Monthly Archives: July 2015

Flashback Friday: Korea Mud Festival!

This week, July 17 – 26th, South Korea will be holding their annual mud festival. In honor of this unique event, I bring you my own experience at the Mud Festival in today’s Flashback Friday!IMG_0682

The Mud Festival is held in Boryeong, South Korea, which is a very small town right on the beach. The tradition started in 1998, and now millions of people attend this week-long festival. The festival started with the purpose to bring awareness to the mud, which is actually cosmetic, as it contains ingredients which provides benefits to the body. The mud festival holds many events. I know I am missing a lot of events, but some of them include: ziplining, inflatable slides, bounce houses, mud wrestling, and so much more. Oh, and lots of beer.

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Basically, you spread mud all over your body delicately using your hands, or you roll in it like a crazy person. Then you get to go to the beach to wash off. It’s that simple. And that fun.

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At the time, I was there with the Camp Adventure program, which strictly prohibits anyone under the age of 21 to consume alcohol. Period. I was 20 years old at the time, and it didn’t matter that the legal drinking age was 19 in Korea because the program follows US rules/laws. Normally, we’d ignore those rules and drink anyways (unless you’re a Camp Supervisor reading this, then I’m just kidding), but our supervisor had kindly arranged transportation for the 115 mile journey, accompanied us on the trip, and monitored us closely.

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At the time, I didn’t care that we weren’t able to drink because I was so mesmerized by the whole experience, but I do think it would have been a much different experience if we had. I definitely would like to go back again and see what the festival is like with a couple drinks 😉

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We enjoyed the beach and explored the cliffs, which were beautiful. We also got absolutely fried – not fun when you work with kids (read: having to be very active when you really just want to coat yourself with aloe vera and lay on the couch) and have to wear a uniform t-shirt.

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I wish I had better and more pictures, but 7 years ago I had no idea that I’d want to be sharing my unique experience with the world!

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Flashback Friday: Las Vegas!

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In the move to North Carolina, I managed to misplace my USB that has all of my pictures on it. I know that this violates everything everyone has ever told you about having your photos backed up, and believe me, I have learned my lesson. It was really scary not knowing if I’d ever see those pictures again (although, in my defense, I thought they were backed up on my external hard drive). Luckily, my mom found it for me, but until it arrives in the mail, that brings this week’s Flashback Friday to Las Vegas, since those are apparently the only pictures from a trip that I actually do have backed up.

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Despite Vegas not really being a  place I had an interest in visiting, it is also the only place I have been to 3 times. This is because not only did I fall in love with Vegas, but it’s also a convenient place to visit. Hotel fares are almost always reasonable, and so are plane tickets. A lot of people complain that Vegas is expensive, but in my opinion, it can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be.

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Are you a gambler? It might be more expensive (or you might win big). Are you a clubber? Again, it might be more expensive. We are both gamblers and drinkers, so to make our budget for Vegas more reasonable, we set aside a specific amount of money every day – once it’s gone, we’re done regardless of whether it’s 11 am or 11 pm. We are drinkers, but not clubbers, which also saves money both on drinks and on potential cover fees. We get free drinks when we gamble, and find beer to be inexpensive at the souvenir shops along the strip. We once got these touristy drinks, which promptly put me to bed for the night at 3 pm (which I’m still getting made fun of for).

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I think I have mentioned before that I am one of those travelers who likes to see and do everything possible. Vegas is a good place for people like me because it kind of consumes you – the lights, the people, the casinos, the drinks – you just kind of forget about everything else and allow yourself to live in the moment.

I love that they have little kiosks around Vegas where you can take your picture and upload it to Facebook!

I love that they have little kiosks around Vegas where you can take your picture and upload it to Facebook!

The first time I was there, I did no planning. One of the girls I worked with in Japan lives in San Diego, and Vegas provides us a fun and cheap place to meet up. She has been to Vegas several times, so I just depended on her to show us all the cool stuff. I am mentioning this because I had no idea what to expect, and just want to emphasize what Vegas was to me before I truly understood: just a lot of walking to look at random stuff.

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My friend, Jessica, who I was lucky enough to meet up with in Vegas two years in a row!

Obviously I love Vegas, otherwise I wouldn’t have gone back two more times! Part of what I originally thought is right, you really are just walking from place to place, but now that I know what I am looking at, I appreciate it so much more. Let me fill you in, if you don’t already know, each hotel has something unique and special about it to experience or look at.

The top of the stratosphere

The top of the stratosphere

 

I can’t write about what each hotel has to offer, or we’d be here forever, so I will just share my favorite with you; the Bellagio! It has a room that they change out several times per year. I love checking it out to see how it will be decorated, and I’m never disappointed! I am also in love with their lobby – which, as you can tell by the picture below, so do a lot of other people.

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I have also never stayed the same place in Vegas twice. I have stayed at the MGM, The Tropicana, and The Flamingo; and also stayed downtown at the Golden Nugget for part of the 3rd trip. I love them all for different reasons, and would recommend each of them!

With my sister at the Golden Nugget

With my sister at the Golden Nugget

My favorite part of Las Vegas is visiting downtown. To me, it is all what I pictured Vegas being: bright lights, people everywhere, lots of drinks! I especially love the light show on the “ceiling” and the free concerts! They even have a casino with old machines that literally spit out coins like back in the day, which I think is really cool!

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So if you’re looking for specific things to do, I’m sorry that this post probably wasn’t helpful. There is so much to do in Vegas, and you can’t go wrong; I love visiting the Coca Cola store and the M&M Factory every visit, and there is no shortage of museums, shows, clubs, casinos – literally everything! Then, of course, there are roller coaster/amusement rides, aquariums, and other day trips you can take (like to the grand canyon). My advice is to see where it takes you – don’t plan, just enjoy the ride!

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The Rio is a bar with a great view!

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Washington DC

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I would like to start by saying that I have wanted to spend the 4th of July in Washington D.C. since I was probably 11 years old. I had a lot of thoughts running through my head about how to share our Washington DC experience (it was a unique one), and I’ve decided that instead of telling you what to do and where to go, I have to just tell you our story.

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When the people around me asked me what my plans were for the 4th, I would excitedly tell them about visiting Washington D.C. However, instead of being excited for me, I was met with genuine confusion and distaste – “why would you want to go there?”.. “it will be SO hot”.. “it’s a madhouse, I’d avoid it”. Even though I wouldn’t let anyone talk me out of it, it made me nervous. After all, I really am not a huge crowd person, and no girl likes runny makeup and frizzy hair from heat.

IMG_0144If you have read my “about me”, you will see that I’m a planner and my boyfriend prefers spontaneity. Since I had technically been to Washington DC before (in 7th grade – I don’t remember much about it) I decided to try to just “wing it” for Mitchell since he allows me to be a control freak when it comes to almost every trip we take. I obviously did some research on some of the things I’d like to see, but I made no plans and had no expectations (other than the fireworks, of course!)

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One of the things that I really didn’t plan for was rain, but it was there when we woke up Saturday morning. Luckily, our hotel provided complimentary umbrellas which saved our butts because none of the souvenir shops were open on the 4th! We had 45 minutes before anything was open for lunch, so we got Starbucks (the first time I’ve ordered coffee from Starbucks!!) and talked about what we wanted to do.

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I had wanted to do the hop – on, hop – off bus tour due to our short time in Washington DC, but we weren’t sure the rain would hold off and we didn’t want to be stuck outside or on the top of a bus in the rain. We opted for the Smithsonian’s Air and Space museum instead.

IMG_0100On our walk to the museum, we ran into the 4th of July parade. I had known about the parade, but had decided to skip it in order to see more of Washington DC. I am so, so glad we ran into it; we watched the parade for about a half an hour, and it was incredible. It really added to the 4th of July experience, and it gave me goosebumps! If we had more time in Washington DC, this is something that I would love to make time for.

IMG_0083The rain stopped by the time we were leaving the museum, and we could see the Washington monument from where we were; I had heard that they block off the monuments for the fireworks (more about that later) and I really wanted to see them, so we headed that way.

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I underestimated how long of a walk it would be. By the time we got to the Lincoln memorial, we had already walked about 3 miles. The plan had been to head back to our hotel to change clothes at some point before the fireworks, but it seemed like too much walking to one of us. This is probably too much information, but I have permission to say that one of us was chafing, and to walk to our hotel round trip would have been 4 miles. To walk back to a museum or to the hop on/hop off bus would have been about 3 miles round trip, which was too much for someone who didn’t plan ahead to bring baby powder 😉 Normally, I do believe taxis would be available, but the roads were closed off so that wasn’t an option.

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Even though it was only 2 pm, a lot of people were already camping out for the fireworks so we decided to stay where we were at. I was not missing those fireworks for anything! We weren’t thrilled with our decision (Mitchell didn’t want to sit around waiting that long, and I didn’t want to waste our time not seeing more of the city), but we didn’t feel like we had another option.

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This decision haunts me because it was so foolish. We could have rented bikes, we could have sucked it up and walked, and we definitely would have had time for the hop on – hop off tour had we headed there instead of to the monuments (which I’d insisted on) in the first place!

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Before 2 pm, it had truly been a gorgeous day. Even though it rained in the morning, it had tapered off by 11:00. Right around 2, it started getting pretty hot. It wasn’t miserable as I had expected our weekend to be, but it wasn’t comfortable either.

 

Notice how nice and sunny it is, and how many people are around

Notice how nice and sunny it is, and how many people are around

So this is where it gets interesting. We were sitting on the steps people watching when it started raining. After at least 30 minutes of steady rain, it starts to downpour. At that point, there was nothing to do except laugh deliriously. We had an umbrella, but were still completely soaked. Literally drenched. Then the wind picked up. We finally bolted to the Lincoln memorial to take cover (why didn’t we do this right away?) and let me tell you – there is something kind of special about huddling together with a bunch of strangers cheering for the downpouring rain and thunder!

 

Notice our umbrella at the top of the picture - this is not even when it was at it's worst because I was terrified to get my brand new phone wet. At one point, yo couldn't see the Washington Memorial.

This is not even when it was at it’s worst because I was terrified to get my brand new phone wet. At one point, you couldn’t see the Washington Memorial.

It was one of those moments that put things into perspective for me. You can plan your trip all you want, but no matter how good of a planner you are, things will inevitably go wrong once in a while. You just have to make the best of things and enjoy the ride. It didn’t bother me that we got poured on, or that we went from being very hot to shivering – it was our experience, and it was a unique one (I guess waiting 16 years may have had something to do with it too).

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When the rain tapered off around 5, we hit up the concession stand for a snack and a few beers then made our way to the Washington Monument to watch the fireworks. I had planned ahead and brought a blanket, but didn’t have it with us since we’d thought we were going to return to the hotel. It wouldn’t have mattered, though, since everything was a muddy mess.

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We staked out a spot right in front of the gates that blocked off the road because we didn’t know where else to go. We ended up standing there for over 3 hours straight. There was a stage nearby where people were performing, and although we couldn’t see it from where we stood, we could hear it, and it really added to the experience.

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Finally, it was dark and the fireworks started. To be at our nation’s capital for the 4th of July is something that I can’t put into words. It was incredible, and it was everything I hoped it would be. It was even worth waiting 7 hours for, even though I would definitely show up later if I went again!

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Our view for about 3 hours – gates blocking the World War II Memorial with the Lincoln Memorial in the background.

Afterwards, we ran out as fast as we could. I mentioned earlier that it wasn’t as crowded as I had anticipated – mostly because it’s such a huge area that people are able to spread out. But we were in the very front row so when the fireworks started, people were crowded right around us. When we left, there were swarms of people everywhere– I thought it would never end. But I have to say, it still was spread out enough to walk (or jog like we did) comfortably.

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Overall, I am disappointed that we weren’t able to see more in Washington DC. With as many places as I’ve been to, you’d think I’d know by now that you just can’t see everything in every city – but I always leave yearning for more. I suppose that’s why I have a diagnosed travel addiction.

Apparently we decided to take a selfie the one time there was a small firework. I know the pictures are poor quality, but they were too funny not to share.

Apparently we decided to take a selfie the only time there was a small firework. I know the pictures are poor quality, but they were too funny not to share.

Helpful Hints for the 4th of July in Washington DC:
Washington DC is a place that you don’t have to plan ahead if you’re into being spontaneous  – you can pretty much show up, and a lot of what you want to see will be central to other sights.

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That’s not to say, however, that it won’t be a lot of walking. The city has bikes that you can rent, though I don’ t know much about them since we were too foolish to look into it (Have I mentioned that really, really wish we had?)

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I had heard from many different people and blogs that for the 4th of July, they close down many of the monuments. In our experience, this is partially true. We were able to check out the World War II memorial during the day, but it was closed off later on (I’m not sure what time they closed it down, but definitely before 6 pm). They also closed off the pathway to the Lincoln Memorial, though it was later on at night – probably around 7 pm. The takeaway: while they do close off parts of the memorials, it’s not for the whole day like I was lead to believe.

The World War II Memorial

The World War II Memorial

Plan ahead more than we did. You’ve heard this before and you’ll hear it again – bring comfortable walking shoes (!!!), baby powder if you are a chafer ( 😉 ) and plan for rain, just in case. If it rains, a blanket won’t be good for sitting in the grass!

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It is obviously going to be crowded, but the crowds didn’t bother me at all (and I don’t like crowds). Washington DC is big enough for there to be room for everyone! I have experienced worse crowds every year at the Iowa State fair (not joking).

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If you enter the National Mall, you can watch the fireworks either from the Lincoln Memorial or from the Washington Memorial. We chose the Washington Memorial only because it was about a 20-30 minute walk closer to the entrance, and we wanted to be able to bolt after the fireworks show. The couple next to us, who have been to the firework show before, told us that we had the best view in the entire park. While the fireworks were shot right at us, I think I would have preferred to have had the Washington Memorial in the background. We had the Lincoln Memorial in the background, which was too far away to be as prominent. 

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Shackleford Banks, North Carolina

This Friday is not a Flashback Friday because I am really excited to blog about our day trip last weekend! Our trip to Shackleford Banks this past weekend is one that I want to selfishly keep a secret because it was that good. Shackleford Banks is part of the Outer Banks in North Carolina. You cannot drive there, so we took a ferry. I do believe you can also kayak but from what I could tell, it would be a long haul.

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Shackleford Banks is known for having feral horses; how they arrived to the island is a mystery, although it is believed that they are ancestors of horses that survived a shipwreck. We took a ferry from Beaufort, but you can also take a ferry from Morehead City or Harker’s Island.

Shackleford Banks was a location I had wanted to visit since we moved to North Carolina. I mostly wanted to check out the horses, of course, but was also excited to see other things the island had to offer including crabs, sea animals, and a lot of shelling opportunities (including the occasional, but rare, sand dollar).

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The ferry drops you off on the sound side of the island, and if you want to check out the ocean side, it is about a 15 minute walk. The island is hilly, but there is a sand path to the beach. The walk wasn’t bad, but we all know how much harder it is to walk in sand! We didn’t spend much time on the sound side – a lot of locals had their boats anchored there and it was pretty crowded.

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The Sound Side

 

The beach side is beautiful, but when we were there, the waves were pretty intense. I don’t know if it is always like that, but another couple on the ferry with us had been there before and warned us of the dangerous undertow. I didn’t really believe them because people have been warning us about the undertow on every beach since we moved here, but we have yet to experience it – but we really did notice the undertow at Shackelford Banks.

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Shackleford Banks is a 9-mile island, meaning there is plenty of room to spread out. It felt like we had the entire beach to ourselves, and that was a much needed change of pace as the beaches around here are right in the middle of tourist season. In other words, they are packed most of the time.

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Helpful Hints:
The ferry we took through Island Express typically leaves every half hour, making it convenient to get to and from the island at your own pace. However, when we went, it was very sindy, so they were only leaving once per hour. I would recommend calling ahead to confirm how often the ferry is leaving. The ferry ride is approximately 15-20 minutse, but because of the wind, we had to take a longer route and the ride was approximately 45 minutes instead.

While the walk to the beach side of the island isn’t bad, the sand was very hot (too hot to be able to remove your shoes and walk barefoot). I’m sure you all know how difficult it can be to walk in flipflops in the sand, so I would recommend better shoes for walking.

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We were lucky and saw horses before we even got off of the ferry, but this isn’t always the case. If you don’t see horses, you can go off the beaten path to look for them (it’s also fun to explore!)If you anticipate doing this, I again recommend better shoes than just flip flops.

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We had such a great getaway at Shackleford Banks, and the town of Beaufort was gorgeous as well. I would recommend this trip to anyone, and it makes me want to explore other parts of the Outer Banks.

Stay tuned for a post about Washington, D.C. because we are headed that way tonight!

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