From my previous blogs, I mentioned about my love for the fall season, and now I am sharing a new found love –
Snow! Winter! Extremely cold! in Romania
I never thought I would love the freezing, numbing and shivering winter. I spent few months in Europe, and I was glad to experience the winter season. Well, it has its downside, but for me, because I rarely get to experience, I am okay with it.
So when my colleagues found out I am fascinated by it, they keep checking the weather forecast for me, when will the first snow come, whether I will get the chance to experience white Christmas, all sorts of news that made me more excited every day.
Few days before going on Christmas holiday, all of them tried to talk me out of being disappointed that there is no white Christmas. The temperature just went up all of a sudden and thin snow, and my dream of white Christmas melted away.
The dream of making a snowman and snow angel just vanished. But, I was still optimistic, there is always the mountainside, so I just have to go there and have a tremendous snowy, cold and wintry Christmas.
Gabi and I arrived in Romania and managed to see a glimpse of some snow in the forest which melted the next morning.
So then to the mountain, we go!
We drove about two hours from Sighisoara, for a short stay in Prahova Valley, where you can visit Bucegi Mountain. This mountain is part of the southern Carpathian mountain range.
The mountain can be reached by taking the cable car either from Busteni or Sinaia towns. We nearly did not make it, cause there was a technical problem on the cable car due to frosted cable and the strong wind for the past few days.
Because Gabi was so eager to show the beauty of the Romanian mountain range, we waited patiently for 2 hours; then the technician finally called us in.
When we reached the top of the mountain…
What a breathtaking sight!
At a higher elevation is the Bucegi Plateau, where wind and rain have turned the rocks into spectacular figures such as the Sphinxand Babele.
Trudging through the knee-deep snow was a struggle for me. But the view just gets me all the time. As usual, this is again another moment to be grateful. As I close my eyes and say a little prayer, God has been so wonderful. He just never gets tired of granting all my prayers.
Transylvania has always been associated with vampires and Dracula for many centuries. But unknown to many, this place is a hidden wonder in Eastern Europe. It is rich in history, surrounded by scenic landscape and preserved in a medieval era, which makes it attractive to few.
I got the chance to visit Sighisoara, a city in Transylvanian region. It immediately captivated my random traveler’s heart.
This whole place is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The walled citadel is home of preserved medieval and colorful houses, cobbled alleys and of course the rumored house where Dracula was born, now a restaurant.
The city is very colorful and vibrant, mixed with an authentic medieval feel. The people are friendly and accommodating. You can easily explore and walk around the old town; you will never lose your way.
The walk to the old town is very relaxing, so quiet and peaceful. A place where you can take your time and be immersed in a different era.
Sighișoara is one of the few fortified towns that are still inhabited. The town is made up of two parts. The medieval stronghold was built on top of a hill and is known as the “Citadel” (Cetate). The lower town lies in the valley of Târnava Mare river.
Sighisoara is one of the most colorful places I’ve ever been and still amazed how they can preserve the old houses for so many years.
I am hopeful that this place will receive as many praises and recognition from tourists it deserves.
If you are traveling to Eastern Europe, make sure to include a day in Sighisoara.
Can you imagine being on the road with this exquisite view? That is Iceland. You have everything you need at one glance. There was a tagline that really suits Iceland.
A rarity in a world of plenty.
We only had few days to spend in Iceland (Reykjavik), just visited the famous destinations, but it made me feel so at home.
How can you even resist its beauty? It captivated my heart in an instant. The moment we drove out of the city, the landscape made me in awe. You see different scenes which are not usually seen in other parts of Europe (at least to my knowledge and to what I have seen so far).
I can go back to these places every single day just to breathe the fresh air, feel the cold breeze and just feel one with nature. These destinations can be reached easily. Reykjavik is easy to navigate, and you can use even google maps to go to different places.
After a long day drive, the best part of the trip is chasing Aurora!
At that point, I believed that if it is meant to be, no matter what, you will get it. And a miracle happened. After almost two days of searching and chasing, the northern lights were evasive. I was on the verge of losing my hope and accepting the fact that I will not witness one of the wonders of Iceland and one of God’s miracles this time. There it was, dancing under the moonlight. Pitch dark, clear sky and cold breeze!
THE NORTHERN LIGHTS APPEARED!
I was so grateful that Gabi was able to set the camera and took some fantastic shots of the Northern Lights.
A few minutes later, off we go and pack to leave the next day.
Quick travel over the long weekend away from deadlines, meetings, and emails. Off we go to the land of fire and ice, Iceland.
I am in Europe (Germany to be exact) for a 6-month assignment, and one of the things I wanted to check on the bucket list is the northern lights. And with the short stay in Europe and less than 3 hours flight would make this dream come true.
With the last sunny day of 2017 and the long weekend in Germany, perfect for a weekend getaway, Gabi and I planned the 4-day trip to Iceland. Mostly visiting the usual tourist destination and of course to chase the Aurora.
I flew to Manchester because the flights going to Reykjavik is much cheaper compared to the price departing from Munich. I do not know either, but to save some travel cost, I did it anyway.
We arrived in Reykjavik, and the first thing we did was to get the rental car (from SADcar) and visited the famous Blue Lagoon.
To be honest, Blue Lagoon is overstated and too commercialized. Since this is one of the recommendation and Gabi wanted to go and experience, we tried when we arrived. We booked the 6 PM timeslot, and as expected this is the most frequented destination in Iceland, so there are a lot of tourists but definitely not crowded because the area is also huge to accommodate a lot of people.
Blue Lagoon for me is something like “OK, I have experienced it, and will not come back.” kind of experience. It was not something extraordinary for me. It is not my preference and I respect those who would like to go back over and over to experience it.
Then as the night gets colder and colder, we headed to our hotel in Reykjavik Natura Hotel. We booked this hotel because of its proximity to the city (although we didn’t get the chance to roam around much). When we arrived, I did not know (or my oversight) the location is at the airport, which could have been a downside because Gabi is a light sleeper and very sensitive to noise. Good thing, he liked the hotel room and the windows must be thick as it was quiet and we always have a very sound sleep during the night.
We have 3 more days to explore the country and more information about the trip will be up on my next blog.
At first, I thought Grand Canyon will remain a dream…
Every travel I plan, I always make sure that I have at least one memorable experience planned, a remembrance that will surely last and can be told over and over again. I take all the time to research for uncommon destination or activity, some of them I did by myself and some with friends. Regardless, I made sure it gives me that happiness, that smile and that satisfaction. To name a few, I had my first ever solo mountain hiking in South Korea, skydiving in Australia, tried my first ever sashimi in Japan (I do not eat raw food, so this is a big deal for me), first ever bus group tour in the US – that includes a whole lot of memorable experience, my first ever glimpse of Grand Canyon.
At first, I thought Grand Canyon will remain a dream. Well, some dreams do come true if you put your heart to it and I got lucky to have one of my dreams came into reality. Before going to the US, I was still hesitant to include this on my itinerary, but I muster the courage to go alone. A road trip with strangers that led me to this amazing place, breathtaking is even an understatement!
The trip took roughly 2.5 hours from Las Vegas. We left the hotel early in the morning, to catch the sunrise on the way, stopped at Hoover Dam to get some photos and breakfast, passed by an outlet store and stayed a couple of hours and reached Grand Canyon (West Pacific Rim) just before noon.
I have seen photos of the Hoover Dam from #Instagram before and I thought, it would be good to see that place as well, but during this trip, I thought it will just be another wishful thinking. But, life can really surprise you anytime, right?
Hoover Dam is on the border of Nevada and Arizona.
I kept looking at my watch the whole time as I cannot wait to reach Grand Canyon. I was thinking whether will it be worth the effort (who am I kidding???), or will it meet my expectation, all sorts of questions that made me more excited and anxious at the same time.
Then along the dusty road, I saw the SIGN and I knew we were almost there!
The trip was definitely worth it! The view is stunning, exquisite and I was speechless. Whenever I am in a place where I cannot find the right words to define the beauty, I was totally dazed and in awe!
The group chose West Pacific Rim over the South (they call in the “true” Grand Canyon) due to its close proximity to Las Vegas. Nevertheless, the view is majestic!
Although this side of the canyon is not part of the Grand Canyon National Park, it is still, Grand Canyon!
Grand Canyon West is open to the public from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm daily from October through March, and from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm daily from April through September. It is open every day of the year including all major holidays. (http://www.grandcanyon.net/west-rim)
Navigating is no problem, you can go from one point to another via the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus provided in the park. There are so many things to do in the park, but I only focused on 2 destinations – Eagle and Guano Point.
Wherever I looked, the view gave me chills and happiness inside which I cannot explain. I am always fond of nature, and I must say I got even teary-eyed because of the overwhelming feeling of being so blessed to ever witness such an amazing and miraculous creation.
This place is called Eagle Point because the formation of the rocks look like an eagle spreading its wings. Can you spot the eagle?
There were also replicas of the Native American – Hualapai Village, where you can go and see inside each “teepee”.
After walking for a couple of hours, I headed to the next destination.
Hike all the way up to see the stunning panoramic view of the Grand Canyon. This is by far the most majestic view I have ever seen. I know there are others, but this is my first time to see such an amazing rock formation and unending scenery of cliffs eroded by time.
There is also another stop at Hualapai Ranch but I did not go anymore.
This is totally worth the effort, the bumpy and dusty ride along the Nevada and Arizona stretch. I am grateful for this opportunity and for God who created such an amazing scenery, it fits its name, it is indeed, GRAND!
Have you been to Grand Canyon? How was your experience?
It always surprises me how life unravel itself. The things I least expect can give the purest happiness that surely is treasured for as long as I live…
We all have that one tiny little thought of “what if” when it comes to deciding where we want to go next. What if I do not get enough money for my airfare, accommodation or what if something happens and I won’t be able to go to that place. There will always be uncertainties, not only when you decide to travel, but in life so to speak. But traveling has all these uncertainties because you are moving away from your comfort zone, your home. But doing this, you will eventually find yourself and your happiness.
“Drop everything now
Meet me in the pouring rain
Kiss me on the sidewalk
Take away the pain
‘Cause I see, sparks fly, whenever you smile…”
Sparks Fly by Taylor Swift
This song will always remind me of Los Angeles, the city where dreams can actually come true. There was that spark that hit me. Maybe because of the California sunset or the Hollywood sign, or meeting with my good friends or just because it’s California, as simple as that.
Blue sky, cool and breezy weather, stunning scenery of sunset and mountain ranges, and contrasting city vibe – made this trip interesting, memorable and a dream come true.
When I was younger, I have always thought of traveling but never imagined that this time will come. Traveling made me realize that I am living an extraordinary life. Not everybody has the chance to see the beauty of life and how amazing our world as I see it now. Slowly, I am realizing hidden dreams, to discover how amazing the world is and to live life to the fullest.
Little did I know, a surprise side-trip adventure was waiting for me. As the plane started to descend at the Chinggis Khaan airport in Ulaanbaatar, the Gobi desert greeted me. At the arrival, it was the cold weather’s turn to say hello. I already had my winter jacket on, but it was freezing!
It was that time of the year again to reflect, restart and refocus and the place I called my second home, South Korea, was the choice of destination.
I went back to South Korea to restart my life button and experience Fall. Without a full itinerary on hand and only listed 2 activities, the rest was unplanned and unexpected.
What better way to breathe and free your mind than to be one with nature.
That’s what I did last October 2015. I hiked Seoraksan and Dobongsan mountains to experience Fall Foliage and I was not disappointed.
Seoraksan Fall Foliage Photos:
I hiked Seoraksan twice back in April 2014 and last year October 2015 (see my previous post here), the expectation of the level of difficulty was known as I had done it before, while Dobongsan was harder to climb because of its rocky hiking trail according to the reviews I’ve read.
Dobongsan is located in Bukhansan National Park and very accessible via subway train (Dobongsan Station). It’s one of the most popular hiking trail for locals, so if you hike during weekends, this hike is pretty busy with local hikers.
Despite the level of difficulty I headed my way to Dobongsan and began my Fall Foliage journey.
I was never fully geared (wore my favorite running shoes) for hiking, except the hiking stick I bought at one of the stores along the way. Thank goodness, I read somewhere that hiking stick is a must so I bought because I don’t really know what to expect, and true enough the trails were far more difficult to climb.
There were a lot of local hikers when I started, but in the end the crowd went by and I was left alone traversing the trail and enjoying the different fall colors.
As I went farther and farther, exhaustion and frustration nearly got in my way. The rocky trail made it so difficult to reach the peak, although I had lots of rest in between (and some cursing) and my 1.5-liter bottle was nearly empty not even half-way through the journey. But after a while, the weather seemed to hear my rambling and the wind got cooler and somehow eased my discomfort as I moved on.
After almost 2-km and more than an hour hike, I’ve reached the first resting spot, Madangbawi Rock, with an exquisite panoramic view. This was not even the peak and the view was already breathtaking. The pit stop was crowded by hikers. I joined the rest of the hikers and sat down for half an hour, ate my gimbap, having second thoughts whether to continue to Jaunbong Peak or not.
Since the goal was to really go on top, I decided to continue the journey. And glad I did. As I made my way to the top, the Fall Foliage was absolutely stunning. If only I can sit down and enjoy more of the scenery, I will spend more time just looking at the maple tree leaves glittering from the rays of the sun. But time is running out and still have not reached the peak and I need time to descend as well.
With my aching feet and arms and after another hour from Madangbawi Rock, I was damn shocked that I still have to climb (almost vertical) while holding on to the rustic steel bar drilled on the rock to reach the top.
I sat down and watched as the hikers made their way up and down to and from Jaunbong Peak. I was observing the other hikers how they climb up and when I was comfortable enough, I mustered the courage to try myself. I finally reached the peak with relief and awe on yet another stunning panoramic view.
I thought the trail going up was hard enough that going down will be easier, but I was TOTALLY WRONG. As I went down the rock, the footholds are wide apart making it more difficult to go down, obviously I don’t have long legs to reach one foothold to another. I slid down slowly on the foothold while hanging on to my dear life.
It took me almost 1.5 hours to descend from the mountain following the same route. I was exhausted, my arms were so tired, my legs almost collapsing, I reached the ground after a very long almost 5-hour hike.
That was it for the day! Headed back to the hostel, ate my dinner, cleaned up, had my face mask and slept soundly through the night for the next day adventure!
Somehow hiking clears my mind and makes me refocus to what is more important in life. While on top of every peak, it is as if I am closer to God, and I always whisper how grateful I am for all the blessings He has given me over the years. Forever grateful for being able to witnessed such beautiful creation.
Travel Stories from a Random Traveler working 8 hours a day, 5 days a week! Discover the world and a whole lot more!