Hama Hama oyster picking

Last month, a handful of friends organized a trip to Hama Hama Oysters to do some oyster picking. Not being the biggest fan of oysters (I’ve only eaten 2 oysters raw in my entire life before going to Hama Hama… not a huge fan of raw fish) and never having shucked an oyster myself, I didn’t know how excited to get about this day trip. Not to mention, it was supposed to rain the weekend we planned to go oyster picking.

betabrand Nor'easter raincoat
outfit details:
raincoat: c/o Betabrand (exact, but sold out)
jeans: PAIGE denim (similar)
scuba hoodie: Lululemon (similar)
rain boots: Treton (similar)
beanie: H&M (men’s section)

hama hama oyster farm
hama hama oyster picking

I came fully prepped in my one and only, beloved raincoat, rain boots, and a beanie for good measure. Turns out that the weather Gods had a totally different plan for the day! We were in the warm, but windy, sunshine for majority of the time we were picking.

Hama Hama oyster picking was super easy: reaching into the ankle-height waters to look for appropriately sized oysters that weren’t clustered together. The double oysters in two photos above had to be placed back in the waters.

After about an hour of picking oysters, we moved on to digging for clams. With nothing but a hand-sized gardening trowel and our bare hands, we squirreled through moist sand to unearth some of the most delicious clams! Our final haul ended up consisting of 5 dozen oysters and 5lbs of clams.

hama hama oyster picking - shucked oysters

Let’s just say that I got pretty good with shucking oysters by the end of this trip! ;)
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Sights and sounds of Japan

After amazing day-long adventures in Beijing and Shanghai, I had no idea what to expect going to Japan. Beijing set such a high bar with the visit to The Great Wall, and the Yu Yuan street market in Shanghai was full of some of the yummiest food I’ve ever had! Even with these adventures in China under my belt, nothing could’ve prepared me for the few hours of free time I had in Japan.

First stop was to Shinjuku, home to the busiest subway station in the world! It was incredible (and a little overwhelming) to see huge crowds of people in every direction, while also being screamed at by brights signs, lights, and blaring music from outdoor speakers at every corner.

Japan visitng Shinjuku
My go-to blanket scarf of all time (similar from LuLu*s)

Truthfully, I couldn’t quite focus on anything that was happening around me while walking around in Shinjuku. With all the lights and sounds and colours screaming from every wall – while trying to dodge people on the sidewalk – I am shocked that I noticed this Neko Atsume claw game in the doorway of an arcade. After being obsessed with the Neko Atsume game on my iPhone for almost all of 2015 (cut the “addiction” in November of last year), it was so cute to see how the game has blown up with its own merchandise!

japan neko atsume cat claw game
It’s “Tubs” in hat form! hehe

Before heading out of Shinjuku, a stop off at Squall Cafe was a must! I had never heard of Squall Cafe before getting out on the street, but the beautiful brick toast in their signage drew me in. As someone who grew up snacking on the Taiwanese version of the condensed milk on brick toast dessert, this cafe’s take on the dessert took it to a whole new level. Look at the size of this thing! It’s as big as my face (and it was absolutely delicious)!

japan squall cafe honey toast
The next stop was Harajuku, the city known for its trend setting and great shopping. We went to Takeshita St, which is the shopping district littered with boutiques, yummy snacks, and the most incredible people watching.

Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to take many photos of anything while here. As you can probably tell from the frame above, it was so crowded! Takeshita St is a pedestrian-only, where the huge amounts of people in every direction felt like being squished in a can of sardines, and we were the sardines. It was hard to veer off to get to shops, or even stop to tie a shoe lace, when it felt like any pace that went against the rest of the crowd would get you trampled on! Never have I experienced anything remotely similar to this.

I hope to someday come back to Japan to explore all that it has to offer. Until then, I will relish in the memories from the few hours of getting to explore freely!

japan packing lightly
If there’s anything that I regret from the two weeks spent in Asia this year, it would be traveling so lightly. Even though the single backpack and small carry-on roller was perfect for running around airports and not having to ever wait at a baggage carousel, it wasn’t very souvenir-friendly. I didn’t have much space to bring home as many goodies as I would’ve liked to, but hoping this is a good excuse for going back to Japan again in the near future!

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A day in Beijing

Hello from Asia! Last week, I spent a few days in Beijing and made absolutely no plans before hopping on the 10+ hour plane ride over. For context, I only found out that I would be heading to China a couple weeks before getting on the plane, so everything was done on a whim. Having no time (or desire, to be honest) to plan anything, saying that I was a little unprepared is a bit of an understatement.

View from outside the airplane window

The biggest Pro Tip that I got before leaving was to write my hotel address out in Chinese. Hallelujah for this advice because I’m almost 100% positive I would’ve never ended up at the hotel if I had to say the address aloud myself! The language barrier for someone who doesn’t speak the native tongue and traveling to Beijing proved to be quite a real challenge as soon as I deplaned.

If there was ever one regret from my childhood, it would be the fact that I didn’t continue to expand my Mandarin diction or practice speaking it after almost a decade of classes. The most frustrating part is that I can understand when someone else speaks to me in Mandarin, but I have a really hard time finding the vocabulary to respond back– not to mention having a really, really, really awful accent whenever attempting to speak. And so, many minutes of playing charades for directions ensued on this day of adventures.

With less than 12 hours to do touristy things, click through to read about the Bucket List attractions that were at the top of my priorities: The Forbidden City and The Great Wall.

(more…)
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Iceland recap: Mossy greens all around

I am so stoked to share today’s photos from the first part of the Iceland trip! After thinking that my SD card was gone forever (suffering from insomnia and trying to productive when in a sleepy state always leads to misplaced things…), I was so excited to find it in the couch! Ended up taking my couch apart (it’s one of those modular ones that snap together with brackets so you can build it in different layouts) and finding the SD card hidden in one of the brackets. YAY FOR ICELAND PHOTOS!!

As mentioned in last week’s post, this Iceland trip was done in a campervan. After a few questions about what it was like to do a trip this way, I thought it would be a good idea to clear the air about the shower situation. Yes, we did take showers! haha At the end of every night, we would park the camper at a camping ground (there was at least one campsite in every city we stopped in) and there were shower and bathroom facilities there. The showers weren’t like 5-star hotel style, but having access to running hot water at the end of the night was amazing after being cooped up in a car all day. The cost of staying at these campsites varied anywhere from $10-15 per person, each night.

Seattle has the option of direct flights to Iceland (through Iceland Air), which is about a 7 hour flight. I ended up taking a connecting flight through JKF to meet up with some friends – and for Shake Shack – and then going to Iceland. Yes, this route was 14 hours of travel time, but also kinda nice to not be stuck in a plane for more than 6 hours at a time. I have a tough time sitting still on planes and usually get restless around hour number 5, so breaking it up into two parts worked better for me (and was a bit more wallet-friendly).

Iceland scenery
Iceland scenery

Day 1 of the trip was pretty low key. We all met at the Reykjavik airport in the morning and then picked up the campervan. From there, our plan was to make it to Vik, the most southern city of the island, before the end of the night. What was supposed to only be about a two and a half hour drive ended up being closer to 5 hours, thanks to super strong winds (apparently they can get up to 120km/h in this area!) and many photo taking opportunities along the way.

Our first touristy pit stop was Seljalandsfoss. It’s one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland. While we were at this site, we were being poured on by sideways rain, but it was still a gorgeous sight! After a quick 2 minute walk up some stairs, we walked behind the waterfalls for this view:

Seljalandfoss Iceland
We also drove by Sk√≥gafoss, another popular waterfall. We quickly started learning all the terminology for waterfalls. Anything with a “-foss” in it = waterfall… or so we thought. More on this later. haha ;)

After some pretty interesting terrain and bumpy roads while in the pouring rain, we made it to Vik! It was pretty dark out when we arrived and I must’ve stepped in every puddle possible running between the campervan and the campsite facilities because my socks were soaked that night. We had to quickly figure out how to work the heater in the van, too, because these crazy winds and low temperatures weren’t all that friendly to our not-so-insulated camper.

Iceland Vik campsite

All of the evening’s rainy shenanigans were worth it for the morning view! The sun was shining, everything was green, and it felt like we woke up straight out of a scene from the Sound of Music!

More of this trip recap to come in the next couple weeks!

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Iceland trip recap: Gearing up to hit the road

Before the rest of the Iceland trip gets recapped, I wanted to share a bit of the background of how this trip came to be and how we all prepped for it. Every year, two of my closest friends from college and I will meet up somewhere for a week-long trip. This is something we’ve done together for years and are really comfortable traveling with one another (this is pretty key since vacation buddies are usually people that you’re going to be around for almost 24/7 while home away from home). On our most recent adventure, our comfort levels were tested because we really couldn’t get away from each other because this is where we spent our time together for the whole trip…

iceland-campervan

Yep! We did an Iceland campervan trip!

As we talked through our options for our goals to drive around the perimeter of the island, a campervan made the most sense. None of us are particularly outdoorsy, so pitching a tent at the end of every night didn’t seem like the best route for us. We also figured taking a bus from city to city and then trying to scramble to find accommodations (especially in the smaller towns) would put too many time pressures on our day-to-day activities, so campervan it was!

In terms of packing, we all agreed early on to not bring any suitcases. We were each limited to one backpack (this one was a popular bag among the group) that had to fit a week’s worth of clothes and toiletries, including a sleeping bag, for the trip.

For me, visiting Iceland has been on my bucket list as a trip focused around photographing the out-of-this-world landscape that is so unfamiliar to someone who grew up in North America. My priorities for packing had camera gear at the top of the list, toiletries to survive and not smell gross while stuck in a van for a week, and cute outfits at the very bottom. I pretty much dressed in my best “hobo chic” outfits, beanie and combat boots every day, and rotated through all my leggings and dress pant yoga pants.

I’m super excited to start sharing photos from the trip as I edit them over the next few weeks. To put this trip into perspective, my friends and I collectively had 17 cameras in the van with us. 10 of them were disposables cameras (mainly purchased out of nostalgia, but now I’m fascinated to see what we captured), 3 DSLRs, and 4 phones.

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