Archive | December 2014

Craving Korean Food during our Travels

The first time we ever tasted Korean food was in Seoul. The introduction into this world of spicy Korean food that consisted of red pepper paste and kimchi was a delight for our palates. After two years of thoroughly enjoying Korean dishes, we knew we would miss this savory cuisine during our travels. So, before leaving for our one-year World Trip, we made every effort to get our fill of Korean food. But, it was only four months into our big trip that we began deeply craving Korean food. At that time, it was New Years’ Eve and we were in Cairo, Egypt! We were just wandering around hoping to eat at a decent restaurant since finding a Korean restaurant would be highly unlikely. At least that was what we thought, until we actually spotted a Korean restaurant! We were surprised and thrilled. What were the chances of finding Korean cuisine in Egypt! We ordered kimchi bokkeumbap and it was delicious. What a way to bring in the New Year!

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The next time we had the chance to try Korean food was seven months later in Singapore. Even though it was extremely expensive, we couldn’t resist. We ended up ordering dolsot bibimbap!

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Jet Skiing and More in Ko Samui, Thailand

Once Jason and I started living abroad, Thailand was the first country we visited during our vacation period. I had always had a deep desire to travel to Thailand. I had heard Thailand was amazing and so exotic with beautiful beaches. It sounded like paradise. During our initial visit to Thailand we stayed in Bangkok for a few days, and then took a one hour flight to Ko Samui.

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Ko Samui was our first real beach experience and it was wonderful. The sand was soft and the water was great for swimming.

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It was at Ko Samui, we did jet skiing for the first time! Driving the jet ski in the deep waters away from the shore, was thrilling. I must admit however, the ride was also very bumpy and a bit scary for me. But, I survived our very first water sports adventure in Thailand!

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In the evening, tables were set up on the beach for dinner. Having a candlelit dinner and hearing the sounds of the ocean, on a warm summer evening was so romantic and relaxing.

For me, Thailand was and continues to be a slice of paradise! It definitely is one my favorite countries in the world.

Paddling around Phewa Lake in Pokhara, Nepal

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Our first stop in Nepal was in Pokhara. It is the second largest city in Nepal. Pokhara was a quiet city surrounded by a beautiful fresh water lake named Phewa Lake.

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Jason paddled us around Phewa Lake, the second largest lake in Nepal, for a few hours.

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We took the boat across the lake and walked up to this stupa. This Buddhist stupa, which is named the World Peace Stupa, serves to inspire peace throughout the world. From the top of the stupa, we were able to see beautiful views of the Annapurna ranges in the Himalayas.

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After visiting the stupa and some other smaller temples, we spent the day paddling around the lake until early evening. It was a very pleasant and relaxing way to spend a day.

Drinking Mint Chocolate Martinis in Hong Kong

For us, traveling isn’t just about checking off a list of countries we have visited. It is more about the experiences we encounter during the trip. Sometimes the experience can be as simple as trying a new drink at a local bar.

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While we were in Hong Kong, walking around the city exploring, it started to rain. It wasn’t just light rain, but a sudden downpour. We were almost about to be drenched in water, when we quickly took shelter. We were riding up Hong Kong’s outdoor escalator. It is the world’s longest outdoor covered escalator that extends over 800 metres in distance and elevates up to 135 metres. Pretty impressive! Anyhow, it was while riding this impressive escalator, we spotted a bar advertising a mint chocolate martini.

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I like martinis, and I had never tried a mint chocolate martini before. So, Jason suggested, perhaps we should just order a few drinks, sit back, and relax. For the next few hours, we enjoyed a couple mint chocolate martinis and conversed about our Hong Kong trip. We decided to sit by the open windows, since they gave us a beautiful view of the heavy rain pouring on the streets. Outside while everyone hustled around with their umbrellas, we sat back comfortably trying to take in this beautiful moment!

The Most Beautiful Temple in Taiwan

The first time we ever visited Taiwan, we only had 5 days to see some of the highlights this country had to offer. So, we decided it would be best to just explore the capital, Taipei. It poured rain every single day we were there! However amazingly, we had an awesome time! The people were extremely nice, the food was very delicious, and the tourist attractions were definitely worth a visit. We told ourselves, if we ever wanted to teach English in a different country besides Korea, we would do it in Taiwan. After our one year World Trip, we made our dream come true by living in Taiwan for a year.

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Now, after visiting the various temples throughout the country, I definitely think the Mengjia Longshan Temple in Taipei, is the most beautiful temple in Taiwan. This temple is an excellent example of Taiwanese classical architecture that has southern Chinese influences. The first time I saw it was during our initial trip to Taipei and the temple looked gorgeous among the crowds of people holding colourful umbrellas.

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The intricate designs inside and outside the temple make it very special. The rooftops of the temple are decorated with various serpents and animals.

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The main shrine inside the temple is highly ornate and thus beautiful. Devotees pray to both Buddhist and Taoist deities at this temple.

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Lanterns are hung within corridors that have extensively elaborate carvings on the ceiling.

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There are unique and beautiful fountains and waterfalls found on the outdoor grounds of the temple.

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Video: Crowds of worshippers gather at Mengjia Longshan Temple during the Lunar New Year.

Parasailing in Borcay, Philippines

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The beauty of traveling is you never know what unplanned adventures you may have an opportunity to experience. We never really thought about parasailing until we were in Borcay, Philippines. This touristy beach destination had various outdoor activities including parasailing set up for the adventurous. Soaring high in the sky while being harnessed to a parasail, which would be towed by a speeding motorboat, sounded awesome. We were thrilled.

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After being fastened into our harnesses, we slowly drifted up into the sky. Eventually we were high above the waters, having a bird’s eye view of Borcay. I have to admit we were both expecting to experience an adrenaline rush. Instead we had a calm and relaxing ride. Not all adventures turn out to be as you expect. Although the views from above were beautiful, parasailing was not too exciting for us. If you are looking for an adrenaline pumping activity, parasailing would not be high on my recommendation list.

A Wonder of the World: The Taj Mahal

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One of the most famous landmarks in India is the Taj Mahal. Ever since I was in elementary school, I had always wanted to see this marvelous white marble mausoleum. It was almost about 15 years later, that I finally had the opportunity to visit the Taj Mahal.

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Jason and I arrived into Agra, India around midnight by train from Delhi. We were told by our driver, sunrise would be the best time to see the Taj Mahal. However, we were too exhausted to wake up so early, so we planned to visit during noon. That was a huge mistake.

Although Agra is home to one of the wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal, the city itself is very dirty and crowded with beggars. Walking up the street to the entrance of the Taj Mahal was an adventure in itself. We were continually harassed by beggars and young children trying to sell various merchandise. It wasn’t very pleasant. It felt like we had to overcome all sorts of obstacles in order to reach the treasure at the end of the road. Thus, it was only after dealing with all the chaos in the streets, we finally arrived to the gates of the wonderful Taj Mahal.

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I was extremely eager to finally see the Taj Mahal. I had waited for this moment for nearly 2 decades! As I turned the corner, and set my eyes on the beautiful Taj Mahal, I was in complete awe. I knew it would be beautiful since I had seen numerous photographs of it before, but to see this extraordinary masterpiece in person was unbelievable! I remember just standing still for a few moments and being captivated by all its beauty. It seemed so grandiose, symmetrical and perfect to me. It was the real deal right infront of my eyes, not just a photograph or postcard. When a dream you have been imagining for years actually comes true, the feeling is priceless.

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The Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal emperor named Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Today it is the burial place for both Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. It is also an excellent example of Mughal architecture. It was designed using a combination of elements from the Persian, Islamic, Ottoman Turkish and Indian architectural styles. Beautifully intricate marble designs are present everywhere on both the interior and exterior of the Taj Mahal.

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Even though the Taj Mahal is famous for its white domed marble mausoleum, it is actually an integrated complex of structures. For example, at the far end of the complex lies this grand red sandstone Taj Mahal mosque.

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This gorgeous Mughal garden and various pathways lie in between the gateway and mausoleum.

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Visiting the Taj Mahal is worth every penny. It is one of the most beautiful structures I have seen in all my travels.

Haifa’s Gorgeous Bahai Gardens

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We specifically visited Haifa, the largest city in northern Israel, to visit the Bahai Gardens. Also known as the Hanging Gardens of Haifa, these gardens are stunningly beautiful. At its center stands a domed shrine dedicated to the Bab, the resting place of the Prophet-Herald of the Bahai faith. From the shrine, there are nineteen terraces with stairs extending up the northern slope of Mount Carmel.

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Beautifully manicured trees and hedges, among colorful flowers and graveled pathways can be found throughout the gardens.

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The gardens provide an excellent view of the city below and the vast Mediterranean Sea.

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The gardens are also worth visiting in the evening. The lights and fountains add to the beauty of the gardens.

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We ended up visiting the Bahai Gardens twice because they were so gorgeous. A trip to Haifa, just to see these gardens is worth it. These were some of the best gardens we have seen during our travels.

The Yanartas: The Flames that Never Stop Burning!

We waited patiently all day. As soon as it started getting dark, a group of us grabbed our flashlights and began ascending the rocky mountain. We were in southwestern Turkey, near a town called Cirali, about to witness a phenomenal natural wonder, the Chimera Flames. In Turkish these fires, which have been burning for thousands of years, are called Yanartas.

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The Yanartas, never stop burning! These flames are said to be fueled by methane gas, which is released from the vents on the rocky mountain.

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There are about a dozen of these extraordinary eternal flames burning constantly. It is best to see the Yanartas at night when it is possible to observe the blue flames.

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We spent a few hours, relaxing and chatting with our friends around the fires. It was yet again another memorable experience!

Video: We poured water on the flames, just to see what would happen! Watch the video and experience the magic of the Yanartas for yourself!

Singapore By Night

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Singapore’s central business district looks very spectacular at night. We had a very pleasant time strolling around the marine habour in the evening.

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The national personification of Singapore is the merlion. The lion head symbolizes the country’s original name, Singapura (lion city). While, the fish body represents how Singapore was historically a fishing village.

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I found the Singapore Flyer very attractive with its beautiful colours. Every few seconds the colors of this giant Ferris wheel would change and create a gorgeous reflection in the water.

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Although it may be difficult to tell, this is a photo of a fountain. I thought the blue balls and their reflections in the water looked very cool.

At night, Singapore unveils another facet of its beauty. The downtown skyline reflecting in the harbor as well as the unique fountains and statues all create a lively atmosphere in the city.