Tuesday, December 31, 2013

PERSONAL | 2013-2014

I was extremely lucky and worked incredibly hard to have been able to travel as much as I did in 2013.

Chicago // San Francisco // Tokyo // Vancouver // Edinburgh // London // Bristol // Paris // Amsterdam // Berlin // Prague // Cesky Krumlov // Vienna // Munich // Venice // Rome // Florence // Cinque Terre // Nice

In 2014, I look forward to expanding my travel horizons, and perhaps including a bit more of Asia and hopefully Europe again. But mostly 2014 will be about pursuing dreams and, with some hard work, reaching goals.

Farewell 2013 and my gap year. Hello 2014!

Cheers everyone.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

TRAVEL | riomaggiore

Confession: I had Italian love affair with the beautiful Cinque Terre.

Given my pick of the five towns (terres), I chose to stay in the first of the five, Riomaggiore. I had picked a 10 bed dorm/apartment but due to it being off season I had the whole place to myself for two full days, except for a traveling artist by the name of Oliver, who rents out the master suite during the summer months, whom I rarely saw but turned out to be an incredibly sweet man.

Since returning to the States, a lot of people have asked me which one of the cities I've visited was my favorite and I always answer "Riomaggiore" without a moments hesitation. That is because it is literally impossible to not fall in love with that place. It is exceptionally charming; from the multicolored buildings to the little fishing boats sitting pretty by the marina. The village itself is tiny; it only takes about 5 minutes to walk from the shoreline to the top of the valley and there are several restaurants, mom and pop delis, and cafés are scattered along the one main street.

A popular tourist activity includes hiking along the coastline from one town to the next. But as I was nearing the end of my European tour, I was painfully exhausted from all the walking and sightseeing I had done for those last 8 or so weeks. Therefore I spent two days in Cinque Terre practicing what the Italians call "l’arte di non fare niente", the art of doing nothing. 

And those two days were some of the best days of my life.

I loved my little kitchen.  I had my first home cooked meal here in weeks. Traveling artist Oliver cooked a delicious meal of salad Niçoise and pasta with tuna, parsley, tomatoes and onions on my first night. The meal was paired with the local Cinque Terre white wine and it ended with a dessert of italian chocolate. It was a humble meal, but so memorable I've replicated it many times since.

Oliver, wherever you are (Thailand, Berlin, Croatia?), thanks for the delicious food!

The beginnings of the hiking trail above Riomaggiore. The view top the top of the hill was absolutely insane! A little Italian grandma taught me a shortcut to get back down into town--the path she took me on required weaving through people's backyards--I must've climbed down at least 20 flights of stairs. What an adventure!

Nothing compares to the sound of a wave crashing onto a pebble beach. I could sit for hours (and I did) listening to it.

As cliché as it sounds, people watching had become a favorite pass time for me on my travels. As a single traveler it was nice to finally have some time dedicated to only myself, to sit quiet with my thoughts and be shut off from social media for a change. I like being alone, for the most part, and especially so in Riomaggiore. One of the best parts of my day was breakfast time, when I got to watch all the locals running all their errands before the tourists from La Spezia arrive in the afternoon--I especially loved it when people shouted greetings from their cafes or delis to the other cafe or deli across the street. It was clear that everyone knew everyone in that town, and for me, getting to sit there, being apart of such insignificant yet endearing events, was an experience in itself.

In the end, Italy proved me wrong. With so many other places in Europe to explore, I thought I wouldn't be interested in returning any time soon, but now every time I about traveling Europe again I dream about stepping off that train once more back into my little slice of Heaven.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

PERSONAL | happy christmas

Season's greetings and happy holidays. It's been years since my mum and sister and I got together to celebrate Christmas--someone was always half a world away. Therefore, keeping with our own tradition of 'laying low', I suspect we'll just be spending the day cooking and sipping on mulled wine and hot chocolate. Perhaps we'll even kick off the day with pancakes, if everyone's up early enough--though I highly doubt it.

That being said, I hope everyone is having a happy Christmas!

Saturday, December 21, 2013


"In Zen Buddhism, an ensō is a circle that is hand-drawn in one or two uninhibited brushstrokes to express a moment when the mind is free to let the body create.

It is characterised by aminimalism born of Japanese aesthetics." 

TRAVEL | winter retreat, new york city

Here are the rest of the photos from last week's short vacation to New York City. I've visited New York twice in the past and both times I never really properly explored the city. Thanks to one of my close friends, who used to live in the Lower East Side, I really got a feel for the hip and trendy side of Manhattan. Since it was my sister's first time in the city, I tried my best to be a decent tour guide, but at the same time we also explored areas (namely West Village + Chelsea) even I wasn't familiar with. So the trip became a sort of mixture of the old and the new.

It snowed on our fifth day in New York. The city was gorgeous blanketed in white-I could hardly recognize it. 

Seeking shelter from the snow at Blue Bottle Coffee. We watched as cabs shuffled their way along the frozen streets and old men de-icing the sidewalks with salt.

Familiar? Anyone who's a fan of F.R.I.E.N.D.S would be able to identify this building as the home of Monica and Rachel. I really enjoyed the West Village-it seems like a wonderful place to live; close to all the cafes and winebars, within walking distance to Soho, Nolita, Chinatown and the East Village, but still relatively quiet, away from all the noise of midtown.

Braved the snow for the best cupcakes in town, { Butter Lane }. The dough is infused with real french vanilla bean so you can imagine how amazing these were. As someone who doesn't eat cake - ever - I really couldn't resist a bite or two from Kelly's batch. Another great thing about Butter Lane the interesting build-your-own cupcake menu; custom cupcake (chocolate, banana, & vanilla) with your choice of icing.

Walked by the most adorable pair of Scottish Terriers in Central Park. This one's friend had a fondness of stuffing his face in the snow.

One thing I can say with the utmost certainty about New York is that that city has THE BEST FOOD. I don't care if you're looking for late night pizza runs or exotic Moroccan fare--New York has it all. In the last week, I have dined as I have never dined before (house-made soba, halal, mussels, dumplings, wurst, lobster rolls--you get the idea). I probably should have been a little bit thriftier with my cash with it being so close to the holidays, but it was impossible to turn away from all the amazing food the city had to offer. I have to admit, this trip has been more culinary focused than any of my other travels, and I really wouldn't have had it any other way. I was after all, taught by the best.

So, for now it seems that it has become somewhat of a tradition for me to visit NYC every two years (first in 2009 and again in 2011). Looking into the future, I'm still not sure where my plans would take me, but maybe I'll make it back to New York to play again someday soon.

And I'd like to say a quiet 'Thanks' to my friend, Jo Chow for showing me a small glimpse into the life of a true New Yorker all those years ago. I miss you a lot, my friend.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

PLACES | gagosian gallery

Jumper - American Apparel // Scarf - Weekday

Had a lot of fun goofing around/taking pictures inside the { Gagosian Gallery } in Chelsea. Their current exhibition features an artist by the name of Richard Serra, whose known for working with large-scale assemblies of sheet metal. I know that there has been some { controversy } in the past with Serra's work--and a little part of me agrees his installations do look rather odd/in the way in outdoor settings (to each their own, I guess), but I think they look magnificent in the minimalist spaces of galleries.

photo_004+_005 by Kelly

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Saturday, December 14, 2013

OUTFIT | navy coat

Coat - COS // Hat - Topshop // Bag - Baggu

This coat has been such a lifesaver from the freezing temperatures of New York (not to mention in London, Paris, Berlin, Cesky, Vienna, and Munich as well). I've been missing it so much since leaving Europe as the weather in Southern California never calls for anything more than a light cardigan. 

On this particular day Kelly and I braved the winds and crossed the Brooklyn Bridge to well..Brooklyn. That called for heavy layering since the winds get piercing cold. I've got about 3 layers packed under that coat so my outfit was rather bulky and uncomfortable. But as long as it keeps the cold out and the heat in, I really can't complain.

photos by { Kelly }

Thursday, December 12, 2013

TRAVEL | the one where j + k tackles the brooklyn bridge

F.RI.E.N.D.S reference, anyone? I can't help it. I don't think there's any stopping the references whenever I'm in NYC. I'm pretty sure Kelly's determined to create her own version of the Friends opening credits sometime during the course of our stay--only time will tell if it falls through.

This afternoon, I spent a couple of hours roaming around Brooklyn with Kelly. I, for one, have never really seen Brooklyn. I've been once, about two years ago, and only to stop for a quick dinner late at night in Williamsburg while half-concious from lack of sleep. As a result, my initial impression of Brooklyn is rather fuzzy. But this visit changed it all, Brooklyn looks amazing in the sunlight and frost--all bathed in yellow and blue. It didn't matter that I was freezing my phalanges off, the view from the bridge was completely worth the possible nerve damage.


For now, it's all about getting a full night's rest before another day of sightseeing and food hunting. Speaking of, my stomachs been getting a major workout since I landed in this wonderful city--I practically dove headfirst in that first bowl of chicken and rice.

I am so ready for Day two.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

TRAVEL | florence photo diary

I arrived in Florence in the early afternoon. The hostel I had originally planned to stay in was all booked on the first night so I had to lug my bags to a smaller hostel a few blocks down. The room small and more intimate that I have been used to in the past, but I had a larger shower space than I've had in weeks-- a definite bonus. The hostel was built in this run down old building in the heart of Florence's historic center--which makes it quite the ideal neighborhood if you're looking to visit David in the Academy Gallery or looking for a quick trip to the { Mercato Centrale di San Lorenzo(San Lorenzo market).

Leather stores galore in Firenze. If I wasn't so tight on money I probably would've walked away with a new bag or something of the sort. I had my eye on this beautiful ipad case made with supple, buttery leather, but I spent that money on pasta instead.

Famous Ponte vecchio, home to silversmiths and artisan jewelers of Firenze. I had to shuffle around amid crowds of people trying to get through to the other side. Surprising, considering it was off season for tourism. Needless to say, I avoided that bridge for the rest of the week.