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in california, Uncategorized

Visiting Boulder Bay Park at Big BearFeatured

Boulder Bay Park

boulderbaypark

First of all, I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year with all your loved ones. This year went by too fast, and I can’t wait for what 2019 has in store for both you and me! 

This past weekend, I went to Big Bear with some of my friends that I’ve known since high school. Out of the blue, we suddenly had the urge to see the snow and experience “winter,” something Californians never get to experience.

It had been years since I last been to the snow, and I guess I wanted an excuse to wear my Columbia puffer jacket and beanie. After some last minute planning, we set off to Big Bear on Saturday morning.

Since it was the weekend before Christmas, there was some traffic on the way there; however, it was expected.

boulderbaypark

We decided that our first stop would be Boulder Bay Park, a quaint and beautiful park located a few miles before the infamous village.

The drive from the San Fernando valley to Boulder Bay park took approximately 2.5 hours. During the entire drive up the mountain road, we saw no snow!

It wasn’t until we reached Boulder Bay park that we started to see some snow…and my was it beautiful! The weather outside was a stunning 55 degrees, and I wore a long sleeve, thin sweater, jeans, and sneakers (Snow attire, i know).

bigbear

Due to the drought, the lake at Boulder Bay park receded so low that most of the docks were sitting on dirt.

On the plus side, there was a nice dirt path straight to the middle of the bay. Naturally, my friends and I took advantage of the low water level and walked on over to the magnificent boulders.

We struggled at first to find a safe and way up the rocks. After some time, we found a path to the top, and boy was the view amazing.

Boulder Bay Park is a place you must visit if you venture out to Big Bear. With its lush and green grass, picnic tables, and paved walking paths, what’s not to love! The park’s parking lot is small and fills up fast; however, there are lots of free parking on the street right along the park.

I highly recommend that you spend an hour or two to walk around the park and relax before continuing your way to the village.

Hopefully by Spring time, the lake will rise to its proper levels so people can kayak or fish in the lake.

Have you ever been to Boulder Bay Park? What do you like or dislike most about it?

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elephantjunglesanctuary
in Thailand, travel

Budget Friendly 3 Day Itinerary for Chiang Mai

elephantjunglesanctuary

General Tips to Know for Chiang Mai

Currency: 1 US dollar = 33 thai baht

Here are some money tips: 

1) Before leaving for Thailand, make sure to call your bank to let them know that you will be traveling so your card does not get declined when you withdraw money.

2) Bring cash with you to Thailand and then exchange it into Thai baht at an exchange booth.

3) ATMs charge a withdrawal fee of approximately $6.50. Some banks will reimburse you for all fees incurred abroad.

4) Credit cards are rarely used. Cash is preferred.

Dress Code: During the summer, Women can wear shorts, tank tops, and dresses. However, when going to temples, women should make sure to dress appropriately by covering their shoulders and wearing pants that are at least knee length. The same applies to men.

Transportation: The old city, which is surrounded by 4 gates, is where most tourists stay. Transportation is extremely easy as you can choose from a taxi, tuk tuk, or songtaew (thai taxi) to get around. It’s even possible to walk around the old city on foot as long as you wear comfortable shoes.

 

Language: Most of the locals living in Thailand speak thai; however, do not fret because most of them speak some sort of basic english. Additionally, a lot of the signs are in both thai and english.

Food: There are tons of restaurants in Chiang Mai. Most of the restaurants serve thai food, but there are also a few that serve American style food. Night markets are also another good option because there are many booths that offer cheap, fresh, and tasty food.

Accommodation: You will find a lot of boutique hotels in Old City. I stayed at Estia Hotel, located in the middle of Old City, which was close to all the main shops and restaurants, as well as the Sunday night market.

 

estiahotel

Essentials to Bring/Buy: Bugspray, sunscreen, pepto-bismol, and probiotics

Water: Drink bottled water and stay away from tap water. Ice is fine because most of the restaurants get their ice from ice factories, which use purified water.

Special Event: If you happen to visit Chiang Mai on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month, it is a must to experience the Loi Krathong festival. The Loi Krathong festival is an annual event in which krathongs (baskets) are placed in the moat surrounding Chiang Mai to show respect to the Buddha. During the same time the kratongs are placed in the water, lanterns are released into the sky. If the Loi Krathong festival is on your bucket list, make sure to book your hotel room early.

Day 1

After checking into your hotel and depending on what time of the day it is, you may want to rest, get food, or start exploring the city.

If you decide to get lunch, go to Keatocha, which serves delicious Hainanese chicken, fried chicken, and chicken satay. The food is cheap and always packed with a lot of people.

Just a few minutes walk from Keatocha is a small temple called Wat Inthakin Sadue Muang located in the center of the old city. Surrounding the temple are adorable baby buddha statues.

The temple will only take 5-10 minutes of your time. After, walk around old city and check out the souvenir shops and food stands. There is no “correct” path that you should take; just go wherever your heart desires.

During your walk, make sure to stop by an exchange booth to exchange your money into thai bahts. The exchange rate is 1 dollar to approximately 31-33 thai bahts.

If time permits, visit Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phra Singh.

wat inthakin sadue muang

Day 2

chiangmaielephant
elephant

Book a half day morning tour with the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary (They also offer a half day afternoon tour and a full day tour).

I advise that you book the tour on their website ahead of time to ensure the tickets do not sell out. The tour is extremely popular!

On the day of the tour, a jeep will pick you up at your hotel between 630am-7am. It will also stop at other hotels to pick up more people until the jeep has a total of 10 passengers.

Once everyone has been picked up, the ride to the sanctuary, which is approximately 1 hour and a half, will begin. The ride will stop halfway at a market for a 15 minute food and bathroom break. Towards the end of the ride, it gets extremely bumpy because the roads are not paved. 

Once the jeep parks, there will be a short 10 minute walk to one of the elephant camps, which houses 5 elephants.

Enjoy time feeding the elephants lots of bananas, massaging the elephant’s body with mud, and then bathing in the river with them to wash off the mud. Lastly, you will eat a homemade lunch before heading back to the hotel around 1pm.

What to Bring

Before heading out to the elephant tour, I suggest wearing a swimsuit under your clothes, bringing an extra set of clothes, a towel, waterproof case for your phone, and sunscreen.

After the Elephant Tour

After getting back to your hotel, get some rest at the hotel or pamper yourself with a traditional thai massage. Massage parlors are located on almost every street and prices are always more than reasonable.

If you are not tired for the elephant tour, take a tuk tuk to the silver temple. The Wat Sri Suphan temple is located just outside of the Old City and is known for its impressive hand crafted silver decoration.

Due to old buddhist rules, women are not allowed inside of the temple, so they can only walk around.

For dinner, give Dash  a try. Consistently ranked in the top 5 restaurants in Chiang Mai, Dash is beautiful and has a great lively atmosphere. The green curry, fried noodles, and drinks are top notch. The restaurant is extremely popular with tourists so there may be a wait. 

Day 3

Take a 45 minute songtaew ride up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple, one of Thailand’s most venerable temples. Admission into Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is 30 thai baht per person and there is a short walk up some stairs to reach the temple.

The temple itself has a magnificent chedi that is made completely from gold, and includes lots of statues and paintings. Since the temple is located high in the mountains, you will get a great panoramic view of Chiang Mai.

There are also many shops and small restaurants located near the entrance of Doi Suthep temple in case you get hungry or want some souvenirs.

If you are adventurous and up for a challenge, hike to either Sai Yoi waterfall or Mon Tha Than waterfall. The trail takes approximately 2.5 hours so make sure you wear running shoes and clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty.

When you finish seeing all the sights at Doi Suthep National park, there are songtaews lined up at the Doi Suthep entrance. The songtaew will take you back to the Old City gate for only 60 thai baht.

For lunch, head on over to Umakutegoukyura-men Ramen, a small restaurant located in the middle of Old City that offers a wide variety of delicious ramen.

        

ramen

Last but not least, if you happen to be in Chiang Mai on a Sunday, take a stroll at the Sunday night market (aka the most popular night market in Chiang Mai).

The night market runs along the entire length of Ratchadamnoen road and is open from 4pm-midnight.

Why is this night market so popular?

The market consists of hundreds of small booths selling handmade artwork, jewelry, clothing, food, bags, lamps, and more! It is literally a souvenirs galore type of market.

 

Pro tips:

1) The night market gets extremely crowded so keep a close eye on your backpack/purse to not get anything stolen.                                                                                                                                                                                         

2) Bargain with the merchants to try and get a cheaper price.

Chiang Mai is a wonderful city full of history and lots to see.

Although 3 days is not nearly enough time to see everything, it’s more than enough to get an idea and visit the main popular sites. As long as you visit at least 3 of the attractions listed above, you will have a blast.

Where in Chiang Mai are you burning to go?

Let me know in the comments below. Thanks! 🙂

chiangmaielephants
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Featured
in hawaii, oahu, travel, Uncategorized

East Oahu – Fun Things to DoFeatured

east oahu

         Venturing out to the east side of the island is a must do while on Oahu. A trip without a visit to the naturally beautiful and less crowded east coast means you don’t get to truly experience all the wonders of what Oahu has to offer. Unlike Waikiki, the east side of the island does not have multi-million dollar sky rises or lines of designer shops and high end restaurants.  It definitely will have a place in my heart for a long time.

         Instead, the east side of the island is a dream come true for those who enjoy the outdoors and the ocean. The beaches are less packed and stunning in ways that words cannot fully describe. Small and authentic restaurants serve fresh pulled luau pork, sweet tropical fruit juices, and poi. The options are endless!

         Now, lets start with how to get to East Oahu from Waikiki.

 

Getting to East oahu

Taken from the car on the highway to East Oahu

         If you are staying in Waikiki, it is generally a good idea to either take an Uber/Lyft or rent a car for 1-2 days to get to the east side of the island. There are a multitude of car rental stations that you can choose from with discounted pricing and flexible options to meet your needs.

         The drive from Waikiki to the east Oahu takes approximately 45 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on whether or not you decide to make stops along the way. Although the drive is somewhat long in length, the beautiful sights throughout the ride are 100% worth the drive. The two main highways, H3 and 61, are the two choices to get you from Waikiki to east Oahu. The highways are surrounded by magnificent, towering mountain ranges and millions and millions of trees.

         No matter if I looked left, right, straight, or behind, I was greeted by green vegetation everywhere! I really felt as if I was in a jungle…something I never get to experience in Los Angeles.

 

things to do

1. Go on a tour at kualoa ranch

east oahu
View from the jungle jeep tour
jurassic park
Ah, I'm about to Enter Jurassic World. Dinosaurs don't exist, right?

         Have you ever watched Jurassic World or Jurassic Park? If so, then you will definitely want to spend some time at Kualoa Ranch. Why? Because, put simply, Kualoa Ranch is the place where they filmed the movies. It is an undeniably gorgeous working ranch with horses, cows, chickens, cats, and more. Kualoa Ranch offers various tours including: UTV raptor tours, jungle jeep expeditions, zipline tours, ATV tours, horseback riding tours, and movie walkthrough tours. With reasonable pricing ranging from $30 to $100+, these popular tours sell out fast and it is highly recommended to book them at least 2 weeks – 1 month in advance.

         My family and I did the jungle jeep tour and we had such a blast! The jungle jeep tour lasted about 1.5 hours total and was $45.95 for each adult ticket. The tour guide gave us detailed information about the Hawaiian culture, talked about the different films shot at Kualoa ranch, and even gave everyone a freshly plucked strawberry guava to sample. Man, the strawberry guava was sour! BUT also delicious… I guess it was comparable to a sour patch gummy.

         Not only did we absorb interesting cultural information, but we also got fabulous views and pictures of Kualoa ranch, Chinaman’s hat, and of Kualoa beach throughout the tour. There was not a second where I was bored, especially because of the bumpy ride that felt almost like a roller coaster. The jungle jeep tour was worth it, and I would definitely do it again in a heartbeat.

 

2. Visit kualoa park and kayak to chinaman's hat

dolcegal

         Kualoa Regional Park is literally a one minute drive from Kualoa Ranch. I got stunning views of the park, ocean, and Chinaman’s hat while at Kualoa Ranch. Kualoa Regional park is an actual park right next to the beach. There are several benches to sit and eat lunch or BBQ your own food. My family and I went to an authentic Hawaiian cafe beforehand and got to-go orders of Kalua Pig and Poi. It was relaxing eating our lunch at the park with the waves crashing onto the shore and the gentle wind blowing around.

         Chinaman’s Hat, also known as Mokoli’i Island, has been termed that nickname because the island itself resembles the hat of a Chinaman. It is located about ⅓ of a mile offshore of Kualoa point. If you crave adventure, feel free to rent a kayak from Hawaii Beach Time. Hawaii Beach Time offers free delivery to any beach on the island, like Kualoa Regional beach. Choose from kayaks and paddle boards to beach chairs and umbrellas. Although I did not kayak to Chinaman’s hat, I did my research beforehand and I would have used Hawaii Beach Time.

         From various reviews on Yelp and Tripadvisor, kayaking to the island takes approximately 20 minutes. Some reviewers noted that during low tide, it is even possible to wade, or walk, over to the island. Just make sure to check the tide levels beforehand, or it will be a somewhat difficult swim and back. Also, bring water shoes so you don’t cut your feet on anything sharp on the seafloor. Safety first!

 

3. visit the legendary sandbar

sandbar
Me sitting on the seafloor - I will never forget this moment
kaneohe bay
That "dark stuff" is coral

         On my last day of the trip, my parents and I took an Uber to He’eia State park. I previously made a reservation for a 4 hour self guided kayak tour on www.holokaiadventures.com in order to kayak to the legendary Sandbar. Upon our arrival at He’eia state park, we checked in at the front desk, signed a waiver, and took a short trek to the kayak dock. The helpful employee at the kayak dock gave us a waterproof map, life vests, and quick instructions on how to kayak (and how to get ourselves back in the kayak in case we flipped over…AHH).

         The kayak adventure took a terrifying, yet thrilling 45 minutes from shore to the Sandbar. For inexperienced Kayakers like myself and my mom, I sure had lots of confidence. Originally, I thought to myself…how hard can it be to kayak in the ocean? I’ve kayaked several times in lakes, this should be no different. Er, no. Big no.

         The first 5-10 minutes were quite pleasant. We laughed, smiled, and took a bunch of selfies. Everything was great. Then, came the ginormous patches of coral in the water. They were so large that our kayak touched the coral reefs numerous times, even accidentally breaking off small bits of the coral. After maneuvering our way farther into the ocean, the water began to get darker and the waves stronger. We furiously paddled our way through the “rough waters” and throughout that time, my heart was beating so fast because we were literally the only kayak, and humans, in the water. We were totally scared out of our minds and just wanted to get to land as fast as possible.

         30 minutes later, soaked with ocean water and drenched in sweat, we finally made it to the sandbar!

         Oh my god, it was so amazing. Words cannot describe the beauty of this wondrous place. The sandbar, which is the largest saltwater sandbar in the world, is basically a white beach in the middle of the vast ocean. After anchoring our kayak in the sandbar, we hopped off into the water. It was around 9 am and low tide so the water went as high as our ankles. It was an amazing experience being able to stand in the middle of the ocean and get stunning views of the the lush mountain ranges, Mokoli’i island, and Coconut island. There were only a few other boats so it felt as if we had the same sandbar/ocean to ourselves! A group of people eve brought their own beach chairs and umbrellas, relaxing while drinking a beer. What a dream come true. 

         If you decide to venture out to the sandbar, make sure to look at the tide levels beforehand. The Sandbar can only really be experienced when the tide is low, or else the water levels will be too high for you to stand in. Going in the early morning is preferable than in the afternoon because the tide will be much lower. Although kayaking to the sandbar was terrifying, I did not regret it one bit. If you ask me whether I want to go to the Sandbar, I will say YES! But via kayak? Hmm, I may prefer going by boat next time haha. Not only did we get an awesome arm workout from kayaking, but we had plenty of time to soak in the views of the sandbar and take lots of memorable photos and videos.

 

Victorious Shot after Kayaking in the Ocean. Yay me!

These were the only places I personally visited in East Oahu. Each and every place was stunning in its own way and I highly recommend visiting all three places if time permits.

Other places to visit in east oahu

4) Lanikai Beach: A beautiful and popular beach spot destination. Great for snorkeling!

5) Lanikai Pillbox Hike: Depending on how far you go, this hike offers spectacular views of the ocean, especially during sunrise and sunset. It can get crowded at times…so the earlier, the better!

6) Waimanalo Bay: Another beautiful beach area that is typically less crowded.

7) Makapu’u Point: Also along the coast and it even has an awesome tide pool. Great for the kids!

kaneohe bay

       East Oahu should be experienced at least once in your life. A good 2-3 days should suffice to see everything; however, if time allows, spend as much time there and just relax…I mean, that is what a vacation is for. Right?

        I hope this post was helpful and gives you a better idea of what fun things you can do on your next trip to East Oahu. As always, I would love to hear you feedback. Feel free to leave a comment below or email me. 

         If you haven’t already, check out my first blog on the Best Things Do In Honolulu – A Travel Guide  

Thank you so much for reading!!!

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