A curated list of events, restaurants/bakeries, local attractions, and new things Jiaxin will be trying out in the month of November.Read More
Thailand was relaxing, delicious, and offered something different in every city I visited. I ate all the som tam (papaya salad) and pad see ew (stir fried rice noodles) I could get my hands on, and definitely drank more Chang/Leo beer than my parents would have wanted me to.
Exploring Thailand alone gave me a lot of time to journal and get lost in thought. I spent a lot of mind space pondering what brings me joy (is it people? food? money? a combination of all three?), as well as reflecting on which relationships in my life were important to me. Through each city I visited, I discovered new places I had never seen as well as parts of my personality that I hadn't paid much attention to before.
A month has passed since I departed for Bangkok, and I'm back in the throes of a full time job and life in general. These are some of the more memorable moments I often find myself reminiscing on:
5. Eating Thai food. I love nibbling on a variety of food, so Thai night markets were the perfect place for me. I also greedily ate mango sticky rice almost every day (drooling just thinking about it). To top it all off, I spent less than 100 baht (~$3USD) on most meals.
4. The thrill and independence of riding around on a motorbike. After you get over the initial trepidation of scooting around in the country with the world's 2nd deadliest roads, it feels super liberating to know you have wheels, especially when you're a tourist whose sense of agency has been stripped away by reliance on trains/planes/ubers. Yes at one point I did fall off my bike (going too fast, downhill, on a turn, in the rain), but eventually I got comfortable driving on the left side of the road and loved the sense of freedom I felt.
3. The Chiang Mai cabaret show. Wowowowow. There's drag shows, and then there's the Chiang Mai cabaret show. These ladies set the dance floor on fire and left my new mates and I speechless and cheering our asses off.
2. Swimming with the baby ellys at Happy Elephant Home. Pretty self explanatory how amazing it is to be in the presence of a majestic animal >5x your weight. And to see how gentle Asian elephants are. My favorite is when the baby elephant tried to drink milk from an elephant she thought was her mom: turns out it wasn't her mom and she kicked baby with her left hind leg.
1. My first time scuba diving. I swam amongst beautiful marine wildlife during my open water PADI certification process, where I had an amazing instructor (Gary from Hidden Depths Diving) and made some friends along the way. Meeting Ady (check out Flip Flop Divers) and grabbing drinks with his mates at Cheeky Monkey was by far a highlight of my trip, where I felt present and happy with that moment in time and space. Quote my new mate - "I'll have one. more. beer. Then I'll have another one!"
For those looking to plan a trip, you can download my Thailand itinerary as a starting place. This is by no means comprehensive, and I'm also not endorsing any of these places. Just thought it might be helpful to make your dream of traveling to Thailand seem more manageable.
Will I go back? Absolutely. My money's on someday moving out to the islands and becoming a dive instructor. In the meantime, I'll have my many pictures from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Koh Lanta to look back on.
A reflection on some of the things I've learned during the first year in my new home.Read More
5 album covers and a self portrait:
- I Don't Know You by The Marias Psychedelic funk is my new favorite genre.*
- Magic by Rayana Jay I just want to get up and cha cha whenever I've got this playing.
- Overnight by Parcels Reminds me a bit of Daft Punk, with more lyrical diversity.
- Try / Effortless by dvsn Wow I just learned that dvsn is short for "division", which is also how it's pronounced. Huh. Everyday is a school day.
- Summer Days by Rhye This says it all: "Summer days fall away, can I just make you stay?"
Get the good stuff via the player below or in a web browser here.
*Denotes this week's favorite
With their packs filled and excitement high, a crew of 13 young and attractive wanderers set out to find the perfect campsite for their leader Kate’s birthday. Firewood, beer, and foil-wrapped meals lined the insides of their 65L Ospreys as they began the 1.5 mile trek out to Nordhouse Dunes.Chatter fills the air. People weave in and out as walking tempos change, leading to new connections and conversations. We feel our hiking boots softly hitting the sand while catching glimpses of the lake, as well as the familiar burn in our calves that accompanies a dune hike. Everyone’s flirting with the idea of running into sweet sweet Lake Michigan as sweat drips down our foreheads, but we all know the delayed gratification will be worthwhile.Michigan is a magical place. And there’s nothing that characterizes the Great Lakes state more than miles and miles of Lake Michigan coastline kissing sandy dunes. Cotton ball clouds line the upper troposphere and watch over us as we stake out our spot and begin setting up. Tents up, rain covers on, sleeping pads and bags out – we establish some mental semblance of home for our temporary stay in the wilderness. Indeed, this will be our community gathering area for the next 24 hours, where we will eat, drink, and laugh together around a fire.We’ve set up our home base, and we’re ready to hit the water. It’s one of those days, those perfect 70 and sunny days where you spend all daylight hours in your swimsuit on the beach. I sprint out to the water, kicking up sand and little stones in the process. Lake Michigan is sacred. There is NOTHING like swimming in one of the biggest freshwater lake in the world, surrounded by clear blue skies. The beauty and calm combined with unbelievably safe swimming conditions unlocks an overwhelming sense of serenity and peace. There’s nothing more awakening than the constant switching between swimming in the cool lake and laying on out on the warm sand.I soon hit that point where dinner time is on my mind. We cook, we eat, we burn popcorn – our night is young.The seemingly endless sunshine is, however, about to come to its conclusion for the day. Stomachs full and beers cracked open, we find ourselves back on the beach where we were earlier, this time donning sweaters and pants instead of swimsuits. Ahead of us is the blue of the lake and sky, temporarily split by a narrow beam of soft setting sunlight. We share an embrace, a few drinks, and a view of incredible clouds scattered across the sky as the sun completes its baton handoff to the moon.The night is getting darker, and our small community returns to home base where the fire we started for dinner is still going. Collective experiences, storytelling, camaraderie and love shape our final night cap.
Goodnight friends – until our next Nordhouse dream together.
I missed my weekly mood & groove cadence last week and I'm almost certain you didn't notice.
In any case, it's back this week. Some tracks to re energize your commuting and focus mode playlists.
- History by Cosmo's Midnight Nothing more current than some Australian Twins bringing you electronic music infused with R&B.
- Real Life by Duke Dumont Your workweek kicker is here. Here's a stimulant free way of increasing your heart rate.
- City of No Reply by Amber Coffman* Samba-esque beat with resonate female harmonies.
- Hard to Say Goodbye by Washed Out V different from Feel It All Around.
- While We're Young by Jhene Aiko A chill end to your night.
Click click here for this week's magic.
*Denotes this week’s favorite
Been sick all weekend, as reflected in the more mellow picks in this week's lineup. Happy Tuesday folks.
- Days with You by Snakehips Upbeat kicker for your Tuesday morning.
- Broken Clocks by SZA* Her most recent interview with Vogue hinted that this might be both her first and last LP - I sure hope she's just teasing cause this album is FIRE.
- Apocalypse by Cigarettes After Sex Brooklyn based ambient pop group, delivering some top notch tunes for a Seattle rainy day (or really any day).
- Perfect Places by Lorde If you never gave Lorde a chance because you thought Royals was overrated, I sincerely hope you reconsider.
- Don't Believe by Slow Dancer Just a pretty boy with his pretty tunes.
Open the web player here.
*Denotes this week’s favorite
My recent jams have been exploring the vulnerability of stumbling and falling.
- Some Mistakes by Anna Wish* The hook in this song explains it all: "I don’t mind making some mistakes"
- Falling by Drama Duo First off, this album is KILLER. Wow. This was one of those gems that makes exploring new music so freaking enjoyable.
- Falling by Forever Two songs with the same title in one playlist? That’s what I thought and that's what inspired the theme. Working bottoms up. Techno techno techno!
- Undercover (Coucheron Remix) by Kehlani/Coucheron But it don't matter no, cause I got you!
- Biking (Solo) by Frank Ocean
Check out this week's top 5 on my June 2017 playlist:
*Denotes this week's favorite
After a long hiatus we are bringing Man Crush Mondays BACK! Aside from being an Instagram hashtag of attractive men, it is also a featured series on Jiaxin Machine where I showcase some of the awesome guys in my life.
This week highlights a fellow Wolverine, Daniel, who I met my freshman year. Daniel and I brushed shoulders a lot in the Winter garden, the main lobby of our only somewhat pretentious undergraduate business school. We ended up in a lot of the same classes due to our major, and I remember Daniel always chiming in to class discussions with solid contributions (I'm sure you had 100% for all participation grades).
What makes Daniel and I connect is that he's willing to be vulnerable with me. At a time where we're all trying to figure out what it is that we want in life (career? love? grad school? promotion?), Daniel is always happy to get real with me. Every other sentence ends with either me or him locking eyes and saying "YESS!", while laughing of course.
Daniel is both determined and empathetic. I think his way of dressing subtly captures that: dark blues and blacks, combined with soft grays and turquoises. Intense yet calm, you can see it in his eyes.
Daniel currently works as a consultant so I see him once in a blue moon. But that's partially what I'm appreciating in my post graduate adult life right now: friends that you know love you and are thinking about you even if you don't see them all the time. Catch ya in like July Daniel?
5 tunes kickin on my Spotify right now:
- Sleepless by Girlpool (Heads up they're on tour, in Seattle on Fri 5/26) Girlpool knocks it out of the water with some strong and hella playful female vocals.
- Lose My Cool by Amber Mark* If the rhythm doesn't hit you then you're probably an impenetrable human. If you don't find yourself groovin by 1:20 then I have failed you as a tunes curator and I deeply apologize.
- Want You Back by Haim The Rockenhaim trio does it again. The oh so familiar vibes of Days Are Gone.
- Poolside by Baynk Nice, chill, easy.
- Home by J.Lisk Also nice, chill, and easy.
*denotes this week's fave
Metaphors provide relatable and simple frames of reference to help me interpret my life. Understanding a metaphor, however, is a completely separate phenomenon from experiencing a metaphor.
For example, my freshman year I joined the ballroom dance team and learned how to tango. And as I became more and more invested in improving my dancing, going from no dance experience to competing at national competitions, I learned many key lessons:
- You cannot ballroom dance by yourself
- You cannot place in a ballroom dance competition by yourself
- You cannot achieve any sort of dancing success solely by yourself
Indeed, as some might say - it takes two to tango, the takeaway being that prioritizing partnership and collaboration is essential to success. It's a wildly simple metaphor, but it didn't really become meaningful until I actually experienced it.
I had this happen again to me this past week. On a sunny Sunday afternoon, my roommate Carlton and I decided that yes, THIS is the day we are going to take up gardening. A few hundred dollars of plants and soil later, we got to work with arranging and potting. It got me thinking about the gardening life metaphor and the act of uprooting ourselves, of picking up everything in our lives and then transplanting and plopping down somewhere else.
With every lily, daphne, cactus, or whatever plant I was working with, I just couldn't help but think how much I could relate to these plants that were being uprooted from their store packaging and transplanted to a new home. I am literally uprooting these plants, gently coaxing them out of their basic greenhouse packaging and into a beautiful ceramic planter. And I'm just holding my breath, hoping my new babies are having a good transition and will ultimately find their new homes comfortable enough to grow and flourish.
I am a flower in the exact same situation! Or tree, or weed, or whatever plant you can relate to.
8 months ago I packed everything up, said see you later to people I love, and posted up in Seattle. I tried to make sure my growing conditions were optimized accordingly: a comfortable bed, a good social group, somewhat balanced meals, and of course prioritizing work life balance to prevent myself from complete corporate madness. And indeed, similar to my plant babies, I'm holding my breath hoping that I'll find my new home comfortable enough to grow and flourish.
In the next couple of weeks, the weather will get warmer and the rain a little milder. A lot of my new plants will bloom, reaching their full beauty as the joyful anticipation of summer wafts through their petals. As the flowers bloom, I hope you and I do too. You, also being a young 20 something in a transitional life stage, unsure of what the worst could be while still hoping for the best. It's an interesting gray space to be in.
Athens reminded me of China: lots of people and not enough infrastructure to support the influx. As a tourist, you often live in your own pre-curated bubble of UNESCO sights, highly rated restaurants, and westernized clubs. When your association with a city is only temporary, it's easy to ignore the harsh realities of severe economic recession, unemployment, and lack of government services that most local citizens face.
I had the unique opportunity to stay with an Airbnb host who shared both the touristy and local side of Athens with me. Through long walks in the city center, he shared what it was like to live in economic recession and how he navigated the challenges he faced. I appreciated having someone to show me around the places I read about on Tripadvisor and also the local spots like where everyone goes at night to drink beer and cool off.
Visiting my friend Sydney and her boyfriend Julian in Naxos felt like a complete dream. After landing in Athens, taking the metro to Pireaus, then patiently waiting out a 7 hour ferry ride, I was greeted by one of my best friends at the dock.
I did not anticipate the intense feelings of happiness and even nostalgia upon seeing Sydney. Perhaps it was the backdrop of so many people rushing off the ferry into their loved ones' arms, faces lit by the lights of the town. Nevertheless, my heart felt full to be in a place that meant so much to her.
Our day were filled with beaches, Greek salads, and good conversation. With so many beaches around the island, you can't really go wrong with any. Agios Prokopios is where we spent most of our time embracing the freedom of no bikini tops, followed by great post swim meals at local restaurants. I recommend Naxian for great food, pictured below.
Our goodbye took me by surprise just as much as our greeting. Upon leaving Naxos, I felt pangs of sadness and a longing to stay. We hugged goodbye, and wished each other safe travels.
Having planned and financed my trip to Europe independently, every smooth journey feels like a personal success. Every time I arrive to a new city safely or navigate to a local attraction efficiently, I smile with a sense of accomplishment. There have been a few places in particular that have elicited that combination of awe and accomplishment. Some sights are so beautiful that you can’t help but think “wow, I have dreamt about traveling here and I’m actually freaking here.” Cliffs of Moher was definitely one of these places.
Through the hostel I stayed at (Barnacle), I booked a one day trip to Cliffs of Moher with Dublin Tour Bus Company. They safely transported us to the cliffs, and our driver/guide in particular was quite witty and hilarious. After we stopped in Doolin for lunch, we were on our way to the beautiful cliffs.
Many people say to pick a sunny day to go, but sometimes you don’t have the flexibility to optimize what day. While it was disappointingly cloudy the day I went, the weather gods must have sensed my dismay and lifted the clouds for a few minutes so I could still grab some pictures. If you are indeed able to pick clearer day to go, do that, but if not, know that fog can come and go quite easily and not to worry.
A month abroad seems like a long time, but when you’re trying to visit 10 different cities it feels quite busy and quick. Every city I’ve gone to thus far I’ve wanted to stay longer, Dublin especially. I love Irish pubs, especially meeting new people there, and I wish I could have had more time to scope out hidden gems. With that said though, I definitely hit up a few good touristy spots in my short time there. 1. Guinness Storehouse
Yes, of course I went to the Guinness Storehouse like any tourist would. And yes I said things like “oh wow the Guinness tastes way better here”. But I have no shame or remorse, because it truly was a fun experience where you get to learn about the ingredients and history that go into this 200+ year old beer. Highly recommend.
2. Little Museum of Dublin
Having been a little bit more limited on time, I prioritized other things over museums since they can take a couple of hours each. The Little Museum of Dublin advertises that you can learn everything about the city in under half an hour though, so I thought it would be more digestible than a regular sized museum.
3. Irish Whiskey Museum
I was definitely pushing some limits by going to the Guinness storehouse in the morning and also doing a whiskey tasting in the evening, but it proved to be a fun (and safe J) experience. As someone who generally will shy away from liquor, I quite enjoyed the connoisseur who walked us through the tasting and actually liked drinking whiskey.
4. Temple Bar Area
The iconic temple bar was right next to the hostel I stayed it, making for a very interesting albeit noisy stay. From what locals told me it seemed like only tourists/Americans really went to Temple Bar itself, so I went to some other pubs in the area. There’s definitely a lot of different things going on so find the place of your choice
To American tourists, London takes the spotlight away from lots of other UK destinations. That would be like New York representing America – not completely inaccurate for some things, but definitely unrepresentative of the nation’s geographic and cultural diversity. I was so glad to be able to spend a weekend in Cardiff, the capital of Wales, with my hometown friend Sarah and her buddy Bethan. I felt so spoiled having my own room in Bethan’s house, and also having access to a washing machine. Aside from the comforts of home, Cardiff itself was charming and beautiful. We hit up a few of the local attractions, and it was nice to have a local to show us around.
1. Roath Lake
Everyone kept telling me that I must have brought the weather with me, because the usual Cardiff rain was replaced with beautiful and sunny blue skies. The children were out, the adults were out catching Pokemon – a relaxing Saturday for all.
2. Cardiff Bay
Nice weather brings everyone out, including all the fans for miscellaneous British rowing teams. The Bay had was quite charming with all the attractions it had to offer to residents, and the cheering of the rowing fans made the regatta atmosphere really exciting even though I didn’t know what was going.
3. Castle Coch/Red Castle
Sunday brought the rain clouds that were nowhere to be found on Saturday. Bethan brought us to a castle, and the rain actually made for a more dramatic backdrop. Being too cheap to go in, we just snapped a few pictures and made our way to dinner.
4. Sunday Roast
This born again omnivore was all about Sunday Roast. Meat meat meat we did eat eat eat!
It’s no secret that I love a good public market, and my girl Lizzie really wowed me with Borough Market. Just thinking about all the breads and meats and other food available that were there makes me drool. Anything you could ever want for lunch was there, making it a popular place to grab lunch for people working in the area.
My mouth watered as I looked into the displays, especially for baked foods. I’m a big fan of the Great British Baking Show, and it felt like I had walked into a carbo loaded dream.
After making our way around the market, I settled on Indian food for lunch and had a delicious thali of rice and 3 different vegetable curries. But don’t worry, my girl Lizzie bought me a side of DELISH BRITISH BACON so I got my meat intake that day as well!
Like New York, London can feel like a bit of a concrete jungle – although it’s a much cleaner and friendlier one. But also like its American counterpart, London has green spaces where you can escape from the chaos. I spent some time walking across Kensington Park before meeting my friend for tea near the palace.
There were lots of runners out donning hydration packs, as well as tourists and families. I was listening to a How Stuff Works podcast while enjoying the green space and nice weather, secretly thanking the weather gods for not raining on me.
I made it to the palace, and then slowly made my way over to Orangery. The entrance is quite grand – I felt mega fancy and spoiled, and really enjoyed the experience of afternoon tea with my friend Devin.
After many transit hours, ya girl finally made it to her first stop in Europe. London welcomed me with its cloudy skies and British accents, and I could not have been any more excited when the plane landed in Heathrow. Despite a sleepless red eye flight, I pulled together the energy to pack my days with sightseeing. London is so tourist friendly with its clearly labeled London Underground (“tube”) and abundant free attractions. These are just four of the freebies I enjoyed during my 2 days there!
1. National Gallery
I’m not an art history buff, so I don’t think I appreciated it as much as my friends who are read up on the subject. However, the space itself is stunning: lots of open spaces and windows, and organized by century.
2. Tate Modern Art Museum
Yes. Absolutely put this on your to do list for London, especially because there is a free 10th floor observatory that makes for great city shots. While I find it more difficult to understand and appreciate older art, modern art is often easier for me to relate to. Tate Modern's descriptions also really help you connect with an art form and overall led to a more enjoyable experience.
3. Buckingham Palace
Not going to lie, I thought this was a little overrated. I guess it’s one of those fabulously British things you may feel like you have to do as a tourist, but after about 5 minutes I had enough of selfie sticks poking me. You've made it this far to London, if you've got about 30 minutes to come take a look- especially during the summer months where there's the changing of the guards- you might as well!
4. British Museum
What a gem! Perhaps I was spoiled because my very intelligent friend sprinkled information into our time there, but there was so much here to enlighten yourself. Whether you're obsessed with a specific civilization or you're just looking to learn more about humankind, everyone will enjoy something from the British Museum.
Tokyo Skytree is not only the tallest tower in Japan, but also in the world. The roughly 2000 yen admission will get you to the 350 meter observation deck, where you can not only get incredible night views of the city but also stand on a glass floor and have your picture taken.
While my uncle and I only went to the tower, there are a lot of other attractions in the area like an aquarium, mall, and many restaurants. Definitely factor in enough time for the ticket line, and enjoy the vast expansiveness of Tokyo from 350 meters up.