Thursday, December 31, 2015

PERSONAL | 2016


I've been thinking a lot about my resolutions for 2016 lately. A fresh start is always very exciting and I also love a good challenge. These are some long-term goals that I've already been working on but will extend into the New Year.
  • Read more books. Which leads me to....
  • Be more present/go offline; I've noticed lately I can't seem to focus on one task very long; my short attention span has become evidently shorter in the past few years. I blame the convenience of the digital age, how everything we'd ever want or need right at our fingertips instantaneously. It scares me that I can hardly read a chapter of a book without feeling the urge to check my phone for notifications. I'm going to try really hard this year to get rid of that bad habit. 
  • Work on honing my skills as a Graphic Designer--I mean, TRUELY work at it. This past year was all fun and games when I was dipping my toes in and testing the waters, but come 2016 (NOW!!!) I'm going to crack down and practice, study, and research my butt off of anything relating to Graphic Design
  • Travel to Korea, Japan, and/or Vietnam
  • Learn German (stick with Duolingo exercises every day, read children's books in German, practice conversing with people etc)
2015 has proven to be one of the best years of my life. I had accomplished so many of the things I had set out to do. I began the year struggling really hard in Graphic Design class. I had a lot of self doubt and questioned whether or not this was the right path for me, but as the year went on I eventually realised that it really was my calling and that I love it despite not being so good at it...yet. 

I also met some truly remarkable people this year--both in Hong Kong and abroad. Many of whom I can see becoming lifelong friends. I've also had the chance to reconnect with some older friends, and to watch them grow as people has been a real joy.

Last but not least, in 2015 I had made it to Europe and back again in one piece. It was a huge learning process, and not only about figuring out how to get from country to country, but all the saving and preparations that had to be sorted prior to the trip has also taught me a lot of about patience, management, and focus. Now that I'm back from Europe I find myself more inspired and driven than ever. I have never been so excited to go back to school, never been more determined to learn a new language, or I suppose, to learn in general. 

I'm not sure if 2016 could ever top this year because it has been a pretty damn good year. But fingers crossed eh?

Cheers xx

Sunday, December 27, 2015

TRAVEL | amager strandpark






There's something a bit prehistoric about Amager Strandpark. Maybe it was the weather, or the dark waters, or the wildness of the terrain. I've never seen a beach quite like this one. The ones that I'm used to usually falls more towards the tropical side of the beach spectrum so this was a breath of fresh air.

I would've loved to visit this beach more than once but by October, the weather was already freezing. And I remember the wind blowing so hard I had difficulty breathing. But despite that I spent over an hour wandering around, taking photos, and watching people kitesurfing. Maybe one day I'll get to see it in the summer.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

TRAVEL | berlin

Dream city right here.

Berlin was always a city I promised myself I had to return to. Last time I had completely underestimated how much there is to see and left Berlin wishing I could extend my stay. But I was on a tighter schedule then and I wasn't about to make the same mistake again!

Back in October I spent two glorious weeks in Berlin with my family. Some people were surprised when I told them how long I had spent there, but I never once felt bored. Even when I decided that some days were going to be "nothing" days--it was so comforting to just take a stroll around my neighbourhood.


Since I was still with family, booking an Airbnb in Berlin was the only viable option. My Mum is a notorious worry wart and a clean freak (aren't all moms like that? ;) ) so it was important that I find something in a nice neighbourhood, close to public transportation/food/grocery stores, and spacious (because being cramped up with family in a small space for an extended period of time is no bueno, ya feel?)

{ Lena's apartment } fit the bill perfectly! It was situated in one of the trendiest of neighborhoods: Prenzlauer Berg. Normally upon arriving at a new city my first instinct is to rush out of my hostel and explore as much of the city as I can on foot before the sun sets. But Prenzlauer Berg was so strikingly gorgeous I couldn't help but push every thing else aside. And as a bonus she has impeccable taste in vintage furniture--it was like getting to live in my dream apartment and in my dream city, no less! 



I didn't have access to a scale for the whole four months of my travels but I'm pretty sure I gained weight in Berlin. I think of all the cities I had visited, Berlin was the best city for dining. Yes, even better than London! Berlin was full of culinary delights. In fact, the food scene reminded me a lot of Los Angeles in many ways, like its abundance of street food and international fare (just swap Mexican for Turkish), but instead of having to sit through hours of traffic to get from one neighbourhood to the other, you just need to hop on the metro, tram, or a bike to get basically anywhere between 15-30 minutes (this depends on how hungry you are haha). 

The best meal of the day has got to be breakfast or Frühstück. Basically you can order a platter of yummy things including but not limited to: salami or other cold cuts, fruit, cheese, jams, and a hard boiled egg. All served with a side of hearty, German grain bread. As you can clearly see, there are no photos from breakfast. There just wasn't enough time!!!

Pictured above is { Burgermeister }


I became a sort of coffee addict during my time in abroad. Not that I couldn't go a day without caffeine, no.. I didn't want to go a day without visiting a coffee shop. I would drink an average of two cups a day because I love the coffeeshop culture of Europe. They all have such a perfect atmosphere that you just want to sit around and chill all day. I find that the customers are also very respectful of that atmosphere; every body is either chatting quietly or just sipping their drinks in silence, enjoying the moment with their friends or loved ones.

{ Bonanza Coffee Heroes } was a personal favourite coffee spot. Not only do they serve an amazing cup o' joe, but the seating area is pretty damn cozy. The kinfolk-y vibe is undeniable, with all the wooden furniture, slate blue hues, and raw concrete walls, and if you know the kinfolk aesthetic, you know what I'm talking about! The best afternoon I spent here was during a cold rainy day; I ordered my usual plus a cookie to snack on and edited some photos from the trip. The perfect, simple day.

That being said, I think I'm beginning to associate the smell and taste of coffee to my Europe trip. I'm definitely not complaining about that. What better way to reminisce than cover a cosy cup of flat white? 


While some people may disagree this is only my own opinion of the locals. I have always been at awe of how Berliners can be so effortlessly cool--from the way they dress to the way they talk...the way they carry themselves, they're just oozing coolness. They can somehow manage to turn the simplest outfits (skinny jeans + tee + trainers combo. *oversized jacket optional*) into a sort of rock & roll chic look. OH, and they wear black..lots and lots of black..clearly my kinda people *heart eyes*

So like I mentioned earlier, our Airbnb happened to be in one of the coolest areas of the city and one of the best places to go people watching is at Mauerpark on Sundays. Picture this: free outdoor concerts every single weekend! Sounds like a dream come true, am I right? Then add an outdoor flea market, and what seemed like a billion food trucks (selling good, cheap food) and BOOM!, you got heaven on earth. And did I mention that Mauerpark is just across the street from Bonanza? :)

I remember, Kelly tried her first currywurst at Mauerpark. To be honest, I'm not the biggest fan of the stuff but at that moment, sitting on that questionable looking patch of grass, listening to great music, enjoying the sunshine, and sharing food really was one of the highlights of my trip.



Berlin is such a large city and full of amazing spots to visit. Yes, while Brandenburg Gate, East Side Gallery, Reichstag building is not to be missed there are also so many other places to explore. One of my more unique experiences has got to be my visit to { Tempelhofer Feld }, an old military airport from WWII & Cold War days now turned park. In the summers it serves as a host venue for concerts, and other days just a regular park where you can go for a jog, picnic, or take your dog out for a game of fetch.

Many people already know--as I haven't shut up about it all year--that it really is my dream to move and work in Berlin one day. The plans aren't solid and I haven't the slightest clue of how to move there but I've been seriously flirting with the idea, especially after this visit. It's within my five year plan, but I've still got my degree and career goals to commit to first! But still, hopefully some day soon!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

TRAVEL | paris

I'm no stranger in Paris, having been there more than a few times in the past four years. I count myself lucky for having been able to return to such an amazing city again and again, and the thing is, if the opportunity arises I'll still choose to come back on my next Eurotrip. It seems like the oldest cliche in the book but Paris IS always a good idea. There's always something new to discover, whether it be another "most charming boulangerie I've ever seen" or another beautifully curated concept shop selling all the right things.

Every time I visit Paris I'm in awe at how gorgeous the city can be in the sunlight. It's funny because I'm surprised that I forget. I never believe that a city can look that good, that my mental image of the place must've been filtered through years of romanticizing. 

But no, it actually looks that good.

I remember that first afternoon, stepping off of the bus from Brussels. It was drizzling in Paris and I had to meet my mum (who flew in from Hong Kong, and hadn't been to Paris since she my age) at Gare Du Nord. At that point the skies were grey and it was still raining. When we finally met up we were both exhausted from lack of sleep so we took a cab over to one of my favorite cafes. We ordered coffee and a sandwich to split, and as we tucked into our first decent meal in 24 hours the clouds cleared (no bullsh*t!!!!) and sunlight streamed through the trees. At that moment we both had to take a moment to appreciate how wonderful everything was.



I would also like to take this time to say that Airbnb is a godsend! I booked my first apartment in Paris and had the most wonderful stay. We were situated in my usual Montmartre and was close to every thing we'd ever need: grocery stores, patisserie, boulangerie, cafes, sacre coeur etc. 

My favorite part of the apartment was the *surprise* dining room and kitchen *surprise*. It was so comforting to eat something home cooked (& by my mum) after a month of traveling. To book this apartment, check out the link { here } and if you do please say hi to Marcello for me :)





What set this trip apart from the rest is addition of family. My mum and my sister joined me in Paris and we enjoyed 9 adventure-filled days in the city. I took them on a tour of my favorite neighborhoods and showed them many of my favorite shops. It's always been my mum's dream to return to Paris one day and I thought that this was the perfect opportunity to ask her to join us. My mum, sister, and I have lived apart for a long timeat one point Kelly was based in the Bay area, mum in Hong Kong, and finally me in Irvine. Money was tight sometimes, so we haven't had a family vacation since 2006. 2015 was really a year of good fortune and I'm grateful we were all able to be in Paris together.

It was a very unusual but memorable reunion. As I mentioned previously, I was coming from Belgium. I arrived in Paris the same morning my mum flew in from Hong Kong. We spent one afternoon together just us and waited for Kelly to fly in from Los Angeles (she arrived the next day).

Reuniting with family is always a good feeling; at that point we hadn't seen Kelly in over 9 months. It was so fun to open the door of our Paris apartment and see her standing outside with her suitcase. Our first meal together was a medley of salads and cheese, which we washed down with a glass of cheap red wine from local grocery store. This one goes into the books for sure.




Oh man, we ate so much in Paris. Looking back, it was just a blur of coffeeshops, pastries, and lots and lots of bread. It's difficult to pinpoint where we had the best meal but I think the pancakes at { Holybelly } deserves a mention. I'm not normally a big fan of pancakes (or cakes in generalit's that fluffy texture..don't like it) but Holybelly's pancakes is making me reconsider my life choices. 

And I didn't even order the pancakes!!! Kelly didI had eggs with mushroom, which was still delicious by the way! But I knew the moment I took a bite of Kelly's pancakes that I had made a terrible terrible mistake. Just look at it! Is that not the most gorgeous plate of breakfast you've ever seen? 








Although I've never actually lived in the city, Paris is beginning to feel like home. I love how the streets began to feel familiar, and I love that I had cafes I could visit over and over again. I know I will be returning soon.. I can feel it in my bones.