September 11th, 2019 by | Tags: , | No Comments »

After spending lovely time on the Argentine side of Patagonia, Alex and I crossed over to Chile to the other side of the Andes mountains and spent a few days at Torres del Paine National Park.

Over the course of three days, we walked over 30,000 steps and 10 miles to see the natural wonders of Torres del Paine National Park. We not only saw mountains but also waterfalls, a rainbow, and turquoise lakes. We also came across Quanaco, an animal that is part of the same family as llamas. I wish my regular exercise at home could be all about hiking on mountains where I can see beautiful views instead of working out in the gym on a machine.

Patagonia also showed us what it truly means to live with all four seasons. One day, we experienced cloudy weather during the first 15 minutes of the hike and then windy hail like rain which felt like several shots hitting my face for about 20 minutes and then some sun suddenly appeared once we reached the stunning viewpoint where we saw Cernos, the horns.

Alex and I stayed in an amazing all inclusive resort, Patagonia Camp, where they not only provided hiking guides but also a wonderful stay in a yurt with an unbelievable view of Torres del Paine National Park from our bed. I wish we could go to sleep in this view every night. We also had our own private Jacuzzi that allowed us to soak in the beautiful scenery of the turquoise lake.

Views from the road are absolutely stunning.
An incredible view of Torres del Paine National Park.
An incredible sight of the mountains of Torres del Paine National Park.
Patagonia is known for four seasons in one day. Thus, it’s common to see dramatic skies.
A guanaco spotted on a hill at Torres del Paine National Park.
The water in Torres del Paine National Park was unbelievably turquoise.
Rainbows are not uncommon in Patagonia due to frequent weather changes.
Soaking in the view of the horns.
Hiked up to the top of a mountain to get a stunning view of Lago Pehoe and Condors Mountain.
No matter where in Patagonia, the stunning view never fails us.
A view of Condors Mountain.
Enjoying jacuzzi at Patagonia Camp.
A beautiful lake by Patagonia Camp.
A yurt at Patagonia Camp. Yurts were actual lodges at the resort.
The amazing view from inside the yurt.
The bedroom inside the yurt which is incredibly luxurious and comfortable.
An overview of Patagonia Camp, an incredible resort for seeing Torres del Paine National Park.
Enjoying a picnic by the lake at Patagonia Camp.

Where to Stay

Patagonia Camp || An exquisite all inclusive resort where everyone is housed in yurts by a pristine turquoise lake. The resort is located right in Torres del Paine National Park.

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September 10th, 2019 by | Tags: , | No Comments »

One day while staying at Nipebo Aike, Alex and I were going to go kayaking at Perito Moreno Glacier but due to strong winds, it was cancelled at the last minute. As we were already brought to Perito Moreno Glacier, Alex and I took a lovely walk by the glaciers instead. One of the very important aspects of traveling is recognizing that weather can’t always be perfect and we have to be flexible. This is especially true in Patagonia where the weather is constantly changing and is known to have four seasons in one day. One could stand in one spot and look to the right and see that it’s sunny but then look to the left and see it’s very cloudy and looks like a storm is about to come. Thus, one of the best advice we received is to wear layers. I brought with me an ultra light down jacket and also a rain and windbreaker combo jacket and if I was freezing cold, I’d wear both which kept me warm very well. Then there were moments when I wore only one of the jackets.

Perito Moreno Glaciers is what makes Los Glaciares National Park famous. All along the side of the glaciers, the national park has beautifully built a walking trail that makes easy for people of all ages enjoy the hike and see the glacier. They even have an elevator and ramps for those with mobility disability.

The day after our amazing three days stay at Estancia Nipebo Aike, Alex and I took an amazing nine hours cruise with Marpatag Crueros through Lago Argentine where we saw stunning blue glaciers and icebergs. The glaciers at Los Glaciares National Park…wow! I’ve never seen any glaciers that blue and so stunning. It was so astonishing to see. When I saw the photos by the Chilean photography student whom I interviewed for the newspaper when I was in college, her photos were nothing but of beautiful blue glaciers and those photos were the reason I wanted to go to Patagonia. To finally see them in person was truly a dream come true. I should note that the photos have been edited for exposure correction but the color correction was not touched at all.

We purchased the “Premium Deck” tickets which is more expensive than “Classic Deck” and it was worth the extra money as we had unobstructed view of the glaciers and a top quality four course lunch with wine and champagne. They also surprised us with a honeymoon treat, cake with dulce de leche icing.

Right after our stay at Estancia Nipebo Aike, we stayed in El Calafate to take the full day cruise through Lago Argentine. I personally do not recommend spending a lot of time El Calafate. It’s a small town filled with lots of souvenir shops selling junk and the food are not that great.

En route to Los Glaciar National Park.
Puerto Moreno Glacier at Los Glaciar National Park.
Puerto Moreno Glacier at Los Glaciar National Park.
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September 9th, 2019 by | Tags: , | No Comments »

Alex and I dreamed of visiting Patagonia for many years. I first put Patagonia on top of my bucket list when I was in college and working for my university’s newspaper and interviewed a photography student from Chile and wrote a story about her project in Patagonia. Alex’s father talked often about his travels to Argentina and Chile and wanted to bring Alex there but never had the opportunity as his father passed away ten years ago. We first talked about traveling to Patagonia together when we were in the Peace Corps and looked into traveling there right after our service. I put together an itinerary and budget and unfortunately, it wasn’t financially feasible at the time but we agreed that this would be our honeymoon trip. When we got engaged exactly a year ago, I pulled out the itinerary I already put together and refined it. This trip wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for our family and friends who gifted us as a wedding present the most wonderful honeymoon and helped us realize our dreams.

Alex and I spent the first few days in Patagonia at the most amazing Estancia, Estancia Nipebo Aike. Finding this Estancia truly happened because of blessing in disguise moments. Alex and I were initially looking at estancias in the Pampas region but they were either too expensive or fully booked at the end of December when we were looking into making reservations NINE months prior to the trip! Googling estancias in Patagonia was challenging. There were surprisingly not too many. I found three. One was way too expensive. Another had no availability for the dates we requested. Nibepo Aike was the first to have the availability and also offer the most affordable price. I was initially concerned that I was making the right decision to book with them because my email correspondences with them was slow – they sometimes took several days to respond. Thus, I went to the Estancia with very low expectation of their customer service.

Estancia Nibepo Aike was built by an immigrant couple from Croatia in 1912. It’s now owned by the granddaughter and it focuses tourists – providing them an Argentine ranch experience.

The Estancia exceeded way beyond our expectations. They provided outstanding and very personable service. Their rooms are very clean and nicely decorated with a touch of rustic Patagonian design. Above all, their food was top notch. Their steaks and lamb were made locally right on their farm. Eating their meals was like eating a home cooked meal at a home of a talented chef. They served unique berries butter made with local Calafate berries grown only in Patagonia. Because Alex and I purchased the premium package, not only meals and unlimited alcohol were inclusive, we also got a private tour guide for the seven hours horseback riding. They also provided us transportation to Perito Moreno Glacier. The also gave us a tour of the ranch including showing us how they sheer a sheep and the history of the Estancia. They also offer hiking trails and a wonderful tranquil atmosphere for relaxing. And most importantly, the scenery at the Estancia is unbeatable!

On New Year’s Day, Alex and I took an amazing seven hour, 20 kilometers, round trip horseback riding through the winding path of Andes Mountains, exploring the Argentine Patagonia with a private guide from Nibepo Aike Estancia. The horses trotted on steep hills, going high on the mountains, and gave us stunning panoramic views of Los Glaciares National Park. Patagonia is truly a stunning region. The private guide also cooked us, while on the tour, delicious fresh steaks directly from the cows on their Estancia and also served amazing stir friend potatoes and vegetables.

This horseback riding was only my third time in my life that I have ridden a horse. The other two times were short ~30 minutes ride in Costa Rica and San Antonio de Areco, two days prior. I was surprised at myself that I handled the ride with ease and relaxation. Alex and I both equally agreed that this horseback ride trip was our highlight of the trip. This Estancia also offers variety of horseback riding packages including a week expedition to a glacier which Alex and I hope to do one day!

Seeing Patagonia for the first time shortly after the plane lands.
Estancia Nipebo Aike, an estancia located about an hour and half from El Calafate.
Enjoying the view of Patagonia from Estancia Nipebo AIke.
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September 8th, 2019 by | Tags: , | No Comments »

Alex and I moved non-stop the moment we arrived in Buenos Aires, soaking in all the amazing culture it has to offer – contemporary art, delicious steak and wine, bookstore, beautiful leather, and tango dancing.

For the first two days in Buenos Aires, we explored the city, visiting museums and sites including Museum of Latin American Art Buenos Aires (MALBA), Jewish Museum, Temple Libertad, Casa Rosada, La Boca, and Recoleta Cemetery. We also spent time strolling and checking out their beautiful architecture. Buenos Aires built their city based on inspiration from Paris. The city brought in architects from Paris in early 1900’s to build the city to be Paris of South America. The architecture and street layouts resemble very much like Paris as it has so much charm and elegance.

As Argentina is world class for their food, Alex and I made exploring their food scene an equally priority as visiting sites. Within a few hours after landing in Buenos Aires, the very first food we tasted was an amazing freshly made sausage from a side of a sidewalk in La Boca. I was pleasantly surprised by the freshness and the rich taste of the sausage. Argentina’s street food happens to be known for being incredibly delicious and high quality. That night, Alex and I tasted our first argentine steak in Argentina at La Pecora Nera. I’m not a red meat eater but eating steaks is a must in Argentina. Argentina being known for best steaks is not an understatement. The steak was to die for. It totally melted in my mouth and the taste was unbelievable rich. We also enjoyed seared provolone cheese, mini empanadas and basil ice cream.

Alex and I also took a fantastic cooking class in a home of an Argentine woman who was formerly a psychologist. She taught us how to make empanadas, lentil stew and cookies with dulce de lèche.

Alex and I spent a lovely day at San Antonio de Areco including a few hours at an Estancia. San Antonio de Arec is a small old Spanish colonial town located about an hour and half outside of Buenos Aires. It’s known for its surrounding beautiful landscape of Pampas region, horseback riding and silversmiths.

Taking part in Buenos Aires’ nightlife is a must. Alex and I participated in an Airbnb experience for the first time by signing up for a tango dance class in Buenos Aires. We had a wonderful instructor who taught us the basics of tango dancing in her dance studio and then she took us to a local milonga where Argentines do tango dancing and also drink. In Argentine culture, people usually don’t eat dinner until around 9 pm and will often go out afterwards to dance and for a drink. Alex and I were out at a milonga until midnight.

On our last night in Buenos Aires, Alex and I spent time at an amazing bar featured on Booze Traveler TV show, Floreria Atlantico. When first walking into Floreria Atlantico, we see a flower shop with many beautiful flowers and cactus for sale. Then there is a large refrigerator door. This door opens to the basement, where there is a bar. This bar features probably about 100 different cocktails from many different countries around the world and delicious food. I got a tasty cocktail drink inspired by France and Alex got a cocktail drink inspired by Poland. We also got calamari and pizza with flowers on it.

Casa Rosada
Argentina is known for its incredibly delicious and high quality street food. Within a few hours after landing in Buenos Aires, the very first food we tasted was an amazing freshly made sausage from a side of a sidewalk in La Boca.
La Boca, a neighborhood in Buenos Aires known for its colorful buildings.
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March 30th, 2018 by | Tags: | 1 Comment »

Alex and I scored tickets to Amsterdam for $565 round trip for each of us from Washington DC and thus, we took a long weekend trip to enjoy the history, art, culture, food, and nightlife. I’ve always wanted to see Anne Frank’s House as a Jew who grew up being taught about the Holocaust since a very young age. I also dreamed of seeing Rembrandt’s The Night Watch since studying his art in art class. I also wanted to see the windmills and ride a boat in the canals. This trip gave me the opportunity to check off everything that I’ve always wanted to see and explore.

Amsterdam is not only a charming city with unique architecture, but it’s also a very cosmopolitan city that is very rich in diversity. There is a wide variety of people coming from different parts of life and food from across the globe, including Indonesian cuisine and Argentine sausages. On our first day in Amsterdam, we were given an introduction to the city by a Beer Bike tour. As a sober driver peddled through the city, Alex drank beer and I drank Prosecco while admiring the architecture of the city. After the Beer Bike tour, we explored the city on foot checking out food and drinks. We tasted our first Dutch food in Amsterdam at Bickers aan De werf by ordering shrimp Holtkamp. Then we checked out Dutch Thai fusion at SOI 74 and tasted a delicious sweet liquor at Olofspoortje.

During the next the following days, As Alex and I hopped from one museum to another. I visited Anne Frank’s House which I can only say “What an emotional experience.” It was such a gloomy place and I could not imagine how Anne and her family could live in silence and worry about eventually being killed only because of who they were. I then visited Rembrandt’s House where I was able to see where he lived and worked and see some of his paintings. I then went to Van Gogh Museum to see many more of his paintings. Even though I have already seen so many in France, I never get tired of seeing his beautiful work. Then I was able to see Rembrandt’s The Night Watch which was a jaw dropping painting to see. It was a much bigger work of art than I imagined. As I had more time, I also checked out Stedelijk Museum to see contemporary art. We also visited House of Bols, a museum that is all about cocktails. They even had a bar there where we could taste different cocktails. I tasted Stroopwafel Cocktail and Alex tasted Aged Mai Tai.

In between visiting museums and also in the evenings, Alex and I bounced from one restaurant to another, tasting Argentine sausages, Indonesian dishes, apple pie, smoked eel, Pina Colada, and crazy milkshake mixed with cookies. We also visited Cheese Museum and tasted variety of Dutch cheeses and also The Pancake Bakery where we had giant Dutch pancakes.

At last, on the last night in Amsterdam, we took a lovely boat ride through the canals admiring the beautiful scenery of nighttime in the city.

As we wanted to get the true Amsterdam experience, we stayed in houseboat the first two nights and in a windmill the last two nights. Both were booked through Airbnb. Locals do actually really live in them! Along the wider canals, there are many houseboats that are clearly livable homes. They have garden plants along with tables and chairs on the dock. When we stayed in the windmill, the host gave us a tour of the whole windmill by showing us the machinery room on the first floor and then taking us all the way to the top to see how the wheels of the windmill are constructed. The host happens to be an artist and had beautiful paintings. We purchased a painting of his windmill so that we could remember our wonderful stay for years to come. He also served us a lovely breakfast in the mornings.

Amsterdam is a beautiful city with northern European architecture style.
Olofspoortje has their own very delicious sweet liquor.
Visiting Anne Frank’s House, third house from right, was an emotional experience.
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