Walking London: Barbican to Southbank

In spite of my love/hate relationship with the place because of the experiences before my departure, this is, and will always be, my 2nd home. So in continuing with my theme of living vicariously through others’ travels this year, here’s a post about a small section of my 2nd home. Enjoy.

Here There Everywhere

Start: Barbican Tube Station

This past Sunday was the first time in ages where I went on one of my rambling exploring days out.  Yes it’s been winter, and cold and grey but I usually manage to get around during the season.  Not the case this winter where I mostly stayed inside.

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It feels good to finally feel the sun on my face and not only get out and about but want to get out and about.  The prospect of using my new lens was also an incentive to  haul my very heavy D-SLR out with me.

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With flowers budding all over the place, longer days and even a few days where I wore sunnies (!) none of us can deny that Spring is knocking on the door.  I’m finally getting into using my twitter account more and seeing the point of it all (@wanderlust _wtb) over the past…

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28 mind-blowing facts about Uganda!

I volunteered in Uganda a while ago for 6 weeks. It’s one of my favorite countries, and I’m well overdue for a trip back there. If you’ve never been there before, consider adding it to your travel (and/or bucket) list.

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kampala city Evening view of Kampala city (credits: Joel Nsadha Isababi)

Uganda is commonly referred to as the Pearl of Africa which is not far from the truth considering her natural resources combined with a very hospitable population. Here are some crazy facts about her;

  1. Caesarian sections were being performed in Uganda way before 1879 when R.W. Felkin observed his first successful operation by indigenous healers in Kahura. (reference: Notes on Labour in Central Africa” published in the Edinburgh Medical Journal, volume 20, April 1884, pages 922-930.)
  1. There are about 880 mountain gorrillas in the whole world and half of them are found in Uganda.
  1. Ranked as the world’s most entrepreneurial country with a rate of 28.1%. This means that 28.1% of Uganda’s population own or co-own a business that has paid salaries for more than 3 months but less than 42.
  1. Lakes and rivers cover 26% of Uganda which is 91,136…

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Slow day (more like slow year).

2015 was a big travel year for me. 2016… not so much.

So far, I have only 2 weekend trips planned, and that may very well be the extent of my travels this year. (My friend is getting married in England so if that happens this year, that’ll be another trip.) I’m back on my own, so I have to handle my responsibilities first. (American vacation time/annual leave doesn’t help matters either.) Hopefully, 2017 and beyond will be different, but for now it’s time to be an adult. 😐

How about you? Will 2016 be a slow travel year for you too (if you travel at all)? If so, how come? Where are you going? And if you’ll be traveling as much as usual, or more than usual, please share here so that I can be jealous. live vicariously through you.

9 Things Everyone Needs to Appreciate about Mangroves

Re-blogging/Reblogging because I began liking mangroves when I visited Australia in 2009.

A Traveler's Tale

A boy received a camera as a gift from his father on his birthday;
Boy: “Thank you so much, Dad! You know that I want to be a photographer like you but I don’t know if I can be as good in photo composition.”
Dad: “Oh, I’m sure you’ll do well. What sorts of subjects would you be photographing, son?”
Boy: “Nature! I love nature!”
Dad: “In that case, you don’t have to worry. Nature has already prepared the perfect compositions for you. All you need to do is to go out there and capture them with that camera.”

I thought of this story while leisurely inspecting a seaside place one sunny day. Aside from the sparkling seawater, there were some interesting rock formations by the beach and, yes, there was a line of mangrove trees that seemed determined to both fearlessly defy the waves and mischievously keep prospective swimmers…

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A very late Happy 2016.

Happy 2016. It has been way too long. Life happens.

Last year was eventful, in good and bad ways. Let’s see, where to begin…

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Happy 2016. It has been way too long. Life happens.

Last year was eventful, in good and bad ways. Let’s see, where to begin…

  • I traveled 7 times in 2015 (February, March, May, June, July, October, November). That’s the most I’ve ever done in 1 year. United Arab Emirates. Puerto Rico. Houston, Texas. Boston, Massachusetts. Chicago, Illinois. Detroit, Michigan. Portland, Oregon. (I may post a few photos from the different trips. I also have 1 more United Arab Emirates blog draft, that I should’ve completed months ago, that’ll be posted for sure.)
  • I left my job – the first one I got after returning from England – and started a new one in September 2015. You can blame the new job and ensuing commute for most of my absence from the blog.
  • I studied for my professional license exam… and had to reschedule it a few times. I’m now set to take it this spring. There were a few things that came up which forced me to push it back. Would you like to know 1 of the reasons why I had to push it back?
  • Because we got bed bugs. Yes, a f***ing g**damn bunch of bed bugs, in the beginning of summer 2015. I won’t even go into the horror & trauma they caused me. I now hate bed bugs even more than roaches.
  • Along with a new job and long commute, I was apartment hunting. I now hate New York’s real estate market. I didn’t even have this much trouble finding a flat in England, and that market is probably as expensive & popular as the market here. Not having a car to drive to all of these apartment viewings, made the search even more exhausting, grueling & tiring.
  • I had to stop going to the gym after I started the new job because of the commute, so I’m back to where I was when I started. But I’m starting again in a few days (if not sooner) since my commute is much shorter now.
  • I completed a Couch To 5K program before I started the new job though, so that was a bonus. Since I’m starting over, I’m gonna re-do the program because as a result of doing it, I began developing a like/love for running and I want to get back to running again.
  • It took long enough, but I finally found my own place. (My original commute was killing me, so I had no choice but to look for a place closer to the new job.) After over 2 years of living with family, I’m slowly but surely getting back on track. I’m forever grateful to them, but I’m also very glad to be back on my own again. I’ll also be forever grateful to those who helped me post-England.

That’s all I can remember off the top of my head. How are you doing, dear readers?

Teaser photo: El Yunque National Forest - Puerto Rico.
El Yunque National Forest – Puerto Rico.

Life and Death While Traveling: Are you covered in the case of an emergency abroad?

This post is from a friend of mine. Excellent information about emergencies abroad and travel insurance. Pay attention.

4 Deep Around The World

If you follow the journey of 4 Deep Around the World, you know I’m a huge advocate of international travel. I constantly promote taking advantage of  every opportunity to see the world. World travel is the new “it” thing that’s taking the world by storm. This is evident by a simple peruse of the multitude of travel related Facebook groups and travel deal websites that have developed in recent years.

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United Arab Emirates – Abu Dhabi part 2.

The day after we returned to Abu Dhabi, we went on a desert safari that took place in the evening.

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The day after we returned from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, we went on a desert safari that took place in the evening. (Step-dad stayed in since his stomach was still hurting.) Travel Friend left Dubai – as he was departing via Abu Dhabi airport to return to the States the next morning – and met us in Abu Dhabi to go with us on the safari. Another travel group member (Travel Friend 2), who was in the United Arab Emirates at the same time as us, drove from Dubai and wound up going with us at the last minute. We had a good time.

We went on the evening desert safari with the Abu Dhabi Desert Safari company in Al Khatim Desert. There isn’t much to say; hopefully the photos speak for themselves. (I didn’t include all photos; I didn’t want to post photos of anyone just in case they prefer privacy.)

After returning from the safari, step-dad was up & about, feeling better. Even though we didn’t get back until a little after 21:00, our host (an expatriate who’s also a travel group member) surprised us by taking us on a bit of a tour of her part of the city. (Travel Friend 2 went straight to the airport after the safari to catch her flight home.) There isn’t much to say here either; hopefully the photos speak for themselves.

By the time we finished eating, it was almost midnight so we called it a night. Tomorrow was our last full day there, Travel Friend had a red-eye flight, and we (the 3 of us) had a couple of things to do before our departure.

Wall Street Journal article: Repatriation blues.

As a repatriate, some of the points in this article hit home…

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As a repatriate, some of the points in this article hit home, especially since my return was (mostly) involuntary. Take a look at the article below and feel free to comment. Hopefully, other repatriates will comment too.

Repatriation Blues: Expats Struggle With The Dark Side Of Coming Home

http://blogs.wsj.com/expat/2015/04/15/repatriation-blues-expats-struggle-with-the-dark-side-of-coming-home/

Secret Ways to Experience Singapore.

Check out this blog post about Singapore. It makes me want to visit the country even more. Hoping to (finally) get deep in travel to Asia in 2016 and/or 2017.

P.S. United Arab Emirates posts should be up within 1 week. Continue staying tuned.

The Shooting Star

My restless soul has a strange relationship with the little red dot on the world map. In the six years I studied and worked in Singapore, I spent my days planning adventures and craving excitement in the far reaches of Southeast Asia. But when I moved away in 2011, I was filled with nostalgia and a curious desire to rediscover Singapore itself – especially given that it’s just a short hop and an e-visa away from India.

I’ve discovered hidden beaches, password-protected bars, mangroves to kayak through and pristine forests over my last few trips to the country; it’s time to spill the secrets:

Leave your footprints on a hidden beach

You’ve reveled in the underwater world and manmade beaches of Sentosa. Now ditch the crowds to find solitude at Lazarus Island – an undiscovered, undeveloped stretch of coastline where soft white sands are caressed by gentle azure waters. To…

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United Arab Emirates – Dubai in 36 hours or less.

Dubai was never on my list of places to travel, but since I had the opportunity to go, I wasn’t going to pass it up while visiting the United Arab Emirates.

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Dubai was never on my list of places to travel, but since I’d be there, I wasn’t going to pass it up while visiting the United Arab Emirates. While booking & planning, I initially planned to spend 2 days there – hopefully enough to get a feel for the city. I changed my mind and decided that less than 2 days should suffice, and I’m glad I made that decision. I’ll explain why later.

We left Abu Dhabi on Saturday afternoon for a short jaunt to Dubai for a little over 24 hours. Dubai is 90 minutes drive from Abu Dhabi without traffic, and easy to reach by bus or car (rental, taxi, etc.). We took a cheap Greyhound-style bus for 25 AED one-way.

Emirates Express.
Emirates Express.

It took us longer than 90 minutes because there was a dust storm that caused multiple accidents; we saw at least 30 damaged or destroyed cars on the roadside. 😐

Upon arriving to Dubai, we took a taxi to Citymax Bur Dubai. There wasn’t much time to spare before we had to leave to head to Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world for our evening viewing.

We planned to meet afterwards with a travel group member, but Dubai Mall (located next to Burj Khalifa and the largest mall [by total area] in the world) is so big that we couldn’t find him, and my phone died. We (minus step-dad) were also supposed to see other people from the same travel group for a party. But by then, I’m exhausted & sleepy from jet-lag and walking around; we’re annoyed about not finding the person in that humongous mall; and we were hungry. So we returned to the hotel instead. I messaged the travel group members to explain what happened, we ate at one of the hotel’s restaurants (Indian Claypot), and stayed in until check-out time Sunday afternoon.

Another person from my travel group met us at check-out. He knew where the Gold Souk was, so he led us there.

NOTE: The United Arab Emirates heavily regulate their precious metals, so unless one buys jewelry on the street (NOT recommended), one is assured that the gold (or other precious metal[s]) is of top quality.

While me and my friend walked around, step-dad and Travel Friend sat down. Step-dad didn’t tell us right away that he wasn’t feeling well (typical man), so I got annoyed when I found out. Luckily, Travel Friend had a hotel room nearby and step-dad rested there while the 3 of us went to eat. (To make a long story short – step-dad loves spicy food but this time, the food at Indian Claypot was extra spicy and tore up his stomach the next day. I bought him a couple of medications, but bread, crackers & ginger ale did the trick and he was better by the next evening.)

Shameless plug – if you travel, especially abroad, make sure that you buy travel insurance. Annual travel insurance is cheaper than per-trip insurance. Along with step-dad getting sick (thank goodness it wasn’t worse), 2 members of my travel group died in Panama a little over 2 months ago. Their deaths gave me the needed push to buy travel insurance from now on.

After we ate, we hung out a bit while step-dad rested. We left Travel Friend’s hotel a little after sunset to return to Abu Dhabi; we’d see him the next day. We got a taxi to the bus station, where we caught a bus back to Abu Dhabi and stayed with another travel group member for the rest of our stay.

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Dubai is a lively city and reminds me of Manhattantimes 10. 😐 For me – a born & raised New Yorker – to say that, means something. I can also speak for my friend and step-dad (also born & raised New Yorkers) when I say that while we think Dubai is a beautiful city, it was quite overwhelming (especially as an introvert) to be around so many people, lights, and tall/large buildings & structures. So as I said in the beginning, I’m glad that we stayed for only a little over 24 hours.

Stay tuned – desert safari next