Category Archives: Family

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.

IMG_5372a (5)

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
IMG_5372a (2)

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.

IMG_5402

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.

IMG_5424a (2)

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

IMG_5424a (1)

Why Candy Crush of course.

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

IMG_5424a (4)

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

IMG_5434

IMG_5443

IMG_5429

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

IMG_5448

Hallway leading to our room

IMG_5483

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

IMG_5451

Ezra posing with the beautifully carved door to our suite

IMG_5461

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

IMG_5452

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

IMG_5464a (2)

IMG_5453

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.

IMG_5459

Cute mirror
IMG_5457

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.

IMG_5487b (2)

IMG_5487b (1)

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.

IMG_5487a (1)

IMG_5487a (2)

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.

IMG_5487a (3)

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.

(I was planning on sharing scenes from our shopping adventures in this entry, but I realized how long it was getting so I decided to make a separate entry.  You can read it HERE.)

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.

IMG_5488

IMG_5489 IMG_5490

IMG_5496

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.

IMG_5502

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

IMG_5509

We passed by the pool on our way there.

IMG_5515

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!

IMG_5522a (1)

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.

IMG_5540

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.

IMG_5540a (1)

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”?

Continue reading

6 Comments

Filed under Family, La-la-life, Travels & Adventures

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.

IMG_0847

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

IMG_0870

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

IMG_0901

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

IMG_0888

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.

IMG_1112

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:

IMG_0935-copy

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

GOPR1777

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:

GOPR1788

The elevator and stairs area

IMG_1155

Inside “The Sanctuary”

IMG_1156

IMG_1138

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

IMG_1286

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.

IMG_1136

In the morning it looks just like a regular pool area with lounge chairs
IMG_1142

The Lap pool outside The Sanctuary

IMG_1153

IMG_5718

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

IMG_1100

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

IMG_1127

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

GOPR1809

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

IMG_1207

It’s called the “Princess Patter”
IMG_1208

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.

IMG_2507

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

DSC04171

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

IMG_1211

IMG_1214

The ship provided us with lots of cute craft materials

IMG_1239

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

DSC05186

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

Continue reading

6 Comments

Filed under Family, La-la-life, Review, Travels & Adventures

INSTABITS : May 2014

I finally mustered enough will power to sit down and edit this entry.  I’m still on a vacation-high from our California trip and all I want to do these days is lock myself in an air-conditioned room and daydream about the places we visited.  I haven’t even finished unpacking my stuff.  I’ve gotten most of my things out of the balikbayan boxes, and I’m almost done emptying out my suitcase, but everything is just scattered all over the place.  It’s been a week and my room still looks like my luggage threw up in it.  I’m hoping that this little burst of kasipagan will last me all day and I’ll have enough resolve to tidy up a bit later.

Anyway, here’s May’s Instagram dump.  Most of these were taken during our vacation :)

Kurt had just gotten his April paycheck so he took Ezra and me out for dinner at Pizza Hut Wing Street.  Ezra loves their boneless BBQ chicken wings.  I used to hate them, but they grew on me and now I’m addicted as well.  I love the checkered tables they have there.  A few customers (they must be regulars) brought their chess pieces and had a match as they ate their food.

Madame Tussauds! Ever since I saw a documentary about Madame Tussauds on the History Channel, I’ve wanted to see what the fuss was all about. We were here last year too, but we didn’t go inside because we didn’t have that much time.  This year we scheduled a trip to actually go and explore the museum.

There were a lot of celebrity wax figures there.  And the cool thing was you can go up to them and touch them!  I’ve only been to one other wax museum before this, and all the displays were behind velvet ropes so we couldn’t get close to them.  At Madame Tussauds they encourage the visitors to interact with the displays.

We found this psychedelic wall there

Later that evening, we went to this Korean BBQ place called Tahoe Galbi.  Everything was so yummy and I definitely ate way more than I should have.  Diet? What diet?

It’s our summer vacation, so of course we had to visit the beach.  Kurt took us to Zuma Beach in Malibu.  The place was lovely, but the water was too cold to go swimming so we mostly played around in the sand.  We tried dipping our toes and they went numb from the cold, brrrr~  Also, we think we saw a whale off in the distance. (I only saw its back and the water coming out from its blowhole.)

*TOUCH*

Hello Paradise Pier!  As a late birthday gift to Ezra, and as an early birthday treat to me, Kurt got us tickets to Disney’s California Adventure :)  Thanks Kurt!

Ezra and I were always jealous of the little girls we saw wearing these Minnie Mouse ears in Disneyland when we were younger, but of course our parents said they were too expensive and refused to get them for us.  Now that we’ve both got jobs and are earning our own money, we finally got our childhood wish fulfilled.  Dreams do come true :D

We went on Mickey’s Fun Wheel.  It’s like a regular Ferris Wheel, but some of the cars inside have their own track, so aside from moving around in a huge circle, we were also moving along this track during the ride.  We went on a bunch of rides that some would consider “scary”, but this was the only ride in the park that made me dizzy! I wanted to get off halfway through.

We were surprised to discover that a lot of people aren’t that used to seeing GoPros or monopods yet. We got a lot of weird looks and curious strangers coming up to us to ask questions. (Most of them were more interested to know about the monopod.) One of them even joined us for a selfie XD  We only saw two other people inside the park with a monopod, and one of them was a Filipina too.  I guess we Filipinos really love selfies.

Old photo of my parents.  They celebrated their 30th anniversary this year so Ezra and I decided to surprise them with a slideshow of their photos through the years.  This was one of their many photos I found in our attic.

For their anniversary, they decided to take us on an Alaskan cruise!  Weeee~  Ezra and I have never been on a cruise before, so we were extremely excited.  Our ship was the Golden Princess , and it was beautiful!

Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under 2014, Family, La-la-life, Travels & Adventures

INSTABITS : April 2014

I opened my YouTube account this morning to find that I’ve been been flooded with “April favorites” videos from my favorite beauty gurus, which only meant that another month has come to an end.  I often lose track of time I’m on vacation, I didn’t realize that it was May already.  So here’s my photo dump for April.

Green smoothie time!  I mentioned in my February INSTABITS that I’ve been loving these lately.  I’ve been trying to eat healthier and this is just a great way to incorporate more fruits and veggies to your diet.

Meet my lunch/lamon-mates.  I always end up eating a lot when I’m with them :D

Happy selfie :)  This was taken on they day of my two advisees’ theses defense.  I’m happy both of them passed – I think I was more nervous than them.

Hahriz, Eden and I went to Copeland Gym one afternoon to unwind after a loooong week of thesis defenses panels and checking.

Some guys lowered the basketball ring after using it, so we took these pictures and pretended to be tall.  A girl can dream.

My creepy, deserted office hallway on a weekend morning.  The Aphy 104 final exam was held on a Saturday at 7am, and I was one of the first ones to arrive.

After finals week, I spent an entire weekend checking all my students’s exams and lab reports.  One of the benefits of having a mom who’s also a teacher is that I have someone to share these moments with.

It was so hot in the Philippines that this actually happened to my iPod!

Had a musical merienda with my lamon-mates :D  Thanks Kat for the treat!

Then later that evening, my lamon-mates and I had an early dinner at Seoul Kitchen.  (It was more like a first dinner for me because I ate again with the family once I got home…)

Posted this for National Sibling’s Day.  This was taken last December during our riverboat cruise in Thailand (blog entry to follow)

I’m still really hooked on the TV show Elementary (read my initial review HERE).  I love it more and more each week.  I missed out several episodes towards the end of the school year because there was so much work to be done, so as soon as I submitted my students’s final grades I locked myself in my room to catch up on the show.  (“I’d do the same for you if you lost all your teeth in a prison fight” is Sherlock’s way of telling Joan he loves her, kyaaaah~ <3)

Colorful people at the office.  My GoPro has been hibernating on my desk since the end of January, so I decided to take it with me to the office to get some practice.  I plan on using it a lot this summer :)

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under 2014, Family, La-la-life, Travels & Adventures

Brown Bones and Pink Stars (La Brea Tar Pits and Hollywood Walk of Fame)

Our family’s back in California for summer break, and here I am still blogging about our trip from last year (*hides in shame*).  But this is my last entry from our 2013 US vacation, yay~

On our last week in California, Ezra asked Kurt if he could take us to La Brea Tar Pits.  My uncle took us there in 1996, and we haven’t been back since.  Back then, Ezra and I were a little too young to appreciate the displays so we wanted to revisit the place now that we’re older.

IMG_9972

 

IMG_9980

 Cute prints on the ground

IMG_9976

IMG_9981

IMG_9989

 Museum entrance

IMG_9993

 I dug up our old albums in the attic to look for our photos from 1996.  I found this:

IMG_9993a copy2

 Same museum, same entrance, with a few minor changes :D There were a lot of us back then.  From left to right we have Tito Willie, Tito Edgar, Lolo, Tio Ben, Kuya Wibet, me, Mama, Mama Darling, Ezra, Ninang, Bam, Tita Lynette and Raffy.  (I had to blur Raffy a bit because his pose is a little inappropriate for this blog XD)

IMG_9994

 Cute saber tooth cat on the museum doors

IMG_9996

 And another cute yawning/growling kitty to greet us at the entrance. Plz excuse Ezra’s photobomb.

Inside the museum they have different fossils and bones on display.  These have been dug up from the numerous tar pits around the area.  Many animals get trapped in these pits, and die.  The tar helps preserve the bones and turn them black (or dark brown).  Some of the fossils and bones that have been uncovered from these pits are ancient! The oldest known material to have been found is about 38,000 years old.  These pits still exist but they are now fenced to prevent animals (and humans) from getting caught in them.

IMG_9996a (1)

 Here’s a skeleton of a ground sloth on display

IMG_9996a (2)

 Kids enjoy going to this museum because they have a lot of interactive displays.

IMG_9996a (5)

Like this one

IMG_9996a (3)

 These are containers of tar with a metal pole dipped in them.  Visitors can try to pull the pole out of the tar pit to see how much force it actually requires

IMG_9996a (4)

 Pulling one pole out takes a lot of effort, so I can only imagine how it would feel if I fell in.  They say it only takes about 2 inches of tar to immobilize an animal as big as a horse.

The museum isn’t that big so it didn’t take that long for us to see the whole place

IMG_9996a (6)

 Random bones and fossils

IMG_9996a (8)

Saber tooth cat

IMG_9996a (7)

 An illustration of what happens to the trapped animals in the pits

IMG_9996a (10)

True to scale display of a dwarf antelope

 

IMG_9996a (9)

 Look how small they are!

 

IMG_9996a (11)

A scaled animatronic model of a mammoth

IMG_9996a (12)

 This is how big they actually get

IMG_9996a (13)

 Pointy finger bones :D

IMG_9996a (14)

 Check out those tusks

IMG_9996a (15)

 I’m guessing they needed to put this sign up because kids would jump up and try to touch the tusks.  (It’s what I would do anyway XD)

IMG_9996a (17)Those things behind me are dire wolf skulls.  There were a lot of them uncovered from the pits.  Wolves are known to hunt in packs, so that might be why.

IMG_9996a (16)

 Here I am posing next to a model of what these dire wolves look like when they’re alive

IMG_9996a (18)

 And here’s Ezra and Kurt in front of the wolves’ skeletons on display

IMG_9996a (19)

 Ezra with a giant jaguar skeleton

IMG_9996a (36)

IMG_9996a (20)

 You can also take a peek into their paleontology lab

IMG_9996a (22)

IMG_9996a (24)

IMG_9996a (25)

Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Family, La-la-life, Travels & Adventures

Kurt’s Graduation at CSUN

 Okay, so I’m a *little* late again.  Kurt’s graduation was actually last year, so this is old news.  In fact, he’s already found himself a nice, stable job since then.  I debated long and hard whether I should even write this entry, but since today is the UPLB graduation, I’m just going to go ahead and use that as an excuse to post these photos.  I figured people are going to be posting graduation photos all day anyway, so I might as well join them … even if these photos are a year old XD

Kurt earned his 2nd degree last May from the California State University Northridge (CSUN).  Since we were visiting, he invited us to attend his graduation.

IMG_8511

Quick shot of Ezra and Kurt outside Ninang’s house before we left

IMG_8521

 Putting his toga on at the school parking lot

IMG_3186

Love this shot my dad took of me while we were walking to the grounds

We got there a bit early, so we just hung around for a bit, chatting and taking photos

IMG_3201

 

IMG_8539

IMG_8532

IMG_0132

IMG_8551

IMG_8547

It was my first time attending a graduation outside the Philippines so I was very interested to see if we had the same traditions.

The first thing I noticed was that the students were so colorful and bright!  In UPLB you’ll mostly just see a sea of black because of the toga.  (Well, I guess now it will be a sea of white since we started using the sablay too.)

IMG_8535

Look at the graduation sashes everyone’s wearing.  I suppose they don’t require students to have them since Kurt didn’t have one.  I’m not sure if they’re supposed to represent something or are just there for decoration, since everyone seems to be wearing a different one.

IMG_8540

Something else that’s not common in UP graduations – flower leis.  These appear to be quite popular here.  In UPLB the graduates are not allowed to carry flowers or have accessories like these.

I also noticed that CSUN wasn’t too strict with their dress code.  UP has very strict guidelines about what one can wear on their graduation (although it’s common to see people breaking the rules).  A lot of CSUN students wore jeans and a t-shirt to their graduation.  I even saw this one guy wearing his toga over a basketball jersey and shorts.  Talk about casual.  On the other hand I saw a girl who looked like she was going to a royal ball because of the huge poofy (and sparkly) dress she was wearing.

But the most interesting thing I saw were the graduation caps/mortarboards.  Apparently students were given free reign to design and decorate them as they wish.  Of course that meant they had to buy the cap instead of renting them out.  But if I worked hard for 4 years to earn a degree I’m proud of, I’d probably want to go all out too.  It’s fun, and you get a nice souvenir from your graduation.

IMG_8544

IMG_8536

IMG_8538

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Family, La-la-life, Travels & Adventures

Monterey Bay Aquarium

After Fanime/LineCon, Ezra and I thought it would be fun to drop by Monterey Bay Aquarium.  It’s a little out of the way but it was only a one and a half hour drive away from Mama Darling’s apartment.  Kurt had never been there before and he’s always up for spending more quality time with Ezra so he agreed to drive us. Ezra and I have actually been to Monterey Bay Aquarium before, back in 2006 with our family.  But back then we arrived in the late afternoon and we only had about two hours to look around before they had to close for the day.  This time we wanted to go early so we could take our time and enjoy ourselves.

The aquarium parking was full when we arrived, so we ended up having to park about a mile away and walk back.  But the weather was quite nice and we had this lovely view to enjoy during our walk to the aquarium.

IMG_9369

IMG_9370

IMG_9371

IMG_9373

There’s the aquarium~

IMG_9375

We found this long line when we got there.  We looked at each other with fear in our eyes when we saw it because we all got flashbacks of the 6-hour line we were in the day before.  Luckily this one moved fairly quickly.  We made it inside in about 10 minutes.

IMG_9377

Tickets cost around $35 dollars.  (Students, senior citizens and children under 12 get a discount)
IMG_9380

 Getting our hands stamped

After this we just walked around and enjoyed the sights.  The park offered shows and free documentaries, but we were more interested in seeing the sea creatures.

IMG_9383

IMG_9386

IMG_9388

IMG_9451

There were lots of people since it was still Memorial Day weekend.  When we went here back in 2006 we practically had the place to ourselves

IMG_9453

IMG_9455

One of the aquarium’s many touch pools

IMG_9458

What am I up to?  Oh, nothing new, just petting my starfish XD

IMG_9467
IMG_9489

IMG_9495

IMG_9503

IMG_9516

 Mama Darling came with us since she wanted to visit her relatives in L.A.

IMG_9519

IMG_9535

 

Ezra grabbing a fluffy eelIMG_9547

IMG_9577

IMG_9747

IMG_9753

IMG_9582

We had lunch at the restaurant there.  The place was packed but Ezra managed to get us good seats near the window.  They had binoculars there available for public use.

IMG_9593

IMG_9591

 After lunch, we decided to head over to see the jellyfish exhibit

IMG_9594

This was what we were most excited about

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Family, La-la-life, Travels & Adventures