coming home for christmas

It has been 8 years since I’ve left NY. I’ve never gone home for Christmas and instead during that time, I’ve celebrated Christmas in different countries including Korea, Thailand, and Singapore. Some of the memories I’ve made were  volunteering and giving out gifts at an orphanage in Korea, relaxing on the beach in Thailand, or watching Christmas movies in sweatshirts with the AC blaring while pretending that it’s cold outside. However, it’s not home. It’s not with family. It’s not Christmas in NY.

I just splurged and bought my ticket home for Christmas this year. So what am I looking forward to besides the 24+ hours of travel time, jet lag, and freezing weather? Hopefully a snow filled Christmas morning, ridiculous Christmas lights on homes (think full sized lighted reindeers on roof tops), and the tree at Rockefeller Center. Oh, there will definitely be some hanging out by the fireplace, opening presents with family on Christmas morning, and walking along Fifth avenue to take in the Christmas lights.

There’s something quite magical about Christmas time in New York. It’s hard to really explain it in words, it’s just something you have to experience. The countdown begins to Christmas!

Some photos I took in New York this past summer at the observatory of the Freedom Tower and the Brooklyn Bridge.dsc_0294dsc_0297dsc_0319dsc_0325dsc_0326dsc_0327dsc_0332dsc_0323dsc_0345

grand canyon- a name well earned

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

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

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

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

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


the cali life

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

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

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


toronto top 10 highlights

I’ve been attempting to catch up on my summer travels so even though the order is a bit mixed up, next is my trip to my favorite friendly neighboring country, Canada. A wedding is always a good excuse to visit a new place! I was so excited to visit Toronto and of course explore it with Melody. Basically our last minute planning consisted of a combination of messaging our Canadian friends,  instagram, and good ol’ Google after landing in Toronto.  We only had about 2 days for sight seeing. However, we definitely packed a lot in and crossed off most of the things on our list, except for climbing the top of the CN tower (which I was ok with not doing, especially with the foggy weather on day 2).

Top 10 Highlights of exploring Toronto:

  1. Walking through Kensington market and seeing an eclectic bunch of things like the car that was turned into a garden on the street.
  2. Maple bacon macarons from Nadege patisserie while catching up with Steph!
  3. Staying at this cute boutique-y hotel, the Gladstone that was an art gallery during the day.
  4. Finding cute stationary and book stores on Queens street west.
  5. Taking photos of all the fun graffiti and art on the sides of buildings.
  6. Going down the Frank Gehry stairs at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
  7. Eating dinner at a random restaurant/pub on Osington, that ended up having the best sweet potato fries. The poutine was just ok.
  8. Taking a ferry to Toronto island and walking on the boardwalk by the beach with my cousin’s family.
  9. Watching planes land and lift off from Toronto city airport from a friend’s rooftop.
  10. Blueberry pancakes from Mildred’s Temple Kitchen. I would definitely go back here anytime.

Photos taken on my iphone 5s. 

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9 hours in amsterdam

On my way back to Singapore from NY, I had a 9 hour layover in Amsterdam, which I decided to use to explore the city. Since I visited Amsterdam about a year and half ago, I didn’t really do much research or planning before. I was ready to wing it. Taking the train into Amsterdam Central station was quick and easy. The train station is right below the Schiphol Airport.  After buying my roundtrip ticket, I managed to find the right platform. Thankful for wifi, a window seat, and scenic views, I arrived in Central station about15 minutes later.

I walked towards the center of town being careful of not getting run over by trams, cyclists, and cars. I decided to do what I do best. Go shopping. No matter how tired and hungry I am, I always manage to find enough energy to shop! So despite feeling extremely exhausted from lack of sleep during my red eye flight from NY, I knew shopping would perk me up. I did some window shopping inside the department store, de Bijenkorf.

Here are a few things you can do in Amsterdam:

  1. Window shopping at de Bijenkorf! Then, eat at the food court on the top floor. Not only is there free wifi, but an amazing selection of food, including steak, sandwiches, fries, salad bar, soups, frozen yogurt bar, fresh juices and smoothies, and more.
  2. Buy souvenirs like tulip flower pens and postcards in the many stores lining the streets so that you have proof that you visited.
  3. Go on an hour canal tour and see the beautiful sites of the city. Try not to fall asleep, like I did.
  4. Visit albert heijn supermarket and buy stroop wafels and chocolate! There is an albert heijn also in the airport!
  5. Take photos of the beautiful historic buildings and canals.
  6. Take the #2 or #5 tram from Central station to the Rijks museum and take a photo by the I Amsterdam sign. I would have totally done this if I wasn’t feeling so exhausted.
  7. Eat freshly made poffertjes.

I ended up coming back to the airport early because I just was too tired to keep exploring! In the end, 9 hours ended up being more than enough time to explore Amsterdam. Here are some photos from my iphone 5s.

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glimpses of paris

In 7th grade, I decided to make a 3-d glass model of the Louvre for my French class project. My mom drove me to the hardware store to buy the sheets of glass that I would use to make this pyramid. I bought black tape as well so I could line the sides of the glass to look similar to the Louvre. All I remember now are the many hours it took to construct my mini-Louvre, and all of my French has unfortunately seemed to escape me. Nevertheless, despite my disappointing French skills, Paris never seems to disappoint me. I could just sit for hours outside the Louvre on a sunny day, stroll in the perfectly hemmed Tuileries garden, and take a million pictures of the Eiffel Tower and never get sick of it.

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mokbar @ nyc

This summer, I had the chance to check out this new and delicious place called Mokbar located in Chelsea market. My friend recommended this place,and I’m glad she did. This is a new Korean-Japanese fusion ramen place, opened by a Korean-American, Esther Choi. They don’t have too many tables, so be prepared to wait if you have a bigger group.

We tried a whole bunch of different dishes. Their ho-cakes were interesting, as they put pork in them, making them taste more like a pa-jeon/pancakes then the usually sweet ho-dduk. I enjoyed their disco fries, because kimchi, cheese, and fries are some of my favorite foods, especially when they are combined! Their tteokboki had bacon and poached egg which was a unique twist on this classic korean dish. I ordered the kimchi ramen as my main dish, and enjoyed it! I would definitely recommend this place. Next time, I want to try out los tacos, which the taco place located next door!

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