LA Here I Come!

I haven’t blog since Bahamas but get ready for my long post about LA. I am finally going to LA tomorrow after 2 years (This is the longest time since 2006). I’m traveling with Virgin America on my way there and on my way back, Jet Blue. I don’t remember ever flying Jet Blue but I may have when I went to Boston in 2004. My time in LA is going to be different. I am taking my BF as a present for his birthday. He hasn’t travel and I love showing him around (I took him to NY for his first time also for his birthday) I have talked so much about LA I’m pretty sure his expectation are way high. Hopefully, LA meets them and we can go again. I will stop mumbling now and get back once I have enough pictures. Wish me a good flight!

Advertisements

Bahamas Here I Come!

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Bahamas Cruise

I have no more vacation days left from work (I’m going to LA in May and saving the rest for Europe). Stretching your vacation days with long weekends really helps. Some workplaces won’t allow it but if they do, take advantage of it (this should be a no brainer). So, what do I have left? Keep in mind, I live in Miami, three days cruise to Bahamas! Leaving 4;30 pm on Friday and returning Monday at 7 am. Let me tell you, I am NOT a big fan of cruises. I have always thought cruises are for retired people and families. Not for a world explorer like moi. Then, I thought, I AM a world explorer and anything that means leaving your county and border counties count! So here I am, getting ready for my three days cruise to the Bahamas with Royal Caribbean. I will suck it up to the bad food and overly cheese and touristy cruise, in exchange for a relaxing weekend and crystalline water.

I started writing this post before I went to Bahamas so now I am back…

Getting off the cruise to Coco Cay

IMG_4141

Coco Cay

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with s1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Blue Lagoon

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset IMG_4125

I have to say, it wasn’t nearly as bas as I thought it was going to be. Food was ok, I mean I ate four times a day so there you go. The first night I felt overwhelmed with all the people and the rush (my plan was to relax). On the first night, I had a massive three-course dinner and went to the night show (it started very bad but the second part was surprisingly good) The next day we arrived to Coco Cay which is a man made island owned by Royal Caribbean. It wasn’t too bad, the water was clear and it wasn’t too busy so I got to take a nap and relax. At 3 I went back to the ship and got ready for another three-course dinner. The third day we arrived at Nassau and we (me and my sister) an excursion to Blue Lagoon (pay extra for this but it included transportation and food). The water was nice and clear. The only downside was the scheduling. The last ferry to your cruise leaves at 2:00 pm (it takes around 45 mins to get back), which is two hours before the cruise departure.  By the way, drinks are not included. You must BUY whatever drink you are going to have. The only time you get free water, Ice tea, or lemonade is during breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They will try to push you to buy the bottle water but keep in mind that you could get water or ice tea for no additional extra charge. In total I spent:

Cruise $250

Drinks: $60 (I had to have orange juice and water during the day)

Excursion: $30

I think the price wasn’t bad at all since it includes room, food, and transportation (ferry and bus shutter) just food alone, I probably ate $200.

Service was excellent.

There’s a $20/day package (the basic water, juice, and coffee) which may be worth it but keep in mind that a bottle of water or juice cost $2.50 that means that you have to drink at least 8 bottle of water to make it worth it.

Now I know that any weekend that I want to get away, I have Bahamas.

I skipped all the “parties” and most of the activities. The only thing I did do was the night shows.

Fuji X100S – Review

Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset

There’s a main reason why my pictures from Guatemala were unedited aside from the fact that I might be lazy but the truth is, I wanted you to see and compare how well it does. I did plenty of research on this little one and wanted to find pictures that were unedited to see its full potential and flaws but couldn’t. So here they are for you to see. I’m not going to dwell on all the details and specs about this camera since you could easily find it EVERYWHERE and I am not expert.

Before the trip, I may have snapped no more than ten pictures with it and honestly, it is easy to use but didn’t feel like I knew it like I know my other cameras. I had some struggle at the beginning but managed to snap my best pictures. One of the thing I didn’t notice until I came back and probably the most important feature for me in this camera was the ND Filter. I have set the ND filter to ‘fn’ for easy access. Thinking back how sunny it was the camera did a fantastic job capturing colors and details. I am pretty sure without it, sunny days would have looked a bit washed out or the green or blue would have turned out a bit pale (sorry if my photography vocabulary is not fancy enough).

Another thing I absolutely love about this camera is how silent and low key it is. I was able to capture unsuspected locals at any moment without having them shy away.

The small size and lightweight of the camera also helped my neck and back which was reason number two of why I got this camera.  I’m still debating reason number one.

My only drawback and it might be a deal breaker for some, the fix lens. At moments I wished I could zoom in with the lens but I was left with my manual zoom, my legs. Although this is not a big deal for me since I’m used to shooting with a 28mm lens on my Canon (Lens are too heavy for me to carry around in a trip). The good thing is, when you get someone to take a picture for you they will actually take the full frame! Instead of  (and it happens most of the time) taking a picture of your face and completely missing the thing you are trying to take the picture with. I know how my face looks like and I don’t need you to take a picture of it! That, I could have done myself.

Needless to say, I absolutely love the Fuji X100S.

Some pictures after the jump but If you want to see more, check out my Guatemala’s posts.

My camera add ons: B+W Filter and Hood

DSCF0566 DSCF0431 DSCF0354 DSCF0356 DSCF0282 DSCF0214 DSCF0158DSCF0263DSCF0264DSCF0226DSCF0227DSCF0418DSCF0685Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

 

 

Guatemala, The Full Experience – PART III

Things to keep in mind:

  •  $1 = 7.8 Quetzal
  •  I went with my Guatemalan friend so I did not plan
  • All pictures were taken with FUJI X100S
  • No editing on any of the pictures

Day 4

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

DSCF0439

DSCF0428

DSCF0430

 

DSCF0431

DSCF0436

DSCF0445

I woke up early and couldn’t wait to go out and start taking pictures. My room was on the first floor and had a sliding door that gives you access to the hotel’s beautiful garden. I was in such awe to discover such a beautiful garden with the two volcanos in the background. I couldn’t wait for my friend to wake up so I got ready and took off to the garden. I was really glad I woke up early that day because I got to shoot the volcano with barely any cloud covering them. It was just wonderful. I returned and had breakfast at the hotel restaurant and sat outside with wonderful view.

IMG_3890

 

My view during breakfast.

 

DSCF0448

 

All you can eat breakfast.

DSCF0555

Loca fisherman.

DSCF0553

 

DSCF0547

DSCF0525

Tourist Kayaking.

 

DSCF0524

IMG_0652

DSCF0480

 

Off we go!

DSCF0543

We rented a boat for 400 Quetzales from the Hotel to take us to Santiago. We were three so we divided the fee and the tip and it was worth it.We asked if we could go around the lake instead of a straight line and the driver was kind enough to drive us around. It was so worth it because I took enough pictures and I got to see all the wonderful houses around the lake, people kayaking, and the local fishermen in action. We tip the guy 50 Quetzales. He went to Santiago, a small but very tourist town. The boat waited for us and took us back around 4pm. If you are on a budget, you could probably get a ride for 20 Quetzales but you have to be aware of the time since they won’t wait for you.

DSCF0558

DSCF0560

DSCF0566

After lunch we went to the other nearby town San Pedro. I was so surprised this town was more of a hippy backpacker utopia than a local town. Performers everywhere and locals won’t even bat an eye when they see random people singing and walking around without shoes. San Pedro was the only town I found the best souvenir. If you come to Guatemala, you will see backpacks, shoulder bags, and many other type of bag made of either leather of their fabric or huipil. But there was this little store that had the best quality and price I have seen. I was holding my spending to find the perfect item and I found it in this store. Don’t be afraid to negotiate! When they give you a price offer half. It may seen cheap to you (converted to USD) but they are ripping you off (unless you don’t mind).I didn’t take any pictures in this town but the main street is alive with restaurants, cafes, and bars.

 

Antigua, Guatemala

Things to keep in mind:

  •  $1 = 7.8 Quetzal
  •  I went with my Guatemalan friend so I did not plan
  • All pictures were taken with FUJI X100S

 Day 2

The next day, I woke up early and started parking for our day in Antigua. Keep in mind, I have no idea of where I was going or what to expect. We left around 1 pm and there was no traffic. The ride took us approximately an hour. We stopped at this apparently very famous restaurant, Chichoy. It started as a small restaurant and grew to what it is today. It had fresh tortilla, made right there and then and the best chicken soup I have ever had in my life. I spent around 90 Quetzales for soup, papaya smoothie, and tip.  A lot of people stop here on their way to Antigua or Lago Atitlan.

DSCF0418

If you are driving,  you have to get a parking pass, which will allow you to park in the city for a day.

As soon as we drove in, I started awing everywhere I looked. The first thing I noticed, were the tourists with their huge cameras. I immediately felt relieved that I could relax and not feel so paranoid with my new camera. After all, my camera looked like a little old worthless camera compared to those huge DSLRs hanging on all those tourists’ neck.

DSCF0263

DSCF0264

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

I felt in love with this little city. The colonial façade, the rustic look, the natural feel, Antigua was simply amazing. I have always preferred big cities over small town but Antigua has proven me wrong. Their locals were very welcoming and I cannot describe how much I loved this place…

 DSCF0307

DSCF0318

DSCF0214

After settling down at our wonderful hotel Palacio de Doña Leonor and let me point out first, I could come to Antigua just to relax in this place. It really takes you to a  different time and into one of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel. We walked to the nearest typical Guatemalan restaurant.  Needless to say, I stuffed my face as per usual. Each dish was probably around 50 to 90 Quetzales. After lunch/dinner we walked around the city.

Day 3

We had breakfast at the hotel and enjoyed for awhile the calmness of the place. We did more things on day 3 than the day before. We went to a monastery ruined by earthquakes and another monastery infamous by the way they used to punish their nuns. They will lock them up in a room where a drop of water would fall on their head until the water breaks the skull and kill the nun.  Yes, you just read that. Around 4 we left this beautiful place and back to the city. We stopped at another famous restaurant, La Cabaña Suiza. I honestly liked Chichoy much much better. We made it back to the city, packed again, and head out once again this time to Panajachel.

From Guatemala city to Panajachel takes around 3 hours. We arrived late at night and I’m glad because I didn’t get to see where we were driving. I would have panicked with the narrow roads and buses driving narrowly close to you.

We settle at our hotel Hotel Atitlan and went to bed early to wake up fresh the next day.

Guatemala, The Full Experience

DSCF0428

Guatemala, where do I start? I absolutely loved this country. The people won me over and the nature… simply couldn’t get enough.

Things to keep in mind:

  •  $1 = 7.8 Quetzal
  •  I went with my Guatemalan friend so I did not plan
  • All pictures were taken with FUJI X100S

Day 1

I have to admit, I was really nervous with all the horror stories I have always heard about Guatemala: Robberies, killings, drug lords, kidnapping, should I continue? Maybe not. My flight left around 8 in the morning and had a short layover in Salvador, which we almost missed because our flight was delayed. My impression of El Salvador was unimpressive and I was afraid this is what was awaiting for me in Guatemala. My face must have said it all because my friend told me not to worry. Guatemala is much nicer.

We finally landed in Guatemala and I was relieved and surprised to find out that Guatemala’s airport actually looks nice. This was a good sign. We stepped out of the airport and a crowd of people willing to carry our luggage and taxis drivers offering their services, greeted us.

DSCF0105

The first thing we did was to get something to eat. We went to San Martin, which is like a bakery where you could have breakfast and lunch (A coffee place if you must). They didn’t allow me to take pictures but I managed to snap a few (I too like to live dangerously). You can find the bakery, San Martin, all over Guatemala city or at least in the nice areas. I finally understood why my Guatemala friend kept nagging about the fruits you find in the US. I could not get enough of the fresh fruits in Guatemala. They were amazingly sweet and fresh. Yay for Guatemala fruits! We stayed in the city the first night at my friend’s apartment.

DSCF0114

DSCF0120

After breakfast, we went to downtown or Zona 1 to buy our bus ticket to Peten. If you are somewhat familiar with Guatemala city, this should sound like the beginning of a horror story. We were in the car waiting for the green light on our way to check out the Casa Presidencial (still zona 1) when 3 men ran toward our car and started banging the window and pulling the door handle. I immediately froze and went into shock. All I could think of was if they break the window, I would have no choice than to use my new camera to defend myself. My friend’s mom started honking and driving the car back and forward with the little space we had until everybody in the street started noticing what was happening. The three man decided to give up and left. Thankfully, the door was locked, no windows were broken, and it wasn’t more than just a scare. So yes, that happened. After the incident, I was shaken and paranoid even though, I was assured that it doesn’t happen too often and only in selected areas. That didn’t really help. The two pictures above were taken through the heavily tinted window. Who need to take pictures with the windows down? right?

DSCF0144 DSCF0137

At night we went to very nice open-air mall/apartments complex filled with stores and restaurants. Wherever I went in, there were security guards and police with weapon bigger than my leg. I was more worried about a miss fired from those weapons than the druggies from earlier today. After walking around we ate at a bar called La Playa.

After dinner, we decided to call it a day.

My breakfast the next day…

DSCF0158

They said I got the full Guatemalan experience. I’m still debating if this is a good thing or a bad thing.  Just an FIY, Guatemala City does not look like Zona 1. That is just that area.

Zhangjiajie and The Train Ride – Part I

IMG_1699

It started to get warm in Shanghai. I forgot the exact month but it was announced to us that we had two choices to pick for our 5 days vacation. I can’t remember why I picked Zhangjiajie but I think it had to do with the description; “UNESCO Word Heritage Site” I think it was definitely that.

The train ride, I was told wasn’t going to be easy. I had a fair memory of riding the train in China (in 1997) when I was much much younger. Of course at age 11, a three-bed bunker felt like a castle and the top bed made me feel like the king (not queen or princess, The King). We were a group of 60 students, maybe more or less. I actually can’t remember. You will see a picture and if you have free time, you can count them. We took the entire car train and it felt a bit chaotic but the good kind. We were picking beds and each group picked a section. Each section has 6 beds. I, took the top one. Continue reading

How It All Started

1111 338

How It All Started

2008 was the year that changed my life. It was the year I discovered my passion for traveling. I had traveled before that to many places, China, Japan, Colombia, Mexico, Canada, and many more countries but never did I feel so alive like in 2008. Maybe because I was doing it on my own and with my own money and went where I wanted. There was a sort of freedom that nothing else can give you. In 2008, I went for the first time to Los Angeles, Korea and Italy, my second time to Japan, and maybe third time to Hong Kong (I will have a post about these trips). I spent 2 months in Los Angeles plotting my way to move there. I didn’t want to stay in boring Miami and it certainly gave me that thirst for somewhere new and different. Somehow I decided to go to Shanghai to study Mandarin after college graduation (Dec 2008).

vcm_s_kf_repr_640x359

I did a four month course in Jiaotong University (as I like to call it, Transportation University) and it was one of the best time of my life. THE BEST. I met so many amazing people and got to go back to Korea for a second time and Hong Kong for a couple more time. I even went to Zhangjiajie  in Hunan (Where Steven Spielberg got inspiration for Avatar) and it was amazing. Maybe the 24 hours-three bed bunker-toilet aka a whole on the floor train ride wasn’t so awesome but who cares? It was fun because the entire train car was filled with students. We play cards, drinking games, took pictures, met some locals, and I got see China ( another post coming about this). When I came back from Shanghai, Miami felt like the most boring place in the world. Bear in mind I didn’t actually live in Miami, more like the suburbia which is worse. If you asked me how it felt moving back to Miami, I would say kinda like doing heroin and then quitting (obviously I haven’t tried heroin or any illegal drugs but you get the point).  2009 was the year I traveled the most.

2008

Tokio, Seoul, Hong Kong, Rome, Milan, Los Angeles

2009

Seoul, Hong Kong, China (Shanghai, and all the cities I went through to make it to Zhangjiajie) Los Angels

2010

Moved to Los Angeles

2011

Busy year, only went to Miami during vacations

2012

Moved back to Miami, Venezuela, Paris, Barcelona, Helsinki

2013

New York, Soul

2014

Plans: Guatemala, Los Angeles, Ireland (Most likely London and Paris too)

I have been to Asia more often than any other continent. I think this time, I will concentrate in other parts of the world. If you want me to elaborate in any of these places, let me know!

 

Picture: Hong Kong view with a ghost! JK 2008 Point and Shoot. Please don’t judge my pictures they are very very old.

Getting Ready For Trip No. I

If you haven´t read my previous two post, let me inform you, I´m going to Guatemala and Los Angeles! So of course I started thinking of things I want to take. My first and most important thing is my camera. Which one should I take? The T3i? is too heavy to carry around. The Canon S90? I don’t get the results that I want…

Then, I started researching to see if there was an option between these two and behold FUJI X100S!! (I know, I have been hiding under a rock). After researching obsessively and this only fueled my infatuation with this camera, I can safely say I F#$*# want it.

Do you have the X100S? What do you thing about it? I would REALLY appreciate your opinion. I want to have enough arguments to justify a $1300 purchase. SILVER or BLACK?

These are some reviews I found about FUJI X100S.

link, link, link, link, link, link,

I will be posting a follow up.

Ticket Booked! Guatemala Edition

Guatemala flight booked! man o man you guys are going to have a feast I repeat, a FEAST with all the pictures I will take! Guatemala is one of those places that are heaven on earth but plagued with fear and insecurities. I’m very excited but scared at the same time. I did some research before I committed to it and let me tell you, it is gorgeous. Two volcano and a lake view? I would tell you where I will be visiting but I’m going with a friend and she will take me around. The only names I managed to remember are Antigua, Panajachel, I know Atitlan is a lake but I will be around that area. I was sold when my friend said beautiful nature and horseback riding. I lied, I was actually sold before I did the research.

Have you been to Guatemala? How did you like it? If you have any post on it post a link so I can check it out.