Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday Travel Photo: #9: Universal Studios Orlando

Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Visited Summer 2011.

Universal Studios Orlando Overview

This is an amazing theme park located in Orlando, Florida. It was established on June 7, 1990, as an entertainment center which features lots of live shows as well as numerous attractions. The park plays host to over 6 million visitors every year.
This theme park features many popular movies live due to its vast film library. When you are inside this theme park, everything will seem like you are inside the movies you watch. You will be taken on a ride through the movies, for example; Harry potter rides, Transformers ride etc.  We didn’t try the famous butterbeer though.

Top Attractions At The Universal Studios Orlando

1. Harry Potter Rides
Here you can live the adventure of Harry Potter. You will be taken on a ride through the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, explore the castle, ride into the mystical world of magic, and lots more.  Another interesting thing about Harry Potter rides is that you can even take part in Triwizard Tournaments, and if you are courageous enough, you can emerge a champion.  Guess how long we had to wait in line to get on that rides.  Two and a half hours!

2. A Day In The Park With Barney
This is not just a kid zone, even adults will love it here. But if you went to the theme park with your kids, this is the ideal location for them to have fun with Barney.

3. Shrek 4-D
This is yet another attraction at the Orlando theme park. Even if you are not a big fan of Shrek, this amazing 4D display will make you fall in love with Shrek. All the effects were nicely done and the fun was a memorable one, just like the one at Universal Studios Hollywood.  

How To Get To Universal Studios Orlando

From Orlando International Airport: Use SR-528 West 11 miles to I-4 East. Now take I-4 East 2 miles to exit 75A.

Finally, locate Universal Studios Orlando; it is not too far from where you exited.

“The cool thing about being famous is traveling.” – Britney Spears

Friday, August 29, 2014

Eliminate Travel Worries with Simple Tips

US Capitol, Washington DC
Happy long weekend everyone!  It is labor day weekend.  A bit sad that I am going to be in town.  I canceled my solo trip to Utah because I should get some studying done over the weekend.  Life is not supposed to be always easy.  I am going to make it there during Thanksgiving weekend - I am excited to see the 3 National Parks in the snow.
Wait, it's friday.  I finally got time to catch up comments and messages on my blog.

Even though I can't travel, I thought I would write a little bit about traveling.

Spring Mountain Ranch, Nevada

While traveling remains to be life's greatest joy to many people, it still proves to be hard task to many others.  This is because the planning process is usually not made comprehensive by many people leaving them with stress on how to tackle their worries.

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

1.  Check Your Destination Reviews
It is advisable that you should view the destination that you are planning to go to, especially when you travel solo.  This way you will get to know from the experience of those who have been there before on what to do and avoid.
MLK. Birmingham, Alabama

2.  Make a to do list
Try as much as possible to stick to your list of plans of what to do especially if you're a female solo traveler.

3.  Carry Earplugs
If you are a light sleeper, carry earplugs.  Some hotel rooms have thin walls and the earplugs can be helpful in reducing the noise outside your room that can disturb your sleep.

Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.

4.  Bring an Electrical Adapter
Before traveling internationally, find out what the electrical outlets they use in that country.  Shop for an adapter at your local store for the price are highly exaggerated at the airports.

Pack your bag and go.  Enjoy the labor day weekend!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday Travel Photo #8: US Open Tennis in New York

It is time again for US Open.  I started playing tennis in 1994 back in my home country.  9 years later, my dream about watching the match in New York came true.  I traveled to New York City for the US Open finals in 2003 and 2004.  It is hard to believe that another decade has passed.  If you love tennis, US Open in Flushing in New York State is the place to be.  

US Open Tennis Closing Ceremony at Arthur Ashe Stadium.  Men's Final 2004.

US Open in NYC Overview

US Open is a hard court tennis tournament which is held annually between August and September. It is a 2 week event which features the best professional tennis players from around the globe. The tournament was first held in August 1881 at Newport Casino.
The main tournament is made up of 5 championship events; singles for men/women, doubles for men/women, mixed doubles, senior and junior player’s tournament, and tournament for wheelchair players.
US open is one of the 4 Grand Slam tournaments in the world which offer the most ranking points, price money and attention. US Open is the last Grand Slam of the year.  The other Grand Slam tournaments are Australian Open on hard courts in January, French Open on Clay courts in May/June and Wimbledon Open (UK) on Grass courts in June/July.

Top Attraction

The main court is located at the Arthur Ashe Stadium which was opened in 1997. Arthur Ashe Stadium is a 22,547 capacity stadium.  This is the largest tennis stadium in the world. The second largest stadium is Louis Armstrong which was opened in 1978.  Louis Armstrong was the main stadium until 1996.

How To Get To US Open Flushing, New York

Fly to JFK or LGA.  I don't recommend renting a car in New York.  Take subway to Flushing Meadow.  

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Scott Cameron

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday Travel Photo #7: Salt Lake Desert, Utah

Among the wonderful places I have visited, there are some truly fascinating and somewhat otherworldly, giving the impression of stepping into a magical land.

Salt Lake Desert, Great Salt Lake, Utah.  Visited in summer 2010.

Overview of Great Salt Lake Desert

The Great Salt Lake Desert is located in the northwest of Utah, between the border with Nevada and the Great Salt Lake.  Surrounded and protected by several mountain ranges, this desert is mostly famous for the white salt deposits it features and the unusual vegetation it harbors.

Walking on the NaCl (Sodium Chloride) crust that covers this vast wilderness is an inciting experience.  Definitely worths the visit!

Weather Conditions

Another characteristic of this high desert, situated more than 4,000 feet above sea level, is its extreme temperatures with hot arid days and cold nights.  The temperature drops to extreme levels after the dark sets in, so I can imagine it could not be a pleasant experience to get lost here.  Don't get lost at night time!


The endless plain of the desert is what remains of the dried up Lake Bonneville, name that is mostly known in the United States for Bonneville Flats race track, where most land speed records were set several decades ago.  People still come here to drive around the salt flats.  Motorcycle ride here is simply awesome.

How to get to Great Salt Lake

One of the best way to visit the desert is on the interstate I-80, which a long portion that is completely straight, passing through the town of Wendover.  I drove there from California.  If you are far away, fly to SLC, then get a rental car.  No public transportations.  There are many unique and scenic destinations in the United States, but this salt desert must be one of the most spectacular and worth visiting by everyone.

“The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.” – Henry David Thoreau

Friday, August 15, 2014

How Not To Compare Yourself To Others

We are all different and unique in our ways, but it happens that we naturally like comparing ourselves to other people. While some comparisons may actually help us to improve our lives, other forms of comparisons may work to demoralize us. 

Tower Bridge, London

Sometimes, I want to be really good at something in a short period of time, while I don't have enough background, talent, energy or time to put in.  A week ago, I put really hard on myself for not doing something as great as others, which was very unfair to myself.

The White House, Washington DC

Negative self-image to yourselves is very unhealthy.  You will always meet someone who is younger, smarter, prettier or richer, and the list goes on. So it is just better to stop comparing yourself to others. When you look at your five fingers of your hand, you will notice that there is a clear distinction in their sizes. They are all your fingers and carry equal importance but are of different sizes.

For instance, I have knowledge and experience in traveling and destinations that many people might not be knowledgeable about, but this doesn’t mean that I am any better or lesser than people gifted in other fields. 

So how do you stop comparing yourself to others? I thought about it for a few days.  To answer this question, I came up with 4 ways to stop comparing myself to others.

1.  Put Yourself First
The moment you put yourself first, you won’t have time comparing yourself to others.  Love yourself, take care of yourself and think positive about yourself.  Nobody wants to be around negative person, even if they are not better.
 "It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks.  What matters is you can look in the mirror, and love who you see".  -B. Dave Walters

2.  Let Go off Your Frustrations
Frustrations of having not achieved something that somebody else did may make you compare yourself to the person. Let it go by working out in the gym, taking a yoga class, and/or running a mile or two.  That helps me lots.
"Letting go has nothing to do with "quitting."  Ask yourself "Am I sticking it out or am I staying stuck?"  You know yourself best.  -Alex Elle

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
3.  Do Not Force Change
Sometimes things are not going exactly as planned.  If you feel that you have tried doing something and it is not coming to your desired perfection, you should not force change but rather accept that it is your personal best for the moment.  
"You can have it all.  You just can't have it all at once".  -Oprah Winfrey

4.  Set Realistic Goals
Finally, it is important to set realistic goals that can be achieved. Work on it on your own pace.  This will give you self-satisfaction.
"Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach".  -Anthony Robbins

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My 5 Favorite National Parks

Out of 59 America the Beautiful's National Parks, I have visited 24.   Here's my 5 favorite NPs.

1. Yellostone, WY, ID & MT

It is a wonderland!
The park is located at the headwaters of the Yellowstone River, from which it takes its historical name.

Yellostone's famous Old Faithful Geyser
Old Faithful and the majority of the world's geysers are preserved here. They are the main reason the park was established in 1872 as America's first national park, which is an idea that spread worldwide.
With a mountain wild land, hot springs and geysers, home to grizzly bears, wolves, and herds of bison and elk, the park is the core of one of the last, nearly intact, natural ecosystems in the Earth’s temperate zone.

Yellowstone has something for everyone.  Whether you delight in the challenge of a strenuous hike or prefer to sit quietly and watch the sunset, the park offers a great diversity of activities for you to enjoy.  Yellowstone lake is breathtaking.  With so many adventures to choose from, you’ll have some tough decisions to make. 

2. Yosemite, CA

Not just a great valley, but a shrine to human foresight, the strength of granite, the power of glaciers, the persistence of life, and the tranquility of the High Sierra.

First protected in 1864, Yosemite National Park is best known for its waterfalls, but within its nearly 1,200 square miles, you can find deep valleys, grand meadows, ancient giant sequoias, a vast wilderness area, and much more.

As revealed by archeological finds, the Yosemite Valley has been inhabited for nearly 3000 years, though humans may have first visited the area as long as 8,000 to 10,000 years ago.

Yosemite Half Dome
Yosemite National Park covers nearly 1,200 square miles of mountainous terrain in the Sierra Nevada of California. Yosemite is open all year, though some areas of the park are inaccessible by car from approximately November through May due to snow. You can drive your car into and around Yosemite, though you are encouraged to use shuttles in some areas.

I have visited Yosemite many times, as it's only 3.5 hour drive from my place, yet I have never hiked there.

3. Grand Canyon, AZ

A powerful and inspiring landscape, Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size.  Unique combinations of geologic color and erosional forms decorate a canyon that is 277 river miles (446km) long, up to 18 miles (29km) wide, and a mile (1.6km) deep.  Nearly five million people see the 1 mile deep (1.6 km) Grand Canyon each year.
Grand Canyon South Rim

Most of them (90%) see it from the park's free shuttle buses or from their car at overlooks along the South Rim.  The South Rim includes: historic Grand Canyon Village, Hermit Road, and Desert View Drive.  The South Rim is open all year. The South Rim is the most accessible part of the park.

Elevations average 7000 feet (2134 m) above sea level.

I visited Grand Canyon for the first time in summer 2010, and went back there in 2013 during holiday season to see winter sceneries.

4. Grand Teton, WY

Rising above a wealthy behind fabulous wildlife, pristine lakes, and alpine terrain, the Teton Range stands monument to the people who fought to protect it.  These are mountains of the imagination.

Mountains that led to the creation of Grand Teton National Park where you can explore over two hundred miles of trails float the Snake River or enjoy the serenity of this remarkable place.

Grand Teton National Park is located in northwestern Wyoming; north of the town of Jackson, Wyoming and south of Yellowstone National Park.  You must stop here on your way to Yellowstone.

5. Rocky Mountain, CO

Rocky Mountain is my favorite National Park so far.  

Words cannot fully describe my experience at Rocky Mountains.  You need to go see the Rockies by yourself!  Rocky Mountain National Park’s 415 square miles encompass and protect spectacular mountain environments.

Rocky Mountain
Enjoy Trail Ridge Road, which crests over 12,000 feet including many overlooks to experience the subalpine and alpine worlds, along with over 300 miles of hiking trails, wildflowers, wildlife, starry nights, and fun times.
In a world of superlatives, Rocky is on top!
Rocky Mountain National Park covers 415 square miles in north central Colorado.
The town of Estes Park serves as the eastern gateway into the park. Grand Lake serves as the western gateway.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunday Travel Photo #6: Monument Valley

During the holiday season, end of 2012, I drove over 3000 miles with my copilot Leo the weird cat, who can't live without car rides.  That was my first time witnessing snow showers..
Monument Valley

Monument Valley Overview

Moment Valley, a.k.a "valley of the rocks", is located in Arizona-Utah state line, close to the Four Corners area. The valley is situated in the area around Navajo Nation Reservation. This national monument is known for its clusters of large sandstone buttes.
Over the past decades, this national monument has been the topic of many media houses and also the choice location for movie producers/directors. As a matter of fact, majority of the popular western movies you have watched were filmed in the Monument Valley.  Remember the background sceneries in the classic American cow boy movies?  Clint Eastwood is the man.

Top Attractions At The Monument Valley

1. Goulding’s Trading Post Museum
This museum is named after Harry Goulding who together with his young bride Leone, purchased 640 acres of land very close to the Monument Valley. He built an old stone trading post with an apartment upstairs in 1928, and this was where he carried out his trading activities with the Navajo people. The building has now been converted to a museum where you can view memorable stuffs as well as photographs of the Gouldings. This is definitely one place you shouldn’t fail to visit when you are on a solo travel trip to Monument Valley.

2. Wildcat Trail
Monument Valley is not an ideal hiking ground because most of the lands belong to private individuals and there are houses and hogans scattered all over the lands. But there is an officially maintained 3.2 mile Wildcat Trail. This Wildcat Trail makes it possible for tourists to inspect the rocks in Monument Valley from all angles.

3. Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
The Monument valley Navajo tribal Park has been described by many as the grandest and most photographed landmarks in the United States. There are also towers of sand within the tribal park with some even as tall as a thousand feet, and these towers cast long lovable shadows on the valley floor as a result of illumination from the sun. So make out time to visit the Navajo tribal Park anytime you embark on solo travel to Monument valley.  I had an awesome experience in the cold winter snow.  By the way, I got a pair of hand made Turquoise earrings and a Turquoise hair clip from the Navajo artist.

4. Monument Valley Horseback Tours
A lot of popular actors and actresses enjoy horseback trail rides when they visit Monument Valley. Tourists can participate in guided and unguided horseback rides in Monument Valley, so make sure you take a ride when you go visiting Monument Valley. Your next solo travel should include Monument Valley in the list of places to visit and do not miss the horseback ride when you get there.  I got a nice picture of myself riding Charlie the horse.

How To Get To Monument Valley

Directions to Monument Valleys depend on the direction coming from.
If you are coming from the south via road trip, you are to reach Monument Valley through Hwy 160 (it runs from east to west across the Navajo Reservation). Then at Kayenta, turn north on Hwy 163 to Monument Valley.  (Speaking of Kayenta, we spent a night at a hotel in Kayenta, where I left Leo while visiting Monument Valley.  The GPS guided me to stop as the destination in the middle of highway.  My phone got enough signal so I was able to call the hotel for direction.  It turned out, there's no street address.  Hampton Inn on US 160 was that only Hampton.  McDonald on US 160 was that McDonald.  So my GPS made me stop in the middle of nowhere on US 160, which was 30 miles away from the hotel.  Awesome experience!)
If you are coming from the north as well via road trip, say you come from Arches National Park, follow Hwy 191 from Moab, Utah, via Monticello, and then Blanding to Bluff. Then take Hwy 163 to Monument Valley.
“The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.” – Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Take A Trip To Cure Boredom Now

O'ahu Island, Hawaii
Well, it’s Saturday again.  I didn’t have a chance to post anything for the entire week.  Today is definitely better than yesterday.  Tomorrow will be superb.  Anyway, I have another set of travel tips.

No matter where one is going (expect some places), traveling is so fun. Remain calm and don't drown in stress.   Just plan your trip well, and it should be enjoyable.

Sedona, Arizona

It will be easier to come up with a budget for your trip.  I always do.  By knowing how much your money is worth in other countries, you will have a better idea.  It definitely helps me avoid spending too much. 

World's Largest Aquarium, Georgia

If you have some flexibility in your travel dates, try adjusting your time frame a little bit while searching for a good deal. Check out the different rates in the booking window you have to travel in.  Most of Travel web sites allow you to see and compare the fares for every month in monthly calendar.  There may be special rates specific to the dates, and being flexible can save you money.

Kings Canyon National Park

You can survive a red-eye flight using sleeping pills.  It can be really hard to get good sleep on a plane, with unfamiliar noises, the lights here and there and the cramped seats (assuming you fly economy class like I do).

Traveling in the UK is really convenient.  Public transportation is the best enhancement to commute.  Many express buses offer a safe clean experience along with free Wi-Fi.  Oh I miss the UK already.

Have a terrific rest of the weekend!

“In both business and personal life, I’ve always found that travel inspires me more than anything else I do. Evidence of the languages, cultures, scenery, food, and design sensibilities that I discover all over the world can be found in every piece of my jewelry.” – Ivanka Trump