Category Archives: Family

Revisiting Third Street Promenade and Little Tokyo

Last summer, our family went to California again to visit our relatives.  We were excited for our trip because we wanted to see everyone again, and and we couldn’t wait to escape the summer heat in the Philippines.


Quick selfie before leaving for the airport

It was the height of summer in the Philippines, so I was eager to get to the airport to cool down.  Unfortunately when we got there we discovered that the airport was under renovation so the air conditioners weren’t working!  It wasn’t as hot as being outside in the sun, but it definitely wasn’t the cool escape I was hoping for.  We were sweating the entire time we were checking in.  The airport lounge was a *little* better.  They had some fans and an evaporative air cooler, but unless you stood in front of them, they didn’t really cool you down.  Nevertheless, we were still happy to be there since we haven’t had breakfast and we wanted pig out on their free snacks.  Besides, after a while we were able to secure a spot right in front of the air cooler.


Breakfast time :D


I had arroz caldo, mini sandwiches, siopao, siomai and some pastries





After we were done eating, I took out my GoPro.   I’ve only used it a couple of times before this so I needed to practice.  Since I didn’t buy the LCD BacPac, I needed to learn how to hold it so my shots are framed properly.IMG_8851

Of course I had to learn how to use it with the monopod too.


We had a lot of time before our flight, which we passed by playing Candy Crush.  Did you know that the entire time we were in California, I never made it past this stage?  I spent over a month on this stupid level before I was able to move forward.

Soon it was time for us to board

We chose EVA Air again because they had the most affordable fares.  Plus, we really liked their service.  Ezra and I love EVA Air because they always have Hello Kitty as their mascot.


Duty free magazine with Hello Kitty on the cover.  Inside you can find loads of cute Hello Kitty merchandise:


Travelling essentials


Cute Hello Kitty backpack


Hello Kitty perfumes

After a few hours, we made it to Taipei airport


We had some time so as usual we wandered around the airport to stretch our legs before our long flight ahead.  Ezra and I were excited to see that they renovated the Hello Kitty terminal


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They had a new Hello Kitty mascot in front of the store

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We also stopped by the orchid garden again



Everything’s so purple!  Like my phone :D



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Ezra and I had to keep checking with the GoPro app on my phone because we were still unsure about our framing.

Finally it was time for us to board
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All settled in for our 11-hour flight.  Ezra and I actually had a good flight because the lady next to her transferred to an empty seat in the back.  We ended up getting the entire row to ourselves :D

When we arrived in Los Angeles, Kurt, Ate Xenia and Ate Maryann picked us up.  I’m pleased to report that our immigration experience wasn’t that bad – we managed to get out much faster than we usually do.  The lines were much more organized this year.

The next day, Kurt took Ezra and me sightseeing.  He has very limited free time these days since he’s working now, so he makes sure to pack our weekend with lots of activities and make the most of our trip.

Ezra was getting her monopod ready when Kurt saw it and told us  that he has a better one:IMG_8939


Monopod battle, lol.  (It was actually a piece of his tripod)  Naturally we decided to just stick with Ezra’s monopod.  We already got a lot of weird stares from people whenever we took it out, so can you imagine how obnoxious we would have looked walking around with that huge thing.

Fun fact: Kurt has a longer “monopod” which we showed us later.   He shot this photo with it:


It’s the stick from his boom mic.  It was so long that it actually touched the ceiling!  You can see my aunt’s entire living room and dining area in this picture.

Anyway, Kurt took us to Third Street Promenade on our first day there


I had the backseat all to myself (but I was willing to share it with some friendly snacks we brought along in case we got hungry during the day).


If you remember, the last time we were here, I was wearing heels which made it very difficult for me to walk.  We had just come from church and I didn’t expect that we would be going sight seeing that day.  This time I made sure to wear comfy shoes.

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SKDR Films : Madame Tussauds

I’m still working on my US 2014 blog entries, so here’s another video that Kurt made for us during our trip there.  This was when he took us to Madame Tussauds in Hollywood.  Such a fun day~ I think it’s clear from the video how much we enjoyed ourselves.  We were exhausted by the time we left the museum.

You can see the other videos Kurt made of our US trips HERE.

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Another trip around the sun

I celebrated my birthday earlier this week.  I was a little busy with work so I wasn’t able to post this entry on my actual birthday like I did last year.

This year’s celebration was very simple.  I only had one class the whole day, which made me feel like the university gave me a present. When I got to the office I found a rose on my desk from Amie, along with a note :D


Thanks Aminess~

For lunch, the family and I went to our favorite 88-Resort for some Korean food.  This is where Ezra and I celebrated our birthdays last year too.  It’s becoming a tradition I think.


Birthday selfie while waiting for our food


Banchan :D


Family photo taken by our waiter

After lunch, I returned to my office and found this note on my door


Thanks Davies! :D

The rest of the afternoon was pretty uneventful – I spent most of it checking quizzes and lab reports at my desk.  At around 4pm, some of my officemates and I went to IRRI to have merienda together.

When I got home that evening, I found one of my favorite cakes waiting for me at home – Sans Rival :D




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A “fishy” trip to Dagupan and Baguio

Last January, our family went on a short trip to Dagupan.  It was a business trip for Ezra and my mom (for their Milkfish Project), but my dad and I were free so we decided to tag along.

The drive to Dagupan takes about 5 to 6 hours, depending on traffic.  On our way there, we stopped by Our Lady of Manaoag. My parents love visiting churches around the Philippines, so whenever they have a trip to Dagupan they make it a point to stop here. We didn’t stay long since there was a wedding going on at the time. We prayed for a while and lit some candles before continuing our drive to Dagupan.

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Replica of Our Lady of Manaoag in the candle gallery

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We arrived at NIFTDC at around 4pm. Doc Westly was kind enough to let us stay at the new Asian Fisheries Academy dormitory.


After dropping off our luggage at our room, we visited Doc Westly in his office to thank him for accommodating us.  My mom also grabbed the chance to schedule a meeting with him and his staff.

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We had to leave after this because Ezra and my mom had to meet with another collaborator at a restaurant called Jacobo’s


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Such a beautiful place.  It reminds me a lot of Kilika Island from Final Fantasy 10.

My dad and I walked around and took pictures while Ezra and my mom had their meeting


Rare shot of Ezra being so hardworking XD

My mom didn’t have to work the next day so we decided to drive up to Baguio for some sightseeing.  The last time we were there together as a family was back in 2008.


My grandfather was a member of the Lions, so we stopped by the Lions Monument to take some pictures

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We also made a quick stop at the Kenon Road Viewing Pavillion.





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After this, we went to the Lourdes Grotto to pray and light more candles

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We saw this adorable pup there :D



We also dropped by Bell Church, a popular Taoist Temple in Baguio.

The last two times we were here, we were able to get our fortunes told by a monk. Both times gave me accurate results, so I was hoping to do it again this year.  Unfortunately the main temple was closed when we got there. However, we were free to explore premises and take pictures.

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Thailand 2013 : Adventures in Ayutthaya

During our visit to Thailand last Christmas, our family signed up for a tour of Ayutthaya.  It took us around different historical temples and ended with a nice riverboat cruise buffet along Chao Praya River.


We booked the Grand Pearl Riverboat Cruise, which was recommended by our hotel.  A shuttle picked us up and took us to the River City Shopping Complex where the tour bus was waiting.


It took about 1 1/2 hours for us to reach our first stop for the day. On the way there, our guide gave us some background information about Thailand and the royal family.  He told us that Ayutthaya was one of the old capitals of Thailand, back in the 16th century.  I also enjoyed learning about how the Thai people assign different colors for different days.  Our guide explained that most Thai houses and establishments will have a yellow flag displayed next to the Thai flag to honor their king, who was born on a Monday.


I was born on a Wednesday, so according to Thai beliefs, my lucky color is green.  (According to Wikipedia, this also means that my unlucky color is pink – which sort of sucks because it’s my favorite color and practically everything I own is pink.  Good thing I’m not superstitious.)


Our first stop was Bang Pa In Palace

IMG_5800Our guide put this sign up on our bus and told us to take a picture of it to remind us of our bus number and meeting time

Bang Pa In Palace is the Summer Palace of King Rama V.  The guide showed us around and talked more about Thailand’s history. This trip took place 9 months ago so I can’t really remember everything he told us.  To make up for it, here are some pictures I took while we walked around:


Lovely pavilion in the middle of the pond




Palace Directory


There were many beautiful gardens inside the palace walls


Lookout tower




I forgot what this place was, but I think it was the Throne Room


Beautiful architecture


Look at the intricate details on the gate







Outside we saw this little house thing:

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I’m not really sure what it was for, but it was open to visitors.  It was a little cramped inside and you had to take your shoes off (which is common for most of these places), so my parents decided to skip it.

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They had really low ceilings on the first floor


The second floor was more spacious


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This is the gazebo where Ezra had her 51st portrait for 2013.

There were a lot of lovely hedge carvings around the palace.  Our guide told us that the prince/king likes doing these himself.


Adorable elephants

This one’s supposed to be a cobra


We found this cute gazebo which looks like it came straight out of a fairy tale


After a exploring the palace grounds, we went back to the bus to head over to Wat Maha That


Quick selfie while waiting for the rest of our group to arrive


On our way to our next location, our guide pointed out these pillars which clearly showed how high waters reached during the flooding of 2011.


When we arrived at the temple, we saw a bunch of these interesting looking tuk tuks :)


There were also some locals there selling some yummy looking ice cream


Before we went inside the temple, our guide gave us a bit of information about the place.  He also reminded us to be respectful and showed us this sign which contains things that we are not supposed to do while we were there.

Our guide told us that this temple was built around the 14th century.  When the Burmese attacked Ayutthaya, the place was destroyed.  A lot of tourists come here to see the ruins.IMG_5943


There were several of these Cambodian-style pagodas around the area








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Thailand 2013 : Indra Regent, Siam Paragon and Lady boys

For Christmas this year (well … last year, since this entry’s 7 months late), our family went to Bangkok.  The last time Ezra and I were there was back in 2009, so we were pretty excited.  Thailand will always hold a special place in our hearts because back when we lived in Myanmar, there were no direct flights from the Philippines and we would always have to spend the night in Bangkok.

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This is the second year in a row where we spent Christmas day at the airport :D We went there early because last time we flew on Christmas day, it was very crowded
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We were pretty relaxed this time since we had plenty of time to spare before our flight.  We took advantage of the airport’s free wifi to surf the net while waiting.


After a peaceful 3-hour flight, we landed safely in Bangkok.

We booked a shuttle to take us to our hotel, but the van that was supposed to pick us up got stuck in traffic due to the protests.  Fortunately the company had this little lounge where we could wait.

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Garcia girls on their iPads.  What were we so busy with?

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Why Candy Crush of course.

After a short wait our shuttle arrived to take us to our hotel, the Indra Regent Hotel.

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My parents have stayed in this hotel countless times before because of work, but this was Ezra’s and my first time there.




It was Christmas day so naturally they had this huge Christmas tree in the lobby


Hallway leading to our room


My parents booked the Lanna Suite, which was at the very end of the hallway.


Ezra posing with the beautifully carved door to our suite


Inside, there’s this little foyer.  If you turn right at the end you have Ezra’s and my room, and to the left is my parents room


Ezra and I were surprised by how spacious our room was.  You could probably fit two more beds in there.  Plus, we had a queen sized bed each.  Plenty of room to roll around while we sleep :D

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The master’s bed room was even fancier of course.  But it had a lot furniture so they didn’t have as much space to move around.  They had a vanity table, a sofa set and a four poster bed.


Cute mirror

The master’s bathroom also had a shower and a tub :D (Our room only had the shower)

Since we haven’t had dinner yet, we decided to walk around outside and look for a place to eat after dropping our luggage off.  Our hotel is actually connected to a shopping mall, which has a nice food court, but they close at around 6pm. It was pretty late so most of the restaurants were already closed too.  We did see lots of these carts selling Thai street food.  We were pretty tempted to try them, only we didn’t have plates or utensils we could use.  I think these are mainly made for take-out customers.

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Eventually we found a small family-owned restaurant nearby that was still open and we had our dinner there.

Afterwards my dad went back to our hotel to rest, but we girls wanted to get a head start on our shopping.  We were in Thailand after all!  Fortunately our hotel is located right in the center of Pratunam Market.  It’s every shopper’s dream to have so many shops outside their doorstep.

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Everything was so affordable.  And we didn’t even have to bargain that much.  I ended up buying 5 dresses and 2 earrings in the two hours we spent there that evening.

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My mom wasn’t that interested in shopping for clothes but she did get excited when she saw these little buko juice.  They’re her favorite.  I expected them to taste like a regular coconut water but I was pleasantly surprised to find out how sweet and delicious they were.  I’m not sure if it’s a special kind of coconut or they did something to it, but it was super yummy.  Ezra and I got soon got addicted to these too and we’d buy one every night.

The next day my mom had to work, so she stayed in the room while my dad showed Ezra and I around the mall.  But before that, we had breakfast at our hotel first.


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The breakfast room was open air, which we enjoyed because the weather was nice and cool.  We just had to make sure to keep a close eye on our food because there were lots of birds in the area waiting to steal them off our plates.

While we were eating, one of the staff came up to us to tell us that we were in the wrong breakfast room.  She told us that since we booked a suite, we should have had our breakfast at their second breakfast room.  We were almost finished eating so we told them we’d rather not transfer.  But after we were done, we decided to go down to the other breakfast room to see what they offered.


Unlike the other breakfast room, this one was indoor.  I expect that the guests appreciate that during the summer, but since it was December, it didn’t really make a big difference.  And to be honest, the buffet was pretty much the same as the other breakfast room, except this one had an omelette station and bacon.  (Well, I suppose for some people the presence of bacon is enough reason to upgrade….).  But honestly, we preferred the other breakfast room because it was more spacious.

My parents told us that the hotel had a koi pond nearby, so we decided to go and check it out


We passed by the pool on our way there.


Ezra and I got all excited when we saw the all the huge fish in the Koi pondIMG_5522a (6)

Look how big they are!  Some of them were longer than our arms!

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After playing with the fish, my mom went back to the room to work and my dad took us to go shopping at Indra Square, which was connected to our hotel.  (You can access it via the 2nd floor).  I picked up a dress and a phone case there.


Ezra found this giant lolly and she convinced my dad to get it for her.  It took her three days to finish the entire thing.

My parents wanted us to see this mall called Siam Paragon, so we decided to have our lunch there.  We went back to our room to pick my mom up and grabbed a cab to take us there.  It’s actually walking distance from our hotel, but we were really hungry so we wanted to get there faster.

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We found this interesting sign on our cab window.  It’s an illustration of things that aren’t allowed inside the vehicle. Some of them were very clear, but some were confusing.  Ezra and I were laughing at the  the one the middle because we figured it meant “no hanky panky in the cab”, but my mom’s convinced that it meant “no fighting”, lol.  What do you guys think?  Also, the one on the far right has us stumped.  Is that a sheep or a goat?  Ezra says it looks like a ghost.  So “no haunting the cab”?

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My Golden Princess Cruise Experience

I’ve still got several entries lined up before I even get to my US 2014 vacation, but I had such an amazing time on this cruise that I can’t put off writing about it any longer.  I want to write this entry while the experience is still fresh in my mind.  I’ll most likely be making more in depth blog entries about each day of our cruise sometime in the future, so this is just a summary of our whole experience.

My aunt and uncle have been on this cruise before and they loved it.  In fact, they loved it so much that they’ve actually gone three times.  They strongly recommended it to us, which is why we decided to go this year for our parents 30th wedding anniversary.

We started off in LA so we had to catch a flight to Seattle because that’s where the cruise starts.


Our shuttle picked us up from the airport and took us to the Port of Seattle, where the ship was waiting


My mom and I, with the Golden Princess behind us.  We got there about an hour before they started allowing passengers to board the ship, so we just hung around outside and took pictures


Princess logo.  The Golden Princess has been sailing since May 2001.  The ship is 950 feet long and has 17 decks.  It’s HUGE!


When you check in, they give you a map of the ship (the card on top), as well as your cruise card.  Your cruise card has your name and dining information on it.  (Ezra’s and my card both say “Maria Garcia”, lol).  It acts as your room key, credit card and “passport” during your stay at the Golden Princess.  The staff will scan it every time you disembark or board the ship.  And any time you want to buy cocktails, special sundaes, shakes, or things from the ship’s gift shop, they will scan your card and all your purchases will appear in your final bill at the end of the cruise.  Most of the food, drinks and facilities on the ship are free, so the only time we charged something on our card was when we bought some souvenirs on the ship.


According to the Princess website, the ship has 1,318 state rooms where guests can stay.  Ezra and I were in room C728 on Deck 10 (Caribe).  My parents had the room next to us.  The passenger’s names are written on the white card just outside the door.  Once again, they shortened our names so this is what our card looked like:


The cleaning staff were very curious and asked us why our parents gave us the same name, lol.


This is what our state room looked like inside.  You can choose to get a suite or cabin with a balcony or a window, but we decided that if we wanted to see the ocean we’d just go out on the top deck.

And here are some pictures of the rest of the ship:


The elevator and stairs area


Inside “The Sanctuary”



The Neptune Pool and the outdoor theater where they show movies at night


They called it “Movies Under the Stars”.  I wanted to try watching a movie here but it was always so cold in the evening!  They give out blankets to keep the passengers warm, but I doubt that’s enough.  Most of the people we saw watching were bundled up in thick winter clothes.


In the morning it looks just like a regular pool area with lounge chairs

The Lap pool outside The Sanctuary



The Calypso Pool, which is just outside the Horizon Court (AKA the “buffet room”)

The ship has several pools and a few hot tubs, but we weren’t brave enough to face the cold and try them


The Piazza, where they hold several shows and activities every day


Here’s a picture of people gathering to participate in an egg drop competition


The ship offered loads of activities – from swimming and other sports, to shopping.  We even found a puzzle station there.  There are art galleries, lounges, theaters, etc.  There’s also a gym on board for those who want to stay fit.

There was always something going on during our stay there.  Every morning we woke up with the cruise newsletter at our door, which gives the schedule of activities for that day


It’s called the “Princess Patter”

Aside from the schedule, it contains notes from various members of the staff and friendly reminders.  We used it to plan our day on the ship.


The had all sorts of things on there, like this Advanced Digital Photography seminar which we attended


My parents also went to this other seminar which talked about diamonds

On Mother’s Day there was a “Mother’s Day Card Making” event in at the Sabatini restaurant, which Ezra and I attended



The ship provided us with lots of cute craft materials


We joined in on a few of their trivia game shows.  We weren’t very good, but we enjoyed learning new and interesting facts.


We also participated in this Musical Murder Mystery game held by the staff and a few audience volunteers

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