My July post features the sunflower field in Dixon, California. Every summer while traveling to the Bay Area, I am overwhelmed with the summer heat and the bright yellowness of sunflower fields. There are plenty of sunflower fields around Davis, Woodland, and Dixon; however, this field in Dixon has huge flowers and it’s very close to the freeway (I80). If you’re in Northern California, make sure you make a stop to feel the warmth of the golden sun and the sudden happiness that sunflowers bring you.
I don’t know about you, but sunflower can instantly lift my mood. Sunflower symbolizes the sun with its petals representing the sun’s warm rays. It is the flower of warmth, energy, and longevity; therefore, sunflower bouquets can be picked up for any occasion and any gender. I couldn’t believe that there are as many as 70 species of sunflower out there. Sunflowers are not necessarily yellow, they can be red, pink, brown, copper, etc.
Sunflower will always be my favorite flower because of its liveliness and vibrancy. My outfit today is simple, cute, and elegant. Whenever I have an off-shower top on, I accessorize my look with both necklace and earrings so that my upper body isn’t empty or reveling. Straw hats will give your look a more summery feel. I chose a yellow top since yellow is one of my favorite colors. I styled my hair with loose and wavy curls for a natural look. Summer is a season to throw on a cute outfit, to get outside for ice-cream, to catch up with friends.
Day 1: Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, Taipei 101, Lungshan Temple, Guangzhou Night Market
We landed in Taipei around noon. After getting our rooms at Finders Hotel, we went out for lunch (beef noodles soup) and started exploring right away. Unluckily, we visited the National Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall on a rainy day, but it was still nice. We got to watch the last Changing of the Guard ceremony for the day. We then took the MRT to Taipei 101 for gift-shopping. The admission fee to go up Taipei 101 was too expensive so we passed on that. Just looking at the building from outside was already impressive enough.
We then walked to the Lungshan Temple. The temple was filled with the scent of incense, flowers, and visitors praying during Dharma Day which celebrates the Buddha’s first teaching on the full moon day of the 8th lunar month. We then walked to Guangzhou Night Market next door for dinner. My friends and I got to try various Taiwanese street foods, and eventually settling for hotpot as the main course.
Day 2: National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine, Taiwan National Palace Museum, Fish Market, Shilin Night Market
The Beef noodle soup was amazing yesterday so we got it again, except at a different place. I also bought a kumquat tea before we started exploring. We visited the National Revolutionary Martyr’s Shrine and Taiwan National Palace Museum on our second day in Taipei. We got to watch another Changing of the Guard Ceremony at the shrine. The palace is famous for its jade bok-choy. I must say Taiwan National Palace Museum is one of the biggest museums I have ever visited. The museum is huge and I leave it you to grasp its size for yourself when you visit.
In the afternoon, we had a small meal at the Taipei Fish Market (臺北魚市). You can buy anything ranging from boxed sushi rolls to king crab. I ordered a grilled king crab and scallops. The seafood was so sweet and fresh. If you’re like me and love seafood, you can literally spend a day here to satisfy your seafood craving.
At Shilin Night Market, I tried the ice cream burrito, intestine noodle soup, and beef buns. The ice cream is very similar to what I had in Vietnam with a different twist- the cilantro is in the ice cream. I bought a small cup of the intestine noodles soup and the added spiciness made it very delicious. Lastly, the grilled beef bun was crispy on the outside and savory in the inside.
Day 3: Kaohsiung (Fo Guang Shan), Tiger and Dragon Pagodas, Rueifong Night Market
We took the high-speed rail to Kaohsiung for our third day. Kaohsiung is known for Fo Guang Shan which is the site of a huge Buddhist temple. I love the scenery and the interior of the main hall. One thing I remember from a lady preaching there is the phrase “Having everything also means having nothing.” We then took the taxi to the Tiger and Dragon Pagodas in downtown Kaohsiung.
We enjoyed dinner at Rueifong Night Market. The pictures below were some events happening at the market. I adore these people for the effort they put into their work each night at the market. Going to the night markets in Taiwan every night gave me a unique perception of the people here. They are spiritual, friendly, and hard-working.
Day 4: Ruifeng, Jiufen Village, and Raohe Night Market
Our group opted for a simple and cheap Taiwanese breakfast on our last day here with fried egg, fried dough fritter (油條 yóutiáo), and hot soy milk (豆漿 dòu jiāng). The portion was small so we got to order 2 of everything at a cheap cost.
To get to Jiufen we had to take the train to Ruifeng which took around 40 minutes. We then caught the bus to Jiufen Village. On the way to the bus stop, we tried the 85°C bakery’s coffee (85°C is from Taiwan), which I like very much back in the U.S. We explored Jiufen Village amidst the summer heat. I recommend wearing comfortable shoes since the village involves a lot of walking up and down hills. This picturesque village inspired the theme for the movie Spirited Away. If you’re a fan of Studio Ghibli, then this place is a must-see. I loved the architecture and surroundings of the village.
We had soup dumplings (xiao long bao), stewed bamboo, and rice for lunch at the village. It was absolutely delicious. Xiao long bao is a must-try in Taiwan. We were traveling on a budget, but I heard Din Tai Fung had the most perfect soup dumplings. Besides lunch, I also tried the grilled snails which were also tasty!
We concluded our Taiwan trip with an amazing and beautiful day spent at Jiufen Village. The next day, we flew to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam.
1. Hotel for 4 days: $250 for 2 ($125 each)
2. Taxi from Airport to Hotel 1100NT for 4 ($9 per person)
3. Meals for 4 days: 3000NT (~$100)
4. MRT per day 200NT (around $13 for 4 days)
5. High-speed tail to Kaohsiung: $50 one way, total $100.
Hey there, hope your summer has been going well- no sunburn, lots of water, sleep, and great company. I spent my summer in super humid places in Asia this year. On this post, I’ll share with you my experiences in Korea and my tips for future travelers. I will share with you my budget, itinerary, and favorite dishes that are must-try if you go to Korea.
Day 1 (7/15/2019): Our flight landed at 5:30 PM local time so we didn’t have much time for exploring besides visiting Namsan Tower that evening. It was not an easy hike up the mountain, but if you enjoy hiking and some exercising then go for it. Many people also take the bus up to the tower as an alternative to exercise. The admission price to go up to the observation deck is 11,000. After we saw Namsan Tower, I got a late night meal at a local noodle store on the way back to the hotel.
Day 2 (7/16/2019) Changdeokgung Palace, Bukchon Hanok Village, Namdaemun Night Market
For breakfast, we ate oxtail porridge near the hotel. It was plain, but many Koreans recommend it as a cure for hangovers so we gave it a try. We spent the first full day in Korea visiting Changdeokgung Palace and Bukchon Hanok Village until through the morning till afternoon. We walked the majority of the time since the palaces were close to our hotel. We got lunch near the Bukchon Hanok Village. In my opinion, I ate my first authentic delicious Korean meal here.
Bukchon Hanok Village
Day 3 (7/17/2019) Jogyesa Temple, Gyeongbokgung Palace, National Folk Museum of Korea, Qwangjang Market, Myeongdong Cathedral, 2D Cafe
We visited Jogyesa Temple (조계사) on our way to Gyeongbokgung Palace. I was amazed by the arrangement of lotus flowers and colorful lanterns around the temple. This temple plays a leading role in Korean Buddhism and I noticed the large crowd coming here to pray often. The main hall of the temple holds 3 golden massive Buddha statues were awe-inspiring to gaze upon. We then continued on to Gyeongbokgung Palace, which served as the main palace of the Joseon Dynasty of kings that ruled Korea centuries ago. After, we went to the National Folk Museum of Korea which is conveniently free of charge and located on the palace grounds. After a long morning of walking around, we enjoyed lunch at the Netflix Street Food Featured Vendor at Gwangjang Market. It was delicious and the owner was very hospitable and welcoming.
Day 4 (7/18/2019) DMZ tour, KBBQ, Myeongdong Night Market, and the Cheonggyecheon Stream
We spent our fourth day on a tour of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) – visiting the North/South Korea Border and getting to how Koreans make Ginseng. We got back around dinner time and we had Korean BBQ at a local restaurant that was recommended by our tour guide. After that we strolled around the Myeongdong Night Market and the Cheonggyecheon Stream. If you are looking for a good date location, Cheonggyecheon stream fits the bill. When I went, what stood out to me were the musicians playing music as ambiance, the numerous couples hanging about, how the skyscrapers rose above looming over the stream, and the orange aura that the lights provided. This stream is a must see in Seoul and you will find that walking along it during the evening feels very relaxing.
Day 5 (7/19/2019) Busan
We took a train to Busan on the fifth day. I was slightly concerned about how expensive the ticket fare was; however, the ride offered great views of the Korean countryside. The train from Seoul to Busan took 2.5 hours. If you want to spend lots of time in Busan, I suggest staying over night or leaving Seoul early. We got to Busan around noon welcomed by gloomy weather. The taxi driver took us from the station to Haedong Yonggungsa temple. Along the way, we saw the second longest bridge in Korea, Gwangan Bridge. We saw the beaches while we were driving along the bridge. Locals said that Busan is has many beautiful beaches and is a summer holiday destination. In order to get to Haedong Yonggungsa, there was a short uphill walk where the road was lined up local food and drink vendors. From the temple, we had an amazing view of the ocean.
After visiting the temple, our taxi driver took us to the world famous Jagalchi Fish Market. Some of you might enjoy the restaurant experience more, but personally I love going to markets where I can see my food being made. There is just something about being able to see your food, picking it, and witnessing it being cooked fresh. I indulged in the best crab of my life there. We got the freshly boiled snow crab, live baby octopus, fried fishes, and Korean pancakes (which is also my favorite). We did not have enough time to visit the highly recommended Gamcheon Culture Village as we had little time between the end of our meal and our train ride back. Instead, we walked around the market and bought some souvenirs. We got back to Seoul near midnight. Considering how late it was and how tired we were, we opted for some instant noodles from the local mart next to our hotel for a late meal.
Day 6 (7/20/2019) Bongeunsa Temple, Deoksugung Palace, Han River, and Star-field Library
We started our last day visiting Deosugung palace. Before heading out, I enjoyed smoking hot bibimbap in a stone bowl at a restaurant near the hotel. As mentioned earlier, we visited several palaces all of which belonged to the Joseon Dynasty. When you go to Seoul, I recommend buying the palace bundle where you can get a cheap fare that allows for admission into all the palaces for one price. After visiting the palace, we had instant noodles by the Han river. Instant noodles are on a whole other level in Korea. You can cook your instant noodles in many convenience stores. I bought a shin ramen and kimchee packet. Ugh, it was such a good and cheap meal.
Afterwards, we headed to the Coex Mall in Gangnam. The Star-field library is a giant bookstore located inside there and is very popular place for both tourists and locals. Its unique architecture and giant bookshelves attract many visitors daily. It was the best bookstore I’ve visited thus far. While you’re here, make sure to capture some boomerangs of the escalators. We then walked to Sul-bing Dessert for some shaved ice.
That concluded our Korea trip, and we then headed for Taipei the next day.
Flights to all 3 countries and back: ~ $1600 from 7/15 to 8/9 (plane fare fluctuates depending on when you travel):
1. Accommodation in Korea: Center Mark Hotel. 6 nights of a single room for around $550 ($275 per person)
2.Train to Busan ~100,000₩, Taxi in Busan ~9,000₩
3. Metro, bus, or taxi ~5,000₩ per day (taxi will be cheaper if you travel in a group)
4. Meals for 6 days
➡️Total in Korea with accommodation ~$549
➡️Total in Korea without accommodation ~320,000₩ ~$274
I exchanged $300 into ₩ when I landed in Incheon Airport so that covered everything plus some gifts I bought for friends.
“Returning home is the most difficult part of long-distance hiking. You have grown outside the puzzle and your piece no longer fits.”
– Cindy Ross
This year I live in Sacramento so it has been really hot starting June. The temperature can get up to 110°F mid day. In addition with everything going on with America right now, going on a hike seems to put our minds at ease. Last weekend I went with my family to Carmel-by-the-sea and got to explore this gorgeous and full-of-bloom trail which left us all amazed.
The difficulty of the trail is dependent on how far you want to walk to get close to the ocean. It started out very sunny which was perfect for the ocean view. The clouds moved closer to land by the time we were finishing up the trail which blocks the warm sunlight, but it created this picturesque scene.
It was not crowded the day we visited the trail and everyone kept distance from each other so we felt safe and at ease. The trail is the nicest when it’s sunny so make sure you check the weather before coming. There is a steep walk down to a secluded beach which offers a different view from above that I also recommend you trying.
The hike took us about 2 hours to complete and I would rate it a easy/moderate in term difficulty. I hope you find the read interesting enough to make you want to get out and explore. It is definitely one of the nicest easy hike I have been to.