Packing 101: Philippines 2016

Packing 101: Philippines 2016

Disclaimer: I’m not about to teach you how to pack for a trip to Asia–there are actual bloggers who do that sort of thing for a living; I just want to talk about what I ended up bringing and what worked or didn’t. 😀

I realize I’m five months late on this but hey! it’s still fun to discuss, n’est-ce pas?

Background:

Left California in December (aka 55F-79F highs/lows) to go to Manila “winter” (mild rain, humidity 80%+++, makes 80F-95F feel like 90-105F)

Activities: city travel, island stay (4 days), exercise (running)

Things I brought:

Tops: cotton short-sleeved tees, tanks (a few each), a light cardigan, rayon long-sleeved split neck blouses

Dresses/bottoms: one polka dot 3/4 sleeve dress, two pairs of Levi’s cutoffs, Uniqlo Ultra Stretch skinny jeans, Everlane culottes

Shoes: brown Saltwater sandals, running shoes, Nike Free RN Flyknit, Sam Edelman ballet flats

Special: three bikinis (to rotate wash/dry), goggles, water shoes

Outerwear: Arc’teryx rain jacket, Uniqlo Ultra Light down jacket

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The winning bits!

What worked:

  1. Arc’teryx rain jacket: you would think wearing what amounts to a huge plastic tarp would be insufferable in humid rain, but it actually was surprisingly comfortable. Not to mention it doubled as an emergency layer when we entered heavily air-conditioned areas. Note to self: you can get sick from the AC-inside, hellfire outside dichotomy. bring scarves too, it gets cold AND dry when a draft is blowing on you all day.
  2. Long sleeved (rayon) blouse/top: counterintuitive when you think about humidity and heat, but I was more comfortable in these blouses (and looked more put together) than in a tee-shirt. As long as the material is breathable and not constricting, I actually did better and preferred to be covered up rather than exposing my arms.
  3. Levi’s shorts: wore these more than the culottes which needed to be ironed every night. They broke into my shape in just the right way and were comfortable as all get. The only downside? full exposure to mosquito bites 😦
  4. Saltwater sandals: an impulse Amazon buy right before leaving. Not the most comfortable of all footwear (there’s a pressure point under the arch for me that kept bugging after 2-3 hours of wear.) but it goes well with the summer-casual dressing. I would have brought my Birkenstocks but I didn’t want to risk getting them damaged at the beach.

What I forgot and wished for:

  1. Tweezers and nail clippers – sounds basic. I thought I’d be able to borrow some from the family I was staying with–which I did eventually, but when my nails broke while at the beach I made a note to make it part of my makeup/grooming kit.
  2. Goggles – this was my fault. I forgot/couldn’t find mine, ended up buying a pair while on vacation. Unnecessary necessary expense.

What I learned:

  • Pack a beanie for the long plane ride (doubles as eye cover) and keep drinking water throughout (bathroom line be damned.) Hydration and sleep so that you feel less beat up when you get off the plane.
  • You really don’t need five tee shirts when three and daily washing suffices. YMMV on what facilities and opportunities are available to you regarding cleaning your clothes while traveling, but I still only used a good half of what I packed and the rest was just sitting in the suitcase.
  • Importance of curating (ugh, I hate that word) your closet IRL so travel packing is less annoying: after a few years of culling (also buzzword) my stuff into the things I really like and use time and again, all my potential building blocks for an outfit are thematically related. All that’s left to do before departure is ensure they are in good condition (I repaired a seam that was coming undone on a top) and you’re done.
  • Whatever you forget or is broken or missing can usually be replaced while abroad (except for special medications, most likely.) Don’t sweat the small stuff and try to relax!

Bouldering at Joshua Tree

Bouldering at Joshua Tree

This weekend I took my suburban self out of the concrete jungle into the desert park known as Joshua Tree.

Last year I took up bouldering after my friends encouraged me to try it at least once. I got hooked pretty easily. Bouldering is rock climbing without the use of special gear; just a pair of climbing shoes with rubber soles suffices. There’s traditional rock climbing with rope and harness which is more common and more well-known. I enjoy bouldering because of the low start-up costs (not as much gear) and because it doesn’t require a partner (a belayer, someone who holds the tension for a rope climber.) I’ve come to enjoy the sport quite a bit, so when I was offered a chance to go bouldering outdoors I was excited to try it out.

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Welcome to Joshua Tree National Park.

I am fortunate to know some amazingly buff and excellent people from my local climbing gym. We headed out to Joshua Tree (or JTree as I’ve heard people call it) early on Saturday morning. It’s about two hours from my home, but it was a nice clear day with hardly any traffic. I hadn’t been to JTree since I was nine, so I didn’t have much context heading in. I just remembered it was hot and dry and full of spiky things that can hurt you.

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That assessment still stands. Many pointy things abound.

Since I went with a fairly advanced group, there weren’t many routes I could really climb. I’m not quite as strong or as skilled as the others just yet, though someday I’d like to be. Still, I managed to finish two routes (climbers say “to send a route”.) I sent two routes. The first one was an unmarked warm-up problem in The Outback area.

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The other lady in the far right corner is starting Chuckwalla V6, a much tougher problem than what I’m working on.

In the U.S. routes are rated using the Hueco scale. Problems start from V0 and go all the way up to V16. At the easier end of the scale, some use the designation “VB” (sometimes said to designate “basic” or “beginner”) for problems easier than a V0. I’m definitely at this beginner level!

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On the aptly-named Dragonscales boulder.

Dragonscales in the Planet X area was really fun. It is about 20 feet tall and the many cracks and grooves make it an easy climb. Of course “easy” is a relative term–for me, the starting move was a few inches out of my reach. Luckily my spotters were there to pile some crash pads underneath me to boost me up to a good height. Crash pads (the mattresses on the ground) are essential to providing some measure of fall protection. Of course, it is still advisable to climb within your limits and always go with a group of people.

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Success!

I’m really glad to have gone bouldering outdoors–it was one of my goals that I wrote down for this year. Now that I’ve accomplished it, I can’t wait to go back and go outdoors more. It gives the gym workouts a purpose if I know what moves I’m practicing to get better for outdoors. As free-spirited as it sounds, you really can’t beat being out in nature and fresh air.

San Francisco 2014 Days 1 and 2

If you happen to follow my adventures on Instagram, you might know that I went to San Francisco, CA three weeks ago. I went to SF for four glorious, quiet days full of hiking and self-contemplation. I traveled alone, which is something I’m still getting used to. The more I do it though, the stronger and more confident I feel about keeping myself entertained and I end up enjoying myself immensely. Here are some of the highlights from the first two days of my trip.

I arrived on a Thursday early in the morning. After stowing my luggage at the hotel, I ate a big brunch and stole away into Nob Hill to visit Grace Cathedral.

The highlight of this place are the tall ceilings and lovely light coming in from the windows. There is currently a most ethereal installation by artist Anne Patterson called Graced with Light. It is a music-inspired installation of colorful ribbons meant to symbolize light pathways from heaven to earth.

That afternoon, I hiked up to the top of Bernal Heights Park to see the city at sunset. The fog started to come over the city in waves, but every once in a while the sun would peek through and illuminate the grasses. The picture of that black lump on the ground is how I set up my camera for a shot on the hill. I like to remember places I’ve visited by taking a photograph of myself with it–call it my narcissism/guilty pleasure, but it makes me happy.

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The SF skyline featuring Bernal Heights Park and Karl the Fog, the San Francisco fog who has his own name and an Instagram account.

After the hike, I wandered through the town leisurely on my way back to the hotel.

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Cheerful flowers on the porch of a home in Bernal Heights, SF.

I’m always fascinated by public transportation–especially since I come from an area that is heavily car-centric. The different methods of transportation available to me in San Francisco are still interesting to ride, such as the MUNI light rail.

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MUNI Castro Station, on Castro St and 17th St.

The next morning I woke up to more fog, which made for a lovely misty hike up Mount Davidson.

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Eerie, haunting fog filtering through the trees at Mount Davidson.

Mount Davidson is a gem of a forest located near the geographical center of the city, south of Twin Peaks and Portola Drive and to the west of Diamond Heights and Glen Park. It is the highest natural point in the city. Getting here without a car was ok–the bus dropped me off about a mile away from the park entrance, but that mile was a fairly steep climb just to start the hike! I sat down once or twice to just catch my breath. I learned my lesson from last year–I wore a sports bra and Uniqlo Heattech and layered my clothing so I wouldn’t freeze. I still sweated my butt off, but it was a lot more manageable.

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At the top of Mount Davidson is a clearing where a large stone cross towers amidst the trees. What I found more fascinating was this lone fallen tree. Nicknamed #thatsftree on social media, this tree has been the subject of countless photographs. I really wanted to see this tree after viewing it from my favorite SF Instagrammers’ feeds. I took a few pictures with it that I will later make into a wall poster for myself. I was lucky to have such dense fog that morning–it made for an excellent flat backdrop to throw the tree into a silhouette.

Later that morning I wandered over to nearby Noe Valley to take a peek into Mill Mercantile. As far as I know, they are the only place that carries Dieppa Restrepo loafers and Anniel flats in California–perhaps there is a boutique in Los Angeles that does so, but I was already going to be in the area, so I thought why not?

This is only a snippet of what they offer. There are a lot of lovely simple pieces; I especially liked this wall full of indigos and blues. Unfortunately I also learned that my feet are too small for Dieppa Restrepo or Anniel. The 36s/37s were too big length- and volume-wise for my narrowish feet.

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After lunch I paid a visit to Four Barrel Coffee in the Mission District to pick up some coffee beans for my mother. I don’t drink much coffee, but I would like to try their mocha and hot chocolate in the future. I like visiting coffee shops because they’re usually well-lit, they smell great, and it’s very relaxing to hear the dull whirring of the grinders and the crisp shifting of the beans against the metal walls of the roaster. I may not quite yet have the taste for the product, but the environment is soothing and I like to watch people as they sit and enjoy their cups.

Later that day my friend Erin arrived and we headed over to Fort Mason and the Marina district for dinner.

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View of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marina District.

Enter the single best food truck festival ever, and it happens every Friday night at Fort Mason:

Off the Grid has been operating in SF since 2010, and you can tell that the years of experience have really helped them hone the atmosphere and logistics necessary to pull off such an event. I’ve been to a few food festivals last year and this year in Orange County and Los Angeles and nothing compares to this. Granted, those were inaugural runs, and Off the Grid has been doing this for four years. There were lines, but they were tolerable. There was great live music, a convivial atmosphere, and most importantly, the food was top-notch! (For a food truck, that is.) Erin and I decided to split and share so we could sample as much food as we could; here were our top eats of the day:

These were so delicious! The paella had a little bit of kick, but nothing I couldn’t handle. Sisig is a Filipino pork dish that is marinated in some kind of lemon juice or vinegar, then seasoned with salt and peppers. It should traditionally be sour and spicy. This particular rendition of sisig served atop fries with guacamole, cheese, sour cream, and pico de gallo reminded me of carne asada fries except with sisig as the meat. It was good, but the guac-sour cream-cheese trio rendered the whole thing mild, and you couldn’t really taste the sour/spicy marinade. Still very good though, and I would definitely recommend it to people wanting to try it out. It’s not the true Filipino taste but it’s very good and filling.

That’s it for the first half of my SF trip this year; more photographs and anecdotes to come in the concluding post. Thank you for reading and reminiscing with me; I already can’t wait to go back!

Shoreline

Shoreline

I’ve been escaping to the shore every weekend.

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Sunset at Huntington Beach Pier.

It just ends up being that way. I dragged my friend out onto the pier on Saturday for dinner and a lazy stroll. It was a good way to get some relief from the weather (last week was high 80s – mid 90s for us here in Southern California.) It’s about fifteen degrees cooler out by the water, and it was so relieving to not feel like you were in an oven for an afternoon. I sunk my ankles into the ocean; the water was startling but a welcome respite from the hot sand.

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Street shows abound along the boardwalk.

This is very Californian–we are very casual. Then again it’s a typical beach scene. But at some point I think most young guys growing up in my town have worn boardshorts as real shorts. I’ve worn bikini tops as underwear in a pinch, and in high school and college I had a towel, flip flops, and sunscreen in my car on any given day. I didn’t surf, but I swam at the school aquatics complex a lot, and there were a few summers where I got into bodyboarding (I’m not very good at it though.)

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No makeup/windblown selfie on the pier.

I feel a lot happier when I’m out near the water. I think that much is evident by how often I come to these places. I am very glad I bought that parking pass–boy am I getting my money’s worth out of it. If I’m ever in doubt of what I’m doing for the weekend, going to the beach is a ready solution to “I’m bored.”

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Cliffs at Crystal Cove State Park.

On Sunday I went to Crystal Cove for a leisurely hike with friends. This was my first time to these cliffs and rocks. I usually head south of the coast toward Laguna Beach, but with my friends we were able to adventure to this little cave and out onto the rocks beyond. It was fun looking through the tidepools! We saw a very small crab scuttle across the sand, but no hermit crabs or sea anemones on this trip.

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On the rocks. Shaken not stirred?

I want to become strong and lithe enough to not be afraid to go exploring. I’ve got a long ways to go to earn my “billy goat” badge, but with time and much training I will be better!

Hope everyone’s weekends went well. How do you spend your off-time–are you an indoors or outdoors person?

Sand and shore

I would like to learn to eliminate the word “never” from my vocabulary. I made a joking statement a few years back that I thought the beach was overrated–too many people, sand is uncomfortable, sunburn is a literal pain, etc. But here I am eating humble pie and posting #oceangrams like it’s going out of style, and rediscovering my love for the shoreline.

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Afternoon tide coming in at Huntington State Beach.

As a teen my dad would get up at 6 in the morning on a Saturday and would jolt me out of bed to hang out with him at the pier for breakfast and a stroll. And mind you, it was hardly a stroll–it was a crawl or gentle amble if any. It’s not the most exciting morning for a teenager, but my dad would promise breakfast sandwiches and donuts so I showed up most of the time. You can’t go wrong with free food. Though my dad and I don’t go together as often anymore, I find myself treading the same paths as I did years ago, but at different locales.

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Amazing cliff-side view over Redondo Beach.

Over the past two weeks I’ve been up and down the coast in Southern California. I got a parking pass that lets me access a bunch of state beaches, so you’ll probably see more similar posts like this throughout the year. I can’t say never anymore. I really like the beach–I like walking and sitting in front of it watching the ocean in its glory. Being in it is a whole other story–I’ve bodyboarded before. It’s great, but a little terrifying if you’re not used to it. I can swim, but I’m not the strongest. I’ve caught waves before, but I’d definitely recommend having good ocean safety skills and becoming a better swimmer. The waves pummel you and can carry you far from where you started. I’ll eventually make it back in the water, but for now I’m more than content to run alongside it.

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Ah yes. I’ve taken up running as an activity. I don’t really know how I feel about it just yet. I started from zero ability last year in November and about five months later I’m running 1.5 miles (2.4 km) and I’m thinking of attempting a 5k (3.1 mi) race sometime later this year. I don’t really know what I’m doing. It’s a way to release stress, to be fit, and is relatively cheap (though the amount of workout gear I’m beginning to amass will negate this statement.) I’m not going to pretend it’s nirvana–it hurts before, during, and after I run. Not sharp, acute pain, but enough to make me question why I even bother putting myself through sweat and moderate discomfort. All I know is I hate the world less after I run, it gets the job done of fulfilling the day’s physical movement quota, and I feel less sluggish and dumb at work. There are enough benefits to keep going, and the fringe perks of course are fitting into my clothes better and breathing better and the best–I can afford to splurge on delicious things like french fries and soda and the occasional iced coffee.

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Morning hike at Crystal Cove State Park.

I’m hoping my investment in the parking pass pays off and that I keep my activity levels high. It is far too easy to stay sedentary at work and home, and my back and health suffer for it. It’s very calming to see and hear the surf coming in, despite knowing its power and potential perils.

A new week begins and I’ll be at it again, batteries recharged for the time being.

Coasting

The hike I did last week proved quite beneficial to my state of mind, so I decided I’d do it again this weekend. This time, I headed for the coast line. I drove along Pacific Coast Highway until I reached Laguna Beach. Initially I’d planned to hike Laguna Coast Wilderness Park to do the more strenuous hill climbs but Crystal Cove State Park is less than a mile away and I was hoping to see some tidepools anyway. So off it was to Crystal Cove, where a quiet shoreline greeted me:

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There were a few groups out and about, but the unusually overcast morning kept people off the beach.

I walked in spurts and would stop to shoot if I saw something neat. I tracked my route with the Runkeeper app for fun, just to see how far I could go before tiring out or getting too hungry. I suppose it wasn’t really too much of a serious workout hike, but isn’t that the point of weekends? To let yourself relax and unfold from life, even just for a few hours.

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The remains of cottages from Crystal Cove’s historic district.

Crystal Cove is great for nature photographers. I saw several folks out with big telephoto lenses. It looked like fun because there’s a lot to see–I believe most California state parks are protected wildlife reserves as well. There are many interesting looking birds that call the beach their home.

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Barnacle-covered rocks dot the shoreline.

There’s a section of the beach where tidepools form during a certain time of the day. I didn’t really plan my visit specifically for tidepool observation; rather, I just crept out onto the rocks to see what was around in the crevices.

I captioned these but I’m not entirely sure at what we’re looking at. All I know is the hermit crab did scuttle about and that was fun to watch. You don’t really see anything but his little legs. People are warned not to disturb the tide pools, so I tried my best to step around carefully.

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The REI fleece jacket from my DC trip was good at keeping me warm. It’s not sweat-wicking, so I did shrug it off midway through the hike. I brought it along for the zippered pockets and the tall collar.

I feel restored when I come back from days like this. The combination of physical activity + challenging my photographic creativity is the best stress-reliever I’ve discovered for myself. It also makes me appreciate my home region a lot more. There is a lot to experience in Southern California, and it makes me proud to show it off. We are known for Disneyland, Los Angeles, Hollywood, bad traffic, and earthquakes (ha!) but there’s so much more to the area than its reputation.

Thanks for dropping by today–keep your eyes peeled for a March Acquistions/OOTD post later this week. See you soon!

Nowhere but here

I’ve been feeling strange lately.

I feel restless, like I’m supposed to be somewhere or go someplace, and I haven’t gone yet.

Last week, I typed up a note to myself–“I want to throw myself out the house and into the outdoors. I want to climb things.” Yesterday I suppose my body knew more than my mind, because I woke up at 6:30 am–eyes just opened, no jarring alarm blaring. I got dressed and drove out before I even really decided where to go: beach or the hills? We’ve been having great summer-like weather in our area, so I decided to avoid the crush that would inevitably descend the beaches and I headed for the rocks.

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More than enough surfaces to climb.

To get up here was less than a half-mile. You can walk along the top of the hill for about another 0.40 mile before it slopes down into brush. I didn’t opt to go further at that point because my back started to hurt. Running is starting to put pressure on my knees and hips, so I’m trying to be careful of how much I push myself during other exercise.

It’s not the highest peak in the city, but it was enough to feel like a small escape from everyone and most things. I took some pictures. I left my phone on shuffle and it picked out some funny songs. A group of hikers passed me by, confidently weaving their way through the loose dirt. I was gingerly tiptoeing around the rocks and in some cases I just crawled my way down. I rationalized it by saying I’d rather look like an idiot than go home with scrapes and bruises. It felt good to be up high. A literal change in perspective helped and by the time I left I felt a little calmer and more tranquil than I had been all week.

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I feel much better after having gone on the hike. I want to do more of this–when you write something down, it’s more likely to happen because it’s a step in admitting the need (to climb) and committing the steps necessary (waking up early, driving out, actually hiking) to accomplishing the goal.

Now if only the rest of the week could go as peacefully! Here’s to cautious hope!