My Favorite Places In The World

A lot of times I get asked what my favorite place in the world is. And the answer I give is pretty ambiguous, because it’s hard to choose just one! There are several places I can think of that were especially memorable and favorable, all for different reasons. If I had to narrow it down to a top 10, these would be the ones (in no particular order):

1. New Zealand
Emerald Lakes | Tongariro
Might be a bit biased since I lived there for nearly a year, but New Zealand is one of those places that always seems to be on everyone’s top lists! And for a good reason too, there is so much packed into this little country–towering volcanoes, lush rain forests, beautiful beaches, charming rolling hills, fjordlands, gorgeous mountain ranges. It’s a stunningly beautiful country everywhere you look. As an outdoorsy, nature-loving kind of guy this is the perfect country for me and I love that fact that there’s so many things to do here to get your adrenaline rush fix. Besides that, Kiwis are some of the nicest and friendliest people I’ve met! The Maori culture here is strong and very interesting to learn about.

Highlights: Doing the Tongariro Crossing; heli-hiking on the Franz Josef glacier; black-water rafting Waitomo glowworm caves

2. Australia
Golgum Pool
Even as a kid, I always wanted to go to Australia so having the opportunity to live there for a year was a dream come true! Australia has become my second home and I’m considering moving back here again one day. I’ve fallen in love with the laid-back, easy going lifestyle that defines Aussie culture. The work/life balance here is something I admire. I’m also a lover of the sun, so a sunny warm climate is also pretty ideal for me. Two of my favorite places in the world are here, one being Sydney. I’m not normally a big fan of cities, but Sydney is one I’d live in. The other being the Margaret River region of Western Australia, where I lived and worked for 6 months. Some of the best beaches I’ve seen to date are there and it’s also one of the country’s premiere wine regions. It’s a beautiful place to live. I really hope to make it back to Australia again one day!

Highlights: Living in Dunsborough, WA; road tripping up the East Coast and across the Outback; exploring Kakadu National Park by 4WD

3. France
Birds Eye View of Paris
I’ve spent quite a bit of time in France now, more than any other European country, and I’ve grown quite fond of it! Most of the time I’ve spent there has been in Paris (one of my favorite cities in the world), but in this most recent trip I also got to see a bit more of the countryside in the Alsace Region as well as the city of Lyon. The thing I love about France is despite it’s relatively small size (well compared to the US at least) is how diverse it is. It’s got beautiful farmlands and rolling hills, wine regions, rugged coastlines, high mountains, a warm Mediterranean climate in the south. Plus I have an affinity for French language and culture, making this one of my favorite places!

Highlights: Walking the streets of Paris at night; wandering around the Christmas markets in L’Alsace

4. United States
Even though this one is obviously biased as it’s my home country, nothing beats the diversity of the United States. From the polar regions in Alaska, to tropical jungles in Hawaii, to the stunning deserts in Utah and Arizona, there is such a huge range of places to see in the US. As a nation made up of immigrants, there is also such a huge pool of diversity in the people as well and you can find pretty much any kind of food from around the world that you can think of if you look in the right places. Despite living there most of my life, there’s still so much I have to see!

Highlights: Washington State in general, my home state (and the best state!); road tripping around Utah and Arizona; summer days with family on the New Jersey shore

5. Ireland
Stormy Skies Over Connemara
I’m currently backpacking through Ireland at the moment so I might still be caught up with the initial awe and excitement of being here, but I’ve loved every bit of it so far! Ireland is an absolutely beautiful country, especially out west and to the north along the rugged, weathered coast. While the weather might not be so nice all the time (where else is it sunny, then rain sideways, and hails all within a 10 minute time span?), it’s breathtaking when the sun is out. Irish people also have to be the among the most charming and friendly people I’ve met so far. I love Irish accents and find some of the expressions and things they say very amusing! Everyone is so chatty and welcoming that it’s super easy to make friends with the locals here!

Highlights: Driving around Slea’s Head; Killarney National Park; hanging out with locals in pubs

6. Portugal
Lonely Beach | Lagos, Portugal
Portugal is another place I’ve visited recently and absolutely fell in love with. I had no expectations coming here and ended up finding a place with picturesque cities, warm and welcoming people, amazing food and wine (port wine is out of this world), a nice warm climate most of the year, and beautiful landscapes. I was very surprised to find that many people here speak very good English, making it a lot easier to talk to people! It’s also a great destination to go to if you’re on a budget, as everything is cheap here compared to the rest of Europe. I’m still getting over the buzz of being in Portugal and really want to go back again sometime!

Highlights: Drinking port wine in Porto; exploring castles in Sintra; kayaking along the Algarve Coast in Lagos

7. Vietnam
Hmong Family
Vietnam is one of those countries visitors either love or hate, and fortunately I fall in the love category. From the chaotic streets of Ho Chi Minh which are buzzing day and night with the noise of endless waves of motorbikes, to walking with the ethnic Hmong people in the quite rice terraces in the north around Sapa, this is a country rich with history, cultural diversity, and one of the most distinguished cuisines in the world. The food alone is a major reason to love Vietnam. The variety in different dishes they have is astounding. There is quite a defined backpacker/tourist trail that runs the length of the country, but there are so many relatively undiscovered places to explore if you go off the beaten path.

Highlights: Boat trip on the river in Trang An, through stunning karst formations; Hoi An; canyoning in Dalat; trekking and doing a home stay with Hmong people in Sapa

8. Peru
The Locals of Machu Picchu
Peru is a special country to me, because it was the first place where I began traveling solo! I spent a week there in the area around Cusco and hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, which is still one of my most memorable trips to date. While I would have liked to have stayed longer to see more of the country, what I did see and experience there was inspiring and made me want to travel independently as much as I could from that point on. I remember feeling so nervous and awkward when I arrived at the airport and I had to bargain with some dodgy cab drivers to get to my hostel. I stayed in a hostel by myself for the first time and forced myself to talk to strangers to make new friends. I Wandered around and got lost in the streets of Cusco and tried new foods in the local market. On the day of the trek our group had breakfast with a Peruvian family on their farm. It was exhilarating Walking through the Andes and being surrounded by stunning scenery everywhere, being in awe as I walked through the ruins of Machu Picchu. I would love to go back here again and see more of South America in general!

Highlights: Cuy (guinea pig) breakfast on a farm in the countryside; trekking on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu; climbing Huayna Picchu

9. Hong Kong
Hong Kong Lights
I love Hong Kong. It’s the kind of city that’s always buzzing with life and there’s always something interesting happening around the corner. It’s blessed with a beautiful harbor and surrounded by jungle-covered mountains. The contrast between nature and cosmopolitan city life here is amazing. One minute you can be on a bustling street surrounded by enormous sky scrapers, the next you can find yourself on a quite path going up into the mountains. And the food here is to die for! I loved exploring all the exotic fruits in the street markets (rambutans and mangosteens are my Asian favs). Chinese food in general is addicting, and the experience of being the only westerner in a family-owned noodle restaurant is memorable. I’ll never be able to look at Chinese food anywhere else in the world the same way again, the real stuff is so good!

Highlights: Eating amazing Chinese food; seeing Victoria Harbour at night; exploring the markets; cable car ride up to the Giant Buddha statue

10. Nepal
Swayambhunath | Kathmandu
As a lover of hiking and mountains, Nepal was always on my list of places to visit. Now I can say I finally have and it’s just as brilliant as I thought it would be! Despite going in the aftermath of the April 2015 earthquake, the country is very much open for tourism. The country is one of the best places in the world for trekking, the opportunities are endless. I did the Everest trek and although I did have a bout of food poisoning and altitude sickness (not a great combo), it was a very memorable experience. Aside from the stunning beauty of the Himalayas, Nepal is also very rich in culture and diversity. There are over 40 different ethnic groups and tribes living here and the beauty of the Himalaya is stunning.

Highlights: Trekking up the EBC trail and seeing Mount Everest up close.


Zion >> Bryce Canyon >> Home

After a restful night’s sleep in Zion, we packed up the Jeep and started the long drive back to Ogden…making a few detours along the way of course. Bryce Canyon was only two hours away, so it we made it kind of mandatory to make a stop at one of Utah’s most famous landmarks.

We only had an hour at Bryce. Not enough time to do any hiking, so we just drove to various viewpoints around the rim. Still quite a sight!

After we had had enough of the nice views, we hit the road and headed back to civilization. We stopped in Provo and had a little reunion with our friend Josh, who we went to high school with, and his friend in at In-N-Out Burger…my first time! It was really good, but I didn’t think it was the best thing ever like many people tend to rave about. To me, it tasted like any other good burger chains I’ve been to…maybe it was because it was at a Utah location and not in California where it’s famous? Oh well. I’d still go there again though.

That concludes my Utah travels! Thanks for reading!

The Narrows – Zion National Park

After spending the day at Monument Valley, Sharmaine and I drove a few hours through the night to Page, Arizona and camped at the parking lot at the Horseshoe Bend Viewpoint. As sketchy as it sounded, things turned out all right and we didn’t have any creepers knocking on the windows of the Jeep in the middle of the night. What we were greeted with, however, was a gorgeous sunrise over Horseshoe Bend!

We spent a portion of the morning hiking around the rim of the canyon before heading into town and grabbing a bite to eat at McD’s (gotta get those Monopoly stamps!). We then hit the road and headed back into Utah toward Zion National Park. It’s a pretty dull drive between Page and the park, but once you get to the gate, the landscape changes dramatically with painted mesas and other colorful geological features. We came from the east entrance, so we got to experience the 1.1 mile Zion-Mount Caramel tunnel that descends into the main canyon.

Overall, Zion really impressed me. I had heard little of it and didn’t really didn’t know what there was to do there or what to expect (other than hiking Narrows Canyon). But Sharmaine suggested we go there and I was really glad she did! For one, it’s gorgeous. It was somewhat reminiscent to Yosemite in the fact that it’s a steep valley surrounded by dramatic peaks, but the colorful sandstone cliffs and plethora of narrow slot canyons give this park it’s unique identity. The overall infrastructure of the park was really nice too. Since the valley floor isn’t very wide, there’s little room for much vehicular traffic. Instead, visitors take buses that shuttle hikers between the park and the nearby town of Springdale. It’s pretty convenient, considering that they come every 10 minutes or so and even have a recorded interpretive program that explains all the different features as you go by them. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to actually look at the scenery instead of driving.

We parked the Jeep and took a short walk to the nearest bus stop. About 30 minutes later, we found ourselves at the end of the road where the trail to the Narrows hike begins. The initial trail follows the bank of the Virgin River as it meanders its way through the canyon for about a mile. There are often loads of tourists along this paved stretch of trail during the peak season. Fortunately, we were able ditch most of the crowds once we got to the real Narrows hike, which requires walking in the river itself.

We walked for two miles through the crystal clear (and fortunately not so freezing) Virgin River. The water reflects really nicely with the reddish orange sandstone cliffs. I wish I could be there in a few weeks when the autumn colors come in and the mesmerizing aspens turn brilliant yellow. Nonetheless, it was still all breathtaking. There’s no wonder why early Mormon settlers named the area after the Hebrew word Zion, meaning “place of peace and security.”

The deepest the water ever got was up to our thighs, but I heard it can get much deeper than that earlier in the summer. On average, it was up to our shins. We reached a point where the canyon gets narrow and forks off toward Orderville Canyon before deciding to head back. Turning around was hard to do considering there was still another 14 miles of unexplored amazingness ahead.

We got back to the Jeep around sunset and dried off before heading off to find a place to crash for the night. We were sure the campground would have been full considering the holiday (Columbus Day) and the fact most people make a reservation months ahead of time. We had looked at another nearby campground when we first arrived in the park before heading off to the Narrows, where we saw signs that said “full”. Despite this, we decided to check it out anyway just in case. Our intuition turned out to be a blessing as there was one spot left! So we quickly made our way to the site, set up camp, made dinner, before heading off to bed.

A long day, but probably my favorite from the trip. Next up, Bryce Canyon and the trip back home. Thanks for reading!

The Road to Monument Valley

After spending two days in Moab, we headed south towards Arizona for our next stop: Monument Valley. It was about a 3 hour drive, which wasn’t too bad considering the other legs of the trip were between 4-5 hours. As we approached the Utah/Arizona border, we stopped at a small gravel pullout to take some pictures of this awesome vantage point of the long, straight road that leads to the valley.

Coincidentally, we found a sign that reminded us of a particular movie that had been filmed here. Look familiar?

After driving down the road, we crossed the border into Arizona and made our way to the visitor’s center. The park is operated by the Navajo Nation, which is the largest Native American reservation in the United States. Free range horses & cattle roam here, and the roadsides are dotted with small wooden shacks where the locals sell Navajo jewelry, rugs, and other crafts. Our pass wasn’t valid since it wasn’t a national park, but we didn’t mind spending $17 to take the drive through the valley. It was well worth it. The sandy road follows a 17-mile loop and gets pretty pretty bumpy in places, but it’s doable with a car. Sharmaine was super happy to finally have the chance to drive her Jeep on something that wasn’t pavement.

We remained at the visitor’s center after the drive to watch the sunset. In my opinion, it’s the best vantage point of the famous pair of “mittens” that rise high above the valley floor. It’s a classic Southwest scene, reminding me of the many western (and non-western) films that were filmed here.

Since our next stop, Zion National Park, was a good 5 1/2 hour drive from Monument Valley, we decided to continue driving toward the Lake Powell area to get a head start in the morning. We arrived in Page, Arizona three hours later and ended up camping in the Horseshoe Bend parking lot outside of town since we didn’t really feel like searching for a campground. Since it was dark by the time we got there (and the fact that it felt kind of sketchy) we forwent setting up the tent for the night and just slept in the back of the Jeep.

Thanks for reading! More posts to come on Zion and the Narrows hike!

Utah Road Trip: Moab & Arches National Park

I’ve just returned from a trip to the American Southwest visiting my friend, Sharmaine, and I have lots of photos to share! We spent 5 days road tripping around Utah and Arizona, exploring a couple of the national parks, hiking, camping, and spending many hours on the road rocking out and singing (badly) to all of our favorite tunes. I can’t even remember the last time I went on a real road trip. Honestly, it’s the way to go if you’re going to visit this part of the country. Most of the big sights are spread out in remote areas, so the only way of getting between them is by car or RV/camper. We did see quite a few tour buses every now and then, so there is that option. But there’s nothing like being behind the wheel yourself, driving mile upon mile of endless open roads through barren emptiness, but all still beautiful in its own way. Since every place we went to was so different and unique, I’ve decided to split the trip up into different posts.

We started out driving to Moab to check out the area since it’s famous for so many recreational opportunities. It’s a neat little town–definitely a tourist hot spot though. The streets are lined with outfitters, adventure travel vendors, art galleries, restaurants, and other small shops to wander through. It’s rather small and you would think it would be one of those towns that would shut down after 5pm, but we were surprised to see that businesses stay open pretty late. Lots of people pack into the bars and restaurants when the sun goes down after spending a day out in the desert heat. The city is located in a valley surrounded by high red cliffs and sandstone formations, making it the perfect destination for sightseers, photographers, and adventure junkies. In fact, the region’s unique topography has gained it the reputation for being the mountain biking and 4-wheeling capital of the world. Rafting, climbing, canyoneering, and hiking are other popular activities here. It’s also the closest city to Arches National Park, where we spent most of our time.

Arches is a relatively small park compared to others, but it’s home to over 2,000 sandstone arches and other incredible natural features rarely found anywhere else. The most famous one, Delicate Arch, is the most well-known. It’s iconic to Utah as it can be found on just about every license plate. It’s definitely a must-do when visiting the park. The best time of day to see it is at sunset, when the sandstone glows a brilliant orange/pink color, contrasted by the dark outline of the La Sal Mountains in the background. If you’re gonna go, get there early. The parking lot fills up quickly in the late afternoon.

Just as the sun was starting to go down, hordes of hikers and photographers started arriving and the place got really crowded. Lots of Asian and European tourists, which surprised me since I wouldn’t have thought Utah to be such an international destination. Whatever you do, do NOT get anywhere near the arch once the so-called “golden hour” begins. One guy started walking under it, only to be yelled at by hundreds of people in different languages. Poor guy–it was pretty funny though seeing people’s reactions. Here’s a video my friend took of that recaptures the drama (LOL at the guy sitting next to us who got really intense):

Another notable hike in the park is the Devil’s Garden Loop, which crawls 7.2 miles through a maze of towering sandstone formations. Landscape Arch (which is supposedly the longest natural arch in the world) and Double O Arch are the two main features here, although there are tons of other hidden gems along the way worth exploring. We were so glad we came in October, because seriously this would be one long, hot walk in the summer (or freezing cold in the winter). It was still almost 80 degrees, but with a refreshing cool autumn breeze it was pretty much perfect conditions. We did the whole loop in about 4 hours, taking a few detours here and there. If you do make it to the end, take the primitive trail back. It’s more rugged than the main trail and it takes you near some not-so-well known features.

I had read somewhere that one should spend 5 days at Arches to see everything. While there is a lot to do here, you can probably take a tour of the whole park in just 2 days. That’s how long we were there and we managed to see just about everything (and we weren’t even rushing). If you have the time, don’t limit your stay in Moab to Arches. There are a lot of other opportunities within a 10 minute drive of the city–Canyonlands National Park (to the south, which we didn’t have time to visit) and the Sand Flats Recreation Area are two other places worth checking out. Since Arches only has one campground that is often completely booked for a good portion of the spring, summer, and fall months, we opted to camp at Sand Flats just north of town. It’s a really neat area–everyone goes here for mountain biking/jeeping/4-wheeling. Plus, if you’re travelling on a budget, it’s way cheaper to camp here than most other places in the region. We grabbed a really nice spot next to a large sandstone hill for just $10 a night.

Thanks for reading! I’ll post the next leg of the trip to Monument Valley in a few days.