Summer Reading

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Into the Water is a psychological suspense.  It was a decent novel but with as much hype as it got I thought it would be a little better. I give it 2/5.

American Assassin by Vince Flynn

I saw the trailer for American Assassin with Michael Keaton and Dylan O’Brien (the guy from The Maze Runner) earlier this summer and as soon as I saw it I knew I wanted to read the book beforehand which was a little surprising even to myself since manly action thriller novels aren’t usually my thing, but I’m glad I read it. It was an enjoyable read and like most books, it was better than the movie. I give it 3/5.

White Fur by Jardine Libaire

I really enjoyed White Fur which is a “gritty reinterpretation of Romeo and Juliet.” Some of the scenes made me feel uncomfortable but I liked how raw and uncensored it felt, just like the main character Elise.  I would recommend this novel to others; I give it a 4/5.

One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of this Will Matter by Scaachi Koul

One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter is a collection of essays based on the thoughts and experiences of Scaachi Koul, who is also a writer for Buzzfeed. She touched on a lot of different topics from being Indian, racism, family, dating, alcoholism, growing up. It was a good collection of essays to read on my Kindle during my commute. Some parts were funny and/or interesting but there were definitely some points when I felt she was preaching a bit yet she is still ignorant about some things as well.

Overall, it was entertaining enough so I give it 3/5.

The Idiot by Elif Batuman

This book is pretty slow going throughout the duration of the novel and I kept waiting for something big to happen which never did, but for whatever reason I still enjoyed it. True story–I literally read reviews afterward to see if I am in fact the idiot which is why I missed the point but then I read this article from NPR which confirmed that there really is no point because that’s Batuman’s style of fiction. I like how they described it as “a long wander, a vague rummage.” This is definitely not a novel for everyone, so I would only recommend it to my fellow book nerds. In my opinion it is a 3.5/5.


Final Girls by Riley Sager

This is another novel I read pretty quickly on my Kindle to and from work. I liked Final Girls better than Into the Water which were both compared to Gone Girl although I don’t think the guy who turned out to be the killer makes much sense. I give it a 2.5/5.


The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

I picked up The Sympathizer at The Strand bookstore in Union Square when I was in the spirit after having recently seen Miss Saigon on Broadway. I liked it for the most part. Some chapters I got really into but then it would be brought to a low, slow simmer. It was hard to get a sense of time too; one chapter the main character is going about his day-to-day life and the next he mentions in passing that X amount of months/years had passed.

The author was also very descriptive at some parts. For example, he described a vivid scene from his youth involving sexual things he performed with a squid which was very disturbing but imaginative nonetheless. Unfortunately it’s the perverted scenes like that that I’ll probably remember the longest. Overall I give it a 3/5.

Goodbye Summer ’17

This summer came and went quickly.  Things were busy at work all summer and we couldn’t really go anywhere, but we still had a great summer doing activities in the city. Below is a quick summer recap.

Summer is the time of baseballllll! I went to my first Mets game with my friend Kelly and I went to a Yankees game with Kev.

Kev and I ran the New York Road Runners Retro 5-Miler. We had fun dressing up for it too with our knee high socks and matching arm and head bands.

We took many many walks along the West Side River throughout the summer on our way to our favorite movie theater in Battery Park. It’s so pleasant walking by the Hudson River in the summer when it’s not cold and windy.

As I mentioned, my summer was busy with work. We had a National Television Sales team softball game one Friday afternoon and I also went to our Chicago office for the first time for some meetings. Luckily I was able to stay with my friend Tiffany while I was there. We went on an architecture boat tour, walked around the city, and had an awesome brunch in the Chicago Restoration Hardware.

I got a preview of the Penthouse in our building which was amazing.

I had a fair share of desserts including ice cream from Taiyaki and cough dough from DO.

Kev and I discovered our favorite place for burgers, Saxon & Parole, which carries the Impossible vegan burger.

I finally made my way to Gilligan’s to try their frozen watermelon margarita.

I went to my first professional soccer game which was a lot of fun. We watched the New York Red Bulls play the NYC Football Club. I will definitely go to another game.

We celebrated our friends Jim & Kristin’s wedding at Meadowood in Napa Valley.

I volunteered through Disney VoluntEars. They partnered with the Central Park Conservancy and I helped weed in Central Park. It was the perfect day to be outside and do some good.

There was a Smorgasboard market close to our apartment. My favorite thing there was a churro ice cream sandwich.

(Okay, now I’m realizing why I lost zero weight over the summer even though I was physically active–literally half of my pictures are of me with dessert….)

Of course what better way to close out Summer and welcome Fall with the start of football season…kind of. I am trying to become more active with the University of Michigan Alumni Club of New York, so we’re starting to watch Michigan games at Barleycorn in Tribeca. Go Blue!

Labor Day 2017

Labor Day came upon us quickly this year, so Kev and I didn’t have a trip planned. We were actually looking forward to staying in the city though because we had both been busy with work and stuff and just wanted to relax. We had a great weekend though and ended up doing quite a few activities. Below are the highlights:

Friday – I got out of work early so Kev scheduled a personal boxing session at Overthrow in the late afternoon. We had a good workout and learned some cool new combinations. Then I dragged Kevin to the movies to see a scary movie, Temple. As you can see from the reviews, the movie wasn’t that good.

Saturday– On Saturday Kev and I had a spa morning at Aire Ancient Baths. It was the coolest experience ever. There were six thermal baths (a hot bath, ice and cold plunges, a warm pool, a flotarium– salt water pool, and the jet pool) as well as a steam room with aromatherapy infused with eucalyptus aroma. After an hour of relaxing in the different baths, Kev and I had an hour couples massage, and then got to hang out in the baths for another half hour. My favorite bath was by far the flotarium and my second favorite was the eucalyptus aromatherapy steam room.

After our relaxing morning, we then got dressed and went to Barleycorn’s to watch the Michigan vs. University of Florida game. From there we went to the movies and I made Kev see another scary movie with me, Annabelle. Luckily Annabelle was better than Temple.

Sunday – On Sunday Morning Kev and I ran a few miles at Mile High Run Club. We had lunch at Smorgasboard Market which is conveniently close to our apartment. We got an array of items to share including an authentic spinach mushroom quesadilla with homemade tortilla, edamame dumplings, and  a tofu sticky bun. To top it off I had a unicorn ice cream churro sandwich. It was a great combo of options to try.

 Later that evening we went to the US Open. We saw Petra Kvitová vs. Garbiñe Muguruza and Sam Querrey vs. Mischa Zverev. It was a lot of fun to watch and of course I had to get a Grey Goose Honey Deuce.

Monday – On Monday morning Kev and I went to 60 minute Bikram then took our time walking home and stopped by our favorite Brooklyn Bagels on the way back. We relaxed and read outside (literally the first time we’ve used our building’s mezzanine all summer) for a bit before going to the movies. We saw The Hitman’s Bodyguard with Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds which was pretty funny. When we got home I got a second wind and did some end-of-summer cleaning and got rid of a ton of clothes and shoes. I’m ready for you Fall!

1H 2017 Broadway Shows

I realize I haven’t done a post on the Broadway shows I’ve seen since the start of the new year, so below are the shows I’ve seen over the past several months. I saw a variety of shows–some were musicals and some were dramas–but I enjoyed all of them, so I can’t pick a favorite but if I had to choose one musical and one drama it would be 1984 and Miss Saigon (with Sunset Boulevard a close second for best musical).

February-Beautiful The Carole King Musical

My friend Kelly invited me to see Beautiful the musical about Carole King’s life. I really enjoyed it because I grew up with my mom playing Carole King songs so they were familiar to me.  Jessie Mueller who played Carole did a fantastic job–I loved her voice. I also didn’t know King’s life story, so it was very interesting. I definitely felt for her. She was much more patient than I could ever be with her love life.

February – Sunday in the Park with George

I read an article in The New York Times or somewhere about a limited showing of Sunday in the Park with George starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Since Jakey G is Kev’s man crush, I jumped on getting tickets. It wasn’t the best show I’ve ever been to but it wasn’t bad. I didn’t realize it was a musical but I didn’t mind hearing Jake sing 😉 I was actually more interested in learning more about the French pointillist painter Georges Seurat and his famous painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Similar to Beautiful the Carole King Musical, it was interesting to get the backstory on what went on behind the scenes in someone’s work.

May – Sunset Boulevard

I saw another show with my friend Kelly in May. I was super stoked to see Sunset Boulevard starring Glenn Close because I had heard good things about it. She did not disappoint. It was a great show and I loved the plot.

June – Miss Saigon

Kev took me to see Miss Saigon in June. Miss Saigon was nominated for a 2017 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical and the main actress Eva Noblezada was nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical. I absolutely loved the show and think Noblezada has an angelic voice. The show also inspired me to get the book ‘The Sympathizer,’ by Viet Thanh Nguyen (I still have not read it but it’s on the top of my list!).

The Little Foxes

Since Kev took me to see Miss Saigon, I took him to see The Little Foxes on Broadway a few weeks later starring Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon. It was pretty good but a little too long. I think it’s cool that Linney and Nixon switch playing the opposite sister in different shows.

July – 1984

Man oh man was 1984 a shock. I had to read the book when I was in high school but I kind of forgot what it was about. It wasn’t really necessary to brush up on the plot though because the show would have been alarming regardless. I was excited that we had really good seats for this one so I could see the fake blood and facial expressions more closely. Olivia Wilde and Tom Sturridge were fantastic in it as well; I was really impressed with their performance. I don’t want to give too much away, but it was definitely one of the most shocking shows I’ve been to, partly because as everyone is saying, it feels close to home. Here is a good article NPR wrote about it.

Independence Day Weekend in Savannah

For Independence Day weekend this year, Kev and I decided to spend it in Savannah, Georgia because neither of us had ever been and we needed a destination that isn’t far from NYC and that we wouldn’t need to take any vacation days for. And boy am I happy we picked Savannah–we had so much fun!

We flew into Savannah on Friday night after work and it was only about an hour and a half plane ride. We stayed at the Brice Kimpton all four nights. I liked the hotel but I definitely thought it was going to be a smaller, more boutique hotel. It is actually a very large three story hotel and there were a ton of people. There is charm to the hotel but the doors are pretty thin so I could hear people in the halls and a dog barking in a nearby room.  And it may have been haunted, but that’s a whole other story…

On Saturday we woke up excited to explore. We had brunch at Kayak in town. I had an amazing Mediterranean salad with grilled tofu, feta and a generous serving of humus. I didn’t even need to put dressing on it. Afterwards Kev and I walked all over Savannah for a few hours. We walked up to Forsyth Park then stopped at City Market where I bought some famous Byrd’s key lime cookies and had a delicious Georgia Peach sangria while listening to some outdoor music. Then we headed back to Broughton Street where we waited in line for some famous Leopold’s ice cream. It was definitely worth the wait–the ice cream was delicious! From there we swung by the hotel to drop off the cookies and then continued down to River Street where there was a BBQ and Blues Jazz Festival. I cooled myself off with a Bud Light Georgia Peach alcoholic slushie while enjoying the live jazz band.  It was the perfect day. While we were listening to music we also watched huge container ships cruise down the river. Before heading back to the hotel, we had dinner at Vic’s on the River which was delicious and then we had an early night.

Sunday morning we woke up early and had breakfast at the restaurant attached to our hotel, Pacci. Then we hopped on one of the Savannah tour buses to hear more about the history of Savannah. We were going to walk to the Bonaventure cemetery, but it was so hot that we turned around and headed back to River Street to try to cool down. We passed another Byrd’s cookies shop and I couldn’t help myself from getting some more cookies in other flavors–Byrd’s cookies are seriously the best! Then I stopped in Wet Willies to get an alcoholic slurpee mixed with a few flavors.

Brunch at Kayak was so good the day before that I was craving the salad again, so we went back for lunch. With our bellies full, we headed back to the hotel for a little siesta. It was good timing too because it started storming with pouring rain and thunder. Once the rain slowed to a sprinkle, Kev and I ventured out again. We walked to Collins Quarter for a caffeine pick-up. We both had their signature spiced lavender mocha while listening to some live music. We had a tour scheduled for 10pm and we had some time to kill with no where in particular to go so we had fun walking around for an hour and a half before stopping for dinner. We had delicious pizza and cheesy bread at Mellow Mushroom and then headed to one of the squares to meet the tour guide. We went on Blue Orbs haunted walking tour. It was about an hour and 45 minutes and we walked all over Savannah listening to why its called the city built on its dead and why it’s one of the most haunted cities in the world.

Monday was supposed to be a half day of work, so Kev was a trooper and joined me for a few hours at a local coffee shop. Luckily, emails were slow so it was stress-free and I got a few work things done. I was starving afterward, so we went back to Mellow Mushroom where we had dinner the night before because I saw that they had vegetarian hoogies on their menu. After lunch I was feeling full and lethargic, so we walked around for a while then made our way back to Leopold’s for Round 2 of ice cream. This time I got their famous Tutti Frutti. I could literally eat Leopald’s ice cream every single day and never get sick of it, it’s so good.

After our sugar highs, we were feeling ambitious, so we rode the momentum and went back to the hotel to change for a run. It was around 6:30pm and while it was still light out, the temperature at least was a little cooler. We ran from our hotel to Forsyth Park and back which was at least three miles. About half way through our run, we saw storm clouds roll in and the sky burst open when we had about a mile left in the run. We got completely drenched running through the ran and I was scared half to death because the thunder sounded so close, but it was a fun adrenaline rush and I was  grateful that I finally felt cool.

By the time we finished showering and changing, the storm had subsided so we ventured back out to have an early dinner. We went to Jazz’d Tapas Bar per the suggestion of our airport cab drive,  but unfortunately there was no live music that day. The menu looked good though, so Kev and I stayed and shared a few tapas plates.

On Tuesday, though we were having a great time in Savannah, we were ready to head back to NYC. We packed up our things, checked out, and had an early breakfast at Rise Biscuits Donuts. I got the strawberry buttercream doughnut which was absolutely delicious, and Kev got the Lemon Blueberry Meringue Bullseye doughnut. Then we walked to Starbucks to get out of the heat and take our time enjoying a cappuccino. We did so much exploring over the previous three days, we felt okay about taking a little break, and we went to the movies to see Baby Driver.  It was a nice break, and after the movie we headed back to River Street to have lunch at Huey’s on the River. Kev and I both got the fried green tomato muffuletta which was tasty, and then of course we had to try their famous beignets with praline sauce. They were delicious and Kev said he liked them even more than Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans. After lunch we sat and listened to a little more live music before heading to the airport for our flight.

 

 

This was definitely one of my favorite U.S. trips. I fell in love with Savannah with it’s romantic, Gothic Oak trees laced with Spanish Moss and the rich history of the city. I liked the fact that there are 24 squares (Oglethorpe, you the man!) and everything is within walking distance. The city was clean, the people were very nice, and there was surprisingly many vegetarian options so Kev and I definitely did not starve. I look forward to visiting Savannah again!


Books Read (April-May 2017)

I have been reading up a storm lately so I want to share some of the books I’ve read over the past few months. I read most of these on my honeymoon when I got into a reading groove and my reading voraciousness has stayed with me since we’ve returned.

These are in order of my top favs:


I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

I loved this novel because it wasn’t like anything else I’ve read. It was suspenseful and had an unexpected ending which left me contemplating the ending afterwards. I also loved the speed of the novel–it was slow going mirroring the long drive to Jake’s parents’s home and then it speeds up and crashes to the end. I wanted to make sure I understood the ending correctly so I did a little research. Here’s a good interview the NPR had with Reid; I like how he leaves many things up to the reader’s interpretation.


The Circle by Dave Eggers

Another eerie novel in a less blatant way than I’m Thinking of Ending Things but more frightening considering how close we actually are from what happens in the novel with today’s advanced technology. I saw the movie with Emma Watson and Tom Hanks after I read the book and the book is 1000000 times better. I definitely recommend reading this.


Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

This novel is frustrating because I wanted the main character, Ingrid, who seemed like a smart young woman to leave her shitty, cheating husband. It was pretty heartbreaking. I liked Fuller’s style of writing and how the story was told oscillating from the present day with Ingrid’s family attempting to deal with her disappearance and the past through letter that Ingrid wrote to her husband and hid for him to find after she was gone. It was sweet revenge she played on him.


All Grown Up by  Jami Attenberg

This was a quick read and I was really into it. I was able to read it in two weeks during my commute to and fro work. It touched on so much–being single, hating work, drinking too much, living in a tiny apartment and struggling, family, growing up–and perhaps I can relate to it more since I live and work in the city.


Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson

Perfect Little World is Kevin Wilson’s debut novel. It wasn’t my favorite novel but it was interesting and overall I enjoyed it. Here’s a good review on NPR.


Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee

Queen of the Night wasn’t exactly what I was expecting when I first bought it but it was interesting enough nonetheless. It takes place in Paris 1982 which was the challenge because it was a different time and style of writing. It brought me back to my literature courses in college as an English major. Chee did a great job describing the scenes as well as the elaborate dresses of those times.


Broken trilogy by L.A. Weatherly

I read two of the books in the Broken trilogy, Broken Sky and Darkness Follows while on my honeymoon. I picked them up at an airport in Borneo for some light reading. They entertained me but not enough to need to buy the third book once I got back to the States. The young adult series takes place in a dystopian 1940s America and is about girl who is a pilot, a “Peacefighter” for America, that uncovers fixed fights and another country’s leader intent to start a war and take control of other territories.


You Don’t Look Your Age by Sheila Nevins

One of my colleagues went to a NY Times Talk and Sheila Nevins, President of HBO Documentary Films,  was one of the panelists. I was interested in learning more about her so when I found out she has a book I figured it would be the best way to start. The book featured a bunch of short stories/essays and a scatter of poetry. Some of the essays were interesting but it wasn’t quite what I had been expecting.


The Chemist by Stephanie Meyer

This was another fun, easy read that me and Kevin picked up at an airport in Asia. He read it first and then I read it because I had nothing else to read. It was what I expected of a Stephanie Meyer novel. It was interesting enough to get me to finish it but the plot was pretty predictable. I would pass on this one unless you love her other books and have nothing else to read.

Honeymoon Part III: Fiji

After being really active hiking and traveling all over Boreno and then diving nonstop for about a week in Indonesia, Kev and I were looking forward to relaxing on the last leg of our honeymoon in Fiji. The first night we stayed at the Westin Denarau Island Resort & Spa. We got there in the late afternoon so we weren’t able to hang in the pool, but we had a nice late lunch overlooking the ocean and then I went to the spa for a body scrub and manicure.

The next day we hopped on another plane to another Fijian Island, Savusavu to our final resort of the trip, Koro Sun. I chose Koro Sun because they were one of the few resorts in Indonesia and Malaysia that advertised an underwater ceremony.  The ceremony ended up being perfect. Our boat was decorated with a beautiful assortment of flowers and they made me a bouquet that probably would have cost hundreds of dollars in the US. I was obsessed with it, I didn’t even want to put it down it was so pretty. After a 20-30 minute boat ride, we got to a nice shallow area where we anchored down and jumped in with the minister. The ceremony was super quick with just a few laminated cards worth of writing and we got some fun pictures. Back on the boat we popped some champagne and enjoyed the cruise back to the marina.

Other than the ceremony we didn’t have anything else planned, but after lounging around for one day we were already a little bored, so the next day we went on another dive. It was supposed to be a morning trip–we left at 9:30am and they said we would be back by 3pm–but we didn’t end up getting back to the resort until around 5:30pm. I didn’t mind though because we didn’t have anything else planned. The water was pretty choppy that day which was partly why it took a bit longer to get to the dive sites. We went on two dives that afternoon where we saw more pretty coral and fish, and what was even more exciting–sharks! There were large pools of tuna and other fish and a few sharks circling around that were about my size. I knew they wouldn’t attack me, so I stayed calm and got some great pictures of them up close.  We also saw a pod of sperm whale while on the boat. They were huge yet so gentle and beautiful. It was really special seeing them.

Other than that, Kev and I just read and hung out by the pool and walked to the spa for massage a few times. While Fiji was nice, we were ready to head home by the end. Overall, we had an absolute blast on our honeymoon. It was a trip of a lifetime and we will never forget it.  I’m excited to continue spending my life with Kevin as the new Mrs. Weatherman!

Here is a link to all of the Fiji photos.

Honeymoon Part II: Wakatobi, Indonesia

My fav little fish I became obsessed with, the Orbicular Burrfish, whose eyes look like opals.

After an amazing time in Boreno, we flew to Bali for one day, two nights, before our flight to Wakatobi to board our dive yacht. Here is a link to all of the Indonesia photos.

In Bali we stayed at the Fairmont Sanur Beach Bali. Our room was spectacular. It was literally larger than our apartment with a huge room that served as a dining room with a flat screen TV (though of course we didn’t waste precious time in Bali watching TV) and a seated bench along the whole side of the far wall overlooking the resort and beach. The bathroom was also huge with a giant bathtub, a stream shower, and even a separate room with a massage table.  We arrived to the hotel fairly late in the evening, so we didn’t have time to enjoy the amenities that day, but the following day we woke up around 5:30am with the sunrise, ordered in breakfast at our large dining room with the spectacular view, and then spent the entire day reading and swimming in the pool. That evening I got to enjoy the bathtub I admired since I got there. Kev even ordered me champagne while I read and soaked in the tub (woot woot!).

The next morning we left early to catch our flight to Wakatobi, a luxury dive resort in southeastern Sulawesi, Indonesia. As their site describes, “In a tranquil island setting far from crowds and cities, with no other divers for at least 100 miles, Wakatobi seamlessly blends five-star amenities and civilized comforts with a pristine natural environment; a pairing that has secured its reputation as one of the world’s finest resorts.” Since Kev and I are certified Advanced Open Water scuba divers, we chose to stay aboard the luxury dive yacht Pelagian. Although it was a bit exhausting I’m so glad that we chose to stay on the dive yacht where we had exclusive diving access to remote and untouched sites. Additionally, the yacht itself was really nice. The Pelagian is almost 60 years old, but was recently re-done. She is 115 feet with only luxury cabins for the guests. Up to ten guests can stay on the Pelagian accompanied by a crew of 12. On our trip, Kev and I only shared the yacht with a family of four from Australia. Lucky for us, they were super cool and we all got along great which is important especially when you’re all with each other for the majority of the day between all the dives and meals for several days straight.

The next several days were a blur of dives. Kevin normally goes through his air pretty quickly, so he wanted to become Nitrox certified which of course I got sucked into doing with him as well so he didn’t have to take the course by himself, but it ended up being the best decision. Diving with enriched air allows you to dive for a longer period of time and do more repetitive dives with shorter surface intervals due to the higher blend of oxygen (30%-33% oxygen as opposed to 21% in normal air). There was so much to see on our dives that we were both so grateful for the extra time we got to spend down there.

We did four dives a day for five full days and overall we completed 23 dives over six days. Normally our dives are about 20-30 minutes, but the Nitrox allowed us to dive for 60 minutes at a time, so all in all, we spent almost a full day underwater.  I also celebrated my 29th birthday on the yacht–not a bad way to ring in another fun year of life!

Kev and I have done quite a few dives at this point and Wakatobi was definitely up there as one of the best. My only complaint was the trash floating in the ocean on some of the dives closer to villages. The local people of some of the villages just throw their trash in the ocean and don’t understand the impact.

Some of my highlights of the dives were seeing the orbicular burrfish, pufferfish, cuttlefish, clown fish, mandarin fish that we only saw in one particular area at dusk when they came out to spawn, an octopus, large tuna,  shrimp, and a pod dolphins that swam along the tender of our boat on our way back to the ship from a late afternoon dive.

Honeymoon Part I: Borneo

After getting married at the courthouse, Kevin and I embarked on three and a half week honeymoon adventure with the first destination being a National Geographic Expedition in Borneo. But first, we had a long way to get there. Our flight left on Wednesday, April 5, at 1:45am to Hong Kong and after a short layover we continued on to Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia.

Below is a copy of our Nat Geo Expedition itinerary with some of the highlights and here is a link to all of the Borneo photos that we took and that our guide took throughout the trip:

Day 1 — Arrive Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

We arrived in Sabah’s capital city, Kota Kinabalu—known locally as KK (also very apropos for us Kayla and Kevin newlyweds)—on the northwestern coast of Malaysian Borneo. We stayed at Hyatt Regency Kota Kinabalu in the heart of the city and met our guide for the trip, a native of Borneo, Bedley. We didn’t have much of an agenda on our day of arrival but Kev and I ventured out to a local Chinese spot for some authentic rice noodles in spicy coconut broth with tofu. I also had calamansi juice for the first time. For dinner Bedley took us to another local vegetarian spot for a four course meal.

Day 2 — Arrive Gunung Mulu National Park

The next morning we caught a flight to Gunung Mulu National Park, home to an astonishing network of underground caves set amid jungle-clad mountains, deep canyons, and rivers. “Named a UNESCO World Heritage site for its biodiversity and karst features, the park is dominated by the peaks of Gunung Mulu and Gunung Api.” We walked through one of the largest-known cave passages in the world to explore the enormous Deer Cave and ventured into nearby caves adorned with unusual subterranean flora and limestone formations. At dusk we sat in a viewing area to watch the spectacle of over a million bats exiting the cave in swirling black clouds that kind of looked like giant black strands of DNA.

It was dark and rainy on the walk back but luckily we had headlamps and ponchos/rain jackets and we still spotted critters on the way back including a spiderhunter, an oriental dwarf kingfisher, and two giant walking sticks.

In Mulu we stayed at the Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa which is a super nice resort especially when you consider that you’re literally in the jungle. Our room there was super nice.

Day 3 — Gunung Mulu National Park

We returned to the park the next morning to explore Clearwater Cave and the Cave of the Winds. Instead of walking on a boardwalk in the national park though we hopped on long, thin river boats and cruised down the river to our destination. The Cave of the Winds was given its name based on the fact that there are three openings and you can feel the draft of the wind in certain places. My favorite was Clearwater Cave though because it is amazingly huge. The whole time I couldn’t stop thinking how amazing that it is a natural formation. It kind of felt like Dracula’s cave if Dracula lived in a mansion.

Later, we visited  a village of the forest-dwelling Penan people—one of the last surviving hunter-gatherer tribes in Malaysia. We learned about the Penan’s ancient way of life, which is under threat from commercial logging and deforestation.

Days 4 & 5 — Sandakan/Sepilok/Kinabatangan River

Sunday was our last morning in Mulu before continuing on our Nat Geo expedition in Boreno. Although we didn’t have a morning activity scheduled, we convinced Bedley to take us out for a morning hike. We went back to the Mulu National Park entrance and walked the Botanical trail for two hours.

After lunch we flew to the city of Sandakan on Borneo’s eastern coast for the night and the next morning we headed to the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve. First we took a behind-the-scenes tour of the nearby Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center and saw the cute little sun bears being released to forage in designated areas. We had a pretty good view, especially with our binoculars. After we visited the orangutan rehabilitation center where orangutans rescued from captivity are reintroduced to the wild. That was also amazing and we got really close to a few of them. They are quite cheeky. Kev even got some footage of a man almost getting pantsed by a large orangutan.

After the conservation center and rehabilitation center we boarded a local boat for a two-hour ride along the Kinabatangan River to our next lodge. We stayed at Sukau Rainforest Lodge, a National Geographic Unique Lodge built by native Borneans to celebrate—and help protect—the riverine rain forest and the communities that depend upon it. At dusk we hoped on an electric-motored boat to look for orangutans, pygmy elephants, and proboscis monkeys and boy were we lucky–we saw all of them! It was literally a dream come true to see a whole herd of pygmy elephants by the edge of the river eating bamboo. We got like twenty feet away, it was so incredible.

Day 6 — Kinabatangan River

We woke up early the next morning for a wildlife sun set cruise where we spotted more proboscis monkeys (the Dutch man looking money with no pantaloones) and long-tailed and pig-tailed macaques. Then we went to Gomantong Caves, home to thousands of bats and swiftlets. It was interesting but the smell of bat/bird dung was a bit overpowering and I was kind of terrified of the millions of cockroaches and giant centipedes scurrying around. eeek!

That afternoon we had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with the lodge’s in-house orangutan expert which was really informative; I love what the eco lodge is doing in terms of education and preservation. At dusk we embarked on another river safari to search for monkeys, owls, and crocodiles. We got the see the pygmy elephants again, a baby crocodile, and a buffy fish owl (with one eye! Bedley said another animal likely spit poison in it’s other eye when the owl was trying to catch it).

Days 7 & 8 — Danum Valley Conservation Area

After Sukau Rainforest, we traveled (plane then car) to the valley of the Danum River, known for its 169 square miles of virtually undisturbed primary rain forest—which offers exceptional wildlife viewing. Bird life is equally diverse, with some 275 recorded species. We stayed at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge which was really nice.

We went on a canopy bridge walk in the late afternoon which was a lot of fun and prepped us for the next day (we also learned that Kevin is kind of afraid of heights tehe).

Day 9 — Danum Valley Conservation Area

The next morning we went on a somewhat strenuous hike but the view was rewarding. On the way our guide also shared that as a punishment, long ago felons used to have to carry wooden tombs of the dead up the mountain and stacked in holes within the limestone. It was super humid and we were sweating profusely, so we stopped on the way down by a waterfall to splash around in a rock-sculpted pool.

That afternoon we went on the canopy bridge for another walk. We were super fortunate to spot a male orangutan climbing high in the trees to a nearby female and we also come across a group of red leaf langurs which are my new fav primates. On the way back from our hike, Bedley and Borneo Rainforest Lodge had a nice surprise for us. We had a romantic snack of fruit and dessert and beer overlooking the river.

We ended the day with an evening hike where we saw a deer, snakes, and a bunch of frogs.

Day 10, April 15 — Kota Kinabalu/Depart

We woke up super early the next morning to see the sun rise over Danum Valley which was a really nice way to end our trip. After a light breakfast we caught a flight back to Kota Kinabalu for the night before catching another flight to continue on to Bali.

Borneo is a beautiful country and being able to go with National Geographic Expeditions was super special. I feel so lucky that we saw almost all of the critters I was hoping to see during the trip including the pygmy elephants, sun bears, proboscis monkeys, and red leaf langurs. The rainforest lodges we stayed at were also all really nice and I felt at peace being out in the wilderness. Lastly, I love the itinerary Nat Geo put together and I’m glad we had an amazing guide that we enjoyed spending an entire week with. I would love to go back to Borneo someday and I definitely plan on going on another trip with National Geographic.

 Also, here is a link if you’re interested in adopting an orangutan and supporting the effort to sustain the endangered species.

Wedding and Honeymoon

On Tuesday April 4, 2017 I married my best friend and boyfriend of six years. I didn’t want a wedding and I wanted to keep things as simple as possible, so we went to the courthouse. Since I am my parent’s only daughter, they really wanted to be there as well, so they flew in the weekend prior.

I was so pleased that everything turned out the way I wanted and it was a stress-free weekend. On Tuesday morning GlamSquad came over to do my hair and makeup and makeup for my mom. After that I threw on my dress and we hopped in an Uber to the courthouse. You can’t make reservations at the courthouse so I was nervous about how long it would take, but luckily with it being a Tuesday, the wait was not long and we were in and out in about two hours. It gave us time to go back to the apartment to have lunch and relax a bit before pictures.
 
I also wasn’t going to do the whole wedding dress thing either, I was going to just get a designer dress that I could wear again but then my friends made valid points that it was my one time to wear a white wedding dress and that the reality is, even if I bought a nice designer dress for the courthouse and pictures, I wouldn’t likely wear it again so I might as well do the wedding dress that we can only wear once. Kev ended up getting a tux too 🙂
We even got a cake 🙂
So anyway, I wore a White by Vera Wang wedding dress and we hired an awesome photographer, Jesse Pafundi, that I found through Instagram to take our photos. I chose the photographer because he does a good job of capturing the surroundings just as much as photographing the couple in a beautiful way. We had him for two hours and we started in SoHo/NoHo for some photos by our favorite street art and then we took a cab to the Highline. We lucked out at the Highline; usually it’s pretty crowded but since it was an overcast day there was hardly anyone there. We also lucked out that though overcast, it didn’t actually rain on us.
 
After pictures, we headed back to the apartment and ordered in pizza while Kev and I finished packing. Then before we knew it, it was time to head to the airport to catch our flight for our honeymoon advernture. The day was a whirlwind but it was perfect and exactly what I wanted.
Since I didn’t want to do the whole wedding thing, Kev and I planned an epic honeymoon. We were gone from April 5th through April 30th and went all over Southeast Asia. Below is a quick recap:
My new fav critter in Boreno, the red leaf monkey. Look at that face!
BORNEO – We started the trip with National Geographic Expeditions in Borneo and stayed in three different rainforest eco lodges and saw a ton of amazing animals in the jungle.
The largest bathtub ever at the Fairmont in Bali
BALI – After several days in Borneo, we flew to Bali where we stayed at the most amazing resort for two nights, the Fairmont Sanur Beach Bali. I have stayed at some really nice hotels before, but nothing as grand as the Fairmont in Bali. I definitely could have stayed there a few more days.
Mandarin fish that we were lucky enough to see at dusk when they come out to spawn
WAKATOBI, INDONESIA — From Bali we made our way to Wakatobi Dive Resort in Wakatobi National Park which is a marine national park in Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia. The name of Wakatobi is a portmanteau of the four main Tukangbesi Islands: Wangi-wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia, and Binongko. We stayed on a live aboard dive yacht and did 23 dives over six days. We became Nitrox certified on the trip and collectively spent almost a full day under water!

FIJI — After land and sea adventures, we headed to Fiji to relax for a few days before heading back home to the US. We stayed at Koro Sun resort who hooked us up with a beautiful underwater ceremony.
Our honeymoon was amazing and it was truly a trip of a lifetime. While being gone for almost a month was a long time, it went by fast and I would do it all over again and again if I could. If anything, it just fed my desire to explore and see more of the world. Kev and I are already planning our next big trip.