Tag Archives: travel

Bonus Video- The Hello Kitty Suite at the Hai-Lai: Taiwan

I was going to keep this under wraps, but I couldn’t help sharing the ridiculous walk-through of the Hello Kitty Suite in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, previously mentioned in Hello Kitty Vs. Barbie – An All Out Brawl. I was hot and delirious from all the pink, but it still gives you a good look into this crazy world!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRDKBRm_asc

Feel free to check out the other great travel videos that are starting to pop up on the CrookedFlight YouTube page too.


The top three first impressions of Asia

For the past 48 hours I have been on a complete odyssey in Taiwan. This is my first time in Asia altogether so immediately it was clear that I was on another planet. Obviously, when talking about a place you cannot just generalize the entire continent, that would be silly. But within our first layover in Osaka, Japan, and touchdown in Taipei, I already had some interesting impressions of the area.

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Like a zombie I walked off the plane in Japan after a 12 or 247 hour flight, I’m not sure, sometime in between that. It kind of felt like three weeks but I digress. Anyway, I couldn’t help but realize that everyone spoke exactly like I had heard on TV. I wanted to have a different more worldly impression of the people there but nope, they all just sounded like anime characters. I have also never felt tall in my life, so this was a new thing as well. Everyone seemed to just scurry below my feet and move really quickly to herd us like cattle into the correct lines. Once the chaos was over I found myself inside the lounge for China Airlines and that was a new experience altogether. The very first thing I ate was a triangle of rice of course. But this was no ordinary rice – they did something magical to it that I think involves grilling and teriyaki sauce.

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Now this kind of statement might get me in trouble but I can’t help it. Another three hours later after arriving in Japan we touched down in Taipei. In my defense, things like basic motor skills and depth perception were completely off. So as soon as the automatic doors swung open at the airport the first thing that came to mind was, oh my goodness, this entire country smells like a Chinese food restaurant. I know. I’m so sorry.

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The last unique thing that happened was all of the attention. Thank God I’m not a tall lanky blond like one of my travel companions. That poor thing is getting stopped like a celebrity around every turn. But I didn’t realize I quickly had to learn how to say “How are you” and “Thank you” in Mandarin because people were going to demand I acknowledge them all the time. Not in a pushy way, but more like hey, I want to see if you can understand my cool English skills even though they are limited to one or two words. This is mainly just the teenagers. But it is fun and everyone is very friendly, at least to my face, which really is all that matters when everyone is speaking Chinese.

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Oh and then we got caught in a massive downpour. With thunder and lighting. While standing on a flooded, very tall bridge. So that happened. I may be smiling but I’m whimpering like a small child on the inside for fear of being barbecued. ADVENTURE!

-CrookedFlight


Smack Dab in the Middle of Texas, Part Three: History & the Kitchen Sink

When this mini-series was started, I thought Texas might be my last stop on a line of trips I had been taking, so there’d be a slew of time to really dig into it. Wrong. But I still want to do it proper justice and wrap this up right.

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Fredericksburg has a big German history. Apparently a ton of German settlers made their way to Texas in the 1800s and left their mark.

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This might be the best tour guide ever, and of course I can’t remember his name. He brought us through the Lyndon B. Johnson ranch, complete with house, stables, museum, schoolhouse, cemetery and tons of land.

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Former president Johnson’s house has been perfectly preserved with almost all of its original furnishings. I loved Lady Bird’s touches as well, like this pillow on the presidential chair that said “This is my ranch and I’ll do as I damn please”.

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Not only did they have the “Texas White House” and school on the ranch, they had LITTLE FARM ANIMAL BABIES. There’s a whole section just for them as well as period homes to reflect what Johnson’s childhood would have been like.

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Ranch hand at the farm overlooking everything.

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I think I mentioned the Hangar Hotel before, but it was a real treat to stay here. Everything looks like it’s been frozen in the 1940s. My favorite part was the swanky cocktail lounge. I wish I had some slinky dress to wear in there while I sipped my martini.

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I’m not crazy about history, but the brand new WWII museum in town really kept me riveted  They have these great bomber jackets and memorabilia on display. There’s a reenactment type exhbiit on Pearl harbor with a massive tank that made me tear up, it was so moving and amazing.

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These two weren’t on the itinerary, but they hung around the Hangar Hotel and offered rides in this 1929 airplane. Winston was the ugliest dog I’ve ever seen and I fell in love the moment I saw his unfortunate mutt.

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Right?!


Smack dab in the middle of Texas, Part Two: Music and Culture

Back on track! Wondering a bit more about Fredericksburg, Texas? Get ready:

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Fredericksburg has such a vibrant and successful community that they represent a wide rainbow of faiths with beautiful places of worship. We took a peek inside St. Mary’s Catholic Church, which was built out of the popular and special stonework seen on many buildings downtown.

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The stone is seen here too at the cute Pioneer Museum. You can stroll through the complex and hang out in some wonderfully re-created and restored period houses full of antiques and charm.

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I mean, he just had to be included. I forgot to show off this photo when we chatted about the brewery, but it needed to be brought up. Before landing in the Austin airport and officially stepping onto Texas soil, I assumed I would just see a whole lot of this. I know, I’m sorry, but obviously everyone would be gun-totin’, cowboy hat wearin’, chew spittin Americans, right? TOTALLY WRONG. People tended to be wonderfully helpful, intelligent and hilarious. Not to mention, everyone dressed better than I did, so I digress.

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One of the best evenings was a drive down to the Luckenbach for some music and brews. Now I know next to nothing about country music, but a few new friends swore I just had to listen to some TEXAS country music, which apparently is a whole other thing. It was – slow, a little sad and mesmerizing. Legend has it Willie Nelson used to frequent this place back in the day.

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In the summertime and on warmer nights the adjacent dance hall is opened for hours of entertainment and special concerts or events. I would love to get back there and learn a little line dancing.

If you want to hear a quick clip of the singers/strummers in action, here’s a YouTube clip of the performance:

We’ll finish the Texas round-up next week with some history and everything else left I haven’t covered yet. Fredericksburg was fantastic, but it’s time to move onto Virginia! And on Wednesday I leave for Little Rock, Arkansas. Then two weeks from today I take a little adventure over to ASIA. So much is going on I’m just hold fast onto all the action and whatever else may come!

 


Where is time going?!

Honestly. This is the shortest blog post ever from me by far, but I wanted to bookmark this moment so I don’t let time slip by again! I can’t believe it’s been days since my last update, for shame. With trips and networking and life, it’s been a bit nutty. But back on track next week for some more interesting stuff, promise.

crookedflightkite


Bi-Weekly World Traveler Interview – Erin from BrokeMillennials

I am well aware It’s been more than two weeks since the last one of this series, thankyouverymuch. I’ll get the hang of it, promise!

This post features a new blogger Erin over at BrokeMillennials, who was lucky enough to live in a bunch of different countries throughout her childhood and teens. She now resides in New York City and is scheming on her next global adventure with a twentysomething budget!

The rest is her words:

Tell us a little about your deal – who you are, where you come from!

My name is Erin Lowry, I’m 23 and 11 months old and I hail from, well that’s one of my least favorite questions. As an expat kid or TCK (third culture kid) as we call ourselves, answering that is a nightmare. My standard answer these days is North Carolina, even though I haven’t lived there in 13 years. I was born in Houston, TX and lived there for a solid three months before landing in Reno, Nevada and before I was speaking in proper sentences I had been taken to Gastonia, North Carolina (near Charlotte).

I spent my early years as a Southern Belle with Yankee parents until I was uprooted in February of 2000 at the age of 10 and we made the big move to Kobe, Japan. We were only supposed to stay for three years and have me back in time for my freshman year of high school. I didn’t come back to live in the US until college.

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Dressed up in traditional garb!

I fell in love with Japan and still consider it my home. So much growing up happened for me there from 10 (we moved in the middle of 5th grade for me) until 16 at the end of my sophomore year of high school. My family had been told we were heading back to North Carolina but when my parents were house-hunting in Charlotte in April my Dad received a call not to put an offer in on any houses. A few months later all our belongings were shipped to Shanghai, China.

I lived in China my junior and senior years of high school. I graduated high school from Shanghai American School in 2007, my sister graduated in June 2010 and my parents finally moved back to Charlotte in November of 2010, after a decade of life in Asia.

What are your earliest travel memories?
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The very earliest memories are of going to Florida for Easter vacation, but my first international excursion was at age 9. My Dad had been doing a substantial amount of international travel for work and had racked up quite the number of frequent flyer miles. For my 9th birthday he told me I could pick anywhere in the world to go and he’d take me as a father/daughter trip. Because he’d spent so much time traveling to Japan, that’s where I picked. When we ended up moving there a year later I demanded a refund.

That trip had a lot of really special memories for me. My Dad arranged for me to spend the day at a local Japanese school. I wore my St. Michael’s School uniform and just remember having to use sign language and drawings to express things to the other kids. We didn’t speak the same language, but we still had a really fun time at recess. Plus, at age 9 I’d already gone through a big growth spurt and towered over most of the Japanese kids at 5’1. I also had blond hair, blue eyes and extremely pale skin. They really enjoyed just staring at me. I remember learning extremely quickly that if I said I liked anything in a store one of my Dad’s Japanese business associates would immediately buy it for me. Japanese are really big into gift giving when trying to establish relationships. My Dad figured out pretty quickly what I was up to and put the kibosh on all my swag. The vending machines that dispensed ice cream were also extremely exciting.

But, the most vivid memory of all was one of the most traumatic experiences of my international life. There was one major flaw in my Dad’s father/daughter trip plan, he clearly couldn’t go into the public restrooms with me. On one of our drives through the Japanese countryside we stopped to use the bathroom. I walked into a stall and became very confused. There didn’t appear to be a toilet, just a porcelain hole in the floor. I opened the doors to all the stalls in the place and just saw floor toilets over and over again. Clearly, I couldn’t get my Dad’s help so I just attempted to squat down and use this strange contraption. Without too much graphic detail, I will say this was not particularly successful and my black, umbra gym shorts ended up a covered in my own body fluids. I ran out of the bathroom crying.

This was so scaring that I didn’t even attempt to use one again until I was 16 years old and on a Habitat for Humanity trip in the rural area of Yunan, China where western toilets absolutely do not exist. I am now an absolute master.

In case you don’t know what an Asian toilet looks like:

How did you perceive living in new places while young?

When we moved I was old enough to remember my “American culture” and have ties to my home country. Compared to most kids in my international school(s) I was a bit of an anomaly. Most kids started the expat experience much younger and had little to no understanding of their mother land (my sister was 7 when we moved and didn’t really “get” American culture until she moved back for college).

But, being 10 I was also adapted pretty quickly. The first few days included a lot of crying, door slamming and confusion but once I started school I got over that pretty quickly. Japan is a wonderland for kids. It’s safe and has public transit so at the age of 10 we were taking off to the movies, malls, pools and other hang out spots without needing our parents to pick us up or drop off us.

Being a Caucasian American in a homogeneous culture also put me in a huge minority both in public and at school, even though it was an international school. It was a strange feeling at first, but it also gave me the sense of being “special.” A common situation for European and American expat kids in Asia.

Moving to China was a bit of culture shock. It was so different from Japan and I missed the organized public transit and rigid structure of Japanese culture. I was 16 when we made that move though and had been to China a few times before so I wasn’t as baffled as the first move from America to Japan.

Bring us through a few day’s itinerary on one of your most memorable trips.

My mother was always the itinerary planner and I regret that I don’t have her detailed plans saved anywhere. I’m sure she does though.

I'm in the Duke sweatshirt!

I’m in the Duke sweatshirt!

My parents always took our requests and incorporated them into our plans. They also were dedicated to truly exploring countries. We didn’t just do Australia one, we did it six times and went to new cities and towns each time. I have a great memory of exploring Kangaroo Island in South Australia. First grade teacher went to Kangaroo Island and I thought that sounded like the coolest place in the whole world. About seven years after I first heard about Kangaroo Island my Mom put it in our itinerary per my request.

We explored the Great Barrier Reef, saw the New Years fireworks in Sydney, watched the Wizard of Oz on Australia’s Broadway with actors trying their hardest to sound American. We got to swim with dolphins in New Zealand, ride horses through the Outback and get up close and personal with puffins in Iceland. Clearly, we like animals.

In Iceland my parents drove straight from the airport to the Blue Lagoon where we got to relax after our flight and soak in the world’s best skin exfoliate.

It’s hard for me to remember full days from all our international adventures. Instead I have a highlight reel in my head of favorite moments, be it a water village in Halong Bay, Viet Nam, walking the Great Wall of China or dining in an old Irish castle.

What is the craziest person you’ve met while on the road?

I throughly enjoyed walking the beach in Viet Nam and a girl, no older than seven, telling my father she’d “bust a cap in his ass” if he didn’t buy the flowers she was selling. Got to love the lasting legacy American GIs left in “Nam.”

Truthfully, it isn’t so much the crazies that stay with me, but the faces of all the young children in various levels of poverty who wanted hugs, smiles, candy and just to speak with the strange-looking foreigners. My Dad’s blog has a post recapping some of our families best experiences:


Tell of a stereotype you thought about a place and how your perspective may have changed.

The cliche answer would be Paris. In a combination of expat kid and broke millennial fashion, I cashed in half my frequent flyer miles to take a trip to Paris my senior year of college. A good friend from my high school in Shanghai was taking a semester away from Cornell to study in Paris. I went to visit her prepared for all the American stereotypes of French people disliking us and identifying me immediately as an American before I even opened my mouth.

Truthfully, I had nothing but a grand time in Paris filled with pleasant people. I even tried my hand at ordering for myself in French at most restaurants and didn’t get a single sneer. Having never spoken a lick of French before visiting I knew my accent was atrocious, but everyone I interacted with seemed to at least appreciate the effort.

In my chances to travel I’ve really learned to always attempt to speak a few words of the native language.

With a friend in Versailles.

With a friend in Versailles.

Anything else you’d like!

Growing up as an expat is something I value and credit for a lot of who I am today. Even thought it meant constantly losing friends to moves and never really knowing when things could drastically change, I was able to have more travel and cultural experiences by 18 than most people experience in a lifetime. It’s also a lifestyle I hope to get back to one day. Even now, it’s hard for me to image staying in one place for longer than three or four years.

Thanks so much Erin! You can check her blog out here and follow her budget adventures at @BrokeMillennials. In the next few days the Texas series will continue. Feel free to reach out with your own great travel stories (even if they’re just dream right now!) I love chatting travel.


Smack dab in the middle of Texas, Part One: Food and Art

I’ll be doing a brief three-part series on the culture of Fredericksburg, Texas, getting into the real nitty-gritty when the spring issue of Canadian World Traveller is released!

You think by now I would get used to be blowing away by new places but it really never gets old. Like many Yanks, I had plenty of predispositions about Texas in my head before I ever stepped foot in the state. Luckily, all these ideas were totally smashed by such a hospitable, humble group of people. Texans really are a rare breed – sure, they may not be hip to the latest song or fashion craze, but they exude such an inspiring humility and a smart, quiet, hard-working persona that is infectious and leaves me wanting to lead a simpler life.

This was most prevalent among all the insanely talented peopled I met at the wineries, locals shops, restaurants and art galleries. some people may poo poo at a full itinerary, but it gave me a rare chance to not only experience a new destination, but truly learn about the people behind the scenes that make it all come together.

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My first introduction into the art scene of Fredericksburg was a small taste at four very different but all equally impressive galleries in town. For a town of only 10,000, they have one of the coolest and most eclectic art areas I’ve ever witness in the country.

Of course they have mostly realist, traditionally Western art, which I think can be best experienced at Whistle Pik Galleries. They have curated a collection that is both classic and contemporary, featuring notable talent such as G. Harvey and Robert Moore.

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Two new and fresh galleries, Insight and Good Art Company had contrary feels but lots of personality.

The Good Company had one of their resident artists, Omar Gaza, right in the front parlor, proudly displaying his intricate masterpieces of horses and cowboys. Further into the gallery features bold jewelry statement pieces and a few more abstract still lifes and landscapes.

Insight was open and airy with plenty of natural light to perfectly compliment the collection. They also had a basement floor with skylights that held more work from international artists.

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At the end of the day, the Artisans at Rocky Hill really rolled out the red carpet for us. Featuring ten of their in-house artists, many from the area, this gallery had everything from grandfather clock sculptures, silk-dyed scarves, oil paintings, mosaics and plenty of take-home pieces.

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They even made us homemade goodies and offered great Texan wine while we got to listen to their amazing stories. I love how some would mention how they were bankers or business owners then turned thier focus to art instead, following thier passions and talents. I wish I could name them all, but do check out their website and see for yourself all the great work these individuals are doing.

As much as I wish I could wax poetic all the amazing eats in Fredericksburg I was honored to sample, I’ll have to stick to the highlights for now.

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Fried pickles at the Fredericksburg Brewpub. Amazing and a bit spicy!

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Grilled Mahi Mahi at the Bejas Grill & Cantina

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Part of our four (!) course lunch paired with Texas wine at the beautiful Woodrose Winery

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Some indulgent chocolates I brought home from the Chocolat company downtown. They do specialize in liquor-filled sweets through, which I obviously grabbed a box of as well.

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As the grand finale, an elegant dinner presented by the Fredericksburg Herb Farm. This rack of lamb wasn’t even my meal, I had the venison, but each presentation, and taste, was flawless.

The art is different than big city offerings like London, but it certainly had it’s own flavor to admire. I’m obviously stuffed and satisfied, literally and figuatively. Next post will dive into the music and culture scene of Fredericksburg, which got better and better everyday I was there. I’m not even a history buff, I usually find myself snoring through museums, but this place really did have some amazing hotspots that made it all come alive.

Have you ever visited somewhere and was surprised at what you found? Texas so far was definitely one of those places for me and I can’t wait to go back someday.


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