Tag Archives: travel

Brilliant Budapest

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I know very little about eastern Europe. The only thing I could tell you off the top of my head about Hungary is goulash and dumplings, and I’m honestly not a huge fan!

I visited Budapest for the first time in April of this year. The weather was, for the most part, beautiful, but we got rained out later in our tour of the city so I don’t have too many photos to share. But I’m definitely hoping to visit again when the weather is pleasant.

Our very knowledgeable tour guide was able to educate us on a lot of the history of Budapest, which was originally two different cities that merged into one – you guessed it – Buda and Pest.

Our first visit was to Heroes’ Square, where we were lucky to happen upon the city’s Budapest sign, which had just been erected that morning, and was only up for a few days the week prior.

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Heroes’ Square is in the Pest side of the city, and  features the Seven Cheiftans of the Magyars, and other important national leaders, as well as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.IMG_6769IMG_6774IMG_6772IMG_6773IMG_6775

Afterwards, we stopped by the check out what’s called a “ruin bar”, an abandoned apartment building that was turned into a bar. It seems to be a thing in Budapest – the owners bring in wacky and thrifty finds or get local artists to decorate and create installations. It apparently has some great nightlife but due to our schedule, we didn’t spend much time here.

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This is Szimpla Kert, the original ruin bar that started the trend in 2001. It’s one of the biggest and still one of the most popular ruin bars in Budapest.

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A sign in the toilet

A sign in the toilet

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And just a few steps away was a trendy little spot made up of faux food carts where we grabbed a bite to eat.

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We then crossed the Danube River to the Buda side to visit Castle Hill, and Buda Castle. At this point it began to sprinkle and I brilliantly didn’t dress warm enough, so our time here was fairly short.

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Great view of the city

Great view of the city

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With the weather being uncooperative, we ended our tour at this point and headed back to the hotel. Once the rain stopped, I stepped out to explore the area near the hotel, and was lucky enough to experience the Budapest Food Festival!

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The square was filled with food booths, local artists’ stalls and live music. I was ecstatic to be able to purchase some beautiful locally made jewelry for my friends and family. Any opportunity I get, I love supporting the local economy and especially talented artists.

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And the food?

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YUM!!! Fall off the bone pork, fresh vegetables and potatoes! The last thing I picked up on my way back to the hotel was a traditional Hungarian doll. As an avid doll collector, I search and pick up dolls unique to a country or culture. I think this calls for a doll post soon…

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Budapest was a beautiful sight, and I will definitely being looking forward to my return trip there some day soon!

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Hello, Harry Potter!

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As I mentioned previously in my English/Paris summer vacation, I paid a visit to the incredible Harry Potter Studio Tour near London, and I took a ridiculous amount of photos so I made it into its own post! I am avid Harry Potter fan, but I will admit, I haven’t read the books. (I’m not a huge fan of books! Sorry!) I think I will tackle them one day, but I do love every single movie in the saga. Alan, on the other hand, actually had never seen the movies or read the books (Brit fail!) so I tried to get in as many of the movies as we could in our free time in the UK before we went. While we didn’t get to finish it, Alan found the tour to be quite impressive even for the non-fan.

The tour has only been open for about 2 years, but it is so insanely popular that bookings must be done online only through their website and bookings fill up incredibly fast. As I was trying to get days off to extend my holiday, I kept having to change plans because every time I went to book, the days I had available were already full!

Upon entrance, you are greeted by three amazing Wizard’s Chess pieces!

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The introduction starts with a seat in a small theater, and a short video with Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint addressing fans and then the screen lifts to the entrance of Hogwarts. Every inch of the tour was just as magical as it seemed to be on the screen!

The ceiling is absent because it changes and so is designed with computer graphics.

The ceiling is absent because it changes and so is designed with computer graphics.

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Once you left the dining hall, you were free to roam through the tour yourself. It roughly takes about 3 hours!

Some of my most favorite bits were the costumes!

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It was amazing to see how the sets looked quite small in comparison to on the big screen.

Boy's dormitory in Griffindor

Boy’s dormitory in Griffindor

Griffindor common room

Griffindor common room

There was also an array of random props and artifacts gathered around.

Collection of wands

Collection of wands

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Dumbledore’s office:

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Throughout the tour, there were various supplementary video screens full of information and cool secrets. For example, the various moving portraits found throughout the school include some of the crew and staff!

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And prop crews found it entertaining alone just trying to fill the mysterious jars and vessels you see in Snape’s potion making classroom.

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Chamber of Secrets!

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The Weasley home

The Weasley home

Deatheater costumes!

Death Eater costumes!

Various prints and candy boxes – a graphic designer’s dream:

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Dolores Umbridge's very pink and very kittied office

Dolores Umbridge’s very pink and very kittied office

 

 

Tasting butterbeer and hanging out outside Harry's house!

Tasting butterbeer and hanging out outside Harry’s house!

On display were an amazing array of the various prosthetics and other makeup/masks…

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And of course, Diagon Alley itself!

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This smaller scale model of Hogwarts is used when filming the building from a distance!

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And of course, can’t leave until we find a wand…

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Maybe this one?!

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Lastly, I was a sucker and hopped on a broom, and YES, I bought the photos… there was a video, but I opted for just the photos. 🙂

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Home Sweet Home 2014

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The last time I was home in Phoenix, Arizona, was way back in November of last year. Unfortunately, the trip home takes nearly 20 hours (16 hours alone from Dubai to Los Angeles, and then hop on another plane to Phoenix), so going home for less than a week is senseless. I had family visit me in April, and again Alan’s brother in May, so a lot of my leave time was devoted to that. Since the last time I was in Phoenix, I had only started the wedding planning, so I had a lot to get done on this trip, especially since I wasn’t going to be back until about a week before the wedding in May. I dragged Alan back with me, and we did lots of usual wedding stuff – re-visiting the venue and setting up the layout, meeting the caterer, shopping for DIY supplies (I’m DIYing a lot which is difficult because I’m so far away!), and lots of other things!

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The venue is the Commemorative Air Force Museum, and I won’t show any more pics because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone!! But I will share some of my DIY projects. I had a craft night with my sister and some friends, so I put them to work!

Check out this post for my wedding DIY progress! (coming soon!)

Once all the important stuff was complete, we were sure to add in some fun things too:

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Go karts with the kids!

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Archery 101 class with friends and family! Thanks for a Groupon and Archery HQ Academy in Chandler!

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A night out at (new to me) club in Scottsdale, Bottled Blonde! Even splurged on a table…

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We toured GoDaddy.com’s newest facility in Chandler, where my cousin works. They have shuffleboard, mini golf, ping pong tables, beach cruisers, climbing wall, peddle cars and lots of cool nooks and chat spots for productivity. Pretty sweet! Check out the slide!

On the way out, we stopped off in LA for a few days to visit some friends, and of course, go back to Disneyland! It was all decked out for Halloween, my second favorite holiday (my first being Christmas).

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I refused to wait in line to get a pic with Jack-O-Mickey so we just stole a shot!

It was overall a really great and productive visit home, and as always, I was very upset to leave. Even Alan wanted to stay! To make the departure even better, Alan and I scored a whole row to sleep on the long flight home, as well as free wifi onboard due to the Islamic holiday! A few days off and back to work soon!

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Summer 2014 Part 2: England and Paris

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Continuing from Part 1 of my eventful summer!

Back in Guildford, we spent a peaceful afternoon with a picnic and seeing more green than I have ever seen in one day; Dubai is definitely a concrete jungle, but even my hometown of Phoenix lacks this much green!

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He took me to a place called “Silent Pond”.. while pretty, I’m not sure what its purpose is…

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We paid a visit to the amazingly astonishing Harry Potter Studio Tour, but it is so magnificent, it’s getting it’s own blog post and I will link it here when it’s finished! And here it is!

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And at one point, I forced Alan to find a Chipotle, it’s my new mission to visit one in every country they’re in… (Yes, we did get to Chipotle in Paris but no pics! And I also have been in Frankfurt, too!)

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The weather had been so sunny and warm that we decided to have a barbecue at the end of the week on Friday, as it was near the end of our summer vacation and a good time to gather all of our friends around. As luck would have it, it rained all day, up until the late afternoon when we started to barbecue! Good ol’ English weather. Our friend Shaddy that we know from Dubai was staying in Southampton studying, so we invited him over.

Is he doing it right?

Is he doing it right?

Alan, Shaddy, and Alan's brother Tom

Alan, Shaddy, and Alan’s brother Tom

Alan’s friend, Alex, had asked me to bring graham crackers so that we could make authentic s’mores. FYI, a s’more consists of the said cracker, melted chocolate and slightly charred marshmallows. It’s a staple for American campfires. To be honest, I had never even had a s’more myself! But I happened to be on a US layover, so I picked up a few boxes and yes, I did pack it in my suitcase and take it to England.

I actually had to check Youtube for proper s'more preparing techniques...

I actually had to check Youtube for proper s’more preparing techniques…

Alan tries his very first s'more.

Alan tries his very first s’more.

Oh, did I mention we had more clotted cream, jam and scones?! Seriously, this is the best invention to come out of England. If you haven’t had it, have one PROPERLY! But I know the debate is on… I like my cream first, and THEN the jam.

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On the weekend, the family headed back out to Southampton for Alan’s cousin’s wedding. This one was a change from the Indian wedding, set in a barn with a nice, DIY vintage feel. It was complete with Pimm’s Cup during cocktail hour and a “wedding breakfast”. What is a wedding breakfast? Well, it’s simply the first meal the couple has as a married couple, thus the use of “breakfast” since it’s typically the first meal of the day. You weird Brits!

My second fascinator! My first was worn to the Dubai World Cup

My second fascinator! My first was worn to the Dubai World Cup

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Somewhere in the middle of all this British-ness, Alan and I spent a few days in Paris because.. well, why not?

I was back in Dubai in between Brit visits, so I flew to Paris and Alan flew from London to meet me. We booked our very first AirBnb.com apartment. It was very cheap and in a good location, and the host was very kind, but the apartment was literally just a box with a bed, kitchen and toilet. But it got the job done. We spent most of our time seeing Paris.

I’d been to Paris a few times before, but this was a first for Alan. So we hit up the usual spots, although no one told me how unbelievably HOT Paris summers are, and we became quite exhausted quickly. But we powered through!

First stop was of course the Eiffel Tower. I’d already been twice, but never climbed it. I couldn’t book an elevator ride because it was sold out all summer, but we were “pleasantly” surprised to find that you could climb to the second level via stairs. I wasn’t at all ecstatic at the thought of stairs, but I knew we shouldn’t miss this chance to climb it.

The first floor.. this made my legs feel like jelly!

The first floor.. this made my legs feel like jelly!

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The line below for the elevator. I believe the wait was 3 hours. We completed our tour in less than that.

The line below for the elevator. I believe the wait was 3 hours. We completed our tour in less than that.

Alan’s a personal trainer, so this was just like no big thang to him, but I needed lots of rest and breaks!!! And can you believe we climbed….

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SIX HUNDRED AND SIXTY-NINE STEPS WHAT?! And that’s only to the second floor. And note when I say “second floor” it’s actually about 38 stories above ground!! It marks about halfway up the tower.

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And of course, we had to do our usual pictures…

Our #elfie... no explanation needed

Our #elfie… no explanation needed

Love this photo so much, we are using it as our Save The Date cards!

Love this photo so much, we are using it as our Save The Date cards!

Next, we paddled on over to the Louvre Museum, hitting up only a few exhibits since we were a bit strapped for time. The ancient Egypt exhibit is always my favorite!

Cat mummies!

Cat mummies!

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Later that evening, we ventured down to the world famous Moulin Rouge! Of course I love the movie, but it was just a must-do on our short Paris trip. It’s too difficult to get there while on a layover, so it was the only chance I had. The tickets were a steep 100EUR without drinks, so we snagged them, but somehow were must have been mysteriously upgraded to a table right by the stage and a bottle of bubbly!

Unfortunately,  I couldn’t take any photos of the show (Understandably so, but I snuck one in!) but it was incredible! I loved that every routine had a theme (I think my favorite was the Egyptian/Asian one.. I couldn’t pinpoint it, but it ended with the stage floor opening up to a huge tank of water with three HUMONGOUS snakes and a girl jumping in to join them!). I would have loved to see more of the traditional can-can dance, as it was only their final number, but I highly recommend checking it out. Honestly, I don’t care if people say “Even Parisians don’t go to the Moulin Rouge!” it’s quite a spectacle and if you can afford it, get a bottle of bubbly!

You guessed it... our #meflie

You guessed it… our #meflie

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The next day, we ventured out to Disneyland. If anyone knows me, they know I love Disneyland! But I have only been to the one in Anaheim so far, so this was quite exciting. Although I mostly enjoyed our day at Disney, there were loads of downsides. Firstly, it was extremely hot. It must have been about 90F and in the wait tunnels there was absolutely no AC or fans, and the temperature must have been climbing to 100F in some of them. Secondly, the staff weren’t really into it. I have heard they often have disputes over the working conditions and pay (although didn’t I just read that Air France pilots are on strike? Again? It seems to be a common thing in France…) and don’t really adhere to the “magic” that makes Disney what it is. Thirdly, some of the sister rides were a bit disappointing, like for example, the Indiana Jones ride in Anaheim is probably one of the best rides in that park, but in France, it’s a silly little outdoor coaster. But to make up for it, Space Mountain: Mission 2 in France is by far THE BEST ride of both parks, even outdoing its predecessor.

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Sadly, I lost those clip in Minnie ears on the Indiana Jones ride! 😦 They don’t sell them anymore.. in fact, they were for babies!

And because I have waaaay too many photos, here are the thumbnails, just click on them for the larger size:

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The closing show was absolutely spectacular! They used Sleeping Beauty’s castle as a screen and projected images onto it. Amazing.

On our last day, we paid a dutiful visit to the Ponts des Arts bridge to do what every crazy couple in love does… seal their love for eternity on the Love Lock bridge! I know they’ve been removing locks as of late to preserve the bridge, so I was thoughtful and brought a small lock.. I was shocked to see people STILL putting ridiculous massive locks on the bridge.

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Here’s me throwing the key into the River Seine…

We spotted some awesome street art…

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And last but not least, picked up an appropriate souvenir from Thomas Sabo…

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And that wraps up my pretty epic summer vacay! With the exception of the Harry Potter studio tour, which is coming soon! How was your summer?

Feelin’ Frisky in San Francisco

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I’m no stranger to San Francisco. Having lived all my life in Arizona, I spent a lot of time in neighboring California visiting family, friends and even going for work…

Working for GirlGamer at the Game Developer’s Conference..

And maybe a pageant or two…

Onstage at Miss Asian America at the Palace Theater, sponsored by Miss Asia Arizona

Onstage at Miss Asian America 2007 at the Palace Theater, sponsored by Miss Asia Arizona

So after moving to Dubai, a layover in San Francisco didn’t always spark the tourist in me, I usually went to meet up with friends a do a bit of shopping. But on occasion, when the crew was super friendly and keen to go out, I opted to join them and be a tourist myself. The first time I went out on a tour with the crew was in April 2011, we checked out good ol’ Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, and took a boat tour.

Trolley fun!

Trolley fun!

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Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf

Boudin Sourdough Factory

Boudin Sourdough Factory

And of course had to stop for a beer!

And of course had to stop for a beer at The Wavehouse!

The weather was surprisingly (ok, maybe just to us) windy and chilly and pretty much all of us were not prepared, so a few were forced to buy their very own San Francisco souvenir sweatshirts to survive the boat ride… It was easy to find a tour boat. Many of them are privately owned and docked all along the wharf, with signs posting tours. Ours was just $15 for a nice tour of the bay.

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The Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge

We circled the infamous abandoned high security prison, Alcatraz. I have yet to do a tour on the island itself, but I will someday!

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And here’s a funky piece of art from the airport…

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My next stint as a tourist in San Fran was about a year later, when one of the crew was excited to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. I’m not exactly athletic unless I’m put up to it, but it did sound like a fun and interesting challenge. We picked up our bikes from Blazing Saddles on Pier 41 and started our journey.

They say riding a bike always comes back to you.. unfortunately that wasn't true for my friend, who had a bit of trouble on it!

They say riding a bike always comes back to you.. unfortunately that wasn’t true for my friend, who had a bit of trouble on it!

While we did stop many times on the way and slowed our pace, the bike ride en route to the Golden Gate Bridge was actually quite beautiful and serene. Little pockets of peacefulness hid along the pathway that most tourists don’t see if they are driving and or using public transport to get to the bridge.

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Doggie on the beach!

Doggie on the beach!

After many stops and much hardship (of my friend, not me!) we finally made it to the bridge!

After many stops and much hardship (of my friend, not me!) we finally made it to the bridge!

You can check out this video I took while biking on the bridge itself… just don’t mind the foul language! My friends said I shouldn’t have been filming while I was riding, but if you pay attention, I was in the bicycle lane (not marked but signs posted bikes to the left) and the potential accident was blindly walking into my lane…

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Once we crossed the bridge, we continued onto a small town on the other side called Sausalito. There, I was meeting up with a friend who would join us for lunch, and then we’d take a ferry back to the wharf.

Pretty talented on the bike if I do say so msyelf!

Pretty talented on the bike if I do say so myself!

Entering Sausalito

Entering Sausalito

Then we found my friend Raychul and looked for a yummy spot for lunch. If any of you readers are hardcore gaming fans, you may know Raychul and her famous gaming videos on Youtube.

My dear friend Raychul

My dear friend Raychul

We decided on a charming spot for some fresh seafood!

Yummmm....

Yummmm….

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Exhausted and with full bellies, we made it back to the ferry dock to go back to the wharf. While we waited, we encountered some of Sausalito’s finest locals…

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Zipping Through Zurich

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I really didn’t know much about Switzerland expect that it can get cold and something about Swiss banks and cheese. And chocolate.

Anyhow, Zurich introduced itself as a beautiful city with both old European charm and modern flair. I paid a visit during the summer, so that whole cold thing wasn’t a bother.

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The weather was so accommodating, so when we landed we immediately set out into the city via the train.

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This quaint little city is made up of alleyways filled with boutiques, cafes and other interesting sights to see.

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We decided one of the best ways to experience the city in a short amount of time was a ferry ride on the Limmat River, which runs right through Zurich.

Look! The Alps!

Look! The Alps!

As we waited to board our ferry, we occupied ourselves by watching the collection of foul at the docks, as well as the surrounding artwork.

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While on the ferry, we decided it was probably best to enjoy the tour with a taste of the local brew…

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And the Lindt chocolate factory!

And the Lindt chocolate factory!

Circus in town

Circus in town

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Locals enjoying the extremely lovely weather along the Limmat River

Locals enjoying the extremely lovely weather along the Limmat River

After disembarking, we stopped off at a cafe for a meal and drinks while exploring what bit of the city we saw on our way back to the station.

A singing choir passed and serenaded while we dined

A singing choir passed and serenaded while we dined

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Local arts

Local arts

The next morning, myself and a few others got up early, borrowed bicycles from the hotel and went for a fresh air bike ride in the small woods and farms just behind the hotel.

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At the end of our bike ride, it was about time to fly back to Dubai. Zurich was a lovely little breath of fresh air from our usual daily Dubai lives.

Sensational Sri Lanka

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Sorry for the absence, folks! Been a little bit obsessed about an old video game (well, not old, but from 2009) that I got hooked on.. anyone ever play Dragon Age? 🙂 I need to catch up to the newest one!

photo 1 (1)Anyway, here’s the long-awaited post on our recent vacation to Sri Lanka! Colombo is a layover destination for my airline, but I’d never actually done it. Alan and I wanted to do an affordable beachy holiday, so we decided that Sri Lanka would be the best option. After a few recommendations from friends and colleagues, as well as searching up and down TripAdvisor for the perfect spot to stay, we settled on anphoto 2 (1) area on the southwestern tip of Sri Lanka 4 hours from Colombo called Hikkaduwa. We stayed at a very popular place called Hotel Drifters. I was a bit overwhelmed with the choice of guesthouses and hotels, that I ended up choosing this one based on its popularity. It was a little pricier than many of the others, but it was still cheap in comparison to hotels anywhere else in the world. The hotel itself was a bit drab (but I think this is standard for this area) and at one point we had a mini bug infestation (thanks to Alan’s carelessness pouring us drinks one night) but the staff were very helpful and quite efficient. The manager is knowledgeable and booked a tour for us, and helped us out with any questions we needed. The biggest plus? We got a seaview room with a balcony that we made good use of every morning, afternoon and evening.

sl01Our first full day we decided to knock out a day tour and get to seeing Hikkaduwa. We hired a driver for the day and set out in the morning. Our first stop was the blue lagoon just off the Indian Ocean which thrives with life. We took a boat into the lagoon and made a few stops along the way.sl48I would recommend the hotel even though it might have lacked in many things it should have at its price, the location, convenience, helpful staff and manager all add to its stay-worthiness. We only booked 4 nights in the hotel, so it was quite a short trip. We had wanted to do a safari but it would have taken literally a whole day and we couldn’t fit it in our schedules. We did spend our first night exploring the beach a bit, and had dinner at one of sl02the best restaurants on the beach, Mambo’s, where we discovered our new favorite food, sambol – a concoction of coconut, chilies, fish, onions, etc. that goes amazing with everything. In fact, I think I had it at every single meal, even breakfast… I think I need to figure out how to make this!

The drive starting our journey is like a mini-tour of the remains of the tsunami that devastated most of southern Asia in 2004. Many buildings still stand in ruins; only a very small number of them have been reclaimed and repaired. Our guide tells us he was  inland on a tour when the tsunami hit, but we don’t ask any details beyond that.

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These fences are used to farm shrimp

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The first island we stopped off at was inhabited by a single family who farmed cinnamon. Here, they would give live demonstrations on how they harvest cinnamon as well as make useful items from coconut (rope from the shell) and its leaves (wall and ceilings).

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Our next stop was to Temple Island, where all that is on the island are Buddhist temples and monks. I was surprised to find that the main religion of Sri Lanka was actually Buddhism, since it seems more commonly associated with India, which is mostly Hindu.

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This is Sri Lanka's national animal, the Grand Squirrel. It's about 3 times bigger than a normal squirrel.

This is Sri Lanka’s national animal, the Grand Squirrel. It’s about 3 times bigger than a normal squirrel.

Buddha, grand squirrel, and a very old tree.

Buddha, grand squirrel, and a very old tree.

An ancient book on Buddhism.

An ancient book on Buddhism.

After Alan and I explored the monks’ home (they were cooking when we visited and saw how they used minimal supplies and ingredients for their meals) we were blessed by one of the Buddhist monks and went on our way.

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The lagoon itself is home to many creatures, especially crocodiles, which makes the lagoon largely unswimmable. We saw various other animals such as birds, land and water monitors, and bats.

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... And me! With a handmade (temporary) necklace from one of our guides!

… And me! With a handmade (temporary) necklace from one of our guides!

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sl19Once back on dry land, we hopped back into our vehicle and headed over the one of the many turtle hatcheries in the area. For those of you who don’t know anything about turtles, they come ashore to lay their eggs in the sand, and then leave them to hatch on their own. If you saw some of the deadly looking creatures I posted earlier (I’m looking at YOU, water monitor!) then you can imagine that only a tiny percentage of those eggs actually hatched before they are preyed upon, and even less of those hatchlings actually make it back into the water for safety. Fisherman find these egg nests and bring them to the hatchery, where they are cared and looked after, and when old enough, send the males back into the water, and females are kept for more breeding.

I don't know why I look so happy to be holding dead turtle eggs..

I don’t know why I look so happy to be holding dead turtle eggs..

Several nests waiting to hatch

Several nests waiting to hatch

Once hatched, they are all placed together in feeding ponds…

Oh em gee how cuuuuute!

Oh em gee how cuuuuute!

Many of the turtles that stay at the hatchery (other than the females they keep) are those that suffered injury, illness (to be recovered and sent back into the ocean) or abnormalities.

Nope, this one's normal.

Nope, this one’s normal.

These poor green turtles were caught in a net and lost a few limbs. Their permanent home is now the hatchery.

These poor green turtles were caught in a net and lost a few limbs. Their permanent home is now the hatchery.

The most amazing inhabitant at the hatchery is an extremely rare albino green turtle, appropriately named.. Michael Jackson.

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He was apparently in the spotlight recently when a wealthy man from Mauritius came trying to purchase him for any price, at which the hatchery adamantly refused. But at another hatchery, it caused a scandal when their albino turtle “disappeared”. It was later returned and the people responsible were charged. The Mauritian man has yet to own an albino turtle.

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Our next stop was to one of the local moonstone mines. Moonstones are semi-precious gems that are mostly mined in Sri Lanka and exported worldwide for jewelry making.

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sl29sl30A rare variety of the moonstone is what they call a “blue moonstone”, as you can see a bit in the photo above. Instead of the normal milky glow a moonstone has, these blue moonstones has a blue sheen to them that can be seen when tilted at the right angle under the light. Just a short walk from the mine is the jewelry factory, where the moonstones are cut and polished, and jewelry is hand-crafted in various metals.

Halfway to beautiful jewelry.

Halfway to beautiful jewelry.

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I did my share of helping the local economy and made Alan buy me a nice moonstone ring. 🙂

We headed out to our last stop on the day tour, which was the spice garden. I actually don’t have many photos of it..

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We learned about all the local spices and herbs grown in Sri Lanka, and discovered that the cancer rate in Sri Lanka was very low due to their use of a certain curry leaf in their foods. I bought some natural products (hair remover and coconut oil are just to name a few!) and we set out back to the hotel for the day.

On the way back, we made a stop at one of the largest (maybe the largest?) statue of Buddha that stood just off the coast.

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That evening, we decided to get a taste of Hikkaduwa’s nightlife. Apparently one hotel/guesthouse along the beach is responsible for holding a party on a different night of the week, and our favorite new spot Mambo’s was it for the night! We met a British couple staying in our hotel (our driver had mistaken us for them, a British white guy with an Asian wife! Ha!) and shared a few drinks..

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We might have also ended up in the ocean at one point and something happened to one of Alan’s flip flops…

I might have carried them so he wouldn't "lose" them... oops.

I might have carried them so he wouldn’t “lose” them… oops.

But good thing there was a shop selling some right next to Starbeans Cafe!

sl37While still nursing our beach hangovers, we spent this gloomy day exploring the little town of Hikkaduwa, and looked for a place to get a massage.

sl41We passed this little homemade outdoor art gallery, where I picked up a cute piece of a pink elephant painted by this awesome man, who was hard at work at making another masterpiece. We then ventured out to a beach nearby, where we saw a couple in the water giggling at a moving rock. Well, actually, it wasn’t a moving rock, it was a giant sea turtle!

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These sea turtles frequent the area apparently looking for seaweed and lo and behold, I must have spotted about 4 of them hovering along the shoreline looking for snacks. We actually went back the next day with snorkel gear and swam around them, feeding them seaweed. Such an amazing sight! Sadly, I don’t have an underwater camera so no pictures came from snorkeling day (although this much change!).

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Not quite sun-ray catching day...

Not quite sun-ray catching day…

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The next morning I awoke to find some locals on the beach doing some very interesting things…

This man set up shop to sell beautiful silk blankets, however I left Sri Lanka without one!

This man set up shop to sell beautiful silk blankets, however I left Sri Lanka without one!

Looks like these guys caught dinner!

Looks like these guys caught dinner!

And then beach day ensued…

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Followed by drinks on the balcony at sunset!

Followed by drinks on the balcony at sunset!

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For our last day in Sri Lanka, we opted to visit the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage on our way to the airport. Elephants are one of my favorite animals, and this wasn’t the first time I’d get to interact with one, as I rode one in Thailand and visited an orphanage in Kenya, but it was a first for Alan. I was honestly a bit disappointed in the facility as it seemed to showcase the orphans more for entertainment than for education, like the on in Kenya did, but it was nice to share a first experience like this one for Alan.

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Baby waiting for its meal.

Baby waiting for its meal.

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This one liked Alan.

This one liked Alan.

We headed down to the river, where the elephants receive their baths.

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And we went down and gave them a scrub ourselves!

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I think if I can handle bathing an elephant, a human baby shouldn’t be so bad, right? Alan? Too soon? Okay…

On our way to Colombo, we stopped off at a tea factory to discover how tea is made.

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And that's Alan with a monstrosity of a lemon. Lemonhead!

And that’s Alan with a monstrosity of a lemon. Lemonhead!

Before the airport, we grabbed a bite ( I LOVE LOVE LOE Sri Lankan curry! But sadly they had no sambol!) and boarded our flight home.  The people of Sri Lanka must be some of my favorite; they are kind, happy, easy-going and very welcoming. Our stay was made even more memorable by those locals we met and who shared their knowledge and friendship. Although it was a short stay, we had an unforgettable time and hope to make it back to Sri Lanka’s beautiful southern coast and explore even more of its gorgeous beaches!