’s favorite dishes from him! Maybe one day, I’ll share a recipe or two.

During our stay in Diani, we flew to the Maasai Mara to spend our Christmas in the bush. One day I’ll probably do an entire post about the Maasai Mara, once I dig out all of my old photos. It may be my absolute favorite place to go on safari. Although, after this summer spent driving around Northern Tanzania safari-camp hopping, it’s a close one.

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I must admit, I’m not 100% sure these photos are from our 2009 Christmas in the Mara. I know for sure that they were taken at the Maasai Mara, however.


 

Check out #MerryMonday Episode 1: http://wp.me/p6tsDn-3u

Check out my ‘Monday Blues: A Tanzanian Summer’ to see stunning Tanzania: http://wp.me/p6tsDn-2t

Thankful.

For all my readers who celebrate U.S. Thanksgiving- I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with loved ones and lovely food!

November 27th, 2015.

Thanksgiving 2013
Thanksgiving 2013

Scrolling through my social media feeds filled with pictures of happy faces, a lot of food, and thankful words. Today is a breath of fresh air. It’s been a hard couple of weeks for the world, but seeing many of my friends posting and sharing positive things is what I needed- it’s what we needed. I’m well aware that most of the world does not celebrate Thanksgiving, or at least not on this same day, but all of the love that is overflowing my news feeds, makes the world a little brighter.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that” – Martin Luther King Jr.

November 26th, 2015.

Today, I didn’t wake up around any family. I did wake up today though and that in itself is something to be very thankful for. I woke up halfway across the world from all my family, but I woke up in Seoul, South Korea, and for that, I’m very thankful.

A group of friends and I headed out for an all-you-can-eat night of Korean BBQ; only two of my friends in the group actually celebrate Thanksgiving today, but everyone loves KBBQ. A night of all-you-can-eat is the closest we could come to a Thanksgiving meal, but we loved it. Afterwards, we headed to a café for some dessert, because there’s always room for dessert.

Nutella Choco 빙수
Nutella Choco 빙수

A few people left to see a horror movie, but two friends and I decided to stay in the cozy, warm café. We ended up talking till midnight and thoroughly enjoying ourselves. Some crazy stories come out. And just good life talk about real life, real opinions, and overall just happy.

Definitely a different Thanksgiving from what I’ve gotten use to over the past two years, but I ended the night more thankful than when I woke up. Forever thankful for my family- my rocks, my support system, and always my top priority. Thankful for friends, both new and old. Thankful for new experiences. Thankful for the life my parents made for our family, because we’ve already experienced more than most people will in their lifetime, and with that, my brother and I have been given a unique and precious perspective on life.

Forever thankful for more things than I will ever be able to list.

‘Un Deux Trois’ Itaewon, Seoul

Welcome to my Foodie Files: a series of restaurant reviews from around the world!


Todays file:

Un Deux Trois

123-33 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea

A French restaurant located in the “expat” district of Seoul.

For my birthday in October, my parents offered to pay for a birthday dinner out with a friend.  So of course, I wanted steak.  I began by Googling the best steak restaurants in Seoul- let me tell you, steak is expensive  in South Korea, more specifically good steak is expensive.

On my search for a restaurant, for a fabulous birthday-dinner-girls-night-out, I found a fantastic blog called “A Fat Girl’s Food Guide”, written by a fabulous foodie lady currently living in Seoul!  Her article, which will be linked at the bottom of this post, on ‘Un Deux Trois’ is what made me choose the restaurant in the end.  Let me tell you, I made the right choice.

 

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Girls night calls for wine.  Always wine.  I’m not a big fan of red, so I opted for a white.  Unfortunately, the Maître D said that none of the whites sold by the glass were sweet.  I ended up picking the rosé ‘Rare Rosé Traditionnel 2013’, knowing it would most likely be on the sweeter side.  Honestly, I’m not sure if he was just annoyed that I had so many questions, but he was not the most friendly of people.  Our waiter however, was very polite, professional, and friendly.

For a starter, we decided to be adventuress and get the ‘butter garlic escargots’, which neither of us had tried before.  It was phenomenal.

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I will definitely be ordering escargots next time the opportunity presents itself.  Our waiter also brought us some bread, which my friend said was quite good.  Unfortunately, I am gluten intolerant so I can’t verify that.

Being two girls on a university-budget, we both opted for the ‘steak frites’ given the opportunity, which was highly recommended by “A Fat Girl’s Food Guide”

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I ordered mine medium rare, knowing I could trust it at such a nice restaurant.  Overall, it was a beautiful steak, and I’m very critical when it comes to my steak.  I chose the hollandaise sauce, and made sure to ask for it on the side– good steak better not have any sauce on it.  The sauce was delicious though and I used it to dip my ‘frites’ in.  My friend ordered the blue cheese sauce, on the side, and we both enjoyed my sauce more.

I definitely cleared my plate, that’s all I’m saying.

Because it was a night out, we decided to split a dessert- the ‘Madagascar vanilla crème brûlée’ Because it was my birthday, I decided to order a glass of sparkling rosé to pair with it- the ‘Luc Belaire Rosé- Provence’.

As a huge fan of crème brûlée, I was happy with the dessert.  Not the best crème brûlée I have ever had, but it was tasty.

Steak rating- 9/10

Overall rating- 8/10

Only negatives: Maître D was not very friendly or helpful, crème brûlée could have been better, and although the staff knew we were celebrating a birthday, there was not even a “Happy Birthday”

None of these things ruined our night in the least, though.

Overall, I would definitely recommend you check out this restaurant!


 

“A Fat Girl’s Food Guide” Review: http://www.afatgirlsfoodguide.com/2013/11/28/un-deux-trois-brasserie/

‘Un Deux Trois’ online dinner menu: http://brasserie123.com/menu/dinner.pdf

 

#MerryMonday Bali, Indonesia, 2012

Countdown previewing past Christmas vacations, in preparation for this Christmas’s reveal!

As my brother and I have gotten older, we’ve had more say in where we spend holidays, especially Christmas- and it would be an understatement to say that my family loves Christmas.  The way my brother and I were brought up, it was never about where we celebrated things or where we as a family spent time together: with our lifestyle that was impossible.  Rather, we grew up believing that it does not matter where we are, but that we are together as a family.  This has not only been a philosophy I carry through to so many other parts of my life, but has also given us the chance to spend Christmas in some amazing places.

Episode 1- I cannot imagine starting this series any other way than with: BALI, INDONESIA


Some people prefer to spend holidays visiting a lot of tourist sites, engaging in a lot of activities, and almost constantly busy- my family does not travel like that.  Everyone travels differently and naturally, has different interests and intents going for vacation.  We like to spend ours not living on a strict schedule, relaxing, and generally being away from tourists and tourist attractions.

Welcome to our paradise for two weeks:

Our home
Our home

I must say, my Dad is a pro at finding the perfect accommodation for our family to spend vacations, no matter where we are.  As a family, my Mom, brother, Dad, and I have agreed this house and this vacation was our favorite so far.  Although, after this summer’s beach house on Zanzibar Island, Tanzania, I think we might have to revote!

The house was located about three hours (not completely sure as I slept the whole way), away from the airport and the more touristy area of Bali.  Fun fact- one of the main reasons the area near the airport is so touristy, is because people from all over the world, especially Australia because of proximity, go there to surf.

The house, nestled between rice fields: was two stories with many rooms partly open to the outdoors, had a swimming pool in front of it, and a pathway running from the center of the pool, through the beautifully green garden, straight down to the black-sand beach.

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Our little slice of heaven.

We spent most of our days lounging around the house, in and out of the pool, and taking walks on the beach.  We traveled into our little town and had drinks at restaurants on the beach.

'Cinderella'
‘Cinderella’
View from the restaurant
View from a restaurant on the beach in our little town

One afternoon, we met a wonderful man who was selling jewelry he’d made.  All of the pieces had meanings behind them, and whether they were true or not, he was a great storyteller and was a kind man who shared about his family with us.  I still wear my necklace.

We visited a couple temples, which were just magnificent.  I wish I knew the names for you.

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We snorkeled a few times, and my brother learnt how to scuba dive!  Our snorkel and scuba instructor is one of the nicest, most real men I have ever meant- his name is Buddha.

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We went out in the fishermen’s boats early in one morning to see a pod of dolphins.  The sunrise, the dolphins…see for yourself:

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Bali is more than anyone will ever be able to describe, but the one thing I will always remember is the people of Bali.  The people of Bali are some of the most happy, most genuine, and nicest people you will ever meet.  Nothing I can say will properly express how much I would like you to understand how happy and real, Balinese are.

Bali is reason enough to visit Southeast Asia.  Skip the crowded, more touristy area (unless you’re a surfer), and discover Bali.  Also pick up some Seaweed Pringles, they’re really good!

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Meet the people of Bali.  You won’t be sorry, I promise.  I definitely left a piece of my heart in Bali.

Hello November

It’s November, it’s November!  That means my two favorite holidays are coming up and I cannot wait.

The first one is Thanksgiving.  Although, I will still be studying abroad here in Seoul, so I will not have the grand Thanksgiving dinner I love and the family time I can never get enough of.  Guess we will find out how I celebrate?  I do not have any ideas yet either, but I know I will still be thankful for so, so many things as well as be sure to tell my family I miss and love them.

The second holiday may be my favorite…CHRISTMAS!  You can be sure that since it is officially November, that Christmas music will constantly be playing in my room.  Yes, I am that person.  I absolutely adore everything about Christmas and every year I spend it with my parents and my brother, and I would not want it any other way.  Whether we go on a vacation over Christmas, or we are sitting in our living room with our hot chocolate or tea in hand, with our stockings, our collectively decorated tree, and our traditional Christmas tunes- it is still my favorite.

I am thinking of writing a few blog posts leading up to Christmas telling stories from different places we have spent Christmas.  So, because I am so excited and cannot stand it, here are some photos from Christmas vacations past:

Can you guess where I will be spending Christmas this year?

Countdown Begins

Seven weeks and counting.

Crazy to think my semester abroad is almost over and even crazier to think I almost gave up studying abroad for a semester.  Get ready for a long-winded blog post when I move out of the dorms in December.

Things I already know I am going to miss:

  1. Banana milk
  2. 떡볶이 Tteokbokki- snack streetfood made of rice cakes in spicy chili sauce
  3. All street food- so convenient and extremely delicious
  4. Korean BBQ
  5. The fact that convenience stores are actually convenient and are open 24/7
  6. Chopsticks for every meal, although rest-assured I bought a Frozen-themed metal set
  7. All the glutinous donuts- glutinous rice donuts with red bean filling, glutinous rice donuts with cream cheese filling, glutinous sweet potato donuts…the list never ends!
  8. The public transportation system

But.

Things I am looking forward to going “home” to (wherever that is, I know. I cannot keep up either):

  1. Cheetos- give me crunchy or give me puffy…I want them all!
  2. Dill pickles- you can find sweet pickles here, but that is about it.  They are served as a relish side dish when you order “Western food”, which is not always Western
  3. Not getting looked at funny when I ask for more than one small packet of ketchup to use with an entire meal
  4. Affordable fruits and vegetables
  5. Target, ‘nough said

There are things I miss from every country I have visited, but any place I have spent more than one or two weeks in- it is so much worse.

So many pieces of my heart have been left scattered around the world, I did not know I had this many pieces.

Disneyland Tokyo

I love everything Disney so of course, one of the things I was excited to experience the most in Tokyo, was Disneyland. One of my friends I met during my first week in Seoul travelled to Japan for a couple weeks before flying to South Korea and she told me about Disneyland Tokyo. She told me, besides the fact that it is Disney so it is fun for any Disney lover, how interesting it was that they focused on different movies and characters than the Disney’s in the U.S.

Details:

  • Ticket type: Starlight Pass (access after 3pm)
  • Cost: 5,400 JPY/ $45
  • Date visited: Monday, September 28th, 2015

When I visited, the start of Halloween festivities had just begun, so the entrance was all decked out before I even got into the actual park.

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Once I walked through, the view was incredible!

Disneyland Tokyo (3) Disneyland Tokyo (5)

I have not been to a Disney park since the summer of 2012, so I do not quite remember what the initial view is like at Walt Disney World Orland, Florida, for example.

The initial view at Disneyland Tokyo got even better at night when I was leaving—everything all lit up was gorgeous!

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To the castle!

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Obligatory selfies with the castle

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I wandered around the park looking for Fantasy Land, which is my most favorite area of the park in Disney World (Orlando). So obviously, I had the most trouble finding it in Tokyo. I did however hang out in the French Quarter for a while, which was pretty and filled with lots of entertainment.

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I realized along my wanderings, that Disneyland Tokyo must be known for the various types of popcorn they have spread around at different carts around the park. So I stopped for the one I thought was most unique for Japan

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Soy sauce and butter

I found my way into Adventure Land. The ride lines were crazy long though, so I skipped out on those. Plus, if you have been on Splash Mountain, you know it is a lot of fun, but the story leading up to the fun part is kind of really creepy.

I found some more food though.

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Minnie Mouse steamed bun with sweet potato in the ears and chestnut in the big circle. It was absolutely delicious, but surprisingly super sweet! I had never had chestnut so I did not know it would be so sweet.

I kept wandering, because I had to make it to Fantasy Land and I really wanted to buy some cute princess-style Minnie Mouse ears or even better, a tiara. Everyone was dressed up in some sort of way. Some of the dressing up may have been in part due to the Halloween festivities beginning, but most people that walked past me had some sort of Disney/Disney character hat or headband on. There were people, and couples (!), in matching outfits, fun makeup…everyone was so festive I felt so left out.

I finally found Fantasy Land and headed straight to the gift shops. No matter how many shops I went into, I could not find any tiaras or crowns or many princess-related things at all. You could definitely say I was extremely shocked at the lack of princess stuff and also sad. Definitely sad.

BUT I did find an entire gift shop dedicated to Stitch and he is one of my favorite non-princess characters. So I bought an adorable Stitch beanie! My outer fairy princess let my inner stitch run around for the afternoon and it was a great decision.

I grabbed some food in the space-area of Disney at a place that looked similar to one of the main fast-food restaurants at Disney World (Orlando). I bought some chicken nuggets and a salad in a cup. And yay the chicken nuggets were Mickey shaped!

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Ft. the Stitch beanie

I tried looking for some sort of anything Disney that said Disneyland Tokyo on it for one of my close friends who works at Disney. HARDEST THING. At Disney World (Orlando), you basically cannot get anything without “Walt Disney World Orlando” written somewhere, if not all over it. I ended up buying a Halloween shot glass, because on the back it said “Disneyland Tokyo” and I am an adult.

I grabbed a Mickey tiramisu ice cream sandwich to top-off the night, since the candy stores were nothing like the candy stores in Disney World (Orlando)(Western-style, pick what you want, put it in a bag, weigh the bag, and pay). The ice cream sandwich was absolutely delicious.

And then I said goodnight to Disneyland Tokyo after an afternoon filled with a huge continuous smile.

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Final thoughts:

  • Never going to a Disney park anywhere without wearing or being dressed up as some sort of character, because it is way too much fun and way too adorable to pass up
  • If some of your absolute favorite Disney movies are Toy Story, Monsters Inc./Monsters University, Frozen, and Lilo & Stitch, you will be overwhelmed with Disney love
  • I can count the number of tourists I saw on one hand
  • I do not know if this is true of any other Disney parks, but there was a restaurant INSIDE the beginning of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride

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  • It is still Japan so there are not a ton of trash bins around
  • It is overall cheaper than Disney in the U.S.—the food, the drinks, the snacks, the everything!
  • Just go. You will love it.

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Goodnight, Disney :*


Check out where I stayed in Tokyo!

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1408849

“Holi Suitcases, Hannah! You did what last weekend?!”

This past weekend was a 4-day weekend thanks to 추석 (pronounced chuseok) holidays.  추석 is Korean Thanksgiving where historically, families get together and honor their ancestors while spending time together.

So of course, give Hannah a long weekend, and she will travel—I learnt from the best (thank you Mom and Dad 🙂 ).

I went to Tokyo, Japan! And yes, I went all by myself. And no, I cannot speak Japanese. And yes, I had an incredible trip and I will definitely be returning to explore more of Japan.

I rented an Airbnb apartment for only $26/night, 25 minutes out of Shinjuku, which is a major transit center in Tokyo for trains, the subway, and buses. I had the tiny little apartment all to myself and it was absolutely perfect—quiet, safe area, and the perfect size for one persons short stay. Be sure to check out the apartment I rented using the link I list at the bottom of the blog post.

So what did I get up to?

Friday was not terribly exciting, because I basically travelled all day. Although, it was so nice to get a fabulous full-nights rest that night so that I could wake up early on Saturday  to tackle the day.

On Saturday, I travelled about two hours away to an area called Kawagoe. I wandered around the area, which has been preserved and reconstructed to look very similar to a more “traditional” or “pre-modern” Tokyo.

© HoliSuitcases

© HoliSuitcases

© HoliSuitcases

© HoliSuitcases

That night, I wanted to go to Tokyo City View, but thanks to my phone dying as well as the new external battery charger I bought, I was unable to find it. It was nice to see a different area of Tokyo though.

Sunday was a big day so I went to bed fairly early again on Saturday. On Sunday, I travelled to Sensō-ji Temple, which is Tokyo’s oldest temple and also a major tourist attraction. The only place I really ran into tourists was at Sensō-ji Temple and I saw a few on Saturday in Kawagoe.

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The grounds were beautiful, but there were so many tourists. Although, I found out I loved the photographing the masses of people visiting the ancient Temple.  The contrast fascinates me.

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I spent time wandering around the area the temple is located in as there are a lot of street food stalls and cute little shops, as would be expected in an area frequented by tourists.

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I travelled home quickly to leave my big camera behind and grab my ticket and headed to Disneyland Toyko! I LOVE DISNEY. Everything Disney is my favorite, so you could say I was slightly excited.

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I’m probably going to do an entire post about Disneyland Tokyo, so I will not say anymore about it here.

Monday was my last full day in Tokyo so I decided to, kind of accidentally, sleep-in a little bit and then take it easy wandering around the famed shopping areas of Tokyo. The one I tackled first was Shibuya, which was really hard to navigate. Luckily my phone had not died yet.

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I stopped at this restaurant for lunch (highly recommend it!).

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You choose what you would like outside the restaurant from the vending machine, insert your money, and then receive a ticket.  You then take the ticket into the restaurant and hand it to one of the cooks.

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Ta-da!  They make it all fresh and serve it to you nice and hot.  I ordered steaming hot rice and fresh and hot tonkatsu トンカツ (breaded pork cutlet), that they then crack a raw egg over.  The raw egg cooks a little bit, because of how hot the food is. Hands down one of my favorite meals I have ever had!

My phone had died by the time I headed to find an owl café I had been really excited to go to in Akihabara. Akihabara was, let’s just say, not my style.  Since my phone had died and I could not for the life of me find the café, I left quite promptly.

Not before I nabbed a couple pictures, of course.

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On my way home that night, I headed to explore Harajuku a little bit. When I go back to Tokyo, I will definitely have to explore Harajuku better! The stores were so interesting and I loved people watching. People watching in Tokyo was something else in general- I loved it.

Harajuku (2) Harajuku (1)

Did I mention I saw a sumo wrestler on the train one morning? It was pretty cool…it is the little things after all.

All in all, I loved Tokyo! I also discovered that I really do not mind traveling alone. I cannot wait to go back and explore Japan some more one day. I must admit, I am also pretty excited to travel solo again.


Check out where I stayed in Tokyo!

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1408849