Posts tagged: sunset

Australia: Sydney

By , February 3, 2011 4:29 pm
View From The Royal Botanical Garden

View From The Royal Botanical Garden

We couldn’t get any luckier with our timing into Sydney. Our awesome buddy, Zhi, who we know from San Francisco, just moved into a pretty phat place. Every day, it was just a short walk to Darling Harbour. [Zhi, if you are reading this, did we tell you how awesome you are.] While it is known to be a touristy area, it feels wonderful to walk through there. The city did a really great job designing the area with lots of interesting fountains, wide walkways, restaurants, bars, shopping mall, tourist attractions, and the overall modern architecture of the buildings. I liked coming here to enjoy my daily cup of Joe.

Great Place To Enjoy A Cup Of Morning Coffee

Great Place To Enjoy A Cup Of Morning Coffee

Kids Playing In The Fountain

Kids Playing In The Fountain

Amex Building Reflection

Amex Building Reflection

While we didn’t plan this either, U2 was in town. We just couldn’t say no to that so with last minute tickets, we were jamming to Jay-Z and singing with U2 LIVE! It was a really great show and nice to be in an open stadium with fresh air.

As we roamed the city, everything about it was beautiful. The botanical garden puts all other gardens to shame. We saw so many interesting plants and flowers, but what topped our visit were the hundreds of huge fruit bats in the trees. They made so much noise and with so many above our heads, it was kind of scary.

Fruit Bats

Fruit Bats

Ibis

Ibis

Heart Shaped Flowers

Heart Shaped Flowers

I have seen many pictures of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but being there was definitely better. The city is very well laid out and everything, including the bridge, Opera House, parks, were all where they are supposed to be; it all just made sense. As we were walking through the park, there was a wedding taking place, people exercising, and others enjoying the views. After work one day, our buddy took us out for drinks at the Opera Bar and it was packed with professionals all dressed to impress. It was a great place for happy hour and to watch the sunset.

View From Opera Bar

View From Opera Bar

Happy Hour

Happy Hour

Sunset

Sunset

In the east part of the city called Surry Hills, we went out for drinks and had delicious Thai food. The Winery is a neat wine bar with funky decor, but what I liked most was that we were able to hear each other talk. This doesn’t happen at many of the other bars. While there is so much to love about Sydney, the only thing I did not enjoy so much was the young party scene.

The Night Scene @ The Winery

The Night Scene @ The Winery

Overall, the restaurants in Sydney were yummy. Since I love my Asian food, we explored Chinatown a few times. I like it when I can have my classic Chinese dishes just the way they are supposed to be prepared. Just don’t have high expectations of the service at any of the restaurants in the city. As people in the food industry are well paid in Australia, tip is not expected and I felt service was somewhat degraded compared to what I’m used to. However, if you are under 30 and need a job or just a change, Australia gives one-year working visas and their minimum wage is $15 an hour. I’m not making this up.

Food For One @ Hurricane's Grill & Bar

Food For One @ Hurricane's Grill & Bar

Chinese Congee With Pork & Thousand Year Old Egg

Chinese Congee With Pork & Thousand Year Old Egg

Also a short walk from Zhi’s house is the Pyrmont Fish Market. To my surprise, I was expecting something bigger for Sydney. It was simple but filled with lots of great seafood. We went there for breakfast and had oysters and fish. This was also where I discovered these cute white flowers called Bouvardia. Brides, I think these would look great in a bouquet.

Sydney Fish Market

Sydney Fish Market

Bouvardia Flowers

Bouvardia Flowers

One of Boris’ old buddies from France, Alexis, has also been living in Sydney for a few years now. We joined him for a French gathering over a game of Pétanque, which is much like Bocce Ball. Afterwards, the boys played catch-up at a bar while stuffing their faces with some good old saucisson and Pastis.

Boris Playing Pétanque

Boris Playing Pétanque

Alexis Plays To Win

Alexis Plays To Win

Just as popular as the Sydney Opera House is Bondi Beach. It’s located 30 minutes by public transportation, right out of the city. What a great deal for city and beach lovers; you don’t have to choose. As we strolled along the strip of beaches, each beach had a different vibe but they were all beautiful. When you didn’t like one beach, just walk over to the other one. What I most adored was how there were public infinity pools at most of beaches. Did I mention they were free?

Walk Along Bondi Beach

Walk Along Bondi Beach

Cliff Views

Cliff Views

Lorikeet Parrots Along Our Walk

Lorikeet Parrots Along Our Walk

One thing I took notice of and definitely Boris was the amount of clothing, or should I say lack of, the females had on. We are talking about working professionals showing a whole lot of skin at the office. By the end of the week, there was very little of it left. So boys in the Silicon Valley, why live where the ratio is 1 female for every 15 males when in Sydney, it is the opposite! I mention this with no disrespect of course.

When there was no more to expect from such a wonderful place, the city was hosting their annual Christmas in the Park, also free. The place was full to capacity when we arrived. There were lots of children and families enjoying the live music, Christmas Carols, and dancing. Then Josh Groban came on stage and made me melt with that talented voice of his.

Carols In The Domain

Carols In The Domain

The Crew

The Crew

Josh Groban Doing His Thing

Josh Groban Doing His Thing

Thanks Zhi for a wonderful time in Sydney. We still are having withdrawals.

Thanks Alexis for meeting up with us. It was great to see you again.

Inside Victoria Gallery

Inside Victoria Gallery

Xmas Tree With Swarovski Crystals

Xmas Tree With Swarovski Crystals

Mini Sydney

Mini Sydney

Flower @ Botanical Garden

Flower @ Botanical Garden

Soft Velvet Flowers

Soft Velvet Flowers

What We Paid: AUD USD Euro
– Skybus from airport to city [45 mins] 16/pp 16 11.60
– Groceries 25/pp per meal 25 18
– Average Lunch 15/pp 15 11
– Average Dinner 20/pp 20 14.50
– Cheap Seats For U2 Concert 45/pp 45 33

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

Peru: Lake Titicaca From Puno

By , December 28, 2010 7:40 am
Welcome To The Floating Islands of Uros

Welcome To The Floating Islands of Uros

The city of Puno doesn’t look like much at first glance.  My immediate reaction was to get out of there since it was dirty and filled with mostly fast food eateries, but it grew on us the longer we stayed.  The city was buzzing with lots of teenagers practicing dance routines and working on costumes for an upcoming parade.  When we came to see the parade, we were offered front seats and free beer.  Overall, we found the locals we encountered in Puno to be very nice and chatty with us.

The City of Puno

The City of Puno

Anyone Want Peanuts Or A Baby?

Anyone Want Peanuts Or A Baby?

Yearly Parade Held By University Students

Yearly Parade Held By University Students

Early morning, we went down to the docks where the boats leave for Lake Titicaca.  We were approached by many so-called “captains” offering us their best deal.  Since we had asked a few locals before what we should be paying, we knew we could do better.  Later we approached a tour guide and negotiated on a price we were willing to pay.  We then jumped on small boat for a 2-day tour.

Our first stop was the floating islands of Uros.  It really felt like we arrived in Disneyland but it was still very cool to see.  All the locals were dressed up in traditional clothing and greeted us upon our arrival.  Underneath us and what was keeping us afloat were layers and layers of totora reeds.  While this used to be the only way of life for the Uros tribe, it serves more as a popular tourist attraction today.

Locals Waiting For Tourists

Locals Waiting For Tourists

View Of Uros

View Of Uros

Neat Seating Area

Neat Seating Area

Tiny Salespeople

Tiny Salespeople

7-Eleven Boat

7-Eleven Boat

Further into Lake Titicaca, we made our final stop for the evening on the island of Amantani. All tourists who want to stay overnight on the island have to participate in the homestay program. The program consists in pairing tourists with a participating family. This allows each family on the island to receive some money.  Esther, a 17-year old girl, came to pick us up and we followed her up the hill, through multiple farmlands, up and down piles of rocks, and finally to her home where she lived with her parents.  Once we unloaded our bags in our bedroom, we made our way downstairs to their kitchen for lunch.  Everyone was there with Julia, the mother, cooking, Esther helping her mother, and Augustin, the father, sitting and talking to us at the table.  It felt very strange to be eating only with Augustin at the table so we asked the other two to join us but they politely declined.  We had potato soup and a potato and cheese dish for lunch.  They live self-sufficient lives where they eat mostly what they grow and raise.  They make seldom visits to Puno for things like flour, rice, and sugar.  While our Spanish was limited, we were able to have basic conversations with them during meal times.

Isla Amantani

Isla Amantani

Our Homestay

Our Homestay

Our Room

Our Room

MuiMui Enjoying The Views

MuiMui Enjoying The Views

Views From Our Homestay

Views From Our Homestay

Our Host Family

Our Host Family

The Kitchen

The Kitchen

Locals Eat Mostly What They Can Grow & Raise

Locals Eat Mostly What They Can Grow & Raise

Our Host Mother, Julia

Our Host Mother, Julia

After lunch, we met up with the rest of our group for a hike to the top of the island.  It was a good uphill walk where, in case you needed something like candy bars or a warm hat, there was always a local standing by for your business.  When we reached the top, we got a great view of the island and a dramatic sunset.

Reminds Me Of My Dog, Jojo

Reminds Me Of My Dog, Jojo

Views From The Top

Views From The Top

Me & Frenchie

Me & Frenchie

Locals Standing By To Sell You Anything

Locals Standing By To Sell You Anything

Sunset

Sunset

Later in the evening after dinner, we met again with our group in a town hall for some dancing.  Our hosts convinced us to dress in their local attire and when we arrived at the hall, it seemed like everyone else was too.   After a few minutes of dancing, I was sweating from all the layers.  It was a very fun night and even though it was arranged just for us, we appreciated the warm welcome.  As we walked home, we were in arms reach of the star lit sky.  I have experienced many wonderful nights before, but this was definitely mesmerizing as there were absolutely no lights on the island or for next thousands of miles except for the millions of stars above us.

Dressed Up To Party

Dressed Up To Party

Boris & Esther

Boris & Esther

MuiMui In Layers

MuiMui In Layers

Dancing Around The Fire

Dancing Around The Fire

After a good night sleep, we had breakfast with our hosts and said our goodbyes.  Our first stop of the day was the island of Taquile, which is known for artisanry. While it was nice to walk around, there was nothing extraordinary about the place.

Isla Taquile

Isla Taquile

Local Girl Hanging On Direction Post

Local Girl Hanging On Direction Post

Back in Puno, we met up with Claire, who we befriended while on our tour.  We were joined by a few others and all headed for dinner.  I was very excited as we were going to try Cuy (guinea pig) for the first time.  It was very delicious; I liked the crispiness and saltiness of the dish.  We tried a few other dishes and as always, Alpaca was a pleaser.

Yummy Cuy Guinea Pig

Yummy Cuy Guinea Pig

MuiMui Eating Cuy ... I like It

MuiMui Eating Cuy ... I like It

Alpaca Dish

Alpaca Dish

After dinner, we went to a bar for what was suppose to be one round, turned into three rounds, of Pisco Sour.  In short, we had a great night and a great time because of the people we met in Puno.  It’s truly the people that make a place.  We are going to miss our host family and hope to come back again.

We Love Pisco Sour!!

We Love Pisco Sour!!

What We Paid: Peruvian
Soles
USD Euro
– Flores Bus From Arequipa To Puno
[5.5 hours]
13/pp 4.65 3.50
– Private Double Room At Vargas Inn:
private bathroom, basic clean rooms [no wifi]
40 14.30 10.80
– Private Double Room At El Inti Hostal:
private bathroom, wifi, great family
[recommend but not the cleanest rooms around]
30 10.70 8.10
– Lunch In Puno 3/pp 1.10 0.80
-Dinner In Puno 5/pp 1.80 1.35
– Dinner Splurge In Puno 25/pp 8.90 6.75
– Glass Of Pisco Sour In Puno 5/p 1.80 1.35
– Lake Titicaca 2-day Tour
[does not include lunch on the last day]
42.50/pp 15.20 11.45

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

Galapagos Cruise: Day 6-7-8: Fernandina, Rabida and The End

By , December 7, 2010 9:30 pm
Sleeping Female Sea Lions

Sleeping Female Sea Lions

Day 6 – Fernandina is the far west island, which few cruise ships venture off to. We knew right away that we would see unique things on this island when we were greeted by the skeletal remains of a large whale.

Skeleton Of A Whale

Skeleton Of A Whale

Then for the first time, we saw marine iguanas swimming. If you remember the movie Alien 4, it looked just like aliens swimming, just a little tinier.

Marine Iguana Swimming

Marine Iguana Swimming

While we were taking pictures of sea lions, we saw a flightless cormorant. It’s not especially beautiful but it gained our respect when we learned there are only 1,000 still alive in the world and that they are all living on this one island. We eventually spotted a few more and counted over 30, which is 3% of the world population.

Flightless Cormorants

Flightless Cormorants

Afterwards, we sailed to Tagus Cove in Isabela Island. The scenery was still rocky but there was an orange hint everywhere. Our snorkel session brought us to a spot where penguins and sea lions were swimming within one meter of us. The sea lion wanted to play and would even touch us sometimes but his size was too impressive for us so we backed far away.

Sea Lion Swimming With Us

Sea Lion Swimming With Us

Sea Turtle Chilling

Sea Turtle Chilling

In the late evening, we crossed the equator line for the 3d time! Then we had a moment of whale watching as everyone onboard the ship came on deck to see the Bryde’s Whales.

Whale Watching

Whale Watching

Bryde's Whale!

Bryde's Whale!

Sunset Before Crossing The Equator

Sunset Before Crossing The Equator

Day 7 – On the 7th day, we landed on a black beach in the backside of Santiago Island. All around us were birds diving into the water looking for fishes. This was also another great spot for observing fur seals. They were very noisy and the younger ones kept fighting each other. After our 2-hour walk, some of us went snorkeling, but I went off to play soccer while MuiMui decided to tan on the beach.

Boris' Feet On The Black Sand Beach Of Santiago

Boris' Feet On The Black Sand Beach Of Santiago

Bird Going For A Dive

Bird Going For A Dive

Young Fur Seals Playing

Young Fur Seals Playing

For our afternoon excursion, we explored Rabida Island with its red beach and popularity among lazy sea lions. After a quick hike up, we found a great spot to take a group picture.

Sea Lions On Rabida Island

Sea Lions On Rabida Island

Group Shot

Group Shot

Both Pretty & Lazy

Both Pretty & Lazy

Day 8 – It was our last day and with a morning flight to catch, we woke up extra early to indulge the last of the Galapagos. We took the small boat out to black turtle cove. There were many mangrove trees so we had to maneuver our way in. Suddenly under us was a school of Eagle Spotted Rays passing through. It was a beautiful morning and the water was shallow enough to get a clear view of them. Minutes later, we realized there were also many white tip reef sharks resting in the water. As we continued further, there were two turtles mating in the water. It was a beautiful moment and I was already pleased with everything we saw, but this was definitely a great way to end the cruise.

Spotted Eagle Ray

Spotted Eagle Ray

Sea Turtles Mating

Sea Turtles Mating

*** There is a lot of hype about the Galapagos and after experiencing it ourselves, this is definitely a must do. It was one the most expensive highlights of our travel so far, but we had an amazing time so it was all worth it.

There are a few cost effective ways to reduce the price:
1. Go off peak season! The weather is still great although the water is cold, but there are usually wetsuits onboard to rent. Whatever the season, the animals are always there.
2. Don’t book overseas. Go to Quito and relax for a few days and book your cruise there.
3. If you have to book overseas or if you are in Quito, book direct and avoid the middleman. While it is hard to book directly with the owner, they usually have an agency in Quito.
4. The Galapagos is very popular especially during peak season but there are hundreds of cruise lines so if you can book last minute, you can save even more.
5. If a cruise is out of the question, fly to the Galapagos and enjoy Santa Cruz Island. There is so much to see there. You can even take a water taxi to a few other islands.

While the prices vary in the type of ship you select, no matter what the size is, bring seasickness pills!

Thanks Again Kelly, Sam, Jennifer, and Christian for your pictures!

Iguana Up Close

Iguana Up Close

Heron

Heron

Fernandina Volcanic Landscape

Fernandina Volcanic Landscape

Who's On My Head

Who's On My Head

Orange Sea Turtle

Orange Sea Turtle

Yellow Flycatcher

Yellow Flycatcher

Alpha Male Doesn't Want Us Near

Alpha Male Doesn't Want Us Near

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

Galapagos Cruise: Day 3-4-5: Santiago, Isabela, and More

By , December 6, 2010 5:00 am
Penguins!

Penguins!

Day 3 – In the morning of the 3rd day, we awoken to find ourselves at a new island called Santiago. It was a dramatic change of scenery as we went from having lots of wildlife and trees on Genovesa Island to nothing much besides lava on Santiago Island. The dried up lava flows captured some interesting shapes like the Darwin toilets.

Lava And Sea On Santiago Island

Lava And Sea On Santiago Island

Landscape On Santiago

Landscape On Santiago

I'm Stuck And I Can't Get Out

I'm Stuck And I Can't Get Out

Lava Noodles

Lava Noodles

Darwin Toilet

Darwin Toilet

For our daily snorkel excursion, we went to Bartalome Island. There were many colorful fishes in the water, but the highlight was when we saw our first Hieroglyphic hawkfish and penguin swimming in the water. We didn’t have wetsuits on this time around and while it was bearable for some time, we soon returned to land.

Hieroglyphic Hawkfish

Hieroglyphic Hawkfish

Penguin In The Water!

Penguin In The Water!

In the evening, we had a romantic group stroll to the top of Bartalome Island. We watched the sunset and soon after, it was just the moonlight and lights from cruise ships in the open water.

Me & Frenchie At Sunset

Me & Frenchie At Sunset

The Moon From Bartolome Island

The Moon From Bartolome Island

Day 4 – By the 4th day, waking up early was getting more difficult, but the motivation of seeing new kinds of animals helped get us out of our bed each time. Today was going to be extra special since we were going to visit the island of Sombrero Chino (Chinese Hat) where the local traffic is mostly fur seals. We found some sunbathing on the rocks and others sleeping inside the bushes. We were advised to give them space, as they can get dangerous. With their large eyes and adorable faces, it was difficult to believe they would attack.

[Difference between seals and sea lions: earless seals (true seals) and eared seals (sea lions)]

Landscape On Chinese Hat

Landscape On Chinese Hat

Baby Fur Seal

Baby Fur Seal

Mama and Baby

Mama and Baby

We Cant Get Can't Enough

We Cant Get Can't Enough

Our afternoon snorkeling excursion brought us to the shallow waters next to Santiago Island. It was a great spot to see the fishes up close. We spotted a huge blowfish and white tip reef sharks just a few feet away!

Me & Frenchie Snorkeling

Me & Frenchie Snorkeling

Shark!

Shark!

Group Of Yellowtail Surgeonfish

Group Of Yellowtail Surgeonfish

In the late afternoon, we relocated to Dragon Hill in the northwest of Santa Cruz Island. It was very hot, but it didn’t stop us from looking for land iguanas. Since it was mating season, most of the iguanas were inland. We only sighted one land iguana during our two hour hike. It was massive and when it heard us, it crawled as fast as it could into the shrubs.

Looking For Land Iguanas

Looking For Land Iguanas

Land Iguana

Land Iguana

Reflections

Reflections

Day 5 – While we already visited Isabela Island during our land tour prior going on our cruise, it still felt like our first time. The day started off with a morning snorkel where large tortoises guaranteed our full attention. It is just an amazing experience time and time again to swim alongside tortoises of this size, as they are so graceful and peaceful in the water. We also spotted a few large rays in this area.

Tortoise Swimming With Us

Tortoise Swimming With Us

Sting Ray

Sting Ray

In the afternoon, we went to the Turtle Breeding Center of Arnaldo Tupiza. There were many turtles of various sizes. We then cruised to Islote Tintoreras to see the white-tip reef sharks in their resting area. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by a Galapagos Hawk.

Baby Turtle And Egg

Baby Turtle And Egg

Galapagos Hawk

Galapagos Hawk

White Tip Reef Shark

White Tip Reef Shark

Galapagos Heron

Galapagos Heron

We LOVE The Galapagos

We LOVE The Galapagos

Our time in Isabela was short so I was happy we had done a trip by land beforehand. We just can’t get enough of these animals.

Special Thanks To Kelly, Sam, Jennifer, and Christian for your pictures!

Final days of our cruise to come …

MuiMui Getting Kissed By A Marine Iguana

MuiMui Getting Kissed By A Marine Iguana

Aww, Another Baby Fur Seal

Aww, Another Baby Fur Seal

Penguin Sunbathing

Penguin Sunbathing

Fat Crab

Fat Crab

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

Colombia: The White City Of Popayán

By , November 4, 2010 5:00 am
Beautiful Sky In Popayan

Beautiful Sky In Popayan

Before we crossed over to Ecuador, we made a stop in the town of Popayán. The white city walls, colonial architecture, and gastronomy draw made Popayán a great last stop in Colombia.

Street View Of Popayán

Street View Of Popayán

We took the long route to the top of El Morro de Tulcan (an Indian pyramid). We didn’t see the stairs so we climbed up and it was not a good idea to do it with sandals. Luckily, we made it to the top and it was a great view of downtown. The spot was also a popular location for young couples that were not shy about public affection.

Sunset From The Top Of El Morro De Tulcan

Sunset From The Top Of El Morro De Tulcan

It got dark very fast and the evening sunset colors exaggerated the white walls. There were lots of students hanging in the streets. While we were standing in Parque de Caldas, admiring the Clock Tower, it started to pour. We quickly headed to a nearby restaurant that looked nice. It was a romantic dinner among candlelight and the food was very tasty. While it would have been nice to celebrate with my family and friends, I still had a great birthday.

Happy Birthday MuiMui!

Happy Birthday MuiMui!

Creamy Trout

Creamy Trout

Thank you Boris!

Santo Domingo Church

Santo Domingo Church

Catedral Basílica Nuestra Señora De La Asunción

Catedral Basílica Nuestra Señora De La Asunción

Me & Frenchie

Me & Frenchie

What We Paid: Colombian
Pesos
1800
USD eRate
2500
Euro eRate
– Bus from Cali To Popayán: 4 hours 8,000 4.44 3.20
– Private Double Room at Los Portales Hotel:
private bathroom, hot water, wifi, friendly staff, clean and nice rooms
40,000 22.22 16
– Breakfast 5,000 2.78 2
– Lunch 6,500 3.61 2.60
– Dinner 20,500 11.39 8.20

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

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