mountain getaway {mammoth}

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“Going to the mountains is going home”. This John Muir quote was posted on a sign for departing visitors of Mammoth and as we drove past it – leaving behind an incredible weekend of reconnecting with friends and nature – I smiled and thanked Mr. Muir for the reminder. The mountains have never felt more like home than they do right now and I’m really relishing the opportunity to enjoy them while we’re in LA. For Christmas they were just one and a half hours away and for this long weekend, it was six. One day I want to actually live in the mountains, but for now our current proximity is just right to satisfy my nature longings.

It’s been a very dry winter so there was hardly any snow in the area and the snow on the slopes was mostly man-made. Not perfect for avid skiers but perfect for me as a newbie. I had only snowboarded four times prior to trying skiing on Saturday and since I never quite got into having my feet strapped into one single unit while facing sideways, I figured that skiing was worth trying. Joe, being the pro that he is, spent the day with me playing instructor and after only four runs (with breaks in between because my legs were giving in!) I think I’m on a good track. I have some balance and speed issues to deal with but at least the giant tennis ball size bruise on my left hip proves that I tried.

When we weren’t on the slopes we relaxed at the condo/cabin. There were ten of us so it was perfect for playing a variety of card games, one of which was totally new for me: Cards Against Humanity. Have you ever played that? It’s pretty awful/hilarious. You really need to be in comfortable company for it, and that we were.

On day two we took a break from the bindings to watch the US Snowboarding Grand Prix for the Olympics. There’s nothing like watching pros to make you realize how much of a beginner you are…it all would have been so simple had I learned when I was five like all the other kids doing the “pizza” stance with me…

Luckily the rest of the day included a hike around Convict Lake, something that I felt very comfortable doing on my feet. It was beautiful and just the right time of day to watch the light change on the lake and surrounding formations. I say formations because every side looked different from the other – one with pine trees, one with jagged rock walls, and the other like an uphill prairie. We took our time making the loop, oooing and awwing with every turn that we made. Unfortunately on the last leg there were multiple stretches where the trail was covered in ice, and I slipped and fell on my right hip. Had to balance out the bruise from the previous day, right?! It was worth it though, to get that time in nature with friends, to be out breathing the fresh air, and to simply be surrounded by something so majestic.

Can’t wait to go ‘home’ again.

 

 

a cozy cabin christmas

Christmas 2013

Hi guys! How have your holidays been? We spent our Christmas in the mountains just outside of LA and it was perfect. We booked a great little cabin via Airbnb, rented a car, and loaded up on firewood and groceries for plenty of cooking, drinking, and snacking. The plan was simple: relax and indulge.

Other than driving ten minutes to Lake Arrowhead for a brief visit, we stayed cozied up inside with a roaring fire (Joe is a great Boy Scout) and ate whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. Christmas Eve dinner was just right but the food highlight of the holiday was my batch of Colombian buñuelos. I made them for Christmas in London but last year we sadly had to go without the traditional fried cheese balls of goodness since the cheese we needed simply didn’t exist in KL. However, it only made them taste that much better this time around, especially since I got to share them with my family! My sister, brother-in-law, and nieces joined us on Christmas Day, just in time for my girls to help me roll the maza into little balls. After tamales and buñuelos, my nieces and I did Christmas arts and crafts and roasted marshmallows with Tio Jojo using sharpened branches he collected. Needless to say, those girls were two very happy campers!

And so was everyone else. Joe had been happy since we arrived because he finally had an excuse to use the hatchet I bought him three Christmases ago (couldn’t take it to London with us) while my sister and bro in-law were happy to kick up their feet and relax while Tia Mu (me) entertained the girls with activities.

It was absolutely perfect. The family time, the quiet time, the nature time. I can’t think of a better Christmas gift than the gift of an experience with the ones you love. So happy.

sedona rocks

hiking in sedona, arizona
hiking in sedona, arizona hiking in sedona, arizona
hiking in sedona, arizona

We’re back from our mini road trip where we drove on the Historic Route 66, stopped in a few towns along the way, and took in the beauty of Sedona, Arizona. At first I thought “I can’t believe that I didn’t take more pictures!” but then I realized that I was enjoying just being there too much. The red rock formations, the sun light, the blue sky … everything was awesome in every sense of the word and I didn’t want to interrupt the moments by taking my camera out. However, during our hike on the last day I did make sure to get some snaps in. We had hiked at least four miles every day since arriving so by that point I felt more comfortable taking the DSLR out knowing that the trails were easy to navigate.

We had the most gorgeous morning sun and the air was perfectly crisp and cool. It was so nice to be outside and be active, a far cry from our activities in KL. There were groups of locals running along the paths and whizzing by on their mountain bikes … can you imagine having Sedona as your back yard playground? What a treat.

I was surprised with how small the city was (and how sleepy it was at night) but they have done a great job at keeping the area’s spirit and beauty in tact despite it’s growth and popularity. With imposed height restrictions for buildings and signs, paint colors, and very few commercial chains, you can hike up to any vista point of the city and barely notice the city beneath it’s famous rocks. For example, Sedona is so committed to maintaining its natural beauty that the city forced McDonalds to change their Golden Arches into the worlds only Turquoise Arches in order to open!

Also surprising was how much of a forest Sedona is. I had imagined just the red rocks and then maybe red desert sand everywhere else but no, the area is covered in trees. Mostly evergreen types, and of course varieties of cacti, but even more surprising was the location of the wedding we attended. It was creek-side and between the scores of ducks swimming around and the yellow leaves falling off some of the trees, it felt like we could have been in Colorado or anywhere else that wasn’t (what I thought) just a desert. Sedona was full of surprises like that. Beautiful beautiful beautiful surprises. Pack your bags and road trip there asap.

 

blue & sun for the jet lagged

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Hello from LA! We arrived to bright blue skies and plenty of sunshine with a side of cool breeze, just how I like it. It’s been a whirlwind of couple of days between settling into our current crash pad, running errands, attending a wedding, looking for a new temporary apartment/sublet, seeing family, and trying to get a solid night’s sleep. I have never been so off before – jet lag usually hits me on the way back but since there’s no return this time maybe I’m getting it all upfront. All of sixteen hours of it, making my eyes look and feel like I’ve been partying for days.

I’m hoping that this week brings a bit more calm and order to my schedule, emphasis on hoping. We leave for a mini road-trip to Arizona on Thursday for another wedding so if I can get just three days of productive work time (and good sleep) I’ll be a happy camper. I’m happy now but very tired, definitely looking forward to feeling refreshed and on top of things again. Until I get there, please keep those blue skies and that shadow-play sunshine coming!

show & tell (japan part III)

this post features interactive captions – hover over each image for the caption ‘dot’ to appear.japan haul / show & tell
japan haul / show & tell
japan haul / show & tell japan haul / show & tell
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japan haul / show & tell
japan haul / show & tell
japan haul / show & tell japan haul / show & tell
japan haul / show & tell japan haul / show & tell
japan haul / show & tell

Just as we prepare for movers to pack everything on Monday morning, I’m admiring all of the new pieces we’ve added to our home. Japan turned out to be quite the haul of goodies even though we knew we’d be boxing it all up for at least two months. It was so hard to say no!

Looking at each piece I realize why we couldn’t help ourselves … they’re all made out of natural materials. Paper, wood, ceramic, glass, enameled cast iron, cotton, and wool – the type of goods that when held feel familiar, comforting, genuine, and that much more special.

I’ve added descriptions to the caption ‘dots’ on each image so make sure to check those out. I also searched for websites to share in case you were interested in doing some shopping of your own but the only product I could find sites for was the Noda Horo Tea Kettle. And wow, what a price difference between buying it from Japan and from the US! Luckily there are plenty of Japanese-made treasures worth browsing through this weekend, too. Here are my fave sites to find them:

Analogue Life

Claska

Plam

Fog Linen

Okay it’s time to pack these babies up! Have a great weekend!

 

taking takayama (japan part I)

this post features interactive captions – hover over each image for the ‘dot’ to appear.Takayama, Japan
Takayama, Japan Takayama, Japan
Takayama, Japan
Takayama, Japan Takayama, Japan
Takayama, Japan
Takayama, Japan
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Takayama, Japan Takayama, Japan
Takayama, Japan
Takayama, Japan
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We’ve all heard that sometimes it’s not about the destination, but about the journey. In this case, visiting Takayama, Japan was about both. The high-speed train ride up the mountains showed glimpses of rice paddy fields, communal and family farm plots, homes with traditional glazed clay tile roofs, and some mountain scenery to rival anything we’ve seen in places like Alaska. I could have just done the train ride and been happy!

We chose Takayama by accident. Finding an available ryokan in Kyoto proved challenging (and grossly overpriced) so we expanded our horizon and looked for a similar, culturally charming town with easy rail access. Takayama fit the bill perfectly on paper and exceeded expectations in experience.

It was a quiet time in Takayama: mid-week, after the popular autumn festival, and before the colourful fall foliage. I can only imagine how gorgeous the city looks when the leaves turn to bright reds and yellows. The backdrop of Edo Period homes and shops, all in shades brown and black, would really make those autumnal colors pop. But even lacking the seasonal changes, Takayama was breathtaking. During our first walk in town we went to the main temple, but got sidetracked on an older, obscured stone stairway.  It led to a smaller and more modest temple perched on a hill surrounded by tall cedar trees and peek-a-boo views of the city. After reaching the top, the wind started blowing, leaves started bustling, and music started playing on loudspeakers mounted in the trees. It sounds silly but it felt like such a magical spot. I know that the music was for the ceremonial performances happening down below but it felt like it was meant just for us to hear at the top of that path. From that moment on we knew that we were in for a great couple of days.

We spent the rest of our time strolling the streets stopping to indulge in local specialties like Hida beef, sweet dumplings (mitarashi dango), buckwheat soba noodles, and lots of locally brewed sake. We drank sake like water and it was wonderful. Also wonderful were all of the shops filled with locally produced goods in wood, ceramic, and paper. We didn’t hold back in buying souvenirs as we’re big fans of the Japanese design aesthetic. Okay, we did hold back a little because there were plenty of hand-crafted chairs that I would have liked to take home with us. It’s amazing how they work natural materials so beautifully, everything is treated with the utmost respect and love.

That’s the way the entire area felt. The locals were proud of their heritage town and treated it with respect and love. Everyone from our ryokan hosts to the cashier at the riverfront snack shop showed genuine interest in, and gratitude for, our patronage, offering nothing but smiles and good cheer. The streets were pristine and clean, centuries old homes and shops were well maintained and revered, and every effort was made so that visitors had all the info they needed for a positive visit (i.e. directional signposts, tourist info desks among the shops). Even with all the helping hands, Takayama didn’t feel overly touristy. It was just right. Just the right amount of traditional charm, ease, and comfort.

At the end of our trip I couldn’t help but think “Thanks, Kyoto, for being so popular that we couldn’t book ya’”. Takayama, may have been a second choice but it sure came out on top.

 

 

 

happy friday

ryokan

We arrived in Takayama yesterday. Tired from the red-eye flight and multiple train rides but happy to find a peaceful, friendly, and charming town. Our Ryokan is perfectly traditional and modern with everything we need for a Japanese home stay experience, low door frames and all. I don’t know how Joe has managed to go this long without a few bumps on his head, old Japan just wasn’t built for a man of his stature (he’s 6’3″)!

We just finished a traditional breakfast of fish, miso, and local veggies in the room, while sitting on tatami mats and wearing our yukatas. It’s all been pretty great so far so I can’t wait to have a full day of exploring. Maybe we’ll even wear our yukatas out as the locals do … or save them for a sake pub crawl tonight ;)

Have a great weekend!

 

 

reminiscing rio

Old Rio De Janeiro Centro

Back from Rio and major jet lag aside, it was a great trip. We went for Joe’s work so we stayed in a business hotel in the old part of Centro, far from the more recognizable beach side spots like Copacabana and Ipanema. I was hoping to be by the water – not gonna lie – but our location ended up being perfect. Had we stayed in a tourist hotel by the beach I might have never been forced to use my Google translator app to speak Portuguese with the staff.  I might have never had lunch with local office workers in a tiny well-kept restaurant overlooking a building facade of decorative hand painted tiles. And on Joe’s day off, we probably wouldn’t have spent an entire morning walking around the downtown city streets discovering little alleyways full of old European charm. It was quite the surprise. We never expected to come across such a neighborhood in Rio since all we’ve ever been shown are the parts of Zona Sul that look more like Miami Beach with a tropical backdrop. We went back for dinner and what a different scene it was from the morning…tables and chairs filling the alleys, office workers enjoying beers and baskets of fries, and every other restaurant blasting their stereo or showcasing a local band – we opted for the spot with live samba music. As we ate, I danced in my chair, shoulders shaking, making elaborate plans to be in Carnaval one day (I did say elaborate). It was a short and sweet trip but I’m already longing to spend more time there exploring its many facets. What an interesting little big city…I’m sure it’s full of surprises.

 

melaka

Melaka, Malaysia
Melaka, Malaysia
Melaka, Malaysia Melaka, Malaysia
Melaka, Malaysia Melaka, Malaysia
Melaka, Malaysia
Melaka, Malaysia Melaka, Malaysia
Melaka, Malaysia Melaka, Malaysia
Melaka, Malaysia Melaka, Malaysia
Melaka, Malaysia

Hello from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil! Can’t believe that we’re on the other side of the world. It was a twenty four hour trip but all things considered, it’s freaking amazing that it’s possible.

These are some pics from our recent overnight in Melaka, Malaysia, just a two hour drive from KL. Melaka is a World Heritage City so all of the touristy things you’d expect were present: loads of tour groups and buses, souvenir shops, and of course, a Hard Rock Cafe (we skipped the t-shirt).

From a local’s standpoint, we’ve heard that you only really go to Melaka to eat Nyonya food (a mix of Straits Chinese and Chinese/Malay cuisine) but we thought it would be interesting to see what a World Heritage City in Malaysia looked like. The food was as amazing as promised (we went to Riverine, a Nyonya kitchen, twice!) but the architecture was what stood out for me.

In KL there are sadly far too many beautiful old buildings rotting away or being torn down to make room for new luxury malls or condos. The condo we live in is on a street where there used to be traditional homes and I can imagine how gorgeous they must have been based on the last remaining structure on the street. I feel like such an a-hole for lamenting the past while living in modern KL but if I ran the city, I would find a way to do it all better.

In Melaka, the heritage buildings seem to be a priority. Not all of course but a decent amount. It was awesome to see the different influences in design based on the location and date that the structures were built. Being the key port city of the Straits way back when, Melaka has buildings that reflect the Chinese, Dutch, Portuguese, British and of course, Malay aesthetics. I loved the colonial stuff but my favorite was seeing the mid-century modern influences in their Chinatown and government buildings. It made this LA girl very happy.

Now here in Rio, I’ve already spotted a ton of cool old buildings that I can’t wait to check out. I’m not sure I’ll take my camera out too much since I’ll be exploring solo most of the time but I’ll capture and share what I can. Have a great week!

a walk in the park

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Happy Friday, guys! Did you know that Bangkok has a giant park in its city center? It was a nice surprise during our visit last week. Our awesome little hotel was just up the street from Lumphini Park so we took a morning stroll through it on the way to the metro station. There were school groups playing games on the basketball court, three old couples dancing to swing music underneath a giant tree, and plenty of locals getting in their tai-chi exercises for the day. It definitely felt like a proper civic park.

Aside from people watching, a few colors, patterns, and textures caught my attention. Particularly a large type of palm tree that was unlike any I had ever seen. It looked like the palm fronds were cut off as it grew, leaving sturdy slanted stumps begging to be climbed. And yes, I did climb one. Just a few feet up (ssshhh)!

If you can this weekend, do take some time to go for a walk and see what you see. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed doing that.

Something I can’t forget – announcing a winner for the Gin & Jacqie Love Malaysia Collection giveaway! Congrats to Alicia – you’re the lucky pick! Please keep a lookout for an email with details.

I’ll be Instagraming (and blogging) from Rio next week…hopefully I’ll have some news to share after that trip. Have a good one!

 

comfort food to-go

LaZat Malaysian Cooking Class
LaZat Malaysian Cooking Class LaZat Malaysian Cooking Class
LaZat Malaysian Cooking Class
LaZat Malaysian Cooking Class
LaZat Malaysian Cooking ClassLaZat Malaysian Cooking Class
LaZat Malaysian Cooking ClassIn Malaysia, food is everything. Food is the center of family and friend gatherings, celebrations, and everyday conversation. It’s such a hot topic that even while you’re enjoying a meal, you’re already discussing what and where your next one will be. Malaysians are serious about their makan-makan – or “eat-eat” – and we’ve happily joined them, full bellies and all.

But now that we’re leaving Kuala Lumpur soon, we’ve been loading up on our local favorites like roti canai, nasi lemak, char kway teow, beef rendang, chicken curry, and pandan flavored treats. What will we do when we can’t simply walk down the street to grub on our newly adopted comfort food? The only option is to make it ourselves!

Enter LaZat, a local enterprise offering Malaysian home-cooking classes set in a typical Malaysian home nestled in the trees just outside of KL. I took an Indian cuisine class with them last year so when Joe said that he couldn’t leave Malaysia without learning how to make his beloved beef rendang and curry chicken, I knew exactly where to go.

From the moment you arrive, you feel like family. Owner Ana and home-cook chefs Sue and Saadiah are warm, welcoming, and are equally excited to learn about where you’re from (and where you’ve been) as they are to share their passions and skills in the kitchen. They take great pride in using fresh ingredients and have a way of making even the most intimidated wannabe-cook feel at ease. Everything for the day’s menu is pre-measured and pre-arranged, laid out beautifully on woven straw trays and decorative dishes.

As soon as I saw (and smelled) the colorful and fragrant spices, I was ready to get down to business, work that mortar and pestle, and heat things up in a traditional brass wok. We spent the next few hours switching from watching how it’s done to getting it done all while teasing our grumbling stomachs every time the wind picked up the aromas coming from our stove tops.

All of that teasing was worth it. We had our grand feast in the end but the true beauty was in the process. The simple things like remembering that some of the greatest food takes the longest time (patience is key), learning that it’s okay to throw in whole spice seeds, rather than ground or crushed, and realizing that for any meal to be Malaysian, it probably has to have a decent dose of coconut milk (yum and yum).

Now that I’m a LaZat alum, I’m excited to take the confidence I got there and bring it into my own kitchen. I’d love to push my boundaries beyond olive oil and salt and pepper and get more creative with spices and herbs. I took a baby step a few nights ago while making applesauce and I was quite proud of my small kitchen victory. Instead of adding ground cinnamon for flavor, I let the apples boil and reduce with whole cinnamon sticks, a few star anise, and lemon juice for preservation. The results? Amazing. The Malaysian recipes we learned have a bit more to them but I think I’m on my way to being able to prepare the dishes we’ve come to love. We have a brass wok ready to go so the next step will be to buy a mortar and pestle. Hopefully we get a chance to use it before we have to pack it in a box but regardless where that box ends up, we’ll know that we have the tools to satisfy our cravings and makan-makan our honorary Malaysian hearts out.

 

 

redang-culous sun and sand + here we go again

Redang, Malaysia
Redang, Malaysia Redang, Malaysia
Redang, Malaysia
Redang, Malaysia
Redang, Malaysia
Redang, Malaysia Redang, Malaysia
Redang, Malaysia

Hey guys, I hope you had a nice weekend. I know I know, it’s Tuesday already but I’ll explain why I’m so off with regular posts in just a moment. First, these are a few snaps from our recent trip to Redang Island off the east coast of peninsular Malaysia. The hotel’s food and density were disappointing but the real reason we were there exceeded expectations: THE BEACH! The sand was unreal, completely white and soft like flour, while the water was incredibly clear. It was warm, calm, and the snorkeling was the best we’ve had yet. We swam with turtles, saw a baby shark, and found ourselves following (or being chased by) schools of tropical fish of many varieties. All that beauty just a one and a half hour flight from where we live…so crazy, so lucky, and so we better take of advantage of it while it lasts.

And by “while it lasts” I mean until the end of October – yep, we’re moving once again! Not sure to where just yet but until our boxes are packed and our apartment keys are turned in, we’re fitting in as much travel and local activities as we can. That’s why we rushed to make a trip to Redang as soon as I returned, did a quick two nights in Bangkok last week, will be in Melaka this week, and have more planned. I know that traveling is a crazy luxury so I’m not complaining, but it does make keeping a solid work (and blog) schedule pretty difficult. But I’m here and I can’t wait to see where the next several months take us, on and off-line!

introducing the love malaysia collection

Gin & Jacqie // Love Malaysia Collection
Gin & Jacqie // Love Malaysia Collection
Gin & Jacqie // Love Malaysia Collection
Gin & Jacqie // Love Malaysia Collection
Gin & Jacqie // Love Malaysia Collection
Gin & Jacqie // Love Malaysia Collection

Hi guys, I hope you had a great weekend! Today is Malaysia Day so what better day to share the launch of my collaboration with Kuala Lumpur based bag company Gin & Jacqie: the Love Malaysia Collection! It’s been nearly one year in the making and we are SO excited to see it come to life.

I met owner Jacqie soon after moving to KL and we were instant friends. We share a love of travel, design, and entrepreneurship so when she found out about my graphic design and growing love for my new home, she asked if I’d like to create a few prints that represent Malaysia…something that could pique the interest of tourists, expats, and locals alike. I jumped at the opportunity as I’ve always wanted to do product prints and I loved the idea of playing with images that were recognizable and unique to the country.

Not only did I get to design the prints but I also got to help design the bags that would be created for the collection! Since Gin & Jacqie is focused on making life a bit easier and more organized while on-the-go, it was easy to decide on the final products. We went with multipurpose pieces like zip pouches that can store anything from makeup to electronic choards, and a handy wrist pouch that can be kept in a larger bag and used separately when you only need to carry a few essentials. As you can see by the photos above, I took a few pieces on a trial run during our holiday last week and they were great! They kept everything tidy and easily accessible at all times…just right for making traveling easier.

Now, about the prints! The prints symbolize three main things that are standouts in Malaysia: food, heritage, and landscape.

For food I designed a pattern of the ubiquitous pyramid-shaped packaging of Nasi Lemak – Malaysia’s unofficial national breakfast consisting of coconut rice, dried anchovies, hard boiled egg, rendang or curry chicken or beef, roasted peanuts, and cucumber slices. I’m obsessed with it now and crave it more than I crave tacos (!!! I know). But even better than the taste is the little pyramid shape created when all of the contents are folded into a large banana leaf – a true on-the-go meal!

For heritage I went with the iconic Wau kites. The origin of the name – pronounced ‘wow’ – is Arabic, the kite tradition is Chinese, and each Malaysian state has their own unique design. It seemed the perfect representation of Malaysia’s diverse cultures.

And for landscape I created a tropical leaf pattern that represents the jungle greenery that is everywhere in Malaysia. Even in the city, it’s never really a concrete jungle. It’s the real deal here and it’s awesome.

It’s been a great experience to work with the Gin & Jacqie team and I’m beyond thankful for the opportunity to create something that represents a country that I’ve grown to love so much.

Now it’s time to share the goods with you! We’re giving away the product of your choice to one lucky Anamu reader. All you have to do is “like” or comment on your favorite product photo in the Love Malaysia Facebook photo album + leave a comment here to let me know that you’ve done so. We’ll pick a name next week, Thursday, and announce the winner on Friday the 27th.

Even if you don’t enter to win, I’d love to hear what you think!

frontier land

Alaska by Ana Maria Munoz
Alaska by Ana Maria Munoz
Alaska by Ana Maria Munoz Alaska by Ana Maria Munoz
Alaska by Ana Maria Munoz
Alaska by Ana Maria Munoz
Alaska by Ana Maria Munoz
Alaska by Ana Maria Munoz
Alaska by Ana Maria Munoz
Alaska by Ana Maria Munoz
Alaska by Ana Maria Munoz
Alaska by Ana Maria Munoz
Alaska by Ana Maria Munoz
Alaska by Ana Maria Munoz

I’m going to try keep this one short and sweet because I’m not sure that words can compete with scenes like this. That and it’s Friday!

The trip was incredible. Getting to be with Joe’s family, eating delicious local fish (and the best sweet bun of my life!), and simply seeing the places and things that Joe grew up with. He may have left Anchorage for bigger cities and new experiences but I think it’s really special that he knows all about the rugged stuff us city people are typically clueless about … I also think that it makes him extra hot, too.

Aside from being smitten with my man, I was in love with being in the great outdoors. I spend so much time in air conditioning in KL that being out in the purest of pure air was well, a breath of fresh air! We hiked, I got eaten alive by mosquitoes (didn’t love that part so much), we picnicked, and even got married again. Yep, we had a second ceremony with his family who couldn’t be with us in Colombia. It was awesome to stand and say our vows on the back deck that Joe built years ago. One time at his family’s home and one at mine – perfect.

The final big day was spent out on a boat seeing glaciers, icebergs, sea otters, and American bald eagles. There was beauty everywhere. The varying colors of the water from deep turquoise blue to green and the purples of the mountains brightened by the hovering grey fog … it felt magical and peaceful beyond belief. I was so thankful for Joe’s brother for hooking us up with an amazing captain and guide who let us get close to it all – we got off the boat to get a better view of a glacier and also pulled up to an iceberg to rub it for good luck. I made up the part about good luck but c’mon, something that has particles from the last ice age has got to have amazing energy behind it!

I already can’t wait to go back. Everyone who’s ever been there and told me that it was a beautiful and amazing place was absolutely right. The last frontier does not mess around.

old school brunch

Yut Kee
Yut Kee Yut Kee
Old Kuala Lumpur

Yut Kee is a KL institution and now that we’ve finally given it a try, we’re wondering why on earth it took us over a year to do so. It was simple, charmingly old, and the kind of place that has its routine so down that even in the chaos of seating throngs of patrons and serving their coveted pork dishes faster than you can say non-halal, you feel like you’re in someone’s home enjoying a good meal.

I think our timing was just right for our first visit … like maybe now I can appreciate the beauty of such an institution in a different way. I’m more in love with the food, the people, and can better understand how special it is to have such a long-lasting place like Yut Kee in KL where so much comes and goes and continues to move towards the more western and modern. You’ll never hear me complaining about those western and modern necessities (and indulgences) being here when I need them but at the end of the day, I love enjoying the original bits of KL that make living here the unique experience that it is. You know, like wearing skirts made out of kampung house curtains. That sort of thing.

ubud we do bali?

Ubud, Bali
Ubud, Bali
Ubud, Bali
Ubud, Bali
Ubud, Bali Ubud, Bali
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Ubud, Bali
Ubud, Bali

Other than Thailand, Bali was always the first place that came to mind when thinking of this part of the world (that is before we moved here). Bali seems to do an incredible job at promoting tourism and those who go there seeking a spiritual destination can definitely find something amongst all of the temples – old and new – and the never ending green landscapes.

Our destination was Ubud, a town made famous by the film Eat Pray Love. Though we didn’t partake in sunrise yoga, meditation, or scenic bike rides, we did fill up on local food, drinks, and sights. With only 50 hours on the clock (including sleeping), we knew that we weren’t going to see and experience everything, so we made a conscious decision to take it easy and enjoy whatever we came across and felt the urge to do.

The town center was perfect for our time allowance – lots of restaurants, shops, and great spots to relax with a cold drink and a view of rice paddy fields. Our hotel was right in the heart of it all but still felt remote and peaceful. The yummy breakfast delivered to our room every morning and enjoyed on the balcony was perfection.

Just a short walk off of the main roads gave us a glimpse of how new mass tourism development really is in Ubud; there were villas and small hotels being built on dirt roads that were being primed for cement. Ubud has been uber discovered and I can imagine the town center being crazy-packed with visitors and locals alike during the high season. We got lucky by stumbling into the low period because it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. Not counting the reggae bar on Saturday night (a very impressive Bob Marley tribute, fyi), most restaurants and bars were empty. Not good for them but great for us.

For our only full day there, we booked a tour through our hotel so that we could get out of town and visit Mount Batur, see rice paddy terraces, and check out a temple or two. I had it in my head that “tour” meant guide, but really we just got a driver. It would have been great to have a guide share details about Hindu symbolism and discuss the local economies but that’s precisely when having a smart phone and Google comes in handy – on the spot knowledge! Of course I could buy guide books but I’m way better at understanding something on the spot when it grabs my attention rather than reading it in advance. I would just be like “you know, that thing that means that thing when it’s pointing right or left…”

The temples and rice paddy terraces were definitely worth a visit (gorgeous and green like you’ve probably heard a bazillion times) but Mount Batur was my standout favorite. We had lunch at a restaurant looking out at the largest caldera I have ever seen in my life. I’m talking Land Before Time status with three active volcanoes (Mount Batur) in the dead center. It’s the kind of thing that makes you think “damn, nature is crazy.” My photo hardly does the area justice because it truly is a giant bowl of sunken land and it is awesome.

Getting to and from all of these spots was my second favorite. The drive alone was interesting in that you get to see how much craft is still happening in the country. We drove past countless wood carvers, masons, potters, weavers, you name it, all with road side stores and workshops. Aside from some questionable items that were everywhere – you know, the kind that could be mass produced somewhere else and branded locally – you could be sure that most of the goods for sale were genuinely made in Bali. If only I could have packed one of those large ornate wood doors into my carry-on … they were stunning and crazy enough, a dime a dozen. That’s how many skilled hands are still working there. At least that’s the impression I got compared to other places we’ve been to, I could be totally wrong. I should Google it.

With all of the above on offer, the only shopping we did was at Ikat Batik – a beautiful shop full of naturally dyed and hand woven textiles. I think we were so satisfied with our purchases there on the first day that everything else didn’t seem appealing enough to bring home. That means that I didn’t find anything to share with you like last time but I trust that you’ll understand the main reason for it: with limited time just before leaving for the airport it was either A) experience a traditional Balinese massage for $18 (mid-range price if you can believe it!) or B) walk around in the heat to shop. It just had to be A. If I didn’t do the yoga, the meditation, or the bike riding, I was sure as hell going to partake in the art of the Balinese massage :)

 

friday pic & pin

friday pic & pin by Anamu 33

Happy Friday, guys. Today is a holiday here so we’re headed to Bali for the weekend (even after a year I still can’t believe that words like that come out of my mouth!). Specifically we’re going to Ubud so if you’ve been there and have any recs, please send them my way!

Now for the giveaway winner from last week’s post….drum roll please…bbbrrrrrrrrrrrr……Kendra Nordt, the Sapa zip pouch is yours! Congrats, expect an email from me soon. Thanks to everyone who shared what they’d use it for, I’ll see what I can find for ya in Bali ;)

Have a great weekend.

(image left: Cooling Off, Singapore by Ana Maria Muñoz, right: Pin)

phu quoc & saigon

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… a few weeks later and we finally have photos from our trip to Vietnam! It was our second time there (remember our early honeymoon?) so we mixed in some beach time with city culture.

Most of the trip was spent at Mango Bay Eco Resort, in Phu Quoc. It was a complete 180 from our experience in Con Dao in that even though they both boast an eco-friendly environments, Mango Bay was bare bones. No A/C, no phone in the room for room service, outdoor toilet, and unfortunately really crappy bed and pillows. However, the setting was gorgeous and it still felt indulgent with it’s own grown-up summer camp vibe. We ate, lounged, and ate some more but my favorite part was spending the day out on the water while Joe and other guests snorkeled. I stayed on board due to my recent LASIK surgery so instead of swimming with the fish, I was invited to join the guides in catching them instead. I did pretty well – four total! The water was beautiful and warm and that night I went to sleep still feeling the rocking of the boat. Luckily it was more soothing than it sounds.

After three nights in Phu Quoc we headed to Ho Chi Minh City, or as tried and true locals still call it, Saigon. My first impression was “wow, it looks like a mini Europe but with all Vietnamese people!”. The French influence and architecture is still very much present in the old districts as are the wide streets lined with trees – a rare sight in South East Asia. When Joe and I hopped onto motor bikes with our guides for a night tour we were instantly impressed with the ease of getting around. Everyone was so relaxed about riding motorbikes and most of all courteous. I’m sure locals might think differently (or even other tourists visiting SEA for the first time) but now coming from KL where people (mostly male) drive their bikes at crazy speeds and seem to always try to hit you, Saigon felt more like a pleasant bike ride in the park. There were so many more women on the road, even ones dressed up in fancy work clothes. It’s just the norm and it’s awesome.

The biggest treat was the next day when our guide took us to the building where an American helicopter evacuated people during the fall of Saigon. It was crazy to think of the iconic image and then look up/down and realize that we were standing on top of history. The location isn’t advertised to tourists nor is it generally open to the public so if you want in, give Bao a call.

We had to catch our flight home that afternoon so with other cultural spots to see, the day was jam packed but well worth it. It was our first time hiring a guide during holiday and I don’t think it will be the last. We did it mainly because we had less than 24 hours in the city and expected that there would be a lot to see. And unlike traveling in Europe where we’re more familiar with the history, culture, and where cities tend to be easier to navigate, we’ve realized that we need a little extra help in this part of the world. Ubud, Bali is next for a long weekend so we’ll see how we do there!

Have you ever traveled with a guide? What was your experience?

 

 

friday pic & pin

friday pic & pin by Anamu 31

Hi guys, Happy Friday! I had every intention to share photos from our Vietnam trip this week but I forgot to change the camera RAW settings and iPhoto isn’t too pleased with the big data (hint: laptop is definitely due for a spring cleaning).

Will work on them this weekend but in the meantime here’s a pic from our eco resort, Mango Bay, in Phu Quoc and a Pin of shorts that I’m desperately drooling over. They’re by a Vietnamese designer, THU THU, who incorporates the beautiful textiles of the H’mong women of Sapa. Though we stayed in the South and Sapa is in the North, I managed to pick up a few handmade goodies while in Saigon, one of which I’ll share with you next week and by share I mean give away ;)

If you haven’t checked out the Ring Cozy Kickstarter yet please click on over, pledge if you like it, and tweet, facebook post, and email the heck out of it! There are only TEN more days to reach full funding (Kickstarter is all-or-nada) so every bit helps. Thanks for all of your support!!!

Have an awesome weekend.

Oh and a BIG thank you to Jamie of KAYU for having me on her blog for a Q&A!

(image left: Palm and Sea, Phu Quo, Vietnam by Ana Maria Muñoz, right: Pin via A Boy Named Sue)

ready, set, #putaringcozyonit

Ring Cozy on Kickstarter

Today is an exciting day. A day when I take a big leap of faith and launch Ring Cozy on one of my favorite websites, Kickstarter!

It’s been months and months (okay, nearly one year) in the making and I feel nervous, anxious, scared but most of all, excited. Beyond announcing my new venture here on the the blog I haven’t really made a big public push. I’ve been working on manufacturing and fulfillment details and now that those things are set, I’m ready to really put Ring Cozy out there!

In case you’re new to the blog, or missed this post, Ring Cozy is an activewear accessory that I designed after realizing that I was damaging my engagement ring’s band while working out at the gym. I love my ring and since I never wanted to be without it I had to find a way to keep it on while comfortably protecting it during my activities.

If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, it’s a crowdfunding website that helps creative projects get funded by supporters in exchange for rewards (ie. being the first to receive the actual product they’re helping to fund).  In my case, the Project is getting multiple sizes and colors for Ring Cozy’s first-run production.  I chose to launch via Kickstarter for obvious reasons (manufacturing ain’t cheap!) but mainly because as a supporter of past projects, I believe that the entrepreneurial and creative spirit of the website is amazing.

Since Kickstarter operates on an all-or-nothing system for raising funds from supporters – and the project’s duration is only 22 days – I need help in getting the word out early to make this launch a success!

This is where and how you, my awesome readers and internet pals, can help: share the heck out of the project via your social media accounts and personal emails to your personal and professional contacts who might be interested in getting a Ring Cozy of their own. Any shares, likes, follows, and emails will be forever appreciated!

You can find Ring Cozy on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and use the campaign hashtag #putaringcozyonit

I really believe in Ring Cozy and the potential that it has to become an everyday activewear accessory for ring wearers who want to keep their rings on while enjoying their active lifestyles. Thanks for the support so far and many many many thanks for being with me for the journey ahead!

Cheers to making things happen!

PS  – a huge THANK YOU is due to Michelle Mizner of Field Work Media for the awesome video! She is one talented lady.

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