one year all over the world

Happy anniversary to this little blog of mine.

In the year that I’ve had it I’ve visited Cambodia, South Korea, and Vietnam for the first time, traveled to several Japanese cities and islands, and re-visited Hong Kong. This brings my current tally up to 21 countries visited, 22 months living in Tokyo, 26 years wandering all over the world, and 56 blog posts! Fittingly, I am off to Osaka for a short trip with my mate Kelly-chan and her parents this weekend.

I love this space so much. I love the freedom of expression it has afforded me, the opportunity to practice my amateur photography skills and share my personal experiences. It truly feels liberating in a way that I did not expect when I finally worked up the courage to publish my first post. I have so many little anniversaries, and I love to celebrate them all on here (birthdays, japanniversaries, and revolutions around the sun). Most of all, it has nourished my love of writing, both reflectively and creatively. It has reminded me that I really love to write and most delightfully, gives me a forum to do it without any pressure or stakes. Thanks to my friends and family who follow along on my adventures, and thanks to readers on the internet for stopping by. You are loved and appreciated.

xo your friend alice

Location: Tokyo, Japan

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(ii) just wanna be with you, hanoi

My favorite part about Hanoi was perching on balconies overlooking Hoan Kiem Lake or the ever present roar of motorbikes on the street below; drinking iced coffee with treacly condensed milk, creamy fresh milk, or decadent egg cream whilst listening to compilations of romantic French chansons or bopping along to the self-appointed DJ’s mix of S Club 7 and Eurythmics. Every single day we visited at least 2-3 cafes. Partly to grab wifi to plan our next stop or meet with our Hanoian compadres, but also just to feel the wind in our hair and sit cross-legged on plush cushions. After kicking up dust all day in Birkenstocks, working on that calf curvature, my favorite thing to do was unstrap my shoes and put my feet up whenever we stopped to drink coffee. That probably sounds really gross, but no one cared and it was so comforting and freeing to be outside of my rules-based existence in Tokyo.

In the course of 3-4 days in Hanoi we visited no less than 7 cafes: Note Cafe, Pho Co (2x because this was my favorite rooftop lookout spot), Cong Caphe (2x as this is a chain), Giang, Loading T (2x because the owner Sun was such a homie), Tranquil Books & Coffee, and Dinh Coffee. I have no regrets.

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the sky really was this pink as the sun set overlooking the lake…IMG_8317IMG_7772on Sunday when the street is open to pedestrians only and a festival atmosphere invades the Hoàn Kiếm District…IMG_7788life is tops at Cafe Pho Co, my personal favorite cafe…IMG_7844IMG_7840feat. my super fly manicure from Orchids SpaIMG_7873IMG_7863little girl practicing her roller blading in Lenin Park (Thong Nhat)IMG_7883.jpgVietnamese Women’s Museum [looking down]IMG_7990.jpgIMG_7969.jpgIMG_7818.jpgCaitlin was my travel partner for our 9 day trip in Vietnam. We met on move-in day for college dorms and we’ve remained good friends to this day, never letting more than a year pass before we see each other, and always in different places (so far Richmond, VA, Washington D.C., San Luis Obispo, Oakland/SF, and she visited me in Tokyo). We both have ambitious dreams and every time we reunite we treat our time together as check-ins about where we want to go next. Most importantly, I cherish the honesty in our relationship. We are both very growth-oriented and want to continuously improve and learn from our human errors and vulnerabilities. As much as friends should be cheerleaders in our lives, they should also be able to point you towards real obstacles and inspire you to overcome challenges. I love that we’ve maintained this beautiful support system and our first international trip (where we were both traveling) was definitely a friendship level up! This trip was just 5 days before her graduation from medical school. Congratulations Caitlin! I love you so much ❤

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Saint Joseph’s CathedralIMG_7754IMG_8350.jpgIMG_7942IMG_7939Dan Q. makes a Hanoi cameo…IMG_6561IMG_7875IMG_7994IMG_8392a night at the Hanoi Opera…IMG_7929IMG_7914IMG_7918.jpgIMG_8485IMG_7758IMG_8365.jpgwhen lovely strangers want to take a photo with you…

IMG_8343IMG_8341hello from the Long Biên BridgeIMG_8440One
You’re like a dream come true
Two
Just want to be with you
Three
Girl, it’s plain to see
That you’re the only one for me
And four
Repeat steps one through three
Five
Make you fall in love with me
If ever I believe my work is done
Then I’ll start back at one

‘Back at One’ by Brian McKnight is the inspiration for this blog title. It also happened to be the first dance song my brother Will and sister-in-law Priya chose for their wedding ❤

xo your friend alice

Location: Hanoi, Vietnam

spotted in: ohori koen

I impulsively decided to take a trip over a long weekend to spend the first day of spring in Fukuoka. The impulse was spurred by a feeling of restlessness after my friends left, a hope for early cherry blossoms in the western isles of Japan, and just wanting to take advantage of three consecutive days off work. The trip from Tokyo takes about 5.5 hours on the shinkansen (bullet train). It was my first time visiting Kyushu, so I’ve now seen parts of Honshu, Hokkaido, and Kyushu. The only remaining major Japanese island I’ve yet to visit is Shikoku. My goal is to visit all four before my stint in this beautiful country is over for the time being.

“Both life and death manifest in every moment of existence. Our human body appears and disappears moment by moment, without cease, and this ceaseless arising and passing away is what we experience as time and being. They are not separate. They are one thing, and in even a fraction of a second, we have the opportunity to choose, and to turn the course of our action either toward the attainment of truth or away from it. Each instant is utterly critical to the whole world.”

– Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being (2013)

My friend Shuyi hates having her photo taken, but she gave me approval to shoot anything but her face (which is a shame because it’s a lovely one).

girl x waves

IMG_6545IMG_6540xo your friend alice

Location: Ohori Park, Fukuoka, Fukuoka Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan

tokyo vice, a CHOLA joint

Multiple cups of espresso-based coffee, strong zero tall boys, vitamin C capsules, and precious few hours of sleep later, our heroes make their triumphant return to Tokyo. But wait, their senses are on high alert. They smell, they feel the energy of this electric city. Trap behavior abounds–there is dancing in subway stations and wilding out yet to be done!

feat. Meiji-jingu shrine, Takeshita-dori Harajuku, Shibuya Crossing, Asakusa Senso-ji, latte art at Reissue Cafe, Tokyo Metro & JR, Yokohama Noodle Museum, and our ever-constant companion, Strong Zero (with a special appearance by Mone-chan, daughter of our new friend Yo)_MG_6389_MG_6391_MG_6396.jpg_MG_6370.jpgPhoto Mar 10, 12 33 42 AM.jpg_MG_6471_MG_5573.jpg_MG_5581.jpg_MG_6500_MG_6456_MG_6454_MG_6462Facetune (1)best cotton candy of my life and I am no stranger to candy floss I’m tryna telll you

_MG_6489_MG_6490_MG_6509kawaii Mone-chan sippin’ on her ringo juice

_MG_5594_MG_6494my boys ❤ ❤ ❤

Trap behavior led every single one of our young adventurers to miss their separate return flights to California, so that’s one for the books. But no one is going to tell them to 止めなさい よ (yamenasai yo–stop it)!

Will our best friends achieve ultimate mask-off nirvana? To be continued…

xo your friend alice

Location: Tokyo, Japan

trap la la land (osaka ed.)

“Forgetting the hour for departure, forgetting everything, the picknickers opened up casks of wine and proclaimed drunkenness man’s greatest delight.” – Ihara Saikaku, poet and novelist from Osaka (1642-1693)

feat. Dotonbori, Osaka Castle, Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, and the Westin Osaka_MG_6219_MG_6230a call to ramen // smiles brought to you by strong zero chuhai

_MG_6227.jpg_MG_6241bros 4ever

IMG_5009.jpgphoto-bombed ya

_MG_6295osaka castle plum orchard

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_MG_6350_MG_6352We only spent one night and one day in Osaka, but I think I now have an inkling of understanding about the long-touted rivalry between refined Tokyo and its rebellious brother Osaka. But I laugh at the idea that people in Kansai are somehow too friendly, as I found their openness and good humor quite refreshing. I’ll reserve my judgment though and try to soak it in a bit longer when I’m back for a visit in July.

P.S. I’m really not much of a drinker–mostly because I’m terrible at it. But my friends love to instigate and because I love them dearly I can translate their energy into a kind of contact high. All the fun with none of the side effects and someone to make sure we get home safely. Cheers to you, Osaka.

xo your friend alice

Location: Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Kansai region, Japan

spotted in: kamakura

鎌倉大仏, Kamakura Daibutsuimg_5382img_5396img_5415img_5411(startlingly delicious) pressed squid cracker

why you look so mad mama? // that’s more like it! (nomming on shirasu-don (rice topped with miniature sardines, a specialty of Kamakura)
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I just finished two straight weeks of 15-17 hour workdays (including weekends) so I’ve had little to blog about. While tough, there is something about the grind and the feeling of accomplishment knowing you helped achieve something on a grand scale and as an integral part of a whip-smart, amusing team (when the hours get long, the memes and puns start flowing). Until the next adventure, here are some photos from a day trip to Kamakura back in January with (who else but) my mum.

Location: Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan

seoul mates (hello, 2017)

The tickets I booked to Seoul were nonrefundable/nontransferable so after my stay in the hospital, my mama and I jet to the airport and headed to Korea (and I’m glad we did since we very nearly cancelled. Once the antibiotics kicked in the difference in how I felt was day & night!). My friend Jackie spent her childhood in Seoul and sent me a great list of recommendations. We visited Gyeongbokgung Palace, Insadong crafts street, Bukchon Hanok Village, Seoul Tower, Han River, Samcheong-dong neighborhood, and the Namdaemun, Dongdaemun, and Myeongdong markets. Our hotel was in Gangnam, across the river from most of the tourist attractions, so we spent some time strolling along the massive avenues there as well.

I loved unlimited self-serve kimchi, spicy noodles, super helpful Koreans on the street, coffee shops on every corner, beautiful architecture, Korean skincare (this stuff is legit), affordable shopping, and saying 감사합니다 (kamsahamnidathank you). I hope to return someday when it’s not so freezing and smoggy…

an ode to mama: 

I am so grateful I’ve been able to spend so much quality time with my love, my light, my first vibration, my new year’s eve seoulmate, who I don’t get to see very often. I adore her and who better to welcome my lucky number seven year with than the woman who gave me life? I love that my mom is absolutely fearless. She makes friends everywhere she goes, and is never too proud to ask for help or to ask the important questions. She has hustled her entire life, whether working three jobs as a student, running a hospital, or raising five kids as a single mom; she will accomplish any goal she puts her mind towards. She has seen both her parents, husband, older sister, and younger brother pass before her in addition to facing numerous other hardships, and still she is incredibly resilient and positive. At her core she is a kind and generous human. Seriously, my role model for life.

In total, we will have spent 5 weeks together, which is the longest amount of time together, just the two of us, since I was 4 years old and we lived in snowy Vancouver. Back then, she took me to the library every week.

Being able to relate to my mother now as an adult is for me, a special and unexpected gift. The kind you never could imagine as a child or adolescent, and now it’s in the palm of your hand. I can better understand the sacrifices she has made and the woman I have become because of her. We take care of each other, and I feel lucky to have the sort of relationship with her now that I was not able to have growing up.

age 21 college graduate // age 38 with 3 kids
wish I had a digital version of her wedding photo at age 27 as well…she is radiant

IMG_5038.JPGage 70 waiting for the bus…to take us to gyeongbokgungIMG_5062.JPGIMG_5068.JPGIMG_5084.JPG

super fly lady // super short people in the olden daysIMG_5057.JPG
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IMG_5155.JPGdedicated toilet cafe at the top of Ssamzigil shopping complex in InsadongIMG_5187.JPGmyeongdong street candy // bukchon villageIMG_5235.jpgIMG_5242.JPGIMG_5251.JPGIMG_5255.JPG‘My Own Garden’ mural by Park Jin Youp in acrylic and water paintIMG_5274.jpg“I find my own garden made of thoughts and emotions every time I recognize the world outside. This can not be shared with anyone. This place makes me feel lonely and free.”IMG_5280.JPGbetter than a boyfriendIMG_5279.JPGmom says, let’s ask the good looking policeman for directions

public art // korean starbucksIMG_5286.JPGthis strikes me as woeful…IMG_5203.JPGyou, so preciousIMG_5276.JPGold x new

dongdaemun design plazaIMG_5306.jpgimg_5295my mama ❤

what I want to do in 2017:

  • run my first marathon
  • apply to law school
  • go on a mid distance bike & camping trip
  • get scuba certified
  • learn to pull espresso
  • string together some legit japanese sentences

xo your friend alice

Location: Seoul, Korea