Tag Archives: Food

Singapore Sights

Beyond visiting the Botanic Gardens in Singapore, we also spent a few days visiting the sights of the impressive, city (well, it’s really a country)! Though it may seem a small country to visit, there is a lot to do and there is always a fun and exciting buzz around the city – it also doesn’t hurt that it almost always boasts the perfect weather to lay by the pool!

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Our first stop was the Merlion which is the symbol of Singapore as it combines the the body of a fish with the head of a lion – it signifies its old roots as a fishing village and its original name which meant “lion city”.

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From the same vantage point, you can see the Marina Bay Sands hotel which we stayed at for a few days while we were there. The other building in the picture (the one that looks like a white Lotus Flower to the left of Ryan’s head) is the Art Science museum – seeing as we are both engineers and love science, you would be right if you guessed that we went there. The building itself is really cool and the dinosaur exhibit was pretty awesome!

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The main reason I wanted to stay there was so that we could go to the infinity pool on top of the hotel. The ship looking structure at the top is where the infinity pool area (called Sky Park) is – it’s currently the highest and largest infinity pool in the world so it was insanely cool to experience that! It’s on the 57th floor looking out onto the city – the views are absolutely spectacular! 

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Singapore Infinity Pool Collage

One of my other favorite activities while visiting was the Night Safari – it’s on the outskirts of the city so it’s easiest to take a cab to get there and it gets pretty crowded, but it’s certainly worth a visit! Seeing as many of the animals at the zoo are nocturnal, what better time to see them than at night when they’re active. You get in a tram and they drive you around the park past all of the animal enclosures. There are several stops where you can get out and take your time walking around. They ask you not to take pictures so you don’t disturb the animals so I don’t have any pictures from the animals, but my absolute favorite part of the park is where you can walk through the enclosure with the Flying Foxes and fruit bats (it’s the “Mangrove Walk which is off of the Leopard Trail) - the bats often whizz right past you! It was awesome! We also caught the otters being particularly playful and it was simply adorable! I’m really glad we spent an evening there!

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One of the other aspects to Singapore that I really liked was the cultural diversity – you are truly in an international city when you are walking around Singapore! You can tell by all of the food options, too – Malaysian, Chinese, Indian, Singaporean, Italian, Spanish, Thai…you name it, they have it! We took a walk around some of those cultural areas of town, enjoyed some great food, interesting drinks (fresh squeezed sugar cane juice!), and soaked in the exciting vibe of the city!

Singapore Culture Collage

On one of our days, we headed to the resort hot spot, Sentosa Island. We went to go to Universal Studios because we both love roller coasters! We had a fun day wandering around the park and going on all of the rides. The park areas were extremely well done – Jurassic Park and the huge Egyptian figures were something to see! While that was impressive, I do have to admit that the rides weren’t anything all that special. We were lucky to be there on a day when the lines weren’t too long so it was easy to get onto the rides. If you’re short on time, I wouldn’t put this as very high on your list of things to do in Singapore but it was a fun day nonetheless.

Singapore Universal Studios Collage

In the evening, some of our friends who are living in Singapore, took us out for Chili Crab – it is one of Singapores’ most famous dishes and its delicious! After you messily devour the crab (thankfully, they give you bibs!), you can ask for rolls to dip in the sauce – so good! (we do not have any pictures of us eating chili crab because our hands were too messy to operate a camera – so we just dug in and enjoyed it and skipped the picture!). Be sure and try both Chili and Pepper Crab if you find yourself lucky enough to be in Singapore!

Jumbo Chili Crab

Afterwards, we went to the famous Raffles Hotel which is a historic and beautiful hotel where the fruity drink, the Singapore Sling, was invented. We indulged ourselves at the Long Bar with a classic Singapore Sling for each of us (shock factor, they are about S$18 each!) and had fun in the lively bar area watching the bar tenders make glass upon glass of Singapore Slings (apparently we weren’t the only ones that got the memo that you should stop by there to try it!).

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We decided to walk back to the Marina Bay Sands on our last night and ended up stumbling upon some random art exhibits on the walking path. One of the coolest exhibits was a cloud that was raining – when you walked through it, the water would stop in the area where you were standing. It was really cool because you could stand in the middle and it would be raining all around you but not a drop would get on you. One of our favorite things about traveling is when you spontaneously find fun/interesting things that you didn’t expect…this was one of those instances!

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We also caught the laser light show just in time! What a great ending to a great week!

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 All in all, we really enjoyed the few days that we spent in Singapore – we stayed busy exploring the city, ate some amazing food, and also had some time to relax (with a stellar view on the 57th floor overlooking the incredible city!). I really hope that you get to visit there some day to see all that Singapore has to offer!

Weekend in Hong Kong!

You may remember that we wished you a Merry Christmas while posing with a Santa Claus in a mall in Hong Kong. We had popped over there for a weekend in December because we wanted to get a dose of Christmas spirit. In our small little corner of Korea, the Christmas holidays are not really that big of a deal (at least not in Geoje) and you don’t get the Christmas cheer with Santa Claus, snowmen, reindeer, twinkly lights, and Christmas tunes that just really get you in the holiday spirit. Lucky for us, Hong Kong is a short flight away, so we hopped on a plane and headed there to check it out! We sure got our dose of Christmas spirit – it was EVERYWHERE. Every hotel or shopping center had Christmas trees and decorations galore. It’s an interesting environment here in Hong Kong because you have quite a few Western Expats.

HK Christmas

On our first morning, we headed to a breakfast place called “Flying Pan” and both enjoyed an awesome breakfast – while breakfast places don’t seem all that worthy of writing about, they are for us. Breakfast spots are essentially non-existent where we’re living and going out to breakfast is one of our favorite things so we cherished this cute little restaurant and devoured our eggs.

Flying Pan

Afterwards, we walked over and stumbled upon some escalators. I realized these were the escalators that I had seen on the travel channel – it’s the longest outdoor escalator series in the world, so we hopped on and enjoyed a ride all the way up to the top.

HK Outdoor Escalator Collage

After getting to the top, we found ourselves walking around to explore this great city in the fantastic weather (seriously – it was 75 degrees and sunny and then got to about 60 during the evenings…it doesn’t get much better than that!). Unlike Korea, we really didn’t feel all that out of place here. It was a nice blend of many different cultures which we really enjoyed.

HK Botanical Garden

We found our way to the Peak Tram and got in line. The tram took you up to the top of the large hill and had great views of the city.

HK Peak Tram

That evening, we went to the other side of the water to see the Skyline and laser show. Hong Kong is known to have one of the most spectacular skylines in the world and it definitely does.

HK Skyline

The next day, we headed to the Stanley Markets and walked around looking for some paintings. We ended up finding a few great paintings and then walked along the water to grab some lunch. Although it was a bit of a drizzly day, we had a fun time exploring another area in Hong Kong.

HK Stanley Market Collage

We took the bus back to the main part of the city and spent some more time walking around the city. One our favorite sites was watching the guys on the bamboo scaffolding. They must have been some of the bravest people alive because they would be up there working on this stuff at insane heights using minimal safety equipment! They would drop the bamboo scaffold poles down to the guy on the ground and he’d catch them and pile them up on the ground. We found it fascinating!

HK Scaffolders

We got back to the main area of Hong Kong a bit before dinner and decided to head to our restaurant of choice a little early. Boy, am I glad we did! This is a Michelin rated dumpling restaurant called Din Tae Fung and there is usually a huge line but because we headed there at 4:45 PM, they showed us right to our seats and we were in heaven for the next hour. The dumplings were amazing, the chicken soup was the best I’ve ever had, the spring rolls were crunchy, and the vegetables were fresh and delicious. They have this restaurant in a few major cities and it is definitely worth going there if you have the chance.

HK Dumplings

We took a late night and I mean really late night flight at 2 AM to arrive back in Busan on Monday morning at 6 AM. It was a fun weekend and we snagged a great Christmas card photo – that was the real success!

Fire Protection What? (Kristin – Fire Protection Engineer)

Today, we have one of my role models – she’s been like a big sister to me since we met in college. I am so happy our paths crossed in college because we have been best friends ever since – she was even a bridesmaid in my wedding!  She’s a fantastic person and I think you are absolutely going to love hearing about what she has done with her engineering degree. Take it away, Kristin…

So my good friend Erin asked if I would write about my work adventures and travels in her blog and I was so excited! Ironically, I am sitting here at Logan Airport in Boston waiting to board my plane to Orlando. I am heading there to teach a seminar and thought there was no better time to write about my journeys. Thanks, Erin for inviting me to be a part of your blog!

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Erin & Kristin at WPI Graduation 2008

It’s inevitable. As I sit in my window seat (you can see so much more of the world from a window seat) another traveler sits beside me, says hello, and after some small talk asks the question “so, what do you do for work?” I answer with “I am a fire protection engineer.”

“A fire protection, what?”

“A fire protection engineer.”

<insert confused look here>

Co-Workers and I at St Louis Arch

Co-Workers and I at St Louis Arch

My road to fire protection engineering began at WPI (I met Erin and Ryan at WPI!) when I saw a flyer on the wall in the Civil Engineering building. Simply put, I thought it sounded interesting so I applied for the Master’s program, and the rest is history. Currently, I work at the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in Quincy, MA. I started here as an intern in 2006 and signed on as a full time fire protection engineer in 2007. I have been there ever since.

Food Trucks in Austin, TX

Food Trucks in Austin, TX

My job is not easy to explain, hence the puzzled look I often get from inquisitive people I meet in my travels. I don’t sit at a desk and crunch numbers on a calculator, I don’t design things, I don’t build things, I don’t even really do math. I like to think of myself more as an information engineer.

Standing in front of my document, NFPA 80, at the INTERSEC Conference in Dubai

Standing in front of my document, NFPA 80, at the INTERSEC Conference in Dubai

NFPA produces and publishes over 300 codes and standards used around the world related to fire and electrical safety. I work primarily with issues dealing with building construction and people protection from fire. I work with the volunteers whose expertise contributes to the development of these codes and standards and I work to communicate the technical issues and safety messages of the codes that I work directly with. Education, information, engineering, safety, fire…..it’s all part of my job. And I love it.

Waiting for the elevators inside the St. Louis arch

Waiting for the elevators inside the St. Louis arch

A big part of my job is travel. I travel to the code meetings, to conferences, seminars, workshops, and to industry events to talk fire safety. While most of my travels are within the US, I have had the opportunity to travel to a few international destinations, which I am so thankful for.

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Via

My favorite trip, by far (no pun intended) was Dubai in the UAE. I fell in love with this city (don’t worry London, it hasn’t replaced you yet.) In January 2013 I had the opportunity to travel to Dubai for a global fire safety conference. There I gave several presentations on fire safety issues, met with government officials on code adoption issues, and learned so much about fire safety in the Middle East. Above all, I made sure to make time to see such a beautiful and unique country. I actually arranged my travels to allow myself an extra day on the trip to do some sightseeing on my own.

Standing with a falcon at the INTERSEC conference in Dubai

Standing with a falcon at the INTERSEC conference in Dubai

Dubai is home to so many of the world’s biggest and tallest and grandest things. While there I got to see the following record breaking places:

  • The Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building
  • The Dubai Mall and the Mall of the Emirates – the biggest malls in the world
  • Ski Dubai – the world’s biggest (and only?) indoor ski resort
  • JW Marriott Marquis Dubai – this is the hotel I stayed in, and it is currently the world’s tallest single use hotel property
  • Burj Al Arab – the world’s only 7 star hotel (I did NOT stay here)
  • The Palm islands – the World’s biggest man-made islands.
  • And more!
In front of the base of the Burj Khalifa (World's Tallest Building)

In front of the base of the Burj Khalifa (World’s Tallest Building)

My travels for NFPA have taken me to 3 different countries (England, The Netherlands, and The United Arab Emirates), and over 30 different cities throughout the United States. Whether it’s an hour from home, or half way across the world, I have learned that each place has something special to offer its visitors; whether it’s the tallest building in the world or world famous food (I never forget to experience the food.) I would have experienced these things without the opportunity to travel.

I always bring my camera to the big cities

I always bring my camera to the big cities

Fun in Amsterdam

Fun in Amsterdam

I have learned a lot from traveling. In conclusion, I will leave you with some advice and travel recommendations:

  • Always make time to explore your destination. When traveling for work it’s often tricky to make time for sightseeing. Do it. You never know when you will have the opportunity to go back. I always make an effort to find a local restaurant, or site that a city is known for. You won’t ever regret it.
  • Don’t be afraid to travel alone (just be responsible.) I traveled more miles in Dubai and Amsterdam, most on foot, in the time I had alone then I ever imagined I would have. It was amazing.
  • Pick the window seat. From the window seat of the airplane I have seen better views of the grand canyon, Hoover Dam, Chicago, New York City, cascade mountains, lights of the middle east city skylines, and the pacific coastline then I could have ever had on the ground.
  • Eat local food. I LOVE food. Some of my favorite memories of traveling are the times I’ve spent at restaurants with colleagues, new and old, enjoying the local food. I’ve eaten the best tacos in San Diego, the best BBQ in Austin…or was it Memphis. I’ve eaten at food trucks, fancy steakhouses, and local dives, and love them all. Food brings people together.
The BEST Food Truck in Austin, TX

The BEST Food Truck in Austin, TX

  • Be thankful. I had a 7+ hour flight delay out of Dubai, had to spend the night in the airport, got booked on a completely new flight itinerary, and then missed a connection in London to get back home to Boston. It was stressful. But I would do it all again in a heartbeat just to travel and see a new city. I am thankful for the opportunities that I have had to travel where I have, even if it is just small town USA. There is much more to this country than I ever imagined. I am thankful for an education that has gotten me to a job where I have this opportunity and thankful for a job that trusts me to travel to and From places like Dubai and get back in one piece.
instagramming in St. Louis

Creative instagramming in St. Louis

Alliance of Young Engineers at the Society of Fire Protection Engineers Conference

Alliance of Young Engineers at the Society of Fire Protection Engineers Conference

There are days when I wake up and dread packing my suitcase, or curse at the flight delays or sitting in a taxi in traffic as I wait to get to a hotel. But, as I continue traveling and seeing new places, meeting new people, and seeing the world, I will take these little bumps in the road anytime.

Ridiculous World Traveler (Kristen – Drilling Engineer)

Continuing with the introduction of some of my engineering friends, I am pleased to introduce Kristen. You are going to LOVE her travel photos – she has been all over the world and is always up for trying something new. I met her while living here in Korea – it was always so nice to have another girl around the yard and she was nice enough to teach me a little something about drilling which was great.  She’s had some pretty unique work assignments in Russia working on drilling rigs and certainly takes advantage of the opportunities she’s had to be in different parts of the world. Prepare to be amazed…

First off, introduce yourself: 

My name is Kristen Eason. I was born and raised in Louisiana and I graduated from Louisiana State University in Chemical Engineering. Immediately upon graduation, I started my career as a drilling engineer. I began a rotating assignment (3 weeks on, 3 weeks off) to Far East Russia working on a drilling rig. This was quite the change for someone who had never lived north of Interstate 10 before. I decided to take advantage of my earned days off, and I could travel anywhere I wanted in the world. I visited every continent besides Africa and Antarctica within 1 year of graduating college. I was also given free Russian lessons since I was assigned in Russia, and after a few months I could read and write Russian and hold my own in a basic conversation.

Kristen in Russia

Taken on a drilling rig in Sakhalin Island, Russia. This was in December 2011, so it was nearly -30 degrees outside.

After rotating for nearly a year, I was offered a live-in assignment in South Korea. I gladly accepted, picked up and moved my life to Asia. I had never even been to South Korea so I had no idea what to expect. I quickly learned that Koreans have an incredible culture and are some of the nicest, honest people you’ll ever meet. Living in Korea is safer than living in most US cities. It’s is centrally located to many fantastic countries, so I constantly took weekend trips abroad – Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, China – anywhere there was a direct flight from my city. I also was given Korean lessons, and learned to read and write Korean (although speaking is much tougher). Much less expected, I met the man of my dreams and got engaged after spending a year in Korea together where we were both on foreign assignments.

My fiancé and I in the fabrication yard where we worked in Korea

My fiancé and I in the fabrication yard where we worked in Korea

After spending 1 year in Korea, I was offered a live-in assignment in Far East Russia. I accepted and moved up to the tundra. It’s not quite Siberia, although that’s what my mother tells all her friends. I currently still live in Russia working as a drilling engineer. It’s that time of year where I can build a snowman whenever I want and go skiing on the slopes 5 minutes from my office after work in the evening. It will soon be my first white Christmas!

Soaking up the first snow of the year….on October 1.

Soaking up the first snow of the year….on October 1.

Why did you become an engineer?

I love trying to figure out how things work. It can be anything – cars, trains, planes, and rig equipment! I enjoy problem solving and I am good at math, so engineering was the right fit for me. It’s also, in my opinion, one of the best degrees you can earn after 4 years that doesn’t require additional schooling. After I heard that I could finish school forever in just 4 years, I said sign me up!

What countries have you visited while studying or working as an engineer?

Oh boy, well I’ll go in chronological order since that’s easiest to remember. I went on a 6-week backpacking trip across Europe after graduating. I visited Iceland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, France, Spain, Italy, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Germany, and Greece. Staying in hostels with people from all different cultures and backgrounds was amazing. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but it’s something I’d recommend anyone to try once. Traveling on a budget is what allowed me to do most of the adventures that I took while backpacking. After that I began my rotating job where I visited Thailand, Japan, Australia, Italy (again), Austria and Costa Rica within 9 months of one another. Once I moved to South Korea, I visited China, Hong Kong, Thailand and Japan (new cities) and obviously South Korea. I now live in Russia in a rather isolated location so I don’t get out much, but I’m always planning my next vacation abroad!

This was my hostel in Venice. Very typical of hostels across Europe – 4 bunk beds, zero privacy and a bathroom shared with 25 other people. You’d be surprised how well you can train yourself to sleep with this many people around.

This was my hostel in Venice. Very typical of hostels across Europe – 4 bunk beds, zero privacy and a bathroom shared with 25 other people. You’d be surprised how well you can train yourself to sleep with this many people around.

In addition to that, I made a personal wish to visit every Disneyland around the world. So far I have hit Disneyland in Florida, California, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. Only Paris is remaining (Florida is definitely the best and biggest one)!

My fiancé and I at the entrance to Disneyland Hong Kong

My fiancé and I at the entrance to Disneyland Hong Kong

How were you able to make the most of your time in places that you were sent for work?

I’m a big believer in learning the local language. If you are spending at least a day or 2 in another country I think you should learn to say hello and most importantly, thank you. Following this rule I’ve learned these words in about 10 languages, which is pretty neat. I take advantage of my work locations by learning as much as I can about the local language. You learn a language fastest when you are living in it. In most countries, they are much nicer to you if you attempt to speak the language rather than if you automatically address them in English and expect them to understand. After all, you are the visitor in their country.

Being located in Korea it was easy to hop countries on the weekends. My fiancé and I were in a different country nearly every weekend. If it was a direct flight, we took it! My travels have allowed me to meet people in so many countries. I do my best to get to know someone in each country, and now I have friends to guide me when I come back or to give travel suggestions for their country. It’s always better when you have a local opinion. They tend to know places that aren’t necessarily tourist attractions. I encourage anyone and everyone to travel as much as possible. Seeing and understanding different cultures gives you a completely new perspective of the world. Never miss an opportunity to go somewhere, no matter where it might be. Every city I have visited has taught me something new and interesting. Hopefully my story inspires people to go out and do great things! Engineering has been the ticket to see the world, not just for me but for so many others I know.

Bungee jumping in Thailand with my fiance. It was right at this moment that I was regretting my decision, but it was still a blast.

Bungee jumping in Thailand with my fiance. It was right at this moment that I was
regretting my decision, but it was still a blast.

What is the most interesting story you’ve had while traveling?

I managed to get myself and a friend past 5 security checkpoints to stand in front of the Sydney Opera House on New Years Eve 2011 after it had been closed off for almost 12 hours. For anyone who isn’t familiar with Australia, being in Sydney is equivalent to being in New York City for New Years, and being in front of the Opera House is like standing front and center in Times Square and watching the ball drop as the clock strikes midnight. It’s a big deal and I wanted in – we were told it was really hard to get in unless you camped out the night before or got there early in the morning. There were 5 checkpoints to get to the front of the Opera House – I got us through all of them and have the picture to prove it. When the fireworks went off of Sydney Harbor Bridge at midnight, we had the most envied seat in all of Australia. We had done the impossible, and in a timeframe of only 30 minutes on Sydney’s busiest, most “secure” night of the year. It was my greatest New Years experience to date. And suffice to say, our friends from Sydney did not believe we made it until we showed them pictures!

Standing in Sydney Harbor on New Years Eve. Sydney Harbor Bridge is behind me, and the Opera House is to my left.

Standing in Sydney Harbor on New Years Eve. Sydney Harbor Bridge is behind me, and the Opera House is to my left.

Climbing Sydney Harbor Bridge on New Years Day 2012

Climbing Sydney Harbor Bridge on New Years Day 2012

What is something that you’ve done that you never thought you would?

When I began traveling, I decided that I wouldn’t turn down foods because they were weird, and I definitely wanted to try the specialty of each country I went to. This led me to eating cured (rotten) shark in Iceland, bugs (not sure what kind) in Thailand, and a whole raw fish (bones and all) in Japan. While I won’t try those again, it also led me to some great things. I now have unrealistic expectations for sushi around the world because I’ve eaten such amazing sushi in Japan too many times. I started eating fried eggs on my burgers (Australia) and mayonnaise on my French fries (the Netherlands). A Belgian waffle will never be as good as it was in Brussels. I had no idea what goulash was until I walked into a pub in Prague and asked for the house special. Experiencing the foods of the world has been incredible, and this is coming from the girl that grew up refusing to eat nothing but bread and butter. One thing I can say is that although it seems dirty, street food in any city typically surpasses anything you can buy in a restaurant. People who have been operating those little carts for years make the food and they know what’s good!

Belgian waffles in the streets of Brussels

Belgian waffles in the streets of Brussels

Other crazy adventures include playing with tigers in Thailand, whitewater rafting in Costa Rica, hang gliding in Switzerland, skydiving in Slovenia and diving on the Great Barrier Reef. When in Iceland, I got to go ice diving in between the Nordic tectonic plates; you could see where the massive rocks had split apart beneath the water!

My fiancé and I playing with a Bengal tiger in Thailand

My fiancé and I playing with a Bengal tiger in Thailand

Whitewater rafting in Costa Rica

Whitewater rafting in Costa Rica

One of the stupidest things I’ve done was going extreme canyoning in Switzerland; it’s basically risking your life for a period of 3 hours while jumping off of 40ft cliffs and trying to avoid boulders in the water below.

Canyoning in Switzerland

I consider myself extremely lucky to have had these experiences. I couldn’t have done them had I not been given the job opportunity I have that locates me in different areas of the world. If there’s one thing I learned, is ALWAYS buy the pictures/video/whatever they are trying to sell you after an adventure. You will be glad you did later.

Paragliding over the Austrian Alps

Paragliding over the Austrian Alps

Thanks for reading! Gracias, grazie, merci, mgoi, xie xie, komsamida, harigato, spaseba, danke, dikeh, ka poon ka, hvala :)

Found Nemo on the Great Barrier Reef!

Halong Bay Cruise: Day 1

3 days and 2 nights in Halong Bay – let the amazing cruise begin! As soon as we got on the boat, they gave us cocktails and served up a beautiful lunch! The food was to die for every day which made me so happy – we love Vietnamese food!

Cruise Food & Drinks

We were in heaven – the scenery around us was just breathtaking!

Halong Bay

In the afternoon, they anchored the boat and took us out sea kayaking to a private beach which was a blast! We felt like we were living in a dream – it was awesome!

Sea Kayaking in Halong Bay

That night, we had a cooking class and they taught us how to make spring rolls! They also gave us some Vietnamese liquor that they had left in a coconut for 1 – 2 months. It was incredible!

Spring Roll Cooking Class

At the very end of the night, we tried our hand at squid fishing. I don’t think any squid were interested in what we were offering so we gave it our best try but unfortunately did not snag any.

Squid Fishing

We were anchored in a quiet little area for the night…this was a neat sight to have from our balcony as our first day ended.

Halong Bay at Night

Hello Vietnam!

Our entrance into the country of Vietnam was a little rocky – and by a little rocky, I mean, I thought we were going to fall out of the sky during our landing…literally, just fall right out of the sky. But – we made it safely to land only to discover we landed during a typhoon and we were the last flight to land that day, so I went from wanting to punch the pilot to wanting to high five him for ensuring that our adventure in Vietnam could commence without delay! Our first stop was our hotel and wow is all I can say. Part of the reason we had chosen the cruise company that we did was because we got a complimentary one night stay in the Hotel Metropole Hanoi – it was probably the nicest hotel in Hanoi and many famous people had stayed here – any President of any country coming to Vietnam, as well as Brangelina. In fact, a French politician was staying there at the same time we were – his fancy car was outside with the French/Vietnamese flags on it. The building was gorgeous and I am so glad that we got the chance to stay there – we felt like major high rollers.

Metropole Hotel in Hanoi

After our near death landing, we were famished so we grabbed a bite to eat at the hotel bamboo bar. This turned out to be a great decision – they had a pretty cool menu with several things named after Charlie Chaplain – apparently he used to frequent this spot (how cool is that?!). We also had a sundae named after him which was beyond delicious. And in the middle, we had some fantastic pho. We could already tell we were going to be in food heaven for the next 5 days.

Cocktails in Hanoi

Enjoying cocktails in Hanoi with the Fangmans

One of the coolest aspects to the hotel is that it was still active during the Vietnam War and had built a bomb shelter to house their guests in if it was ever required. They recently uncovered this and offer a tour of it to their guests so we signed up and headed there. The most interesting part about this was that they referred to the Vietnam War (as we were taught all through school) as the American War. I’m sad to say that I had never thought about what other parts of the world referred to this conflict as.  They told us stories of the bombings and it was really interesting to hear about this from a completely different perspective. It’s a reminder of just how ugly war is, but she said they try not to talk about it anymore so that they can move on and have a better life now. I respect their optimism for the future and was impressed with how well she could talk about the history.

Erin in Bomb Shelter

This was such a cool experience….I’m so glad that we were able to do it. What a way to start our five days in Vietnam, too!

Bomb Shelter in Hanoi

Final Tastes of the Philippines

One of the best parts about SE Asia is the amazing selection of fruits. The Philippines had some amazingly fresh and delicious fruit and we made sure to have some every day! Bananas, Apple Mango, Water Melon, Purple Mangosteens…

Fruit in Philippines

But of all the fruits, my favorite is mangoes. I absolutely love them and can’t get enough of them. They are really expensive in Korea so we don’t get them very often but they were cheap and in abundance in the Philippines so I was extremely happy. They incorporated them into a few interesting dishes and I simply had to try it. Both of the dishes we tried with mango unexpectedly placed turned out to be pretty darn good.

Dish 1: Mango & Sausage Pizza (those orangey slices are mangos – decorating the pizza and adding a unique flavor)

Mango Pizza

Dish 2: Mango Splits (they used mango in place of bananas)

Mango Split

Here we are enjoying our last dinner together in the Philippines…

Group at Last Dinner

Before we left, there was one more fruit that we had to try – Durian, aka the “King of Fruits”. I’ve only heard of Durian being available in SE Asia and it has quite the reputation for being extremely pungent yet delicious. In fact, we had heard that it had been described as if “like eating sweet raspberry blancmange in the lavatory” – after that description, how could you not buy one immediately?! There are other descriptions just as interesting if you read the wikipedia page on it. We also saw signs with a picture of a durian with a big X on it in our hotel in Thailand and we’ve heard there are similar signs in the Singapore subways. We had seen it in the markets and decided to be adventurous so the boys headed out to the market and came back with a Durian and some machetes. Yes, I said machetes – how else would you chop up the king of fruits?!

Durian

It all went down in the gazebo near our hotel and Ben cut into it.  That pungent smell we had heard about immediately filled the area which made us rethink our idea to take a bite; however, we had come too far to turn back now, so we all took a bite. One bite was enough, though – it was mushy and had an extremely unique taste – I really wish I could come up with more but its indescribable…it really is – you’ll understand if/when you try it.

Ben Trying Durian

None of us enjoyed our little taste so we saw some Filipino kids hanging around and asked if they had heard of Durian. Their eyes lit up and we brought it over to them and they ran off to eat it. At least our fruit purchase didn’t go to waste and instead went to those who will enjoy it. All in all, it was a great end to a wonderful vacation. This trip to the Philippines will go down in history as one of our favorite memories – enjoying the local life, riding in tricycles, learning to scuba dive, driving around the island, eating an entire feast of fresh shrimp, relaxing at the beach, and swimming with the whale sharks. It was all incredible…truly incredible. I can’t wait for our next big adventure together!

Shrimp Feast

After our encounters with the whale sharks, our driver took us to our friends’ shrimp farm. He told us he was going to make a delicious lunch – you could tell he was really excited about this (and so were we!). The shrimp farm was on the other side of the island and the drive there was extremely beautiful. We pulled in and we walked out to the ponds with the shrimp.
Shrimp Farm
We saw the guys catching shrimp for our lunch and Ryan immediately joined in and successfully caught some.
Ryan catching shrimp
They had brought down some fresh coconuts from one of the nearby trees for us and they cut them open and told us to relax on the porch while they made us lunch with the shrimp they just caught.
Philippines Coconuts
Seriously?! Relaxing and enjoying delicious fresh coconut water while a meal of fresh shrimp is prepared for us? Cheers to that! This is the best day ever.Ben and Ryan with Coconuts
The meal was more like a feast – they had several different kinds of shrimp – fried shrimp, baked shrimp, and shrimp salad. They also had some freshly caught fish that they cooked up for us. We quickly dug in and started devouring everything. It was all delicious. We were in heaven.
Shrimp Feast
It felt like we were in an episode of No Reservations on the Travel Channel with Anthony Bourdain. Our hosts were so kind and hospitable – we had such a wonderful time getting to meet them and share such an amazing meal. We are so thankful that our friend set this up for us because it was definitely something we didn’t expect and turned out to be one of our favorite memories from our trip.
Shrimp Feast Group Pic

London Calling!

London is one of my favorite places in the world…it’s another place that both Ryan and I have been separately but never together. As we were on our way back to Korea from Scotland, we stopped in London for a couple days. My favorite way to enjoy the city is to walk around and see all of the hot spots of the city. It was incredibly cold and even snowing at times, but we were able to hit a lot of the highlights. We saw the Tower of London and London Bridge…

Tower of London

 Big Ben and Westminster Abbey…

Big Ben

Buckingham Palace, and…

Buckingham Palace

Platform 9 3/4. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan and so I was really excited to stop by here. Ryan’s not much a Harry Potter fan, but he was nice enough to let me stand in line and took my picture.Travel note: Platform 9 3/4 can be found at King’s Cross station and the spot with the trolley/luggage going into the wall is outside of the ticketing area which was quite touristy but I still thought it was a very fun stop.

Harry Potter

During our time, we were able to enjoy a few English pubs – we absolutely love the beer, the food, and the atmosphere of these places so we were always up for popping in to one when we got a little too cold. While walking around, we found yet another wonderful English pub where we had some great beer and the best fish and chips we had our whole trip (I’m telling you, we really had an obsession with this meal…we couldn’t get enough of it!). It is a welcome change to the way they serve fish in Korea so we were loving every bite!

Best Fish & Chips

Afterwards, we swung by Trafalgar Square to grab some great pictures and then…

Trafalgar Square

found the MI6 headquarters as seen in James Bond… 

Ryan at MI6

and finally, took a walk along the Thames river.

Thames River

Lastly, we went on a Jack the Ripper Tour which was surprisingly fantastic. I didn’t know much of anything about Jack the Ripper, but the tour guide was really enthusiastic and did a great job of telling the history and taking us to all the spots where the murders took place. It was fascinating and in a pretty neat area of London that we wouldn’t normally see. They even took us through the street that J.K. Rowling used as her inspiration for Diagon Alley.

Jack the Ripper Tour

Jack the Ripper Tour in Whitechapel

Afterwards, we grabbed a pint in the same bar where the first victim had her last drink and was killed…certainly a bit morbid, but it was interesting to be in a place where something so infamous took place so long ago. If you’re heading to London, I highly recommend the tour.

Jack the Ripper Tour

Goodbye for now, UK, I am certain we will meet again in the future (hopefully just a bit warmer next time).

Mind the Gap

Scottish Highlands

One of my favorite memories from when I was younger in Scotland was going to Loch Ness with my family – in fact, my sister was absolutely convinced that she saw the Loch Ness monsters’ tail and I 100% believe her. Ryan had been to Scotland previously but had not gone into the Scottish Highlands so we decided to road trip up to that area of the country and explore it together. Because I had such fond memories of Loch Ness, we booked a hotel up there and programmed the GPS to get us there. In the morning before we left, we looked at the maps and picked a route through some of the areas that our Scottish friends/family had recommended to us. Ryan has some Scottish roots, so we asked Ryan’s mom to tell us which towns he had relatives from. Right before we left, we got an email from her telling us she knew about a relative who was a ship captain in Old Kilpatrick, so we made sure our route ran through there to check it out. As we were going past on the highway, we saw the sign for Old Kilpatrick and we also saw a church there so we got off the highway to look around. Ryan’s mom gave us a few names and so we split up and looked through the cemetery for gravestones with their names. Ryan came to get me while I was looking around and said he found the name. We were so excited! It was such a neat experience to be at the church in the town where some of Ryan’s relatives had been.

Ryan St Kilpatrick

We continued on the road and Ryan was really getting the hang of driving on the left side of the road so it was smooth sailing. The first stop was Loch Lomond which was really beautiful. We pulled over to take some photos – I told Ryan I wanted to take a picture of us on the “bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond” and being the wonderful husband that he is, he posed for a picture with me.

Loch Lohmond

On the drive up, we stopped in a few little places to check out the area.

Road Trip Stop

We continued our trek into Glen Coe which is one of my mom’s favorite spots in the world and now ours, too. If you’ve seen the newest James Bond movie, Skyfall,  part of it was filmed in Glen Coe so you may find the pictures a bit familiar.  The drive was just beautiful and  we loved every minute of it.

Drive Up Collage

After such a scenic drive, we neared our castle hotel which was on Loch Oich in a quiet area. If I were in the castle building time and looking for a spot to call home, this is definitely where I would choose because it was beautiful and peaceful. 

Glengarry Castle Hotel

Our hotel was still a little ways away from Loch Ness, but it was still light out so we hopped back in the car and headed that direction. The entrance to Urquhart castle had just closed, but we hiked up and got some pictures before continuing on for dinner.

Urquart Castle

It was Easter so we wanted to have a nice meal and I had made reservations at the Loch Ness Inn after reading some great reviews. I’m really glad we went there because the food was great – I was able to have Scottish lamb on Easter which seemed very fitting. We also drank some local beer and had sticky toffee pudding for dessert which I always love.

Easter Dinner

On the way home, we swung by Urquhart castle again because it was lit up. It really is a cool castle and the view of Loch Ness is nice. No monster sightings because apparently Nessie takes the week of Easter off; that’s our story and we’re sticking to it!

Urquhart Castle at Night

The next day, we set off for Eilean Donan castle. The drive there was breathtaking and we stopped to take a few pictures along the way. One of the cool sites was a ship going through the man-made canal between the lochs.

Drive to Eilean Donan Castle

Once we got there, the castle was spectacular out in the water with the little bridge to it. It really had the quintessential Scottish castle look to it and the Isle of Skye is right behind it so the views are just wonderful. We got to go into the castle and walk around which we really enjoyed…it was cold but the blue sky made it even more impressive.

Eilean Donan Castle

Erin & Ryan Eilean Donan Black Border

On the way out, a bag piper was playing so I was able to cross yet another Scottish experience off my list for this trip.

Erin & Bagpiper

The road back was just as beautiful and enjoyable as the drive up had been. In fact, we thought the road back looked more like some of the spots in the James Bond movie…really cool. Glen Coe on the way homeWe truly had a wonderful time in the Scottish Highlands and look forward to going back and spending more time there.

Sheep & Mountain

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