Friday, June 21, 2013

Wanderlust Tag

I saw this randomly one day on Youtube from Catrific and thought it would be perfect for this blog.  The first time I traveled abroad was when I went to Japan in 2009.  It was also my first time traveling alone and living by myself.  The year I spent in Japan was truly an eye opening experience, and this is where my passion for travel first began.

1. Your most treasured passport stamp?

My first thought when I saw this question was the stamp we got at Kilometer 82 at the start of the Inca Trail.  It's one you can only get if you do the Inca Trail so it's a very special one to me.  On the other hand, there is also the one I got when I went to Japan for the first time studying abroad.  So it would be a tie between either of those. 

2. Can you recite your passport # from memory if asked?
Nope!  I don't think I know anyone who can...

3. Preferred method of travel; planes, trains or automobiles?
My first choice would be planes, then trains, then automobiles.  Flying is just more convenient and much faster than the other two.  I also like traveling by trains too.  When I traveled in Japan and Europe, I used the train a lot.  It was pretty affordable and a good way to take in some scenery and meet new people.  I hate traveling by car or bus!  When we were in Peru this was our main method of transportation, but we didn't really have a choice.  I get motion sickness very easily so I always dread long bus and car rides.

4. Top 3 travel items?
Packing cubes!  These are a life saver for backpacking and it helps keep everything organized.  Also a camera and a notebook (for tracking your budget).

5. Hostel or hotel?
Hands down, hostels!  I honestly can't remember the last time I stayed at a hotel.  Hostels are just so much cheaper and a good way to meet new people.  You just have to chose a good one. and are good sites to book hostels on.

6. Are you a repeat visitor or do you explore new places?
I definitely like to explore new places.  The only place I've visited twice is Japan and I would definitely want to go back.  But I like the excitement of going somewhere new and different.

7. Do you read up on your destination (culture,history,safety) or do you wing it?
I do a lot of research before traveling, but I don't plan out an itinerary or anything.  I just try to educate myself about the place before we go, but we plan our days once we get there.

8. Favorite travel website?
Tripadvisor -their forums are especially helpful. 
Also some good travel blogs: A Little AdriftExplore for a YearOne Giant StepNomadic MattSo Many Places

9. Where would you recommend a friend to visit? Name city & why.
Hiroshima, Japan!  It's not a big city so it's a little more laid back than Tokyo, but the city is full of history and the food is amazing!

10, You're leaving tomorrow, money is no option, where are you going?
I would love to go to South Africa, Egypt/Jordan, New Zealand or Australia.  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Adventures in Peru: Inca Trail Day 1

Group picture!
We woke up at 3:30 in the morning to leave for our four-day trek to Machu Picchu.  I had been waiting for this day for over 6 months.  After reading countless blogs and daily visits to the TripAdvisor forums, I was so happy to be that much closer.  We had packed most of our things the night before after the Llama Path briefing.  We had gotten our duffel bags that we were to pack for the porters to carry.  One note about packing: I packed a lot lighter than I thought I would.  My day pack was very small and I only packed 2kg out of the 4 kilograms we were allowed for the porters bag.  We were thankful our hostel had a scale we could use, since the weight restrictions were so strict.  I might just do a completely separate blog about what I packed and what I found useful.
We were supposed to meet the bus at the square near the Llama Path office at 4:30am.  After storing our packs at the hostel, we met the others in our group at around 4:20am.  We had a large group with 12 total including ourselves.  We were actually supposed to have a total of 14, but one couple was sick so they couldn't make it.  They met up with us on day 4 at Machu Picchu.  Our lead guide was Marco and assistant guide was Ronnie, and they were both amazing throughout the entire trip!
We were expecting the bus to be waiting for us (at least that's what they had told us the night before), but no one was there.  We were supposed to depart Cuzco at 4:40am, but we actually ended up leaving around 5:00 because our bus was late. 
The bus ride was long.  We first had a two hour bus ride to Ollantaytambo, where we were stopping for breakfast.  Then another hour to Kilometer 82, where the trail started.   Thankfully I slept almost the entire bus ride to Ollantaytambo, so I didn't get sick.  The breakfast was a buffet, so I loaded up on food because I didn't know how long it would be until we had lunch.  We had a chance to use the bathroom (the last sight of a normal toilet until we got to Machu Picchu) and buy some coca leaves for day 2.
Porters packing at Kilometer 82
After the hour bus ride to Kilometer 82, we had to wait a while for the porters to pack up out stuff.  We applied some sunscreen and bug spray, and got a chance to get to know the others in our group. After the porters were packed, we headed to the passport checkpoint, and took a group picture under the Camino Inca sign. There was a long wait at the check point.  We waited about 20 minutes for the porters to weigh their bags before we could actually make it through.
Passport check point
Off we go!  Start of day 1

Inca Trail day 1

Inca Trail day 1
After reading so many blogs, I expected the first day of the hike to be the easiest.  But it was actually the toughest, not just physically but emotionally too.  The hike started off relatively flat with a few up and down portions.  The pace at the start of the hike was pretty quick and we fell behind pretty quickly.  I thought we were well adjusted to the altitude after spending three days in Cuzco, but I was completely wrong.  Hiking in high altitude was definitely not easy.  Our guide Marco stressed that we needed to move at our own pace, and take it slow.  We had pretty good weather on day 1.  It was overcast and it was drizzling on-and-off, which was nice.  We actually had decent weather throughout the trip.  I was very thankful it didn't rain too much.
Inca Ruins
We stopped at several spots on the trail for Marco to explain about different plants or ruins we passed.  We were definitely the slowest in our group the first day.  By the time we made it to the lunch spot, I would guess we were at least half an hour behind everyone else.  We were the last ones to arrive at around 2:00.  Lunch was amazing and it was our first taste of what food on the trail would be like.  We had pumpkin soup, fried fish, stuffed avocados, and broccoli pizza among other things.  By the time lunch was over, we still had another 1 1/2 hours of hiking until we reached the camp site.  We quickly realized at our slow pace that what Marco said would be 1 1/2 hours, was more like 2 1/2 hours for us. We left the lunch spot at about 3:00 and quickly fell behind our group again.  At this point I was really worried if we were going to make it to the camp site before dark.  Luckily even though we were behind everyone else, the assistant guide Ronnie was with us the whole time.  We made it to camp just as it was getting dark and it had started to rain.  We were greeted by a big applause from all the porters since we were the last ones to arrive.  We were completely exhausted as we climbed into our tents and unpacked our duffel bags.  The sleeping bags we rented were surprisingly comfortable and warm.  We had happy hour in the dining tent which consisted of tea/coffee, Milo, biscuits and popcorn.
Dinner on Day 1
We had dinner shortly after and were given our wake up time of 5AM.  I was very anxious for day two since I knew we were very slow.  I was just hoping for a good, long rest.  My legs were extremely sore after the first day.  I actually woke up in the middle of the night because of the pain.  I took an advil and somehow made it back to sleep.  I was really nervous, but day two had come whether we were ready or not!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Peru Trip 2013!

Lima, Peru

Huaca Pucllana


Start of the Inca Trail- Kilometer 82

Machu Picchu

Zip Lining in the Sacred Valley

Colca Canyon
We got back from our trip from Peru about a week ago.  It was such an amazing trip, and I really hope to go back someday.  The highlight of the trip was definitely the Inca Trail.  It was probably one of the hardest things I've ever done, but it was so rewarding and such a good experience.  I will definitely do more blog posts on the whole trip, but it's nice to be back home!
As for the wedding, I'll do a separate blog post on that.  We haven't gotten the pictures from the photographer yet, but I will definitely do an update then.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Wedding Planning: Invitations, Favors etc

So much to do and only 4 days left!  Can't believe the big day has come so fast! 
We knew since we started planning the wedding that we wanted to do boarding pass invitations.  I was actually planning to get them done on Etsy, thinking it would be much cheaper.  But we decided just to do a consultation with Something Blue Hawaii, just to get a price quote  They specialize in custom invitations, and I had heard a lot of good things on Yelp and through The Wedding Cafe workshops.  We worked with Carol who was really friendly and very helpful.  We had a custom logo that we wanted to include on the invitations which was easy for her to incorporate.  They were surprisingly very affordable so we ended up purchasing our invitations through them instead of Etsy.  She gave us an initial quote, averaging about $4.50 an invitation (including printed return addresses on the envelope.)  After paying a deposit (50%), we communicated through email, tweaking the design, placement and colors on the invitation.  After everything was finalized they were printed and ready to pick up.  I didn't realize until after we had picked up the printed invites that there had been a mistake on them.  It had actually been wrong on the invitation the whole time, and neither of us had noticed the mistake.  I contacted her right away and she was very understanding and apologetic.  She even reprinted the corrected invitations free of charge.
We also did our favor boxes though them as well.  We did plain mini suitcases which were 60 cents each.  We got custom stickers from Zazzle which were surprisingly affordable.  We paid $23 for 100 stickers plush shipping which was pretty quick too.  I was very impressed with the quality and would definitely order from them again.  We stuffed the favor boxes with Haribo Saft gummy bears.  We discovered this on our trip to Europe 2 years ago and fell in love with them, so we wanted to share them with our guests.  I bought them in bulk on Amazon, about 12 pounds worth which was more than enough for 100 favors (we still have one unopened bag left.)  We measured about 1.5oz or 1/4 cup per bag.  But I think we could've filled them a little more considering we had a whole bag left. 
I finally picked up my dress from Bijou Bridal on Sunday.  It didn't need much alterations, just a hem and a bustle.  We also had her do a sweetheart neckline which turned out great.  I would highly recommend this place!  Everyone here was so nice, and I love my dress!
I also had my hair and makeup trial done on Sunday.  I decided to have my hair up in a messy bun, and a neutral smokey eye for the makeup.  Both turned out amazing so I'm really excited for Saturday.  The only downside is we have to get it done really early in the morning, but the ceremony is in the morning so I hope it will hold up throughout the day
We bought our centerpieces as well.  We decided on potted herbs for the centerpieces because we wanted something practical.  We went to Lowes yesterday and bought a bunch of different herbs, as well as some ceramic pots to put them in.  We just have to transfer the plants to the pots and decorate them.
Speaking of decorations, we finally finished stringing all of our paper cranes.  It's tradition in Hawaii for the bride to fold 1000 cranes for her wedding.  It took us about a month to fold them and 2 full days to hang them.  We are not quite sure how we are going to put them up at the venue yet, but we are planning to donate them to the Peace Park in Hiroshima, which gives us another excuse to return to Japan. 
For the music, we are just using a playlist on her ipod.  We are still undecided which songs to use for the ceremony.  I had originally decided on River Flows in You by Yiruma, but we are also thinking of To Zanarkand from FFX or Tifas Theme from FFVII.  Still undecided, but we only have 4 days left to figure out all the last minute details.  Can't believe it's come so fast and we leave for Peru in just over a week from today! 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Warrior Dash 2013: My Experience

Pre Warrior Dash Hawaii 2013
Warrior Dash came to Hawaii again in 2013!  We signed up really early this year, which was good because the registration filled up so fast!  They even opened up a second day, but I don't think all of those slots got filled.  We ran on the first day, second wave at 9:30, same time as last year. 
The parking situation this year was a lot better this year.  It was much more organized this year, and the drive to the parking lot was closer.  We were supposed to start the race at 9:30, but we didn't actually start until 9:45.  There were 2 separate lines for each wave that were released every 15 minutes.  We got really confused at the start because we thought they would let everyone go at once, but we had to wait about half an hour before we got to start.  They said last year the course was too crowded releasing everyone at once, which is why they changed it this year.  The obstacles were less crowded and everyone was a little more spread out so that was good.  I felt the actual obstacles were harder than last years course.  There were a lot more vertical obstacles where you had to lift yourself up.  I finished in about 50 minutes this year, beating my time from last year (mostly because I tried to run the whole thing rather than walk).
Much to my disappointment,  the rinse-off area wasn't at the lake this year.  It was on the grounds in the mud, and it was just a bunch of hoses hooked up.  Last year was much more efficient, but with just a few hoses for everyone the line was so long and it took forever!  There was also no changing tent, and no turkey legs at the food both this year either!  And no $5 off merchandise coupon on your bib either.  I didn't buy anything this year since it was all pretty much the same.  I was actually pretty disappointed after the race and I felt there was a lot lacking in terms of organization.  The shirts we got this year were pretty nice, but I'm not sure about the quality.  Btw they gave the shirts at the finish line, not at check-in this year.  I read on their facebook page that it doesn't hold up well after being washed. 
Warrior Dash this year was a lot of fun, but I wish they had the same things as last year.  I felt like they were missing a lot (seriously, how can you have no turkey legs?).  We even got some fruit and granola last year, but nothing this year.  I think I would definitely do it again next year though.  I am thinking about doing the Spartan Race which will be at Kualoa Ranch in August.  They are only allowing pre-registration now, and I'm not sure how much it will be, but it sounds fun.  Who's going??

Friday, December 28, 2012

Wedding Planning Update: Flowers, Cake, Invitations

So I just thought I'd do a small update on my wedding planning so far. We have made some progress lately.  Already have a cake and flower vendor, and someone to do our invitations.
And even better news, my dress came in!  I went to try it on a few days ago and it fits SO nicely!  I was actually really surprised that it fit so well.  I don't think I will need to have much done for the alterations.  After wearing it for a second time and having it fit so well, I fell in love with it even more!  I wish I had a good picture to show, but the one my sister took from her phone was really blurry.  The dress actually has a corset inside, which I didn't notice the first time I tried it on because it was so big.  The woman there said it was good for me because I'm so petite.  I will probably go back to do an actual fitting sometime in March. 
We chose A Cake Life to do our cake.  We found them through The Wedding Cafe's Wednesday Night Workshop.  Kristen had contacted us through email after attending the workshop, and we scheduled a cake tasting with her.  The cake tasting cost $25 which we paid through paypal, and we got to try 6 different flavors.  She brought a selection of their most popular cakes, and we discussed our design and how the whole ordering process works.  All of the cakes were delicious and very moist!  We ordered 72 cupcakes (3 different flavors) and 1 round cake for the top of the display. Kristen has been really patient with us and it's very easy to communicate with her.  I'm really looking forward to seeing how our travel-themed cake will look.
For our flowers, we actually contacted someone we knew from high school.  Candi's Flowers is a business Alanas friend owns.  She has done flowers for many friends weddings and her prices are very reasonable.  I'm not a huge fan of flowers so I know I didn't want to spend that much.  We just ordered flower bouquets for us and the bridesmaids, a flower piece we could put on the arch (which she is also providing) and boutonnieres for the fathers.  We really didn't know where to start with the flowers so she was really helpful!  We've also paid the deposit with her, and I can't wait to see how they turn out!
Our wedding venue, Queen Emma Summer Palace requires us to have valet parking with 50 or more guests.  We also found Prestige Valet  though the Wedding Cafe.  I got a quick reply through email with a quote for the event.  I also attempted to contact Elite Parking who said they would email me back as they were working on the rates for 2013.  I still haven't heard from them, so we just went with Prestige Valet.  I thought it was a little weird that we didn't have to sign a contract.  We just paid a deposit to secure the date.  They also had great communication from the start and were really easy to work with.
I'm excited to see how everything will turn out!  It's actually turning out to be much more stressful than I thought it would be, but I'm glad to be making some progress.  5 more months to go!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dreaming of...Peru?

So this idea all started about a month and a half ago.  I was on my lunch break at work and saw a blog post linked on Facebook about hiking the Inca Trail.  I really wish I could find the blog, because it was really well written, but I can't seem to be able to find the link again.  Anyway, we had been debating for quite a while as to where we should go for our "honeymoon", and we were pretty set on going back to Europe.  However, after reading this blog, I was inspired to do something different.  I've always wanted to see Machu Picchu, and since we've already been to Europe I thought going to Peru would be a nice change of pace.
We had been looking at airfare for the last month or so trying to set a date to go.  I was debating for a long time whether I should use my miles or just pay full price for the round-trip ticket.  Luckily the ticket prices have slowly been dropping the past month, and the price just dropped $250 yesterday so we took a big leap of faith, and bought our tickets!  We leave May 9, 2013 for 18 days in Peru!  I'm excited, but scared at the same time.  If anyone has been to Peru or hiked the Inca Trail before, please let me know if you have any advice!
We still have to book our flight from Lima to Cuzco, as well as out 4 day trek to Machu Picchu.  We are probably going to go with Peru Treks after hearing a lot of good recommendations from different blogs, and on Tripadvisor.  I will update on how the booking process goes, as well as how we will be training for the hike. 
As far as the actual wedding planning goes, we have secured a flower, invitation and cake vendor and well as the valet parking that is required at our venue.  My wedding dress should also be coming in sometime in December, so I'm really excited for that!  It's really nice to see things finally coming together.  I can't believe we only have 6 more months!