Universal Studios in Hollywood

Our trip to Universal Studios was actually fun.  It was my first time ever going, and the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter park was the thing that got me to visit.  I can’t say I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, but I can say I did read all 7 books and watched all 7 movies.  So in a way, I am a fan but not unlike others who go above and beyond that.

The Harry Potter park is probably my favorite part of Universal Studios.  As a fan and also one who appreciates architecture, I loved walking through Hogsmeade and the castle.  The spaces are well thought out and creatively designed that it’s worth a trip despite the crowds.

Below are just a few photos I took at the park.  Hope you enjoy and find inspiration to go!

Trip duration: 2 day park pass (Aug 2016)

Waterworld show
Universal’s animal actors show
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

12 New Things I Did or Tried in 2018 Including Travel Destinations

white and pink flowerson a book beside eyeglasses
Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

2018 was definitely a growing year for me.  I had some happy moments, but also some sad and really stressful times.  Despite the hard times though, I’m thankful for all the new things I got to do and try that I want to share them below:

  1. Korean Skincare Routine – This was the year I discovered Korean skincare and I have been loving it.  It’s affordable compared to items on Sephora and best of all it’s effective.  I just love how it transformed my skin especially for makeup, which brings me to point #2.
  2. Makeup – I was never one to wear a lot that is until I discovered Korean skincare.  With smooth and soft skin as a base, my makeup goes on naturally and now I’m a Sephora Insider (almost made it to VIB, but not quite).
  3. Investing – This was the year I started investing.  I know I’m a little late, but I spent most of my twenties trying to get out of debt (student loans, etc.) and the start of 2018 was when I became debt free!
  4. I passed 2 of the 6 NCARB tests for my license, but I also failed one test 3 times.  The third time was a low point for me.
  5. Austin, Texas – We went for a week and did a day trip to San Antonio to see the Alamo.  We didn’t do much.  It was raining for most of the time we were there so we stayed in and watched quite a bit of TV.
  6. Vancouver, BC – We went for 4 nights and 5 days.
  7. Day trip to L.A. – It was our first time flying to Los Angeles just for a day.  We went to see the musical, the Color Purple, and  I’m very open to the experience again in the future.
  8. Kevin Hart – We saw his show, “The Irresponsible Tour” and he’s hilarious!
  9. Miss Saigon – We finally saw it this year because the show came to San Francisco, and although the music is phenomenal, the story is so sad.
  10. Gucci bag – My first ever luxury purchase was this year in Austin, Texas.  For me, buying a luxury bag was to celebrate my becoming debt-free.
  11. Cordless Dyson – This is a game changer because now I love vacuuming and I do it several times a week now.  Cordless vacuuming is highly recommended.
  12. Crush – We saw Crush’s show in San Jose and he’s so good live.  I’m quite impressed my his singing.

I hope next year will be a year of more new experiences.  If I’m not trying new things, then I’m staying stagnant and to me it’s all about life experiences for self progression.

A Trip to Big Island, Hawaii – A Family Trip

If I were to describe Big Island, I would say it’s like the country of Hawaii.  Although it has Kona, the more commercialized part of the island, Big Island is fairly natural.  If you’re on the Hilo side, there’s the Puna rain forest and then there’s the Volcano National Park that’s actively flowing with lava.

Would I recommend a trip to Big Island? Absolutely and especially for those living on the west coast, it’s a bargain when flying with Alaska Airlines, Southwest, or even Hawaiian Airlines.  For domestic travels, I use Alaska Airlines to take advantage of their frequent flyer points and yearly companion fare offerings.  But that’s just my preference.  It’s okay to use a different airline.

Below are a few pictures taken from our trip back in 2017.  We didn’t explore too much since we were with family, but we still managed to do a few things on our own.

Trip duration: 5 nights, 6 days (April 2017)

View from the Luau at Voyagers of the Pacific
Voyagers of the Pacific Luau
Hawaii Volcano National Park
Hawaii Volcano National Park
Kalapana – Where the lava enters the sea
Kalapana – Where the lava goes to the sea
Kona at the Sheraton
Kona at the Sheraton
Kona at the Sheraton

Yosemite National Park Hiking Trip

Yosemite National Park is another ‘must visit’ place on anyone’s bucket list.  Pictures below are from a trip we took a few years ago when I had ambitious goals to hike up Half Dome.

Short story: By the time we got to the sub-dome, it was around 4pm.  With no headlamps on us and weary legs, we decided to turn back around.  Good thing we did because by the time we got to the valley floor, it was pitch black.

I had ambitious goals of tackling the 16 mile hike instead of doing the shorter versions, but if getting to the summit is a priority, I recommend a shorter route.

Obviously Yosemite National Park is not just about Half Dome.  There are other things to do and hikes to take.  This is just my experience of park.

Helpful tips:

  • Getting inside the park can be very scary.  If you aren’t used to driving along the edge of a mountain, then prepare yourself for the drive.
  • Check out the scenic ‘Tunnel View” and snap a picture.  It’s a gorgeous view.
  • Be weary of the wildlife – we encountered a coyote on our hike, but there are black bears and rattle snakes to watch out for.
  • Invest in a head lamp if you plan to hike Yosemite.  We brought flashlights from the Dollar Tree and it barely lit our path on our decent.
  • Hydrate if you go on a long hike – we had 4 bottles of 32oz Gatorade each person.  The crazy thing was we only peed once for the entire hike, which was from 5:30am to 8:30pm.
View from the sub-dome circa 2013
Heading back down
Looking back at Half Dome on our way down to the valley floor.

Sydney, Australia – A Travel Must

It took 17 hours getting here from the San Francisco Bay Area.  Our first stop was Auckland, New Zealand and then a short flight over to Sydney.  Although it was a long travel day, it was worth the trip to be in the land down under.  Below are just a few pictures of our time there, and if there is a time to go, I’d say when they host Vivid Sydney.  The light shows are amazing!

Trip duration: 7 nights, 8 days (end of May 2017)

The Opera House in the early morning
Harbor tour overlooking the Sydney Harbor Bridge
Bird Cages on Angel Place
Along Darling Harbor
Taronga Zoo along Sydney harbor
Vivid Sydney

Bucket List Worthy: Yellowstone National Park

If I were to visit Yellowstone again, I’d stay at the Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton Park.  We so happened to have stopped by for a restroom break, and also decided to have lunch at the Blue Heron Lounge.  Not only was the food really good, but the view of Grand Teton in the background was so romantic.  The proximity to Yellowstone and Jackson Hole is also a plus.  There’s less driving and more time for activities.  On our first visit, we stayed in Idaho Falls and the drive was close to 2 hours each direction.  It was definitely not the best use of our time since we had 2 days to explore each park.

For getting to Yellowstone, I’d fly into Salt Lake City for cheaper airfare and then head on up in a rental car.  The drive takes about 4.5 hours, which isn’t too bad considering the sightseeing you’ll be doing.  However, if driving is not your thing and you’re willing to pay a little bit more, there’s always flying into the Yellowstone airport.

Yellowstone is definitely one of the national parks to visit and very bucket list worthy.  With Grand Teton right next door, it’s a two in one park visit.

Some helpful tips:

  1. Even in June, the temperature hovers around 65 degrees Fahrenheit.  I definitely recommend packing a lightweight down.
  2. Yellowstone gets busy around lunch time so avoid the cafes and/or restaurants because getting service will take awhile.  Prepare snacks and have lunch at an odd hour to avoid the lunch rush.  Other than the Blue Heron Lounge in Grand Teton, the rest of the park food was cafeteria quality.
  3. There are restaurants just outside of the Yellowstone west entrance, and they also get crowded.  We tried having dinner there, but the wait was too long.
Jackson Hole, Wy circa June 2016
Buffalo in the park


A winding river
A panoramic view with Old Faithful to the right