Yep, it’s back again Little Nugs!
I’m so, so excited to share with you my amazing stories especially since I spent almost the entire year out of my home in Los Angeles. It’s also a year of many struggles, ups & downs, laughters and tears.
Leaving home was definitely a tough decision and the job I ended up in Virginia didn’t treat me kindly. So I left to North Carolina for some self-healing.
As the year comes to a close, I think it’s also a time to reflect on my travels. In addition, I got some juicy stories to tell and trust me, they’re more interesting than last year’s.
And speaking of last year…if you haven’t read my previous post on my best and worst travel moments of 2017, I suggest you head on over right now.
Without further ado, let’s start with the good, shall we?
Getting the VIP Spot at a Crush Concert
If you know me in person, I’m a huge fan of Korean music especially Crush. So it comes as no surprise I actually bought a ticket to his concert in NYC.
On the day I arrived to NYC, I had high hopes of possibly getting a front row spot. As soon as I arrived, there were lines and lines of Korean people and surprisingly a few foreigners waiting outside the concert. And I’m talking like an insane Black Friday deal type of line (if you know what I mean). So I had no choice but to wait in the back of the line just like everybody else.
Once I got inside the concert venue, there were hordes of Korean people, I shit-you-not, cramped all the way at the front row seats. Some pushing their way to the front, while others called their friends to hurry up so they won’t lose their spots.
Fortunately after talking to a security guard (who I’m close friends with to this day), I was let into the front.
I couldn’t help but smile at this one stroke of luck. Thanks to this security guard, I was able to enjoy every moment, especially when Crush sang his first English song, “Lay Your Head on Me” as everyone waved their phone flashlights in the air.
Celebrating My 26th Birthday With Good Company
Honestly, I don’t really celebrate birthdays. Never have and never will…until this year!
After a long day of work, my friend took me to Asheville where I joined a group of my coworkers and other new faces. We ate a bunch of delicious Korean food at Korean House (highly recommend it!) and sang “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” altogether. They treated me like a princess for the entire night and even paid my bill.
On top of that, a good friend of mine even had random strangers on the street say, “Happy birthday” to me.
And if that wasn’t enough, we all went to Old Europe and ordered different pastries from macarons to German chocolate cake. And my friends spoiled me once again (hehe).
To end my birthday, I stopped at one of my friend’s house and we got to share good vibes all around.
BEST. BIRTHDAY. EVER.
Roadtrip with my Travel Buddy
If you guys read my blog, then you know that my favorite travel buddy is Michael Hall. Sometime later in the fall, Michael and I went on a short 4-day roadtrip across 4 states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee. This also was during the time we both got stranded in the Blue Ridge Mountains which I’ll get into later.
And thankfully, my job offers Southern Highlands Attraction cards which gets us both into any of the SHA attractions for free. Without hesitation, we ventured miles and miles to as many attractions as we possibly could. Of course, we had to sacrifice some attractions, but overall, we had an amazing time.
My personal favorites were standing on top of Chimney Rock, going on a boat tour at Lost Sea Adventure, seeing the color light show at Ruby Falls, seeing all seven states at Lookout Mountain, and riding all the rollercoaster rides at Dollywood.
Trying All 7 Moles and More…
Wait, what the heck is a mole? Mole is a traditional sauce used in Mexican cuisines. The sauce uses different spices and chilis to enhance the flavor.
When I heard you can try all 7 moles at a restaurant in Oaxaca, I knew I had to go! And it wasn’t just the moles itself that added to an amazing experience.
I got to try authentic Oaxacan dishes: chapulines (grasshoppers with chile and lime), mezcal (alcoholic drink from an agave plant), and piedrazo (vinegar-soaked bread).
All without extra charge. Hell yeah!
After trying the 7 moles, my personal favorites were amarillo and estofado as they weren’t overly sweet like negro. They both had the spiciest taste out of all the sauces (which I love), but they weren’t over-the-top spicy.
The best part? The waiter actually spoke English and he gave me a brief lesson about Oaxacan food and culture from the main ingredients of all 7 moles to the best places to see in Oaxaca. I was blown away by this man’s knowledge that I gave him a huge tip (which is something I don’t normally do).
Staying in Chiapas for a Week
After hearing locals and even travellers how beautiful Chiapas is, I knew I had to make a stop for at least a week. Turns out San Cristobal de Las Casas was one of the highlights of my trip. I fell in love with this small charming town and it’s vibrant colors.
Plus, I got to see some of the most beautiful attractions such as Sumidero Canyon and El Chiflon.
Also in Palenque, I spotted wild macaws and even spider monkeys on my way to the jungle from the main town.
I swear Chiapas surprises you in the best way possible…
Going to a Cenote For the First Time
This was actually the first time I’ve been to a cenote (no lie). At first, I was pretty nervous since this town, Hamon, wasn’t particularly as touristy compared to Cuzama. Surprisingly, I was able to get a motorbike transportation to five cenotes for only 200 pesos.
If I hadn’t taken this offer, I wouldn’t have met Frida’s family, whom I shared a bond with. We met at the third cenote, Canunchen, which happened to be filled with Mexican families and friends.
Although this wasn’t my favorite cenote, I was able to hangout with Frida’s family and even rode the tirolesa (zipline) over a cenote. Also, thanks to Frida, I was able to squeeze in the other tour guide’s motorbike (after my motorbike tour guide left), and went to an extra cenote. So I basically went to six cenotes all in one day!
Which brings me to my next point…
Meeting Frida and Her Family
I’m soooo grateful to have met Frida and her family during the cenote tour. So how did we actually meet? I randomly saw a girl wearing snorkeling gear and I politely asked if I could borrow for a few minutes. This small act of kindness changed everything.
After Cenote Canunchen, the tour guide and I headed over to the fourth cenote, Balmil. From there, I met Frida and her family again and this time we had an actual conversation.
And that led to many more unexpected surprises.
Thankfully, Frida’s family invited me to stay with them at their AirBnB in Merida and even join for a fancy dinner.
And what a night it truly was.
The next day, we all headed to Celestun and went on a boat tour. Along this boat tour, we saw wild flamingos and even a crocodile for the first time. And that became one of my most memorable travel moments to this day.
Moving on, let me share what I didn’t like about some of my travels…
Stranded in the Blue Ridge Mountains
What started off as a vacation turned out to be one of the scariest moments of my life. As I was driving my travel buddy’s rental car in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the front tire popped all of a sudden. This left us stranded at night in the goddamn mountain in the middle of nowhere.
Never in my life had I felt scared up to this moment. To be honest, I think my travel buddy, Michael, felt the same way. Luckily, someone came and helped replace the flat tire. So not all was bad thankfully.
You can read more about my experience in this post.
Bedridden For Days in Newark, NJ and NYC
Imagine being in bed without any strength to get up and go outside. THAT. WAS. ME. Worst part was this was during Thanksgiving week. So imagine my lonliness as I wasn’t able to celebrate Thanksgiving outside or with my family.
I ended up spending Thanksgiving in bed. How boring…
After Newark, I headed to NYC hoping to feel better, but I wasn’t. I checked into the hostel and ended up sleeping the entire day.
Not all was bad though. I ended my last few days walking around Central Park despite the rain.
I Was Ripped Off at the Mexico City Airport
This was my first time travelling to Mexico alone. AND. I. MEAN. ALONE. So, I was a bit skeptical of walking to my hotel alone especially at night. But I also didn’t want to take a taxi as it’s too expensive. So what did I do? I took an Uber…sort of a fail. I recall paying 98 pesos until the driver and I had a miscommunication (due to the location pickup) so this ended down the shithole. He left so I lost about 108 pesos (20 pesos for the cancellation fee).
Then I tried to buy tickets for the only bus that ran through the airport. Turns out, the ticket machine ate about 40 pesos, plus an extra 20 pesos and never gave me the bus ticket. THAT. WAS. ANOTHER. HUGE. FAIL.
Feeling desperate and wanting to get out of the airport, I had no other choice but to take that dreaded taxi. I ended up paying 400 pesos, losing my entire change when I rode the taxi (about an extra 100 pesos) in the process of my panicked state.
I later found out my hotel had an airport pickup fee for 250 pesos. Welp, lesson learned.
Overall I lost more than 500 pesos (about $25 USD) in less than 3 hours during my time in the Mexico City airport, but honestly this makes for a good story to tell.
That One Hostel Horror Story
Oh god. I’m sure most traveller and even tourist heard of hostel horror stories, hoping it would never happen to them. But never in my life would I have thought it would happen to me, until it finally did. I was staying in a hostel in San Cristobal de Las Casas for a few days. One night, a roommate was feeling sick (I don’t know why).
One morning, I walked into a girl’s bathroom and saw vomit all over the sink and the floor. YUCK! Good thing I took a shower the day before it happened. Safe to say, I ended up using the bathroom on the second floor.
The only problem was, the bathroom was on top of the vomit-infested bathroom downstairs. So I could still smell that distasteful odor of icky vomit, even as I brush my teeth or wash my face.
Well, I’ll never look at hostels the same again…sort of.
Highway to Hell
I don’t know about you, but I get motion-sickness very easily. So it comes as no surprise as I’ve gotten sick on my way to Hierve El Agua, Mitla, Celestun, San Cristobal de Las Casas, and even on a Sumidero Canyon boat tour. There were moments where I just want to yell at the driver to stop so I can get some air. Of course, the drivers are on a huge time crunch so that ended up being a total fail.
I’ve also had moments where I wanted to puke especially Hierve El Agua. That drive was sooooo windy and bumpy over multiple switchbacks (I’m not exaggerating). Plus sitting in the backseat of that truck was absolutely the worst idea since my back kept hitting the metal rails (it hurts like a mf).
And the drive back to Mitla was sooooo much worse. I hitchhiked my way there, sitting in the trunk of random stranger’s car. So that feeling of regurgitation came back stronger than ever. Luckily I had a strong stomach and didn’t puke, but that lingering feeling still gets to me.
On the way to Celestun, I was getting bus sick and even felt like throwing up. Thankfully, Frida told the bus driver to stop so I can get some air. Frida’s mom also gave me medicine for motion-sickness which helped tremendously throughout the entire bus ride and even during the flamingo tour.
Panic Attack at the Cenote Tour
This pretty much follows the story from my first cenote experience.
What I didn’t tell you is that I had a slight panic attack. As I went down the metal stairway deep into the underwater cave, I felt an excruciating pain on my right hand. I was bitten or stung by an unknown bug and I was straight up whining at my guide. Thankfully, this bite or sting didn’t kill me.
The second cenote (which I forgot the name) felt more like a true cenote. Maybe this was because my guide and I were the only two people there. Either or I had to go down a ladder into the cenote. As I went inside the water, I kept thinking over and over in my head how scary it must’ve been back when the Mayans were sacrificed and thrown into the cenote. At this point, I almost hyperventilated and nearly drowned (my guide didn’t really catch onto it).
As soon as I was fully calm, I noticed these small fishes surrounding me. At first, I thought, “How cute.” But I noticed these little devils were biting my leg (or that’s what I thought they were doing).
That’s when I lost it. I swam back up the ladder fully panicking.
I felt somewhat embarrassed, but thankfully my guide didn’t notice anything (bless his heart).
Now I want to hear from you, Little Nuggets. What’s your best and worst travel moments? Let me know in the comments below!