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My List of Must-Knows Before Coming to China

Whether you plan to visit, study, or live in China, you’ll soon realize that your everyday life relies heavily on your phone.

So first off, here’s a list of apps to download on your phone that will make living in China a breeze:

VPN App: Download a VPN app before you enter China to access Google, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Whatsapp, and Quora. There are free VPN apps such as Betternet, and paid VPN apps such as Astral, Flow, and Expres VPN.

Wechat 微信: The equivalent of WhatsApp + Facebook, with other cool functions such as Wechat Pay. This is the number one social media app in China and is the top app for communicating. Get on your Wechat game now!

Alipay 支付宝: A paying app that is linked to your credit card or bank card (similar to Wechat Pay). Alipay and Wechat Pay are the two main apps for mobile methods of payment.

Metro app: For your convenience in getting around town through the metro, download the city’s metro app.

AirVisual: The best app for checking the pollution index and air quality in whichever city you live in. All my friends living in Beijing (including myself) have this app downloaded on our phones.

Taobao 淘宝: Equivalent of Wish app in the States, this is the most popular and cheapest online store app. Taobao has a huge selection of things to buy from clothing and electronics, to souvenirs and everyday household items. It basically carries anything you can think of.

Meituan 美团 /Elema 饿了吗: Food ordering apps for when you get sick of the neighbourhood’s noodle house, or are craving something in particular but are too lazy to get up. Next time your stomach is calling for a Dairy Queen strawberry milkshake or pork dumplings at 2am in the morning, you know what to do.

You’ll spot the food delivery drivers the minute you walk out on the street. They’re literally everywhere.

What to Bring to China:

Besides this list of essential apps I came up with, here’s a list of things to bring to China:

While most of these things can be found here, they definitely do cost more and may not be the favourite brands you love from home.

Healthy snacks: Nuts, dried fruit, peanut butter, almond butter, granola bars, protein bars, and protein powder. Next time I head back to Vancouver, I’m going on a big Costco run.

Chocolate: Chocolate lovers will come to know Dove chocolate when they come to China, but I just know it doesn’t compare to the chocolates we love from back home. For some reason, Ferrero, Lindt, and Godiva are more expensive in China, and the Nestle variety isn’t great. So bring your favourite chocolate bars from home!

Clothing Brands: We’re talking Zara, H&M, Forever 21, Gap, Hollister, Abercrombie & Fitch, Champion, Adidas, and Nike (plus all the other brands alike). These brands are more expensive here, so best to bring these from outside of China if you like to shop these brands. Also, don’t fall prey to the counterfeit stores claiming to sell these brands for cheap!

Last but not least, bring an open attitude when you come to China (super cheesy, I know).

China is not for everyone, and there will be things you won’t like about this country. However, keeping an open and positive attitude will always make your experience a great one.

I also recommend learning Chinese and immersing yourself in the culture here. While most of my friends here are foreigners, I’ve found pleasure being able to talk to locals in Chinese (and it definitely makes your life easier).

For me, living in China has been great so far. There’s so much to discover here, and I hope that with some of the tips I mentioned your life will be more convenient here!

Thanks for reading 😄

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Sliding Down the Great Wall of China

Ah, the Great Wall of China. One of the world’s most impressive architecture feats dating back to 7th century BC.

While the Great Wall of China can’t actually be seen from outer space (that’s a myth), it is definitely a must-see tourist attraction when you visit China.

This time visiting the Great Wall of China for the second time, my experience was heightened by a slide.

And yes, by slide I mean the playground structure designed for children aged 12 and under.

But more on that later.

The morning started at 7:00am with a 2 hour bus ride from Beijing to Mutianyu (70km distance). Once we arrived, a short walk led us to the base of the stair hike up to the Great Wall.

Public toilets, souvenir stores, and plenty of restaurants greet you once you arrive to Mutianyu. I was not surprised to see that prices here were a little absurd (so make sure to bring your own water bottle and snacks). But it was strange to see Burger King, Baskin Robbins, and Subway here. I guess you’re never too far from the fast foods you find back home…

The hike up to the Great Wall consisted of well-maintained wooden and stone steps that left me out of breath but not exhausted. The path was surrounded by trees, shrubs, and a small waterfall. The air was the best I’ve experienced in Beijing!

4,000 steps later, I was on the Great Wall of China!

I could’ve taken the two-rider chairlift or gondola, but opted for using my feet and easily surpassing the 10,000 steps/day goal.

At the top of the Great Wall, the magnificent stone structure stretched further than the eye could see!

The watchtowers were my favourite to walk through, and climbing on top of them was a pretty incredible experience.

I highly recommend checking the weather forecast before planning your trip. We were blessed with clear skies the day we visited and my pictures turned out fantastic.

After gazing at the breathtaking view, walking through several sections of the Wall, and taking plenty of pictures, it was time to leave.

I’m not sure if it was the kid inside of me, but as soon as I saw the toboggan slide from the side of the Great Wall descending down to the base of the hike, I knew there was no way I was going to pass up this chance!

I happily paid the ticket price of 100 RMB (around $15 USD) for the ride and prepared for what would probably be the longest and most exciting toboggan ride of my life.

Watch my vlog below of the trip! Holding the camera while tobogganing was not the safest idea, but hey, I consider myself a Youtuber now.

For some, the Great Wall isn’t necessarily one of the most exciting attractions of all time. But process this for a second: It took 1 million people over 10 years to build the entire Great Wall of China which stretches for 21,196 km.

Mighty impressive in my opinion.

Today, not only is the Great Wall of China a significant part of China’s history and mega tourist attraction, but also a venue for marathons, raves, and camping trips. Hikes along the less well-maintained parts of the Wall are super popular and I definitely plan to do that one day.

Thanks for reading and watching!

Let me know if you’ve ever been to the Great Wall or plan to visit it one day.

A Mixed Girl’s Life in China: City of Changsha

Welcome to Changsha, a city that seamlessly blends elements of modern and old China together.

Located in the province of Hunan, this is a city that’s known for being one of the cultural and entertainment capitals of China. It’s also the city where Chairman Mao studied and lived, and is known to people as a city that never sleeps (or stops eating).

While filming 《湖南 I GET YOU》, my co-host Mack and I had a chance to learn a lot about Changsha.

But what you guys haven’t seen is my own personal side of Changsha.

So this is what I want to share with you below:

The memories I have of this city revolve around the wonderful people I met here. My colleagues helped me improve my Chinese, and my English-speaking friends were the relief when I needed to express myself in English.

During my time here, I also interacted with people on a daily basis. I became friends with the local shopkeepers around my apartment complex, and had conversations with almost all the taxi drivers I met.

I met a taxi driver that knew greetings in Spanish and had been to Venezuela, another taxi driver that had been driving taxis for 20 years, and one taxi driver that gave me some unforgettable life advice. The translation of his exact words were, “When you try to control things that are out of your control, you only get upset.”

Pretty deep, wouldn’t you say?

He was referring to traffic.

But still. Definitely something to remember.

Now the places I usually took taxis to were places to eat. Changsha is known for its spicy cuisine and unique dishes, including mini spicy lobsters (小龙虾), stinky tofu (臭豆腐), and rice noodles (米粉).

And while my favourite food in Changsha was home-cooked Hunanese cuisine, my friends and I opted for different styles of Chinese food when we went out to eat. We had coconut water chicken hot pot, Chinese BBQ, and pizza with frog meat.

Here in Changsha I found my favourite milk tea of ALL TIME. No joke. The orchard milk tea (幽兰拿铁)  from Modern Tea Shop (茶颜悦色 ) comes with whipped cream and is topped with candied pecans. This is no ordinary milk tea, and is only available within Hunan province.

In this video you’ll also see a tiny bit of the work I had the chance to do in Changsha. Working with the production team of the “World’s Eyes on Hunan” television show, I worked behind and in front of the camera.

On the side, I did some promotional work for Apesso. This is a coffee beverage (containing coconut oil and sweetened with honey) marketed to fitness enthusiasts as a pre-work out drink (hence the shots of me in the gym). It’s currently only available in China.

Filming this promo was a blast because I enjoy working out, and had the chance to connect with like-minded people. So getting paid to work out and walking away with free boxes of coffee was a dream come true.

I hope you enjoyed seeing a bit of my Changsha life! Comment below any thoughts, and let me know if you would ever visit Changsha if you had the chance.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

A Beauty Queen’s Singapore Travel Journal

Singapore, or ‘Singa Pura’ in Sanskrit, means Lion City.

Now that’s a majestic name for a city, wouldn’t you say?

On this trip to Singapore, I explored everything this city had to offer. I was there for 5 days, got little sleep, and tried to pack as many activities as possible in the short amount of time I was there.

My travel buddy was a good girlfriend, Miss Chinese Toronto 2016, and we travelled to Singapore to attend the wedding of our other pageant friend, Miss Chinatown Singapore 2016. We all met during the Miss Chinese International Pageant 2017 in Hong Kong, where I represented the Vancouver title.

The direct flight from Changsha, Hunan, took 4 hours. A few hours after boarding the plane, I was in paradise!

Day 1 & 2

I hit up Kampong Glam for Indonesian food and Teh Tarik, Orchard Street and Dover Street Market Singapore for some window shopping, and checked out the National Gallery of Singapore. Have a look at all the random friends I met along the way!

Day 3

We started the day off with a traditional Singaporean breakfast in the Tiong Bahru neighbourhood, and walked around Tiong Bahru Market. The day continued at Marina Bay and Merlion Park with some breathtaking views. For dinner, we met the bride and groom for Chinese-Singaporean food at Two Chefs. Ever heard of milk powder ribs? Take a look below!

Day 4

There’s nothing like beginning the day off  by the pool. The big event of the day was Lovelle and Garrick’s wedding at Sofitel Hotel and Resort on Sentosa Island. Then, the celebration continued at Marina Bay with drinks to end the night. Congrats to the bride and groom!

Day 5

My last day in Singapore 😦

I checked out the Singapore Art Science Museum and Gardens By The Bay, and had some delicious Bak Kuk Teh for dinner with a new friend. Hear my final thoughts on my entire trip at the end of the video:

In 2018, I explored a lot of places in Asia ( China, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong), and out of all those places, Singapore was definitely one of the highlights.

I’ll be back, Singapore! ❤

What Nobody Tells You When You Move to China

I just completed a bit over a month here in Changsha!

So you might be wondering how things are going so far…

Do you want the sugar coated version? Because then the answer is that things have been splendid and China is the best country ever.

The 100% honest version?

I’ve learned so much about myself through smiles and tears in the time I’ve been here.

I’ve had days where I’ve felt on top of the world. I’ve had days where I’ve questioned if I made the right choice coming here. I’ve had amazing days exploring the city. I’ve had one slight anxiety attack (so far). I’ve had days where I’ve attended many fun events. And I’ve had days where I’ve felt lonely.

And boy, there are so many things I miss.

I miss my mom and home cooked meals. I miss healthy smoothies and legit brunch (why can’t I find a brunch place here???). I miss my friends. I miss hiking. I miss random neighbourhoods in Vancouver like Gastown and Kitsilano. I miss $3.50 California rolls and non-crowded gyms. Oh, and I also miss breathing fresh air (jokes).

So what does nobody tell you when you move to China?

Here’s a list of my personal favourites:

– The noise pollution is INSANE. As in “wear-earplugs-to-sleep-even-though-you live-on-the-27th-floor” insane.

– Your phone and a portable charger are the only things you need to carry. Forget cash. Wechat Pay and Alipay are your entire wallet and BFFs. Even locals selling fresh vegetables on the street have a QR code for you to scan (which is crazy to me).

-Welcome to the fake country. Fake Gucci, Yeezys, Apple phones, Porsches, and eggs. Yes, fake EGGS. Oh, and fake art exhibits. Like the Kusama exhibit I visited in this mini vlog:

-China is extremely safe. Need to walk or bike home at 12am by yourself? No problem, you’ll get home safe. Maybe it’s due to all the CCTV on the streets?

-Smoking is allowed everywhere. And by everywhere I mean in elevators, in hotel lobbies, and coffee shops. This is something I really can’t get used to.

-Healthy, western food is expensive. Good luck finding Chia seeds, Kombucha, and organic Almond milk. And why are nuts so damn expensive here? Somebody please ship me a giant $20 tub of Costco mixed nuts…

So, here’s what I’ve resulted to for my breakfasts:

But overall, my experiences so far have been positive. I’ve been focusing my energy on work and working on improving myself in all aspects.

Sometimes I forget to be grateful for what I have in life, especially this opportunity. I guess I just never realized how difficult it would be moving to a new place by myself.

I’m so thankful for getting to live the life I’m living right now, and the support from the people around me. I’m also realizing and learning (slowly) that everything is about perspective, that nothing is perfect, and to always focus on the positive things in life. If you puked a little reading this, you need to work on being more accepting of my “living life to the fullest” attitude. 

On an end note, let me share with you some pictures of this beautiful city I’m slowly exploring!

Young Chairman Mao statue – He was born in this province!

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Graffiti I discovered in the city! Does not feel like China at all…

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Arts and Culture Centre in Changsha – designed by Zaha Hadid!

KAWS x Changsha “Seeing/Watching”

Breathtaking sunset at Orange Isle by downtown Changsha

Thanks for reading!

I’m Moving to China. For Good.

I’m less than a few hours away from my “big move” to China. Or at least that’s what everyone is calling it.

I’m basically dropping everything in Vancouver to go work in China.

Since having the incredible opportunity to film 3 TV shows for the Hunan TV International Channel, I’ve decided to move there to pursue more opportunities.

 

This is a pretty permanent move actually. I plan to stay there for at least a year, depending on how things go.

So how is everyone around me taking this big decision of mine?

I would say that the majority of the people around me are excited for me. They’ve expressed to me that they wish me the best of luck in China. These are the people that will miss me (I hope). Let’s call them the supporters.

“Come on, come on, you can do it!”

Then there’s a group of people that I can sense judgement from. They secretly want me to fail because they’re jealous, or they think I’m making a big mistake. Maybe they think I’m crazy to leave such a comfortable city like Vancouver? Let’s call them the doubters.

“Are you crazy”

Then there’s a group of people that are literally trying to scare me with horror stories from their motherland. Let’s call them the spookers.

I get it, they can’t believe this naive Canadian girl that grew up here is going to pursue the entertainment industry in China. It’s either a complete joke to them or they think I’m getting fed to the dogs.

Bottom line is they feel I’m not prepared for the complications of Chinese society (I actually agree with this). The 关系 guan xi (people relations) are much more complex in China. I’ve been told that in China, people don’t tend to say what they mean. Or they say one thing but mean another. Or they might mean what they say but have underlying motives. Add a nice Canadian girl to the mix, and I’m going to be eaten alive.

I’ll also be competing with tons more people for certain job positions (I hope being mixed is an advantage). And I’ve been warned that people will do things behind your back. It’s a dog eat dog world.

“Oh my god, how scary”

So far, I still haven’t learned how to politely decline without letting the other person lose 面子 mian zi (face), nor am I trained in drinking Chinese white wine at big dinner parties with the 老板 lao ban (company bosses).

I’m in trouble aren’t I?

Then there are people that tell me to worry about everything. Including the air pollution, getting robbed on the streets, the mystery meat in my meals, and getting kidnapped in a 滴滴 DiDi (Chinese version of Uber). I’ve  been told to pretend not to speak Chinese on the streets and learn some self-defence skills for my own safety. Let’s call them the worry-warts.

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Then there are people that tell me not to worry. That because I look like an outsider, I’ll always be an outsider to the Chinese people. And that will be enough to not involve me in their social games. Let’s call them the optimists.

“No problem”

So what are my own thoughts?

To me, this is no big move. If you think about it, people do crazier things than this all the time.

But I am going into this blindly. Completely blind. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve already lived in China (we’re speaking short term only), that I love what I’m going to pursue there, that I’m completely ready for a change from Vancouver, or that I know that the team I’m working with are great people.

But there’s also a side of me that kind of doesn’t really care. I’m not interested in wasting my energy on worrying and stressing out about all tiny possible outcomes. This is a decision I took, regardless of the support or lack of support from people. And I believe in myself (at least to come out alive).

Come on, I’m realistic (sort of). I know I’m considered naive (that’s because I grew up here in Vancouver and choose to see the good in people), but this is the perfect opportunity to learn. I’ll keep my guard up to protect myself for sure. So what is there really to be afraid of?

Not scared, not scared, not scared

Another thing that I’m fine admitting to myself is that I’ll probably learn a few tough lessons. I’ll probably get deceived, lose an opportunity, or lose a friend. But hey, that’s life. These are things that are part of the process of learning. I’ll probably fall on my face a few times, but I will get back up.

So why am I leaving abruptly? Because if I wait for everything to be certain, I feel like this drive in me will disappear. Not to mention that since I’m almost in my mid-twenties, time is too valuable to lose.

And maybe sometimes you’re supposed to take risks in life that scare you, that challenge you, so that you can grow as a person. I mean, at least I have my living situation figured out.

I have faith that no matter what happens, something positive will come out of this.

You have to believe in yourself

What’s the worst thing that can happen? China doesn’t work out for me and I end up moving back to Vancouver with more fluent Chinese. Sounds good to me.

I’m young. I don’t have anything tying me down. This is the perfect time to take risks and see a different side of the world, wouldn’t you say?

Good bye. I wish you all the best

Colombia Travel Journal: Caño Cristales “The Liquid Rainbow”

Two years ago, I came across Caño Cristales on a random Facebook video from Business Insider. I was blown away by the natural colours in this river, and even more excited that it was located in my birthplace of Colombia.

So without a doubt, on this trip to Colombia, Caño Cristales was at the top of my list.

Caño Cristales, also known as the “river of five colours,” is a Colombian river located in the Serrania de la Macarena National Park. From June to November of each year, the river becomes a spectacle of vibrant colours from the aquatic plants that grow beneath the water.


Day 4

Getting to Caño Cristales was a journey in itself. We travelled by air from Bogota to La Macarena (flight time 1h20), got on a boat, jumped on a 4×4, then reached the inside of the park by foot.

Fun Fact: Our luggage had not arrived from our initial Vancouver to Bogota flight yet…

So we were literally travelling to La Macarena with what we had on hand. An extra T-shirt, a lightweight jacket, toothbrush, contact solution, and pair of underwear was all I carried. Thankfully, in the town of La Macarena, I managed to buy a swimsuit and a pair of cheap hiking boots.

 

Back in the mid-2000’s, this place wasn’t the most tourist-friendly. There was guerilla activity (yes, guerilla) that made this area inaccessible and dangerous. However, the Colombian military took back control a few years ago, and La Macarena is now considered safe.

For precaution, there’s still a military presence in La Macarena. Here is a photo of a few Colombian military friends we saw on the way:

When we arrived at the hacienda (our home for the next two evenings), we were welcomed by a talking parrot and the smell of fresh-made arepas con queso (corn flour flatbread with cheese).

 

As you can see from the photos, this was no five star hotel.

This rustic home was owned and operated by Armando and his family. Armando and his nephew Mario were our tour guides, while the aunt took care of everyone’s meals. We were warmly welcomed into their home, and little did we know that by the end of the trip, we would all become great friends.

Tired from the day’s travel, we unloaded our things and headed to the nearest river for a quick swim before dinner.

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Day 5

There’s no better authentic rural experience than waking up to roosters at 4:30am in the morning. Thanks to them, I was right on time for the 5:00am sunrise hike.

Imagine this: You are seated on a rock and hear nothing but the sound of water trickling and rushing through the rocks. You look up at the sky, and watch it slowly open up to reveal the sun. You watch the tranquil mountains, as you inhale the purest air imaginable.

Everything is still, yet everything is flowing.

And that my friends, sums up the most memorable sunrise hike I’ve done in my entire life (so far).

After a hearty breakfast of arepas, scrambled eggs, and tinto (black coffee), we headed out on a hike to see the official Caño Cristales. 

Have you ever seen anything this amazing in your life before? I was completely blown away. I literally kept repeating “que belleza” (what a beauty) while furiously snapping as many pictures as possible.

Making our way upstream, we also found other amazing treasures that the nature here had in store for us.

 

Finally, we ended the hike in a part of the river where we were permitted to swim.

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On this day we actually got pretty sunburnt. We weren’t allowed to wear sunscreen, lotion, deodorant, nor insect repellent when entering the water. This is done to protect the river and the aquatic plants from the chemicals in those products.

While my mother (who is Chinese) would highly disapprove if she knew I went two days in the blazing sun the without sunscreen, the chance to swim in the river was something I was not going to pass up.


Day 6

This morning we went on the last sunrise hike before leaving Caño Cristales. 

I honestly never realized how much happiness nature could bring me until I came here.

Growing up in the city and being a pageant girl, I honestly did not care that: I hadn’t properly showered in 3 days, had been wearing the same clothes for the last 3 days, had no wifi to go on Instagram, and was not getting enough beauty sleep.

This trip made me realize that being able to experience the beauty of nature with incredible people was one of the most amazing gifts I could ever ask for.

So I speak from the heart when I tell you that if you ever plan on travelling to Colombia, please visit Caño Cristales. 

Tips for Travelling to Caño Cristales:

  • A yellow fever vaccine is required. You may be asked for proof that you have this vaccine before you board your plane.
  • If you’re planning on swimming, don’t wear sunscreen, lotion, insect repellent, deodorant, etc.
  • Bring all your swimming essentials: swimsuit, goggles, and waterproof shoes
  • For the hikes, bring a good pair of hiking shoes, lightweight clothing, and a hat
  • Bring a reusable water bottle as plastic bottles are not allowed inside the park

Lastly, don’t go crazy searching up pictures of Caño Cristales before arriving. Let the nature do the talking. A lot of the pictures on Google and tourism sites are edited to make the colours of the water appear more vibrant and vivid.

 


More to Know about Caño Cristales:

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Serrania de la Macarena National Park is one of the most biodiverse areas of Colombia. This is where three ecosystems meet: Amazon rainforest, Andes mountain range, and savannah plains of the East Llanos.

With more than 500 species of birds, 100 species of reptiles, and over 2,000 species of plants, this protected national park has all the best that nature has to offer.

While tourism is developing quite rapidly, only 200 tourists are allowed inside the Macarena National Park per day to conserve the area. Reservations must be made a few months in advance. We made our trip reservation through Colombia Oculta.

So we were extremely lucky and a huge shout out to my dad for booking this trip! Gracias papi.

Sunrise hike with sister and daddy.

Colombia Travel Journal: Biking and Big Booties in Bogota

Day 1

“Colombia, tierra querida,” I exhale as the plane lands at El Dorado International Airport. 18 hours and 6,753 km later, I have finally arrived in the motherland.

Our first stop was the capital city of Bogotá. Bustling with people and cars, this big city is the economic and cultural centre of Colombia.

 

After sitting on an airplane for more than 10 hours, a bike tour was the perfect way to begin an adventure around the city.

So we got on bikes, put on helmets, and began pedalling.

In just a few hours, my knowledge of Bogota expanded tremendously. This concrete jungle filled with traffic, street vendors, never-ending construction, colonial architecture, and graffiti was beyond mesmerizing.

 

Mike, our bike tour guide, was so passionate about his work. As a social activist, he spoke about some deep issues I was not expecting to hear on a bike tour.

Identity, or the struggle of identity, was one of the topics that captivated me. A large number of factors, including Spanish colonization, oppression of Indigenous peoples, European influence, and the diversity in each region, have created an identity crisis for Colombians.

So how do Colombians deal with this? By embracing their differences. The history of welcoming ethnic diversity within the Colombian population has made the country home to a wide range of cultural expressions. And while some ideologies between Colombians are certainly not the same (I’m talking politics here), there’s a strong urgency for peace.

Violence and government corruption continue to be pressing issues, yet there’s a movement and an energy from the people that can not be ignored. The Colombian people don’t just want peace, they demand it. 

This urgency for peace is something that has united all Colombians; They believe they will achieve it one day.

La Paz es Ahora = Peace is Now

 


Day 2

Which artist does the best job of celebrating the bodacious, full curves of a Colombian woman?

If you’re thinking of a Latin reggaeton artist, that’s not what I was going for.

 

The correct answer is Fernando Botero (also known as the most famous artist and sculptor from Colombia).

 

In the Museo Botero, we had the chance to see Botero’s paintings and sculptures. The art museum itself was charming, contained Botero’s personal art collection, and admission was free.

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Botero donated more than 200 artworks to this museum so that the Colombian public could enjoy it for free. This really impressed me because it demonstrates that the art scene in Colombia is highly appreciated and meant to engage the public.

Art is for everyone to celebrate. And whether you see Botero’s art as unique, satirical, or downright hilarious, this art museum was worth the visit.

 

Out of the chubby naked women, chubby fruit, and chubby animals, my favourite paintings were the Mona Lisa and El Ladron (the thief).

 

 


Day 3

This next place I visited had a “goldmine of information.”

Museo del Oro, South America’s most famous gold museum, features 55,000 pieces of gold from pre-Hispanic cultures. This place was literally dripping in gold!

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Before coming to the Museo de Oro, I thought gold was just used as a way to show off your wealth. I was expecting to see gold jewelry and big golden ornaments dating to the Spanish colonial times. But boy, was I wrong.

 

The gold artifacts in each exhibition were not for decorative purposes. In fact, they were archeological artifacts that taught us the history and societal norms of pre-Hispanic cultures.

To pre-Hispanic cultures, gold was not a symbol of material wealth. To them, gold was a sacred metal that received the Sun’s energy. Gold was a source of  fertility, and was used in religious offerings.

For example, tunjos (gold offerings) were thrown into the Laguna de Guatavita (Guatavita Lake) by Muisca chiefs between 600 and 1600 CE. One of these tunjos was the Balsa Muisca, also known as the El Dorado Raft. This tunjo gave birth to the legend of El Dorado.

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While it might sound crazy how throwing gold into a lake will bring fertility to anyone,  I was impressed to see this museum celebrate, preserve, and exhibit the culture and history of Indigenous Colombian cultures.


My next destination is Caño Cristales. As I sip my cafe con leche, I imagine what this river of five colours will be like. My expectations are high, since it’s considered to be “the most beautiful river in the world.”

Ready to leave the city, I reflect my final thoughts on Bogota. To be honest, this is definitely not a city you fall in love with right away.

Just like me, you will probably lose your patience in the traffic jams.

You will probably feel a tiny bit suffocated by all the people in the city centre.

You will probably notice that the air quality is not amazing.

You will probably complain about how cold it is.

And yes, you better watch your personal belongings when walking on the street.

Bogota is a huge, sprawling mass of metropolis. So there’s a reason why things are the way they are. My advice? Don’t let those little things take away from your experience, because Bogota is where you’ll find a perfect blend of urban life, history, art, and culture.

 

Mixed Girl Problems

While it’s pretty common to be of mixed-race in the world of today, the “oooohs” and “aaaahhs” I get don’t seem to be stopping. Being Colombian-Chinese, one of the first things people tend to ask me when they meet me is, “What’s your ethnicity?” or “Are you mixed?”

The answer is (obviously) yes, but I always like to hear what ethnicities or mixed-race combos people come up with. The ones I’ve heard the most include:

  • Italian and Chinese
  • Mexican
  • Filipino
  • Hawaiian
  • Mexican and some sort of Asian (Japanese, Chinese, or Korean)
  • Filipino and Chinese

These combinations (among others) are super interesting to hear and always lead to the question of “How did your parents meet?”

And while I get asked this a lot, I never get tired of answering this question.  I still find it amazing how two people from complete different parts of the world could meet, fall in love, and start a family like my parents did. It’s super romantic and this story is such a poster-child for mixed-race love stories. Long story short, my dad, who is Colombian, met my mom in China and swept her off her feet!

Another question I frequently get is:

“Which are you more of?” (referring to which ethnicity am I more like)

Which to be honest, I have no clue.

I love dancing and music like a Latina, love spicy food like my Chinese mother, watch telenovelas and Chinese dramas, think and dream in English (even though I am fluent in Spanish and Chinese), and absolutely love all the cultures I am part of. As cheesy as it sounds, I embrace all the best parts of the cultures I am exposed to. I like to think I’m like a chameleon, I can easily adapt to different cultures depending on where I am. Bring me to Sichuan, China, my Chinese mother’s home province, and I’ll speak Chinese everyday, sip congee for breakfast, go out for hot pot, and play mah jong. Bring me to Colombia, I’ll yell in Spanish in the soccer stadiums, eat arepas, tamales, and patacones, and dance to Vallenato. And while I live here in beautiful Vancouver, Canada, I’m just a combination of everything.

So unlike the title of this blog post, I really don’t feel like I have “Mixed Girl Problems.” I am super thankful for the diversity of cultures and races that have made me who I am (literally and figuratively).

And just to end this post off, here is my list of sexiest mixed-race celebrities:

1. Jessica Alba

I knew her from Fantastic Four and Honey (where she danced hella sexy). Jessica’s dad is Mexican-American and her mom has French and Danish roots.

2. Enrique Iglesias

I’d want Filipino-Spanish singer Enrique Iglesias to be my Hero any day of the week!

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3. Arianny Celeste

My all-time favourite ring girl Arianny is of mixed Filipino and Mexican descent.

4. Wentworth Miller

 

This Prison Break actor has a hugely diverse background. His dad is African-American and his mother has Russian, French, Dutch, Lebanese, Syrian, and Swedish ancestry. 

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5. Vanessa Hudgens

Gabrielle from Disney’s High School Musical! Vanessa’s dad is Irish and Native American, while her Mother is from the Philippines.

 

Vlogging in China

Hello beautiful people! It has been way too long since I last blogged…

While no blog post I write could ever encompass the incredible trip I had in China from January to March 2018, I still wanted to share my incredible experiences with you.

So below please see 4 travel vlogs I made while in Shanghai, Xishuangbanna, and Chengdu:

Shanghai: My study exchange at East China Normal University

 

Shanghai: Travel Vlog

 

Xishuangbanna: Travel vlog of “China’s Thailand”

 

Chengdu: Le Shan Big Buddha

 

I’m sure you can tell from the videos that I really did have a wonderful experience in China!

You’ve probably heard of Shanghai, but what about Xishuangbanna and the Leshan Big Buddha? Do comment below what places in China you would love to visit one day! 🙂

Moving On From Pageant Life

Just last week, the 2017 Miss Chinese Vancouver Pageant winner was crowned (by me).

This time, I had a great time experiencing the pageant as an audience member. It was a complete different experience from last year. I could actually enjoy the show!

My mom snapped this picture of me when she was watching me on TV back home! Check out the HUGE piece of jewelry I’m wearing from the jewelry sponsor.

While people assume that passing on the crown is a sad moment for former pageant queens, that really wasn’t the case for me. I am thankful for the platform Fairchild TV provided me as Miss Chinese Vancouver 2016, but I am also so excited to move onto other things.

Looking back, my favourite part about being Miss Chinese Vancouver 2016 was having the opportunity to do a lot of charity work:

Serving Christmas dinners at the Union Gospel Mission.

Participating in the SUCCESS Foundation Charity Golf Tournament.

Selling daffodils for the Canadian Cancer Society.

One year went by extremely fast, and right after the pageant I got back to work.

Two days after the pageant, I emceed the 5th Golden Panda International Film Festival.

This show was held at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and 14 awards were presented. This international film festival received over 1,000 film submissions from 88 countries!

Days later, a friend and I also made around 60 sandwiches for the homeless people of the Downtown Eastside.

A neighbour heard about our little project and donated around 60 fresh croissants. So we made ham and cheese sandwiches and PB + J sandwiches to give out around Oppenheimer Park and East Hastings.

And in January, I will be heading to Shanghai’s East China Normal University to brush up on my Chinese! 我讲中文没问题,但是读写我都要努力学. My younger sister is living in Shanghai (studying at the Royal Conservatory of Music) so I’m excited to spend time with her.

Now that I’ve closed this “pageant” chapter in my life with 2 titles: Miss Chinese Cosmos North America 2015 and Miss Chinese Vancouver 2016, I probably won’t do a pageant again. I think I’ve put my boyfriend through enough (haha). The truth is that I think I’ve learned what I need to learn from pageants and it’s time to move onto the next goal.

So for those of you that followed me along in my pageant journey, thanks for the support!

I’ll definitely be blogging or vlogging about my experience in China so stay tuned.

From Pageant Queen to Loser?

From winning Miss Chinese Vancouver 2016, to not making it into the Top 10 in Miss Chinese International, my life has been a huge rollercoaster the last few months.

Being at both ends of the spectrum in the pageant world made me realize that at the end of the day, I am not defined by a pageant title.

Winning the Vancouver pageant was one of my goals from 2 years ago and I worked extremely hard to achieve this goal. I am so thankful for all the support I received during this pageant.

Two weeks later, I was on a plane to Hong Kong to take part in the Miss Chinese International Pageant. Being in an international pageant was such a unique experience as I competed with pageant queens from different cities from all over the world.

The whole two weeks in Hong Kong and Malaysia were packed with activities such as promo filming, photoshoots, press conferences, travelling, and rehearsals. The amount of work that went into producing this pageant was incredible.

Everyone survived on 3-4 hours of sleep each night, which demonstrated to all of us pageant girls that the entertainment industry is not all glamour like people think. Despite our lack of sleep, we still had so much fun during this entire journey.

As the heaviest contestant, I dealt with a lot of body shaming from the Hong Kong media. I realized people did not care that I could speak 4 languages, graduated from university with distinction, and was a talented performer and dancer. To them, the number on the scale was all that mattered.

The HK media even grouped the girls who were “more gifted” in the chest area and asked us in an interview if we drank papaya milk. That’s because in Chinese culture papaya milk is considered a natural food that can help enlarge a woman’s breasts…

This kind of experience really opened my eyes to the fact that being in the spotlight means you have to be prepared to deal with negative attention. For me, I’ve always been insecure about my body, but during this pageant I realized something. My weight was only gossip for people to talk about, not a definition of who I was.

The international pageant I took part in taught me a lot. I made new friends, learned a lot about the entertainment industry, and learned one thing that will stick with me for the rest of my life: you can’t always control life’s circumstances, but you can control how you deal with things.

There’s always so much to be thankful for and that’s how I feel for having this opportunity. After all, this might just be a blessing in disguise…

The Perfect Summer Meal: Big Island Poke

The Poke craze started in Hawaii but is making its way all over North America. Poke is a raw fish salad from Hawaiian cuisine which is healthy and delicious. With a few Poke restaurants opening up later this year, Poke will definitely be part of the next food craze in Vancouver.

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I couldn’t wait to try Poke, so heading south of the border was my chance at trying this Hawaiian dish. A little further down from Seattle sits Big Island Poke in the small city of Renton, WA.

In this “Subway-style” restaurant you build your own Poke bowl using fresh ingredients.

  1. BASE: rice, salad, or tortilla chips
  2. PROTEIN: tuna, salmon, octopus, or crab
  3. TOPPINGS: avocado, cucumber, furikake, green onion, masago, sesame seeds, sweet onion
  4. SIDES & SAUCES: seaweed salad, kimchi cucumber salad, and sauces like wasabi mayo and siracha garlic aioli

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On the left is the Hawaiian: tuna, green & sweet onion, sesame seeds, limu, shoyu, sesame oil on brown rice. I also added cucumber, seaweed salad, and wasabi mayo (spicy!)

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On the right is a self creation: Hawaiian tuna and spicy ahi tuna on white rice with cucumber, seaweed salad, tobiko, and arugula salad.

In the mason jar is the Big Island Poke home-made Passionfruit Lemonade. Super refreshing and great souvenir to take home!

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The ingredients were all very fresh and I liked the creativity in the sauces. My only concern was that I couldn’t taste the fish very well (but maybe that’s because the other flavours overpowered the fish).

I had a pleasant experience at Big Island Poke and service was fast, the place was clean, and the food was decently priced (around $11 per bowl).

I can’t wait to try the Poke restaurants that open up in Vancouver, but for now, Big Island Poke is my Poke place to go.

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Photo credits to Nathan Ng

Kishimoto: A Sushi Staple in Vancity

Sushi restaurants are as common as Starbucks and marijuana dispensaries in Vancouver. While this makes it easy to stop for sushi in pretty much any neighbourhood, it can become difficult choosing a sushi restaurant that is always fresh and delicious.

Kishimoto is a small Japanese restaurant located on Commercial Drive. While more on the pricey side, the presentation and taste of their dishes is top notch. They offer basic rolls like the California roll, and special rolls like the Salmon Aburi Oshi.

Sushi-wise I had:

  • Salmon Aburi Oshi
  • Hamachi roll
  • California roll
  • Spicy Tuna roll

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Here is the 6 piece of wild salmon sashimi. Very fresh!IMG_1657

I have to award Kishimoto with the best Chicken Teriyaki award. The Teriyaki sauce is incredible, along with the tender chicken and fresh vegetables.IMG_1661

Their dessert special when I visited was the Tempura Ice Cream: home-made Vanilla bean ice cream deep fried in tempura batter with a side of caramel sauce. Mmm!IMG_1663.JPG

The ending at Kishimoto is always sweet until I see the bill (just kidding). While more expensive than other sushi restaurants, the quality of Kishimoto always keeps me coming back. And I’m sure the entire neighbourhood feels the same way because there are always long lines outside this restaurant.

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Visit Kishimoto: 2054 Commercial Dr, Vancouver, BC

Photo Credits to Nathan Ng.

I GOT LIK’D IN VANCITY: Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream

Liquid nitrogen ice cream has made its way to Vancouver! Having tried this ice cream treat in Hong Kong, I was super excited to try the Vancouver version.

So what’s so special about liquid nitrogen ice cream? It’s made by blasting cream with freezing liquid nitrogen until the mixture is frozen. Then, toppings and a LIK syrup syringe are added to the yummy creation.

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Here’s the mango extreme and the cookie monster. Around $15 for both (pretty pricey for ice cream if you ask me, but worth the try!)

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Mango Extreme: Mango ice cream topped with mango cubes and a LIK syringe of condensed milk.

Super good and refreshing! Especially great for those who don’t like their ice cream too sweet.

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Cookie Monster: Blue cookies n’ cream ice cream, topped with oreo crumbs, a chocolate chip cookie, and a LIK syringe of chocolate syrup.

This one was sweet, creamy and crunchy! Perfect for satisfying your chocolate craving and sweet tooth.

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The place was buzzing with people taking pictures of their ice cream and enjoying the messy treat. The place was small, staff was nice, and there were lots of ice cream flavours to choose from. LIK is a summer treat must try, and is guaranteed to impress your date!

Visit LIK at 320 Robson St, Vancouver, BC V6B 6B3.

 

Photo credits to Nathan Ng.

Shishinori: Healthy Japanese Food That Won’t Leave You Feeling Guilty

Forget the bento boxes, ramen, and sushi rolls for a second. Japanese food is being served the really healthy way at Shishinori. Here, salad bowls featuring lots of healthy ingredients will leave you satisfied without feeling guilty.

Ahi Tuna Carpaccio Bowl ($12): brown rice, spinach, ahi tuna carpaccio slices, 1/2 egg, edamame, carrot, radish and apple slices, grapes, and a side of ginger.

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Hawaii Ahi Poke Bowl ($12) : leafy greens, brown rice, sprouts, chunks of tuna sashimi, avocado, carrot and radish slices, and grapes.

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From my experience, all the ingredients were very fresh and I really enjoyed my salad bowl. You’ll be getting yummy protein from the sashimi, and the brown rice will leave your tummy satisfied and full. If dessert is a must for you, daily desserts (such as matcha mousse and matcha ice cream) are available!

Shishinori is located off Broadway and Cambie and also features subs, desserts, and breakfast options. The place is tidy, small, and especially busy during lunch hour.

Shishinori: 2328 Cambie Street, Vancouver, BC

Slack It With a Floral Jacket

Who said fashionable outfits have to be complicated to look good? Sometimes one piece of clothing can make you stand out and seamlessly put an outfit together.

This floral print bomber jacket from Zara is light and fits snug. The floral pattern on this jacket is given a more casual/edgier look with the navy cuffs and collar, and a zipper on the side of the sleeve. The fabric is not heavy or thick, so it’s perfect for spring and summer.

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To complete this outfit I went with a black tank top and white pants. To play it up I wore heels, but wear sneakers or flats for a more casual look.

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Don’t be discouraged to buy a floral print bomber jacket due to its “busy look” from the floral print. Match the jacket with solid colours and I promise it will look great!

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Perfect for a date, to put over a cute dress, or to wear with shorts, a floral bomber jacket will make you stand out where ever you are seen.

My advice? Slack it with a floral jacket.

 

Photo Credits to Sanjeet Photography.

Camouflage Montage

IMG_0935Depending on how you wear it, camo is one of those fashion trends that can be trendy or tacky. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t be just reserved for Halloween.

I decided to go camo crazy for a casual, boyish look with a camo long sleeve and snapback. That’s definitely enough camo for one outfit, so I finished off with light jeans and white sneakers.

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Pulling off the camo look is easy, but make sure to keep it simple and be careful when matching it with other prints. If you need more inspiration, look up how celebrities dress up in camo. From Rihanna and Justin Bieber, to Selena Gomez and Rita Ora, celebrities love their camouflage.

TOP: Aritzia  •  JEANS: H&M  •  HAT: X Large  •  SHOES: Stan Smiths  •

 ACCESSORIES: Pandora (charm bracelet) and Louis Vuitton (necklace)

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Photo Credits to Nathan Ng.

The Triple C Look

The Triple C Look is about being comfortable, cozy, and looking cute. While my idea of being comfortable and cozy is wearing an oversized hoodie, sweatpants, and fuzzy socks, that isn’t a look I would feel very fashionably cute in.

Here is the triple C look you can re-create with items already in your closet:

1. Snapback: Go for a solid dark colour and avoid the “I ❤ Haters” logo at all costs. Here I have the James Perse Knit Trucker Hat in black. And what’s cuter than messy pigtail braids? If these aren’t for you, try the look with your hair down or a side ponytail.

2. Hoodie: While I agree that girls look adorable in any hoodie, one that fits snugly will make you look slimmer. Here I have the John Elliot Flash Dual Fullzip Hoodie in Midnight Blue. It’s a slim fit and super cozy.

My favourite part about this hoodie are the dual zippers. They are incredibly smooth and I love how the silver pops out from the dark blue colour of the hoodie. This John Elliot hoodie uses Riri zippers (aka the Rolls Royce of zippers), which are the same ones used on Prada and Versace clothing/handbags.

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3. White Jeans: Yea, I was unsure about these at first. But these white Levi’s have a bit of stretch (for guaranteed comfort) and are a nice change from the black tights or skinny jeans I usually wear.

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4. Inside Shirt: A black shirt never fails, but I decided to go with some stripes. This black and white stripped long sleeve from Abercrombie & Fitch is eye-catching and ties together the white bottoms with the black snapback I have on.

5. White Sneakers: White converse or Stan Smiths go perfectly with this clean look. I paired my outfit with some original Adidas Stan Smiths.

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6. Accessories: A simple, small necklace will suffice, but wear whatever jewelry you want. Keeping it casual,  I accessorized with my favourite necklace, a golden “M” from Louis Vuitton.

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There you have it! The triple C look in 6 easy steps. Perfect for cloudy weather and going out. Thanks for reading and happy styling!

 

 

Photo credits to Nathan Ng.

 

Feed Me Vegas, Baby!

As one of the food capitals in the world, Las Vegas is not just known for its famous seafood buffets. During a recent trip to Vegas, I indulged in so much good food that I just had to share it with you all.

From food court items to celebrity chef restaurants, here is a list of of my favourite food spots in Vegas.

Shake Shack 

I ate Shake Shack three times during my trip and could not get enough. Conveniently located in the centre of the strip, it was hard not to go in when walking by.

  • ShackBurger: Cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato, ShackSauce™.
  • Chick’n Shack: Crispy chicken breast with lettuce, pickles and buttermilk herb mayo.
  • Cheese Fries: Fries topped with American and Cheddar cheese sauce.

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In-N-Out

Made a special trip off the strip for this famous burger chain that I’ve never tried before. Yes, the burgers are as good as they say…but the animal style fries with the chocolate shake was a combo made in heaven.

  • Cheeseburgers and fries
  • “Animal Style Fries” from the secret menu: fries topped with cheese, grilled onions, and In-N-Out sauce
  • Chocolate Shake

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Nathan’s Hot Dogs

Conveniently found in almost all food courts, these bad boys are perfect for a quick snack or lunch.

There’s no other way to describe Nathan’s original all beef hot dogs besides being the best hot dogs I’ve ever had. No sauerkraut, relish or onions needed.

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Sake Rok

This place serves Japanese cuisine and sushi amid dances, lip-sync battles and impromptu performances. The Sake Rok staff was engaging and killed it with the dance moves. One of the most entertaining dinners I have ever had.

I’m Philled with Cream Roll: salmon, cream cheese, cucumber, avocado

Girl on the Beach: ebi, snow Crab, cucumber, avocado, topped with tuna and a spicy sauceIMG_0735Salt and Pepper Shrimp: Crispy shrimp with dry miso, garlic, and Shiso ailoiIMG_0744Karaage: Japanese fried chicken with soy sauceIMG_0741IMG_0727

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CUT by Wolfgang Puck

Upscale and chic steakhouse with some of the most incredible appetizers I have ever tasted. Service was top-notch and cocktails were good too.

Bone Marrow Flan: Mushroom Marmalade, Parsley SaladIMG_0637Maple Glazed Pork Belly: Ten Spice, Sesame–Orange Dressing, Rhubarb CompoteIMG_0636Roasted Loup De Mer: Meyer Lemon, Italian Parsley-Sage GremolataIMG_0640New York Sirloin 14 Oz: USDA PRIME, Nebraska Corn Fed, Dry Aged 35 DaysIMG_0638IMG_0642

Gordon Ramsay Steak

Who wouldn’t want to dine at a restaurant created by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay? This is my favourite Ramsay restaurant out of Burgr, Steak, and Pub & Grill.  Everything was exquisite and delicious, especially the mac & cheese. I also died over the cinnamon ice cream that came with the pear tatin.

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Signature selection of breadsIMG_0880

Gnocchiblistered heirloom cherry tomatoes, royal trumpet mushrooms, ibérico jamón, mushroom creamIMG_0883Seared Hudson Valley Foie Grasherbed goat cheese pop overs, gooseberry jus, pickled rampsIMG_0887Roasted Beef Wellington: served medium rare. glazed root vegetables, potato purée, red wine demi-glaceIMG_0884Mac & Cheese: served with blue, cheddar, and parmesan cheese, topped with truffle oilIMG_0888Pear Tart Tatin: golden puff pastry, caramelized pears, frangipane filling, and cinnamon ice creamIMG_0891

Jean Philippe

Located inside Aria hotel and casino, Jean Philippe serves an array of crepes, gelato, desserts, and chocolates. I’m always blown away by the life-size displays that are made entirely out of chocolate.

Banana Foster Dessert Crepe: Caramelized bananas topped with powdered sugar and a generous amount of whip cream

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Serendipity 3

Located near Caesar’s Palace, Serendipity 3 serves comfort food that comes XL in size.

Frrrozen Hot Chocolate: A creamy hot chocolate slushy topped with a mountain of whip cream and chocolate shavings.

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Just like there’s something for everyone to do in Vegas, there’s also something for everyone to eat! Coming from Canada, it’s always an adventure trying new foods in Sin City.

I have to admit though, it should be a sin for so much good food to be conveniently located on the Strip. What made me feel a little bit better about my over-indulging was the amount of walking I did…

I can’t wait until my next trip back because there is always something new to try. Until next time, stay delicious Vegas!

Photo credits to Nathan Ng. 

On Yogurt: Vancouver’s first “ice-fried” yogurt

b7252370763209772da10123d917da79Recently I tried Vancouver’s first “ice-fried” yogurt shop, On Yogurt, in Yaletown. On Yogurt offers a wide selection of yogurt flavours, yogurt-gelato, and drinks.

While all their menu items looked delicious, I was most eager to try their signature “ice-fried” yogurt.

The “ice-fried” method sure is magic, and it is a popular method of making ice cream in South Asia.

“Ice-frying” yogurt takes a flash freezer and skills. Once yogurt is put on the flash freezer, the extreme cold temperature turns the yogurt crispy on the outside. This is when a metal spatula is used to scrape the yogurt into rolls.

This process was mesmerizing to watch!

The finished product: “ice-fried” yogurt rolls that are icy and crispy on the outside, and soft and creamy on the inside.

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I had the Mango “ice-fried” yogurt, which had mango pieces and mango syrup mixed into the yogurt. It was super delicious and the perfect mix of sweet, creamy, and sour from the mangoes.

It was so fun eating these yogurt rolls!  I’ll be coming back soon to try their other flavoured creations.

Best part is, all of their yogurt selection is organic and gluten-free, and sourced from local organic farms in BC.

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Make sure to visit On Yogurt at 95 Smithe St, Vancouver.

BEST RAMEN in Vancouver: Kintaro

In the heart of downtown Vancouver, this famous restaurant serves bowls of ramen in a compact, unpretentious setting. Kintaro Ramen serves the tastiest ramen noodle soup with toppings such as BBQ Pork, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, corn, and green onion.

The place is small, simple, and always packed. Have they given much thought to interior decorations? Nope. But it’s not relevant because their ramen is the star of the show.

The three main ramen soups you can choose from include:

  1. Shoyu Ramen $9.95 (special soy-sauce soup with pork bone stock)
  2. Shio Ramen $9.95 (mild soup made from pork bone stock and sea salt)
  3. Miso Ramen $10.45 (known as “Kintaro’s BEST!!” features a soup with a blend of soy bean pastes and 12 spices)

All come with BBQ Pork (lean or fat), bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, corn, and green onion.

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Taking a look at the menu outside while waiting for seats.

Now for the special items of the menu: I’ve heard the Spicy Garlic Ramen is super popular, but I always order the CHEESE RAMEN. 

That’s right, I said cheese. As it says on the menu, Kintaro’s Cheese Ramen ($11.75) comes in an “exquisitely balanced special miso soup and two kinds of cheese. Ladies just lo-o-o-ve it!!”

Couldn’t agree more, I do just “lo-o-o-ve it!!” IMG_0495IMG_0496

The melted cheese along with the perfectly cooked ramen noodles in the miso soup is amazing. The (lean) BBQ pork is fresh and tender. The miso soup is rich and savoury, and the toppings just add to this great combination. Once you taste this you will feel your soul melting into your stomach. It’s beyond good.

You won’t find Cheese Ramen anywhere else in the city, so make sure to try it here at Kintaro.

Lastly, a few things to note:

  • There are long wait times to get seated and for your ramen to arrive. But be patient because it’s worth it!
  • The portions (and bowls) are pretty big here
  • Kintaro is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday

Kintaro Ramen: 788 Denman St, Vancouver, BC V6G 2L5

I’m Maria and I’m a Cell Phone Addict

I’m Maria and I’m a cell phone addict.

I wake up to my cellphone, it’s in my pocket every minute of the day, I always get a constant urge to check for new notifications, and it’s the last thing I see before I go to sleep.

Wow. I am finally admitting to myself that the dependency I have on my phone is a little ridiculous.

How did I come this conclusion? Because I started observing:

“It still amazes me how many parents and children I see on their phones while having lunch or dinner at a restaurant. It still amazes me seeing a bunch of people beside me looking down at their phones while waiting for the next skytrain. And I’m not here to criticize or judge all that, because I’ve found myself doing the same thing, but man it’s a problem.”

 

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I get it. Sometimes we just want to shut out the world around us and play a game of Candy Crush or scroll our Facebook feed because we’ve had a long day at work. Or sometimes we spend so much family time together that we don’t mind being on our phones while sharing a meal. I get it, and I’ve been there.

But isn’t there something so messed up about us wanting to be huddled up with a texter’s neck reading something on our phone, rather than conversing with somebody and making a real connection?

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We need down time from our cellphones. To make that easier, I’ve made some obvious and simple rules to try to live by:

  1. No phones while having a conversation.
  2. No phones during a meal. Even if you are eating by yourself.
  3. No phones while walking or driving (way more people do this than you think).
  4. No phones during work or class (it makes checking your newsfeed during your break that much more satisfying).

Are you able to admit you are a cell phone addict? Or you think that term is complete nonsense?

Take the Are You Actually Addicted To Your Phone quiz and see what score comes up (be honest). I got “mildly addicted” to my cell phone.Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 9.25.06 PM

 

Cover photo by Paul Rogers.

Back from Paradise

Aloha friends! I just came back from an incredible trip to Hawaii (Honolulu island to be exact) with my mom and sister and wanted to share a few photos. Besides soaking up the sun on Waikiki beach, we hiked to the top of Diamond Head, went snorkelling with giant turtles, visited the Polynesian Cultural Centre, and attended a Hawaiian Luau dinner.

While I hate to sound like a cookie-cutter tourist, I absolutely fell in love with Hawaii and the energy there.

Besides learning how to say hello (Aloha) and thank you (Mahalo), I learned some interesting things about Hawaii.

  1. It’s expensive. Housing prices are comparable to Vancouver (which is scary to think about) and a gallon of milk costs almost 10 dollars. $10 for milk!!! Hawaii is one of the most expensive states to buy a home in the US.11.jpg
  2. People who have lived in Hawaii all their lives want to get out. I talked to a few young locals and they all told me the same thing. The lifestyle and pace in Hawaii is too damn slow. Then again, people who don’t live in Hawaii want to live there so badly.11
  3. The flocking groups of Japanese people in the area are tourists from Japan. Signs around the city are all in Japanese and there are special tours and buses just for Japanese tourists.11
  4. Linking from the fact above, Hawaii’s biggest industry is tourism. Can you guess the second biggest industry? It’s not flowers, Macadamia nuts, or pineapples. The second biggest industry is the military.
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  5. Native Hawaiians are Polynesians and have a distinct culture and traditions originating from the islands in the Pacific Ocean.11
  6. Outside the tourist areas of this island, a lot of poverty surrounds the city. I noticed many run down houses and homeless people on my way to our hotel from the airport. This just goes to show that Hawaii isn’t perfect and just like any other place in the world, it faces many economic and social challenges.11
  7. The native fish of Hawaii is humuhumunukunukuapua. Try saying that!

And now, the photos…

Beach time by the hotel:

 

Fun on a sailing boat and pictures of the giant turtles:

We were swimming and snorkelling right above these majestic creatures! (Thanks to a friend with a GoPro for the awesome pictures)

The hike up to the top of Diamond Head (known as ʻahi to Hawaiians) and all the breathtaking views:

 

Polynesian Cultural Centre:

 

Last breakfast in Honolulu before our flight:

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Overall, our short trip to Hawaii (4 days) was incredible and it was so nice to be away from all the rain in Vancouver. I can’t wait to go back and explore the other islands Hawaii has to offer.

See you soon, Hawaii!

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Best Upscale Sushi in Vancouver

Living in Vancouver, I think it’s safe to say that almost half the restaurants here are Japanese sushi restaurants. The joke is that they are like Starbucks because they can be found on every other block (haha).

Sushi is sushi, but Miku really steps it up a notch with their unique Japanese fine dining experience.

Situated by Canada Place, this beautiful restaurant is buzzing with chatter, laughter, and people enjoying the food.

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There’s always so much to choose from on the Miku menu, but below are my favourite items that I highly recommend!

(Excuse the poor lighting on the pictures, the lighting was dim and I did not want to be rude and disrupt other diners by using flash)

Appetizers

Ebi Fritter ($14): White tiger prawns, herb-beer battered, sweet chili aioli, soy-balsamic reduction, chili powder. If you are a fan of prawn tempura, you are going to love this dish!

Jidori Chicken Nanban ($13): Sweet and sour soy chicken, house made tartar sauce, basil-citrus slaw. The chicken is juicy and pairs deliciously with the home made tartar sauce.

Sushi

Miku Roll ($18): The BEST sushi roll you will ever have! Contains salmon, crab, uni, cucumber, Miku sauce, all wrapped in tobiko. (This is the only sushi roll I pay $18 for and it’s sooo worth it)

Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi ($16)The signature Miku dish. Prepared using their famous flame-seared technique with signature sauces, the Salmon Oshi features pressed BC wild sockeye salmon, jalapeño, and Miku sauce.

Don’t be fooled by other Japanese restaurants who offer Salmon “pressed box sushi.” Salmon Oshi Sushi was made famous by Miku and they make it the best!

That day I also had the winter feature roll, which featured chopped scallop and cucumber topped with Yellowtail (Hamachi).

Nigiri

While I don’t usually order nigiri at an upscale Japanese restaurant because you can get it for so much cheaper at other Japanese restaurants (it’s just raw fish on rice anyways, right?), the Yellowtail (Hamachi) nigiri is beyond fresh and I always order it at Miku.

On their menu you can choose from Sea Urchin, Tuna belly, Flounder, Mackerel, and other seafood in traditional nigiri, aburi-style nigiri, or sashimi.

With so much sushi, I don’t feel the need to order a main entree. But there’s always room for dessert!

Dessert

Kaffir Lime Panna Cotta ($12)Manjari chocolate cremeux, cassis and mango reduction, sour cherries, pear granita, spiced espuma, cinnamon tuille.

I was honestly blown away by this dessert. The panna cotta mixed with the spiced espuma and pear granita with sour cherries was sweet, tart, and just the right amount of sour that it was the perfect mixture. It literally tasted like Christmas. Plus I’m a huge fan of panna cotta.

On the side I also ordered a coffee macaroon (made in house) and a scoop of Caramelized Honey Oatmeal ice cream. The macaroon was the perfect blend of coffee bitterness and sweetness. Oh boy was I in heaven eating all this.

Desserts change by the season, but another notable dessert that never changes is Miku’s Green Tea Opera.

Miku is my favourite restaurant to go to for special occasions and while it is on the expensive side, it’s definitely worth it.
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Miku Restaurant: Located at 70-200 Granville Street, by Canada Place and Howe Street.

 

 

Fun fact: I used to work at Miku a few years back as a hostess (and I loved the discount I got on food!)

 

Best Eggs in Vancouver: Yolk’s

If you haven’t been to Yolk’s  yet, you need to pay them a visit for brunch.

With the best Eggs Benedict made from free-range eggs, and items like Chicken & Waffles, French Toast, and Truffle-Lemon Hashbrowns, you’ll be hooked!

Located at the corner of Clark Drive and East Hastings, this light blue pale building is home to the best Eggs Benedict in Vancouver.

Build your own creation of perfection through their menu and choose from double smoked bacon, honey carved ham, or portobello mushroom, topped with aged white cheddar or Hollandaise.

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You’ll also have to try the truffle-lemon hashbrowns with Yolk’s home-made spicy ketchup and Tapatio’s spicy hot sauce. It’s my favourite combo.IMG_0144

I’ve tried everything on their menu but keep coming back for the Eggs Benedict. Yolk’s food looks good, tastes amazing, and is locally sourced (which is an awesome bonus).

Service is great as well and the drink menu includes hot chocolate, fresh squeezed orange juice, and breakfast cocktails.

Visit Yolk’s for breakfast, brunch, or lunch and you won’t be disappointed.

Disclaimer: There will be line ups on holidays, Fridays, and weekends. So expect to wait, but I guarantee you it’s worth it!

 

Q Shi Q Japanese BBQ in Vancouver

Q Shi Q, offering “Yakitori” grilled to perfection, is a hip, Japanese BBQ restaurant in the heart of Olympic Village. It just opened up recently in October and I had the chance to try it after hearing about it from word of mouth.

This review on Q Shi Q is not biased, but I admit that I stand behind good food. Before we talk about their food, I want to point out the amazing interior and exterior design and look of the place.

The inside is small but cozy, featuring a long counter table beside an open kitchen and bar. The entire look of the place mixes wood, contemporary art, and modern music.

The menu is super fun and you can try almost everything on it because it is meant for you to order by individual skewers.

You can choose pork, chicken, beef, seafood and veggie skewers in Oishii (blend of green onion, garlic, ginger, sake, soy, lemon, and other authentic secret ingredients based upon a traditional Japanese recipe) or Shio (seasoned simply with sea salt).

The one skewer you must try is the 48 hour pork belly skewer! It is certainly the most talked about one, and is so tender and juicy.

One other notable item on the menu are the Nana Fries which are amazing!

For those brave souls or adventurous eaters, I recommend the chicken liver skewer, too!

Knowing me, I never leave a place without trying (at least one) dessert. The dezato we chose was the rare cheesecake: a rich and zesty Japanese unbaked citrus cheesecake with yuzu marmalade. Yummmmm!

Service was great and the waiters were very attentive and knew the menu really well.

IMG_4586Overall, really awesome and unique Japanese restaurant to eat at! Q Shi Q is definitely worth trying out.

Notes:

Price: $$ (individual prices are not bad at all, but they can add up depending on how much you eat)

Parking: There is a free visitor parkade and tons of street parking

Seating: You might be touching elbows with your neighbours, but hey, isn’t that a trend going around all the hip restaurants now?

 

 

 

Canadians Eat 88 Pounds of Sugar Per Year

Currently in my second-last semester of my university career, I embarked on a social issues project for a Communications class about sugar.

Check out this fact:

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How scary is that?

I was inspired to begin this project after a weight loss journey last year that had me analyzing how many calories and how much sugar I was eating. I’m still not a health nut, but I realized that labels on food products were confusing, impossible to read, and truly unhelpful.

Research led me to hard-hitting documentaries and facts about how our Canadian health regulator has failed to take into account the role of sugar on increasing health risks including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

“Let’s Uncover Sugar” will hopefully bring more light to the issue and inspire people to be more aware about their dietary sugar consumption.

The goals of this project are:

1. To continue educating consumers about the dangers of excessive sugar consumption

2. To get policymakers to create clear, transparent, and helpful guidelines regarding the amount of sugar on food product labels

On my website, “Let’s Uncover Sugar”, I also teach you how to figure out how much sugar is actually in your food. Read below to find out:

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Hidden sugar in foods is what’s scaring me the most. Even by trying to stay away from fizzy drinks, candy, ice cream, etc., we are consuming huge amounts of sugar in foods that are marketed as healthy due to the fact that food labels are not telling us what we need to know.

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Take away fact: Engage in Sugar Awareness!

To find out more or sign the petition that calls Health Canada to get their act together, go to: letsuncoversugar.com

I Don’t Eat Garbage, Do I?

Eating healthy and exercising regularly is important to me. That’s not the way it always was though. In high school I would eat junk food regularly and considered my P.E class as more than enough exercise. My weaknesses were chocolate bars, candy, ice cream, and Smarties Mcflurries. They are all still my weaknesses but I give in to them way less than before.

Currently a 4th year university student, my views about health from an inside perspective (the food I put in my body) and outside perspective (physical exercise) have changed for the better.

Or so I thought.

I’ve noticed that I only take pictures of food when I go out to eat and the food looks drop-dead gorgeous and delicious (aka food porn). After compiling a gallery of my favourite foods I eat when I go out to restaurants, I realized that my sugar addiction has not slowed down. I’ve always been eager to try new desserts and the following images prove that.

Besides the mango topped with chili powder, all these desserts contain a lot of sugar. I get that it’s okay to eat desserts once in a while, but my dessert-craze has truly gotten out of hand.

Completely by accident, I have made a huge realization about the foods I’m eating. While I eat healthy at home and stay away from fizzy drinks, my obsession with desserts needs to be contained.

I don’t think it will be easy, especially since there is scientific evidence that our brains are wired to crave sugar and sugar is just as/or more addictive than cocaine.

BUT being aware is the key! So if you take pictures of your food, I urge you to compile a gallery and make some conclusions about the foods you are eating (even though they may be eaten once in a while and not all the time).

I’m not going to become the sugar police, but I’m going to try my best to cut back on those fit-for-the-gods, chocolate-coated, irresistible desserts.

My Little Adventure at Golden Ears Park

If you live in Maple Ridge, I am officially jealous that you can call Golden Ears Provincial Park your backyard.

Golden Ears Park is a provincial park that has it all: hiking trails, camp grounds, beach, lake, and waterfalls, all just a 90 minute drive from Vancouver!

While I did not get the chance to explore the entire park (which is 62,540 hectares), I found what I claim to be the most amazing part of Golden Ears Park: hiking the Lower Falls Trail.

Starting at the parking lot, Lower Falls Trail is an easy, well-maintained hiking trail suitable for the whole family. Along the way, you encounter the beautiful coastal western forest vegetation and a stone beach with gorgeous clear water before reaching the magnificent Lower Falls.

While the hike seems to end there, you should keep going by continuing on a trail on the upper right. Follow this, and you will arrive at a body of water above Lower Falls. This magical body of water is deep, clear, and the most magnificent shades of blue and green.

So if you are looking for an easy hike with a picture-worthy destination, I suggest that you visit Golden Ears Park!

Wait, so you’re an MC? What does that mean?

Yes, you’ve probably heard of the word “MC” before, but by no means does it mean I am a hip hop artist or rapper!

“Emcee” or “MC,” which stands for Master of Ceremony, refers to the official host of a performance or show. I’m that person that gives you an official welcome and guides you through the show (letting you know what performance is coming up next). Think of me as a sort of “tour guide” for any shows, performances, pageants, and galas.

And surprise! Emceeing is an actual job. Being a wedding host or television host (think Ryan Seacrest from American Idol) are full time jobs for people out there!

To put it frankly, we emcees are paid to talk.

While our onstage presence may be glamorous, a lot goes on in our heads and backstage. Sometimes we are given paragraphs of descriptions to memorize, and other times we have to improvise if the next performance is not ready yet. Not to mention, we have huge pressure to keep you, the audience, entertained throughout the night.

Picture this: There are 10 minutes until show time. In all the crazy backstage chaos, you are sitting in front of a mirror. You are going through lines and last minute script changes. Your hair and make-up is just about done. Your stomach grumbles as Chinese take out boxes are being handed out. You hastily put on your heels (or dress shoes) and pray they’ll be comfortable since you’ll be standing a good 2-3 hours on stage. Just then, the show director yells, “EVERYBODY STAND BY! The show is about to begin!”

Not so glamorous anymore is it?

Emceeing is definitely not a job for everyone, but it is certainly rewarding and challenging. It takes a lot of practice and experience to become a good emcee, and I’m just starting out on this fun little journey!

Welcome to my Blog!

Welcome to my blog where you can learn more about the backstage process in all my career adventures and get to know what I’m passionate about. Thanks for the support and keep reading!