Wild in Borneo: Hong Kong Pit Stop

On the front and tail of our adventure in Borneo, we spent time in Hong Kong, China. Arriving in China after a very long 15 hour flight from Los Angeles, we had about 8 hours to spend in the city before catching our final flight into Kota Kinabalu. Instead of wasting time in the airport, we headed into Hong Kong to see some sights. We took a train into the city and had a very sweet walk to the Zoological and Botanical Gardens. It’s a tiny little zoo, with beautiful gardens. We took the nearby Peak Tram to see the city from the top of Victoria Peak. Although it was a foggy day, we could still see the massive skyline of HKG. We strolled the streets for a bit and stopped in for a quick lunch before journeying back to the airport for our flight into Borneo.IMG_6754IMG_6760IMG_6792IMG_6793IMG_6772IMG_9482IMG_9480IMG_6763IMG_6791After two weeks, we landed back in Hong Kong to spend a final day exploring. We took another long train ride from our hotel near the airport to downtown Hong Kong. We walked through Times Square to see the city lit up at night. Derek always laughs at me but seeing places at night is one of my favorite travel things. I love lights. We stopped in at a local beer bar, Coedo. We were excited to be back in a land with craft beer and sipped from pints of beer from breweries in China and Japan.IMG_7882IMG_7876IMG_7877IMG_7878Our final morning in Asia we arranged a cab to take us to the Tian Tan Buddha, otherwise known as Big Buddha. We could see the Buddha from various angles on the car ride there, but it’s nothing like being at the base of it. The Buddha is huge and it’s surrounding temple area is completely lovely. We walked the steps up to the Buddha and spent a lot of time admiring the large statue in front of us and the views of the mountains around us. After walking back down, we toured the temple and gazed at it’s colorful dragons adorning the outside walls. We stopped to buy a few local souvenirs to take home and boarded a train again to the Kowloon neighborhood. My sole purpose was to find dumplings. I was on a mission. I wanted authentic Chinese dumplings. I love dumplings so it only seemed right to indulge while in China. We eventually found a dumpling shop, luckily it wasn’t that hard, and they were as tasty as I imagined. We walked to Little Creatures Brewery nearby to taste some local brews and made one more stop at the Kowloon Taproom. We then sadly headed to the airport. We were there during the time of the Mid-Autumn festival and mooncakes were advertised everywhere. I was able to grab some mooncakes to snack on before boarding our flight and waving good-bye and ending our memorable time in Asia! IMG_0374IMG_0379IMG_0385IMG_E7904IMG_0398IMG_0387IMG_0396IMG_0418IMG_0421IMG_0410IMG_0411IMG_0405IMG_0408IMG_0413IMG_0414IMG_0437IMG_0439IMG_0426IMG_7949IMG_7934IMG_7931IMG_7944IMG_E7942IMG_7954

 

 

Advertisements

Wild in Borneo: Brunei

A little over halfway through our time in Borneo we left the Malaysian portion of the island and jumped on a short flight over to the tiny country of Brunei. Brunei is the smallest country on the island of Borneo. It is rich in oil, very conservative, and ruled by a Sultan who is well loved by his people to the extent that insulting him or talking negatively about him publicly is not taken lightly. The Sultan announced a few years ago that the country would be imposing sharia law (stoning, amputation, etc.). Although this is still in the works, it was definitely on my mind as we entered the country. Brunei is a dry country as well with only certain amounts of alcohol allowed in by tourists.

But don’t let these things stop you from a nice visit to Brunei! The country is also beautiful, welcoming, and full of adventure (and don’t worry you can find beer if you look hard enough or your Airbnb provides it). Our few days in Brunei were all spent in the country’s main city, Bandar Seri Begawan. Upon arrival in BSB we checked into our Airbnb which conveniently supplied a driver to take us on a day tour of the city. We set out to the first of a few historical landmarks, the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. We walked the grounds and then made our way to the Royal Regalia, a museum about the life of the Sultan and his family. We then hopped on a tiny boat to take a ride through the city’s Kampong Ayer, literally translated as Water Village, which I heard has been called the “Venice of the East” (just to be clear it is NOTHING like Venice except it’s over water). IMG_0243IMG_0234IMG_0244IMG_0254IMG_0258IMG_0273IMG_0262IMG_0276After our boat ride, we strolled through the Tasek Lama Recreational Park complete with giant palm trees and a beautiful waterfall. We ended the day by watching the sunset at the uber fancy, Empire Hotel, and grabbed savory and sweet treats from the Gadong Night Market before returning to our Airbnb. That evening, our Airbnb host invited us to his home nearby for drinks and a chance to learn more about Brunei from a born and raised Bruneian.IMG_0293IMG_0289IMG_0284IMG_7710IMG_7753IMG_7746Day two began with a walk through some other local markets and a quick peak at the Teng Yun temple. We then grabbed a cab to take in the Jame Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque. The grounds are stunning and absolutely took my breath away. We were unable to go inside due to prayer services happening at the time we were there, but the outside is well worth the stroll around. It is exquisite. This stop was by far my favorite in Brunei, it’s truly a beautiful place.IMG_0295IMG_0298IMG_0302IMG_0308IMG_0346IMG_0342IMG_0336IMG_0331IMG_0326IMG_0325We spent the afternoon walking the city, but mid day brought an intense heat. We were incredibly hot and way too sweaty. So we decided to pop into a local mall where we could enjoy air conditioning for a while. We snacked on charcoal ice cream and, in an effort to continue to avoid the heat, caught a showing of Crazy Rich Asians. We dined on some Indian food that evening and then completed the day by renting a scooter and cruising the waterfront.IMG_0315IMG_0318IMG_E7771IMG_7776IMG_7800IMG_0354IMG_E7797IMG_7801Our final morning in BSB we booked a mountain bike tour. We were picked up by the owners of the tour company, a foreign couple living in Brunei specifically to boost the mountain biking eco-tourism industry. He was Australian and she was Canadian. Throughout the tour we learned a lot about what it is like to live as foreigners in a vastly conservative country. The bike trails were through some jungle like areas and mostly made of sand. For me it was a tough ride, Derek was happy as a clam. I had a nasty flip at one point, but stuck with it and at the end of the ride was dripping with sweat and covered in sand, but happy to have done it. Our guides ended the adventure with a stop at a coconut stand where we got to sip sweet, cold milk straight from a fresh cut coconut which was amazingly refreshing in the intense humidity and watched a little monkey hop around the exterior of the stand. I would highly recommend Kingdom Rides if you ever happen to find yourself in Brunei. We were dropped off at our Airbnb for a quick shower before catching our plane back to Malaysia to finish out our last few days in Kota Kinabalu. Brunei is definitely a country off the beaten path. Not a place I ever imagined visiting, but glad I did. Its culture is rich, its people are charming; it’s small, but mighty. IMG_7825IMG_7814IMG_7824

Wild in Borneo: Malaysia

I am way behind on travel stories as my focus has been on travel, holidays, more travel, and more holidays. Anyone relate? But as the new year has just begun, I figure it’s a good time to get caught up. So let’s head all the way back to August of last year and dive into a little recap of our jaunt around Southeast Asia.

When we told people we were going to Borneo on our vacation the typical response was “Where’s that?” I thought that was fair since before deciding to travel there I was in the same boat. Derek read an article about Borneo being an outdoor lover’s paradise early in 2018 and after doing some research we decided it was the place for us.

A little information before we begin-Borneo itself is not its own country. It is divided manly between Malaysia and Indonesia with a small portion making up the tiny country of Brunei. It is the third largest island in the world and absolutely beautiful. We spent most of our time in the Malaysian portion of Borneo so let’s start there.

After almost 24 hours of travel with some lengthy layovers in Los Angeles and Hong Kong, we arrived in tone of the larger cities on the island, Kota Kinabalu. We headed straight for bed and woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and ready to explore. We spent our first full day roaming the city, checking out local markets, and enjoying some good food. We finished the day by watching the magnificent sunset from the Sunset Bar at the Tanjung Aru Resort.IMG_6868IMG_6867IMG_6860IMG_6874The next day we began our trek up Mount Kinabalu, the tallest mountain in Malaysia standing at 13,435 feet tall. We drove two hours to the base of the mountain and then after some information and pep talk from our guide, Roger, we began the climb. The ascent is required to be done in two days due to frequent afternoon thunderstorms, so we started around 11am and made it the 4 miles to the rest house, Laban Rata, a few house later. It is a tough climb. The trail is steep and most of it is made up of steps packed into the dirt or actual man made staircases built out of wood. When we got to Laban Rata, we enjoyed a beer, some great food, a beautiful sunset and by early evening we were out. We awoke at 2am to have an incredibly early breakfast and head for the summit. By 5 am we made it to the summit and then waited around for another hour (in the cold) to see the sunrise before heading back down. Again, tough climb, but completely worth it and views like I’ve never seen before. After finishing the descent we were taken to a delightful lunch with a great view of the mountain we had just conquered and then headed to Poring Hot Springs for a long deserved soak in the warm pools and a good night’s sleep.IMG_6891IMG_6895IMG_2979IMG_7060IMG_7065IMG_7062IMG_6921IMG_6927IMG_7061IMG_6949IMG_7003IMG_6999IMG_7016IMG_6990IMG_7013IMG_7022img_e7024The next day we soaked some more, hiked to a bat cave, saw a waterfall, walked around a jungle canopy and made our way back to KK City. When we got back we went to get my phone screen replaced as I accidentally destroyed it on our climb down from the mountain.IMG_7048IMG_7032IMG_7116IMG_3001IMG_6840IMG_6841The morning brought a flight to Sandakan where we spent the day getting massages (they were so cheap!!) and floating in the pool of the Sabah Hotel. We ventured out briefly enough to see the Puu Jih Shih Buddhist temple full of dragons and colorful lanterns.IMG_7159IMG_7155IMG_7146IMG_7143IMG_7138IMG_7134IMG_7186The next day began our animal extravaganza. We were transported to Turtle Island, a conservation area for sea turtles. We swam and snorkeled in the Sulu Sea and watched turtles come up on the beach and lay eggs late that night and then got to assist in releasing baby sea turtles into the ocean. That was so cool! The next morning we left the island and headed back to the mainland to see orangutans at the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary. We saw all sorts of orangutans but seeing the big males come into the area for food was amazing and scary all at the same time. We also got to hop over to the Sun Bear Conservatory where we enjoyed seeing tiny sun bears move around, scratch there back on trees, and eat some trees. That evening we made our way deeper into the jungle along the Kinabatangan River. We took our first jungle river cruise and saw all sorts of monkeys (including orangutans) and other animals in the wild. We did a night hike through the jungle and spent the evening in our cozy jungle hut.img_9548IMG_7272IMG_7230IMG_7253IMG_7289IMG_7321IMG_7356IMG_7314img_9611img_9635img_9722img_9737img_9862img_9869img_7437img_7424We went on two other river cruises the next day and did a longer jungle hike to Lake Oxbow with our guide, Ramzan, who was super knowledgeable about the jungle and all its animals. We spent one more night in the jungle and had one last river cruise before saying goodbye and heading back to Sandakan. On our way we stopped by the Gomantang Caves with Ramzan as our guide and ventured through a guano covered cave with more creepy crawly bugs, bats, and terrible odors than I’ve ever experienced. It was beautiful and disgusting. Strange combination. We hopped a flight back to Kota Kinabalu and made our way out to the various Pasar Malam (night markets) in the city. We had milk straight out of a coconut and the best lobster ever and enjoyed a tower of Tiger Beer at a place called Beer Factory.img_9964img_9947img_9783img_9845img_9849img_7388img_7475img_7473IMG_0098IMG_0086IMG_0058IMG_0056img_7442img_7518img_7517img_7493img_7499img_7503img_7516img_7519img_7515The following morning we went sight seeing and saw the Masjid Bandaraya Mosque before taking the boat ride to Gaya Island to stay in an overwater bungalow for the night. This was a bucket list item for me. We enjoyed the ocean view from the balcony and went snorkeling. We had a fancy meal at one of the restaurants and relaxed to the sounds of ocean waves.IMG_0122IMG_0128IMG_0116img_7527img_e7532img_7631img_7658img_7567IMG_0155IMG_0160The next day we woke up with a traveler’s stomach bug. Neither of us know what from, my best guess is the market food. We were still able to enjoy some snorkeling and kayaking before leaving the island but spent the rest of the evening in our hotel room in Kota Kinabalu eating ramen and drinking tea.img_e3014img_7634img_7663IMG_0193IMG_0151Luckily whatever we had was a 24 hour thing and we felt fine the next day. We headed to Brunei which I’ll cover in another post so more on that later. After a couple days in Brunei we returned to Malaysia for our last day in KK City. We did a little souvenir shopping and went to a local muse before catching our flight back to Hong Kong and beginning our journey home.img_7686img_e7858img_7543img_7868img_7866So, if you were one of those people who had no idea where Borneo was prior to reading this post I highly encourage you to do some research and plan a trip. You’ll fall in love with it. Just as we did.

Rejuvenation in a Lookout

“And into the forest I go to lose my mind and find my soul.” -John Muir

We needed a break. Just a short, little break. From work, from schedules, from things to do, and expectations. To check out. To be completely alone and think of nothing but trees and mountains and sky. To reconnect and disconnect and unwind. To have only one purpose…relaxation.

To achieve that we locked ourselves in a fire tower in Montana. 40 feet off the ground.

And it was perfect.

Have you ever been at that point? Where work stress and life stress and overall busy-ness just seems to be piling up? Mind you, nothing completely life altering was going on for either of us. Some changes in both our jobs that were occupying our minds, Derek’s intensive training schedule, my overly Type A brain, but nothing completely overwhelming or difficult. And although we’d booked our stay in the Up Up Lookout six months prior, it seemed to be the perfect trip that just happened to be at the right time to just hide away and feel restored.

We made our way to Missoula, MT Thursday afternoon and got in with enough time to enjoy some food and a cold beer at Desperado Sports Tavern, a rugged bar known for their chicken wings which we gladly ordered. We then moved over to Myrtle Street Taphouse (an alternate location for Kettlehouse Brewing that is way less touristy than their downtown location) were I ordered a flight of beers to try. Something I always look forward to whenever we leave Utah. We walked around the Main Street/Downtown area to enjoy the sites and make stops at Charlie B’s and Plonk for a nightcap or two. The following morning we had an incredibly delicious breakfast and coffee at Market on Front. It was a cool and overcast day, which made it nice to walk along the riverfront and check out some of the shops. We made a final stop at Imagine Nation Brewing to taste what they had on tap and enjoy their beautiful patio before packing up and driving the rest of the way to the lookout.IMG_E5604IMG_E5614IMG_E5573IMG_5576IMG_5608IMG_5619IMG_5633IMG_5634IMG_5635IMG_5668To rent a lookout you kind of have to be on the lookout (pun intended) or at least I had to. You have to rent the more popular lookouts through the National Forest Service several months in advance as they fill up quickly. Derek decided late last year that he wanted to stay in a lookout for his birthday which was in March, but the lookouts are closed then. So I booked our stay for this July last December. Up Up lookout is about two hours outside of Missoula in the Lolo National Forest. The Forest Service gives you a code to access a gate 3 miles from the tower and a lock that lets you in to the tower itself. We arrived at the tower after seeing a bear on the drive in and began making the trek 40 feet up over 3 flights of steep stairs multiple time to unload all our belongings and settle in for the weekend. There was a pulley system that helped.IMG_9408IMG_9407IMG_5677IMG_5705IMG_5709We had decided previously that this weekend would have no agenda. Although there was much to explore around us, we both wanted to get the most of our time in the tower. So the plan was to stay in. Which is rare of us, but was a nice change. The views were spectacular and the place itself is cozy, not a bad place to lock yourself away for weekend. The tower is equipped with a twin bed, a table, a lot of cabinet space, gas lamps, and map at the center. No stove, no water, and the toilet is 40 feet below at the base. We stocked up on food we could cook over a camp stove and a lot local beer to get us through the weekend. We passed the time looking for animals, playing cards, talking, napping, and just looking out the windows. We enjoyed summer rain storms and bright sunsets over the mountains. It was light until almost 11pm which gave us plenty of time to enjoy the day.IMG_9477IMG_9474IMG_9473IMG_9452IMG_9419IMG_9436IMG_9377IMG_9400IMG_9384IMG_9403IMG_5716IMG_5733IMG_5785IMG_5799IMG_5744IMG_9397IMG_5724IMG_5696Sunday came too quickly and before we knew it we were packing up and saying good-bye to our peaceful mountain tower. I was sad to see the trip end, but we decided we would make it a yearly event and plan to be at Up Up next summer.IMG_9458IMG_9476IMG_9472IMG_9389IMG_2871IMG_5727

 

 

Tetons and Yellowstone

Two more National Parks checked off the bucket list! Last week, we drove north while my parents were visiting to do a mini exploration of both parks. We stayed at a quaint Airbnb on a farm in Driggs, ID. The view of the Tetons was spectacular, we would wake up with them right outside our window! We spent Friday shopping around Jackson, WY and driving the Tetons. The rainy weather prevented us once again from seeing the Tetons up close as they were covered in fog, but Jackson was lovely as usually and it was great to spend even a small amount of time in Grand Teton National Park. On Saturday we spent the day exploring Yellowstone. I had never been to Yellowstone myself, so was super excited to see the sights. I was blown away by Yellowstone. Wide open spaces, exploding geysers, and animals everywhere…perfection! It was a breath taking day. We entered from the west entrance stopping at Grand Prismatic Springs, Old Faithful, Yellowstone lake, and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. It quickly became one of my top 5 favorite parks so far. The drive from where we were staying took us through 3 states-Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. We did a quick tour of Bear World on Sunday, per the request of my mother on Mother’s Day, to see some grizzly and black bears up close as well as some adorable cubs. We saw a lot, but still only a small portion of what both parks have to offer so we are already planning time to go back and enjoy more.IMG_3979IMG_3980IMG_E4006IMG_9309IMG_E4022IMG_9309IMG_9301IMG_4119IMG_9271IMG_9261IMG_9272IMG_9275IMG_4154IMG_9279IMG_4164IMG_9284IMG_9298IMG_4183IMG_9254IMG_9322IMG_9345

 

PDX

Mid-January we traveled to Portland for a long weekend of beer drinking, city exploring, and outdoor enjoying. It was a last minute decision to get of town and check out a city that I haven’t been to in awhile and Derek had never been to at all. We arrived late Friday and checked in to our Airbnb. It was a cute little backyard cabin complete with a record player, tiny fireplace, and a homemade, eco-friendly outhouse. We woke up Saturday morning and ran through Forrest Park and then roamed with the animals at the Oregon Zoo. After some coffee and a shower, we made our way to Hopworks, Base Camp, Cascade Brewing Barrel House, and Schilling Cider House. We ate a long the way at different breweries, but focused more on the beer then the food for most of the weekend (when in Portland, right?).unnamedIMG_1590IMG_1605IMG_1607unnamed-3IMG_1576IMG_1573IMG_1589IMG_1618unnamed-4Sunday we took a day trip to Hood River after a quick stop at Stumptown Coffee. The scenery from Portland to Hood River is absolutely amazing. Although damage from a fire last year is notable, the views of the Colombia River, mountains, waterfalls, and trees are spectacular. We took a scenic drive near Mt. Hood, walked around the picturesque town, checked out Double Mountain and PFriem breweries, and stopped on the way back for a wine tasting. That evening we meandered around the downtown area and walked across one of the many bridges. It was then time for more beer, so we made our way to Breakside Brewing. We had late night pizza slices at Sizzle and browsed Powell’s before turning in for the night.unnamed-7unnamed-8IMG_1686IMG_1678unnamed-15IMG_1689IMG_1695unnamed-16unnamed-21unnamed-20unnamed-19IMG_1733Our last morning, we had coffee at Tov, an Egyptian style coffee house located in a double decker bus. We walked around Hawthorne Boulevard while eating breakfast from local food trucks. We then drove more through Forrest Park and stopped at the Grotto before heading to Fire on the Mountain Brewing to meet up with my friend, Amanda, who I hadn’t seen in ages. It was the cherry on top of wonderful weekend to get to reconnect with an old friend. The three of us had one more beer at Culmination Brewing before Derek and I said our good-byes to Portland and flew back home to SLC. All in all a fantastic getaway to cap off the holidays and prepare for the 10 days of Sundance that followed!IMG_1794IMG_1804IMG_1761IMG_1799IMG_1835IMG_1855

Dushi Curacao

Summer has certainly come and gone here in Salt Lake. And although there is not much I love more than fall colors and pumpkins, our summer was so sweet it’s still got me reminiscing. We missed part of the change in seasons. Our final adventure of the summer was a beach get away to Curacao, a tiny Caribbean island 40 miles off the coast of Venezuela. What was supposed to be a 6 day trip turned in to an 11 day trip for reasons soon to be told. When we left it was summer, when we returned fall had arrived.

I don’t know where to begin to describe the time we had in Curacao. It’s an amazing little island full of beautiful beaches, bright colored houses, and delicious eats. The people are friendly and the island is easily explored. We spent part or all of everyday at different beaches snorkeling with tropical fish and sea turtles. As mentioned before, our trip ended up being a little longer than anticipated. Hurricane Irma hit Miami the weekend we were there shutting down the airport in Miami for several days. We didn’t experience any weather effects of the hurricane, except some intense humidity and a couple hours of rain, but since all flights to the U.S. flew mostly in and out of Miami our flights were cancelled twice, extending our trip by 5 days. We were supposed to leave on Monday we didn’t get home until Saturday. Needless to say, we got to know the island pretty well. IMG_8196IMG_8195IMG_8540IMG_8524I’m sure the number one thing to do in Curacao is go to the beach. The island has over 30 beaches with a wide variety of appeal. You can find any preference of beach. Beaches connected to resorts, beaches you hike to, beaches with locals, beaches with no one. Most of the beaches are prime spots for snorkeling and scuba diving and the Caribbean blue and turquoise waters never get old. The best beaches were Kleine Knip, Grote Knip, Directorsbaai, and Playa Grandi. There’s also Tugboat beach where you can snorkel a sunken tugboat. They fish are plentiful and don’t seem to be near as scared of people. On Sundays there is a small food market in the tiny town of Barber. People venture to the market to sample some local fare like stewed chicken or beef and home made lemonade or Tamarin soda and then head to Playa Grandi to watch the locals fish and swim with the sea turtles that come closer to shore to check out what’s going on.IMG_8288IMG_8276IMG_8346IMG_8515IMG_8638IMG_8649IMG_8865IMG_8462IMG_8460IMG_8703My absolute favorite beach was Playa Gipy. It’s on the very northern tip of the island and takes a short hike to get to, but it’s beautiful and rarely filled with other people. We went twice and the second time we were there for about half a day and had the whole beach to ourselves. We swam, drank wine, and built sandcastles. It was amazing. We also went to the Blue Cave. It’s an underwater cave that you hike about a mile or so to from Santa Cruz beach. You jump in and time the waves right to dive under and get in to the cave. The light from the water makes the whole cave sparkle with a blue tint. Unfortunately, my underwater camera died before that day, but it is burned in my memory because it was so beautiful!IMG_8474IMG_8484IMG_8475IMG_8630IMG_8466We spent part of a day in one of the two national parks on the island, Christoffelpark. We made it to the park in enough time to start the climb of Christoffel Peak, the tallest peak on the island (1,220 ft.). The park has a cut off time of 11am to start the hike due to the high heat, humidity, and the trail being exposed. Luckily, we hit the trail on a cloudy and overcast day which made it a bit cooler, but the humidity was still rough. You can see the whole island from the top of the peak. The trail is steep, but short and the views make it worth it. The island has a unique terrain of tropical jungle like trees and desert looking cacti intermixed everywhere you look and iguanas are easy to spot all over the island. IMG_8337IMG_8449I got to check off a bucket list item while on the island. I spent a morning snorkeling with dolphins at the Curacao Dolphin Academy. Getting to actually swim with dolphins and not just splash around a bit has always been a dream of mine. It was a surreal experience. To get to dive, swim, and play with 4 dolphins (two were babies!) was spectacular and the best part was I had the whole excursion to myself. No sharing!IMGP0066IMGP0059IMG_8657IMG_8287The capital city of Willemstad and it’s brightly colored neighborhoods are also highly worth exploring. The island hosts a port which separates two neighborhoods Punda and Otrabanda (literally “the other side”). The floating Queen Emma bridge connects both sides and when ships need to come in to the port the bridge moves and opens like a gate to let the ships in. If you time it correctly you can “take a ride” on the bridge and stay on it as it moves. Both sides of Willemstad have color splashed buildings and street art in various places. At night the city and the bridge light up with more beautiful colors everywhere. Curacao is certainly colorful in more ways than one!IMG_8580IMG_8581IMG_8582IMG_8585IMG_8588IMG_8589IMG_8620IMG_8722IMG_8805IMG_8807IMG_8776IMG_8771IMG_8770We feasted on meals that often included plantains, rice, and beans. We tried lionfish at Seaside Terrace overlooking the ocean and Asian/Caribbean fusion at Ginger in the hip Pietermaai district, right next to Punda. The most memorable dining experience was stewed iguana from Jaanchies where there are no menus and the owner actually comes over, sits at your table, and goes over what they have until your ready to order. If you clean your plate you get a bowl of homemade peanut ice cream for dessert. We had Jamaican food at Cool Runnings, the portions were so large we ate on it for a couple of days. We also dined on goat burgers at Williwood, which mimics Hollywood with a similar sign across from the restaurant. We visited Curacao Brewery twice to sample locals brews and did a tour of Landhuis Chobolobo, which is home to the distillery that makes Blue Curacao (as well as Red, Orange, Green, Tamarin, and Coffee flavored). Curacao also has a decent food stand and food truck scene throughout the island. We made sure to stop at one and try some traditional Dutch food. And of course, Derek made his traditional McDonald’s stop. He eats McDonald’s in every foreign country we visit!IMG_8432IMG_8497IMG_8455IMG_8549IMG_8889IMG_8225IMG_8229IMG_8188IMG_8623IMG_8626IMG_8681IMG_8459There are so many other wonderful sights to see! Like the Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue, which is the oldest surviving synagogue in the Americas. It’s beautiful on the inside and the floor is covered in sand which makes it even more unique. Punda also hosts a floating market where vendors sell all sorts of fruits, veggies, and other local goodies. The cemeteries and churches are also worth stopping to visit. The multi-colored tombs and churches catch your eye all throughout the island. There’s also a flamingo park, an aloe vera plantation, an ostrich farm, and tons of art galleries. Something for everyone! I came home with a piece from local artist Nena Sanchez and also enjoyed seeing all of the Chichi’s (which is Papiamentu for big sister) at Serena’s Art Factory.IMG_8563IMG_8557IMG_8555IMG_8543IMG_8789IMG_8785IMG_8711IMG_8709Curacao is a constituent country of the Netherlands and the Dutch influence is still very prominent on the island. Almost everyone on the island speaks at least four languages-Dutch, English, Spanish, and the local language of Papiamentu. In this language, the word Dushi is used very frequently and you’ll see it all over the island on t-shirts, souvenirs, and a big statue in one of the squares (see above). The word essentially means “sweet” or “good”. It’s the perfect word to describe Curacao!IMG_8895IMG_8887IMG_8717IMG_8193