[Day 1] Traveling from SAN to LIM

I love traveling and seeing the world. And because I love traveling, I also like to collect points/mileages! I like to consider myself a pretty loyal person so I tend to stick to one airline or a group. With that being said, I am currently an avid user of Star Alliance flights, collecting mileage for Asiana Airlines and luckily, United, part of Star Alliance, had cheap flights to Lima and I took it.

There was no direct flight to Lima from San Diego. So I had a layover in Houston. Houston is United Airlines’ largest hub so I had planned on using their lounge while I waited for the next flight.

My flights!

My original flight was to leave SAN at 10am and arrive at 3:10pm in Houston. My next flight was at 4:30pm. However, there was an aircraft change and my flight was delayed. I didn’t have time to use the lounge in Houston and I was a bit worried about where my next gate would be. I heard that Houston was a big airport and I have never been to it. While in air, I asked one of the flight attendant about my situation and she was able to locate the arrival and departure gate. My arrival gate and departure gate in Houston was right next to each other so I did not have to rush too much. The flight attendant was extremely helpful and knowledgeable. She gave me some tips for Lima and also on traveling.

Once off the plane, I quickly grabbed snacks from the closest store and got back on my next flight. The flight over to Lima was long and I was not tired at all! It was a day plane as well so I ended up watching endless amounts of movies until we arrived in LIM at 11pm. I watched Captain Marvel, Avengers:Infinity War, How to Train Your Dragon, and episodes of Big Bang Theory.

My little movie theater

They give us “dinner” but it was very small. A sandwich and carrot sticks. I was super glad I picked up some snacks from Houston. If you are flying this route, make sure you take some food with you.

Dinner from United Flight to Lima

Once I landed, it was 11pm. Since it was a late flight, I thought going through immigration would be quick. Boy, was I wrong! There must have been other flights that landed around the same time because by the time I got in line, it was already wrapped around 3 times! The officers were working quickly but it did not take too long. Estimated about 35 minutes?

The airport itself is relatively small. So once you are done with immigration, you walk right into the baggage claim. I had checked 2 things. 1 luggage and 1 box. The luggage was on the belt but the box was in a separate area by the security office. If you are sending boxes or oversize items, I believe you can pick them up from the security office area.

Also, I heard drones are a no-no in Peru. So when I packed my drone, I expected to pay some tax or fees to get it through customs. When I got to customs, I told the officer I had a drone in my bag and he said just put it through the x-ray machine. (NOTE: All bags will go through x-ray machine when you exit so please claim everything or you will be fined) He saw my drone and just let me pass. I’m not sure if it was because of a new law or if it was late at night, but I was able to pass with a drone. This might not be the case for everyone so be very careful when you enter Peru with a drone.

Once I was out, I found a driver holding my name at the front. I had arranged with my accommodation for a pick up at the airport since I was arriving late. Many places offer airport pick up for a fee, usually a bit higher than taxi, and if you are not sure about how to get around, making an arrangement might be the best. Once you exit the airport, there are tons.. I mean TONS of taxi drivers who will approach you and ask if you need a ride. Be cautious when getting in any taxi at the airport. When I was doing my research, everyone recommended Green Taxi or Uber. Yes, Uber works in Peru so please use it! Also, I did not want to exchange money at the airport since I knew they would be more pricy. So by using Uber or prior arrangements, I wouldn’t need to have Soles yet.

Outside the Lima Airport

For my accommodation, I booked a Korean Hostel called Hola Peru. I usually don’t like to stay in Korean places but since I was new to Peru and super unfamiliar with the area, I thought it might be nice to get information from the locals. And the location was really good too. It was in a very quiet, residential area in miraflores. It was walking distance from the main street and that was really the selling point for me.

They had several rooms and I got to stay in a double by myself. The prices are: single $25, double/triple $18 per person. They have 2 shared bathrooms with plenty of hot water, shared mini-fridge and Korean snacks you can buy, great wifi, and a printer. They do airport pickups and dropoffs, provide luggage storage service, and also tours. They offer Korean style breakfast and it was 20 soles per. One thing I did not know until I got there was that they provide heated mats for each bed. Guys. This is a super plus! After a long flight, having the heated mattress for my sore back really did wonders.

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.

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.

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) 🙂