0 In awaken

Marriage Lessons #1

photo credit: studio kibo

It’s been six months (minus three days) since Will and I got ~*married*~! Time really flies, huh?

I think it’s easy for people to view older couples as jaded. Like once you’re a certain age, it’s easy to lose interest in your partner. Some people feel that a successful marriage doesn’t last forever. There is a Humans of New York post where the subject said, “If you talk to most people my age, and they’re really being honest, they’ll tell you that they’re dissatisfied with their partner. But then they’ll shrug their shoulders and say: ‘Where else am I going to go?’” That painted a really depressing picture of the future for me. It’s not that I disagree some people’s relationships may get exhausted over time. But to assume that the majority of marriages go downhill is super discouraging!

When I was working as a Costco vendor, though, I had the privilege of meeting some really fantastic older couples. You can really tell when two people are happy together. They have a special type of rapport that outsiders might not fully understand. There’s a way they smile and look at each other, even when talking about boring things like what type of cheese to get. Once couple started telling me about their marriage once. I had told them I was about to get married. The way they were so nostalgic and excited when looking back on their relationship was so encouraging. Even more encouraging was how joyful and content they were in the present. I could tell they were still going strong.

Not that I’m an expert or anything, but I’m sure everyone can agree that a successful marriage doesn’t follow any single specific formula. People are different. The way people communicate isn’t always the same. Circumstances change. You can’t account for it all. It’s really easy to judge what you think other people are doing wrong in their relationships, but my gosh, when it comes to YOUR relationship? It’s so easy to believe you’re always right! Your partner is wrong! And why can’t they just agree and listen and follow what you’re saying?! This goes for both men and women, by the way. Basically, everyone sucks.

My biggest takeaway from observing and chatting with other couples is that relationships should be ever-growing. If a relationship isn’t growing, then there’s no room for it to strengthen. With no room for strengthening, the foundation of a relationship becomes weak. And a weak relationship can only live for so long. Relationships are meant to be challenged, to grow, and to change for the better, but only if you let it. So, anyway, here are 3 big lessons I’ve learned so far, that I wish I’ll keep in mind in hopes of a successful marriage: Continue Reading →

0 In wander

Six Days in Hong Kong

It’s been a couple of weeks since we’ve returned from Hong Kong, and I am still thinking about that dim sum. Seriously, I didn’t even know I could love dim sum even more than I already do!

English is one of Hong Kong’s national languages, so it’s a great place to travel to if you’re an English speaker who is worried about language barriers. I really enjoyed my time in Hong Kong, and I would love to come back again soon.

Hong Kong has the modern qualities of Seoul, but the craziness and intensity of Vietnam. The streets and crowds can get pretty crazy, and people are always moving! Everyone’s always in a hurry, and even the escalators are running at top speed. You think I’m joking, but actually – be careful on those escalators!

Accommodations

The real estate in Hong Kong is limited, but it’s still a hoppin’ city and it was as expensive as being in Seoul or LA or SF. We stayed at an Airbnb right on Sneaker Street in Mong Kok and got moved around a few times. The first night, our room was tiny. Will and I had two suitcases and a backpack each, and there wasn’t room for them! We ended up stacking all our suitcases into a tetris tower for the first night. On the second night, our host moved us to a bigger room (for our honeymoon :D) and it was a lot more comfortable. They ended up moving us a third time to accommodate a bigger party they had – it wasn’t ideal and we could’ve said no, but we just tried to be nice about it. It was poor planning on their part, but eh, I’ve had worst hotel experiences.

Just like Seoul, it’s good to stay within walking distance of the metro. The metro and bus’ are very convenient here! If I had to rebook, I might’ve looked on the Central side rather than Tsim Sha Tsui because we ended up crossing the river a lot, but I’m also not sure if it really made that much of a difference. Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, we were in a pretty good location. We were in walking distance of many good restaurants and bakeries, and just a couple blocks away from the Ladies Market, which ended up being a great place to shop and bargain.

Things to consider when looking for accommodation: being walking distance of metro or bus stop, stay in a walkable area to reduce commuting times

If you’ve never used Airbnb before, feel free to ask me any questions about my stays, and sign up using my referral code to get $40 off your first booking! Continue Reading →

8 In wander

Five Days in Seoul, South Korea

me nerding out in front of the coffee prince coffee shop 😀

Seoul is a lot like being in LA, but with a convenient metro system. Everyone is really stylish and it sort of makes you embarrassed to not look your best. It was such a different feel from Vietnam, where we flew in from, which was raw and grungy. Seoul is hip, fresh, and modern…not to mention, the traffic-laws seem more up to date!

The first thing I noticed when we got off the place in Seoul was the temperature. It was cold! Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam were all hot and humid, and that was the type of weather we had packed for. Fortunately, we had our new custom-tailored jackets that we had just bought in Hanoi. We planned our trip here to match up at a good time to visit his Uncle, and we also got to catch up with my friend, Zoe, whom I hadn’t seen since I met her…6 or 7 years ago? Crazy. As always, I love meeting up with friends in new places; actually, I’ve come to realize that I generally like going out to eat with more people than just Will and I, because that means we can order a wider variety of food 😀

As with every trip that’s under a week, I regretted not being able to stay in Seoul longer.  We stumbled upon a lot of random street fairs and festivals, so there’s always something going on and always something to see. There are so many other parts of Korea that I want to visit, and things to see/do/eat, but I can safely say that I had a good first-round this time. I ate all my favorite foods, bought enough skincare products for a whole year, and got to spend time with some of the best people.

Continue Reading →

3 In wander

5 Tips for Haggling at Nightmarkets

One thing I love about Asia is the markets, from Weekend markets in Thailand to the Night markets of Taiwan. The closest thing in America would be a flea market, but the markets I’m talking about aren’t flea markets. They sell “brand name” products, toys, bags, clothes, wallets – basically, any souvenir you’d like, you can probably find at these markets.

Western tourists are the best types of shoppers for these vendors, mostly because many Westerners aren’t as aggressive at haggling. Since many Asian countries have these types of markets, most will know the drill to bargaining. Haggling, though, is certainly an art form! I’m certainly not always great at it; there are times when I’ve paid too much, and other times when I got a really great deal.

Actually, the times I pay too much are enough to empower me for my next shopping trip. A few days ago, I paid a little too much for a few items, because I was feeling too stressed out and shy to haggle. I know it sounds insane, but it was really agonizing for me to think about, and I was filled with buyer’s remorse. So when Will and I went to shop tonight, I was ready to learn from my mistakes, and it was great. Today, I will also share with you the tips that I use when I’m at my highest level of haggling, with examples of how I used them to negotiate 😀 Continue Reading →

0 In awaken

Birthday #27 (& 7 Things I’ve Learned)

living my dream life

This past Saturday was my 27th birthday! Will and I went to Taipei’s National Palace Museum, and then ate our way through Shilin Nightmarket with my cousins. Yesterday, we celebrated some more by spending the night at a hot springs resort. We bought a sushi platter and a tiramisu from the nearby Costco to eat in the hot tub. #dreamlife!

I’m excited because 27 is my favorite number, so that means it’s going to be a great year. I am now in the advanced stage of my late 20s, and feeling pretty great. Growing up is kind of crazy – I’ve always thought that, as we grow older, we start to get our shit together. I think part of getting older is realizing that that is not true, and, actually, no one really knows what they’re doing. Even the people who seem like that have it all together…there’s always something going on. You just never know.

This year was a really great one. Left a job that made me unhappy, and excelled at a new one in a short amount of time. Got married. Traveled A LOT. Picked up a freelance job. I’m so lucky. I love my life.

I’m sure I could list 27 things I’ve learned in my lifetime up until now, but that’s a little excessive, so here’s 7 things I’ve learned (and am still learning) from the past 27 years. Continue Reading →

4 In wander

Nine Days in Hanoi, Vietnam

the balcony view from l’etage cafe

Cost Breakdown: 9 days, 9 nights in Hanoi, Vietnam(?)

One way flight ticket DAD to HAN – $55.72/person
Accommodation – $197.79 total for 9 nights
Transportation – $30 total (Ubers to and from Airport/Airbnb, various around the city)
Food/Drinks for 9 days – $140.25/person
Attractions/Activities – $1.75/person (Admissions for Women’s Museum and Heritage House)

Total: $425.51/person

Our last stop in Vietnam was its capital, Hanoi, which was a great balance of Ho Chi Minh City and Hoi An. In my early research, I embarrassingly kept mixing up Hanoi and Hoi An because, to the uninitiated, their names look similar. In fact, the cities are quite different from each other!

People may compare being in Ho Chi Minh City to being in New York, and Hanoi to being in Washington, D.C. I definitely prefer Hanoi to HCMC. Hanoi is still pretty crazy and crossing the street is still an ordeal, but I didn’t feel as anxious or “on-guard” all the time like I did in HCMC.

Many other people prefer HCMC over Hanoi because they say more people speak English there. Thus, they claim it’s a little easier to navigate through the city as a foreigner. Truthfully, Uber is so cheap it was easy for us to go anywhere we wanted! Personally, I prefer cities where the people are more stand-offish and ignore me, haha. I feel it’s easier to feel a city’s essence and “live like a local”. I mean, when you’re a local, no one bothers you! Anyway, if I had to choose one over the other, I would recommend Hanoi over HCMC. But since many people think the opposite, it’s worth visiting both if you’re planning a trip! Continue Reading →

0 In wander

Five Days in Hoi An, Vietnam

Cost Breakdown: 5 days, 5 nights in Hoi An/Da Nang(?)

One way train ticket HCMC to Da Nang – $38/person
Accommodation – $101.31 total
Transportation – $45 total (Ubers to, from, and around Hoi An/Da Nang)
Food/Drinks for 5 days – $70/person
Attractions/Activities – $19.50/person (Hoi An Bike Tour, Marble Mountain ticket, Massage)

Total: $273.81/person

Hoi An is known for being a romantic and relaxing getaway, but historically it’s a city of tailors. It’s still quite touristy, but I don’t necessarily find that to be a bad thing. A local told us that, not long ago, it was a very poor area, and only relatively recently has it become a popular stop for foreigners. This was definitely a much needed break for Will and I after being in crazy Ho Chi Minh City. Flights from HCMC into Da Nang, which is 30 minutes away from Hoi An, were about $70 per person. The train was half the price, so we decided to embrace adventure and give it a go.

Oh boy. Dat train ride doe.

First of all, the country of Vietnam may not look too big on the map, but it’s long. It’s an 18 hour train ride from HCMC to Da Nang, and that’s only going half way up Vietnam! A lot of people recommend taking the train not only because it’s cheaper, but it’s a pretty scenic route. The scenery was definitely beautiful during the daytime, and the sleeper car really wasn’t that bad…I mean, if you’re tired, anywhere will be comfortable, right? The soft sleeper, which is what we booked, has four beds. At some point about 2/3 of the way there, a polite couple from New Zealand took the top bunks. I was ecstatic about bunking with other English-speakers, and Will put up with it without any complaints.

If I’m being honest, I probably wouldn’t take a train so far again unless absolutely necessary. While some could handle it, the condition of the train’s bathroom was too much for me. It was just dirty and there was a river of mysterious liquid flowing along the perimeter. As I struggled to open the door around 3am, my foot took a plunge I’ll never forget. I’m getting older – too old for a ride this rough. Anyway, on to Hoi An.

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0 In wander

Extra Patê, Please – Five Days in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam


Cost Breakdown: 5 days, 5 nights in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
(?)

One way ticket SIN to SGN – $70.50/person
Visa (approval letter + visa stamp) – $31/person
Accommodation – $147 total for 5 nights
Transportation – $35 total (various taxiing around city)
Food/Drinks for five days – $63/person
Attractions/Activities – 66 cents/person (War Remnants Museum)

Total: $347.16/person

First thing’s first: if you’re an American booking a trip to Vietnam: you need to get a visa first! If you’re smart, you probably already know. If you’re dopey like me, well, you might’ve booked a one-way ticket to Vietnam and are panicking about what to do. Fear not! You can learn from my mistakes~

I was immediately overwhelmed when we stepped out of the airport in Vietnam. We took an Uber to our Airbnb, located between District 1 and 2 (D1 being the heart of the city). The ride took almost an hour because of the crazy traffic! After getting settled in, we decided to try and explore the surrounding area and find an evening meal. I thought I knew what it was like to navigate the crazy roads of an Asian country, but the roads in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC, formerly Saigon) are really something else. When you watch others cross the roads it’s almost like watching Jesus walk on water. We braved the roads to find the first banh mi of our trip from a little street vendor. Softly toasted bread with melt-in-your mouth meat and pickled vegetables? That’s what dreams are made of.

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1 In wander

Getting Your Vietnam Visa (7 Steps)

When Will and I first booked our tickets to Vietnam, we didn’t know we needed a visa. I know, how embarrassing, right? The good news is, even though it felt like last minute, it wasn’t really last minute. You could probably use the method I used 5 days before you decide to go to Vietnam, but meh, do you really wanna procrastinate at the risk of not being able to get into a country?

Before you read on, not everyone needs a visa to get into Vietnam. Check here to see if you require a Vietnam visa. Then do another Google search to double-check 😀

There are actually three different ways to get your visa:

  1. Obtain the visa at the Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate in your home country. I’ve heard this is the more expensive way to do it, and they also discourage people from using other options to obtain a visa. Supposedly it’s the most secure way? I was in a foreign country when I decided to get a visa, so I didn’t do much research into this method.
  2. Apply on the newly implemented e-visa website. This might end up being the best way to get your visa later on,  but since it is a new system that started this year, there are still some kinks that need to be worked out. I’ve seen a few people on travel forums say this worked fine, but I’ve read even more people saying they went through a lot of trouble, so I decided to pass. Plus, there were a lot of websites that were pretending to be the “right one”, and I didn’t want to risk getting scammed.
  3. Visa on Arrival. This is the method I used to get my visa. Basically, you pay for a tourism company to invite you into the country by a visa approval letter. Then, having the proper documents provided by them, you get and pay for the visa after arriving at the airport.

If an airline does it’s job right, you shouldn’t even be able to get on an airplane without the proper visa-related documents. However, we did end up witnessing a man at the the Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport without any knowledge of needing a visa. They weren’t letting him in! Don’t be like that guy. So, anyway, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to get your Visa on Arrival. Continue Reading →

7 In wander

Three Days in Singapore

Cost Breakdown: 3 days, 3 nights in Singapore(?)

One way ticket HKT to SIN – $50/person
Accommodation – free with Hilton Honor points
Transportation – $53 total (various taxi’s around the city)
Food/Drinks for 3 days – $50/person
Attractions/Activities – $28/person (Art Science Museum)

Total: $181/person

“Eat laksa, eat bak kut teh, eat kaya toast, eat radish cake Luo bo gao bc the way they make it is different from like what we think of…” Wise advice from my platonic soul mate.

Singapore has been on my travel list for quite some time. Main mission: obviously, eat all da foodz.

Continue Reading →