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.
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…
“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.
It was only a dream, a dream that seemed to be so far- fetched and impossible. Through time, I was able to accomplish a part of that dream little by little. I am still dreaming but planning and pursuing at the same time, because you will never know, what seems to be so unreal and impossible becomes the other way around. ~ Jhes
It was my first personal travel out from my own pocket and I was so glad that my friends and I decided to take our first trip to the Land Down Under – Australia.
If only I could make 3 hours into 3 days, I would have done it. It would have been a wonderful experience. My feeling for this trip or place is beyond words, but this side trip is really worth every second, every step and every sweat!
I must admit, I am not a Sound of Music fan (I am not a musical fan, in general). Have I seen the musical? movie? cartoon? I have seen the cartoon version, Yes. I cannot even remember whether I have watched the movie. I am not a classical music fan either, I am not familiar with Mozart, I only encountered his name from one of the literature subject I took a long time ago.
Without any background or whatsoever, will I enjoy?
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.
From my previous post, South Korea – Hiker’s Haven (Seoul Fortress Wall), I cited that hiking in Korea is one of its main attractions, however some travelers may not be keen to explore as it may require some level of physical fitness to be able to reach the highest point.
Korean mountains trails vary from one to the other. Definitely the experience and fulfillment is different as every hiker traverse the slopes, ridges and unending stairs (It’s for real, Koreans probably love stairs) to the peak. There are also levels of difficulty from easy to difficult climb, which beginners (like myself) can consider. Some mountains can be a day-hike or multi-day hike, depending on your endurance, you can climb different routes in one go. As for me, I am taking it slow and one at a time.
After my first ever hiking adventure in Seoul, I headed to my next journey.
When I was researching for mountains to hike in South Korea, Seoraksan was on top of the list. Seoraksan is located in Sokcho, Province of Gangwon-do. It is about 3-hour bus ride (either from Seoul Express Bus or Dong Seoul Bus Terminal) from Seoul.
Despite my apprehension to travel outside Seoul City for the first time, I enjoyed the 3-hour ride. A very refreshing, calm and green scenery delighted my way as I traveled to the province.
I stayed in House Hostel for my two trips in April 2014 (Spring) and October 2015 (Fall). I highly recommend this hostel because the place is cozy and the owners are friendly and hospitable. You can book the hostel in Hostelworld.com.
I climbed Seoraksan twice, and I plan to do it again. The adventures I had were totally different but the admiration to its breathtaking view is as if seeing its beauty for the first time.
As you enter Seoraksan National Park, the surrounding gives you a positive vibe and gets you excited to continue the journey.
At first, I did not really consider going to any mountain peak as from the reviews I read at that time, Seoraksan is a “difficult” level. I was supposed to hike the Biryong Falls or Bisondae Cliff course, but these two trails were closed when I went. I hesitated to climb Ulsanbawi Peak. But in the end, I decided to head on and started my journey.
I was no longer surprised to see stairs as I am already used to seeing them in Korea and quite relieved that the trail is not as rough and difficult as what I expected. Similar to Seoul Fortress trail, the national park is well-maintained except for a few rugged ridges and slopes, but still able to pass through.
I was delighted to see the Fall Foliage in Seoraksan during my second visit in 2015.
As I continued my journey, there were also pit stops where you can take a rest and enjoy the amazing view of the Ulsanbawi peak as the overwhelming excitement kicks in.
Giving up was never an option, the mantra I kept telling myself. As I got nearer to the peak, the trail gets steeper and steeper and more stairs to climb.
I am acrophobic and imagine the struggle I had to endure in order to reach the top.
The struggle is for real but the breathtaking panoramic view awaits those who made it to the top.
I did and it was so surreal!
It was so rewarding to be able to be on top. It was my first time to hike a real mountain.
After staying for few minutes at the peak, I headed down with a smile on my face, exhausted but fulfilled. The view made it all worth it.
After the exhausting hike, I went straight to a restaurant and enjoyed my bibimbap and ice cold soda to refresh and went back to the hostel to rest.
Adventure is worthwhile ~Aesop
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