Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Empire State of Mind.

What a whirlwind month! I can't believe that September is almost over. Autumn has been nothing short of amazing so far despite the warm weather in Southern California. Hopefully things will cool down sooner than later. Crossing my fingers! In times like these, I wish I was back on the east coast. Seriously.

Speaking of which...

Last Thursday, I went to New York City for some R&R. Unlike my first visit in 2014, this one was much more relaxed and enjoyable. Being able to reunite with old friends, and meet new ones made spending time in the city so much more exciting and sentimental.

During my visit, I spent a lot of time in Brooklyn. The neighborhoods were more quiet and peaceful than Manhattan, which was a plus. I absolutely loved the blue door of our first apartment, which was cute and dainty. The lamp in the hallway with the vaulted ceiling was pretty magical too. Not to mention, I lucked out big time and had the most lovable roommates ever. Thank you for such an amazing time!


This particular day was tough. I was getting over an illness, and my sinuses were acting up big time. The pressure in my head was unreal. I couldn't sleep at all on the airplane, and I had hearing problems out of my left ear lasting for about half a day after landing.

On the bright side, I did arrive to New York in one piece and found the yay for miracles! 


On our first full day in the city, my new roommates and I decided to visit the World Trade Center Memorial and The Oculus. As I stood at the fountain with my hands resting on the engraved bronze plates of the 9/11 memorial, I couldn't help but get flashbacks of that tragic day. 

9/11 Memorial

15 years later, it's crazy to see how drastically our world has changed since then. Those feelings of shock, fear, and sadness never really seem to go away. We still live in a world of heightened caution and constant fear of terrorism. It really breaks my heart that we all still live in fear. What we need is more love and peace, and less hate and violence. Let's make that our mission, shall we?

The Oculus

The Oculus was a gorgeous, white building, and the entire facility was so impressive. Upon initial impression, I assumed that it would be part of the 9/11 memorial. To my surprise, I learned that it was nonetheless a metro station/mall. A MALL!!! Yep, you're looking right at it. Why? Now that's something that I can't explain. 

That evening, I got to spend some time with my sister. It's been a while since we've had to opportunity to hang out, and so I thought that it would be exciting to take her to go see the revival of the Broadway show, Cats. It was my first time going to see the show, and I was so excited that Leona Lewis would be playing the role of Grizabella. Spoiler: She absolutely nailed it. 

The show itself was charming, although, I will mention that the intermission was a mess. The ushers were so disorganized! There were lots of unauthorized theater goers climbing on the opposite side of the stage without permission, which was appalling. Yeah, not fun...and shall I say, crazy?! Besides that, the show itself was wonderful.


I was definitely looking forward to this day the most since I would be reconnecting with my friend, Katrina, who I haven't seen in over a year. It was a well-needed reunion indeed. We started out the day grabbing bagels and coffee at the ever so popular, Ess-A-Bagel, in Manhattan, followed by a private tour of the city.

I absolutely loved exploring the city without an itinerary. From visiting Grand Central Terminal, to grabbing freshly made ice cream across from the Flat Iron building, to hanging out on the High Line, we would just randomly pick places to go. 

Grand Central Terminal

The High Line

Exploring the city with a local felt so much more invigorating than going on a traditional city tour. It had so much more heart to it, because the experience was so much more authentic. Being able to hang out with an old friend definitely made the experience all the more memorable. Thanks Katrina for a delightful day! Please come back over to the west coast soon!


After spending another night in Brooklyn, my roommates and I decided to go the Metropolitan Museum of Art early in the morning. While the mummy exhibit was exciting, I was more intrigued by the Roman statues. Pictured below is one of my favorite rooms of the MET. 

Following the museum, we all went to SoHo for some good eats and shopping. The custom Chobani yogurt cups were off of the charts, considering that I rarely eat yogurt. The combination of the yogurt and toppings were UNREAL. So very, very good. 

That evening, my friends and I stuffed our faces even more delicious food at John's Wife Frieda Restaurant. Their Vegetable Curry was delicious. It had the right about of spice and lots of sauce (seriously the best part of it all). The flavor was unreal. No pics of the food to share though. Sorry!

To top off the night, we went to my favorite ice cream place in New York, Momofuku Milk Bar. I seriously love it more than gelato, and that's saying a lot! It's pretty much ice cream that tastes like cereal with milk. Seriously don't knock it until you try it. BUT REALLY THOUGH. It was the ultimate highlight of my night.


This was the saddest day of the week. I had a newfound camaraderie with my roommates and the most magical experiences exploring the city. It was hard to imagine that the trip was quickly coming to a close.

On this particular morning, my roommates and I stopped by a friend's house to hang out for a bit. It was so refreshing to be able to sit around the living room and just to be able to just talk. I feel like we all live in such a fast-paced world nowadays (and get caught up with physically having to go out to hangout) that we forget that hanging out can simply mean just that. Sitting around at home and just literally hanging out. I had a lot of fun hearing everybody's stories and just relaxing in the living room.

Around noon, we ladies sat down for our final lunch as a group at local restaurant, Hugo & Sons. It was the perfect ending to a magnificent trip. Good food, good conversation, and great laughs. 

Overall, I am extremely grateful for all of the people that I've met on this trip, and the newfound friendships that I have gained. These women have made this trip so memorable, and have enriched my life with all of these amazing conversations and experiences. I hope to be able to return to the city again one day, and reunite with you all. Please come and visit all of us on the west coast! 

For anyone who is reading this, thank you for taking the time to stop by and read my blog. I really appreciate it from the bottom of my heart. I hope that you all will take the time to go out and explore the world as well. Traveling is such an amazing learning experience, and I highly encourage all of you to do it if you can. 

If you have any questions, or have any suggestions as to where I should travel next, please feel free to leave a comment below, or tweet me via @Tran_gerine. I love suggestions! For my day-to-day shenanigans, you can connect with me on Instagram via @Tran_gerine. Until next time, happy traveling!



Saturday, September 17, 2016

El Paraíso.

Girl! Where have you been?

2016 has been a year of overcoming new challenges and surprisingly international travel. Recently, I returned from my very first trip to México. Cancún and Playa del Carmen were extremely beautiful, and the locals were extremely kind and polite. It was also really nice being able to converse with them in Spanish, a language that I had studied for about 5-6 years.

Each moment of my vacation was very surreal, which each view topping the last. I wanted to live there forever. 

Day 1 - Travel Day:

Having only recently travelled to Europe only once earlier this year, I only had a faint recollection of international travel procedures. This particular travel morning was extremely hectic, taking over an hour to get to the airport during L.A. rush hour. After wrestling typical traffic, we all rushed through the check-in kiosks and security line to make on time for my flight. Once on board, things finally settled down, and I was able to breathe a sigh of relief.

Once we all arrived at Cancún International Airport, I couldn't believe how far into the day we were. All I had seen all day was the awful L.A. traffic, the airport, and the back of seat 33A. With the beautiful sunshine quickly fleeting, I knew that I would have to await another day to witness the beach. The rest of the evening was spent relaxing at the hotel in Playa del Carmen and exploring the resort.

Day 2 - Cancun:

I woke up about 6am EST to try to start to get my body acclimated to the the new time zone. As soon as I went outside of my hotel room for the first time, I was quickly greeted by the humid tropical air. Luckily, this was quickly cancelled out by the cool breeze of the AC in the taxi taking us to Cancún. Once in the beachside city, I couldn't help but awe at the infinite beauty that surrounded me. It's been 10 years since I have seen anything like it. 

I easily spent an hour frolicking on the beach, walking along the seaside, and climbing on the lifeguard towers. Amidst paradise, I still couldn't believe that this was all real. I'm pretty sure I got sunburned on the bottoms of my feet for walking all over the hot sand and wooden steps.

I felt like a kid again climbing towers, collecting seashells, and running away from the tide. It's been a while since I've had this much fun on the beach, and the crowds were extremely light which was a plus. Introvert heaven.

After spending about half a day in Cancún, we all returned to Playa del Carmen for some good old swimming in the Caribbean Sea. The water was warm, the beats were pumping, and the tourists were really cool.

Post beach swim, we all grabbed dinner and then decided to call it a day. Ready for day three!

Day 3 - Chichén Itzá & Il Kil Cenote

This was probably one of the longest days on the trip. In total, I think we all spent 6 hours on the bus that day just commuting from Riviera Maya to and from Chichén Itzá. We made a side trip to the local Mayan village to meet some of the locals and the shaman. The Mayan village was filled with lots of arts and crafts as well as religious relics. I was particularly fascinated by the tunnel pictured below, which was built of rocks gathered from a cenote.

Overall, I was really looking forward this tour for a long time. I had read about it in history books, heard about it in Spanish class, and seen photos in travel brochures. For those unaware, Chichén Itzá is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World among the Great Wall of China, Petra, Christ the Redeemer, Machu Picchu, the Colosseum, and the Taj Mahal. 

The tour itself was very informative, although, I wish our tour guide was more interactive. I had major FOMO (fear of missing out) when I saw some of the other tour groups partake in ice breakers and fun activities during their tour. Despite this small bit, I was still very much interested and engaged in the information delivered at the tour at hand.

After spending about an hour and a half at Chichén Itzá, our tour group was whisked away to Il Kil Cenote to do some cliff jumping and swimming. Once we arrived, about 75% of our group darted to the buffet line, while the other 25% of us headed to the cenote. 

Il Kil Cenote is 26 meters (85 feet) below ground level, and is 60 meters (200 feet) in diameter. The depth of the water itself is about 40 meters (130 feet deep).

As a newcomer to this cliff jumping business, I was pretty apprehensive. The jump was pretty high for my standard. For a while, I stood up there contemplating if I should just walk down the limestone stairs and take my place amongst the waiting crowd. After mustering up some courage, I crossed my arms across my chest and jumped. It was the most exhilarating yet terrifying thing that I've done in a while. When I resurfaced from the depths of the water, I quickly swam to the edges of the cenote to join my peers. 

Was the experience and view worth it? Absolutely. Would I jump off again...maybe come back and ask me in a few months haha. Heights are still pretty terrifying. You can check out my cliff jump here: Cenote Jump.

After a full day out in Chichén Itzá, it was finally time to say goodbye and return to Playa del Carmen.

Day 4 - Xel-Há Park

On this particular morning, I woke up and watched the sunrise for the first time. If you know me, you know that I have a thing for sunrises and sunsets. I made it out of to the deserted hotel poolside at around 7:08am to get a glimpse of nature's beauty. It was the most comforting and magical thing that I had witnessed that morning. I wanted to live in that moment of calm and solstice forever. 

I cannot express to you how excited I was to visit Xel-Há. Ever since my friend, Christina, introduced me to this place in February via pictures, I've been obsessed with this park. My dreams of zip lining, lying amongst a sea of hammocks, biking through the Yucatán, and swimming with the dolphins were about to come true. 

Lots of Iguanas ("Huh" in Mayan language) everywhere.

We arrived at Xel-Há at approximately 9am. The park was pretty empty due to off-season, which made it ideal to explore the park with little to no wait for the attractions. 

My favorite activity by far was swimming with the dolphins. I had been wanting to do this since I was 22. Being able to swim with them was a dream come true. I've always admired dolphins due to their extreme intelligence. They were so gentle and and extremely lovable creatures!

Girl time.

Kisses from the male dolphin, Coucocán.

At the end of our session, I was sad to leave. I had learned so much about these creatures and was able to interact with these marvelous mammals. It's a memory that I will never forget.

Towards the end of our visit to Xel-Há, a heavy, tropical storm moved in. Luckily, we had finished up all of the activities that we wanted to do, and headed back to our hotel.

That evening, we enjoyed our final dinner in Playa del Carmen. I was sad to leave the following day, but was extremely grateful for the opportunity to visit such an amazing country.

Day 5 - Homebound

On the final day of vacation, I decided to explore the resort one last time. I couldn't believe how quickly the week went by. Everything about the trip was so magical. It was unlike any vacation that I had ever taken before. The beauty of the county, the kindness of the locals, and the comprehensive experience of being immersed into a new culture was a delightful and eye-opening experience. 

I hope to return again one day, and do it all over again. For now, it feels good to be back home. I feel refreshed and mentally at ease. After returning to the states, I realized how important it is to withdraw from the craziness of life every once in a while. 

I hope you enjoyed following me on my journey, and taking the time to visit my blog. I wish I could share all 800+ photos with you, but alas, time doesn't stop for anyone. Thank you for stopping by, and be sure to tune in later this week for some more adventures. I promise you won't be disappointed!