4 important things every first time visitor to Lisbon should know

I have a newfound love for the city of Lisbon – despite my only reason for going being the business class award availability that I found for the return portion of this much-too-short Euro trip.

There weren’t all that many options available, but it was hard to resist turning down the opportunity to fly TAP Portugal across the Atlantic for the very first time. Basically, I went into this trip most excited about the flights, but after returning home the only thing I was thinking about was how much I loved having the opportunity to explore Lisbon for a couple days.

Suffice to say, I arrived in Lisbon having done very little research and not having a clue as to what I wanted to do or see during my time on the ground. As a matter fact, I was simply thinking of Lisbon as a necessary layover between two awesome flights.

The time spent there would simply be my recharging time, allowing me to get rested for the return portion of this very aviation-centric journey. The thought of doing a lot of sightseeing never really crossed my mind actually.

SANspotter airport selfie Lisbon
Minutes after arriving at the Lisbon airport from Frankfurt. I had no idea what I was about to discover…

Of course this all changed soon as I got there and I experienced firsthand the beauty and culture of this amazing place. It hit me instantly – all I wanted to do was walk down every street and pop my head into every little restaurant and café just to soak in as much of the local vibe as I could.

I wasn’t prepared for the beauty and laid-back energy of Lisbon, and right away I felt really stupid for focusing so much on my attention on the flights and not the destination.

All was not lost though – I still had two full days to wander and explore and I immediately started pouring through Google Maps on my phone trying to figure out a plan.

Lisbon breakfast cafe
My first 10 minutes in Lisbon, and I couldn’t resist kicking things off with breakfast at this little cafe. It was the perfect welcome to this amazing city!

It turned out that I wasn’t alone in my feelings about Lisbon. After returning home, I spoke with many other travelers who had the same feelings as I did – not expecting much going in, but having strong feelings of not wanting to leave.

There’s just something about this place that makes people fall in love with it in an instant, and because of that I encourage you to go and see the place for yourself. Go ahead, put it on your bucket list. It’s totally worth it.

Now that I’ve convinced you to go (I hope!), I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you 4 things that I feel each first time traveler to Lisbon should know. Hopefully these tips will save you time when it comes to planning your own trip.

If I would’ve known the stuff beforehand, things would’ve gone so much smoother and I would’ve felt like I could have seen so much more due to not having to figure it all out when I got there. So without further ado, here we go:

1. You need to be in fairly good shape to walk around Lisbon

I was actually quite surprised how hilly it was, and if it weren’t for the fact that I’m in pretty good shape myself thanks to regular cycling and running there’s no way I would’ve been able to see as much as I did just walking around.

There are some very steep hills in the heart of the city and if you want to see everything you’re going to have to climb.

Hilly Lisbon streets
There are hills down every alleyway it seems. Be prepared.

It also goes without saying that comfortable shoes make a world of difference. There’s so much to see here, and you’ll be tempted to turn down every street, so hit the treadmill a couple months before your journey to prepare yourself for all the climbing you’re going to be doing.

2. The hop-on hop-off sightseeing buses are totally worth it

One of the very first things that I did in Lisbon was to get on one of the hop-on hop-off sightseeing buses that go around the city. I’m not really much of a tour bus kind of guy, but it was really hot out and I had three or four hours to kill before my hotel room was ready, so I figured that a three-hour bus ride would be a great orientation. And it was.

Lisbon hop on hop off sightseeing bus
Ok, I felt like a complete tourist getting on this bus, but it was totally worth it.
Lisbon tour bus interior
Most everybody chooses to sit on the upper deck, but it’s quiet solitude down here on the lower level.

For roughly US$20, I was able to see more of the city than I could have by simply walking on my own while trying to decipher maps along way. There are several buses to choose from, each focusing on their own section of the city, and they all meet at the Bus Terminal (Marquês de Pombal) in the heart of the city.

Simply go into to the ticket office, look at the map, and choose the route that is most appealing to you. That ticket will allow you to ride the bus for an entire day, hopping on and off as you please at all the stops.

3. The city really comes alive in the early evenings

I spent a lot of time outside trying to see as much as I could during my short stay, so I got to see what Lisbon is like at all hours. My favorite time? The early evenings. It felt like everybody poured into the streets around 5 PM, and there was a definite feeling of energy that I didn’t feel during the morning or afternoon hours.

It almost felt Carnival-like with music, dancing, laughing, and playing all over the core of the city, which was a completely different vibe than what I had experienced in the first half of the day.

Streets of Lisbon
The city comes alive in the late afternoon and early evenings!

I’d recommend you work your schedule around these early afternoon hours, saving enough energy during the day so that you’ll feel like pounding the streets when everybody else comes out to play.

4. Lisbon may look rough in spots, but it’s a very safe city

If I’m being honest, I was a little bit surprised how different two adjacent streets could be all around the city. It wasn’t the case everywhere, but sometimes I felt like I was walking down a street which just oozed money (Gucci and Rolex shops), only to turn down the next one and find myself surrounded by decaying architecture and graffiti on every surface.

It was a bit offputting at first, but after walking around for a while and talking to the locals, I came to the conclusion that these differences are all part of what makes Lisbon so charming.

Lisbon graffiti
The graffiti only adds texture to this place. And as you can see, I wasn’t lying about those hills! I swear I heard profanity from these tourists as they were trying to find their hotel…
Lisbon is safe
Looks sketchy, but I never once felt unsafe wandering these side streets.

Lisbon is very safe, so don’t feel hesitant walking down that dark alley covered in graffiti and decaying cobblestones. These sidestreets we’re actually my favorite part of the exploration that I did, and I’d recommend checking them out for yourself. This is the real Lisbon, and I’m willing to bet that you will find it as charming as I did.

So there you have it. This is by no means an extensive list covering all you need to know about the city Lisbon, but I hope it’s a helpful guide which will prepare you for your first time visit. I would also be very curious to know what you think of the city.

Feel free to leave a comment below and let me know what your experiences were in Lisbon and Portugal in general. I’m planning to go back for sure, and I would also love to hear some suggestions for making my second trip as immersive as I can. I’ve already got the basics, but I’m looking for your help to tell me what I need to see next time!

My great American southwest adventure: Hoover Dam, Valley of Fire, Route 66, and Grand Canyon

Finally. After an entire lifetime of postponing a road trip around the great American southwest, this was finally going to happen. Years of years of procrastination had been weighing on me quite heavily – the Grand Canyon has been at the top of my travel list for as long as I can remember, but it’s so close to San Diego that I kept putting it off in favor of other (bigger) trips all the time.

When you only get a few weeks of vacation a year, you have to use that time to your advantage. Why take the time to see something close to home when I could hop on a plane and fly around the world instead? You can see why it hasn’t been so easy to scratch off my list.

I really hate having things linger on to-do lists, so you can imagine how much of a relief it was when my sister finally laid down the gauntlet and volunteered to plan everything if the entire family agreed to go along. Of course I didn’t hesitate for an instant to agree, and it was game-on as soon as my parents said they would like to go too.

There were only two things required of me in order to be a part of this: first, I had to send my sister cash to pay for my portion of the rent for the houses we were going to rent. Second, I had to be in Las Vegas the morning of March 26th. The rest was all up to her, and I just had to say “yes ma’am” and follow her lead for the entire week.

Day 1: The Hoover Dam

Yes, it’s true. The most common thing you overhear from others while walking around and looking at the Hoover Dam is, “daaaamn”. It’s really funny the first one or two times you hear it, but it gets old fast and I’ll admit that it didn’t take long before I was rolling my eyes every time I heard someone say it.

The staff are probably completely immune to it, but I imagine they have their own little joke about the amount of times they hear it every single day. I’m sure of it.

Jokes aside, the Hoover Dam really blew me away. The amount of engineering, ingenuity, and human perseverance that went into the construction of this thing is beyond words.

It’s the kind of structure that makes you feel small and insignificant when you walk around it, and it’s an awesome feeling to stand on top and think about the raw power and strength this dam has to hold back such a large amount of water pushing on it from behind. Daaaamn!

SANspotter hoover dam
Walking on top of the Hoover Dam. An impressive experience!
hoover dam
The amount of engineering that went into this thing is simply mind-blowing. I’m pretty sure smoke was pouring out of my ears from thinking so hard about how they actually built it.
I-93 overpass hoover dam
That bridge behind me is the I-93 overpass, and pedestrians are allowed up there. As a matter of fact, that’s where I took the pic just above this one.
I93 bridge hoover dam pedestrian walkway
This is what it looks like just as you start the walk out onto the 1-93 overpass.

Day 2: The Valley of Fire

The Valley of Fire was the place I knew the least about on our itinerary this week. My sister and her family are avid hikers, so spending at least one day hiking around some of the beautiful landscape of the southwest was a given.

We needed to be careful not to choose something too rigorous though, as my mother’s knees aren’t what they used to be and we wanted to be sure that she could participate in everything we did.

Luckily, there are a wide variety of hiking trails located all around the Valley of Fire and we were able to find some breathtakingly beautiful terrain that wasn’t so difficult to traverse.

Valley of fire road
Driving through the Valley of Fire.
white domes trail valley of fire
Hiking through the Valley of Fire is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. This is the start of White Domes Trail.
sanspotter selfie valley of fire
Hiking through the Valley of Fire. Make sure you wear sticky shoes!
valley of fire terrain
Looks like it’s 110 degrees out here, doesn’t it? Actually, it was kind of cold and I was woefully underdressed for the occasion.
san spotter valley of fire selfie
THIS was the kind of pic I was envisioning before coming here. Mission accomplished.

Day 3: Route 66 from Las Vegas to Parks, AZ

In order to get from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon, it was going to involve some driving. Interestingly enough, remnants of old Route 66 still exist for a majority of this drive, so we decided to make a day of it and take our time to see all the sights.

Google Maps said that it would only take three and half hours, but somehow we managed to stretch it out to 7 and I was absolutely wrecked by the time we arrived at our rental house in Parks.

route 66 kingman arizona
Starting our Route 66 adventure in Kingman, AZ.
driving route 66
My rental car was totally wrong for this drive. A old American muscle car would have been much more appropriate!
route 66 empty road
Pull over, and stand out in the middle of the road to take pics. There’s nobody around to stop you!

I’m not really sure what the rest of my family thought about this drive, but for me (the car guy), I enjoyed it the most out of everything we did this week. There is absolutely n o t h i n g out there but desert for some very long stretches of road between little towns, and that’s what made it so interesting for me.

It may have well been 1850 and not 2017, as I’m sure the landscape hasn’t changed at all over the years.

My Kia Forte rental car wasn’t giving me the same feeling that the old-time cowboys and explores must have experienced crossing that land on horseback, but I did appreciate being able to cruise along at 70mph in air conditioned comfort.

Day 4: The Grand Canyon

I’ll admit it. I wasn’t really looking forward to the Grand Canyon as much as all the other things we did this week. Heck, we saw a pretty impressive canyon at the Hoover Dam, so I did feel kind of “canyoned out” and I wasn’t expecting much.

Remember the scene from National Lampoon’s Vacation where they make a stop at the Grand Canyon on their drive across the country, look at it for all of two seconds, and leave? That’s totally what I was feeling like doing as we were making the drive to the south rim that morning.

Thankfully, I was truly blown away when I finally saw it. It’s really true – all those pictures you’ve seen of the Grand Canyon on TV and in magazines your entire life don’t do this thing justice.

It is simply breathtaking (and HUGE) in real life and I was literally at a loss for words when standing on the edge for the first time and starting out at that big hole in the ground. It was then that I understood why they named it “Grand” – and I think I may have even said “daaaamn” a time or two as well.

grand canyon wide angle pic
I don’t even know why I’m even posting pics of this, because pictures don’t even begin to capture how massive the Grand Canyon is.
sanspotter selfie grand canyon
That’s me, trying to look cool despite the fact that it’s a pretty long fall in every direction if I get too close to the edge.
grand canyon
If you’ve never seen the Grand Canyon in person, do it as soon as possible. You’ll thank me for it.

A big “THANK YOU” goes out to my sister for making this a completely stress-free trip on my part. She’s not an event planner by profession, but I keep telling her that she could make an epic career of it if she really wanted to. She says it would be too stressful, and I totally agree – the amount of work she put into making this trip happen was incredible.

One of these days I’m going to scrounge up as many airline points as I can and put her on a plane in first class to anywhere in the world she wants to go. It’s the least I could do for helping me scratch that lingering southwest road trip off my travel to-do list in a most magnificent way. Thanks sis!

The quiet serenity of Taipei during Chinese New Year

Coming into a new city for the first time is always one of the most exciting parts of a trip for me. Getting my first glimpse of the skyline from a distance, taking the exit off the freeway, twisting and turning thought the busy streets on the way to the hotel – it’s an exhilarating thing for a traveler to experience.

Taipei taxi
The taxi ride into Taipei from the airport. The anticipation is building!
Taipei taxi ride
Getting my first look at the city of Taipei.

My first impressions of Taipei were interesting, mostly because the city never felt big to me during my entire ride in from the airport.

I could see the skyline off in the distance, but it was difficult to determine where the “downtown” area was just from looking at all the buildings.

The Taipei 101 tower seemed to the the tallest structure in the entire city, and it stood alone in one part of town separate from another cluster of large buildings off in the distance. This was certainly not the Taipei I was expecting.

I had envisioned Taipei to be a huge sprawling metropolis with the chaotic energy of Hong Kong. It wasn’t. On my day of arrival, the streets were empty and a majority of the shops were closed.

I naturally assumed the lack of activity was because it was Sunday, and the following day the city would come alive with everyone going to work and getting back to their normal daily routines.

empty taipei streets
The vacant streets of Taipei.
taipei buildings
It felt like a deserted city at times – a very eerie experience.

It didn’t happen though. Monday morning came and went with no increase in activity, and it was then that it started feeling like something was wrong. Had the city been evacuated due to a deadly virus spreading like wildfire? Was there a threat of war? Did everyone get the hell out of town because they knew SANspotter was coming??

The jet lag must have been fierce, because I missed the most obvious answer: Chinese New Year. Yes indeed, this was the first time I’ve been in Asia during Chinese New Year, and I had no idea how major of a holiday it was. It’s three days long. It’s the biggest public event of the year. And it has the power to empty entire cities.

SANspotter selfie taipei
All alone at the top of the Taipei 101 tower.
taipei 101 tower candid photo
This guy looked pretty lonely as well.
walking in taipei
Walking in silence around the city. I was not expecting things to be so calm!

There were still pockets of activity around the touristy areas like the Taipei 101 shopping center and observatory, but whenever I strayed too far from this area the streets turned vacant and quiet. It was possible to walk down the middle of the street in some places, which is downright eerie in big Asian cites such as Taipei.

taipei side streets
Vacant side streets with only a few locals in sight. Where did everyone go?

The bad thing about all this is that I began to accept it as “normal”. On my final day in the city, the holiday was coming to a close and everyone started coming out of their houses and poured into the streets.

Traffic was brutal. There was the smell of delicious food in the air. All the shops and cafes were open. It was like a completely different city, and I couldn’t help to feel a bit cheated since I didn’t have enough time to soak it all in. THIS was the Taipei I came for!

busy taipei streets
There were still pockets of activity around, and things slowly got busier as Chinese New Year came to a close.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was really lucky to have had the experience of seeing Taipei as calm and quiet as I did. It ended up being a very relaxing two and a half days, which was just what I needed to decompress from the stress of work back home.

If I had come into the chaotic Taipei I was expecting, I probably would have returned home feeling just as tense as I did when I left.

Someday I’ll go back to Taipei to experience things as they normally are, which is intriguing to me considering that it will probably be like getting to visit this place again for the first time…

The 3 things that I love most about London

I’ve been traveling all over the world for 20 years now, and every now and then I visit a place that instantly makes me feel like I belong there. It’s an interesting feeling to say the least and it’s special enough that it doesn’t happen all that often.

San Diego was the first place in my life that rocked me to the core when I first visited way back in 1997, and I remember the feeling vividly. I was fresh out of school at that point, still quite native and not well traveled, and the world still seemed like a huge and mysterious place.

The laid back beach culture of San Diego was so different from my overly-sheltered life back in the midwest, and I wasn’t out of the airport for 5 minutes before I knew that I had to find a way to move there. 9 months later I packed up my things, headed west, and made San Diego my home. 19 years have passed, and my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.

Hawaii, Hong Kong, and London are three other places that keep pulling me back. I could be very happy living in any of these places – the serenity of Hawaii would calm my nerves, the energy of Hong Kong would satisfy my need for hustle and bustle, and London…well…it’s got everything I need for a happy and successful life (culture and business opportunities galore).

Yeah, the weather kind of sucks, but LHR is a big airport with plenty of flights to places where the sun shines every day. It wouldn’t be all that hard to make a quick escape back to San Diego or Hawaii whenever I need my sunshine fix.

There are a ton of things that I like about this city, and I could probably go on forever about the things that make me want to keep coming back. But to keep things short and (somewhat) interesting, I’ll stick with just three. These are the three things that I love most about London:

1. The London Underground: so easy that a midwestern farm boy can use it

There are a lot of things in life that I can’t quite wrap my head around, and I’m a bit ashamed to admit that public transportation is one of them. Hey – I grew up in the midwestern United States about as far as one could get from the big city and the conveniences of buses and trains.

We didn’t have any of that stuff out there! If you wanted go somewhere, you had three options: walk, drive, or bum a ride off someone else. And we liked it.

I’ve always had trouble understanding the intricacies of intercity bus and train routes, but the London Underground is a system I got from the very beginning.

Well, staring at the route map for the first time on the wall of the LHR terminal 3 station way back in 1997 did make me gulp hard enough to nearly swallow my head, but it only took a minute for me to get my bearings and I was soon off and on my way exploring the city of London without a worry in the world.

London Underground westminster station
The London Underground is by far my favorite thing about this city.
london underground
Clean, fast, and easy to understand. The Tube is a perfect example of what public transportation should be.
london underground
Every station is clean, bright, and very safe.

The same was true for this trip. I didn’t even prepare or do any research before arriving. I simply arrived at LHR, looked at the map, and easily found my way to my hotel without a single hiccup.

It was my main mode of transportation for the entire duration of my trip, and I didn’t have a single problem. Not bad for a midwestern farm boy!

Hanslow West Tube station
That’s me, looking like a satisfied traveler at the Hounslow West Tube station.

2. London is one of the most photogenic cities I’ve ever been to

There’s something about the city of London that makes me want to take a picture and capture the moment every time I turn the corner. Part of the reason, I’m sure, is the old-world architecture that we don’t have here in the United States.

The way the old classic buildings intermingle with modern steel and glass is something that I’ve always been fascinated with (most recently in Mexico City) and there’s just something special about the way it’s done in London. It’s classy. Royal. And quite hip if I might add.

London at night
London at night. The perfect combination of the old word mixed with the hustle and bustle of modern life!
london at night
Everything about this city is so iconic and unique.
london eye at night
The London Eye looking good bathed in soft red light.

Putting these feelings into words isn’t easy, but there’s just something about the combination of gloomy skies, big red double-decker busses, black cabs, and the perfectly-preserved architecture from generations ago mixing together that makes London one of the most unique and iconic cities in the world.

There’s just so much to appreciate soak in, and capturing it all in photographs is something I could spend a lifetime doing. And I really mean that – I shot nearly 50GB of photos and video on this two-day trip and I still didn’t feel that I captured enough.

london bridge
From certain angles, the feeling of having stepped back in time by a century can be quite strong.
london at night
There’s just something about the way the colors and textures mix together that makes London feel so alive.

3. The food

Once you’ve wiped the tears out of your eyes from laughing so hard, please read on to understand why I declare the food of London to be one of my favorite things about this magnificent city!

First of all, I think it’s safe to assume that most foodies would agree that there’s nothing special about the culinary situation in the UK.

The food is dull and bland compared to what you would find in other nations around the world, and I dare say that it can be some of the heaviest and most difficult to digest stuff on the planet.

Blood sausage, pot pies, fish and chips…not quite what anyone would consider to be exotic or high-end cuisine. It’s probably also the reason why you don’t see many traveling foodies on TV flocking to England the first chance they get.

london food
The food in London is generally pretty far from exotic and high-end, but I’m OK with that.

But here’s the thing: I LIKE the fact that the food is so uninteresting. One of my biggest weaknesses in life is food, and even though I eat clean and healthy while at home, I tend to “let go” a bit when I travel.

All of that first and business class airline food is just as tempting as what I find once I land at my destination and it’s so hard for me to eat in moderation – despite how much I promise to myself that I’m not going to overindulge.

My trip to Mexico City earlier this year was a perfect example of how I succumbed to the temptation of exotic and delicious food everywhere I turned, and I ended up feeling miserable by the time it came to go home.

But here in London, I don’t feel that sense of temptation. The food just doesn’t do anything for me, so it’s much easier to manage my intake and keep myself feeling great for the entire trip.

Final thoughts

There’s a lot to like about the city of London, and picking just three things that I love the most about it was a lot more difficult than it sounds.

Heck, I could have easily wrote 2000 words on why I like those cliche red double-decker busses so much! Then there are funny crosswalk markings, the feeling I get when listening to someone speak proper English, and the way that the steady stream of A380’s, 777’s, and other large airliners from all over the world fly low and slow over the city on their approach into LHR.

There’s just so much to like about this place, and I’m already thinking about my next excuse to return. But is an excuse really necessary?

The more time I spend here, the more I understand that there’s nothing wrong with visiting this place for the sake of strolling the streets and just blending in like a local.

3 things that will surprise you when visiting Mexico City for the first time

I’m a bit ashamed to write posts like this, because I’m afraid that it exposes my ignorance about the world in general outside the United States.

While I do consider myself to be well traveled, there’s a lot I don’t know and it usually isn’t until I’m standing curbside waiting for a taxi at a new-to-me airport that I start feeling anxiety about my decision to travel so far away from the comforts of home.

My first trip to Mexico City was no different, as I sure as heck didn’t know anything about this place other than what I’ve seen on TV. Tacos, mariachi music, and a smattering of broken Spanish was all I knew as I stepped off the plane – the rest I’d have to figure out as I went along.

But that’s what I love about travel. There’s no need to know everything before you go anywhere – the joy of travel is to learn and grow, discovering who you are as a person when faced with the uncomfortable and unfamiliar.

I’d certainly be a different guy without travel in my life, and I look forward to each new trip as an opportunity to push myself to learn something new and gain appreciation for culture that is not my own.

Discovering Mexico City was a very good experience for me. I’ve never been so deep into the heart of Mexico before, and the things I saw and experienced opened my eyes to the fact that not all of Mexico is like the Pacific cites of Tijuana, Rosarito, and Ensenada.

This is a vibrant country – rich with culture and tradition, pushing aggressively into modernization and the future, but still proud enough of it’s heritage to hold on to it’s roots and not forget about it’s amazing history.

The 3 things that will surprise you when visiting Mexico City the first time

There were a handful of things that really surprised me about this city during my two-day stay, and I’d like to talk briefly about the top three. Yes, I do know that two days is hardly enough time to get aquatinted with a new place, but first impressions are powerful and lasting, and it’s not often I revert back on them for any new place, person, or thing.

1. It’s a big freaking city

Despite what we are led to believe by watching Fox News and CNN, Mexico City is a thriving world-class modern metropolis. I can hear you all sighing with disgust now (“you mean you seriously didn’t know that?”), but hear me out on this: my experience with Mexico is limited. I live 30 miles from the border, so all I hear about are “those damn illegals” and all the crime and corruption going on down there.

The media has even told us to avoid unnecessary travel to Mexico due to risk of kidnapping, theft, or…whatever. The largest city I’ve been to in Mexico before this trip was Tijuana, and I’ll be honest when I say that it’s not a place I would want to live. And even though I started this trip with a bit of skepticism (and feeling prepared for the worst), I immediately found Mexico City to be pleasantly different than my ignorant US-centric assumptions. It’s clean.

Full of happy and patriotic people. And it’s thriving. Everywhere you look there is construction and growth – there is a significant amount of money flowing here and it’s a city on the rise.

Mexico City graffiti
Scenes like this are what I envisioned Mexico City to look like before I went.
mexico city modern architecture
But I was really amazed at how modern and clean the central part of Mexico City is.
mexico city clean streets
City streets were clean, bright, and safe.
angel of independence mexico city
Despite how largely modern the central core of Mexico City is, it’s still rich with history and culture.

2. The altitude is not something to be taken lightly

Mexico City is 2,000 meters (7,382 feet) above sea level, and despite being an avid cyclist in really good shape, it was enough to make it difficult to catch my breath at times. I first noticed it on the morning of the second day as I was lying in bed completely calm, but my breathing was very heavy (almost gasping for air it seemed).

can be a bit of a hypochondriac at times, so right away I was getting worried that there was something very wrong with me. It was a weird sensation to say the least but thankfully it didn’t take long for me to put two and two together to realize that being on the 34th floor of a tall building in a city a mile and a half in elevation probably had something to do with it.

I kept monitoring my breathing all throughout the morning, and then compared it to how it was when I was outside walking. I was breathing much better down on the streets, even while walking at a brisk pace. The difficulty returned only after going back up into my hotel room, so it was quite obvious what was happening.

mexico city high elevation
Breathing might be difficult for some at these altitudes!

3). Crossing the street can be hazardous to your health

I fully admit that I’m writing this with a very sheltered US-centric point of view, but it really amazed me how scary it was to cross streets while walking around Mexico City. Especially in the busy areas and around monuments such as the Angel of Independence.

In that particular example, the only way to get to it is to make a mad dash across one of the busiest streets in the city (Paseo de la Reforma) at any slight break in the traffic flow. There are no designated crosswalks, no “official” place to cross the street, so you basically have to run like hell across a busy thoroughfare to reach the base of this highly popular monument.

The scary part about this is the fact that this is just one example of many that I saw, and it really makes me wonder how many pedestrians are struck by cars here every day.

Walking in Mexico City
Crossing the streets in Mexico City can be a bit dangerous if you aren’t paying attention.
mexico city bike lanes
Despite clearly marked bike paths and pedestrian crosswalks, car traffic is fierce in this city.
angel of independence mexico city
The Angel of Independence monument is located smack dab in the middle of a very busy intersection. Look twice before making a mad dash across the street!
mexico city traffic
Pedestrians waiting for a break in the traffic before crossing the street.

Despite the difficulties of the last two points, I returned home from this trip with a deeper appreciation for the country of Mexico, which is something I am greatly thankful for. The news media here in the US seems obsessed with painting a bad picture of Mexico and it’s people (illegal immigrants are a problem), so it was refreshing to go and see the place for myself – unobscured by the US media filter of doom and gloom.

I felt completely safe, the people were amazingly friendly, and I love how proud Mexicans are of their heritage. My only disappointment is that I wasn’t able to stay longer, though I am feeling confident I’ll be returning again eventually to pick up where I left off.

A weekend Waikiki trip that was supposed to be lazy (but wasn’t)

When it comes to relaxing vacations stuffed to the brim with peace and quiet, I am the first to admit that Waikiki is not the best choice. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a downright beautiful place.

But let’s be honest here. It’s a full-on metropolis, and it comes with all the downsides of a big city: noise, traffic, crowds, and…more noise! Every time I go, I tell myself that I’ll go to a different island instead next time but I always end up back in Waikiki.

A super-nerdy overview of my weekend Waikiki trip

I’m not really sure what it is that I like about this place, but it has an energy about it that is hard to describe.

Day 1: Arrival

The first day of a Hawaiian vacation is always amazing to me. I honestly feel the same way I used to feel on Christmas mornings when I was a kid. The anticipation, excitement, and sense of wonder is all exactly the same.

Therefore, there’s really no point in dragging on too long about how good it felt to arrive at HNL after the long 5 and a half hour flight from San Diego. I was in “Hawaii” mode as soon as we hit the ground.

I decided to take a taxi from the airport as opposed to the Roberts Hawaii bus that I normally take, all because I was no mood to ride around on a bus for an hour (or more) as the driver dropped other passengers off at other hotels. And come to think of it – I don’t recall seeing ONE Roberts Hawaii bus this trip. Are they even still in business? Hmmm….

The taxi from Honolulu International Airport to my hotel (the Hilton Waikiki Beach) took about 25 minutes and cost $50 with tip. Yes, that’s expensive, but the convenience was worth it.

I wasted no time at all after checking into the hotel, and was changed into proper beachwear and on the beach in record time. I was more than ready to get this vacation started! The only annoying thing was how windy it was – the trade winds were blowing hard, and I couldn’t keep my hat on my head because of it. But problems like these are easily overlooked and I was happy as could be to be on the sand in Hawaii again.

Waikiki Beach
Ahh, feels so good to be back on Waikiki Beach!
Waikiki Beach
Yes, Waikiki is the most densely-populated and busiest part of Hawaii, but I still love coming here.

My only plans for the evening consisted of two things: First I wanted to be back in my hotel room at sunset in order to get pics of the sunset that was sure to be amazing. Second, I wanted to get something healthy to eat for dinner.

Eating healthy in Hawaii is a lot harder than it sounds with the plethora of amazing restaurants around. But I did ok, grabbing some tuna, cheese, crackers, and fruit from the Food Pantry grocery store on Kuhio Avenue.

I made it back to my hotel room just in time for sunset, then spent the rest of the evening sitting on the open patio overlooking Waikiki and enjoying life.

view from my hotel room
The view of Waikiki Beach from my hotel room patio
hawaii sunset from hotel room
Ahh, this is the life. Warm tropical breezes, a sunset, and a bird-like view of the beach!

Day 2: Diamond Head (and being lazy afterwards)

I was awake by 7:30am, and things really started out great. I rolled out of bed, pulled open the curtains, and was presented with this:

waikiki rainbow
Waking up to the sight of a beautiful rainbow is never a bad thing…

Yes. This is why I love Hawaii! I stood and watched the view until the rainbow faded away, then jumped in the shower in anticipation of walking down to Island Vintage Coffee for an acai bowl.

I discovered this cafe on the final day of my last trip to Oahu, and the acai bowl I had at that time was more than enough to convince me to do it again.

Heck, I had no idea if they were still in business, but I made the walk anyway to find out. Luckily, they were still there and that acai bowl was as good as I remembered it to be.

Island Vintage Coffee Waikiki
Inside Island Vintage Coffee on Kona Street to get an acai bowl for breakfast
The best Acai bowl in Waikiki!
The best acai bowl in Waikiki!
Island vintage coffee
Island Vintage Coffee is a very popular place in the mornings. As you can see, the line is out the door.

It was about 10am right after I finished breakfast, and I really had no idea what I wanted to do for the day. I had been thinking about walking over to Diamond Head a few days before the trip, but the research I did made it seem like it would take a big chunk of my day and I really didn’t want to spend my only full day in Hawaii running around like a tourist.

But heck – it was only 10am, and I figured I could easily make it back to Waikiki by early afternoon, so…I went for it.

walking along Kona St waikiki
Starting the long walk to Diamond Head from Kona Street

All in all, the trek to Diamond Head (and all the way up to the top) took about an hour and a half from Waikiki. It was quite a walk, and made even more difficult by the strong trade winds and hot temps. I definitely should have brought water with me, but oh well. I survived!

Entrance to Diamond Head
Entrance to Diamond Head
diamond head trail
Here we go – the start of the trail that goes all the way up to the top.
diamond head trail
The trail starts out smooth and nice…
rugged diamond head trail
But things get rugged really quick!
diamond head stairs
Everything is UP UP UP!
diamond head selfie
I consider myself to be in excellent physical condition, but I’ll admit this climb was tough.
spiral staircase diamond head
Towards the top there was a cool spiral staircase
diamond head peak
Almost there – climbing the last set of stairs to the very top!
diamond head watch tower
To be honest, I was expecting more of a wide open observation deck of some kind and not a small watch tower. This was much cooler!
top of diamond head
The views from up here were nothing short of stunning. The wind was quite fierce as well.
diamond head panorama
I could have spent hours up here soaking it all in.
diamond head tourist crowds
The crowds were thick here at the top
diamond head military bunkers
These old military bunkers at the top really made me appreciate the history of Diamond Head

The walk back to Waikiki was much easier since it was all downhill, and I was sitting on the beach again by 2pm chugging a full bottle of fresh cold water I bought at an ABC store along the way. Yes, exploring Diamond Head was fun, but this vacation was all about chilling out and relaxing so I was much happier sitting on the beach.

back on waikiki beach
Waikiki Beach was a welcome sight after the long walk down from Diamond Head

I did a bit of shopping in the afternoon, then returned to my hotel room to relax for a couple hours before heading out again in the evening to walk around for a bit and then find some dinner.

waikiki afternoon
Emerging out of my hotel once more for another walk around Waikiki in the late afternoon
waikiki beach
No Diving. No Climbing. No Jumping. Shucks…
waikiki beach
The sound (and feel) of the waves can be very therapeutic
waikiki beach
Starting to feel a little hungry now…

I’m normally a very healthy eater, and it’s not often I pig out on junk food. But this day was a special occasion. I was on vacation, and I was craving a hamburger, so why the heck not?

A quick search on Yelp led me to Teddy’s on Kapahulu Ave, which wasn’t far from my hotel. I was planning on getting just a burger and fries, but…those burgers looked good so I ordered two of them.

teddy's waikiki beach
Inside Teddy’s. Hmm, I wonder what I’m going to order?

Long story short, the fries were cold and soft by the time I got back to my hotel room – so I didn’t eat them. But those burgers. OMG. Two of the best hamburgers I’ve had in my life, hands down. I did over eat though…it was a lot of work to finish that second one but I did it.

Teddy's hamburgers waikiki
Two of the best burgers I’ve eaten in my life. I highly recommend Teddy’s!

The rest of the evening was a carbon copy of the evening before. Sitting on the patio, overlooking the city, enjoying the warm tropical breezes of Hawaii.

Day 3: Departure

Sigh. I woke up feeling really bummed that it was my last day and that I needed to check out of the hotel and be on my way to the airport by 12pm. I felt like I had just arrived, and that I hadn’t really had the chance to sit and relax as much as I wanted to.

I desperately needed another day here, but sadly, it wasn’t going to happen. I had to go to work the next day, and there wasn’t really anything I could do about that. It was then that I started feeling disgust with the 9 to 5 lifestyle…

hotel room
Waking up on the final day. This trip is over already??
sunrise in hawaii
Another beautiful morning! Knowing what to do in Hawaii when it rains is an important skill for sure, and I’m glad I didn’t have to tap into it this time.

I got out of bed and cleaned myself up before taking a walk over to Vintage Island Coffee again (for an acai bowl, of course).

Despite the sore on my foot from walking everywhere in my sandals over the past two days, and the fact that I knew I had to go home today, it was hard to feel discouraged as I made my way over to the cafe. I love Hawaii. This place agrees with me – and I could definitely see myself spending a lot more time here.

Island Vintage Coffee waikiki
Back at Island Vintage Coffee for another acai bowl

The cafe was much busier this morning compared to yesterday, so I got my order to go and walked over to the Moana Surfrider hotel just a few blocks away and sat in their open air patio to enjoy my breakfast.

This was the hotel I had wanted to stay at for this trip, but sadly, they were booked solid the entire time. Oh well – I will definitely stay there at some point, and it’ll always be the first place I check when making reservations on Ohau.

Moana Surfrider hotel
Enjoying my acai bowl at the Moana Surfrider hotel

I took my time with breakfast, and then s l o w l y walked back to my hotel. I took a slight detour and spent about an hour on the beach just people-watching and thinking, and it was really difficult to force myself to go back to the hotel in order to get cleaned up and packed before the 12pm checkout time.

waikiki beach
Sigh. I don’t want to leave!
waikiki beach
I succeeded magnificently in wasting time. Here I am walking out on one of the piers.
waikiki beach lifeguard tower
It was about this time that I was really getting jealous of all the other tourists who were relaxing on the beach this morning. I wanted to stay too!
hawaii beach sandals
I walked along the sand for a bit and dipped my toes in the water one last time.
hawaii palm trees
Palm trees. Sand. Perfect!
waikiki beach
The time has come to start walking back to the hotel for real this time…
waikiki wide angle view
One last look from my hotel room balcony before I check out and take a taxi to the airport.
waikiki city view
One final view looking west from the hotel – as you can see, Waikiki is a very large city!

I really love Hawaii. Aloha, Oahu. Until next time…

3 days in Hong Kong (how I spent my time)

Spending 3 days in Hong Kong is something that I can easily recommend. This city has it all, and there is something for everyone – even those of you with a pesky attention deficit order such as myself…

3 amazing days in Hong Kong

It was good to be back in Hong Kong again, and my body knew it. Despite arriving late the night before and not getting to bed past 1am, I was wide awake by 6am in anticipation of a great day of exploring.

To be completely honest, my plan was to keep things simple and not rush around and do too much – this was a vacation after all, and I’ve never been a big fan of cramming as much as humanly possible into a day. That’s worse than being busy at home!

Day 1: Tsim Tsa Tsui, the Star Ferry, and Victoria Peak

I eventually rolled out of bed by 7:30, dragging my feet and slowly getting ready for the day. All I knew at this point was that I wanted to get breakfast at the hotel restaurant, but beyond that there were absolutely no plans! The shower was slow and relaxing, it took forever to get dressed, and I had absolutely no desire to tidy up and get organized.

This vacation stuff is really nice, and it really makes me appreciate how pointless the 9-5 rat race in really is. Of course it’s my 9-5 job that allows me to be able to afford traveling like this, but there are other ways to earn a living besides slaving away for someone else in an office. But that’s a topic for another blog…

morning in hong kong
Dawn breaks over Hong Kong, as seen from my hotel room window
hyatt hong kong hotel restaurant
Main dining room of the hotel restaurant
chinese style breakfast
I started out my breakfast Chinese style…
made to order omelet hyatt hong kong
…but the made-to-order omelet station at the buffet looked too good to resist.

After pigging out at the hotel restaurant, I thought maybe I’d like to walk around outside for a while just to get reacquainted with Hong Kong. It started out as a simple enough stroll, but then things took off quickly from there.

“I’ll go down to the waters edge to have a look at the skyline” I thought, but two hours later I found myself at the top of Victoria Peak looking down on Hong Kong Island. This is an amazing city for sure, and it’s hard to resist the urge to see it from every angle.

victoria harbor hong kong
It felt good to be back in Hong Kong again!
Hong Kong skyline
The Hong Kong skyline, as seen from the Avenue of the Stars
hong kong tsim tsa tsui promenade
Walking along the waterfront on the way to the Star Ferry Terminal
Star Ferry Terminal hong kong
Inside the Star Ferry Terminal, just about to board the ferry
Star Ferry Hong Kong
Onboard the Star Ferry, headed over to Hong Kong Island

The weather was surprisingly good today – I don’t think I’ve personally ever seen the sun shine in Hong Kong, but it was a welcome sight for sure. Not so welcome was seeing how commercialized Victoria Peak has become.

They’ve literally built a full-fledged shopping mall up there, and it dillutes the experience of looking down on the city IMHO.

Yes, it was highly commercialized the last time I was here (back in 2002), but the’ve built a lot more since then and all the shops and restaurants were distracting to say the least.

I’ve also matured a lot since then, and I guess I’ve become more sensitive to this sort of thing. But still, it was fun to look down on the city and appreciate the moment of being in one of the greatest cities in the world.

walking through the city of hong kong
Navigating the streets of Hong Kong on my way to the Peak Tram
hong kong architecture
I love the architecture of this city!
Waiting in line for the Peak Tram
Waiting in line for the Peak Tram
peak tram hong kong
The tram has arrived. Here we go!
inside the tram victoria peak hong kong
This pic doesn’t show how steep the climb is. My neck actually started hurting half way up!
victoria peak hong kong
See those people way up there on top? That’s the observation deck, and I’m headed up that way…
Sky Terrace 428 Victoria Peak Hong Kong
Sky Terrace 428 Victoria Peak Hong Kong
sky terrace 428 observation deck
The view from the observation deck is nothing short of amazing
victoria peak hong kong selfie
Selfie time!
Sky Terrace 428 observation deck
The Sky Terrace 428 observation deck is well worth the price of admission!

I also shot a quick time-lapse video of the action from the observation deck:

It was nearly 1pm when I decided that I had enough, so I just decided to spend the rest of the afternoon meandering back to my hotel in Kowloon.

It was essentially a repeat of what I experienced in the morning, but this time in reverse: take the tram down the mountain, walk to the Star Ferry pier, take the ferry across the bay to Tsim Tsa Tsui, and then navigate the busy city streets to find my hotel.

victoria peak tram
Taking the tram back down the into the city
inside the victoria peak tram
Here’s a wider angle view from inside the tram
victoria peak tram tracks
A view of the the tracks as we go down the mountain
star ferry terminal hong kong island
Star Ferry Terminal on Hong Kong Island
star ferry to Tsim Tsa Tsui
Just about to board the ferry to Tsim Tsa Tsui
inside the star ferry hong kong
I wasn’t able to get a “window” seat, but oh well
Star Ferry interior
Heading across Victoria Harbor to Tsim Tsa Tsui on the Star Ferry
nathan road hong kong
Navigating Nathan Road on my way back to the hotel

The long walk back to the hotel was hot and muggy – but so much fun. Despite that, it felt really good to sit in the cool comfort of my hotel room and chug a full bottle of water!

With the beautiful panoramic views of the city from my hotel room window, it was a relaxing afternoon of surfing the Internet, checking up on things, and basically not doing anything for a couple hours. I never get to be this lazy and non-productive at home so this was really nice!

Hong Kong skyline
Beautiful views of the Hong Kong skyline from my hotel room window

For dinner I decided to grab something to eat at one of the many local take out restaurants in the area. I was pretty hungry by 5pm (I had skipped lunch) so I set off in search of a good meal.

It didn’t take long to find it – there were lots of great little restaurants within a block or two of the hotel so I just picked one and ordered some sort of grilled meat combo. It came with steamed rice, a side of vegetables, and soup. Not bad! It wasn’t completely fantastic either, but it did satisfy my hunger for the rest of the evening.

hong kong take out dinner
I wasn’t in the mood for anything fancy for dinner, so this place looked perfect
hong kong take out dinner
The meal was ok – not amazing, but certainly not bad either.

I don’t normally watch TV while at home, so there was something deliciously “bachelor” about sitting in front of the TV while stuffing my face with really good Chinese food.

The activities of the last two days combined with a bit of jet lag hit me hard by 9pm, but I did force myself to stay up until at least 10pm to minimize the chance of waking up in the middle of the night wide awake.

I certainly did more than I had planned today, and I went to bed a very satisfied and happy guy.

Day 2: Blending in

I’m not normally one to get hit with jet lag, but despite the massive difficulties I faced staying up until 10pm the night before, I was wide awake and tossing and turning by 2am. Dang it! I tried as hard as I could to clear my mind and meditate myself to sleep, but it was futile – the last time I looked at the clock it said 6:30 and the sun was already coming up.

However, that was right about the time I fell asleep again and I didn’t open my eyes again until 8:30. So, it wasn’t a great night of sleep, but at least I got some.

It was pouring rain with a bit of thunder and lightning as I walked out the door to get breakfast shortly after 9, and I was mentally preparing myself for the thought of being super lazy today and staying inside to work on this trip report.

Remember, I’m not the kind of traveller who feels the need to run around like crazy all day to cram as much as I can into my vacation – that’s not a vacation in my book! Sitting and being lazy for once, quietly blending into the city I happen to be in is my idea of a good time and I’m a really happy guy if I can find a nice quiet spot in the shade to sit and people watch.

rainy hong kong
The view from my hotel room window right after I woke up. Looks like it’s going to be a wet one today.
breakfast hyatt regency hong kong
Breakfast in the hotel restaurant – I couldn’t resist another one of those made to order omelets!

By the time I finished breakfast and returned to my room to gather my belongings, the rain had stopped and the clouds were starting to part.

I thought it might be good to grab my iPad and set off in search of a nice cafe or lounge before it started raining again, which for some reason I was convinced it would.

Hey, this is Hong Kong after all, where there is always a layer of menacing low clouds hugging the skyline. It always looks like it’s going to rain at any moment.

Hong Kong Trip Report
Found a nice place under a canopy to escape the rain drops for a few minutes
streets of Tsim Tsa Tsui hong kong
Navigating the wet streets of Tsim Tsa Tsui
hong kong street view
This pic doesn’t show it well, but this time of the morning (10am), it’s all about the delivery trucks making their rounds.
hong kong panoramic view
I ended up walking down to the Avenue of the Stars again
wet hong kong
It was still kind of wet and gloomy though so I just found a semi-dry spot to sit, relax, and people-watch for a while.
I wore my funky socks today!
I wore my funky socks today!
cloudy hong kong
The area near the Star Ferry Pier is really nice – lots of open space, with great views of Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island.

The longer I walked around, the better the weather became. It was tempting to keep walking and exploring, but I had some writing to do so I went back to the Hyatt and hung out on a nice comfy corner chair in the lobby for a couple hours and poked away at the keyboard of this iPad churning out this trip report.

I returned to my room by 1pm due to a much-needed break, and I succeeded magnificently in being lazy and doing nothing until 4pm. It was staring to look really nice outside again, with high thin clouds and plenty of sun – time to go explore Tsim Tsa Tsui (or “TTT” as the locals call it).

There was certainly plenty to see – the streets were bustling, and the weather was fantastic, and it was only hunger that made me call an end to it at about 5:30pm. I was thinking about grabbing some Chinese take out from a local restaurant, but…the thought of splurging on room service back at the Hyatt won.

Nathan road intersection hong kong
The hustle and bustle of Nathan Road
cloudy hong kong
The clouds are finally starting to thin out!
nice afternoon in hong kong
It ended up turning into a really nice afternoon.
sunshine in hong kong
The sun eventually came out in full!
Room service back at the hotel
Room service back at the hotel.

Long story short, it was a very expensive not-so-good meal. Don’t get me wrong – the quality was top-notch! But it was far too spicy for my tastes and almost inedible. Keep in mind that I’m a total wimp when it comes to spicy food, so what I think is inedible is probably the best thing ever for those who like a little kick to thier meals.

After eating as much as I could (it was expensive – darn right I was going to eat it), I soaked in the bathtub for a while until it became too hot to bear. The bath was great, but it made me a lot more tired than I already was so once again it was a struggle to stay up until 10pm.

bubble bath in the hotel
I can’t remember the last time I took a bubble bath – but this was a perfect way to end the day!

Loud Chinese TV couldn’t keep me awake, and I went to bed thinking that I’d sleep like a baby for sure.

Day 3: I love this city!

My difficulty staying awake past 10pm the night before did nothing to keep me asleep all night. I woke up to go to the bathroom at 2am, and it was all over at that point. I tossed and turned until dawn so I finally got up and prepared myself to head downstairs for breakfast.

At least the weather was much better today – the sun was actually shining and it looked like a beautiful morning outside.

hong kong sunrise
Good morning Hong Kong!

Breakfast was slow and lazy, and I returned to my room by 9:30am to gather my things and prepare for a morning of walking around and doing pretty much nothing.

I was actually starting to feel like a local at this point – I knew my way around the area very well, I had a pretty good idea of how busy certain places would be at certain times of the day, and I knew where all the interesting cafe’s and shops were should I need to get a snack or refreshment.

sitting in the hotel room
Doing a little bit of writing on my iPad before heading out for the day

I started my walk towards the Star Ferry Terminal thinking that I’d just hop on the ferry and head over to Hong Kong Island to meander for a bit. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any coins with me, and the smallest bill I had was HK$50 – which the token machine for the Ferry wouldn’t accept.

Yes, I could have bought something at a local shop to break that $50 bill, but I didn’t have ANY spare room in my backpack for souvenirs (which would have made the trip home more difficult), and I was neither hungry nor thirsty at the time.

Oh well. I guess I didn’t really want to get on the Ferry that badly anyway. So instead, I just hung around in a spot in the shade near the Avenue of Stars for a while and just people-watched.

nathan road hong kong
Nathan Road isn’t so busy this time of morning.
avenue of the stars hong kong
I could literally spend hours here on the Avenue of the Stars looking at the Hong Kong skyline across the harbor.
hong kong
The heat was already starting to build, so staying in the shade was really important!
hong kong city view
I sat here in this spot for about an hour and a half just people-watching and thinking…

After 1pm the heat was getting unbearable, so I decided to go back to the hotel and relax for a while before heading out again one last time in the evening to soak in as much of the city as I could.

It turned out to be a nice afternoon actually – sitting by the window overlooking the city, doing some reading and writing on my iPad, while sipping on ice-cold water in a comfortably air-conditioned room. Nice!

hong kong view
Awesome views of the city from my hotel room window.
resting my feet
Giving my poor, tired feet a much-needed rest.

I went back outside around 4pm with no plans at all. I just started walking, and what ended up happening was trekking Nathan Road for miles.

I just kept walking and walking and walking – almost feeling like Forrest Gump when he just started running with no goal in mind. I didn’t go quite as far as he did, but it was a really nice walk and a great way to cap my stay in this amazing city.

Walking along Nathan Road
Walking along Nathan Road

The sun was setting just as I returned to my hotel room, and I ended up taking tons of pics (and video) of the scenery outside my window while I waited on my room service to arrive.

Yeah, more room service. I had planned on finding something to eat locally around Tsim Tsa Tsui, but…I was tired and room service seemed like the most convenient option.

hyatt regency hong kong room service
Room service: prawns with asparagus with a side of rice and soup.
sun setting over hong kong
Dinner with a view. Perfect.

Lack of sleep was starting to catch up with me again, which worried me a bit considering that I needed to wake up at 3am in order to make it to Chek Lap Kok (HKG/VHHH) on time to catch my flight.

The possibility of sleeping through the alarm was real, so I set both my iPhone and iPad alarms at max volume and hoped for the best. And wouldn’t you know it…I ended up waking up at that time naturally anyway, so the dual alarms weren’t even needed.

This ended up being a really good trip despite my lack of sleep, and I’m already looking forward to my next trip. Until next time, Hong Kong!

5 reasons why Colorado is better than your state

My recent trip to Colorado was an interesting one. I’ve been there many times before, and I’ve enjoyed the experience each and every time I visit. But something was different this time (my feelings – not the state). I found myself in awe of the natural beauty of this place like no other time that I’ve traveled here, and I couldn’t get over how amazing the snow-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains are. Of course I’ve always appreciated how nice the state of Colorado is, but it really hit me hard this time.

California and Hawaii are still (and always will be) my favorite states in the nation, but I’m pretty sure that Colorado has moved up to my number three spot, edging out Alaska for that coveted step on the podium. That’s a bold statement considering that I only spent about 16 hours here on the ground on this trip, but that was all the time it took to make me an even bigger fan than I already was.

So what’s the big deal about this place? Is it really that much better than nearly all the other US states? You bet it is – and here are 5 good reasons why:

1. Snow. In the summer.

There’s something really damn cool about being outside wearing shorts and a t-shrt while looking up at snow-covered mountain peaks off in the distance. It looks downright cold and rugged way up there, but down in the valleys the temperatures are always warm and toasty in the summertime. It’s an odd sensation to say the least, and it’s mesmerizing to just sit and watch the scenery.

2. The Front Range

Stand anywhere in Denver, and look east. Looks pretty, right? Nothing but wide open land for as far as the eye can see, and the sense of vastness is amazing. But turn around for a second. Bam!

The Rocky Mountains jolt out of the ground abruptly just west of Denver, transforming the wide open prairies into amazingly rugged terrain in an instant. There is very little transition from plains to mountains, and the way they frame the city of Denver is really unique.

3. Cleanliness

The residents of Colorado take pride in their state, and it’s really easy to see. Everywhere you look, things are tidy and clean. Nothing seems out of place, and I really appreciate the respect the locals have for the place in which they live and work.

California and Hawaii share equal amounts natural beauty, but in both places it’s much more common to encounter neighborhoods and communities that look downright filthy and neglected.

4. Abundant sunshine

Despite the wild swings in climate between each season, the sun shines a lot in Colorado. In fact, the Denver area is sunny (on average) more than 300 days a year! Yes, I know that there is a lot more to this state than Denver, but the entire state is a lot less gloomy than you would expect for a place that receives so much snow in the winter time.

clear blue skies in Colorado
Seems like it’s always sunny in Colorado!

5. Pot commercials on TV

(Quick edit: Keep in mind that it was 2015 when I wrote this article. A lot has changed since I wrote the following lol)

I nearly fell off the couch when I stumbled upon a commercial for a local bong shop while flipping through the channels on the television in my hotel room. I had completely forgotten that pot is legal in the state of Colorado, and to see advertisements for it on TV was quite amusing.

Seriously though, legalized marajuana isn’t actually one of the reasons why this state is better than yours. The fact that the government had the courage to take a stand and pass such a controversial law is what I like. That kind of progressive thinking is something that we don’t see much of anymore (sadly), and it gives the impression that Colorado isn’t as uptight as many other states. Residents may disagree with me here, but from an outsiders point of view, I think it’s very cool.

I realize that these are very subjective points, and you may not agree with me on some (or all) of them. But the state of Colorado is something that fits my personality and lifestyle pretty darn well and it was good to go back and rediscover it all over again. I definitely need to spend more time there in the future!