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June 21st was the official start of summer and it’s been more than a couple of weeks since then. It has been quite hectic for the past month. Now that I’ve pretty much settled into the new chapter of my life, I’m taking some time to look back and give you guys an update.

As my last post suggest, I have recently graduated from college. Less than 48 hours after I walked across the stage to receive my diploma, I was on an international flight to Lisbon, Portugal. This was my first time travelling to Europe and I was beyond excited. Although due to time constraints, I was only able to budget a little over two weeks on the continent with a focus on Italy (Milan, Venice, Florence and Rome) with a 19-hour layover at Lisbon and a couple days in Brussels, Belgium.

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Honestly this trip was reaching the definition of spontaneity. Putting it plainly, we had nothing planned after my friend and I booked the tickets to Brussels at 2AM on a Tuesday morning. We waited till a week before the flight to finish booking all of our Airbnbs (I strongly do not advise this, especially for Venice which became really expensive). We decided on the attractions as we explored. Planning as you go can definitely stress out some, but I really enjoyed having the possibility of the unknown. Just naming a few, we stumbled upon a handful of free galleries in Venice, a symphonic concert in Florence and a really cute postcard boutique in Brussels.

If I were to recount every memory I had of the trip, this post will go well beyond a proper length. Hopefully through the photos, you guys can experience vicariously for a brief moment.

 

There were so much history everywhere we went. With the pace we were traveling at and historical background we had,we really could not absorb everything the six cities had to offer. However, one regret I have is that we were not able to go see the Uffizi Gallery in Florence due to the line. The famous painting by Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus is housed there, and it’s one of my all time favorite paintings. I did end up getting a post card of the painting in Florence to make up for the missed opportunity.

Although it would be impossible to pick my favorite city of the without any preconceptions, Venice will have a special place in my heart. The city on water is somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for as long as I can remember. Being obsessed with anything water related, whether it’s mermaids or Neptune or aquariums, I love them all. Not to mention, I basically have a college degree in water. Venice is just as beautiful as I thought it would be, surrounded by canals and roads paved by cobblestone. The only thing was I didn’t except the amount of tourist that would be there.

As for food, I had nothing but pasta in Italy with the exception of two meals. And of course, I took full advantage of the great wines in the region. Chianti will forever be my favorite red wine, not even the fancy Bordeaux wines in France can beat it. Since we are on the topic of food, one unexpected problem we faced was water. I’m not sure about you, but my friend and I really despise fizzy/sparkling water, especially after this trip. We has so much trouble distinguish between fizzy and still water, especially in the supermarkets. We even developed this shaking method, but it was not very reliant. We still accidentally purchased fizzy water multiple times. It was so tragic whenever we opened a new bottle of water and a gush of CO2 comes out. For those of you who don’t like fizzy water, you might want to keep this in mind.

There are still so many places in the world I hope to see one day. This trip was just the start of my Europe journey. Even though it is currently on hold, but it won’t be long before I go visit again. Till then. Ciao.

 

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Hey there. It’s me again. I am writing this instead of finish packing for my flight tomorrow morning. For the first time in all of my college career I am actually going somewhere other than home for spring break! I’m super excited to go somewhere warm and full of tropical fruits (mangoes and pineapples here I come), but before I go I thought I would update the third part of my winter Asia trip, Kyoto.

I spent about three days in total in Kyoto, arriving early afternoon and leaving late morning. Friends have told me about all the amazing places to visit beforehand. But being the lazy planner I am, I didn’t realize how far apart all the attractions were from each other. Thank goodness, I booked an Airbnb place near one of the most famous attractions, the Inari Shrine. However, everything else I wanted to see were scattered all over the city. Since Kyoto is much smaller than Tokyo, with more historical sights and a lot less people, the trains were not as convenient as the buses. After doing some quick research, I decided to purchase a daily bus pass for the two full days I was there.

Out of all the amazing places I saw, my favorite is still the Inari Shrine. Despite being the first place I went to, there was something magical and magnificent about the thousands of torri that climbed through the mountain. Running close behind, the Heian-jingu Shrine is my second favorite location in Kyoto. To be honest, I think it is mainly because I visited during 成人の日, which is the Coming of Age Day for those who turned 20 that year. Sadly I went a year too late, but I loved seeing all these girls dolled up in their furisode (the most elaborate kimono for an unmarried lady) and taking pictures all around the shrine. It made me feel like I’ve became part of the culture for brief moment. 

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Looking back through my photos as I was preparing for this post, I was honestly surprised by the number of sights I visited in 72 hours (considering I also went to an ryokan for a night). I was very ambitious and determined to see everything, but sadly there were a couple that I just couldn’t get the chance to. On the bright side, this means another Kyoto trip in the future! But for now, I will get back to packing for Cancun.

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Despite taking Japanese for four years in high school, I have never once visited the country until this winter. I took full advantage of already being in China and our long winter break and went on a solo trip to Japan. I’ve read so many posts about the importance of solo travelling, as an unforgettable experience and a time to reflect within. Although I did do a lot of self reflection, my favorite part was the freedom to go wherever I wanted whenever I wanted.

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I spent a total of ten days in Japan, during which I went to Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. I absolutely loved the scenery, the food and the culture Japan provided. I spent three and half days in Tokyo. Even though it was quiet rushed, I was able to hit most of the places I wanted to go (talk about efficiency) with only the Tokyo Tower missing from the list. However, I was able to see it from afar through the free observation deck in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building.

Before going to Tokyo, the one goal I had was to visit a cake buffet. I have a major sweet tooth and cannot resist the temptation of any strawberry shortcakes. During my trip, there were times I forgone actual meals for a cake set. However, even with my love for sweets, I was defeated by the cake buffet. I don’t know how many pounds I gained from this, and to be honest I really don’t want to know. The food, especially dessert, is so amazing. The portions are not huge, so you don’t feel stuffed after eating (but it also means if you’re hungry or have a big appetite, you might spend twice or three times you usually do for food).

Being a New Yorker who are not the nicest people you’ll meet, I was astonished by the politeness and orderliness of Japan. I have never seen people who actually line up on the subway platform as the sign on the ground indicated. I felt extremely rude if I didn’t bow back to the other person, from the convenience store to the restaurant. I also had a mini breakdown because I couldn’t figure out which side do people usually line up (and this changed between cities!). I have also never went to and prayed at so many shrines and temples in such a short amount of time. In conclusion, I will definitely visit Japan again and if the opportunity rises, I want to move there for a couple of years.

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My family usually spend Christmas together, but this past Christmas it was quite different. My mom, sister and I took a morning flight on the 25th from Nanjing to Shenzhen (mainly because I wanted to see their airport), leaving my dad behind in Nanjing, to spend a week in southern China. Although Nanjing really can’t be considered north geographically, we’ve had enough of the cold by then.  After arriving in Shenzhen, we left my sister with mom’s friends and headed straight for the train station. We were on our way to Xiamen, somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for a long time.

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So here was the thing, neither my mom and I are good at geography (in my defense I’ve never taken Chinese Geography in elementary school before I moved). We somehow thought that since both Shenzhen and Xiamen are in the south, they must be close to each other. They were 360 miles away from each other.

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Our main stop in Xiamen is actually a small sea island called Kulangsu. Although it has now become a tourist attraction, back in the days it was a major site for western influences. There were many international commercial and financial institutions, consulates and diplomatic agencies scattered across the 1.88 kilometer squared island. The multiple cultures that co-existed shaped the island’s identity and more noticeably it’s architectures. The juxtaposition between the old and the new, Eastern and Western styles are all over the island.

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Although the island is tiny, the food there is amazing. There were also many Taiwanese snacks available due to it’s physical proximity to Taiwan. One of my favorite snack during my whole winter trip was the Roasted Grass Jelly. I was addicted to it. Not only was it super yummy, it was also good for your body. The shop we found also gave you free refills for the grass jelly tea after you’ve finished if you keep the cup. You can be 100% sure that I took full advantage of this. Honestly, looking at the picture is making me crave for the snack.

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Thinking back on it, even though the island was tiny (you can honestly finish all the attractions in one day), I loved it. This is really surprising because I’m the type of person who loves big cities that have a million and one things going on, but the vibe of Kulangsu captured me. The beach and the ocean wasn’t breath taking like Jamaica but it was calming, I could stare at for hours. I don’t know when will I be able to visit again, so I’m carefully storing away memories of this special place.

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This post is around half a month late since I actually gone exploring two weekends ago. There was a handful of pictures I wanted to edit before making the post which is why it took so long. Anyway, long story short, I thought I should go visit the Buckingham Fountain because I had been in Chicago for more than half year I still haven’t been. I went on a journey to find the fountain on a Saturday. I called it a journey because although I knew the general location of it, I didn’t know it’s precise location.

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The weather was really nice, super sunny and not humid at all. There were some really nice scenes that I passed while going towards the Michigan Lake, I couldn’t help but stop and snap few pictures. If I’m not in a hurry, I almost always stop to take pictures. This is especially because I know I get distracted really easily, like baby Dory in Finding Dory, and I really don’t like taking the same route. So if I don’t take a picture right then and there, I’m probably never going back to the same location.

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I don’t know why I ever thought I would miss the fountain. It was one gigantic fountain with water shooting up like three stories high. It was so cool, no wonder it’s one of the top tourist attraction in Chicago. Although I got to say it’s kind of sad that there’s a fence around the fountain so you can’t get near. I can totally see why it’s necessary though, especially with all the children and pets around. Trying to find a spot with no one in front of you taking pictures was one hard task, but it also seems like the tourists come in waves. There are few gaps between waves where I got to snap the fountain with no one in my camera’s field of view. IMG_6704

My only goal that day was just to find the fountain. After finding the it I had no other plan of what to do, so I followed some tourists and went near the lake. Every time I see the lake I’m in awe of how big it is, guess it’s called the Great Lake for a reason. The Michigan Lake is my first and only Great Lake I’ve seen. It’s hard to imagine it’s only a lake when it looks like the ocean. I also found some cute ducks along the sidewalk. I followed them for a bit, taking pictures and snapchats along the way. Honestly, I still get used to having no fence at all near the lake. You can literally walk into the water if you want. I guess nothing blocks your view of the scene but at the same time I’m just like it’s so unsafe!

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After walking for like 10 to 15 minutes, I found myself near the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum. The location is also known as the Museum Campus, which is huge and literally like a college campus. I saw cool things like this colorful tent structure and the man with a fish fountain below. I also got lost in the campus cause not all routes lead you outside. But it was fine, I had fun walking around. I walked behind the Field Museum, across lawns, found a dinosaur, some cool stairs and the back of a totem pole. The only thing was that I ended up getting a watch tan, which is awkward. Also my only regret is not going further to near the Adler Planetarium. I’m leaving in two weeks and moving next week to another place, so I don’t know when I will get the chance to go see…

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I took some polaroid of my day trip, but as you can see I’m not very good at using the camera yet. I need more practice…

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