Tag Archives: island

Tokyo temples, treats and trains

27 Dec

The third and final country on our recent trip…Japan

I finally made it to Japan! This place has been on my bucket list for awhile. Although the item that is on my bucket list has not been crossed off. I’d love to make it here for the cherry blossom festival. Seeing all those pink trees raining pink petals would be a dream come true. But for now, I saw the misty temples near Tokyo and ate many great treats.

This time around we only had three days in Japan. It’s a good think they have some speedy trains. The first thing on our list was to see our friends. Next, we were told we had to see the scramble and Harajuku Street in Tokyo. We knew we had to eat some sushi, ramen and pocky. All those treats that Japan is known for, and some we just found out about like rice waffles and Kippy’s coconut ice cream.

We stumbled upon the cutest place to get sushi in Tokyo. It was small and non-smoking. They guys were making the sushi right in front of us and there was only about 20 people that could fit in the restaurant at one time. It was fantastic! I only wish I could give you directions to get back here. I just know it’s on one of the streets headed away from the scramble.

Sushi Line

We also got to see some really cool temples in the mist and rain. It was a very peaceful experience. We even got to ride in the infamous streetcar on the Enoshima railway line. We wandered the cute streets in Kamakura and Enoshima. It was so much fun with our friends. I’m so happy we made this part of our trip.

Buddha and Umbrellas

Some words of caution when visiting Japan.

Bring cash to exchange or cards with chips in them. Most places don’t accept cards but when they do, you need a chip in it. This included the ATM machines and the airport. Cash is almost a must if you want to leave the airport. Trains, cabs and buses want you to pay cash.

You aren’t allowed to smoke outside so most places allow smoking inside including restaurants. If you’re lucky you can find some places that are non-smoking.

Taiwan, Asia’s best kept secret

13 Dec

I think Taiwan should be on your bucket list and here’s why:

Hualien Coast

Is that not enough reason to go? I mean, seriously, is this Taiwan’s best kept secret? I had no idea it looked like this. No one ever told me. It’s not one of those popular destinations that people talk about having fantastic turquoise water. Anyone I’ve shown the picture to hasn’t responded like they knew that it existed in Taiwan either. Crazy! I spent a week in Taiwan and all of it was fantastic, not just this one view.

We spent a few days in Tainan City at an apartment. We wandered the streets, ate some delicious food and drank a lot of bubble tea. We tried to find the night markets and were successful on one attempt. There were tons of temples to see and check out. I discovered an amazing coffee shop to work at, Donutes, just up the street from where we were staying. It’s open 24 hours, they have great coffee, amazing cakes and good wifi. What a treat!

After a few days in Tainan City we decided we wanted to explore more of the island and get back to some nature. Once I found some information on the Taroko Gorge I was intent on checking out the east side. I love nature, hiking and visiting waterfalls. We booked a train to Hualien.

Once we were in Hualien we rented a scooter and high tailed it to the gorge. We spent a few hours driving up to the top and checking out all the viewpoints. We hiked a bit and took a ton of photos. The clouds were amazing as they wrapped around the mountains. Like Oregon, we also found a ton of waterfalls coming down the mountains. The clouds were getting lower and darker and it looked like we could get some rain. We started on our way back home. We didn’t make it very far before the downpour started. We were drenched and we had miles to go. It finally let up and we started drying out. However that didn’t last long before another downpour started that was worse than the first. I now understand why it’s so green on that side of the island.

We stayed the night at this amazing hostel. One of the nicest I have ever stayed in. I’d highly recommend Wow Hostel. They aren’t just in Hualien either.

Wow Hostel

Before we headed out of the area we drove the scooter up the coast and that is when we saw the cliffs with the amazing blue water. It was a wonderful drive and there was only sunshine on our backs.

From Hualien we rode the train up to Taipei and stayed one night in the amazing Éclat Hotel (pictured below, center). We were right on the train and bus lines but we were close enough to walk to the night market, Taipei 101 Tower and Elephant park. We stumbled on a photography course in the exact location that we wanted to take photos. It was a our lucky night to learn some new tips and tricks for night photography! We also found an awesome speakeasy tucked behind a wall in a coffee shop. The manager was even from Portland, OR. Talk about a taste of home with those amazing cocktails.

We really enjoyed our time in Taipei. We also enjoyed taking the high speed rail back to Kaohsiung City. I wish we had high speed rail in the U.S..

If I had more time in the Taipei area I would have loved to get to the Yangmingshan National Park. I would have also loved to travel East and see the sunrise on the coast near the Gold Museum. There’s also some more waterfalls to explore.

TaipeiTowerPanoSM

Bush to Beach Australia

29 Nov

I’ve been a bit silent on this blog lately. I’ve been traveling a lot this fall but now it’s time to get back to writing.

Here’s from my most recent adventures…From Portland to Melbourne

Beach to Bush…

I had prepared myself for the long flight to Australia by going to South Africa earlier in the year. Nothing can be longer than that 19 hour flight I took from Johannesburg to DC.

Australia has been on my list of places to go for awhile but even more so in the last few years since I’ve had two close friends that have been living there. We have been in a mastermind group for close to three years talking almost weekly the entire time. It’s been fabulous. They came to visit me, it was my turn to repay the visit and check out their neck of the woods. Plus, I had some new friends to visit as well!

Melbourne is a city that is a lot like Portland. It has a big food and arts scene. It has a lot of funky shops, cafe’s and bars. The weather is totally unpredictable especially in the spring and fall. You never know what it’s going to be like day to day much less hour by hour. We really enjoyed our time in the city wandering the alleys and visiting our friends but it was also nice to get out and see some nature while we were there.

12 apostles

We spent one day driving out to the coast and taking some fun photos along the way. We also took a long loop drive out on the Great Ocean Road and into the Grampians. I grew up on the water so this was definitely my cup of tea. I love getting out into nature and exploring the beauty that this world has to offer.

Grampians View

We saw a few koalas along the way hanging in the trees. We even saw some that were awake and moving around a bit. We saw a few echidna’s, an emu and a lot of different kinds of birds. We saw a ton of wallabies and kangaroos hopping along in the more wooded areas. We even camped in a field where they would come to graze, box and play. It was so amazing to watch these creatures move about. To Australian’s it’s like see deer in the states. They are commonplace in the wild and kind of a nuisance on the roads. Like deer, they are known to leap out in front of traffic. Lucky for me I didn’t encounter any poisonous snakes or spiders. I heard this is the other problem in Australia, too many things that can kill you.

Kangaroos at Play

It was hard to leave the field of Kangaroos and emu’s but all good things must come to an end. We had a train to catch to Sydney. But first to see our awesome friends again. Old and new friends came together in a great farewell dinner. What a nice send off we had at the train station. It was sad that we only saw them for a brief time but it was good to see them at all.

In Sydney we enjoyed wandering through all the parks and gardens. We wandered the waterfront and the free art museums. We also enjoyed a ride on one of the ferry’s to Manly. I have a ton of pictures from the opera house. I sure love architecture, especially when it’s also a work of art.

If you go to Australia I’d recommend you:

  • See the bush
  • Visit one or several beaches
  • Eat a lot of fish and chips
  • Try the parma and the meat pies
  • Enjoy the free museums

I wish I could have seen more things in Australia but someday we may make it back. I know New Zealand is high on my list so maybe another stop or three in Australia will be on the list as well. Who know’s what’s next?!

But first…let’s talk about our other stops on this month long adventure. Next up: Taiwan, then Japan.

Opera House Reflections

Opera House reflections on the Grand Hyatt where we stayed with points. Two free nights because of travel hacking!

Psst…if you like my photography, I have a shop at www.rouxroamer.com where I sell framed photos, prints and much more!

Adventures in Africa’s coastal gem, Zanzibar

1 Mar

How do you get to Africa, I’ve been asked? Well it’s a long way from the west coast of the U.S. About 30 hours of transit time. I claimed an award ticket to go. $150 round trip, including my stopover in Zanzibar.

PDX>NWK>BRU>NBO

What did you do when you got there is usually the next question I get asked.

Shortly after our arrival in Nairobi, we went on an amazing safari. I talk a bit about that in my last post. Mainly, you get to see some pretty pictures.

After the safari, we flew over to Zanzibar through Addis Ababa (capitol of Ethiopia) as there aren’t really, many, direct flights in Africa. I think that’s why I wasn’t so worried about ebola. It’s hard to get from the east to the west without first going through Europe. It’s quite a different airline system than we are used to in the United States.

NBO>ADD>ZNZ

Zanzibar is famous for it’s beaches. It’s also well known for the slave and spice trade. We learned about both of these in Stone Town. We didn’t spend too much time on the beach as we weren’t there very long. As a redhead, I also burn easily, so the beach isn’t my first choice of places to hang out. I much prefer learning more about a place by wandering and talking to the locals than I do laying by the water reading a book.

Irish genetics, adventurous soul. Yup, that’s me.

Stone Town reminded me a lot of Venice with it’s carless small alleys. I really enjoyed getting lost in the city and roaming the alleys with my camera. There are so many cool doors to photograph and so many cool street scenes to see.

Alleys of Adventure in Zanzibar

If in Zanzibar City aka Stone town, make sure you visit the spice markets and bring home some delicious packets to wow your friends; Drink some coffee, have some drinks at sunset at a rooftop bar, wander through the night markets with food vendors, eat Indian food and wade in the turquoise water.

To leave Zanzibar, we thought we would take the ferry. But then we found out about some airlines that charge just a bit more than the ferry and you get yourself to the airport in Dar es Saalam way quicker. Plus, it’s a small plane so you basically feel like a co-pilot enjoying the view of the island and beautiful water as you fly.

Copilot in Zanzibar

ZNZ>DAR>JNB bringing the total airport count to 9. Whew!

Quick word of advice on DAR. The domestic airport that you fly into is not connected to the international airport. It’s a long walk or a short cab ride away. In other words, don’t get rid of all your cash before leaving Zanzibar or make friends on the short flight.

Next up: Road trip in South Africa, complete with a stop over in Lesotho. Also, adventures in Cape Town!

If you want to know how on earth I get such cheap plane tickets all the time. Start here with my favorite path to points.

Whats on your life list to complete? Here’s some of mine.

2014: A Quiet Year

28 Dec

It’s annual round-up time. A time of reflection on the highlights and the things that didn’t go quite as planned. A time of new goals and visions for the year ahead. Here’s my top ten from 2014.

  1. Made some really great connections, forged some lifelong friendships and learned to grow my business at Pioneer Nation.
  2. Had two photography shows.
  3. Went to my first live TEDx event in Portland. It’s pretty cool seeing it in person versus the countless videos I’ve watched on screen.
  4. Celebrated one year living in Portland. Yay! I love this city and it’s quirks.Portland!
  5. Met my two Australian mastermind members for the first time (after a year and a half of weekly online chats!). All four of us in one place at one time was amazing! WDS brought them and so many more people that I loved seeing. Plus all the new people I met that live in Portland and around the world. Thanks again Chris for picking my friends and also helping me achieve my third world record.
  6. Volunteered a lot. Two big projects I worked on were for the Brian Grant Foundation and Women Enough.
  7. Took a road trip to Boise.
  8. Got my very own horseshoe on the wall at Pope House Bourbon Lounge. I missed my original quest deadline but made the second one. Just over a year to complete 50 bourbons.
  9. Camping on Mount Hood and checking out Timberline lodge for the first time.
  10. Went to Maui for Thanksgiving (aka Friendsgivemas)! It was great to spend the holidays with good friends and tour the whole island in the process.

Sunset in Maui

It was a quiet year. A year of growth in the valleys. A year of no new countries or states but I did a lot of local exploring. I explored more spots in Oregon, California and Idaho. The good news about local travel is you don’t have jet lag or a 10 hour flight.

What went wrong?

I was supposed to go to Greece for TBEX and some of the surrounding countries but the trip just wasn’t coming together as easy as I wanted it to so I didn’t go at all. Bummer, but I did work and save some money! I was supposed to go to Africa as well but there was a death that derailed the trip, so I opted to postpone. I found out that you can delay your mileage tickets for up to a year. Pretty cool trick I learned this year. Hoping that I won’t have to use it very often, but good to know.

Next year I have to grow more in my business and add some more travel to my list. Starting with my postponed Africa trip…stay tuned for more adventures in 2015 on the blog. You can also follow my 140 character adventures on Twitter and my photo adventures on Instagram.

Wishing you a happy 2015! Cheers.

Top 10 not to miss adventures in Maui

7 Dec

I’m Irish: I have pale skin and I burn easy. Not really conducive to sitting around at the beach all day for a week. Plus, I love adventure. I love to have new experiences, explore and really get out there. I’m not one that likes to sit around when there are sights to see. I can read on the plane or when I’m at home.

Here are my top 10 experiences from a week in Maui:

Drink beer at Maui Brewing CoThey don’t have a ton of beers on the menu but they have something for everyone, including some guest taps, homemade root beer and cider. I had a sampler tray of four deliciously dark beers. The food is also pretty good. We opting for onion rings and nachos.

Hike Waihe’e Ridge Trail. It’s winter in Maui, which means it rains on and off. The good news is you also see a lot of rainbows. Certain parts of the island are drier than the hills that take you near the wettest spot in the world (sometimes second wettest). It may have been one of the muddiest hikes I’ve ever done but the views were spectacular. You feel like you are on top of the world. It’s so quiet and the clouds are so close. It’s also a study in the different colors of mud. Quite interesting to see the range. I never knew there could be so many different dirt colors.

Waihee Ridge Trail

Eat at Leoda’s. They have great food that isn’t centered around meat. This is great for me since I’m a selectetarian (somedays I select to have meat but most days I don’t). They have wi-fi, beer and coffee. What more do you need? It’s like being home in Portland…but warmer.

Join a canoe club. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings you can join Kihei Canoe Club or another club for a fun adventure. For a small donation they’ll teach you how to row in an outrigger and take you out into the water with their crew. Let you swim around. If you are lucky you also get to see some wildlife. Perhaps, a turtle or two, some dolphins or, if you time it right, whales. for us, we saw three turtles.

Canoe Clubbing

Hike the Pīpīwai Trail. To me the most spectacular spot on the island is the bamboo forest on this trail. There’s a really cool waterfall (400-foot Waimoku Falls) at the end but to me, the magic spot was in the bamboo. The wind in the bamboo and the tranquil noise you hear when they hit together. It’s really peaceful.

Bamboo Forest on Maui

Watch the sun rise at Haleakala. Rivaling the bamboo forest for my top pick on the island was watching sunrise above the cloudy mountains. Before dawn the air is crisp and the silence is welcome. After the sun rises there are many hiking trails you can take down into the valleys.

Peace on Earth

 

Swim with the fishes. We went snorkeling at La Perouse Bay but there are several other spots on the island plus boating trips you can take.

Visit a red sand beach. It’s like a rainbow of sand on the island. It’s really cool to see them all: white, brown, red, black. The red sand beach we visited was a short hike along a cliff and some lava rocks. I’m sure it’s less of a secret than it felt like.

Visit a black sand beach. We went to the Black Sand Beach at Waianapanapa State Park. The greens of the plants and blues of the water were just stunning against the black rocks. Truly a sight to see if you’ve never seen black sand.

Black Sand Beach

Drive around the whole island. Between Hana and La Perouse Bay there is some stunning terrain that most folks will never see because the rental car companies forbid it. If you are not in a rental and you want to see some really cool farm land. I highly suggest the route. The road is narrow and not paved all the way so be warned.The terrain of Maui is so varied and interesting that I don’t see how you could just sit at the beach. Unless you go to all the colored beaches. That’s fun too. But the terrain in between the beaches or inland or upcountry are worth a visit too. Spectacular scenery, rich in the history of the islands’ formation.

If you like my photos, follow my adventures on Instagram @rouxroamer or consider buying a print.
How did I get to Maui on Miles? Read more.

Escaping the winter weather blues

26 Nov

When it’s cold outside, I’m cold. Crazy, I know!

Something that I have learned about myself is that during the winter I need a cold weather escape. As most Oregonians, I suffer from SAD (Seasonal affective disorder aka best acronym ever). I need a sunshine reboot. I need to feel warmth on my skin and get some real vitamin D.

I usually do this in January but this year November was colder than normal. I feel like I woke up after two weeks of fall and it was January already. Time for an escape. I had a place to say in Hawaii and friends I have been wanting to see for over a year. I had a bank of miles but didn’t want to spend them all to get there since it was fairly last minute (within two weeks).

How to get the best deal?

You can pay one price to go anywhere in the U.S. But you can also pay for the distance you are traveling if you use a distance based mileage chart like British Airways.

For 33,200 per person, round trip we were able to get tickets on a non-stop to Maui. Aloha!

It would have been cheaper had we booked ahead. And more expensive if we just booked the flight to somewhere in North America.

We went from this…

Frozen Falls

To this…

MauiBeach

More on travel hacking in this post. Or sign up for my favorite travel card of all time.

My friend even wrote a guide on this very subject. I can get you a link, just let me know! Comment below.