Washington State stories and recommendations | travel

Washington State stories and recommendations | travel

It’s getting colder nowadays. The sun sets earlier and the morning darkness creates the perfectly imperfect atmosphere to stay in bed. But we can’t and life goes on to another day of being (or an attempt at being) a productive human being. That was a lot of “beings.” But I long for summer, as I knew I would when I thought this months ago when I was taking the warmer weather for granted. So here, I look back on the places I’ve seen this summer at Washington State. A lot of things stand out to me: the way Seattle streets have slopes that are so deep you find yourself walking up city mountains, the natural beauty and awe of Mount Rainier, how architecturally focused the city buildings and street layouts are and experiencing some crazy driving on the highway. Make sure to hover over the photographs if you want to see some caption notes.


Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier National Park
Waterfalls at Mount Rainier

When are we ever going to see another purple mountain?” he asked as we looked at the view. Mount Rainier reminds me of the person who always looks great in any situation. You look up and there this strong energy of beauty.

Advice: Go early. Finding parking and sitting in traffic coming in can be annoying, so be prepared! Also, the two-storey visitor center was full of small informational exhibits and comfortable seating to rest. They also have a mini food court and gift shop on-site.

The Wing Luke Museum of Asian Pacific American Experience

This was easily one of our favorite places in the whole trip. To visit Uncle Jimmy’s (James Malcolm Mar) store and hear/read the stories of the pan-Asian Pacific American immigrants and refugees was a very surreal experience for me. I felt like I could stay for hours. I wanted to absorb their words. I wanted to value their experiences. The architecture of the building itself and well-detailed exhibits are worth taking the time and walking through each area. There is so much history I learned from this trip that I never learned from school.

Advice: Take one of their tours. The gallery attendants know their stuff and they are very nice. There is also a gift store if you wanted something to remember the trip by. Also, ask the attendants some food recommendations in Chinatown area as we did and we found a gem because of it!

Touristy Must-Sees

Space Needle

As having been to an observatory before, I wasn’t so ecstatic to visit the Space Needle. It just seemed like something touristy to do and a local store owner had told me it wasn’t worth the money. We arrived early and there weren’t that many people there yet. Seeing the view and taking in the fresh air made it was worth it for me (as a tourist). I ended up being the one who didn’t want to leave and to stay as long as I could. Standing on the platform, being 520 feet from the ground, seeing all the landmarks like Mount Rainier, the art sculptures of Olympic Sculpture Park and seeing how much life there is all at the same time is kind of calming, yet exciting. Maybe I was feeling a little sentimental because it was our last day.

Advice: There are multiple electronic ticket booths outside and depending on the time of day, the prices will change. We went in the morning, so I think it was cheaper because of that. Also, if you’re driving there, there are some parking areas down the street. I’d do some research because we later learned some areas were cheaper than others.

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market

With loads of stores to visit, food to eat, the very first Starbucks–it’s a pretty popular place. Truthfully, we didn’t care about the Starbucks thing, but we did see a long line, so a lot of other people did. I appreciate and love the variety of stores, craft vendors and farmer’s market goodies. For those heading over there, I dare you to find the Bob Ross and Daryl Dixon (cardboard cut outs).

International Fountain

International Fountain

Music blaring, children laughing and running around and everyone else relaxing and sitting nearby. It’s easy to “waste” time here since the fountain show is so fun to watch. If it was a hotter day, you bet I’d run around there looking silly.

Seattle Monorail

Seattle Monorail

It’s a quick and cheap ride to see the city in a whole new perspective. It reminds me of the monorail ride at Seuss Landing at Universal Studios. There was a family of adult tourists that came on and they were funny. They apparently didn’t know what ride this was, thought it had multiple stops and couldn’t originate which one of them suggested to go.


After our visit to the Wing Luke Museum, we decided to explore Chinatown a bit. We ate some delicious Taiwanese food, played some chess with life-size pieces and walked all around. The sloped streets under the hot sun definitely made it a workout!

Nature’s gems

Hover over the photograph to see the  name of the place.

Narada Falls



Snoqualmie Falls Park
Reflection Lakes

Special Mention

Seattle Japanese Garden

Seattle Japanese Garden

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Ahhhh I love this place so much. We ended up purchasing some koi food at the entrance booth and it ended up being a lot of fun. The stillness and calmness of the environment allowed us to take our time. Quiet like a library, this experience called for some sit down and walk through time to admire the details and architecture of the environment. Whenever I tried to feed the koi, a quick duck would turn up and steal their food. It kinda turned into a game of throwing the food at the right time.

If you want to see more Washington State-ish posts, I linked some below :) I’m also going to publish a post about food for this trip in the future. For all those foodies out there, beware, there are some pretty good drool-worthy photographs on the way.

Another photo of Mount Rainier in the things I’ll never see.
An artsy photograph from in the space needle.
Narada Falls inspired a poem I wrote called waterfalls. I also posted more photographs of Narada Falls in the post, too.

the things I’ll never see

the things I’ll never see

Mount Rainier at Reflection Lakes

Mount Rainier at Reflection Lakes, one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen

I went to a poetry festival a few years ago. There was one poet who stood out for me, but I unfortunately don’t remember her name. She read her poem aloud. After sitting through and hearing from other poets read their pieces, I admittedly felt kind of lost because I couldn’t understand what they were saying entirely. I know that this may be the case with some of my poetry pieces here and that’s okay. We all interpret things differently. But with her poem, I knew what she was saying. She talked about how she found value in writing poetry as a way for her to preserve history. She would reference animals of current day because someday they may not be current anymore. I didn’t value what she had said then, but I certainly do now.

This was years ago and it was relevant then as it is now. It’s safe to say that there are so many beautiful things in this world that I’ll never see. Safe to say and sad to say. After reading their post about Glacier National Park, Jennifer and Vivian reminded me of this poet. The value of her words and what they mean. Our world is disappearing piece by piece. There are things that my future children and their children will never ever get to see in person. And for causes that could have been preventable. It breaks my heart to realize this.

Our time in Glacier National Park was an unforgettable one. Beautiful as it was, we couldn’t help but question how it was possible a park that used to boast a large number of 150 glaciers now only have 25 active glaciers remaining –– which are said to disappear within 10 years. Can you believe that? In 10 years our future generations will no longer be able to see what we saw or enjoy what we enjoyed. In 10 years we won’t see the park as it was, ever again. Climate change is real. It’s happening in our lifetime and Glacier National Park is proof of that. – tinycaravan, To Explore: Glacier National Park

I so appreciate and value what we do have. It makes me savor the photographs and memories of the national parks I have seen (I feel so lucky to have the resources to do so) and to make a list of ones I want to visit that are still here; to preserve them through words and in life, to share them and shower them with love and attention.

Quick links from the National Park Service

Donate | Artist-in-Residence programs | Volunteer | Get an annual pass (4th graders can get for free)

oahu, hawaii

oahu, hawaii


This trip is special to me personally, but also in a big picture way; it opened up my eyes to a whole new way of being. It’s been so long since I’ve been on an airplane and that in itself was a journey, a good journey. Despite some scary turbulence, sleep deprivation, undesirable options for food selection, I felt that I got a lot out of it. It was fun and actually refreshing. It kept me on my toes.

It’s hard to describe every little thing I felt, experienced and saw in this beautiful part of the state, but here it goes. I’ve been posting some poems and photographs recently here on this blog:

bánh mì & fried chicken & chinatown oahu, hawaii memories
Hawaiian love
the feelings

I also made a calm film:

Below are some highlights, tips and recommendations:



The beaches are so soul-fulfilling. My heart could drink up so much more of these early mornings of peace and tranquility. By the day it’ll be crowded, but that has its own energy in itself.


Tantalus Lookout at night. As suggested by a friendly local, this was such a view in person. There were a few of us here in the darkness trying to capture the beauty we saw. It just isn’t like the photograph, it’s better.


Can’t go wrong with the Honolulu Zoo since it’s so close to everything else. The animals living in there are so beautiful. The peacocks walk freely among the visitors.


Hiking at Diamond Head gives amazing views. There is a lot of walking for sure. I love it. There is one semi-scary part in which you have to walk up a ton of steps and then walk into a dark tunnel. Other than that, it was extraordinary! There is a “perfect” view at each level you walk up to.


Manoa Falls hike is, so far, my most favorite hike. The ultimate view that visitors come for is the waterfall. It isn’t the biggest, of course, but it is magical as all waterfalls are. Be aware, your shoes will get muddy!


Their flowers and plant life in general are exquisite! I couldn’t get enough of seeing all the colors in a natural setting and especially if you live in the city, it’ll be refreshing to see more green while driving/walking.

-Go early for hikes. The later in the day you wait, the more crowded it is to catch good views and more rushed you feel to move along as some people move at a faster pace.
-If you decide to rent a car, be careful when driving and aware of the cars ahead of you. I noticed that drivers tend to signal and make turns quickly, so be cautious.
-Time your outings because being stuck in traffic can be a bummer and some restaurants/attractions have special hours.
-Be mindful of parking and have some cash ready as some hiking/attraction areas will charge. They aren’t too expensive though.
-If you prefer a less crowded time at the beach, go in the early morning. You’ll still see some avid swimmers and surfers, but it’ll be really relaxing and quieter and the photography is amazing (but really, that’s true at any time of day.)

Food recommendations:

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Poke at Foodlands is delicious with lots of variety.
Musubi (with a choice of chicken, spam or hot dog) at Foodlands and Musubi Cafe.
-Mango shave ice at Island Vintage
-Custard or plain malasadas at Leonard’s Bakery
-Of course, the traditional foods: poi, laulau, kalua pork, and haupia. One day, I hope to try the loco moco.

Has anyone gone to this island or the others? Do you have fun stories, advice or food/hiking suggestions? I’d love to learn more.

bánh mì & fried chicken & chinatown oahu, hawaii memories

bánh mì & fried chicken & chinatown oahu, hawaii memories

music: m83 – un nouveau soleil

currently feeling a bit uninspired, but i miss writing here so much. if you’re in this mood, i think listening to good music and seeing delicious food photographs can somehow fix this. i’m not positive, but it’s kinda working for me a little (hey, i’m here, right?) looking through my hawaii photographs, i remember this tasty bánh mì i had at this restaurant called the pig & the lady. i don’t know where the name came from, but it sticks with you, right? when we decided to eat here, we knew we had to cater to the hours it was open. after circling the streets of chinatown a couple of times….


the chinatown isn’t as large/complex as others i’ve been to. to be fair though, i didn’t explore it as much as i had wanted to, so maybe there were things i should’ve made a point to see.


a farmer’s market of sorts, i assume. open markets welcoming people on this semi-sunny day. it was humid.


we found a spot and walked on by. check out the cute little things at the waiting bar area. whimsical and cute.

some of the most delicious food i’ve ever eaten… no exaggeration.


Laotian fried chicken


obligatory shot – bánh mì and pho


just in case you wanted to see it in this angle. we dipped the sandwich in the soup and it was phenomenal. messy, but who cares?

some walking around the area and into markets. it reminded me of walking through the markets of taiwan a little. taiwan has much more and a lot more people, but the raw, honesty vibe of what selling and buying is was there.


for some reason, we noticed more than a couple of police cars around. i hope everything was okay.


can’t say how excited we were to see a cat. it was so cute. the first and only cat i saw in oahu hawaii.



They searched for clarity,
From square windows in the sky.
Tipping a glass jar of pennies
Scoring enough to pay the fare.
Seeing rain drops fall upon elephant leaves
Collecting puddles on the floor
As newborn kittens happily drink.
Flowers bloom and birds chirp songs,
Explorers seek their hearts in the tree house
With a bamboo bed and door of beads
As it swings and clicks
Whenever anything crosses by.



There is something so sacred about traveling. Whether I go with people and especially on my own, I can always find this space and time in which I get so immersed in the beauty of being in transit. Being moved physically to another place opens all these new perspectives in my mind. Sometimes I can just feel how “right” and true everything is for me. Waiting at the airport, sitting in the airplane, watching the sunset gives me this necessary reminder to be one with myself. Practicing patience, calming nerves and focused observation teaches me so much about what it means to be human. We are all in this together. In transit, waiting, loving, working, and being; we are all in this together.

Traveling somehow breaks the boundaries of what normal is. People talk more with each other and they are more kind; they can be vulnerable because we are in a lot of ways. When we are in routine, it’s so easy to be stuck in our own minds, in our own cars, in our own cubicle; continuing the patterns of whatever thoughts cycle in and out. But when stationed in unfamiliar lands and going on adventures, the routine is on pause, a halt or an end. We can gain a new viewpoint. A few people came and talked with me at random about their lives throughout my journey and it was so heartwarming and surprising. I was grateful for their trust and their stories. I saw busy parents walking with their spirited babies embracing a whole new life experience. I shared smiles and laughs with strangers.

And I don’t want to exclude acts of kindness as well. Long ago, when I traveled alone, I remember the hospitality I received from people I call my friends now. Without knowing me at all, they taught me so many things about their country and open the doors to their homes and lives and showed me kindness I’ve never felt or seen before. I remember feeling so much gratitude and fortune and inclusion to be there at that time in my life. Similarly, on this trip to Hawaii, there were kind beings who gave me their walking stick for a long hike and a swimming raft without hesitation and with complete selflessness. These gestures lifted me up. I felt so honored  and continued their paying forward. It felt natural to exist and to give than it was to receive.

Although traveling can mean going somewhere new or going home or commuting, there is this sense of coming back to what matters. It makes you think about your life as an observer sometimes and maybe a new appreciation of what is and what will be.

Hawaiian love

Hawaiian love

Sun shines bright on every single living being,
Overlooking shade in the rainforests
As lovers walk on the uneven roots of your trees
And paths created by waters rushing in floods.
The waterfall cleansed my soul as it did my lungs.


Moved my heart in an unfamiliar way,
Freely allowing me to breathe, explore and evolve.
The long journey to the safety of your arms,
Worth the wait for the embrace you gave.



In harmony, animals and plants create this symphony
That they can only play, as peacocks walk by,
Butterflies flutter on, giraffes stand tall
And flowers burst in color in nature’s way.


You are giving to all who come and give as they give.
Ease of views to those who want,
But also challenges to those who seek more.
There is a peace here unlike any other.
A meaningful experience created by the explorer,
If they are willing to embrace the Hawaiian love.


something like that

something like that

i found this poem i wrote in a small notepad i sometimes carry with me. maybe this was written when i was on the train

the humidity is inescapable
the love affair is strong
wandering on connected roads
eating fresh fruit off trees.
and learning about my life.
absorbing every bit of difference
as sweat on my skin appear after my walk

the portfolio - in progress

It’s been a while since I thought about how it was to be there. Time goes by and I don’t really think actively about being away from home for that long. But this morning, after I peed, I came back to bed. It was light out a little but my room was still sort of dark.   After I closed my eyes, I could hear the noises outside.  The birds chirping, the wind blowing and a faraway wind chime chiming away.   I felt like I was in Taiwan again.  I had left my window opened last night and the cool breezes from outside made it all so calm.  When I was away, I always had this background feeling of something unfamiliar, but comfortable.  Where I could lay in bed and feel really relaxed, but having no attachment to the things around me; only feeling connected to the sounds and…

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portland, maine

portland, maine


people seemed really laid back, calm and peaceful here. they kinda do their own thing and let others do their own thing, too. they’re not mean or overly friendly; a good in-between. it reminds me of the vibe of albany new york with harvard square massachusetts with local small businesses and lots of good food and every place being walkable.

check out some nice architecture, casco bay, too many photos of buildings and cute seating:

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let’s talk about food! when i was doing some research before visiting, i could already sense that it wasn’t going to be one of those trips in which i hike or window shop. it’s an eating trip. if you’re a foodie, then you should think about coming here (do some online research and drool over some food pics). i’d also suggest selecting the places you want to go because we just sort of winged it regarding time, so now i want to go back and try more restaurants and different foods :) i didn’t take photos of everything we ate, but here are a few (restaurants pics from top to bottom: the holy donut, fuji restaurant, otto & ramen suzukiya)

mmm…i tried the sweet potato ginger glaze & maple bacon, the holy donut
loved my pizza with mashed potatoes, bacon and scallion!, otto

my favorite regarding vibe was at ramen suzukiya. the owner is so nice and the whole aesthetics of the restaurant was very clean, smooth and simple. overall, the food of portland is simply fresh and delicious. some more highlights from my trip are:

the art gallery at maine college of art (meca). we got to check out their mfa thesis exhibition 2016

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the local businesses like:

electric buddhas

the owner is super knowledgeable and had lots of cool stuff displayed and not to mention all the cool records, video game gear and vintage tees to browse.

portland flea-for-all

if you’re like me and you like browsing & thrifted/vintage stuff, then this is a really cool place to check out, too. really eclectic stuff and just a nice place to get lost in and feel inspired by.

and here’s me trying to take some artsy, raw photographs:

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if you liked this travel post, feel free to check my photographs from albany ny, a poem video and some photographs of vermont, and snapshots of taiwan.

facing fear

facing fear

looking up and seeing what’s up

Among all the emotions we are capable of feeling, fear is an interesting one that I have found to be both at times very discouraging, but also very empowering. I believe that the fear comes from a place of good intentions. It makes us vulnerable and honest with ourselves.

going down the steps from Government Center

We fear because in a way, we are protecting and preparing ourselves for unfamiliar situations and/or unknown outcomes. I don’t think we have to face all our fears, but I think it’s good to challenge ourselves and push out of our comfort levels sometimes. We are human and we are all different; invincibility all the time is unrealistic.

loved the dimensions the different buildings give

And not all fears are easy to face.

a big flower shop is no longer in business now, i wonder if it’ll be torn down or built into another business?

To me, my main focus is happiness because that gives me the ultimate joy to feel gratitude, fulfillment and meaning. Determination to your goal (whether it is to be happy, strong, or independent) scares fear away (or at least enough to go for it and face it!)

makes me think we’re back in time with the fading of this photograph

Fear forces us to explore other options to feel less scared and hopefully, allows us to find courage to overcome it. Exploring in unknown lands, traveling by yourself, getting lost, job interviews, getting surgery, public speaking, heights, failure, relationships–whatever it may be, the more we explore, gain experiences and knowledge, the more informed we are.

so many windows!

Maybe this new knowledge opens up a whole new perspective on what you fear. If you look closely, you’ll see that there are layers and layers of details of the bigger picture.

reflections and details

There are so many angles to see fear. Why now? Why this? How long? Which way? Maybe you try to understand your fear by writing about it, researching it online, practicing a skill or talking with friends and family. Maybe you resolve it through meditation or going for a run.

the breeze felt nice on this bridge, feels good looking ahead

…And when you pass through the doorway to safety and getting over the fear, you wonder why you were so scared. You see that all the scary parts seem miles away. When seen up close, the scary big monster of fear was actually just this thing that everyone else has or will go through and it all makes sense now.

there were food trucks here that day, too bad this isn’t in color, the mural is very much so colorful…see here
taking in the view


…that you are not alone. You never were. Through these experiences, we are built stronger than before.

it’s crazy to be reminded how much work goes…
…into the creation of buildings.


these photographs were taken around the Boston city within walking distance. i was testing out my new film camera (found at a thrift store! ) surprisingly, i used colored film, but it developed into black and white. it’s lucky because black and white film is more expensive anyway. i love the texture of the photographs. the dates are completely wrong, too. taken 2016 not 1994. i thought this impromptu trip around the city (and seeing it in various locations) complemented well with the topic of navigating our varying perspectives of fears and their depths. think about this, when was the last time you faced your fears and your life changed for the better because of it?

snapshots of Taiwan

snapshots of Taiwan

Taken in 2008, scanned. I don’t develop many photographs I take, but i found these in an album. maybe in the future i can dig up more photographs. Enjoy.

july 28, 2008- a view i wanted to remember. it was hot and humid. hiking in the mountains, feeling connected to the earth and sleeping with windows open..had some of the best sleep here.
august 3, 2008, view from Taipei 101. feels crazy to see so much life happening in such a bigger, farther view.
august 9, 2008, taken at a sulphur spring. very smelly, very much nature though. views are so beautiful when you mostly see calm mother earth.
august 9, 2008 – i believe my uncle took me to this beach. people fishing. i remember it being very humid here and thinking how they can wear long sleeves and long pants and a hat!
august 9, 2008 – taken on top of a bridge that lead me to a park i absolutely fell in love with. i went often very early in the mornings to see people silently exercising tai chi and the noises of the birds. vespas are so popular in taiwan. i loved riding on one and feeling closeness to the views around me (sounds dangerous, i know, not sure how i feel about it now).


Every so often, my urge to travel comes so suddenly and I find myself feeling a tiny bit nostalgic. Quick glimpses of images, words and feelings of my travels appear out of nowhere; such as how freeing it felt to sit behind a motorcycle as the wind and I became one through the blurry night of lights and cars or seeing faces of the wonderful people I met and remembering the conversations we had. They were all simple, yet cherished experiences for me. My appreciation for new experiences has never left it seems.

It’s difficult for me to describe the feeling I get from traveling. Feels similar to meditation and anticipation; acknowledging that there is the unknown and embracing it. It’s like when my father told me I wouldn’t understand what falling in love would feel like until it happened. I understand that now. I guess, essentially, traveling teaches me to embrace the freedom to feel, to act, to learn, to be and to change. There’s a vulnerability, innocence and blind trust involved when staying at a new place and learning to live there as a visitor.

It’s worth it. One of the memories I often remember is the night I came home from a six month adventure abroad. I was meeting my family at the luggage carousel and I didn’t see them. I was so used to looking ahead and being on my own that I forgot to look beside me. I heard my mom yell out my name and to my left was where they sat waiting all along. My sister had said I looked so different that she almost didn’t recognize me. I understood what she meant because that’s how I felt about myself. As days passed, it was how I felt about life, them, home and everything around me. I am grateful for all of it.

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous