Skimming Deep

Searching, traveling, talking, reflecting, and exploring. Read along with me as I continue on my journey through life.

Tag: travel

Endings and Beginnings

It's been awhile since I last blogged (a month!), and it's been a whirlwind month. I have:

  • traveled to Boston, the Bay Area, Philadelphia, and New York
  • had some job interviews in the Bay Area
  • signed a lease with a friend for an apartment in Berkeley
  • eaten out a ton, allowing me to reconnect with countless friends from all parts of my life
  • slept in many different beds
  • ridden on planes, trains, buses, and cars
  • packed up all my belongings into two moving containers to be shipped cross country
  • experienced the mixed emotions of watching the 117th Boston Marathon
  • been to a pig roast
  • presided at a wedding
  • done my laundry twice
  • reached the seventh week of my C25K training, now running a straight 25 minutes!
  • made the official decision to move out to the Bay Area

View of Oakland and the Bay Bridge from the Ferry Building in San Francisco

It's been a busy and productive month. And now my time in Boston is coming to a close after 14 years. I came to Boston to go to graduate school; and over the last 14 years, I have (note: as I have shared before, I love lists, and it seems apropos in this entry where I'm reflecting a bit on this past time period, so bear with me!)

View of the Boston skyline from the red line train crossing the Charles River

  • lived in six places
  • had three full time jobs and a few part-time gigs here and there
  • put in countless volunteer hours working on projects and initiatives with amazing teams of people, mostly on issues in the Asian American community
  • had great meals in restaurants and in people's homes
  • participated in three, maybe four, different CSAs
  • bought a car, my trusty 2000 Honda Accord
  • been on lots of weekend retreats, with youth and adults (I think over 20…)
  • grown my hair out and cut it short again
  • picked up yoga
  • watched lots of teens grow up before my very eyes, where many of them are now getting married, having kids, making a difference in the world
  • mentored and been mentored
  • met and become part of many people's lives, people I now consider family

The last time I left a place where I really felt connected and sad to leave was in college, 17 years ago. But then it wasn't really a choice. We had graduated, and it was time to leave. Now, I make this choice to leave voluntarily, not because of anything bad that is pushing me out. In fact, I have much to keep me here– namely, the people I know and love here.

Not really sure what kind of tree this is, but look at those buds and flowers on the branches!

I've made the decision to leave Boston because I'm ready for a new challenge, to take on a new city and see what I can make of myself and my surroundings. To push myself out of my comfort zone and build new things: work, relationships, community, space. I've never been one to do things “traditionally,” and I wonder what the future holds.

I'm looking forward to settling back down in a new place, cooking my own meals again and having a regular schedule. It's been an amazing 8 months traveling and exploring, but I'm definitely done with the living out of a suitcase, eating at restaurants, not having my own bed, and spending money that comes with traveling.

 

Four Airports in Three Days

In three days, I went through four airports, crossed the international date line and went through four time zones, and got to eat some great meals in all the cities I went through. And now I'm in Arizona, trying to get into the Christmas spirit in the 60 degree weather!

I started in Kuala Lumpur, hanging out in the airport for many hours, waiting for my late evening departure.

The flight to Los Angeles went through Narita/ Tokyo, so that leg was about 7 hours, and I was able to get in a little bit of sleep and a movie. We arrived at dawn as the sun was rising.

I had a nine hour layover and had arranged to meet a friend of mine's mother. I hung out at the airport to wait for her, and we found each other despite never having met each other. It was such a sweet meeting– my friend's mom speaks only Japanese and a few phrases of English, and I only speak English with a few words of Japanese, but we managed to communicate with a lot of sign language and body language. She took me to Narita, the small town where the airport is located. There was a long street of cute shops and restaurants leading to a temple, so we took a nice stroll down that street. It was a chilly day, especially coming off of hot and humid tropical weather. But I had prepared myself for the cold, and with the help of a scarf that she lent me, I was fine. It was a beautiful, crisp winter day.

The highlight of that few hours was the sushi! We went to this little sushi bar right as it opened. Edokko Sushi. It was a tiny little place, but the sushi chef seemed to know everyone and was super friendly. The fish was so fresh and buttery smooth. So simple and so delicious. I was happy. And it was only a short train ride from the airport. Good tip– if you ever have a layover in Narita, go here! It opens at 11:30am and they have great lunch specials which seemed pretty reasonably priced.

I got back to the airport with a heavier bag (my friend's mom bought me some goodies to bring back to the U.S.– Japanese pickles. Yum!), and I finally got on the plane for my next destination, Los Angeles. This was the long leg of my flight– a 10 hour flight. It was a bit of a bumpy flight but we got into LA Monday morning with no mishaps.

I spent a day plus a little extra in Los Angeles, bookending my travels with great food (see my earlier LA post for what I had three months ago as my farewell from the U.S.). As always, my stay in LA with my cousins was a gastronomic affair. We had Korean BBQ for dinner at Kalbi King.

I was stuffed beyond comfort. We had all kinds of beef and pork, and it was delicious. Plus I had a bowl of naeng-myon, a cold soup noodle dish that is great with Korean BBQ.

The next day a few of us went to get lunch at Pizzeria Mozza, Mario Batali's restaurant in town. Thin crust pizzas with amazing toppings and great appetizers and even better desserts. We each got a different pizza and shared. Mine had bacon, leeks, roasted garlic, and goat cheese. Soooo good. And the crust was amazing.

A mix of the three types of pizzas that we ordered.

The desserts were incredible, and since my cousins never do things in moderation, we each got a dessert and shared.

The lemon ice cream pie (upper right) was delicious. And the caramel ice cream with peanuts was great, too. But the best dessert was the Butterscotch Budino (bottom middle)– it's what this restaurant is known for, and it was amazing. A kind of butterscotch creamy pudding with a caramelly top…not too sweet and just so good.

Then it was off to the airport again for the last leg of this travel odyssey. And it was a short flight– just about an hour from Los Angeles to Phoenix.

That was the last flight for 2012. The next flight will be back to the East Coast at some point, but for now, I'm sitting tight in Phoenix with family. And then maybe a few road trips.

Thanks for following me on my journeys! This closes the travel portion of the blog for now. I'll be reflecting on the journey and share some thoughts when those crystallize. But from here I'm working on my next steps of “real” life. Where I'll be living. What I'll be doing. It's still blurry, and I'll be releasing some ideas on the blog to get feedback, but until then…

Traveling in Ubud

(I’m having some trouble with Blogsy, so I’m going to have to resort to posts that are more word-heavy. The WordPress app isn’t so photo-uploading friendly.)

My second morning in Ubud, Bali at the Jangkrik Homestay. I’ve been up since 5am again, but this morning I went on a hike– the Campuan Ridge trek. It was recommended by both Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet. And since I was up early (or rather, my bladder was up early and it was hard to fall back asleep with the din of the crowing roosters), I decided to make the most of the cooler mornings here and take the walk.

Ubud is a town/ region north of the crazy beach-bum parts of Bali. It’s a sort of cultural and artistic center of the island, and it’s got a more local feel. I think tourism is really growing fast here, but walking down the street, I still mostly see Balinese people, not so many tourists. That might also be because it’s the low-season for tourism.

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I’m staying at a homestay, which seems to be a common type of accommodation here. You can do homestays or hotels. Homestays are more budget-type lodging, usually run by families, and have only a handful of rooms. Hotels are larger and more commercial and expensive. I found this place on tripadvisor (not Lonely Planet)– it had great reviews, and they had a low-season price special. So I’m staying for four nights at 15,000IDR each night for a total of 600,000IDR which equals $60USD (just move the decimal back four zeroes). It’s really clean; I have a private room with a big queen size bed, a nice sized bathroom with warm water (some places only have cold water); and breakfast is included! And since I’m on the second floor, I have my own little balcony area where breakfast is served. It’s not a private balcony– others on this floor all share the space, but it feels pretty private, since there are only 4 rooms up on this level. So far the last two days, I’ve had banana pancakes (more like crepes) and a fresh fruit plate. Really nice.

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It’s in a great location, not on the main street, but pretty much near the center of Ubud; and shops, restaurants, and sights are all within good walking distance. I highly recommend this place if you come to Bali! The family is super friendly– Made is the husband; Kedak is the wife. And they also participate in the neighborhood Kecak dance performance at their temple down the street.

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Another part of tourism in Bali is the plethora of individuals who participate in the industry in various ways. For example, individuals, or groups of individuals, have a car or van and offer their services as drivers for the day. They’ll drive you around to see the sights and go wherever you want. So it’s like your own personal tour guide and driver. I found out about this through a traveler I met when in New Zealand, and I took her recommendation.

For 325,000IDR ($32.50USD), I was able to get driven around from 9am until 5pm– It could have gone longer, but I was tired, and I knew I was hiring him for a second day, so I told him I would do a shorter day yesterday and a longer day tomorrow to make it even. And gas isn’t all that cheap here, so I wonder how they make money! (more on my reflections on tourism in a developing country in another post– I’m still formulating my thoughts on that topic, which is always on my mind.)

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My route yesterday was roughly like this:
– Tegallalang terraced rice paddies
– Pura Tirta Empul (pura = temple) where there are holy waters that people bath themselves in for healing
– Oka coffee plantation and shop. There are tons of these on the road, so the driver just picked one and we went in. These are all family run farms and businesses.
– Mt. Batur and Kintamani tour where we saw views of Mt. Batur, a live volcano, and Lake Batur.
– lunch at a buffet restaurant near the viewpoint of Mt. Batur
– Pura Goa Gajah– the temple of the Elephant Cave, which is an archeological site as well.
– a batik shop where they show how they make batik and sell tons, too.

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It was a full day, and on the map, we basically headed north of Ubud and then came back.

Oh, and I left out the best part. My driver works for the company that I was recommended: Wayan Merta – http://www.mertabalitour.com/ And instead of speaking English, since his English was limited (he’s Indonesian), we spoke in Korean the whole time! He ran some tours for Korean tourists a few years ago, but then tourism went down, and I was the first Korean he had talked to in a year or two. Funny. Our Korean was about the same level, so it worked out just fine, with us throwing in some English every now and then. It was good practice for me.

So far I’m feeling on the positive side of lukewarm about Bali. I realize how much I’m affected by humidity and heat, which there is a lot of here. I can’t fully enjoy myself and the scenery when I’m sweating like crazy. There are beautiful sights here, and it’s unlike anywhere I’ve ever been (not having been to other parts of Southeast Asia before)… But I’m missing New Zealand’s wide open land, humid-free weather, and fresh air. I guess I need to give it a few more days.

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The food also hasn’t been so amazing. I’d say the best thing I’ve had is the breakfast at the homestay! I’m hoping it’ll get better in Malaysia. But for now, I’ll have to just be OK with food that tastes fine, just isn’t amazing! 🙂

Since there is free wi-fi here and I like relaxing and not rushing around, I’ll probably post a few more times before I leave on Friday. So for now, on to my next activities– a haircut, getting a simcard, and roaming the streets of Ubud!

Early Morning in Bali

It’s about 5am.

All I can hear is the crow of roosters, nearby and in the distance and the nighttime insects (crickets, cicadas (?) and other chirpers). With the occasional dog bark.

The sky is still dark with a bit of grey light appearing in the east.

The air is humid but cooler than the daytime air with a nice cool breeze that moves the palm fronds and the wind chimes above my head for a faint tinkle.

I am in Ubud.

And I’m obviously a bit jetlagged!

I arrived yesterday afternoon after a 30 hour saga of travel. From Kerikeri to Auckland, a 5 hour bus ride on Sunday afternoon. Then got a lift from the bus station to the Auckland airport from a traveler friend I met in Punakaiki– I thought we were going to get dinner first, but I think he was in a bit of a rush, so he ended up just taking me directly to the airport. I was planning on spending the night in the airport anyway, but I would’ve gotten some real dinner in Auckland on my own if I had known he was just going to drive me straight there after my bus ride! So I had to have airport food for dinner which was a Subway sub. From 8pm until 6am the next morning, I had to occupy myself, napping, reading a bit, resting, thinking, people watching. And there was no free wi-fi there, so I was quite limited, since my phone service was used up.

At 3:30am, I was able to check into my flight. But there was a bit of delay there because I found out that I had to set forward travel from Bali in order to get into Bali (like New Zealand’s rules). I found an internet terminal and bought a ticket from Bali to Malaysia, on the spot. Then needed to wait for the security check-in area to open at about 4:30am. I made it through to the international terminal, ate the rest of my foot-long sub for an early breakfast, and meandered my way through to my gate.

The first leg of my journey was about 3 hours to Sydney, so I managed to sleep for most of that. Then at Sydney, I had 3 hour layover, so I had a muffin and some coffee, and thank goodness there was free wi-fi there! (Oh my gosh, the din of rooster crowing is increasing in the distance– it sounds like there’s a rooster farm somewhere with lots of crowing roosters!)

I got on my plane (Virgin Australia) and was a little dismayed to see how many sun-tanned, beachbumming young adults there were getting on the plane. Judgmental me was thinking, “Oh no, Bali is like Cancun… tons of young people partying it up and hanging out on the beach. Do I really want to be there?” But I tried to squelch those thoughts since I was going there and I would have to make the best of whatever I came upon.

The flight was about 6.5 hours, but there was not individualized TV screen; I didn’t have a book I wanted to read; and I was feeling antsy from all the travelling, so it was a loooonnnnggggg flight for me. I just couldn’t get rested, and I think I was feeling nervous about my new destination.

(Sorry this is turning into such a blow-by-blow of my travel to Bali! I just wanted to show how much travel and time it took to get here!!)

I made it to the Denpasar airport in one piece, with a few naps under my belt. But all I’d eaten since I left Kerikeri was: macadamia nuts, trail mix, some cookies, a muffin, a foot long sub, a couple cups of tea on the plane, some chocolate, and two apples. I wasn’t starving, but I was definitely looking forward to a real meal with some veggies and rice or noodles.

Now the roosters’ crowing is being joined by the sound of cars and motorbikes in the nearby street, more birds atwittering, and the footsteps of people below me (I’m on the 2nd floor balcony of this guesthouse.).

I got through customs and all that and was just sweating from the humidity. There was no a-c in the airport. I had arranged with my guesthouse to have a taxi pick up at the airport because I didn’t want to deal with finding a bus or travel and all that after the long flight, so I found my driver and off we went for an hour or so drive to Ubud.

I’ll leave another post for describing Ubud and Bali, but suffice it to say, I was happy to arrive at Jangkrik Homestay (a family-owned accommodation of 6 guestrooms in a beautiful Balinese family compound– photos to come) to a clean room and nice balcony view.

And now my Balinese adventures await.

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Goodbye, New Zealand…

I have left the country. Moving on to warmer climes.

Two months in New Zealand, and I have put down some roots that make me sad to leave. I really have to come back here again someday (or even somedayS).

There's so much I'm going to miss about New Zealand:

  • the rolling green hills
  • the turbulent winds
  • the craggy, snowcapped mountains
  • the many moods of the sea
  • the lambs and sheep dotting the hillside
  • the beautiful Kiwi people with their open hands and warm hearts
  • the rich soil for planting bountiful gardens
  • the slower lifestyle
  • morning and afternoon tea time
  • the flora that I have come to know bit by bit
  • the trilling, unique song of the Tui bird and the bellbird
  • the Kiwi accent and uses of the words “heaps,” “wee,” “flash,” and “love” (to address people)

I wonder if I had spent more time, like a year, here if I would grow tired of this place. Is part of the beauty of this place the novelty? The first-time, honeymoon factor? And like anything or anyone else, would it start to lose its sparkle if I were to get more settled and rooted?

I have heard of some expat Kiwi critiques that they feel New Zealanders are provincial, small-minded country bumpkins, not aware of the world outside the small islands. And I wonder if I would start to feel isolated and in a bubble, disconnected from the rest of the world. It's been easy in my time here to forget to read or listen to the news or to think about what's going on in the Middle East, for example.

But I guess rather than thinking like that, I can just leave it as what it is– a sabbatical for myself to go to the other side of the world to expose myself to new experiences and learn new ways of living. THAT mission was accomplished beyond my expectations. I take back so much new information in my brain, that it's going to take awhile to process it all. I brought a 100-page journal with me and have already filled half of it with just reflections on my time in New Zealand, Aoteaora.

So to you readers out there, if you're feeling antsy; if you've always had a travel bug bite that hasn't been scratched adequately; if you just want a change of scenery… save up some money, set a goal to go somewhere, and make it happen.

I did a search for “travel quotes” and came upon these two that struck me as a piece of what I'm carrying away from my New Zealand travels:

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends. — Maya Angelou

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. — Mark Twain

 

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