Monday, June 15, 2009

A few of the missing pictures...

Here's a taste of what's to come on my picasa album...

Chillin with Shaina!

Bummin around Oahu with Shantel!

Road trippin & General bad-assness with Jamie

Being a tourist with Michael ;)

Check the picasa album for other pics - more to come when peeps upload photos!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Let the vacation begin!


What an eventful weekend! Although the fun might have kicked off with my bus breaking down mid-trip to pick Jamie up from the airport and a super-human sprint to make the airport transfer bus, it was overall very quintessentially Hawaiian vacation. We rented a car upon Jamie's arrival - a Seabring that we named Peepeopi (thank you, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) - and drove it up to the North Shore. Most tourists stick to Waikiki, which pretty much has everything one might need to be happy from Cheesecake Factory to Cold Stones to, oh yes, Subways! But the 30-45 minute drive to the North Shore is well worth the views and the sunsets!

We began on Saturday with a mound of infamous shaved ice with so many flavors to choos
e from - I personally went with guava, lychee, lilikoi (kinda like a cotton candy passion fruit). The line actually wrapped around the building for it, and it took us a good 25 minutes to order. But it was well worth it! By the time we finished slurping it, it was a race to beat the sun from setting. We parked at the picturesque Sunset Beach with rolling sand and crashing waves. Part of the beach is for surfing and part is for swimming, but we were just chillin. As the sun set, we saw a little cluster of dolphins in the distance! It was almost enough to send me tearing into the water, fully clothed in my plaid shorts to go play! It was EXTREMELY cool and very Hawaiian.

The weekend continued, early (in the single digits!) on Sunday with pancakes and guava juice at a local restaurant. Then we took the meandering coastal road up the east coast to the North Shore where we had an anticlimactic visit to Turtle Bay (the setting for Forgetting Sarah Marshall), which is proof of Hollywood's ability to create paradise... because the hotel was not as cool. Then, we saw the plane from Lost (Nikki!!) and the beach they film it on - it was all closed off, but still so cool to see a little piece of Hollywood in paradise. We continued to see the dock where they filmed part of 50 First Dates with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, as well as more interesting geological structures formed from lava flow, such as this little mountainous island called "Chinaman's Hat"... ok, so I was the only one excited by that! But we forged on to spend the morning at Sunset Beach, then adjourning to Waimea Bay for the afternoon until sunset. Waimea Bay has gorgeous aqua waters where you can see straight to the bottom and the snorkeling is decent (a few Doris but no Nemos!) Me and my friend Shantel swam across the whole bay, which is impressive and exhausting - who needs a gym when you're in Hawaii, right Kristie?!

Alas, it was time to return the rental car, so we popped into Zippy's (a local chili place - with AMAZING food) and proceeded to get lost finding the hotel and Thrifty! It's not really a road trip if you don't make at least one illegal U-Turn, right?!

I'll post more pictures soon!! Surfs up ;)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Wiki Wiki Weekend!


I write you now on my lunch break, sipping my new favorite drink called Hawaiian Sun - there are at least half a dozen flavors from lychee to iced tea, and I plan on trying them all! Despite the stagnant internet situation (of not having wireless in my room), my stay in Hawaii is starting to look up. I know, I know, I'm in Hawaii, how could it ever be down?? Well, I'm not exactly staying at the Marriott... or even a motel 6 for that matter!

On Thursday, I met two sisters who live in the nicer part of Ewa Beach, up the street from me. The older sister, is actually attending USC in the spring for Physics, and she plans to later pursue her Ph.D at MIT. The younger sister just graduated from high school last weekend and is taking my Environmental Science class this summer. They are absolutely the nicest people I have met so far! On my first day of knowing them, they offered to not only drive me home but to also take me to the grocery store and my nutritional haven, Subway. Though, in the end we wound up sharing pizza, garlic bread, and cheese bread from Little Ceasars at a beach near my house - YUM! I feel so lucky to have met such awesome friends.

Friday, the day of our field trip to Pali, the extinct volcano, brought a whole new outlook of the island. We journeyed to the wetter, more lush side of Oahu where a massive ridge baracades one side and lava flows are etched into the side of the mountainous structures. For the first time in my life, I saw a volcano and identified the lava flows (both pahoehoe and a'a types). It was extremely cool. The view was break-taking, and my camera phone hardly does it justice. Apparently, it was on this very spot that natives battled the monarch conqueror who would ultimately rule the islands. The natives failed, according to my new friend, and the spirits of the night archers still roam the area because they cannot find peace, since their home was lost.

After our field trip, me and the younger sister, Shaina, came back to school where she showed me the wonder that is our proximity to Walmart and a food court! We dined on orange chicken, cho mein, and dairy queen - sooo goooood. Afterwards, we walked around the various shops in the plaza, talking. Shaina was appalled to discover that I did not own plaid shorts... so she marched us over to Ross where, in true Tricia form (!) I bought hot pink and black ones as well as a really cool blue and purple broken glass-looking jar that will forever remind me of the Hawaiian ocean!

Saturday brought my first adventure - Shaina took us to the Ala Moana Beach Park where we enjoyed the serene water at the beach there. Large rocks that protrude from the ocean about a half mile off of the shore - that means waves break farther out and the water is so calm that people actually swim laps across it (ode to Kristie!) Despite gobs of sunscreen, I still managed to escape with an abstract art-looking burn riddled with random finger marks haha We ended the day with some Tony Roma ribs and french fries and Haagen Daz ice cream, of course! Oh! Then on the bus ride home, Shaina taught me how to make a lay out of yarn - apparently, I'm a pro now. It was a great, Hawaiian day!

Sunday was more chill - I read for class and looked for shells on the beach outside of my house to decorate the lays I made. Ewa Beach faces South and the shells are scarce because there is a lot of coral and rocks that cover the ocean floor in that area. Although I only came back with a couple of shells, they are some of the coolest ones that I've seen. That day ended with Hawaiian BBQ complete with ribs, rice, and fish that was caught that day - yes, I ate fish in seaweed sauce and it was AMAZING!!

Overall, things are looking up - I have met some cool people and Jamie comes to visit this weekend, then Mike next week! Life seems more managable now. As for the education, it's been great - I'm learning so much and actually am able to apply it which is cool! I wish I could write more, but I have to help set up for a lab now :-( I'll try to check in again this week to tell you a little more about the local culture that I think the average tourists misses. Aloha for now!!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009



You may have been wondering where I disappeared to... was I off surfing on the backs of turtles? or perhaps stuck in a palm tree trying to pick a coconut? Alas! I am actually without internet in my house here, which makes me wanna feed someone to the sharks!! Thanks to my trusty blackberry, I'm not totally disconnected.

The view from my house is really beautiful. In fact the picture to the right is from the balcony on the top floor (and the one on top is an image of the house from the beach). It's a two story home, built by a couple and their kids, and the upstairs is very nice though not air-conditioned. My room, downstairs does have AC and a TV, but overall, the house is definitely not what I expected... I'm sharing the rooms downstairs with a girl who has some mysterious night-time employment in one room, a mom and her two teenage boys in another two rooms, along with a guy who works on the property and acts as the property security dude upstairs (he's really nice) - not exactly the what I expected. Especially the part about sharing a bathroom with two teenage boys. The kitchen is definitely not a place I see myself cooking in - so my diet has consisted of alternating turkey sandwiches and peanut butter sandwiches - halla back to college! Hopefully this weekend, I'll get to have a well-balanced meal - though subway would excite me...

School is actually really great. The classes are very interesting, and the teacher is enthusiastic about what he is teaching. I take a 45 minute bus ride to get here, but the bus drops me off close to school. The school, Leeward College, is directly above Pearl Harbor - in fact, you can see the old navy ship graveyard from the second story. Pretty much anywhere in Hawaii has a great view! This Friday we're taking a class field trip to Pali, just north of Honolulu where we can see lava flow marks from an old volcano. Don't worry mom, the volcano is dead!

Oh another fun fact - I remembered to bring wash clothes and lysol wipes but FORGOT to bring my camera! DUH! The pictures you see here are from my 2 megapixel phone camera. Hopefully my camera will arrive next week, and I'll be able to post some pics of my school and my room. Sadly, any awesome adventures this weekend can only be captured by little phone! Though it's pretty decent - check out the sunset from my house in Ewa Beach, which faces South (to the left).

I'll let you know how it goes... if you're sensing my apprehension, it's just that this is so different than studying abroad because I'm not associated with an organization, and Hawaii is definitely an entity onto itself than to the US... much like Hong Kong is a separate entity to China. The area I'm living in is largely local, which is cool in its own way - not touristy. Everyone has been friendly overall, though without a car, I don't really see myself going out after sundown. I'm looking forward to Jamie's visit not this weekend, but next weekend and Mike's visit the weekend after. I know we're gonna have a great time!

Hope everything is chill on the Mainland 8-) Surfs up!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Australia, mates!

For a three week stint in the summer, we backpacked down the east coast of Australia, and it was awesome! We started in Sydney, where I attended the 85 Broad Advantage conference for women in leadership as the scholarship recipient. It was really interesting to interact with Australian students in a classroom setting - everyone was very nice, helpful, and inquisitive. Did you know that you can decide to be a doctor in high school, apply for college, and graduate about four years later with a medical degree?? Pretty cool! At least that was my understanding from what the girls told me. After the conference ended, me and my boyz palled around Sydney, walking, seeing the sites, hangin with Michael's cousin. We had a blast at the Absolut Ice Bar near the opera house where you can only stay in the frozen bar room for 25 minutes and the drinks are served in cups made of ice. As you can see, parkas are mandatory.

From there, we took a plane up to Cannes, the main hub for the Great Barrier Reef. We stayed at this kinda adorable hostel that looked like a children's camp tree house - it creeped Jamie out. In Cannes we had amazing Indian food... three nights in a row! Finally, it was time to get out on the water - and I'm a puker, so that was lovely. Though, nothing will cure sea sickness like freezing cold water! It was really choppy - pretty big swells for being surrounded by reef, but the fish were gorgeous. I saw fish that I had only ever seen in Nemo or a picture book. And the color - rainbow colors!! Did you know that those giant clams actually exist? Michael picked one up when he went on a mini-dive. It was pretty cool.

Probably the highlight of our Australia trip was our trip up to Cape Tribulation on the north east tip of Australia. It's a quiet little region that is made up mostly of rainforests. We were supposed to stay in another mediocre hostel, but they overbooked, so they upgraded us for free to a four star resort where we lived like kings for two nights! Mini shampoos and all! We spent our days lounging on the beach, reading, and sharing a six pack. It was absolutely the epitome of a relaxing vacation. Although, if we had not had the maps of the area, we probably would have walked right into this estuary infested with alligators - so make sure you grab one at your local hotel.

We continued down through Brisbane, Surfer's Paradise, and wine country. Aside from the rolling countryside, we encountered wild kangaroos and enjoyed a decadent stay at a Marriott in Brisbane with hot chocolate that jamie and I dubbed "crack chocolate." In Brisbane, I held a koala bear at he Koala Sanctuary, and we frolicked in a field of kangaroos.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Taste of Tokyo and a Bite of Beijing!

Konichiwa, friends!

It's been a long time since I've written about my adventures, and, if it is possible, they have gotten even better! Just a few days ago, I returned from my week and a half stint in Beijing and Tokyo with my Uncle Dave. What a blast!!

So, Beijing... China's capital and the future home of the 2008 Olympics (and they're not afraid to remind you!). Aside from the pollution generated by construction of new buildings and the large pollen clusters that often looked like snow hanging in the air, Beijing was a fascinating city to see. What was most interesting to me is how from all of my travels in China, Beijing seemed to be the most tourist contrived. The main attractions included The Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Forbidden City, and, of course, the Great Wall. Out of all of those destinations, the Great Wall was my favorite. This is thanks to my quick-thinking USC roommate, Jooree, who guided us by bus and sketchy mini-bus in a 4 hour journey to a remote section of the Wall - completely authentic and definitely non-touristy. Authenticity is the most important factor to me, I've realized, because it makes me feel connected to the culture on a deeper level of history. As you can see from the pics, the views were beautiful!On to Tokyo... my favorite city in Asia! I was absolutely blown away by the cleanliness, efficient public transport, high tech sensory overload, kindness of the locals, and of course the Disneylands. As many of you might know, I feel about Disneylands the way most people feel about God. So, seeing 4 out of the 5 Disneylands in the world was a spiritual experience for me. haha I know, I should start a cult... who's with me?? The most impressive theme park that I have officially ever been to in the ENTIRE world was DisneySea. The park, as you will see from my obnoxious amount of pictures, centers around a beautiful lake with a life-size erupting volcano in the background. As each ride is sponsored by individual Japanese companies, each ride is perfection in itself - a core part of the Japanese culture. Interestingly, rides such as Pirates and Haunted Mansion were SCARIER in Tokyo, reflecting an integral part of the culture (as evident by the movies produced there like the original Ring). I loved that every ride was narrated in Japanese! It made it feel so authentic... and we all know how much I love authenticity ;-) The culmination of my day that brought the whole experience full circle was eating Japanese curry and watching the Disneyland Parade. What a cultural experience! Oh, and the parade was, well... magical. sigh. I definitely plan to revisit the park in a detailed 2 day excursion next time!

More on Tokyo... If it is possible, the Tokyo locals are even more friendly and helpful than those in Hong Kong - and that's saying a lot because Hong Kong people are so sweet! People would literally see me glancing at my map and offer to help me buy my ticket and guide me to my destination themselves. Although, imagine my surprise to discover that within this friendly culture is a blossoming porn industry that surpasses the developments in North America. As you will see from my pics, you can buy little anime stripper dolls from machines and buy anime porn. Talk about creative! OH! And, you don't need to worry about gambling with me, Mom, because despite the presence of slot machines in ElectricTown (the up and coming tech district of Tokyo), I managed to burn US$20 on those claw machines where you can win stuffed animals. Oh yes, I was a natural. hehe Visiting Tokyo has inspired me to consider a fellowship there for 6 months, post grad. I can now understand how people become obsessed with the culture! I LOVED IT!! Color me obsessed ;-)

Well, kids, I've got to finish packing for my last excursion of 10 days touring Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. This will be the trip to test my comfort zone and travel abilities in every way, and I couldn't be more excited to start! Although it makes me (and my mother) a little nervous, I am confident that I can put that worrying energy to good use and find the fun in whatever experiences come my way! Until next time...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Thailand is for lovers... Guangzhou is for adventurers!

How is life on your side of the world? Mine is busy with school ending in 2 weeks and squeezing as much travel as I can into the short time that I have left. Since I last wrote, I have taken a wonderful vacation to Pattaya in Thailand (just 1 1/2 hours outside of Bangkok) and a short weekend excursion to Guangzhou (a city 1 hour outside of Hong Kong in Mainland). Life is good, besides this pesky thing called school :-)

So Thailand... Although Mike and I hardly "roughed it - backpacker style" in our resort hotel with 12 restaurants, we did manage to see a future Wonder of the World called The Sanctuary of Truth (made completely of hand-carved wood from all over Asia) and pet baby tigers. That's right, if you couldn't believe that I kissed a pink dolphin, I think you're going to have an even harder time imagining me feeding a baby tiger out of a bottle in my lap. It was so hot and sticky in Thailand that we spent a whole day at the beautiful Coral Island where we shared a boat with a wealthy Western business man and his teenage Thai escort. That rather disturbing detail about the sex industry in Pattaya followed us on every outing, as Pattaya we later learned is the Red Light district of Thailand. It seemed strange how the girls laughed at all the foreigner's bad jokes and held their hands. It made me wonder how a young girl comes into such a job. Sometimes, the Thai girls even brought their daughters along on the tours too. I'm sure on any other of my adventures, I would have sat down for a chat with one to ask about it, but our organized tour in the open air taxi seemed hardly appropriate.

The food in Thailand was some of the best that I've had in Asia. Pineapple fried rice is a famous dish that I'm determined to cook regularly when I return to USC. In fact, officially Thailand has the best oreo milkshake that I have ever had. Amazing! Something that would surely make my little brother proud ;) Overall, it was difficult to experience the truly authentic Thai culture that you might find traveling to villages out of tourist areas. But, nonetheless, the company (Mike, that's you!) more than made up for it!

On to Guangzhou... I literally just unpacked from this two day excursion to Mainland China. Guangzhou, on the surface, seems like any ordinary city - a little dirty, grey, and concrete. But, it was because of my school mate's and my determination to have a cultural experience, that it was surprisingly fun. Aside from the notoriously cheap shopping that yielded a $4 pair of suede turquoise boots, the gardens and parks were amazing. Milena and I climbed a nine story pagoda that was one of the most beautifully artistic that I have seen. (Naturally, we have pictures of the whole climbing process). We took a day trip to the neighboring city of Foshan where we got hopelessly lost because well-meaning locals kept pointing us in the wrong direction, and we wound up in beautiful zen-like park (also thoroughly documented). It really was one of those times where you realize that the right attitude and the good company can make any city fun!

Well, kids, sorry to be a bit abrupt, but I really must get back to work. All of my classes have 10+ page papers due now :-( Quite sad, really. The next time I write I will tell you of my adventures with my favorite Uncle Dave to Beijing and Tokyo! WOOHOO to cool family members who visit me :-D