taipei getaway

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Taipei is the capital of Taiwan, the large island formerly known as Formosa, just off the coast of China.  Officially, this commonwealth is currently a part of the PROC, but it has had a very tumultuous history due to its location between Japan and China.

Because of its location as a gateway to the East, it is a very popular stopover destination.  I have used it as such twice and found it to be every bit as exciting as some of my final destinations.

Perhaps the most well known feature of this city is its bounty of night markets and food.  The origin of your milk teas and soup dumplings, Taiwan is a food lover’s fever dream.

boba fete…

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Nashville: the only TEN I SEE

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Nashville is one of the best places I’ve ever lived, and I’m lucky that I still have friends that live in town to visit.  Literally, I will visit at the drop of a cowboy hat.  Nashville is a lot like LA, except smaller, more easily navigable, and of course, musically inclined.  I know it’s known for its music, but can we just talk about the food in Nashville?  It’s spectacular.

This city is growing at an unbelievable pace, it seems like every time you turn around, there’s a new high rise or apartment complex.  My old neighborhood in the West End (don’t think this was a coincidence, I love the Pet Shop Boys)/Charlotte is now the gateway to up and coming Nations and Sylvan Park.

I love you, Nashville.

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Happy Lunar New Year!

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Happy Lunar New Year!  Yes, it’s not only Chinese people who celebrate the lunisolar calendar, so show a little love to your friends who are celebrating the start of year of the pig/boar today!

In Vietnam, the new year celebration is called Tet, and it is HUGE.  Lots of festivals, lion dancing, fireworks, fashion, bestowing of li xi or lucky red envelopes, and feasting.  If you’re ever looking for nonstop partying this time of year, book your trip to Asia to join the revelry.

A throwback to my favorite city in Vietnam today, happy new year!

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Touchdown in Kan-SAS CITY

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THE AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME IS GOING TO BE PLAYED AT ARROWHEAD!  THIS IS NOT A DRILL!

For the first time EVER, Kansas City hosts the AFC Championship game on Sunday and I am STOKED to say the least.  It’s gonna be hella cold, but I know Chiefs Kingdom is going to show up.  Unfortunately, I’ll be watching from Vegas (poor me, right?) but for those who are visiting KC, welcome to the loudest stadium in the NFL!

If you’ve read this blog, you may know that I lived in Kansas City just shy of a dozen years (and write about my visits) and I LOVE coming back.  It will forever be my second home, and the Midwest is very dear to my heart.  The trips have become fewer and far between as I am now an Adult (capital A) with a “job,” but recently I had the chance to go back for a little bit of work and a lot of play.

The changes that have occurred in this city since I left 4 years ago are astounding and numerous, and I guess in some ways I am lucky all of these cool, trendy places weren’t around when I was living there, or else I’d be broke and/or very large.  I’m even luckier that many of my pals still reside here, and I get personal tours every time I return.

I visited some old favorites and found some new ones, and of course, got to spend time with people I love…which is the best reason to travel.

Going back to Kansas City!

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Feliz Navidad from Mexico!

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In the words of the great Jose Feliciano, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart!  Feliz Navidad is one of the all time great Christmas songs, and Mexico is one of the all time great travel destinations.  The culture, food, history, people– everything about this country is amazing.

La Ciudad de Mexico (CDMX) is one of the foremost cosmopolitan areas of the world, with bustling energy, a lively arts and fashion scene, inventive and traditional food culture, and architectural gems galore.  There are well preserved alhambras and monuments reminiscent of the grand plazas of Europe amongst a sea of modern skyscrapers and high rise hotels.

Fun fact: I won the Spanish language award my senior year in high school.  Another fun fact: my Spanish is terrible. Like muy terible. I have the worst American accent when I attempt to speak, but I do try, y es la intencion es lo que cuenta? Un poquito (read: oohn poke-ee-toe)?  En acualmente, escribo mejor que hablar, que lastima!  Lo siento, yo se mi espanol no es bueno, pero me humor por favor.

Nota: Todas las photografias en esta blog post son cortesia de mi hermana.

CDMX is having a real moment right now, so brush off your Paso a Paso book from high school…vamos a Mexico! HOLA y Bienvenidos a Mexico!

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weekender in LA: happy lebron day

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Happy Lebron-starts-for-the-Lakers Day everyone!  A momentous day, hopefully an auspicious one.  There’s been a drought not only in Southern California’s water reserves, but in winning seasons for our Showtime squad and that just will not do. We were obviously spoiled by the Kobe era.

And if that weren’t enough, the Dodgers play the Brewers tomorrow to win the NL pennant race!  Because everyone loves October baseball…let’s continue the series of NLCS/ALCS cities with LA! We goin’ back to Cali, Cali, Cali…

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miss saigon: weekend in HCM City

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Vietnam is one of the most popular places in the world to travel, probably because it has everything: culture, art, delicious food, natural beauty, miles upon miles of beaches, history, welcoming people, hospitality and above all else, affordability.  You can live like a king on a moderate budget, every dollar goes super far here, while not sacrificing quality.

When traveling to Vietnam, you’re going to want to traverse the entire country, as there are unique landscapes, disparate culture and people throughout.  Even though it’s a smallish country, citizens from each region are very proud of their own distinct communities, from food to style and everything in between.  Just don’t get into a debate about who invented pho…there’s no winning with that one (it was the northerners ;).

The south of Vietnam is a great place to start.  Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is the country’s largest city by population.  The history of this city is rich, from its origin after Vietnamese conquered Khmer area, to the capital of French colonial rule to the then doomed epicenter of the Republic of Vietnam.  Because of the timeline of all sorts of different influences, the city is a mishmash of architectural styles.

Above all else, this is probably the epicenter of the future of Vietnam, with skyscrapers sprouting up everywhere and a population that is projected to be near 15 million in the next few years.  Not as cramped as Hanoi, this area is certainly still very crowded with motorbikes and people teeming into the streets every which way…and it’s ever changing.

blink and you’ll miss saigon

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hometown hits: orange, california

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Orange County, California is more than housewives and McMansions. Granted, we do have our fair share of overly plasticized people, sprawling estates and vapid teenagers, but anyone who visits will encounter a far different vantage than what you might have seen in a show.

What they don’t show on TV is a 3 million + populated area filled with cultures from all corners of the world.  There’s Little Saigon, Korean District, and Little Arabia to name a few neighborhoods around.

But, what started it all, and what was most attractive to settlers to this part of Southern California was its miles and miles of orange groves, hence the name of the county.

Before Walt stuck his spike down to create Disneyland, this whole area was filled with ranches amongst the fruit trees.  And in some pockets of the area, you can still unearth some of the history of this county, especially in appropriately named Orange, California.

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3 days in Reykjavik

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As we all swelter in the blazing sun today, all I can do is dream of the perpetually cool, crisp air in Reykjavik.  While I dream of my next trip to somewhere more brisk, here’s a little #tbt to cooler weather in Iceland.

Iceland is super trendy.  In the past decade, there’s been a >300% increase in the amount of visitors to Iceland — it’s almost to the point where you barely see any locals.  Because I have the worst FOMO ever, I needed to go here before tourists overrun everything and American chains start moving in.  Everyone in my family had already gone (which is not a reason to travel, but again, FOMO), so off I headed to Reykjavik for an Icelandic adventure.

all is full of love…

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weekender in LA: good as gold

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If you’ve ever read food writing in or about any city other than Los Angeles, then you’ve probably never truly experienced how transcendent and indispensable the Counter Intelligence column was to food and culture…and to life in Los Angeles.  Its author was a king in the food world, imparting a Midas touch on any eatery he liked, no exaggeration, as his name was appropriately, Jonathan Gold.

(That was my piss poor attempt to write second person as he did so well).

As a lifelong Southern Californian, hearing about Mr. Gold’s sudden passing was heartbreaking.  You can’t really know how pervasive and revered his opinion was unless you lived and breathed and ate what he ate.  He ate, and ate…real food.

He believed that it was the stick to your soul, sizzling off the wok, fatty soup belly that creates the indelible memories and experiences of a grand food life lived.  And of course, he was right!  Jonathan Gold was the one who would gently steer you in this direction, showing you the light, making things that seemed inaccessible or scary become familiar and expected.

Mr. Gold brought to the masses what all children of immigrants in SoCal have known for years…that the best meals happen in somewhat shabby strip malls, in the sticky dining rooms of mom and pop shops — often times with no white linen table cloths in sight.  Although he wasn’t that discerning, there was a time and place for those experiences, too.  He taught us that all types of cuisine, and on a larger scale, all types of people could and should be celebrated.

He was a champion of the unadorned, the unpretentious, whilst peppering his reviews with esoteric references that elevated the intelligence of his reader.  Only a true master of his craft could achieve such a feat.  And he was recognized for it, having been the only food critic to receive a Pulitzer Prize for food writing.

He was a legend in a city of stars.  Undoubtedly, one of its most influential characters; after all, it was often his opinion that brought everyone to the table.

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