Monday, December 27, 2010

Travel: Disneyland

My cousin offered me a free ticket to Disneyland, which I happily accepted, especially because I hadn't been there since grad night in high school. Why do places seem smaller and smaller after each visit? Unfortunately, a few rides were down that day (e.g., the Haunted House, Pirates of the Caribbean). There must have been a bomb scare or other incident that day because, as they closed down sections of the park, an enormous crowd developed just from people walking by, becoming dangerously packed. Had someone shouted "bomb" or "fire," people could easily have been trampled to death.
Later that night, I found the fireworks show to be a moving experience. That was unexpected.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Meet: A!

My cousin had a new baby! It'll be so much fun practicing baby shots on her, I'm sure.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Travel: Las Vegas (Venetian)

We spent Thanksgiving weekend in Las Vegas, after doing the actual feasting in Santa Monica with family. We stayed at the Venetian this time.
The rooms are huge! Between the two queen-sized beds and the pull-out sofa bed, we easily could have fit 6 average-sized people in there. I'm not a fan of the 2 main bathroom doors, but the sizable living area more than compensates for it. There's a Grand Lux Cafe downstairs complete with an adjacent take-out desk. Of course, there's the indoor mall that features a store-lined canal and re-creation of St. Mark's square (Piazza San Marco). There are even musical performers and the creepy statue person that only moves when you tip him. But everything from the singing gondoliers to the Phantom of the Opera playing in the elevators just add to the cheesiness of the whole place. Don't get me wrong; it's definitely upscale (compared to many of the hotels on the Strip), but it wouldn't be Vegas without the cheese.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Movie: Fair Game

I was reluctant to watch Fair Game, but my mom insisted, so I got dragged along. J/K. I really wanted to see this movie and was thrilled when my mom brought it up. Ironically, she fell asleep during the movie despite her insistence on watching it. It wasn't mind-blowingly great or anything, but it's a shame it had such a limited engagement.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Meet: Blueberry the Parakeet

Here's one of my two parakeets. He was walking close to me as I was typing, so I stole a quick photo. His name is Blueberry and he spends nearly all his time taking apart my curtains, wooing my green parakeet, and perching on random furniture and pecking it to oblivion.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Movie: Social Network

I ended up watching The Social Network twice this month in theaters. Amazing soundtrack! It should get nominated for everything next year at the Oscars. I'm so not kidding. They deserve it.
It definitely makes me want to create a startup for sure :P

Friday, October 15, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 15 - Eindhoven to Brussels

Day 15: At about 6 in the morning, H and I cooked breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausage, etc.) for everyone, using some of the groceries we purchased the night before. K then drove us to Brussels and, after a somber parting, B, H and I returned to PHL >> LAX. :(

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 14 - Amsterdam to Eindhoven

Day 14: After vising the Amsterdam sculpture in front of the Rijksmuseum, we had lunch at Van Dobben (again). We then caught a train from Amsterdam to Eindhoven, which was remarkably cheaper than our Paris/Thayls fiasco.
K greeted us at the train station and took us to the large, luxury apartment he was staying at, which, fortunately, was within walking distance from the station. It was so high up that I was able to enjoy views of the surrounding area. K and B brought back dinner for us, while H slept and I enjoyed the Netherlands' MTV equivalent.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 13 - Paris to Amsterdam

Day 13: The next morning, after breakfast, we purchased train tickets to Amsterdam. However, because none of us could read French, we somehow got mixed up and missed our train (no joke!). Fortunately, our tickets were the refundable kind and allowed us to board the next train an hour later. That evening, we arrived in Amsterdam and took a taxi to our hotel (NH Amsterdam Center).
While walking around the red light district, H randomly ran into a friend from SF. What a coincidence!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 12 - Paris

Day 12:  B and I had breakfast at a nearby restaurant that we ended up returning to the next day (that good!). When H woke up, we then climbed the stairway up to Sacré Coeur. We used the metro to get around to various places including the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, and Notre Dame Cathedral. We had lunch near the Eiffel Tower.
Surprisingly, we had snails for dinner (of course!). That evening, the boys checked out the red light district near Moulin Rouge.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 11 - Champagne & Versailles to Paris

Day 11: We drove around randomly shooting vineyards and grapes. We took a tour of a champagne cellar at Domaine Pommery and did a champagne tasting, before heading off to Versailles.
After dinner in Versailles (which was an interesting experience because none of us could read the French menus), we bid K goodbye (we would later reunite in the Netherlands). He was kind enough to drop us off at our hotel in Montmartre before driving off with our only means of transportation.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 10 - Nice & Monaco to Champagne

Day 10: We did a quick look around Nice before heading to Monaco. Warning: GPS is totally useless in the maze known as Monaco. They do have a free bus though! Unfortunately, the casino wasn't open yet when we were there (too early!) -- not that they would have let us in, wearing what we did.
After Monaco, we did a 12-hour drive to Epernay, France. I <3 Autogrills.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 9 - Venice to Nice

Day 9: While K explored Murano, despite it sprinkling that day, B, H, and I had lunch near the Rialto Bridge. After picking up our car, we headed off to Nice where we had dinner in old town (Vieux Nice).

We've decided that this was the official song of our trip:

Friday, October 8, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 8 - Venice

Day 8: We rented an apartment (through the Locanda Hotel Antico Fiore) in Venice for a couple days, which enabled us to take our time exploring the city. We had free pastries and juice delivered to our apartment every morning, in addition to the stuff already in our kitchen (so that was one last meal we had to worry about). We walked around the crowded St. Mark's Square (as seen above) just as everybody does. B and K ascended the Campanile, while H and I enjoyed the "scenery." The guys all had some gelato near the Bridge of Sighs.
We ended up using the vaporetti to get around. We had a late lunch at Lido and checked out the beach there. We took a vaporetto back, but rode it till the Rialto Bridge. That evening, B played interpreter for H, while K and I explored Venice by foot.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 7 - Salzburg to Venice

Day 7: Salzburg is The Sound of Music Central. I couldn't believe how many tours were dedicated just to that movie alone. I also couldn't believe how great our hotel's (Villa Carlton) location was. I highly recommend it. Plus, they provide free breakfast! Seriously, though, Salzburg is a quaint, little place. We checked out Old Town, Schloss Hellbrunn, and even the top of Hohensalzburg Fortress (Festung). There are awesome panaromic views from the latter.
After leaving Salzburg, on our way to Venice, K and B did a stopover at the Kehlsteinhaus. H and I hung out and chatted :). The best moments sometimes aren't tourist traps, ya know.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 6 - Vienna to Salzburg

Day 6: After having breakfast at a restaurant near Hostel Ruthensteiner, we left Vienna and went to the Seegrotte Hinterbrühl (Europe's largest subterranean lake). We then took a totally out-of-the-way detour to (I believe) Zell am See, Austria (pictured above and below). It had something to do with where the Band of Brothers took place (never saw/read it, sorry). I dunno. Our fearless leader, K, definitely ran this part of the itinerary. I just remember going paparazzo on a couple swans.
We arrived in Salzburg late that night.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 5 - Vienna

Day 5: In Vienna, we predictably stopped by places such as Hofburg Palace and the surrounding area. B and K visited the Mozarthaus, while H and I went sunglasses shopping!
After we regrouped, we then visited the Osterreichische Galerie Belvedere to see The Kiss (by Klimt). I actually saw an elderly couple kiss in the manner depicted in the painting while standing in front of the painting! Cutest thing ever!
The picture taken below is B standing near a statue on the museum's grounds (they wouldn't let me use my camera indoors!).
That evening, we stopped at a Greek restaurant near the museum and ordered off the menu, requesting that they only serve us traditional Austrian food (schnitzel, sausages, etc). We were their only customers and they must have been thrilled with the feast they prepared for us because they not only gave us free house wine, but free desserts as well! Consequently, we were late to our ballet at the Opera House/Weiner staatsoper. We ended up ditching it midway anyway, and opted for getting lost in the city on our way to and from the Danube Tower/Donauturm Wien (where we had coffee). I'll never forget that night. Vienna is absolutely gorgeous.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 4 - Prague to Vienna

Day 4: After gorging on our hotel's courtesy breakfast buffet, we ventured out to Prague in the daytime. Our first task was converting euros and dollars into something usable. We took care of that by going to an ATM and then breaking our large bills at a grocery store where we purchased a water and the infamous iced tea -- the latter of which got K sick. Once in central Prague, we made stops at places like New Town (Wenceslas Square), Mala Strana, Old Town Square, the astronomical clock, Charles Bridge, and, of course, Prague Castle. We did an awful lot of walking and stair climbing that day in addition to noticing an obscene number of Thai massage parlors everywhere. B was mistaken for a drug dealer several times because of how he was dressed. Having left his pair of sunglasses at my place in LA, we, thus, began the search for the perfect pair of sunglasses for H.
We had dinner at the hotel before heading out for Vienna.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 3 - Berlin to Prague

Day 3: B and I woke up the next morning and bought H a "birthday" cupcake from the cafe below our hotel. All four of us then walked from East Berlin to West Berlin stopping at places like Berliner Fernsehturm, Brandenburger Tor, Reichstag, and Berliner Dom. After checking-out, we went to the Berlin Wall for obligatory photos there as well.
We then drove to Prague, getting a little lost along the way and practically running out of gas. We checked into Hotel Troja which was conveniently next door to a police station. K was concerned about the car getting stolen during our trip, especially in Prague. So, that comforted him. That evening, we went out to a fancy dinner followed by clubbing in downtown Prague, in honor of H's birthday.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 2 - Brussels to Berlin

Day 1: Three of us (B, H, and I) flew LAX >> PHL >> Brussels, Belgium. Our fourth friend, K, was able to meet up with us at any of the following three airports: Dusseldorf, Germany; Amsterdam, Netherlands; or Brussels, Belgium. I checked airfare for a month before finally settling on a cheap US Airways flight to Belgium.
Day 2:  We arrived in Brussels in the morning, took forever to clear customs (omg the long lines!), only to find K NOT there waiting for us as expected. After spending a fortune at a phone booth (I'm so not kidding) calling K to figure out where he was (he wasn't answering his phone!), K finally did arrive -- just an hour or so later than he was supposed to. We greeted each other enthusiastically despite our initial panic, not having actually seen each other in about a decade. B met K for the first time and K was amazed to see how much H changed. When we got to the car, I couldn't believe 4 adults + all our luggage would actually fit in this tiny, typical European-sized vehicle (H was worse than I was in terms of packing!). After cramming it all in, we did a lightening fast tour of the Grand Place and surrounding area, took obligatory shots of the Manneken Pis (ha, ha), and ate some authentic Belgian waffles.

We did a 9-hour drive to Berlin, stopping a million times along the way, catching up on what's happened in the last 10 years, and going way, way, way too fast on the Autobahn.

That evening, we ate at a super crowded/popular restaurant in Germany and made the mistake of asking to take home our leftovers. The waiters simply could not believe our request and the people at the next tables laughed. At first, the waiters suggested that this was only possible on weekdays, but definitely not on a Friday night. Only then did I remember from my German classes that this is a "no-no" in Germany. It worked out fine though: they let us take home our delicious leftovers and we tipped American-style :).

Friday, October 1, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 1 - Pre-Flight Notes

I just got back from a 15-day trip to Europe with B and a couple good college friends (H & K). I will be posting this in parts, seeing as how this would otherwise be too massive as a single blog entry.
Here are the quick stats:
  • $2,000 budget per person INCLUDING airfare from LAX, food, lodging, toll fees, etc.
  • 8 European countries (Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, Monaco, France, and the Netherlands)
  • 13 European cities (Brussels, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, Venice, Monaco, Nice, Epernay/Champagne region, Versailles, Paris, Amsterdam, and Eindhoven)
  • 15 days
  • 1 free car (will not explain this further)
  • Unlimited free gas (will not explain this further)
  • 1 free and really huge apartment in Eindhoven, Netherlands (will not explain this further)
  • 2 laptops (our own) and 1 TomTom (free) for navigating
At some point during our trip, we split up, said goodbye to our car, and had to rely on the rail system to get around (talk about an adventure!). But as you can see, we didn't exactly have to slum it, given the freebies we were working with. Still, getting the Lonely Planet: europe on a shoestring didn't hurt ;).

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Travel: San Diego - Balboa Park

I decided to shoot Balboa Park using my 50mm lens. The above was a flower in the botanical garden. The bottom shot was in front of the buildings, along the main walkway.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Travel: Las Vegas (Trump, again)

We stayed at the Trump again, had the breakfast buffet at the Bellagio again, and watched a fashion show at Fashion Show Mall. Same ol', same ol'. Only notable thing was when the Trump's valet service couldn't find our car for 30 minutes. Yet, still, I'd stay there again.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Movie: The Last Airbender (3D)

What was I thinking allowing myself to getting dragged to watch this movie? Just because it was in 3D? Because the 4 elements thing was so reminiscent of Captain Planet or the 5th Element? Who knows? All that matters is that The Last Airbender was total crap. I hope they don't make the expected sequel. I can't be bothered to write any more on this pathetic excuse for a movie. The end.

P.S. I want my money back, damnit.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Movie: Inception

*Spoiler Alert*
So, we saw Inception in San Diego because of all the hype. I wish I hadn't heard so much about it before seeing it (which is why I try to watch movies as soon as they come out). It was good; don't get me wrong. Yes, you can debate about the end ad infinitum, but the best comment I heard was that it didn't matter if the top fell or not, but that the main character didn't care to even see if it did.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Travel: San Diego - Comic-Con

We went to San Diego for Comic-Con. B's brother had a related function and came down as well. We went out to Coronado for dinner. The next day, we met up for a movie release party. The above was taken with my iPhone (apologizes for the quality of the shot) at the event.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Travel: Philippines (Photo of the Day) - BBQ

This was seriously my favorite part of every afternoon: merienda. We typically had BBQ, pancit, and/or ice cream. :::Drool:::

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Travel: Philippines (Photo of the Day) - Coke

My favorite soda in my favorite container: Coke in a bottle. I know foreign nations use real sugar instead of corn syrup, but if it weren't that, I'd swear the bottle makes it taste better.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Travel: Philippines (Photo of the Day) - Rooster

This evil creature woke me up every morning at around 5AM. I requested that he be killed but was informed that he's a cockfighting chicken; thus, his life was sacred. grrr.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Travel: Philippines (Photo of the Day) - Wedding

My cousin snuck me a peace sign, while the real wedding photographers were busy doing their thing. It was a rainy, yet happy day!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Travel: Philippines (Photo of the Day) - Dome

The dome of the church that my family attends in the Philippines is actually quite beautiful. Sorry, I could not do it justice.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Travel: Philippines (Photo of the Day) - Stove

When I saw my aunt cooking on this cute, little, wood-burning stove, I knew I had to photograph it. It's truly amazing how simple life is in the province.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Travel: Philippines (Photo of the Day) - Birthday

I celebrated a birthday while in the Philippines. It was a humble, intimate affair that consisted mostly of family. I'll never forget the 50 people singing to me the birthday song before I blew out the candles on my two cakes. :D

Monday, July 19, 2010

Travel: Philippines (Photo of the Day) - Basketball

My relatives were playing basketball at the front of our family compound when I caught this action shot of my cousin about to slam dunk. I'm not into sports photography (I don't have the proper equipment or the patience), so I was pretty happy about it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Travel: Philippines (Photo of the Day) - Patubig

So today's picture is actually video I shot while watching my cousin wash her clothes in the patubig (irrigation canal). There were children playing in the water and a few brave souls jumping off a rather tall tree near the patubig. At first, I was afraid the children would get caught in the hanging electrical wire (you can easily see it in the video) but later realized they were going nowhere near it. Many of the children were quite impressed with my camera's LCD screen and I had a small crowd of kids gathered behind me watching me film the jumpers.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Travel: Philippines (Photo of the Day) - Sinampalukang Manok

My mom made chicken sinampalukang from vegetables on our farm. It was good, but I'll take lumpia shanghai any day (enough of them can make up a meal :D ).

Friday, July 16, 2010

Travel: Philippines (Photo of the Day) - Dudong

Dudong: my favorite of the guard dogs on the compound. He's just sooo cute. He's actually the only dog that isn't owned by my family. I actually like him better than my own dogs.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Travel: Philippines (Photo of the Day) - Clothes

Although we own a washer and dryer in the province where we were staying, we are the exception. Many people still hang-dry their clothes, as appliances such as those are prohibitively expensive. Here, I particularly enjoyed the colors as they hung outside my window.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Travel: Philippines (Photo of the Day) - Pancit

Pictured above is pancit malabon. We originally went out for halo-halo, but someone requested that we bring them back a tray of this. It tasted as good as it looked (good!).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Travel: Philippines - Flight Notes

I went on a 16-day trip to the Philippines to attend my cousin's wedding. I'll post a shot every day over the next few days of what I saw on my trip. In light of my last Philippine trip, I decided to stay local and spent most of my time with family.

My flights to and from the Philippines were each a story in their own right. Here are summaries of each leg:
  • Flight to the Philippines: I flew out to PI alone but was seated next to some guy that had first class privileges extended to him (he knew like half the female flight attendants that passed by). Apparently, he was supposed to be sitting in first class. Anyway, he and I got to chatting and so they offered me everything he was getting: cheese platters; fruit platters; and unlimited peanuts, drinks (including alcohol), siopao, cookies, chips, and anything else they could offer. It was insane.
  • Return flight: My mother, brother, and I were all upgraded to business class FREE of charge!!! 
I seriously love Philippine Airlines.