ByeBye, HeyHey ~ Off You Go To “A Whole New World”

I can’t believe I am even writing this post.  It actually pisses me off that I’m making myself do this.  However, I’ve come to use this blog space of mine to pay a little love to the people near and far who I want to give a big virtual hug to no matter where we both reside in the world at any present moment at any present time on any day of dire significance.

This one is dedicated to my beautiful Stephanie Anne Heyduck, who has become one of the nearest and dearest to my heart during this last year and a half in Korea.  It makes me really sad that her time here has expired, but that’s what comes with the expat territory.  Those who we become so close with weave in and out of our lives and that’s that.  I guess it’s what we indirectly signed up for in choosing a lifestyle fueled by wanderlust; bonding together with others who also thrive on that same passion to wander and move about this glorious globe to explore and conquer.

As we’ve cuddled, danced and traveled our way through an ever-growing friendship, it’s always been apparent to me that Steph is totally one of those people who is unbelievably wise beyond her 25 years.   Whether it be in matters of the heart or the world, she always manages to have the wild child in check with the mature adult who’s got their head screwed on straight.   She’s also one of those people that just knows something about everything, no matter the topic.  I only know a few of those kinds of people and she’s one of them.  It always kind of amazes me and I’m just like WHA?!  Where you come from?!  She’s a special one, and I love her dearly.

Now for a little journey thru some of my fave highlights of the past year and a half frolicking thru the far East together 🙂

The first time I met Steph was when Jeanette and Carmen were visiting.  It was maybe my 3rd week living in Seoul, and Jeanette and Steph realized they had practically matching tattoos.  Friends.Seoulmates.WHAT.


Here’s the first time Steph, Katie, Abby and I officially became a foursome after each others hearts.  We hiked to the top of Namsan Tower and then struggled to take this photo in the geographical center of Seoul! Many of my “I’m so happy I’m in Korea moments” have been spent with these ladies, and they’ll all always hold one of the most special places in my little Korean heart.


She introduced me to one of my favorite Korean foods, Shabu Shabu, in the Ying Yang pot, one freezing cold night after shopping our butts off in Myeong-dong. Nom.


We’ve had some shenanigans, and this was one random night out on the town while everyone else got down on a bus filled with soju.  Hey, we all make mistakes. She dragged me, she loves me despite it 😉


We got money hungry at the Trick Eye Museum. AKA the most fun museum EVER!


Then we got ballsy and decided to eat some live octopus together for the first time.  Actually not so bad and kinda fun.

Somewhere around this time we decided we’d bare it all and get naked with each other at the jjimjilbang.  We did, and it was weird for like 2 minutes, and then it was awesome, and then we went again, and we became obsessed even though we didn’t do it as often as we thought we would.  But still.  It brought us as close as 2 naked platonic girlfriends can get.  Both in and outside of our sexy jjimjilbang attire.

Her family came to visit, got us smashed to pieces during her mom’s first date with soju, and then Papa Heyduck did a sorority pose in this photo with us all.


There were a couple girls nights in.  This may have been what they started out looking like.


And then the aftermath to the tune of some Disney movies and Twilight and makkoli and soju.


Then we took on a bit of traveling together.  First came that unforgettable typhoon of a trip to Japan where we rode bikes around Kyoto…


Got our plans “horribly” rearranged by an unexpected typhoon…


And then relocated ourselves to the nearest karaoke room where Steph gave us this private show (before I inevitably hogged the mic).  Adele or Celine perhaps? The sake won’t allow me to remember.  Whatever the song, her voice sang it magically.  From this moment on we became noraebang obsessed.


Shortly after, we went to go Barack the vote together.  We were VERY excited to make our voices heard.


And after he won the election, the two of us rented out the VIP room at a local noraebang in Itaewon (because it was the only one available), drank ourselves silly on a Wednesday night, and sang our Disney hearts wild for 2 hours because we were so happy for our man Barry.  One of my all time fave Steph & Dani moments to date. “I can show you the worldddddddd……”

Of course by far one of my favorite things everrrrr that we’ve done was going to Thailand and Laos together this past February.  You don’t really know someone til you either live or travel with them, and we traveled really really well together.  We had such an amazing time playing with elephants and tigers, cooking exotic cuisine, crossing the border like a coupla Mexican cholas in the back of one too many pick-up trucks, and meeting lovely French lassies and gorgeous Argentinian men along the way. (I have majorly slacked in posting about that trip, but it will be coming soon, I promise. Eeeep!)

Needless to say, friendship is nothin if you’re not there to help hoist your friend’s fat ass up on top of a hormonal elephant…


Or sit down next to each other in some tiger pee to get those one-in-a-million shots in life!


Tonight after Abby and I had to fight back premature tears while saying bye to Steph at our 2nd to last dinner together, we were talking about when we first signed up to move our lives to Korea.  We had envisioned living amongst a new culture, with new foods, new experiences, new travels, a new language to make up the white noise in our background, and we knew we’d make friends abroad.  But, we both made the connection that neither of us had really put much thought into the relationships we were going to build and who would soon become our family whilst carrying on our new lives.  I guess you don’t really plan or think about those types of things because they’re organic and happen as they will. With the ending of year one a slew of great loves left, but Stephanie is my first great girlfriend who’s been there since the beginning, to leave Korea, and that’s a killer. Great girlfriends are not easy to find, and she is just one of those friends that I am so lucky to have snatched up.

To wrap it all up, I love you Stepaneeeeee, and I’m gonna miss you, like, times 10 million to the max.  But, I know we are both wanderers and this is just a BIG “see ya later”.  My time spent in Korea would never have been quite the same without you in it, and I hope this next chapter of your life is a lot less (kimchi) smelly, but just as fulfilling as the past 2 years have been.  I love you to infinity and beyondddddddd.



A Pupu Platter Of 2012 Whathaveyous


Wow, another year has come and gone, and I must say, 2012 was my favorite year of my almost-29 years gracing this planet.  So much that I had always dreamt of in years past same to fruition this year, and I can honestly say I am in the best place I have ever been in my life.  And it feels damn good 😉

I had made the resolution in 2011 that by the end of the year I would be living a life abroad ~ check.  In 2012 I promised myself I would do absolutely as much traveling of Asia as possible.  I came to Korea to conquer this continent like a blaze of fire, and in looking back I can say I did just that.  Along with the travel resolutions, I really put my best foot forward to work on getting what I really want, and making that start from within.  I try my best to communicate what I want, but a lot of time it fails when walls get put up, or life just gets in the way.  So, I’ve really tried to be as self-aware as possible just be the best version of myself and hope that it brings with it what I truly want.  That being said, 2012 has definitely been the happiest and most honest year to date 🙂

Now I’m just gonna throw together a few highlights from each month of 2012. Badabing herrrrrr goes!

I began the year on the beach in Koh Phangan, covered in florescent body paint and drinking liquor by the buckets with one of my dearest and oldest friends on the planet ~ my fave biatch and sista from anotha mista, Miz Diamond ❤


January marked my first birthday to be celebrated away from everyone I’ve always shared my (obviously) favorite holiday with.  I felt a little down about it, then in flew a gift from THE BEST sista ever ~ Sista Schaeff in the flesh, in Korea!


On her last night here, she snuggled my foot to sleep.  BY CHOICE! ❤


In February I visited two of my favorite countries so far ~ Vietnam and Cambodia. I saw some of the most beautiful snorkeling waters, caught my first fish, shot my first gun, ate a bowl of pho a day, wondered why they allow Americans in, and saw my life flash before me about 1million times while in ‘Nam.


In Cambodia I visited the most breathtaking temples I have ever seen, spent an afternoon with beautiful children in an orphanage on the river, saw insurmountable beauties in some of the deepest poverty stricken eyes, and struggled to hold back tears while walking through a living history at the Killing Fields and S-21 genocide museum remnants from the Khmer Rouge of the 70s~80s.


In March I visited the happiest place on earth, AKA the DMZ, for the second time.  This time we rode bikes along the most intensely guarded border in the world, all while Obama paid the peninsula a visit and peered over to the North with us.


April means Passover, which also means the sea parts in Korea.  I made the trek down south with a homie and we met Moses, crossed the parted sea and drank makkoli while doing so, obvi.


Later in April, my favorite story to date came to be.  A couple morons went to a Lady GaGa concert.  They got all gussied up in the hottest of pink and the tightest of attire, only to miss the whole thing whilst trying to attain the most coveted seats in the house during the “GaGa cover band”…. *face palm* At least we looked sexy.


In May, Wawa came for a visit.  We did many things, but by far our favorite day was our “Day of Culture.”  We visited Gyeongbukgong Palace, learned about the creation of Hangul (the Korean alphabet), ate a traditional lunch, drank tea in a lovely tea house, dressed up and cracked up in Hanbok (traditional Korean dress), and wrapped up with a journey to the Noryangjin Fish Market.  Twas a wondrous day!


Then came June, and Buddha’s birthday.  A crew of us high-tailed out of Seoul to Gangneung, a little beach town on the East Sea. There were makkoli and soju spurred chicken fights, sexy man-wrestles, toasty bonfires, crashing of high class fancy Korean booking clubs and frisbee games resulting in broken pinky toes and racial slurs. The Buddhaman had an awesome birthday!!



Then came July and two events which could be classified as the greatest events of the century. One more than the other, but one got more hype than the other according to the Facebook.  You can use your own judgement on that one.  One required us to dress to the nines to bid adieu to all the homies we grew to call family, and also the ones we grew apart from because a lot of people that came with us were weirdos, let’s face it. The other required some prior temple-sculpting, lots and lots and lots of soju, mudmudmud and practically no clothes. Mud Fest was by far my favorite event of 2012.  Shit was CRAY TO THE MAX!



August was the most bittersweet month of the year I’d say.  It was sweet because I took a 2.5 week summer jaunt on over to the Philippines with my lovely lass from home, Brianne.  We saw some of the most picturesque islands, snorkeled and ate our faces off, hiked miles in our little warrior Havaianas, posed with stalagtites, missed the whale sharks, got in a fist fight with a very mean typhoon, and let tempers fly with shitty budget airlines.


August was bitter because our contracts ended and some left KoKo and I had to face the harsh reality that the world as I knew it was shattering before me.  Well, that’s an over-dramatization, but that’s how it felt at the time dammit. I also got thrown into my deathbed by some plague I contracted in the Philippines.   So, not only were my friends leaving, but I was deathly ill and partying with an IV in the hospital, unable to hand out proper goodbye hugs. NOT COOL WORLD.





Then on rolled September.  Grabbing my bearings on who was still left in my Seoul-cial circle happened naturally.  I got back in the go-out mode (at least for the time being), and some friendships from the previous year had the chance to blossom.  Late in the month for Chuseok holiday, a group of us gals decided to pop off to Osaka and Kyoto, Japan with boy toy Joshy. We frolicked by bicycle all over Kyoto, made the most of the typhoon stricken city by stuffing our faces with enough sushi and sake to fuel an army, and tore up (literally) a karaoke room.  Best weekend ever!!!


October was of course Halloween, and we got down with our bad selves…and Bob the Builder.


In November I actually had a REAL Thanksgiving, none of that Pho shit (pardon me, it’s just not suitable cuisine for Thanksgiving).  Josh Rich was also in town as my 6th visitor to the Orient. A Happy Happy Turkey Day it was!


And last but not least, I think the winner for best December event goes to my dance crew’s (WORD TO YO MAMA’S HIGH WAISTED JEANS) epic ass kicking in the 90s dance battle for the African kids. Real winners put in the effort, and effort we put in. Obviously you would know this had you been at our latke-rehearsal party, our cheese and crackers rehearsal party where Matty ripped his jeans, and our final rehearsal party that almost interfered with us attending the actual party because we were too focused on perfecting our dance.  What a BOMB DIGGITY way send out 2012!!!


As you can see, 2012 was quite the year, and it’s been a pleasure looking back on it with you. Here’s to an even better 2013, and going home to America in 10 days!!!!!!!


Konichiwa Bitchez ^^

Chuseok a year ago marked my very first “I’m so happy I’m in Korea moment.”  My newly found group of friends and I took our haven’t-been-paid-yet-broke-asses to Muuido island off the coast of Incheon, and it was magnificent.  I couldn’t help but think back to that long weekend a year ago as I was taking off from Seoul headed to Osaka, Japan.  A year ago I had found a group of 3 girls who at the time were my best friends in Korea.  2 of them have come and gone from our lil circle, and one fine lassie was added to the mix for good.  A lot can happen in a year, and it has definitely been the best year of my life so far.

And the number one reason why this year has been the tops, is because as of Chuseok 2012, I have traveled to 6 countries in Asia.  Since we are now making monies, a group of us decided to peace out of Korea for the long weekend and cross the sea on over to Japan! We ended up snagging expensive-for-flights-to Japan, but reasonably-priced-for-the-holiday flights to Osaka.  Steph went a couple days before, then me, Katie and Josh(ephine) joined, with Jeewon a day behind us.  It was an awesome girls trip plus Joshy boy.  He really practiced patience, and learned a lot about Adele and the cleanliness habits of girls during the long weekend.  Props to you sir.

The three of us arrived in Osaka around 5pm, then had to navigate through the horribly organized train system that makes up Japan.  We are definitely spoiled with the brilliant and user-friendly subway on this peninsula, lemme tell ya! Luckily Josh met a girl on the plane who, along with giving him useful phrases to add to his list, also helped us figure out how to get to our hostel. Bless our giant Joshephine! My first thoughts upon arrival in Japan were that it is so clean and everyone on the street has their own STYLE.  It was so refreshing to see, because while Korea is stylish, it’s also super buttoned up and repressed for individuality.  I was also amazed by the amount of people reading BOOKS and not on their smart phones.  This was like a cool drink of refreshing water!

So we made it to our hostel in the funky Americamura district, got some nomtastic bubble tea (boba) and a dinner of the most delicious beef I have ever had the pleasure of sinking my teeth into.  It must have been because we were eating amidst an angel.

Here is what our hostel looked like.  It was as if we went to sleep away camp for the weekend! Or a frat house, however you want to spin it. Minus the uncleanliness.

And this is our bathroom.  I envisioned 6’4″ Josh like Buddy the Elf trying to cleanse himself in that teeny little space.

The next morning we woke up bright and early and were off to Kyoto, which was about 30 minutes by train.  We dropped our bags off at the guest house and were off to bike around the city for the day.  Kyoto felt like such a quaint little city, not like we were in a big city at all.

Our first stop was at the Golden Pavilion, or Kinkaku-ji.  It was this massive golden palace with no windows set beside a beautiful lake.  Once we got in it was like we stepped into a Sailor Moon field trip.

We were also greeted by this very polite Japanese man and his spread legs.

Joshy and Steph were also celebrity status when they got  interviewed by a slew of giddy Japanese school girls.

After looking at the temple, we tried a bunch of delicious flavors of mochi (Japanese rice cakes) and the most AMAZING wasabi peanuts.  I almost died and went to wasabi heaven.  Here is Katie trying to figure out which nuts to buy.

Next we biked to the Imperial Palace, but since we could only go inside with an appointment, we biked around the perimeter and scoped out the lush flora.

After the Imperial Palace we needed to orient ourselves, so Katie and I took the liberty of hopping into the map to grab our bearings.

Then we were off to bike along the river.  This area was just beside the Gion district of Osaka, which is also known as the Geisha district.  While biking along the river I felt like I had been plopped down in Europe somewhere.  It completely did not feel like Asia to me.  There were street musicians and dancers and painters and everyday people just sitting on the side of the river reading books and drawing and talking.  It was gorgeous and it was one of the things that made me fall in love with Japan, especially Kyoto.

After riding along the river we parked our bikes and went to see what Gion was about.  It was a small area with a lot of hustle bustle, but still very quaint and historical feeling.

We crossed the road with a couple of geishas.

Saw some more geishas.

Saw the Gion Red Temple gate.

And gawked at the amazingness of Japanese snacks.  And this is only the deli-ish section.  Korea please take note.

We had then planned to bike further south to another shrine that we all wanted to see, but unfortunately it was starting to rain and getting late and we had to return our bikes.  So, we headed out for a much earned and DELICIOUS conveyor belt sushi dinner that our homie Moe from the guest house suggested. It was bomb….except for the accidental sampling of raw horse.  SICK.

The next day, thankfully not sick from the horse,  Steph and I planned to splurge on a day trip to Hiroshima to see Miyajima Island and the Atomic bomb museum, however a typhoon decided to hit Japan and we opted to save our $300 and stay in the typhooning Kyoto for the day.  We didn’t realize how bad the weather was til we were on the outskirts of Kyoto at a Bamboo forest, which would have been gorgeous had it not been for the awful weather.  Here are my homies trying to figure out what direction the bathroom is in.

So we called that quits fast and got the train back to Kyoto where we traded in our umbrellas for full body ponchos, and decided to spend the afternoon eating Japanese nomz inside.

Yakisoba noodles with seafood!

Okonomiyaki pancake, which I swear tasted like the holidays to me.  Almost like a gingerbread cookie oddly enough.  It was okkk

After stuffing our faces, we tried to figure out a plan for the evening.  Moe helped us decide on going to a Kabuki/Geisha/tea ceremony show in Gion, which we were really excited about….that is until we got there and saw THIS SIGN.  If you can’t read it, it says that the theater is closed due to the typhoon.  Angry birds we were.

OH WELL, guess we’ll go get shitfaced on sake and sushi and hit up a karaoke room instead. Cue sloppiest, most fantastical night ever. God bless the little Japanese fellas who had to clean up after our disaster.

This is what 30 bottles of sake….


and Celine Dion looks like, if you were curious.

It was an awesome last night with all of us together, and the next morning we checked out and popped back on up to Osaka for a day of exploring, and saying bye to Steph.

Our first matter of business was to rest after our wild night, and then hit up Osaka Castle, which played a major role in the unification of Japan during the sixteenth century.

Once inside we read about all the different wars and heirs that occupied the castle…..and most importantly, we got to play geisha for 15 minutes.

We were getting hungry (and one boy quite cranky) and decided to head to Namba and the River walk.  We got the most tasty ramen at a little hole in the wall place on Dotonbori street, which is the most famous street in all of Osaka.

I regret to say I didn’t eat any Takoyaki (octopus balls), but here is what they look like and how they’re made.  Next time I go back to Japan I promise myself I’ll try, because apparently they’re bombtastic.

After stuffing our faces, we did what any normal person in Japan does.  We went to an arcade and Katie and Jeewon broke it down on the DDR with a silly looking, hardcore DDR Japanese boy.  Here’s a video to show you just how asian they are.

We ended our last night in Osaka by trying to ride an extremely ginormous ferris wheel on the river, but failed miserably when we got there too late.  Instead we decided to sit, talk, eat the massive amounts of mochi and snacks and green tea kit kats (and a 1/5 of booze for Josh) on the side of the river before catching the last train back to our hotel.

Overall, Japan was awesome!!!! I am so in love with it and glad I got to experience it with the lovely bunch of friendsies that I did.  The people there are so polite and exude attitude and style and individuality, which I love, especially after coming from Korea.  Obviously Korea will always hold a special place in my heart, it was just that they’re such different cultures, and I wasn’t really expecting that.

Until we meet again, sayonara Japan!!!


The Philippines: An Ode To My Havaianas

To wrap up my twelfth month of living abroad, I decided that instead of going home with my additional 2 weeks vacation, I would go and travel to another exotic land for a couple weeks.  I decided I wanted to go to the Philippines after hearing rave reviews from some friends who went in the winter.  For starters,  I was trying to think who from home would drop life in a snap and meet me in the Orient.  Other than my sister, that person would be Brianne, and life she did drop for a couple of beach basking weeks in the biggest archipelago in the world!  It didn’t even take any coaxing.  The mere question was asked and the dates were secured off from work within a week.  BOOM!  One thing that I am extremely grateful for is having friends who are so eager to travel and come meet me all over the world.  It definitely helps to ease a little bit of the homesickness that could easily have crept in far earlier.

Going to the Philippines was actually both mine and Brianne’s first trip where the primary activity that we’d be doing would be relaxing, so to begin, we were both in unfamiliar territory.  What? Vacation? RELAX?! NO! Oh, but YES! However, our vacation did not start out relaxing.  Not in the least bit.  We had to work up to that one.

Lack of relaxation began all the way in LA, starting with Brianne’s trip.  Her flight was delayed I think 18 hours, then it was rerouted, and even had an emergency landing in Hawaii, just because the other delays weren’t enough. My trip also started with a bit of high strung action as I bolted through Incheon airport like I had a Buzz Lightyear jet pack on my back because the security did not understand “GATE CLOSED” while I was still standing in the security line. Zest Air apparently had some technical difficulties at their check in counter.   Despite the momentary airport nerves, I made it to Manila on time, unlike Brianne. I had half a day before her new scheduled arrival, so I treated myself to a 2 hour massage and some dinner amidst what we would later find out to be the Red Light District of Makati in Manila. I knew it felt sketchball city when all those creepy eyes were following me. The next morning I had a brief panic attack because Brianne still hadn’t arrived and it was already 8:30am.  Thank GOD for my sister  who called the airline to get an update on Brianne’s flight for me.  This was when I learned about all the rerouting and whatnot.  Of course I was expecting only the worse.  Around noon, I decided to go get a coffee while I waited for her arrival, when cue yellow cabby coming up the street with a very exhausted looking Brianne in the backseat, and me bolting after the cab as if my life depended on it.  She was trying so hard to tune me out (because she thought I was a mother begging for money) that she didn’t even realize it was me til I was pounding on the window.  I retrieved her (and her Peruvian money) safe and sound and we rejoiced in each others arms! Let our vacation begin!!!!

We started our first official vacation day together off with a bang.  After Brianne did a quick freshening up, we hitched a cab to Intramuros, which from my research is really all there is to see in Manila that’s of any historical note.  Intramuros means “The Walled City,” and it’s the original portion of the city that is still standing after the Spanish colonization and destruction.  We were given a less than romantic tour through the walled city via horse and carriage in the rain by our tour guide, Nestor, and his horse with the ever-growing poop bag.

Manila Metropolitan Cathedral, as seen from our horse and carriage.

We befriended some girls in leopard pants who just wanted to sing Justin Bieber and “Call Me Maybe.”

We also got a little frisky with the Filipino presidents.

We got some awkwardly angled photos taken by Nestor in St. Agustin’s Cathedral.  Fun fact, the ceiling is painted, not carved.

We made a lovely little friend, Jonathan, at the Casa de Manila. He was precious and we were practicing our Korean with each other.

We went to Baluarte de San Diego, which was where the Spaniards kept their prisoners.  When the water would rise they would be tortured and drowned.

After our tour of Intramuros, Nestor decided to give us even more of a tour.  He took us through China Town, which continued the shitholeness of Manila. The streets were unlike streets I have ever seen.  Gah!

He even took us almost all the way back to our nook in the Red Light District, until his wheel broke. He hustled us far too much for our day’s journey, and why I didn’t pitch a fit, I don’t know.  But Nestor got away with murder that day. Oh well, twas a grand day nonetheless and I’m sure him and his mistresses ate well for a week!  Adios Manila!!

Next we were off to Donsol, which proved to be a bit of a bust, but still beautiful! First, we flew into the further of the two airports and had to take a 3 hour van (with many Disney stuffed animals) to Donsol that cost an arm and a leg.  Second, I should have trusted my gut on this one, but of course I didn’t. We went to Donsol because the region is famous for Whale Sharks!  My homie 4names told me that you can go there and snorkel with them and I instantly wanted to jump on that opportunity.  However, I knew it was the off season and that they’d migrate, but I didn’t realize that they completely stopped taking boats out to find them, which they do.  Boo.  For future travelers to Donsol, the best time to go is in the winter months!

Unfortunately, this is the closest I got to a gloriously large Whale Shark (they’re the largest fish in the world, are vegetarians, and known as gentle giants….so they’re not Great Whites mom!) I WILL be back to do this eventually!!

So, instead of swimming with whale sharks, we drank red wine on our patio, got a buzz, went on the river to watch fireflies mate, and then retired to our boudoir to read our books side by side.  Totally the same, right?

The next day we were off to the spectacular city of Naga (where the airport from hell was).  The owner of our hotel in Donsol, May, was the sweetest woman ever.  She reminded me of Chaz Bono in appearance, but what an angel she was.  We were her only patrons, so she took it upon herself to accompany us to Naga and make sure we got a place to stay while we were there.  She hopped in a tricycle with us when the van broke down upon entering Naga, and was just the kindest.  I’m a strong believer in people living up to their names (I love Mays, and Joshes can suck it).  So, we finally found a place that was quite luxurious, a wee bit out of our budget, and had “beds” which as far as we are concerned, were only box springs.

The next day is the worst day in the history of our Filipino adventure.  We were supposed to have a full 4 days in beautiful Boracay, but instead we were stranded in the Naga airport for 8 hours while Manila flooded and every Air Phil Express plane had to be rerouted, while every Cebu Air plane took off according to plan.  Long story short, we finally got out of the foodless airport and into Manila late that night, and I had to pitch a fit for them to actually put us up in a hotel in Manila that was infested with hookers and pee.  We got on the first flight out the next morning, after I reached my limit and pitched another fit when our flight was delayed ever-so-slightly….. again.

OH!  HELLO LOVER!! Never have crystal clear aquamarine waters looked more beautiful than after spending 8 hours in the worst airport ever, and another unwanted evening in the slums of Manila.  We finally arrived in Boracay!!! We checked into our hotel, none other than La Isla Bonita, grabbed some breakfast and a cocktail (but not after I had a cranky “bacon” moment), snagged some new sunnies, sucked back a coconut and HIT. THE. BEACH. and got very very burnt.

The rest of our stay in Boracay consisted of snorkeling, meeting other awesome teachers from Korea that I can’t wait to see again, beach basking, drinking and shopping.  All that’s really necessary is a pictoral journey of our stay in paradise.

I enjoyed my favorite tropical snack.

While Brianne felt otherwise.

We snorkeled amidst the glorious waters…

With Panama Ji-ho and all of his closest life-jacket clad Korean chingus. Fun (or not so fun) fact, Asians suffer the most drownings in the Philippines because many can’t swim.

We went to Crystal Cove Island, where we saw stalagmites/tites, and climbed on rocks while pretending to be Ariel from The Little Mermaid.

We got back to our dancer/cheerleader roots and put on quite the performance with a rope.

Played with electric blue sea life.

I also got this heinous photo of me with the living water balloon, Flounder, the puffer fish!  He was slimey and gross and gave me the heeby jeebies!

We also went out and met some hip peeps, and some tools who ended up being kind of fun as well.  Can you spot the toolbox keeper?

Boracay was everything I had hoped it would be!  Alas, we were off to the final island of our hopping, and boy was it our fave! Last but not least was Palawan, home of El Nido, the cutest, most quaint and lovely little place.

Palawan is the biggest island on the west side of the Philippines.  For the first time on our trip, our flights were all on time and we landed in Puerto Princesa as planned, found the De Loro hotel with the sweetest staff ever, and got to booking our excursions.  Right when we arrived we signed up to go to the Underground River tour the following day, which is one of the 7 Wonders of Nature, and boy was it! Immediately after getting our permits for the river, we were off on a 4 hour tour of Puerto Princesa.

We caught a quick Filipino mass at St. Agustines Cathedral.

Despite my frustrations, I learned how to weave a rug, or place mat, or towel….or something, out of dyed grass. He was not a very good teacher.

Gazed at Honda Bay in the distance, and also creeped on cute kids and a horsey.

Then I turned into a beautiful butterfly at a butterfly garden.  It was random.

The next day we were off to the Underground River in Sabang bright and early!  We had an 8:30am appointment, and Sabang was about 1.5 hours away by van. We got on one of the earliest tour groups because they regulate the amount of people who are able to enter the cave each day due to excavations and research that are being held there.  They allow 800 people to view it each day, so lucky us!

The boat ride was about 45 mins – 1 hour, and was really cool, but a bit long.  Brianne and I were exhausted and regret to say that we took mini snoozes here and there.  The cave is filled with bats, so they are all over the ceiling!!  Our guide kept telling us that when we look up to not say “WOW” or else we’d get bat shit in our mouths.  MMMMM! It was interesting, despite our snoozes, because the different stalagtite and stalagmite formations looked like different things, so the guide kept pointing out “this is the cathedral and The Last Supper” and “here we have broccoli in the garden” and “oh, and there’s a penis!” It was magnificent!

It was kinda hard to get good pictures in the cave, but these are pretty decent considering the lack of lighting combined with my shitty camera.

After floating thru a natural wonder, we were off to scour and repel rocks and zip line….all while in our slippery havaianas! We had no idea we were about to be rock climbing, or we would have packed the appropriate footwear.  Oh well, hakuna matata!!

The journey wouldn’t have been a journey had we not been hammin it up for the camera along the way, now would it?

Oh! Welcome to our rock home!

Say a prayer….or hug a rock. I LOVE THIS ROCK SO MUCH!

Just hanging out with some lopsided stalagtites.

If it looks as if I’m barefoot, it’s because I might as well have been.  Havaianas are not proper rock climbing attire.

I’m coming outttttt, I want the world to knowwww, gotta let it showww. That’s what comes to mind.

Finally at the top, ready to go down in our sexiest garb.

Stole these from the computer screen because I’m Jewish.  Flyin highhh


The final destination of our stay on Palawan was the little nook of El Nido, mine and Brianne’s favorite place on our whole trip.  El Nido is so special because it’s still not a hot tourist spot, so you have to take a 6 hour van ride up from Puerto Princesa just to get there, and then once you’re there, there aren’t ATMs anywhere, so you gotta come stacked with the cash monies. It’s this quaint little backpackers haven interspersed with locals and everyday Filipino life everywhere.  The people were so kind and helpful, and then on top of it, the village is surrounded by island after island for miles and miles.  It is STUNNING and unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my life. You look out into the ocean and it’s like you’re in this cove encircled by mountainous islands on every side of you.

We took a private van overnight up from Puerto Princesa, which is actually really unlikely because they pack these vans to the brim.  We just happened to be the only ones who booked to leave at that time so they were gonna try and cancel on us, but of course we pitched a fit, and got our van for a little extra money, but we were fine with that as long as we didn’t miss another day of our trip because of travel delays. So, we left at 6pm, and it took us more like 8 hours to get to El Nido because our driver kept stopping to fist bump his friends, pee, and sleep on the side of the road.  It was sketch, but we made it there in one piece.  We actually crashed at some random hostel called Full House because we got in around 2am with no accommodations and our driver happened to know the owner.  It sufficed, but we didn’t see Uncle Jesse 😦

The next morning we woke up to this majestic view, then hitched a tricycle into town to grab our bearings.

We stayed at a nice little place called the Garnet Hotel.  It stood out to me initially because it was bright orange.  Then it also had an adorable staff, so it was perfect. It’s on the main road of El Nido, and the little guy working there helped us set up our snorkel tour for the next day, and got us a personal driver to take us to Las Cabanas beach, which is situated just outside of El Nido, and then 2 guys to motorcycle us around up to Long Beach and a glorious waterfall.

The only downside to our time in El Nido was that it was really overcast, but it was a small price to pay.  It was breathtaking no matter what.  Here we are gallavanting and enjoying Las Cabanas beach and all the islands!

All that lush flora on our walk to the beach!

How cliche of us….it says Dani & Bree in a heart.

Our next day was spent island hopping.  It was a ridiculously rough day, and the boat ride out to the islands was SO choppy that we were soaked by the time we got to the first lagoon! But, this was some of the most magnificent snorkeling I have ever done.  I wish I had pictures to document it, but they will just live in my memory.  In one dive spot I felt like I was in a starfish graveyard that was scattered with roses everywhere.  There were fish that looked like they jumped right out of the 80s in their flourescent scales, and I even felt like I was swimming amidst Ariel and King Triton’s palace beneath the sea. The snorkeling was so unbelievable that we found ourselves snorkeling way far out away from the boat, until our nerves got us and we’d swim back just a lil bit closer.  We swam into a secret lagoon where we could barely see in front of us, and also happened to be where part of the Bourne Legacy was filmed.  I swear I also saw numerous jellyfish swim past me.  Later we came to find out that the Box Jellyfish, which is apparently the most deadly thing on the planet and can kill 100 people with one sting…..resides in the waters we were swimming in.  Comforting!!

Above Ariel’s Kingdom, where Bourne Legacy was filmed.

A bomb ass lunch was served on one of the islands, with a side of our new friend Cucoy’s underpants.  That man would touch anything and everything under the sea.

The next day was our favorite day of the trip by far!  We had two young guys, Wang Wang and Neil, and their motorcycles at our service.  We were driven way out of El Nido up to Long Beach.  We drove through remote little villages and got to see how the other half lives, let the wind catch our hair, walked as close as I ever have to cows, had a monkey man fetch us coconuts up a tree, and then hiked (in havaianas…again) to a gorgeously refreshing waterfall.  I can now check riding on the back of a motorcycle off my bucket list 🙂

We had some fans as we passed through…

And only drove on the safest of terrain.

Met some ballers as we drove through their hood.

Next came the hike to that delightful waterfall.  We got stuck in the mud along the way, forded many a river and scoured many a rock.  And we might as well have been barefoot whilst doing so.

Here is Brianne pretending to like my coconut.

What woman doesn’t want an au natural brassiere straight from the earth?

MADE IT without any falls along the way.  That’s saying a lot for me.

Rewarding ourselves with a dip.

One of my absolutely favorite things about El Nido was that everyday we saw the same people.  Whether it was other foreigners, or the local children playing hopscotch in the street.  I had one of my favorite nights at a local restaurant called Squidoos, where we met a young couple who’d been traveling for the past couple months on a tight tight budget, a young British Indian couple who had just come from visiting a cousin teaching in Korea, and the most fantastic little French family who reinstilled my faith in the French people.  We had a couple of those amazing nights just filled with great conversation and travel stories.  Loved loved loved!

A trip is never a trip without the addition of cute Asian babies.  So, here I am playing a most adorable and rigorous game of High 5 with the cutest little babes on the planet!!  They were so cute they took my attention away from my most delicious nutella crepe!

After 3 wonderful days in El Nido, we bid adieu and were off on yet another 6 hour van ride back to Puerto Princesa where we spent our final night.  My friend Mandy and her boyfriend Luke were actually having their first night on our last night, so we all met up and went to dinner at a burger place called Skybox.  It was really nice to get to say bye to Mandy in person since she obviously left Korea while I was gone.

As you can see, it was an amazing trip and I’m so glad that Brianne and I had the opportunity to meet up on this side of the globe and see each other while I celebrated 1 year of life abroad.  We were wonderful travel buddies, and until our next worldly journey….Daniel & Brian will always have ze Peens…and our little warrior Havaianas ❤





Back When I Was In Nam & Cambodia…

I knew before heading out to Vietnam and Cambodia that this was going to be a very different trip than Thailand was.  Thailand was all lighthearted and bomb diggity, but this trip was on a whole new level of amazingness, and was extremely educational. I’m the first one to say how unknowledgeable I am about most things concerning Asian history, so I was super excited for this trip.  This trip had a major focus on life and death and everything in between, of course being in 2 3rd world countries and all. In addition, 2 of my best Asian princesses are part Vietnamese and Cambodian and I’ve heard stories here and there about the history or things that have happened to their parents/families, so I was really eager to experience their history first hand.

This was also overshadowed by some events that struck me from home.  My first day in Phu Quoc I found out that the mom of one of my great friends from high school passed away after a very long battle with cancer.  I really really loved her so much, and began thinking about the last time I saw her, and I think it was at a funeral for our friend’s younger brother who was killed in Afghanistan about 1.5 years ago.  Before and after moving to Korea, she would Facebook message me just to say hi and give me recommendations when packing for the long haul.  Sweet sweet lady that Iris Grant. Then, on my final night in Phnom Penh (which was already an emotionally draining city), I found out on Facebook that my ex-boyfriend, first love, whatever, welcomed his first baby boy.  Crazy how life comes full circle like that.

ANYWAYS, moving on to the trip….

Katie and I flew out to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) on February 15th, had a 3 hour layover in the Shanghai airport (AKA the worst airport in the world), then landed in HCMC at the crack of dawn on the 16th. After feeling creeped out in the alley outside the hostel Abby found for us all, we rang the bell and were welcomed in.  The next morning we all packed up and headed out to the airport for our little jaunt to Phu Quoc, which is a small island off of Southern Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand on your map. Well, for some this little getaway turned into a big hiccup.  Our dear friend Matteu Pierre lost his passport somewhere in Saigon, therefore Katie stayed behind with him to sort it all out.  While they freaked out, Abby and I flew off to what we would come to deem the Kingdom of Lesbia, with the boys, Mark, Gavin, Kenny and Scotty.

Phu Quoc is gorgeous and for the most part pretty remote and no one really speaks English.  Basically it’s a lot of pointing to the item on the menu for what you want, big hand motions, and walking the person over to what you are trying to show them so they understand. But I can handle that for a couple days. Our first day there I got my first bowl of pho in Nam which SUCKED, and was cooked in a makeshift kitchen on the sand. It later started to pour rain, and after watching the “restauranteurs” poke holes in their thatched roof to prevent the water weight from collapsing their establishment, we made a mad dash and began dancing in the rain and singing Italian love songs.  This is how we looked afterwards.

The next day Abby and I made a failed attempt at killing ourselves, meaning we lived, by trying to ride one of these:

After Abby had an anxiety attack, we traded these bad boys in for whimsical bicycles and frolicked around. Thank god we traded them in because that night while returning from the Duong Dong night market, it started raining and I don’t think I could hold onto my life on a motorbike, on a black as F road in the outbacks of Nam at night. You’re welcome life, and mom.

Our nights on Phu Quoc consisted of the boys coming to our resort to steal our aircon and drink their $1.50 bottle of Vietnamese Rum in our room while Abby and I laid in our beds in our PJs and Mark straightened his hair to look like an Eastern European grease ball.  I’ll refrain from posting the video I took to maintain our friendship.

On my last day on the island, Abby and I booked a snorkeling/fishing half day trip which turned out to be absolutely amazing!! During the drive down to the South we stopped at a Pearl farm which was aight, but we got to see how pearls are farmed. We also got a chance to really see how the Vietnamese live.  It’s really intense to see the shacks these people call home, and makes you appreciate everything that we are blessed with by just living in a 1st world country like American or Korea.

Onto the snorkelfishing!  Turns out I’m a pretty good deep sea fisherwoman, and after being coached by one of the Lesbias on board I caught 3 fish!  Here’s lucky numero uno! I think I named him Harold.

After fishing we were served a very delicious meal on board.  It consisted of some type of Vietnamese/Thai fusion noodle, sauteed Morning Glory (long and green stuff that was bomb), some egg frittata type thing, white rice, potato and carrot soup, fried fish (later we were told it wasn’t the fish we caught), and a special surprise of sea urchin if we wanted to try, which I did.  When in Rome! It actually turned out to be not so bad.  They prepared it with onion and peanuts and soy sauce so I thought it was pretty tasty and kinda had a peanut buttery texture. That was an extra 20,000 dong more (~$1).  Then we finally got to snorkel!  And let me tell you, this was the most gorgeous snorkeling I have ever done, and I’ve snorkeled in a lot of beautiful places! We made 3 different stops and saw some of the most gorgeous corral and fish ever!  One of the lesbias said she thought she saw something that looked like a Barricuda and kept telling herself to keep swimming lol. Abby has also never swam in the ocean like that before, due to her inability to tread water, so she was having a gay ‘ol time wandering off out in the open water in her florescent life jacket.

The next day I left Phu Quoc behind and flew back to Ho Chi Minh for a few days. Phu Quoc was beautiful and all, but I was so happy to be in a CITY with hustle bustle and historical sights to see. One thing is for sure, the hustle bustle is alive and kickin in HCMC.  One finds that out instantly when crossing the street and seeing your whole life flash before you. The trick is to just walk slowly and the motorbikes with families of 5 on them will just go around you.  I ended up enjoying this game of “trying not to get killed.”

On my first day there I met up with Katie, Matt and Kenny, who also ended up leaving the island early.  Matt was still getting all his passport ish sorted, so he was a bit stressed but trying to have a good time.  Katie and I ended up leaving the boys to go check out the War Remnants Museum, which was essentially a “We Hate America” museum. I don’t know why they allow us in the country after going there. Granted I’m not very knowledgeable on the Vietnam War, but from what I saw there we did some pretty nasty shit that is still affecting their people today physically and mentally.  We drowned those horrid images in some shopping at Ben Thanh Market, the best coffee in the world and a bowl of delicious pho at the place there Clinton ate when he journeyed there. All better.

Abby arrived the next day and the 3 of us went to the Reunification Palace which was pretty boring actually. I almost stepped on a massive carpet which was poorly labeled.  That was pretty much the only highlight. That night we met up with the boys to try and find a place where we could drink snake blood.  This is apparently called a snake ceremony and is done all over Vietnam, but you wouldn’t think that given the looks of disgust we got whenever we asked a Vietnamese person.  We found a place that did it, but it ended up being extremely expensive and none of us were down to pay $60 for taking the life out of a snake. I’ll just have to do it another time.  Instead of a dinner of snake we got some Pho Hung which was bomb diggity and a nice trade off.

Our final day in Ho Chi Minh was my favorite I reckon. We got up early to go to the Cu Chi Tunnels, which were used by the Cu Chi Vietcong people during the war. The Cu Chi people live in the South, obviously, but fought for the Northern Vietcong. Shady Sheisters. So we took a tour about 2 hours outside of Ho Chi Minh, where we had the cutest tour guide named Slim Jim.  Why you ask?  Because he “eats like a bird, smokes like a chimney and drinks like a fish.”  Once at the Cu Chi tunnels we got to see real life boobie traps, secret holes for hiding, crawl through the actual tunnels and shoot a gun!  The 3 of us bought a round of 10 bullets and got our hardcore on with an AK47.

My first time shooting a gun!

They had to widen these tunnels to accommodate the fat westerners.  The Cu Chi people crawled through these, where as I walked through hunched over with my butt slightly hitting the sides.

All in all, I enjoyed Nam, especially the pho and weasel poop coffee. Thank god I brought some coffee back with me because I ain’t getting THAT in koko. Next time I need to go visit the North, because I hear that’s where it’s at. Now onto Cambodia, which I absolutely

The only things I didn’t like about Cambodia were my polka dotted legs from mosquito bites and the 13 hour bus ride that it took us to get there. This is how I looked on the bus ride because I couldn’t handle the heat, so the only thing to do was sleep, and bob. Compliments to Katie for this gem.

I LOVED Cambodia, but at the same time I just felt so awful seeing their quality of life, but I guess that is all they know so it’s just life for them. The people here were so warm and eager to help and talk to you and point you in the direction of what you should do next. Not to mention, the Cambodian people are freakin gorgeous. I think every man working at our hotel was attractive. Our first city was Siem Reap and we were staying at the same hotel as the boys this time. We got in pretty late after that bus ride from hell, so the 3 of us lassies indulged in some pool time, some vino and our first ever Cambodian dishes.  Twas a lovely way to unwind and prep ourselves for Templing out the following day.

We were picked up by our sweet tuk tuk driver, Sovann (pronounced Sowan) at 9am the next morning and he had a list of temples on the agenda, all of which MayMay recommended to me 🙂 First we went to Angkor Wat, which is one of the Wonders of the World, and yes it is quite a wonder! It’s massive and beautiful and seemed never-ending in size. Inside there are several levels and smaller temples.  We weren’t allowed up to the 3rd level though because we were too scantily clad.  Good thing because we didn’t feel like waiting in the massive line anyways.

Outside before we entered

Next we went to Ta Prohm, or the Jungle temple.  This temple was magnificent!! It had trees with the most insane roots growing out and over and on the sides of the structures. Some of the buildings had scafolding to preserve them from being crushed by the tree.  Talk about a freakin miracle!

I think this tree looks like a dancing woman wearing bell bottoms 🙂

Next on the temple tour was Bayon Temple, or what I called the Faces temple. I love drawing faces and eyeballs, so you know I loved this one.  There were literally faces everywhere!

Ajummas do Cambodia (old Korean women)

And the last of the day was a hike to the top of a temple/mountain to see the sunset.  We actually thought we were going to see Angkor Wat at Sunset, but I think there was a bit of a mixup in communication.  Nonetheless, it was really pretty from the top of the mountain, and tonssss of people were there.  Including Juan (h-Juan as we like to pronounce it), the nice handsome man from Jersey we met in Blue Pumpkin outside of Angkor Wat.  He gave me his bottle of deet to rid myself of the polka dotted leg syndrome and that towel shielding my sunburn from the sun.

That night we were so exhausted and completely templed out. Abby and I got massages at the hotel and then we just kinda vegged out for the night while the boys were out gettin’ all buck and ya know.

The next day we thought we were going to a floating market, but it turned out to be a floating village on the Tonle Sap River. We got our own boat and driver and were taken to a crocodile farm that was random, but cool to see, and a tiny little shopping area with nothing much aside from Pringles (our staple), coffee and some trinkets. After buying another can of Pringles we hopped back in the boat and were taken to another floating store.  This was when it was dropped on us that we were going to an orphanage and we should buy something to give to the kids. Holy Jesus. This is what they meant by tourist trap. BUT, we ended up all chipping in $10 each and bought the kids a box of 25 packets of ramen and some notebooks for school. We were then taken to the orphanage where we got to meet the adorable freakin kids. Dear god Cambodian kids are ADORABLE. We gave our gifts to the teacher since we didn’t buy enough to hand out to every student, and then we just sat down and played with them.

One little girl named Jae came right up to me and sat down next to me.  I swear she was a mini Wawa.  She was so sweet and just kept wanting me to hug her and give her high fives. Before long kids were swarming around the 3 of us, and it was just one of those feel good 10-15 minutes of your life. I think it was a little difficult for Katie since she’s adopted, but it was cool to get to do that with her 🙂 Kids are just so damn cute anywhere you go.  I swear I wanted to steal at least 5 babies a day, AT LEAST. When we left the orphanage Jae just stood in front of me and put her arms up for me to pick her up.  Such a sweet heart. Now I know why Angelina keeps freakin adopting these kids.

Mini Wawa!

That night we actually went out in Siem Reap which was so much fun!  I had tried to meet up with my friend Matt’s friend who lives there (sorry Matt, I know you’re reading 😉 but due to my shitty wifi we missed each other.  Oh well!

The next morning we were off, yet again on another bus ride.  This time to Phnom Penh, and it was only 6 hours. ONLY. At least the bus was better this time, but I swear it stopped every 15 minutes to let some Cambodian family off at their house or to wash their babies poopy pants in the river.  GET ME THERE ALREADY!

Well, we got there. And as I had anticipated, I dropped my shit and RAN to find me a tuk tuk to get me to the Killing Fields. I only had less than a day in the Capital city of Phnom Penh and I wanted to make sure I saw the Killing Fields and S-21 (the Genocide Museum). Both closed at 5pm so I hit the ground running.

I went to the Killing Fields by myself that day, and this began the most emotionally exhausting day ever. I was getting annoyed with some people who kept saying “oh it’s just a field I don’t need to see it.”  But really, it is a big deal.  If you don’t want to see it because it’s morbid that’s understandable, but to say because it’s just a field is f’ing ignorant. I think I really liked Cambodia because you’re literally living in the people’s history, given that this genocide by the Khmer Rouge happened in the late 70s, so anyone around 30 years old or older either was alive for it or has a parent or relative or friend who was. So when people were saying oh it’s just a field, I kept thinking how if someone had said that about the Holocaust “oh it’s just a camp” I’d be infuriated, because it’s not “just a camp,” those were people’s lives. Sorry, rant.

Anyways, I got there and got my headset and was on my way.  Right when you get in you see a giant building that is 17 stories high. In it are skulls, bones and clothes of people who were killed there. It’s their way of paying tribute to those who were lost.

As you walk along the audio tells you where different buildings stood and have anecdotal stories to go along with some of them. I won’t get into detail because it really was so sad, but as you’re walking past the mass graves and killing trees, there are remnants of clothes and bones that have washed up with rain that are just laying right at your feet.  It was so eerie but also fascinating at the same time to be just walking in history. It was really something to think that this happened a little over 30 years ago right there.

Next I hopped back in my tuk tuk and was taken to S-21 where I met Katie and Abby. S-21 was originally a high school and a middle school and was later turned into a torture facility by the Khmer Rouge.  This was ever creepier than the Killing Fields.  You can walk right up to the metal beds that victims were strapped to and see blood stains that were barely washed away.  You could walk into the brick cells and the wooden cells if you wanted to.  I was too creeped out, so I just poked my head in one of the brick ones.  The wooden ones I literally snapped a photo and ran. All throughout the museum they have photos of the victims.  Ranging from infants to elderly people.  There were a couple of photos that made me cry and it was just awful, but I’m glad I went to see it.

Pardon the sad note.

The rest of my last day was spent being girly. We got a delicious dinner, some massages and then just wandered and shopped for a bit.

On my flights home I was with Scotty, and after being in the Kuala Lumpur airport for 3.5 hours, us and another EPIKer Thyla, still managed to almost miss our flight, or rather almost accidentally boarded a plane to Perth, Australia….oops.

Vietnam and Cambodia were definitely 2 countries I didn’t even think about going to before I came to Korea, let alone 3 of the first I’d travel to!  It was such an educational trip and I loved it so much!! Sorry to end it on such a downer note, but I mean, I knew that was gonna be a bulk of what we saw.

So, to liven your spirits, enjoy the fruits of my creeper labors.


And finally…say CHEESE!