MONTENEGRO Travel Diary

KOTOR

Montenegro was never a place that crossed my mind as somewhere I wanted to go, but I’m so glad I did. The views, the food, the people were all so amazing and made it a place that I can’t wait to visit again. After looking at pictures, I was expecting Kotor to be blue, green and very pretty, but it exceeded those expectations. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited, and I truly mean that. The beautiful was as deep in color as the Santorini water, but a little more turquoise, reflecting the green hills surrounding the bay. There was just a natural, serene beauty to the town that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to put into words. I was genuinely awe-struck, and there’s not many times that that’s happened to me.

The port of Kotor was filled with yachts and sail boats, big and small, all shaded by the mountains around it. One morning we drove up to the top of one of the mountains to get a picture-perfect view of Kotor Bay, which was absolutely breathtaking. There was nothing but blue water, green trees and scattered terra-cotta colored rooftops that could be seen. The bay was almost fully enclosed by surrounding mountains. A 30 minute drive to the old town of Perast along the coastline was a great way to see more of the city. Filled with AirBnBs and boutique hotels, we spent the ride talking about when we could visit again next. We walked around Perast for a few hours, admiring all the small boats and yachts that people were sailing around the water. Piers were filled with locals and tourists laying out on towels, enjoying the summer. Waterfront hotels had lined lounge chairs along the piers where even more tourists were out under the sun. A mid-morning break called for local unfiltered beer which was, surprisingly, really good.

Another highlight from Kotor was spending an afternoon in the down-town area, the cutest little square. The city center is contained by old, brick walls, a historic way to protect. We spent time looking around the stores and shopping for souvenirs and gifts from the unique destination. We bought so many things to remember the trip, from snow globes to stickers and Christmas ornaments. After walking up an appetite, we were ready for lunch and a short break. Wanting to find local foods and dishes, we found a local restaurant hidden in the backstreets where we ordered a selection of local cured meats and cheeses. Sipping on glasses of wines and cocktails, we enjoyed every bite of the local delicacies. Everything from prosciutto to salamis and cow’s milk and goat’s milk cheese were incredibly delicious.

Not knowing much about Montenegro or Kotor, we were so surprised by how much we loved it. Like I said before, everything about it was amazing. The moment we got there we were flocked by tour guides and car drivers ‘selling’ their tours and drivers to us. We decided to hire a driver one morning to drive us everywhere, and I’m so glad we did. We typically like to explore new places on our own and do everything on our own schedule, but this time it worked out so well. Our driver was so sweet and knowledgable about Kotor. He was simply a driver but was able to explain everything about his home city. He took us everywhere we wanted to go and gave us time where we wanted it. If you’re ever in Kotor, I would highly suggest hiring a driver or tour guide at least for part of one of the days you’re visiting the beautiful city.

I could say this until I’m blue in the face, but Kotor was such a surprise and I can’t be more grateful that I was able to visit. If it’s not on your list, it really should be. Now onto Italy!

GREECE Travel Diary

The first of four travel guides to come. First stop- GREECE!

ATHENS

Marking the beginning of our three week trip, we landed at the Athens airport in the wee hours of the morning before hopping in a short cab ride to our AirBnB in Kolonaki, which was an amazing place to stay. Right in the middle of the local hustle and bustle of the city, but not too far from any of the things anyone would want to do. We spent our mornings trying out different neighborhood coffee shops for breakfast drinking Freddo Cappucinnos (Greek iced lattes) and having different kinds of pastries and sandwiches. During the days, we walked around the Syntagma Square/Ermou Street area where there are tons of high fashion stores and boutiques. Right at the entrance to that area is Parliament where we watched the changing of the guard (takes place every hour). One day we walked a little further down Ermou Street to reach the Plaka area which was a bit more touristy, but filled with lot’s of cute little stores filled with everything and anything Greek. We did a bit of shopping around there to get some souvenirs including evil eye keychains, bracelets and red wine soap. We would often grab lunch back around the Ermou area and share some combination of Greek salad, souvlaki or gyros, spanakopita, and moussaka with a cold glass of 1.50 euro wine, no better way to spend your days.

We also had drinks a couple of times at the rooftop bar of the Grande Bretagne Hotel in Syntagma Square. The drinks are a bit on the pricier side, but it’s accompanied by the most stunning view of Athens and the Parthenon so it’s well worth it. And speaking of the Parthenon, we also spent half a day at the Acropolis (quick tip: buy your tickets online ahead of time to avoid lines). It was beautifully sunny with very few clouds scattered in the sky making for a perfect day. Although it was crowded, it didn’t make the experience any less special. We had visited Athens and the Parthenon in 2006 and I had very few memories of that so it was fun to be able to see the wonder again. Our last adventure in Athens before moving on was up to Lykavittos, the highest point in Athens. We took a little cable car up to the top and enjoyed a glass of coffee accompanied by a stunning panoramic view of the city. Lykavittos is also known as Mount Lycabettus who’s peak sits around 300 meters above sea level, making it arguably the best view of Athens. It was a beautiful way to start our last morning in Athens before heading onto Santorini.

For dinners, we tried to mix it up every night. Dexameni’s is an establishment that has been around forever. Located at the bottom of Lykavittos, it’s scattered tables sit sprawled out on a hill. For our dinner there we ordered a bunch of small dishes to share including a tomato salad, taramasalata and roasted potatoes. It was such a fun atmosphere with good food. Another one of our favorites was the Stinking Bishop which had some funky fusion dishes and a great bar. Although a bit on the pricier side, very worth it. But our favorite had to be Zurbaran which serves Greek food with a modern twist. A swanky bar, a picturesque terrarium-like dining section and bustling outdoor seating, it was hands down our best meals (we actually ended up going twice) in Athens .

Favorite Restaurants: Dexameni, Zurbaran, Stinking Bishop, Le Grande Bretagne Rooftop Bar (for happy hour).

SANTORINI

As beautiful as I had painted Santorini to be in my head, it was even more beautiful in person. We took a boat into Santorini and I was instantly in awe of the natural beauty of the island. The water was a deep, royal blue, glistening and sparkling as it reflected the sun. I had dreamed of visiting this magical place ever since I can remember, and it’s incredible how much it exceeded my expectations. People were so incredibly friendly and seemed genuinely happy to help and serve us. There seemed to be a natural light in everyone’s eyes and everyone’s spirit was as warm and welcoming as the Santorini sun. The overwhelming sense of bright blue just made my eyes glisten with joy and was paired so well with all of the sparkling white buildings. See, just like you’d imagine it to be.

We took a little bumboat from the one side of the Island over to Oia, to explore that area. Again, in awe of the stunning water. After walking up to the top of Oia, we basked in the sun and took hundreds of photos of the photogenic scenery. Mid-morning coffee/cocktail (we were on vacation, it was always happy hour!) pit-stops filled with Aperol Spritz’s and iced coffees made mornings even more serene. After hours of walking down the pebbles sidewalks, we had always worked up an appetite. 218 Cafe was one of our favorites, serving local, Greek food with a perfect balcony view of the ocean and parts of Oia. We sat forever eating all grilled octopus, stuffed squid, pita and hummus we could, simply in awe of the setting we were in. The Teleferic (cable car) down from the top to the waterfront is an absolute must-do, no matter how long the line is (trust me- I hate lines but this was well worth the wait). It’s about a ten minute ride with an incredible view of the whole island and ocean from the sides and bottom of the cable car. As sad as it was to leave, the trip was incredible and made for infinite memories.  Santorini was an absolute dream and I cannot wait to be back again soon!

Favorite Restaurant: 218 Cafe & Restaurant

Now on to Montenegro!

NEW YORK CITY Travel Diary

I can’t believe I’m actually writing this, seriously a dream come true. Just like almost every other hopeless romantic in America who in indulges in the rom coms of NYC, this city has been at the top of my bucket list for years and I’m so lucky to have gotten to go on this trip. I fell in love the second I landed in this gorgeous city and can’t wait to share everything from my whirlwind of a trip here in New York City!

DAY 1

I landed at 8:55am after flying all night and barely sleeping an hour, but the buzz and electricity of the city woke me up instantly. It was everything I expected. I dropped my stuff off at my cousins house as quickly as possible and headed into Manhattan from Queens. The metro dropped me off right in between Central Park and The Plaza Hotel, and I was seriously just taken aback by the surrealness of it all as I walked up the stairs of the station. I spent the first couples hours walking up and down Fifth Avenue, walked into St. Patrick’s Cathedral, grabbed a couple cookies from Insomnia and of course browsed through Saks Fifth Avenue. Lunch was at Sarabeth’s with a friend at Central Park South and we indulged in the most amazing Eggs Benedict’s. To walk it off, we snooped around Time Warner Center and then strolled through Central Park to get to the Upper West Side. And since I was in the neighborhood, I had to make my first visit to Christina Tosi’s Momofuku Milk Bar (I’m so in awe of her, it’s crazy) to get a little afternoon treat. I tried the much anticipated Cereal Milk Ice Cream (the fruity one) and her famous Corn Cookie…AMAZING. Finally I hopped back on the metro and headed back to Queens in the late afternoon. After 8 hours and 12 miles of walking I was dead but so in love. I stopped by the tiniest Greek place on the way home and picked up a Falafel Schwarma and Spanakopita to take home, put on Gossip Girl and crashed. It was perfect.

DAY 2

My plan was to be up around 8, maybe 8:30, to be out the door early and explore the city. But I guess I was really knocked out because I woke up frantically at 11 and got ready in about 7 minutes to be out the door. I was meeting a few family friends for lunch so hopped on the metro and headed towards Greenwich Village. I walked around a little and was so in-awe of the charm and class of the neighborhood. Although I was headed to lunch, I found the hippest little donut shop, The Donut Pub, and stopped to get a birthday cake donut as a treat for later in the day. I then headed over to Cafe Cluny on a corner in the West Village where we sat and ate pork belly and scrambled eggs, a Thai grain bowl and a seared tuna burger (all amazing!), over the course of a few hours. After lunch, I ventured out towards the Highline and Chelsea. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and made for some beautiful photos. I was slowly falling more and more in love with this city. I didn’t have much time there, but I continued to walk north towards Times Square and Bryant Park. I hit Times Square just as the sun had tucked away behind the buildings and had an out-of-body experience while taking in the (what I consider) magic. That moment had been imagined for so long and I couldn’t believe I was finally there, right in the middle of it. I spent a bit of time walking around and taking pictures and then headed across the street to Bryant Park, another form of beauty in itself, where I met up with my cousin. We had decided on Italian for dinner so took the train back down to Little Italy to Paesanos to have a huge bowl of Rigatoni in Vodka Sauce. It was the cutest little restaurant designed to look like an Italian villa and definitely hit the spot after another full day of exploring. Then it was back on the metro to head home and crash again for the night.

DAY 3

Wednesday might have been the fullest day in NYC, but it was so great. I was up and out the door by 10 and headed down to the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge. It was, again, a beautiful day with clear blue skies and the sun beating down which made everything just that much more beautiful. I walked across the bridge, taking in the moment and looking back at the city, and explored Dumbo and Downtown Brooklyn on the other side. With 99 cent pizza being on my food bucket list, I grabbed a couple of slices at a hole-in-the-wall of a store and continued to walk around the funky neighborhood. After a couple of hours of exploring I began back towards the bridge, but had to grab a bagel (another one of my must-haves) at Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company. Not knowing what to get, I ordered a poppy seed bagel with blueberry cream cheese and it was the biggest but best bagel I’d ever had in my life hands down. Since I had the whole afternoon and evening to myself, which was the greatest thing ever, I walked up through Tribeca, Soho and Greenwich back to the Highline area, wanting to spend more time there. I also found the BEST ice cream store, Ample Hills Creamery, to get a scoop of gooey butter cake ice cream before moving on. I decided to spend a couple of hours at The Whitney, which was full of modern American art, including a huge Andy Warhol exhibit which was super cool. The museum also has stunning balcony views of the city and overlooking the water. Since Chelsea Market was right next door, and I was starving, I popped in there to look for something to eat. A ton of my friends had recommended the Very Fresh Noodles, so of course that’s what I had to try. The little stall with a few counter seats was packed, but I waited and was served a huge bowl of thick, silky noodles with braised spicy beef, it was amazing. The last couple of things I wanted to do that day was to see Radio City and Rockefeller Center. So I walked back up, through Koreatown, to see the famous Radio City. I had gotten there right as the sun was beginning to hide away, making the large red marquee lights stand out even more. And finally I walked around the corner to Rockefeller Center, another out-of-body experience as I stood there forever realizing how special that moment was. The perfect way to end another long but incredible day in the city. And then it was back home to rest up for the last day of the trip.

DAY 4

I woke up on the last morning feeling so happy and grateful, but also really not wanting to leave the next day. I was up at 8 and out the door not too long after to get the day going. I took the metro into Manhattan and got off around 59th Street and walked down Madison Avenue to the Met. I’d heard so much about how beautiful and grand the Met is and seen so many pictures, but there are seriously no words to explain it until you’re standing right in front of it. It’s honestly just so breathtaking. I spent about 3 hours in the museum and still feel like I only saw 5% of everything, but it was just super cool. By the time I was done there it was about 12:45 and I had the rest of the day to shop! Since I was in New York, I had to visit the Kate Spade flagship store on Madison. It was the most stunning store I’ve ever walked into and I may have picked up a lil NYC themed treat for myself. I then headed over to Fifth Avenue and wandered around, walked into Saks and walked over to both Bloomies and Macy’s to get a few goodies for myself to remember the trip. Another thing on my NYC food bucket list was a pretzel, of course, so I had to grab one from a street vendor. After a full afternoon of shopping, I headed back to Bryan Park to meet my cousin. Once again, the sun was tucked behind the buildings giving the perfect afternoon glow. I was a little bit early so I sat at a table behind the NY Public Library taking in the beauty of the city. It was busy yet oddly calming and I was just so grateful to be there. My cousin and I then headed down to Pizza Beach in the Lower East Side for some good old New York pizza. I had a (large, hehe) pizza with pink vodka sauce, burrata and basil, and it was hands down the best pizza I’d ever had in my life. Since it was my last night, we decided to take the train back up to Times Square to see it all lit up a night. As beautiful as it was during the day, it was even more incredible at night. It was everything and more I ever imagined, in that moment my heart was just to full of gratitude and joy. I then took one last metro ride back home and crashed for an early flight the next morning, dreaming of how magical this city had been.

 

It doesn’t phase me for a second that this life full of traveling and adventures is not something that everyone has. I’m extremely grateful to be able to live this life and I hope that I’m able to give back in some way. New York was incredible and I hope to be back very very soon. I wanted to end this post by sharing a journal entry I wrote on my last evening in the city, it captures everything that this trip meant to me.

“It’s Thursday evening, 6:20pm and the sun hasn’t quite set but is nestled behind the array of buildings. I’m sitting at a table in Bryan Park, the public library behind me, the table full of bags from a day of shopping. I’m exhausted but so in love with this new city. Deciding to come on this trip was the best decision ever. As much anxiety as traveling causes me, I’m so glad I made the journey out to this side of the country and am so glad I was able to spend this week in NYC. This moment helps me remember that everything happens for a reason. I’ve been blessed with a lifetime of travel and there’s nothing that brings me more joy and excitement than moments like this.”

See you soon! xx

TOKYO Travel Guide ~Winter Edition~

Good morning lovelies and happy Sunday. If you’re looking for some 2019 travel inspo, you’re in the right place! Today’s post is my second Tokyo Travel Guide, and this is going to be full of all the things to do in Tokyo in the winter. I wrote my first Tokyo Travel Guide in April, so be sure to check that post out if you haven’t already. But for now, happy reading and I hope you have lot’s of fun adventures lined up for the year!

What to eat:

Jojoen Yakiniku– Jojoen is our favorite yakiniku (translates to grilled meat) spot in Tokyo. With locations all over the city, their menu is full of various types of beef and pork, seafood, Korean side dishes and rice and noodle dishes. They also have super reasonable lunch sets that range from 1,500-3,000 yen that come with meat, rice, veggies/a salad, soup, a drink and dessert. With tons of locations, they each vary a little depending on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a more down-to-earth meal, I love the ones in Shibuya and Meguro. But if you’re looking for a nice locale, try the Jojoen on the 39th floor of Ebisu Garden Place.

Trattoria Mari e Monti in Roppongi- This has quickly become one of our favorite restaurants in Tokyo. Run by two Italian guys, the ambiance of the space makes you feel like you’re eating pasta and drinking wine on the streets of Italy. Their huge selection of produce, cheeses, meats, pastas and desserts are amazing and jaw-dropping. Some of my favorites are their truffle pasta, pappardelle with meat, grilled pork belly, literally all of their desserts and of course their homemade limoncello at the end of the meal.

Shibuya Parlor right by the Shibuya Crossing- My sister, mom and I stumbled across this place this past Christmas when I was on the hunt for a decadent fruit parfait. Located on the 7th floor of the Magnet building, the little cafe overlooks the famous Shibuya scramble crossing with the perfect birds eye view. To curb my craving, I ordered the strawberry brulee parfait which came with yoghurt, granola, vanilla ice cream, bruleed pudding and of course tons of strawberries.

Obica Mozzarella Bar in Roppongi Hills- We found this place this summer when we went out for lunch with some family friends and I’m actually obsessed with it now. The restaurants has a very modern vibe with shelves full of pastas and wine and huge floor to ceiling windows letting in so much natural light. I haven’t spent too much time looking at their dinner menu (every time I’ve been it’s been for lunch), but I can say that their lunch menu is incredibly reasonable and very extensive. For between 1500-2500 yen, you can get a lunch set with one main dish, one or two side dishes (depending on what you choose) and one drink. You can also add on a glass of red, white or bubbly for only 400 yen ($3.60USD). Some of my favorites are their pastas of the day, their grilled chicken salad and the lasagna.

Kushinobo in Roppongi Hills- Okay, I had heard my parents rave about this place forever and was always so skeptical until I went this Christmas and WOW. Kushinobo serves fried food on a skewer, but not greasy American fried food, elegant and refined Japanese fried food. It’s not too oily or heavy, it’s so light and delicious. My dad and I went for lunch and ordered the 10 piece set which came with 10 different kinds of skewers including salmon with roe, black pork, asparagus, and scallops, as well as a set of rice, an egg, miso soup, veggie sticks and dip and dessert. I don’t really know how to explain it, but PLEASE go try this place if you’re ever in Tokyo.

If you happen to be staying with a friend, at an Airbnb or anywhere with a kitchen, I highly recommend going to the store, getting some hot-pot soup (during the winter they have them everywhere in all kinds of delicious flavors), some shabu-shabu pork, tons of veggies and other fun treats and have a hot-pot night at home. It’s the epitome of winter meals in Japan and is so yum. And if you can’t do this, I would suggest going and walking around the supermarket anyway. Call me weird, but I think Japanese supermarkets are so fun.

How to get around:

Public transportation in Japan is absolutely the way to go. The trains and buses are everywhere and can get you anywhere you need. It can be a bit intimidating, but these days almost all signs for everything are in English as well. Don’t be afraid to go up to someone who works at the train station or bus stop and ask questions, most of them are able to have a conversation in English.

For the Shinkansen (bullet train), I would recommend getting the JR pass for either 7 or 14 days which allows you to get around the country on the bullet train conveniently and at a low cost. And seriously, riding on the bullet train is SO cool.

For the local trains, you can try and get a train pass/card which requires bringing your passport to a train station and going to an office to get it done, so I would only suggest doing that if you’re going to be in Tokyo for an extended period of time to save money and time. But if you’re only there for a bit, buying tickets at the machines are super simple and easy and, again, are in English as well.

If you’re trying to take the bus around, make sure you’re carrying coins on you to pay the buss fee (most are between 200-250 yen). Also look there are a couple of apps in English that will give you everything you need to know about the bus routes, including all the stops, their names and how to get from one place to another.

And while I always recommend using public transportation while traveling to really get to know the city you’re exploring, taxis are fairly easy to find and flag down. Simply look for the dark cars with a white sign on top and stick your hand out to flag it down. If the light in the bottom right hand corner is red, the taxi is available, and if it’s green it’s been taken or is on shift change.

Where to go:

This section could seriously drag on and on, so I’ll try to keep it short and sweet with lot’s of links and photos.

1. Tokyo Disneyland– We decided to go this Christmas to see all the lights and since we hadn’t been in like a decade and it was amazing! Christmas at Tokyo Disneyland is a must (whole other post on this going up soon so keep an eye out for that).

2. Roppongi Hills Mid-Town lights- If you walk out around Roppongi Hills at night during Christmas, the streets and trees are all lit up with stunning lights (called イルミネーション or Illumination) that go on and off in beautiful patterns. It’s nothing tacky, just simple, elegant Christmas lights. And depending on where you are you can get a picture-perfect view of Tokyo Tower as well.

3. Takeshita Dori, Harajuku- Of course this is a must-do any time of the year, but I love walking down the crazy crowded streets right before Christmas to scavenge for last minute gifts and stocking stuffers. I found so many fun little gifts for my family and friends (especially for all the beauty and skincare lovers) by just walking around and popping into a bunch of little stores.

4. Mega Don Quijote, Shibuya- I don’t know if you’ve heard of this store, but it’s actually heaven on earth. This huge one in Shibuya is 6 floors and has absolutely everything you could ever want or need. Literally from Louis Vuitton bags to Japanese junk food and cleaning supplies to makeup. It’s crazy busy and insanely packed.

5. Ginza- If you’re looking for some higher end shopping or some luxury, head out to the Ginza area and walk around the malls and streets that are filled with tons of high end brands and boutiques. Perfect if you’re looking for a nicer gift for a loved one or honestly even yourself (you deserve to get yourself a Christmas pressie too!). And if you’re as in love with Kate Spade as me, there’s a huge 3-story store right by the station that is beyond adorable.

6. Backstreets of Harajuku- Of course Takeshita Dori will always draw in the crowds, but during the winter months the backstreets are absolute stunning. Their often really empty and the trees all turn a beautiful golden color giving the whole space a very old and classy vibe. Just spend a few minutes walking down the streets, taking pictures and taking in the natural beauty.

7. Odaiba Spa World– Okay, I have to admit that I’ve never been BUT I’ve always wanted to go and have done so much research on it (and my sister has been so that counts, right?). This place is a completely indoor onsen and spa “world” full of different baths and other fun activities. It’s a bit tacky and touristy, but I honestly love that sometimes. And what’s better than going to the hot springs during a cold winter day.

8. The Westin Hotel in Ebisu and Ebisu Garden Place- During Christmas, The Westin and Ebisu Garden Place are decorated to beautifully. Ebisu Garden place is lined with Christmas trees, bright lights and a huge annual crystal chandelier. It’s the perfect place to have a coffee or a drink with your loved ones and take a few pictures. And after that you can walk underground to The Westin to see their traditionally decorated but absolutely breath-taking tree and decorations. Also, if it’s in your budget, The Westin is my favorite hotel in Tokyo to stay at.

9. Combini- Go to any convenient store in the city (you’ll find one every 10 steps) and relish in the magic of Combini in Japan. I really don’t know what else to say, just do it and you’ll thank me later. PS, convenient store coffee and donuts are the bomb!

How to dress:

It does get fairly cool during Christmas in Tokyo, and by fairly cool I mean an average of 38-50 (that’s freezing to me!), but it’s also usually really clear and sunny. You will for sure want to have at least one pair of good sunglasses and one solid coat. For me, jeans are for sure the way to go for pants, it’ll keep you warm but not too warm if you’re going to be walking around during the day.

If you do start to find yourself getting cold, find a Uniqlo (there’s seriously one on every corner) and get some heat-tech long underwear and that will keep you warm for the rest of your life (haha- not really but my family swears by it!).

Tokyo, generally, dresses quite conservatively so try not to dress to scandalous when you’re visiting. I think everyone should dress how they want to all the time, but I also think there’s something to be said about respecting the culture.

I hope you have all the wanderlust vibes now and are ready to go and explore!! xx

Missing Home- SG Shotz

Happy Thursday loves!! Being back in LA for my sophomore year of college, it’s really hit me how much I miss Asia and Singapore. I knew I was going to miss it, but I had no idea how much. So for today’s post, I thought it would be fun to put together a small collection of my absolute favorite photos of my beautiful home. If you’re looking for some SG travel inspo, I have it right here for you!

Travel Wishlist- Where I Wanna Go

What’s the number one place you want to visit right now? I get asked that question all the time and it’s so hard because the answer is: EVERYWHERE. I would love to not have to worry about school or working or money and just travel the world experience all the different cultures. But since that’s not reasonable, I thought I would sit and put together the 5 places that are at the top of my travel bucket list right now. What do you think of my list? What’s on your list?

*All photos courtesy of Creative Commons*

1. New York City, USA- NYC, I don’t even know what to say. Everything from the yellow taxis, the bright lights of Times Square and the quaintness of Central Park draws me to the city. I could get lost looking at pictures of New York for hours dreaming of everything I would do when I finally get to go. And it would be even better if it were Christmas. The tree at Rockefeller Center, hot chocolate at Serendipity (just like the movie!!) and New Years Eve in Times Square, ugh it would be so magical!

2. Sydney, Australia- I honestly don’t know how I lived in Singapore for over 18 years and never visited Australia, but it’s very high up on my wishlist. Not sure what it is, but I always just get such a chill/relaxed vibe from Sydney and the people seem so incredible warm and welcoming! And the growing food scene doesn’t hurt either.

 

3. Sicily, Rome and Amalfi, Italy- Isn’t this pretty much a staple on everyones bucket list? If I could spend a chunk of time exploring every single city in Italy I think I would die. But these three cities are the top three on my list for sure. I’m so intrigued by the contrast of the bustling city of Rome and the pure, calm, breathtaking Amalfi Coast. And then I would just love to move to Sicily and live on a winery and eat all the seafood I want all day.

4. New Orleans, USA- New Orleans is definitely a recent addition to my list, but it’s so intriguing to me. Obviously it would be amazing to go during Mardi Gras, but any time would be incredible. The atmosphere just seems to laid back yet fun and old school funky. I would love to stroll through the French Quarter and spend the afternoon eating beignets at Cafe du Monde.

5. Island Hopping in Greece- Although I’ve been to Athens and the island of Sifnos, I’d love to go back and just spend time on a bunch of different islands. I love everything about Greece, the food, the people, the scenery, the oceans, it’s spectacular. The dream is to spend a month island hopping and spending the evenings sipping on wine and gorging on spanakopita and baklava. Wouldn’t that be amazing!

Life Through A Lens #25- SUMMER 2018

Phuket Travel Diary

Living in Singapore, long weekends would typically consist of a quick trip to paradise, Phuket. Going about once a year for a while, it’s become one of our home away from homes. After our last trip, I decided it was finally time to sit down and share all the things I love about Phuket with all of you. I will leave all the links down below and hope you venture out to this little gem of an island in South East Asia!

Hotel:

After staying at a bunch of different hotels and resorts, we finally found our favorite and go-to place to stay: Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort. While it is about an hour drive from the airport, the resort sits only ten minutes away from the downtown area (Patong and Karon) making it super easy to get around. The resort is sprawled out over a huge piece of property with it’s own private beach, tennis courts, an amazing spa, two tropical pool, multiple eateries/bars and stunning, comfortable rooms. While the rooms may be a little older than others, they’ve been kept really well and feel modern with a vintage twist. The private beach is only a few steps away from the pool area and are lined with lounge chairs and bean bags, while crystal blue water and really clean sand. They offer a range of water activities from jet skiing to kayaking and surfing. In the middle of the day when you’re looking for a quick bite, you can just head over to Ton Son out by the pool to order anything from Thai to Italian and American. You can also head over there for before-dinner drinks where they offer classic cocktails as well as tropical/Thai cocktails. One of my favorite things at the hotel was the energizing shots they had at breakfast. Every morning they had a couple different kinds to really get your body working and wake you up. My favorite was the watermelon-chili shot which was just to die for. And what’s a trip to the beach without some relaxing time at the spa? Le Spa offers different treatments from massages to scrubs and facials, all beach and tropical themed. Our time at Le Meridien is always made even better by the super friendly and helpful staff. We absolutely LOVE staying at Le Meridien and cannot wait to spend more nights there.

Food:

Like I mentioned above, the food at the hotel is not like any others. It’s very different and authentic, but still really good. However, I love spending time around Patong and Karon exploring other places to have meals. One of our all time favorites is Eat. Bar & Grill in Karon. Priding themselves on incredible service and hearty, rustic food, the little bar/restaurant serves burgers, steaks and other unique dishes. After going there four times over our past two trips, I’ve had some of my favorite dishes there. Some that I would recommend are the burger and fries, the chateaubriand (steak), the beef tartare, the lobster cappuccino, and most importantly the mojito bucket (5 servings of a mojito in one big bucket, photo below). This year we also went to Baan Rim Pa, which is one of the only “fine dining” restaurants in Phuket serving authentic Thai food. We had the chicken and crab Thai dumplings, grilled eggplant salad, minced pork with noodle crackers, green curry with chicken and stir-fried morning glory, and a really good passion fruit mojito. The food was all really good and some of the best Thai food I’d ever had (and I’ve had a lot of Thai food). Other than those two places, we also love going to different seafood restaurants along the water front and trying different dishes. As most of you know, my family LOVES food and one reason we love going back to Phuket so often is because of the huge variety of amazing restaurants to chose from.

Getting Around:

While you can have your hotel arrange a car/transport for you, one way I love to get around is by taking a tuk-tuk. A tuk-tuk is motorcycle powered vehicle with seating for passengers attached to it. They’re commonly found around South East Asia and are open air. I love driving back to our hotel at night after dinner with the wind blowing through my hair and the sound of the waves crashing on the shore in the background. Depending on where you flag one down, a 10-15 minute drive can be anywhere from 10-12 SGD, which may seem a bit pricy but is normally much less than having your hotel arrange transport for you. If you are around Patong or Kata beach, it’s really easy to walk around. Whether you’re beach hopping or looking around the market, I always say that walking around is one of the best ways to explore a new destination. And the excitement of Phuket nightlife makes the evening a lot more fun and interesting.

What I Wore:

When I go to the beach, my absolute must-have is a ton of bikinis. I love mixing solids with solids and solids with prints from different brands. Some of my favorites for bikinis are Cotton On, Victoria’s Secret (now Pink), She In and Hollister (and Jolyn for suits that won’t budge). I don’t like wearing the same suit more than once a trip (I know, I’m a snob), so I love having variety in my suitcase. In addition to suits, I wear all different kinds of cover-ups and summery rompers and dresses that work at both the beach and a casual meal out. For sunglasses, I personally don’t love wearing nice/high-end glasses at the beach because I love spending time in the water and body surfing waves so I’m always paranoid that I’m going to lose a nice pair. I typically have a couple cheap pairs of Cotton On sunglasses that are perfect for the setting and look bomb in all those insta photos. For a more in-depth look, check out my summer beauty post (linked below)!

I always love a good beach getaway, and Phuket is the perfect destination for a stress-free and relaxing weekend away. Have you been to Phuket? If so, what’s your favorite thing to do there? If you haven’t what’s your favorite beach getaway destination? Comment down below!

I hope you all enjoyed this post, and I will talk to you soon!

Hotel:

Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort

Restaurants:

Eat. Bar & Grill

Baan Rim Pa

Airline:

Scoot

Other:

My Summer Beauty Post

Top 10 Travel Tips: Part 2

About a year ago I posted my first Top 10 Travel Tips blog filled with lots of little hacks and tips to make traveling just a little bit easier. Today, in honor of summer and vacation season coming up, I’m going to do part 2 of my travel tips!

I hope you find these useful useful for your next trip:) Comment down below where your next adventure is taking you!

1. HYDRATE! This is mainly for actual plane ride, but of course hydration is always key. When you’re flying, the oxygen is being recirculated throughout the cabin, and the moisture in the air is extremely limited. Be sure to carry around a water bottle (make sure it’s empty when you go through security!!) to make it easy to continuously drink water. Hydrating your body is great, but don’t forget about your skin. Take the time on the plan to stick on a hydrating mask (my favorites are linked below) and load up on lotion. You’ll walk off the plane feeling fresh and hydrated.

2. Make good use of document holders and passport cases. I used to think it was so dorky when my parents used cases to hold all their travel documents in, but as I began to travel more and more on my own I realized how useful it is to have everything together and in one place. I also love using passport covers (maybe it’s because I have the absolute CUTEST Kate Spade one:) because it makes it so easy to find in your bag, and I’ve found that it reduces the risk of misplacing it (or the fear of losing it).

3. Learn a few basic phrases in the other language. You say “hello”, “goodbye” and “thank you” to the people in your life at home, so why not spend 5 minutes learning the phrases to show appreciation to all the people who make your trip easy and comfortable (“where is the bathroom” may come in handy too:).

4. Relax. Vacations can be a bit of a stressful time, but don’t forget to take some time to just sit there and enjoy the beauty around you. There’s nothing wrong with jam-packing your days with activities, but there’s also nothing wrong with just sitting on the balcony of your room or lounging by the pool and doing absolutely nothing, it is a vacation after all.

5. Use a travel website. Companies like Hopper are great for finding and tracking low-price tickets to your desired destination. I haven’t personally used it yet, but two of my friends used Hopper to find their tickets to come visit me in Singapore and it worked great. Super user-friendly and definitely gets you the best deal in town.

6. Carry around cash. In today’s day and age, it’s easy to rely on your credit card for everything, but remember that not every place you will go will accept cards. Make sure to convert some money at the airport to carry around just in case. It’s nice to be able to pay for small purchases or tip the people that help you with cash.

7. I had this one in my first post, but I’m going to say it again: PICTURES! I’ve heard a lot of people speak out against taking tons of pictures on trips because you should be “in the moment”, but I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to capture as many moment as possible. Not only can you share it with your friends and family, but it’s also a memory for you. You can look back on the photos 5, 10, 20 years from then and remember all about your trip.

8. Take public transportation. Not only will you save heaps of money, but you’ll also get your body moving and get to explore local life. Hopping in an Uber may be easy, but your missing out on so much. Taking public transportation forces you to walk around (move your body everyday, right?) and see so many things and places that you may have missed out on if you just hailed a cab.

9. Talk to locals. Getting to know the people is the best way to learn more about the place. Ask them what their favorite thing to do it or where their favorite place to eat is. You will find so many hidden gems that no travel website would lead you to. We have found some amazing little spots and eateries that the locals have led us to. Don’t be afraid to ask around and to step out of your comfort zone, that’s what traveling is all about!

10. Watch the sunrise. Get up early and watch the sun come up. Early mornings may sound grueling, but they don’t have to be. Grab a cup of coffee and appreciate the morning. No matter where you are in the world, the sun will always rise. Appreciate the beauty of that.

“Top 10 Travel Tips” Post: https://swimeatlove.com/2017/03/18/top-10-travel-tips/

Links:

Hydrating Face Mask (perfect for the plane): https://www.sephora.com/product/sleeping-mask-P398102?skuId=1668615&icid2=products%20grid:p398102

Kate Spade Passport Cases: https://www.katespade.com/accessories/travel-accessories/

Basic Phrases in Other Languages (website with many languages): https://www.infoplease.com/common-english-phrases-translated-other-languages

Hopper: https://www.hopper.com/

Travel Must-Haves

It’s getting to the time of year where a lot of us are getting ready to jet off on another adventure. Whether it’s to the beach or to explore a new city, traveling can be excited, but also a bit stressful. Today I thought I would share my travel “must-haves” for vacations. I hope you find some of these things helpful, and let me know if I’ve missed anything that you have on your list. I’ll also link my “top 10 travel tips” post down below. Happy traveling!

Beach Getaway:

1. The first thing I always have to have for a beach trip is an array of cute bikinis. I love my suits and can’t stand to wear the same suit two days in a row (that’s just me though, haha!). One our beach vacations, we spend almost the whole day laying out by the pool or the beach, which means that we’re in our bikinis for a majority of the day. If you are going to be in the ocean, make sure the suits you bring stay on well and don’t fall off. The absolute WORST thing is having to spend the whole day hiking your bikini top up because it keeps slipping down.

2. Another must for a vacation in the sun is sun screen. I used to hate sun screen because I thought it kept me from getting tan, but I quickly learned that using sun screen isn’t only protective for your skin and health, but it actually helps you get a nice even tan that lasts. In addition to sun protection, make sure to pack some aloe vera or coconut oil to use as after sun care.

3. Bring sunglasses and hats! If you’re going to be out in the heat all day, you’re going to want to have different ways to keep your body cool (you do not want to deal with heat stroke on a vacation…not fun!). Look for cute hats and visors to slip on when you need to cool down, and make sure you have sunglasses on anytime you’re in the sun. Sun damage to you eyes is a real thing.

4. If you’re going to be lying on the beach all day, bring some entertainment. Whether it’s a coloring book, a fun group game app or a ball, we love having things to do when we want to get up and moving or just use our minds a little bit.

5. In addition to bikinis, I always have to have cute cover ups with me. I usually wear my bikini around all day (literally put it on right after I wake up), so having a cover up is easy to slip on whenever I need it.

 

City Exploration:

1. Outfits that fit the city. One thing you have to be careful about is making sure that what you wear is respectful of the culture or religion of the place you’re visiting. Some places don’t like women in shorts or showing your shoulders. Be aware and respectful. Dressing modest doesn’t have to be boring!

2. When I’m on a city vacation, I typically do A LOT of walking, so I always make sure I have comfy shoes on. They don’t always have to be sneakers or closed shoes, there are plenty of sandals that are super comfy to walk in. Find what works for you.

3. I’m a blogger and instagrammer, so this one is obvious for me: a camera. Some people think that it’s better to enjoy the views than to be behind the lens, but I say do both! It’s so fun for me to capture moments to share with others and as memories for me. I love going back through photos from old trips to remember all the beauty of the world.

Any trip!:

1. One thing I always have to make sure I pack for a trip is my workout clothes and shoes. I used to go on trips all the time without workout clothes, and used it as an excuse to not workout. Now, I always always always have my stuff ready to go so that I don’t have an excuse to skip a day of sweating. Even though you may not have a lot of time or space to get a workout in, you have to make it a priority. I’ll link my post about staying fit on the road if you need some inspiration!

2. A map (or virtual map) of the country or city you’re visiting. I love taking a little bit of time to look at the area I’m going to be visiting on a map, and also looking at a close up map to see all the places I wanna go/visit while I’m there. It gives me a better understanding of the kind of place I’m going to be in, and helps me plan out the activities for each day.

3. Toiletries! No matter how far away I’m going or how long I’m staying anywhere, if I’m going to be overnight anywhere in the world, I have to have all of my toiletries. This includes my skin care, my toothbrush/paste and floss, and everything else. It gives me piece of mind to know that I won’t be changing anything about my routines just because I’m away.

 

‘Top 10 Travel Tips’ Post: https://swimeatlove.com/2017/03/18/top-10-travel-tips/

‘Staying Fit on the Road’ Post: https://swimeatlove.com/2017/07/12/fitgirllife-staying-fit-on-the-road/