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The BF and I are in the midst of planning a road trip through Montana/Wyoming. More specifically, we’re headed to Yellowstone and Glacier National Park for hiking, nature-filled fun! We’ll be flying into the smaller Bozeman airport, as opposed to Billings. I’m super excited! The BF and I are really great road trippers. Road trips usually mean that we’ll detach ourselves from our phones (no service anyway) and our laptops (even now, we’re both sitting in front of separate laptops).  There’s going to be a lot of long drives ahead of us and we like to travel on a budget when we do road trips. So, today, I headed to my local public library and picked up some free travel resources!

Budget Tips for the Road Trip:

Audio Books: I’ve been on long drives where the scan button on the radio seems to loop and loop over and over before it hits a station that I absolutely can’t listen to anyway. Static is no fun. So, I picked up 3 audio books at the local library. I’ve heard this was a great source of entertainment on road trips so I’ll be trying it out. I love the classics. Don’t judge.

Guide Books: I actually didn’t even know public libraries had guide books until I saw a student who was working on a project with 3 Hawaii guidebooks. Luckily, I found a lot of great books on Montana and Wyoming. I picked up a copy of Lonely Planet: Yellowstone & Grand Teton and Frommer’s: Montana & Wyoming. Frommer’s is an older edition, but I figured that the information on the national parks couldn’t have changed much from year to year. After all, the mountains don’t move, right?

The cost of it all? NADA. NOTHING. ZILCH. ZIP. ZERO. Assuming that I’ll return it on time, I’ll have all of this stuff for 21 days!

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I saw a lot of the inside of my hotel room, but at least it had an amazing view!

I really didn’t want to do this post for the sheer fact that I felt like this was a total travel- FAIL. But, this past March I went to Shanghai and didn’t see anything. Seriously. Well, just not as much as I wanted to see. I had some other business that kept me busy most of my 10 day trip, so I only got to sight see for 3 days. I know. How pathetic. I should get my passport revoked. Anyhow, I did talk to a lot of expats who gave me tons of tips on what to do, so I thought I’d share them.

General Tourist and Money Exchange Tips :

Cell Phone: If you want to have a cell phone with you on your trip, bring an UNLOCKED GSM cell phone compatible with the Chinese system.  Then you can take a SIM card and plug it into the phone.  SIM cards are cheap. They are about 50-60 RMB and include a free phone number and 50 RMB in call credit. If you are there for a short time, get the lowest value. Any hotel concierge can help you get one or you can buy one at any newsstand. China UNicom and China Mobile are the 2 major providers.  Mobile has better coverage on the edge of Shanghai but if you are staying in the city, either one is fine.  Unicom is like 0.01 cents US cheaper… so really immaterial difference.

Taxis: Go ahead and take taxi’s anywhere… its really inexpensive and safe.  Try to take cabs that are lighter in color,… WHITE, Light Blue, Light Green. These are the 3 best cab companies for knowledgeable drivers and clean cars.  Try to avoid the RED and DARK BLUE cabs, are known to be dirty (often with cow manure).

Money Exchange: DONT EXCHANGE ANY MONEY HERE. OR AT THE CURRENCY EXCHANGE BOOTHS AT THE AIRPORT.  ALL BANKS  IN CHINA are regulated and must give the same rate. There is a bank in the airport right after you pass customs and the luggage claim area.  As long as it says “bank” you are good.  Travelers Checks get a better rate than cash but they charge commission so you end up less well off.  The BEST WAY is to usean ATM card (Citibank does not charge a fee if you use their ATM’s, and First Republic Bank does not charge ATM fees at ANY ATM of any bank in china).  The other way is to grab a DISCOVER card.  While in the US they are NOT accepted.  Most places will take it in China under the UNION PAY signage with no foreign exchange fee depending on your plan. Call your bank and find out.

Paying with a Credit Card: If someone hands you a keypad when you use a credit card, just press enter.  IN china, everyone uses pin codes even for credit cards, but in the USA we dont do this.

(Tips written by J. Chu, Shanghai expat)

I recently took a 2 week course in a very vibrant area of Los Angeles, Highland Park. I’m sad to say that I don’t know that much about the area, but from what I’ve seen of it, it’s amazing. I recently heard Trekking Los Angeles, an organization (spawn out of LA Commons and UCLA School of Urban Planning) that promotes the culture, food, and art of a few neighborhoods of Los Angeles via a walking tour. I haven’t done this yet, but I’m planning on attending the one in Highland Park! Check it out!

We decided to get out of LA for a weekend of hiking at Grand Canyon. From LA, it took us roughly 6-7 hours to get to Williams, AZ on a Friday night. There, we spent the night at a motel and in the morning we got up early to go hiking! This was our first national park hike of the year so we were so excited! Looking back, we probably should’ve prepped our bodies just a little more because the hiking at Grand Canyon was NO EASY ADVENTURE. Different Hiking Trails in Grand Canyon include: Rim Trail, Bright Angel Trail, South Kaibab Trail, Hermit Trail, Grand View Trail. We decided on doing the South Kaibab Trail.

Tips on hiking the South Kaibab Trail (pdf):

1. Parking: While the park recommends that you park at the Visitor’s Center, there is a little parking lot at Yaki Point (the beginning of the trail). The plus side of parking there is that you don’t have to wait for the free shuttle. However, the upside of parking at the Visitor’s Center is there are clean restrooms there. Something to think about if you’re going to spend 6 hours hiking.

2. Steep: This hike is very steep! The first half was very easy seeing that you’re going downhill for most of it. But the second half is KILLER.

3.Points:

Ooh Ahh Point: This point comes up very quickly. On the day we went, the weather was beautiful and had mild temperatures. We were able to go past this point and continue on. However, the BF and his friends got to this point 3 summers ago on a very hot day and this was their turn around point. Consider the weather before you go on.

Cedar Ridge: Most day hikers seemed to stop at Cedar Ridge. There is a port-o-potty there and it’s a great place to rest. Lots of hikers stopped to eat and rest at this point. The view is gorgeous here. The return hike up is tough at this point, so consider that if you are hiking with small children.

Skeleton Point: This is our farthest point. The park does not recommend hiking from Rim to River in one day. We hiked for 6 hours round trip (including picnic lunch) and we barely saw a tiny section of the Colorado River from this point. I can only imagine how much farther it would have been. On the day we went, this section of the trail was pretty empty.

4. Bring Water and Salty Foods! I can’t stress this one enough. I saw a lot of new hikers with little tiny bottles of water. The park recommends 1/2 to 1 liter of water an hour per person. Between the 2 of us on a mild day, we brought 5 bottles of water and we drank it all! I can’t imagine what it’s like in the middle of summer. Also, it’s always good to carry some food. It makes for a nice picnic overlooking the view. But, most importantly, you need to recharge. Bring some trail mix or sandwiches. You’ll thank me later.

Additional Reading and Resources:
Hiking Tips- Grand Canyon National Park

The BF has been talking about Grand Canyon forEVER. For the longest time, I really was just not that interested in going at all. I mean everyone already has a picture of standing in front of a giant hole. How great can it be?
Let me tell you.

Great.

A few general tips on visiting Grand Canyon:

1. South Rim and North Rim: There are two major parts of Grand Canyon. The South Rim and the North Rim. The South Rim (the most popular area) is open all year round. The North Rim is at the southern end of the Kaibab Plateauonly and it is only open in the summer seasons (open May 15, 2010).

2. Hike: We love hiking! This trip was our first hike of the season and we were super excited. However, if you visit their website, they have a whole section on tips and warnings about hiking Grand Canyon in the summer. We’re pretty good hikers, but it was really good that we took a lot of their warnings seriously and brought a lot of water. Between 2 people, we brought 5 liters of water for one of the more moderate hikes. It was not a hot day and we still finished all 5 liters easily. Also, there are lots of people who think they can hike from rim to rim (South Rim and North Rim) in one day. Be very prepared with all the hiking necessities and be in very good shape. Read up on the warnings on the website. This is not easy.

3. Lodging: We tried to get lodging in the park, but it was sold out really fast! Do this early! We ended up staying in nearby towns,  Williams and Flagstaff. For some reason, we love staying at Super 8 hotels. For no other reason than that’s our budget road trip motel of choice.

While hiding out from the Northern California cold this afternoon (look, I’m a wussy when it comes to the cold… even when it’s only 50 degrees), I mournfully recalled to my lunch companion about the cold night in Taipei when The BF and I ducked into a Japanese restaurant serving DIY yakitori. There sizzling on top of hot coals were the most amazing slices of beef tongue we’ve ever had. Sounds like eating and making out at the same time? Well, MORE FOR ME! Months later, I still regret not picking up a business card knowing that if I were to head back to Taipei, the chances of locating that restaurant was slim to nil. I can’t even remember how we got to that street, or what street it was on for that matter.

Sigh.

One good thing about keeping this travel blog is that I record all the details of my travel that I’d normally forget. Since I’m also a very food driven traveler, here’s my list of the great travel eats in 2009.

1. Portuguese Egg Tarts at Margaret’s Cafe y Nata’s in Macau

Edificio Kam Loi, Macau, China 853 2871 0032

2. X-small sweetwater oysters at Hog Island Oyster Farm at Point Reyes, CA

20215, Highway 1, in Marshall, CA. 49 miles north of San Francisco, 10 miles north of Point Reyes Station and 23 miles south of   Bodega Bay

3. Cerviche and Lechon at Astrid y Gaston, Lima, Peru

Cantuarias 175, Miraflores, Lima, Peru 242-5387 – 243-2574

4. Peking Duck in Peking Garden, Hong Kong

3 Salisbury Rd., 3rd fl. (Canton Rd.) Hong Kong, China. Ph: 2735-8211

5. Cajun shrimps at Boiling Crab at Alhambra, CA

742 West Valley Boulevard, Alhambra, CA – (626) 576-9368

6. French breakfast at Macrina Bakery and Cafe in Seattle, CA

2408 1st Ave, Seattle – (206) 448-4089

(source)

7. Uni at Koiso Sushi Kihei, HI

2395 S Kihei Rd Ste 113, Kihei, Maui, HI 96753-8635. Tel: (808) 875-8258

8. The Office Burger at Father’s Office, Los Angeles, CA

3229 Helms Avenue, Los Angeles – (310) 736-2224

I hope 2010 will be just as filling as 2009!

  • Edificio Kam Loi, Macau, China
  • 853 2871 0032

Aloha! I’m in Maui right now wrapping up a 4 days trip out here with The BF. Strangely, it seems that The BF and I can never really have relaxing trip. For the four days, we woke up everyday at an obscene hour to head off to some adventure. Yesterday, The BF and I headed to Molokini for a 5 hour snorkling trip. I’ll save the information to that for another post, but let’s just say there aren’t many pictures since I was too busy doubled over the side railing spewing freshly churned  fish food off the side of the boat. Hey, anything to help the fish population.

Since a good number of the people on the boat were my new barfing buddies, there was a lot of seasickness tips being shared. Here are a few tips for the land animals headed out to sea:

1. Dramamine: I really hate to put this one up, since I took one and it FAILED me. But perhaps it saved me for a fate worse than barfing WHILE snorkeling. Yes, give The BF props for swimming through vomit. I’ll never ask for anything again. However, dramamine usually does help me a lot for air and car sickness.

2. Ginger: Someone had recommended something called ginger gravel (sp?) to me (can anyone tell me what it is?). I may be spelling it wrong, but that’s what it sounded like to me. She said that it was a good alternative to pharmaceutical pills. Other things like ginger ale and ginger candy were constantly being eaten on the boat.

3. Ice: It sounds weird, but sucking on ice helped me. One of the crew of the boat mentioned that it helped her. It helped me enough to stop barfing, but it definitely took a little while. Perhaps it was helping me cool down a little or just hydrating me, but i sucked down 2 cups of ice and i felt a lot better.

4. Eating breakfast: I ate a little bit before we set sail, but in retrospect I really should’ve eaten a good breakfast first. It sounds weird, but I think being on an empty stomach made me more tired and everything I barfed out was just juice and a tiny muffin. Sometimes dry heaving and bile is not the ideal choice in barfing.

5. Open air and horizon: After the 4th time I hurled, I sat outside at the very front of the boat and watched the horizon. This didn’t work for me initially, but after I got everything out of my stomach I was able to eat lunch and suck on more ice. Surprisingly, that really helped me enjoy the rest of my trip.

Here’s a great site that shares some seasickness prevention tips. Happy sailing!

JT

Last week, I surprised the BF with a trip to Joshua Tree National Park for his birthday. The day started off a little rocky when I picked up a little bit of a stomach ache, but the day turned out to be more perfect than I could have imagined.

Things to do at Joshua Tree

1. Key’s View: This very short .2 mile walk up the side of a ridge gave us an opportunity to see a panoramic view of the San Andreas fault, Cochella, Palm Springs, and Mexico. How’s that for seeing all the sights? We ended up bringing our packed lunch and parking ourselves on a bench.

JT4

2. Ryan Mountain: The park ranger at the West Entrance suggested that we check out a short hike at Ryan Mountain. From there, you can see the Colorado desert and the Mojave (?) desert on the other side. It wasn’t the most beautiful hike I’ve seen, but I think that perhaps I’m just not as into desert hikes. However, since it’s a short hike (3 miles ), it’ll still be worth your time.

JT3

2. Skull Rock/ Jumbo Rocks: The rock formations are beautiful here. It’s amazing to see how rocks can form into these large round shapes. Nothing you’d expect in the middle of a desert. You almost feel like you’re in a movie with the way you’re surrounded by these globs of rock.

JT2

3. Cholla Cactus Garden: We hit this place by sunset and it was definitely the best way to end our day trip. A rather strange looking cactus garden seemingly just pops out of no where! It really made you wonder how Mother Nature plans these things. There’s a warning sign on the front warning visitors not to touch the cactus b/c they’re poisonous. From the looks of it, it’s a pretty good idea.

There were so many other places to see that I’m certain I’ll be back especially since it’s only 2.5 hours from Los Angeles. On our way there, we stopped by Cabazon Outlets for a quick shopping trip and on our way back we hit the prime rib buffet at Morongo Indian Casino. It was definitely a fun-filled day trip!

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16

I’m normally a pretty healthy person, so I really try to make it a point to stay healthy even while on vacation. Who the heck wants to come back and have to lose those 5 lbs from vacation eating? Of course, I’m not perfect, but I try my best to keep some healthy habits on vacation.

Healthy Tips while on vacation:

1. Share Meals: I’ve definitely been guilty of over eating while on vacation (let’s not even speak of my trip to New Orleans! Why is the food SO good there??). So my BF and I try our best to share meals. That way, we’re never too full that we can’t go sight seeing. It also cuts back on costs.

2. Veggies and Fruits: This sounds ridiculous, but we always try to get in a side of veggies to balance out our meals. Also, if we had a very heavy meal before, our next meal will be much lighter and with more veggies. It’s tough on the body to eat a Philly cheese steak for lunch and then ribs for dinner. Trust me, I’ve tried.

3. Fiber Pills: Who wants to be backed up for 3 days while hiking up Machu Picchu? NOT ME. It’ll keep you regular and your insides happy. Check with your doctor first.

4. Water: These days, I rarely have any flavored drinks and prefer water. Be sure to have plenty of water. Don’t let bathroom breaks hinder you from drinking that H20. I’ve also heard that a lot of people mistaken dehydration for hunger. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. It’ll really make a difference in your energy level.

5. Active Activities: Most vacations are so jammed packed with walking that I don’t think about this too much. However, sometimes when it comes down to renting a golf cart to tour the gardens of Versailles and walking Versailles…. pick the latter. Another great way to see neighborhood is to include a quick early morning run around the hotel while your travel buddies sleep in.

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UPDATE:  Congrats to the winners, Denise, Alice, and Nancy!

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This week I’m giving away THREE copies of Fodor’s Thailand Guide with side trips to Cambodia and Laos, 11th Edition.   It has tons of gorgeous full color pictures and would be a great  resource to have! Check out the “8 Essential Experiences” to have in Thailand on Fodor’s.

Thailand

If you’ve seen the movie The Beach, you’ll know exactly how gorgeous Thailand is! Interested in winning? In the comments section, share with me which movie has you dreaming about a destination! Giveaway ends this Friday at 8pm pst.

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