Peru and Bolivia Master Plan 2019

This was the first time I took a long vacation in 4 years. Mostly of the time, I would attach 1 or 2 vacation days to a weekend or a work trip. The most I have taken was a week. So this was definitely something special for me.

I took 2 weeks to see Peru and Bolivia but this was definitely not enough. Of course in the span of 2 weeks, I did my best to see the major cultural points in the 2 countries. Or at least what I wanted to see.

Here was my list of to-do.

For Peru:

  • Machu Picchu
  • Vinicunca/Rainbow Mountain
  • Sacred Valley Tour
  • Humantay Lake or 69 lake
  • Huacachina (Dune Buggy)
  • Nazca Lines Tour

For Bolicia:

  • Uyuni Desert
  • Ride the teleferico
  • Witch’s Market
  • Valle de la luna/Moon Valley

I knew I didn’t have a lot of time. So I had to compromise on what I can see and do. I heard the beauty of 69 lake from other travelers but that was quite far from where I planned on going and it would not be a day trip. So instead of 69 lake, I decided to visit Humantay Lake. From reviews, many travelers said that if the weather permits, Humantay Lake is also beautiful. I took a chance. I also wanted to see Nasca Lines since it is close to Huacachina. However, it was another compromise I had to make since I would need to stay in Huacachina for a night and I wanted to do a day trip.

Also, I knew I was going to have only a day to see La Paz because of Uyuni. I have been told that Uyuni’s weather can be unpredictable and if you want to see the salt flats as you see on the internet, you might need to stay extra days just in case.

So with this in mind, here is the schedule I made.

So when a plan, I was pretty set. Now, I just needed to pack.

Packing was a bit challenging. I did not want to take too much but since the weather was all over the place, I had to basically pack summer AND winter clothes. Overall, the weather was going to be in the high 60s to mid 70s. However, Uyuni Desert was something else. Everyone said to take winter clothes, lots of layers.

So things I packed:

  • Travel essentials (toothbrush, paste, shampoo, skincare, etc)
  • 2 Long sleeve and 2 short sleeve
  • 1 sweater
  • Water proof winter jacket
  • 2 Jeans, 1 jogger, 1 yoga pants
  • Pajama
  • 1 hiking boots and 1 rainboots
  • 12 packs of disposable heating pads
  • Flashlight, wide brimmed hat, disposable raincoat
  • Camera (Sony A5100)
  • Phone (Samsung Galaxy note5)
  • Portable Wifi (GlocalMe U2)
  • All the charging cables
  • Journal and pen

I made sure to book accommodations that offer laundry service for a fee. So I planned to pack as little as possible.

Of course, with traveling, there are always mishaps even if you try to account for everything. So even though this was my plan, I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to. I will write about my day to day and how my travel plans changed. I will also do reviews of the travel companies I used and the accommodations I used throughout my trip.

Cancelled trip

I haven’t been to Grand Canyon in over a year so needless to say, I was excited to visit the place with my friend. Unfortunately, my friend had to cancel her trip to the US and we had to cancel all the subsequent trips. She had a sudden surgery and was bedridden. She thought about postponing the surgery for the trip but her doctor insisted that the surgery was urgent. She called to ask and of course I told her that her health was more important. It was really hard for her to take time off from work so she was really upset but we decided to push back this trip.

Credit to Alachua County

Which meant, we had to cancel all the reservations for tours and hotels. Usually when we plan for vacation/trips, we don’t plan to cancel them. But we cannot plan for unexpected emergencies that come up. This is one of the reasons why I usually try to read all the fine print and book things that can be cancelled before the trip, if need be. With most international trips, I try to book that can be cancelled because you can never be sure what will happen during an international trip. You can plan for A, B, and C but you might need plan Z.

In our case, we had several hotels, rental car, tour and flights booked for the trip. Many companies have 48 hour cancellation policy, which means if you cancel 48 hours in advance, you would get 100% refund. Of course, you would need to check the fine print. They will tell you when you can cancel and what you would get back.

I was able to cancel my hotels, rental car, and the tours. One problem was the flight. These days, flights have gotten harder and harder to cancel. Most of them are non-refundable unless you buy the more expensive ticket(I mean, who buys those tickets?! The fare difference is like $500+). However, if you have an emergency such as surgery or death in the family, you can cancel the flight and get a refund. You would need to send them documentations such as death certificates or doctor’s note.

In our case, the airline we used could not give us the full refund in cash but they were able to give us full credit for future flights. We had to email them about the situation and the agent was able to give us more information on the process. We had to get a doctor’s note about the surgery. Since my friend was getting the surgery in Korea, I asked if the note could be in Korean, and the airline said it was okay. So we sent an email with our flight information and the doctor’s note and the airline gave us the full refund in credit.

One thing to remember is that the agents are human too. They understand that things happen. So if you are lucky, you might find a nice agent who is willing to accept your situation and refund you. However, it will be almost impossible to get the refund back as cash unless it is one of the situation above. They may give you back the funds in form of credit as a courtesy. So please do not demand money back or yell at your agent. They are doing their job and will try to help you as much as they can(whatever their capacity might be).

[Note: In previous trips, I was able to get a full refund due to a death in the family. The process was a bit tedious. When you call the airlines, they make you talk to their claim team and the team sends you a bunch of links where you have to submit documents. I know they will accept the documents in any language as I submitted them in Korean and they took them]

So we were not able to go on our trip this time but there will be a next time! I look forward to planning the trip again with my friend in the near future.

Antelope Canyon

Busan: the Port City

Busan. I love this city. It’s the second largest city in South Korea and although it doesn’t have the old and new feel of Seoul, it does have it’s own charms. Also, Busan contains the word for mountain but the city is also surrounded by water. So if you are looking to vacation, this could be it.

Busan is a city with a lot of history. After WW2, Korea was just freed from Japan’s colonial rules and had no real leadership and was a strategic location for the US, China, and Russia. China and Russia were pushing for communism while the US was aiming for democracy. The country was way too vulnerable and took in what was near them. So the northern part took in the communism ideals with Kim Il Sung as their leader and the South took in democracy(more like capitalism) with their first president, Syngman Rhee. Both leaders claimed that they were the rightful leader of freed Korea. Unable to come to an agreement, Northern Korea, attacked the South.

The innocent people of Korea, not knowing what was going on, fled. They had just been freed from the Japanese but now, they were fighting each other. Many people, including people in the North, were leaving everything behind to save their lives. The North kept pushing and pushing and eventually, Busan was the last city standing on the South Korean side. And from here, the South, with the help from the US, pushed back. Eventually, they came to terms and set the 38 parallel line and the DMZ.

So within the city of Busan, you can still see the remnant of the War. Gamcheon Culture Village is one. People now come to see the Village as this colorful, artsy place, but actually, these were the houses the refugees built on the mountains. There were so many refugees, this was the only way to house all of them. People from the era still live here but now it has become more of a touristy place to take pictures from.

Gamcheon Culture Village (From https://www.gamcheon.or.kr/?CE=about_01)

If you enjoyed some history from Gamcheon Culture Village and want to see something new, head over to Haeundae area. This is the up-and-coming (not really coming anymore, just up) town. With the highrise buildings that overlook the ocean and gentrified restaurants and cafes, this is the town that everyone wants to be a part of. During the day, enjoy the ocean view from a terrace cafe or walk around the Dongpaek Park and during the night, take in the night view in front of the Bay 101 and enjoy the night life. Also, Gwangandaegyo during the night lights up the beach pretty well if you want to just sit around.

View of the Gwangandaegyo from Dongpaek Park

These are two things I really enjoy about Busan. I’ll write up a list of places to visit for now but will talk in more detail about other places as well later.

  • Other places to visit in Busan:
    • Taejongdae Park
    • Songdo Skywalk and cable car
    • Yonggungsa Temple
    • Nampodong and Gukje Market
    • Bosudong old book street
    • BIFF Square

Super Bloom 2019

Have you heard of the super bloom? It’s when the wildflowers take over the parks. I’ve always heard about the super bloom but never been and everyone was talking about how this year was going to be amazing because of all the rain California has been getting. It is true. California has been getting excessive rain this winter/spring, contributing to the super bloom (And also ending the drought!)

I’m a big fan of rain so I was actually enjoying all the rain we have been getting here in California. And the super bloom? That is just a cherry on top! So this year, I did an impromptu trip. I asked a friend Friday night if she wanted to visit the Park with me Saturday morning and I’m so glad she said yes! It was a first time for both of us so we didn’t know what to do.

But there was one thing everyone told us. They said the traffic gets really bad so leave early. So we decided to leave early, that is if 8am is considered early. As a note, 8am Saturday morning had no traffic. We did not know where to start so we decided to start at the Visitor Center. The road to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is very curvy but from about 30 minutes out, you can start to see all the blooms.

The entrance to the Park

The Park has parking but it is $10 and it does get full. When we arrived, it was full but there was plenty of street parking (for free!). We parked our car on Palm Canyon Drive and walked to the Visitor Center. The flower blooms near the Visitor Center was not what I expected. I expected more of a BAM! of flowers but it was a bit sparse. The flowers were pretty but I expected more because it was the Super Bloom.

Walkway near the Visitor Center

We walked around the area before heading over to the Visitor Center. If people are first timers like me, they should visit the Visitor Center first. They have maps marking where all the flower blooms are happening and can give you information about where to go and how to get there. There were lots of places marked (up to 9!) but we didn’t want to go too far so we headed to the closest one to the Visitor Center. It was about 10 minute drive and was on Di Giorgio Road. When you are on Di Giorgio rd, you might be like “where are all the flowers?” but not to worry. Keep driving down, and this is what you will see (on the left side).

Flower field!

This was what I was expecting. Just a never ending field of flower(s). The weather was really nice this day and the wind carried the scent around, making it even better. The picture doesn’t do it justice. You have to really be there to see, feel, smell it. And I was really worried about stepping on the flowers but this field had a small road you can use to walk up and down the field.

The road to the center of the field

We spent a lot of time here just taking everything in but we knew this wasn’t the end. So we kept driving up the road. As we got to the end of the road, we saw a lot of cars parked on the side. We knew this was it because of the cars and the flowers. This area also had a trail and we walked about half a mile before turning around.

This area wasn’t as full as the previous place but it had more flowers than the Visitor Center. And the colors were so pretty! The purple, yellow, and the green just worked so well together. It was really quiet here and the walk was really easy. The flowers surrounded the the trail and you could see a lot of people taking pictures and enjoying the scenery.

If you are interested in going, you should definitely do it. I really enjoyed the morning I spent at the Park. And according to the official website, the flowers are still in full bloom. You can check the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park website for more information.

Past Travels: A list of Countries

I wasn’t planning on writing about my past travels because we live for the future. But a friend of mine told me that I should at least do a recap of my past travel experiences for my own sake. She told me that at least I can look back and see what I’ve done and maybe think about if I would do it again/go again.

Ok. That sounds pretty reasonable. As I stated in my first post, my dad was the one was who all about travels in our family. I think he believed that traveling also has immense educational value and wanted to give us that first hand. I won’t list all the places I’ve been with my family because most of it is from road travel within the US. I’ll make a separate list for US States I’ve hit in the future. Instead, I’ll list all the countries I wanted to visit and have gone to. I will also exclude Korea because it would come up too often.

So here is the list:

2009 – England (London) and France (Paris)
2010 – China (Beijing), Vietnam (Halong bay and Ho Chi Minh City), and Cambodia (Siem Reap)
2011 – China (Kunming)
2012 – (grad school years)
2013 – (grad school years)
2014 – Philippines (Cebu and Bohol)
2015 – Japan (Fukuoka, Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka)
2016 – Japan (Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Uji, Okinawa) and South Africa (Rustenburg)
2017 – Canada (Toronto), Japan (Tokyo), and China (Hangzhou, Shanghai)
2018 – Iceland (Reykjavik to Hofn), Mexico (Cancun), and Japan (Ise, Nagoya)

Wow… Now that I’ve written it down… That is a lot… More than I remember! Most of them were short trips put together but wow. That is a lot. And a lot of Japan. That is because every time I went to Korea, if I had time, I would do a 3 day trip to Japan. Mostly weekend trips.

Alright. Now that I have the list, I’ll try to go back and find photos and write a post. I might do them backwards to make it easier for myself. I know I can find pictures of Iceland, Mexico, and Japan easily but for the earlier trips, I might need to do some digging. I really should keep all my photos together somewhere… (Time to buy another external hard drive)

Spontaneous Peru and Bolivia

While I was planning my trip to Grand Canyon, a friend from College contacted me asking if I wanted to travel to Peru with her and her group. I’ve always wanted to visit Machu Pichu so I had no reason to say no to her, right? They always say follow your heart so I did. It was totally spontaneous since I had no plans for Peru this year but since she gave me ample time to plan, I went away with it. She told me that the trip would be in May for about 12 days including Memorial Day and this was good for me since I get national holidays off and can save on PTO days (I have so few ;_; ). She gave me her initial itinerary and I started to work on it.

I started to look at what to do in Peru and a lot of people were suggesting crossing over to Bolivia. Bolivia was also on my bucket list because of Uyuni Desert so I started to do my research on both countries. Of course with 12 days, it wasn’t going to be enough so I changed my plans to 16 days. I still feel like it isn’t going to be enough but I would be able to just hit some of the places. More like touch and go. I would not be able to get the full immersive experience but at least I would be able to cross them off my bucket list.

I’m a big advocate for using books for research. So the first thing I did was to visit my local library and borrow books about Peru and Bolivia. Libraries are a great resource for any type of research so I recommend you use it to your advantage. I mean, you can get all the books for free! If your library doesn’t have it, you can make a request to your librarian and I’m sure they will be happy to assist you with it.

the three books that helped me with my planning

There were certain things that the group wanted to do that I was made aware from the beginning. The main thing was the Inca Trail up to Machu Pichu. This is a 2 day trail that covers about 10 miles and you would be able to see some of the Inca ruins close up along the way. This trail is also only for people who book through registered guides and would require us to make reservations way in advance. I’m not against hiking but to do a 10 mile hike in high altitude was new to me and I did not want to risk myself getting too sick in the beginning of our trip. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one who was backing out of the trail from the group. So we were able to split the group a little.

The second one was doing one of those fancy dinners at one of the course meal places in Lima. Lima is filled with amazing food choices and I was learning more and more about them as I was researching. Two restaurants in Lima are Top 10 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant and it would be a great opportunity to try them while visiting Lima. And I’m always down for good food so I was becoming more and more excited for this trip.

I only had Machu Pichu and Uyuni Desert in mind but with more research, there are more and more places I want to visit so I’m looking forward to what my itinerary looks like when it’s finished. I’ll share it with you once it is all finished.

Traveling with a First-Timer to Grand Canyon and more

In April, a friend of mine will be visiting the USA for the first time. It is her for her to get time off from work so this was something we had to plan way in advance to make sure work would permitted. When she told me she wanted to visit me, she asked gave me two options: Visit Grand Canyon or visit New York. With only 1 week, I knew doing both would be impossible. And also, she has never flown for longer than 2 hours so I did not know what she would be like after crossing the waters. So we decided on Grand Canyon.

I have been to Grand Canyon several times now and there are places I’ve never been to but to make it a memorable trip for her, I planned it as if I was visiting for the very first time. I didn’t mind going back to the same places because every time I see them, it is still amazing. (In the last 4 years, I’ve been 3 times and it never gets old. I want to go hiking there but that will have to wait.)

my original plan

She and I are both Disney nerds so we had to slip in Disneyland somehow. I purposely left the first day empty to see how she would be feeling after the long flight. And once in Las Vegas, I knew we would be doing a lot of driving so I wanted to leave a lot of error time for just in cases. Since it was semi-confirmed, I purchased the airfare tickets, hotels, rental car, and the Antelope Canyon Tour. Also, there was a sale going on for 3 day passes at Disneyland and it was cheaper than buying 2 day passes so we hopped on that. However, we had to make a HUGE change to our schedule.

My friend went to an autograph signing event for Andy from Shinhwa. Since he is from California, she asked him for recommendation. (Note: At signing events, you can ask a question on a post-it and the artist will usually respond to it)

Q: Going to USA for the first time in April. I’m heading to LA area and do you have any recommendation?
A: San Diego Sea World

With his answer, my friend contacted me and said “I want to go to Sea World.” Welp. Time to change our plans around. We couldn’t change too much of it since most of it was paid for. But we could make our schedule a bit tight to make things fit. I didn’t want to make the trip hard for her but she wanted to push to see everything since she didn’t know when she would be back again. So we altered our schedule to include Sea World. The last time I went to Sea World was when I was… 10? So this would be something “new” for me as well.

our current plan

So now, this is our plan. We have less than 30 days left for this trip so I hope we can stick to this. We will be heading over to Disneyland right after I pick up my friend from LAX and I really hope she will be ok. I will also need to get some good-night sleep before she comes so I can have the energy to run this plan myself! But overall, I cannot wait for her to visit me 🙂

Soul of Korea: Seoul

Seoul is an amazing city with lots of history. The city is a mixture of old and new, modern and contemporary. In most places you visit, you will get to experience them both. With this in mind, I started to plan for Seoul. Plus, spring time in Korea can be amazing! The Cherry Blossom festivals are something you don’t want to miss! (That is if you time your trip right) I’m so jealous my cousin is visiting in April. It’s PRIME time for the blossoms and there are lots of festivals on the weekends.

I was super excite to plan this trip because my cousin’s has been wanting to go back to Korea for a long time. And as I said before, I’m a bit of a scheduling nerd. So when I plan trips, I tend to use excel to manage my time…. By the hour. Sometimes by 30 minute increments. I know it can seem daunting but it can be very effective and efficient.


my tentative Seoul schedule for my cousin

It doesn’t look too detailed, right? Well…. I couldn’t fully plan her trip since she is staying with friends and family. Also, she wanted a more relaxed plan that can be altered if need be. She wanted it to be more of a vacation than a work trip. I wanted to give her the bigger framework (main sites) and let her pick what she wants in detail. But there were some main places that I wanted her to visit such as the Gyeongbokgung and COEX. I wanted her to be able to take in the history and culture of Korea, from the old to the new. She only had limited days in Seoul so I didn’t want to add all the palaces to the map and she has been to Korea before.

Also, to make it easier for her, I created a My Maps page on Google with pins, marking the places to visit, eat, drink, shop, and more. Click here to see the Google My Maps for Seoul

I color coded them by dates and used identifiers to indicate what the pins are. The reason I wanted to color code by dates was to make it easier for my cousin to see what was around and if she wanted to break away, she could easily see the areas that could be separated. I will do the same for Busan (one of the other cities she will be visiting).

Also, Seoul is a very walkable city. I should just say that cities in Korea are mostly walkable. So I tried to group areas together so she could just walk around and see/eat things. Mostly eat. There are lots of delicious street food in Korea. Plus, Seoul has a lot of these small alleys/streets that has rows of restaurants and shops so if you find one of these, you can shop-hop.

If you have more days, I would suggest visiting all the palaces and museums. There are so many interesting museums such as the “Witch’s Garden” which is an interactive play zone, “Sugar Planet,” an art exhibition on all things sweet, and more. There are so many of these in Seoul that you can fill your day with them.

And speaking of hop, there is also the City Tour Bus. This bus makes a big circle around Seoul and stops at all the major tourist areas and museums. If you are not so sure how to get around or what to see, this could give you an idea. You buy a ticket and just hop on. If you see something interesting, hop off. When you are done, just hope back on to the bus when you see it. Easy! This bus is very convenient so if you are not the planner type, this could be it. Just to let you know, you won’t be able to hop on and off at every stop in one day. So spend your time wisely.

If you are visiting Seoul but want to do something extra interesting? Plan a trip to the DMZ. DMZ stands for Demilitarized Zone and it basically is the border between the North and South Korea. You can only visit the DMZ through a tour so shop around to find one that you like. Most of the tours will include a trip to Panmunjom(Peace Village)/JSA, Freedom Bridge, and Dora Observatory, but many of the tours are unique to themselves so make sure to check them! It is a very intense trip since Korea is still at war (technically) and during your tour, you can see soldiers on both side of Korea eyeing each other, eyes like hawks. After the tour, you will be able to tell your friends that you’ve been to North Korea so I guess that is a plus.

I hope this peaked your interested! And if you visited Seoul and want to give me and my cousin more suggestions, please let me know! I could love to add more to her trip (or my future trips) 🙂

Trip to Korea : The planning

I really do love planning trips. My family and friends all know this of me. I personally think that planning the trip can be as fun as the actually travel part. (Of course, nowadays, it can either make you hype or spoil the fun with all the pictures and videos you see online)

I recently visited my cousin and she told me that she was planning on visiting Korea soon. And that she wanted me to help her plan for it. (YAY!) I love it when people tell me that they are planning to visit Korea. It is my motherland and I want people to learn more about my culture (and that it isn’t just about kpop or kbeauty).

So we sat down together and went through some guidelines together: How long are you staying, where are you planning on staying, do you want to be more adventurous, do you want to play the tourist, a lot of walking or more relax at a cafe, etc. So many questions asked! Why? Because when people visit Korea, most of their time is going to be in Seoul, the capital. Seoul is a relatively small city and most of the major touristy places are accessible by foot. So the trips can be vastly different from person to person.

My cousin told me that she planned on staying at a friends house for a couple days, her uncle’s house for a couple days, and my parent’s house for a couple days. So that would be 3 cities. I don’t have to plan anything for the duration of her stay at her uncle’s and she only wanted recommendations for my parent’s house. But she definitely wanted a scheduled itinerary for most of Seoul. Her max stay in Seoul would be 4 days and she wanted a mix of touristy and relaxation time. She would be staying at her friend’s house, which is outside of Seoul but close enough to bus/subway into the City.

When this information, I started to jot some ideas down. I’m mostly driven by food and just hanging out with friends while in Korea but it was going to be different for my cousin. So here is to me starting 🙂

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining us on our travels!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

post

1st post. I have always loved traveling. And I think I got this from my dad. Every summer, he would take us on roadtrips across the US and stay at campsites for days. We would play in the woods, the rivers, the mountains.. The world was our oyster.

My family came to the US because of my dad’s education so most of our budget went to his tuition and we were always on a tight budget. But my parents always made the most of it. They taught me to love traveling, regardless of what budget I was working with. Also, destination was important but also being in each other’s company was more valued. But there is one thing we differed in: our style of travel.

I’m a bit of an over-planner. I like to make sure I have a plan A, B, and sometimes, even C. Where as my parents were more free spirited. They only planned out the main portion of the trip like the destination but everything else was spontaneous. Sometimes, he didn’t even book a campsite. Even now, looking back, I’m not sure how my parents did that.

So as a over-planning traveler, I do a lot of pre-planning before the trip. Now, just because I love have plans, it doesn’t mean I won’t have breaks in between my plans. While I’m traveling, I follow my heart and body, and of course, my companion’s options. If I have something in the plans but I’m feeling a bit tired, I can take a break and move on to plan B. I also pencil in breaks in my schedule 🙂

So with this being said, I wanted to share my travel stories with you. This website will mostly be about travel plans and budgets, actual travel photos/videos, and lots of food photos. I usually pick my destinations on attraction and food. So you will soon find out that food is really important to me and I cannot wait to share all the information with you. And I hope it brings you closer to your journey.

Trips
2019- LA and Las Vegas (April), Peru and Bolivia (May), Europe? (tentative)
2018- Iceland (March), Cancun (April), Korea (Oct), Japan (Oct)
2017- Toronto (March), Korea (Oct), Shanghai (Oct)