Travel Guide

Guide to explore every bit of Oahu in six days.

Oahu is very beautiful but also full of tourist traps.  It’s easy to get stuck in Waikiki where the crowd is and miss out on many amazing hidden gems across the island.  A car is highly recommended as it is utterly dreamy to drive around the island; whether it’s an ocean drive or mountain drive, the scenery looks quite surreal!  I personally often felt like I was in the Jurassic Park movie and 50 First Dates at the same time.  Click here for some photography proof of the beauty of this island!  And below is my guide to explore every bit of Oahu in merely a week!

//

TO LAY IN THE SUN AND CONTEMPLATE HOW GOOD LIFE IS (aka Beaches)

Pupukea Beach Park  (Shark’s Cove, Three Tables)  Local spot on the North Shore!  The beach looks a bit rocky but if you get over the corals into the tide pool, you’ll find the most beautiful and clear water.

Waimea Bay  Also on the North Shore, this beach could be quite crowded and it might be hard to find a parking spot!  But if you happen to get in, you’re in for a good time.  There are a few food trucks parked nearby that offers some very tasty treats!

Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve  If you happen to be heavily jetlagged (like I was), it is highly recommended to get to this reserve before 7am to get in for free!  And the sunrise at this beach will be the most beautiful thing that you will ever see… well, I haven’t seen many in my short life span but it was magical to see the dark sky at dawn scattered with cotton candy clouds that are illuminated by the first light of day.  I was completely mesmerized watching the sun peeking out from the horizon then slowly rising up.

Halona Beach Cove  This tiny little beach is for the adventurous ones!  It is hidden and you are required to hike down an unbeaten path to get to the spot.  To find it you want to look for the Halona Blowhole (which is supposed to be cool but it wasn’t blowing anything when I was there!).  The beach cove is nestled right next to the parking lot for the lookout of the blowhole.  

Kailua Beach Park  This is definitely my favorite!  This beach has the softest sand ever!  It’s on the windward (east) side of the island so it is more ideal to go there in the morning as it gets pretty breezy toward the end of day.

Bellows Field Beach Park  This beach is inside the Bellows Air Force Station and is only open to the public on the weekend.  It is such a gem!  Unlike other beach parks on the island, you will never have difficulties finding parking here!

Diamond Head Beach Park  This is a local surfing spot (and tanning for me!).  The waves are high and the beach is rocky so it isn’t great for swimming, although there is definitely parts of the beach that are very swimmable.  The beach is slighty slanted and provides a great angle for tanning.  In addition, it’s super entertaining to watch the surfers!

//

TO SEE

Tantalus Lookout  The view from this lookout is worth checking out both during the day and at night!  You’ll get a breathtaking view of the city from the lookout; and the drive up and down is beautiful.

Manoa Falls  Need a change from being a beach bum everyday?  The hike up to the Manoa Falls is a great alternative.  The trail is quite easy with countless beautiful foliage to look at.  The falls is also definitely worth it (if it’s not dry!).

Turtle Bay Resort  This is a private resort with public beach access.  The view to the bay from their pool area offers one of the best sunset views on the island — definitely worth a visit even if you can’t afford to stay at the resort.  Also, I wish someone told me that their pool bar is a perfect spot to watch sports!

Kualoa Regional Park  There are tons of things to do there — a bunch of hiking trails, the film set of Jurassic Park at the Kualoa Ranch, or just lay out on the Kualoa Park beach.

//

TO EAT

Zippy’s  You might look at this fast food chain and think why would I eat here?  But Zippy’s is a truly amazing local experience!  Their food is delicious and the menu includes a very impressive variety of items from the local favorite noodle soup saimin (created in Hawaii and is a combination of Japanese Ramen, Chinese mein and Filipino pancit) to Korean fried chicken.  I especially love their breakfast options which, of course, includes spam, eggs, and rice.

Diamond Head Market & Grill  One day in Hawaii, I decided to walk from Waikiki to Diamond Head Beach and found this amazing bakery on the way.  I don’t usually enjoy scones but their blueberry cream cheese scones are absolutely delightful.  Their spam and chicken musubi (rice balls) are also yummy.  Simply put, everything is divine!  Try as much as you can!

Sunrise Restaurant  Since my first and only trip to Okinawa in 2008, I have not been able to find any Okinawan restaurant in the U.S. (not even in New York City!).  But thanks to the great population of Okinawan immigrants in Hawaii, I was lucky to devour lots and lots of the island’s delights.  Sunrise Restaurant is a tiny family-owned spot right in Kaimuki that serves up many traditional dishes such as soki soba (soba with braised ribs) and goya champuru (bitter melon).  The price is great and the food is even better!

Bubbies Homemade Ice Cream  Wonderful mochi ice cream selection!

Lawson Station  Not enough can be said about Lawson Station!  And I am incredibly glad that this Japanese convenience store chain has made it to Hawaii.  When Myke and I lived in Japan, we went to Lawson every day multiple times a day for all of our snacking needs.  In Hawaii, it’s perfect to hit up a Lawson before you go to the beach and stock up all of your picnic supplies from freshly made onigiri (Japanese rice balls) to Pocky to sushi.

Morimoto Waikiki  You can always count on Iron Chef Morimoto to serves up wonderful food everywhere in and outside of kitchen stadium.  Morimoto Waikiki is definitely not an exception!  The impeccably designed spot is located in the Modern Waikiki Hotel and offers great deals for lunch.  You will be feasting on the food with not only your taste buds but also your eyes!

Izakaya Naru  Another Okinawan gem!  This small restaurant is very cozy and the food is super tasty!

The Pig and the Lady  This relatively new restaurant is a hit!  Chef Andrew Le and his family offers Vietnamese-inpired dishes that are really creative and delicious.  Brunch, lunch or dinner — go for every meal if you can — totally worth it!

//

TO DRINK — Who knew Chinatown is where all the bars are at!  They’re all solid and stylish if you want a change from the tourist crowd at the beach bars.

Manifest 

Bar 35

Next Door

The Dragon Upstairs

Standard
Travel Guide

New Year in Dublin.

After spending three New Year’s Eves in New York City, we were ready for a change and looked tirelessly for an affordable getaway.  Fortunately, a great deal showed up for Dublin where we had never been.  Without much consideration, we took this opportunity to spend a week in the land of ire.  We stayed with an Airbnb host who so graciously invited us to spend an amazing New Year’s Eve with him and his friends.  We took so many long walks, connected with old friends and new friends, frequented many pubs, drank a gazillion beers, and had delicious food.  Here’s our guide to Dublin!

//

EAT

Crackbird  New Yorkers are no stranger to Korean fried chicken.  This spot has solid fried chicken PLUS delicious brews from the local Eight Degrees Brewing

Leo Burdock’s  Classic fish & chip.  Fresh and delicious.

Neon  The food is great but what’s the best about this place?  It’s that they give you an ice cream cone with your meal so that you can get a free soft serve afterwards.  Amazing and genius!

Yamamori Izakaya  Great food!

l’Gueuleton  Classic and delicious french food.  The restaurant is also connected to The Bar With No Name, a great hidden spots with outdoor seatings.

//

DRINK

Bull and Castle  Classic Irish pub with tons of beers that could only be found in Ireland as well as some global selections.  The extensive selection could be intimidating but stick with the Irish brews as they are delicious!  Galway Hooker, Metalman, Trouble, O’Hara’s, Dingle… — try them all!

The Royal Oak  This pub is so quaint and amazing!  It’s a family-run pub frequented by mostly locals.  After a delicious homemade New Year’s Eve dinner, we stumbled with some new Irish friends to their favorite neighborhood spot and it turned out to be a true hidden gem.  The place is tiny but the beer selection is grand.  It also features a traditional pub snug with private access to the bar.

The Palace Bar  If you wander to Temple Bar and was not feeling the touristy vibe at all, please check out this pub before leaving the tourist trap!  You will feel the difference as soon as you walk in the place — despite its location in the middle of Temple Bar, the crowd consists to all locals and the ambience is nice and perfect for conversations.

Bison Bar & BBQ  We did not try the BBQ but the brews were great!  Another nice & chill pub!

The Porterhouse  We are huge fans of the historic Porterhouse Fraunces Tavern in New York City and couldn’t miss checking out the original Porterhouse in Dublin.  It did not disappoint!

The Library Bar  Hidden and charming bar in The Central Hotel.  Fireplace and brews — what else would one need?

Guinness Storehouse  Free pint with your tour ticket!  We went straight to the Gravity Bar on the top floor to sip our beer while enjoying the 360° view of the city.  Ask the bartender to draw your name on the beer — it’s not exclusive to latte art!

The Long Hall  Another great pub!  Definitely stop by if you’re around.

The Bar With No Name  Connected to the Kellys Hotel and l’Gueuleton restaurant, this place feels like a big house party with multiple rooms and outdoor space.  Great spot!

//

COFFEE & SNACKS

Insomnia  They are everywhere!  And they have delicious coffee!  Do check it out if you see one!

Brother Hubbard  Coffee and sweets!

//

SEE

Old Jameson Distillery  This spot wasn’t on our list but we stumbled upon it and decided to check it out.  All the tours were full so we just had some drinks in the pretty lobby bar.

Irish Museum of Modern Art (the IMMA) and Phoenix Park   The IMMA was closed for a while a renovation and had just reopened right before we got there – lucky us!  The galleries aren’t huge but the building, which used to be a 17th-century hospital, is truly beautiful.  The museum is connected to the amazing Phoenix Park, a 1700-acre green space in the heart of Dublin.

Howth  Our host kindly drove us to Howth for a quick day trip.  Howth is right outside of Dublin and is a cute little fishing village.  We walked out to the lighthouse, climbed up to Howth Head, then had delicious oysters and guinness at The Bloody Stream.

//

SHOP

Designist  Super fun design store where we discover a new favorite local artist Clover Rua.  Check her out as her prints are amazing!

Irish Design Shop  All kinds of beautiful!

//

There are still many places on our to-do list that we didn’t get to visit during our short stay.  Check out Phuong’s Foursquare list here!

Standard
Travel Guide

A guide to Seattle’s food, brews, and more.

Our secret ingredients to a good trip are: 1) Sleep and nap as much as possible; 2) Make sure to eat at least three meals a day (the more the better); 3) Take in life with long walks; 4) Find some local brews and day drink; 5) Try to avoid tourist traps.  We added all of the above to our latest trip to Seattle and it was amazing.  Here’s our guide to a fun long weekend in the Emerald City!

//

EAT

Musashi’s  This little gem in Wallingford has the most incredible sushi, sashimi, and a couple types of Japanese rice bowls at amazing prices.  Every day when I wake up in Brooklyn, I dream of devouring a bowl of chirashi at Musashi’s, full of the freshest varieties of sashimi at the incredible price of $14.  What a steal!  Disclaimer: they only accept cash or personal checks.

Hue Ky Mi Gia  If you feel like wandering to the International District for some authentic asian food, you must stop by this spot.  You would fall in love with this place only if you like noodles and chicken wings.  The menu includes a gazillion types of Chinese-Vietnamese noodles with various toppings served in two styles – in the broth or dry with the soup on the side.  Another must-have is the chicken wings with juicy flavorfull meat inside, crispy buttery garlicy batter outside and some delightfully crunch garlic bits on top.  I’m sure everything else on the menu is good but do not leave this place without the wings!

The Walrus and the Carpenter  We had heard of this Ballard seafood spot for a while before this past trip to Seattle.  Everyone raves about the food and it certainly did not disappoint!  The fresh local oysters will melt in your mouth; the fried oysters are sublime; and the grilled sardines will not taste like any canned sardine you’ve ever had.  Those were our favorites!  We also spent some time drinking wine next door at the adorable Barnacle while waiting for our table and highly recommend this wine bar.

The Corson Building  This beautiful restaurant is tucked away in Georgetown next to the highway.  The communal seatings and warm decor make it feel like a cozy dinner party at a friend’s house.  The dinner with wine pairing on Saturday nights and family-style dinner on Sunday are both a little out of our budget so we resorted to the a-la-carte dinner on Friday.  We had vegetables and seafood sourced from local farmers and fishermen.  Everything was incredibly fresh and tasty!

The Wandering Goose  This friendly little cafe in Capital hill makes great pastries and biscuits.  Who knew biscuit and gravy could taste so good in the northwest!

Dot’s Delicatessen  Just looking at the deli display at this Fremont spot makes me happy.  They have any kind of cured meat you could possibly think of, multiples types of sausages, and several options of pâté and liver mousse.  Definitely not an option for non-meat lovers!

//

DRINK  Good beer!  That’s all we have to say about these spots!  Check them all out!

Fremont Brewing Company

Brouwer’s Cafe

Hilliard’s Brewery

Bottleworks

Woodsky’s

Outlander Brewery and Pub

//

COFFEE/SNACKS

Molly Moon’s  Listen to this Brothers From Another track when you eat their delicious ice cream.

Volunteer Park Cafe  Take a break from your stroll in Volunteer Park and get some pastries here!

Hot Cakes  We came here already stuffed with good food and beer all over Ballard.  We didn’t think we could possibly eat anything else.  But we gave in the second we saw the molten chocolate cakes at this place.  The cake was warm and exploded with gooey delicious chocolate inside.  As if this sweet goodness wasn’t enough, we proceeded to pair it with butter beer (butterscotch, apple cider, champagne).  This warm rich buttery drink was  the last thing we had that day before a very long food coma.  We do not regret any of it!

Theo Chocolate  This chocolate store is always fun to go to!  Great flavors from normal to weird.  All delicious!

//

SHOP

Gold Dogs Vintage

Burnt Sugar  Fun store in Fremont!

Michael Reed Black Antiques  Great if you’re into antique jewelry!

Book Larder  In love with this place!  If you cook, don’t miss this unique bookstores that specializes in cookbooks from all over the world.

//

SEE

Neumos  Cozy concert venue.

Chihuly Garden and Glass  This place at first appeared to be a tourist trap.  But it turned out to be a gorgeous exhibition!

Standard
Music, Travel Guide

Bedstuy, Do or Die.

We used to live in Bedstuy, Brooklyn.  Though we hated our old apartment, the neighborhood had many gems that we absolutely love.  If you are ever in Bedstuy, check out these spots!

//

EAT

Peaches Hothouse  Amazing brunch with a southern flair!  There’s nothing that makes us happier than fried chicken and honey.  We took many friends here and they all loved us a little more after our shared meals!

Do or Dine  Restaurant by Food Network Star winner Justin Warner.  Can’t say enough good things about this place.  Everything is delicious and despite the familiar names, nothing is what you usually expect.  The chicken and waffles features jerk chicken.  The fish and chips comes with a whole fish.  Spoiler alert – we know!  But there are still many surprises waiting for you to discover at Do or Dine!

David’s Brisket House  Many people go to Katz and few know about David’s.  But the truth is David’s will surpass all your expectations of what a good pastrami and rye sandwich should be.  The Muslim owner of David’s has definitely mastered the Jewish expertise of smoking meat to perfection.

//

COFFEE

Bushbaby  This place was just right around the corner from our old place and we used to see the own everywhere in the hood.  Cute coffee shop with tasty hot drinks for the winter including tea mixed with wine.

Tiny Cup  This little spot has the best bagels that we’ve had in the city.

Common Grounds  Delicious coffee and snacks.

//

And while you’re thinking about when your next trip to Bedstuy will be, check out this tune by The Gold Magnlias.  These talented guys rocked our wedding reception!

Standard
Travel Guide

A weekend in the Catskill.

STAY, EAT

Table on Ten  Kill two birds with one stone with this gem!  Table on Ten is a restaurant that serves up delicious breakfast, lunch, and pizzas on the weekend.  They also have two lovely rooms for rent right above the restaurants.  Everything is locally sourced and is deliciously fresh.  We tasted all the pizzas on the menu (six of them including the special and dessert pizza!) and loved every single one!  The rooms upstairs are exquisitely tasteful, cozy, and flooded with light in the morning.  Highly recommended!

//

DRINK

Ommegang Brewery  Breweries are always our favorites spots to visit and Ommegang definitely didn’t disappoint.  Plus, drinking beer on the grass with the view of the mountain is always a plus!

Standard