Peru, travel

Jumping Through Peru – Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu, here we come! The day we had been looking forward to for months. The spot Alicia and I were most excited to ‘JUMP’ at!

The morning started off in a huge rush for everyone. The plan was to head to the Sun Gate by 4:30AM (or so) to line up to enter, so that we could see the view of a sunrise upon Machu Picchu itself. The Sun Gate was at a higher elevation and overlooks Machu Picchu – it is supposed to be a very scenic and picturesque spot. In order to do so we had to wake up at around 3:40AM to get dressed (or in my case, I believe I just got dressed the night before), pack everything and get out of our tents so the porters could pack up all the gear. They too were in a huge rush as they had an early morning train booked to catch to return back home for work right away.

Unfortunately as the Sun Gate does not open it’s doors until about 6AM, we had to wait outside to enter. Our group was one of the latest groups to arrive in line too > < so we felt like it was a bit redundant to wake up extra early just to line up in the dark…

I had always counted Day 4, this last day, as a non-real hiking day, but was I ever in for a surprise. There was a good 1-2 hour of walking from the entrance of the Sun Gate to the actual “look out” point! We missed the sunrise by the way, because it took us too long to walk…. ¬†Next there was also another 30 mins – 1 hour of walking from there to Machu Picchu itself. By now, my feet were starting to get worn and that made me tire quite easily.

I’m not sure if it’s because we were having a more overcast day, the view at the Sun Gate was not the best… Machu Picchu still looked relatively small from the distance. However, group photos were taken and Alicia and I managed to successfully get a Jumping Shot. Apparently jumping is not allowed at ruin sites, we were warned shortly after….It was a bit disappointing to hear as throughout the whole trip we had been taking jumping photos at each tourist attraction to lead up to the grande finale of one AT Machu Picchu :( We didn’t dare to jump there in the end. However, apparently our group mate Michel took a piss at Machu Picchu LOL (He said he had to go, and then shortly had to run away from the workers who probably saw)

The only aspect I would say that unfortunately draws away from Machu Picchu’s beauty (one of the New 7 Wonders of the World), is the sheer amount of tourists. You can distinctly tell who was a hiker on the trails and who was a tourist by not only the clothing, but laughably also the smell. Some tourists had a very distinct lovely laundry smell.

We had a bit of a history lesson from our guide Javier, looked at llamas and alpacas who walked freely in the area, and then had free time to walk around and explore.

In the afternoon we headed to the nearby town Aguas Calientes for a quick lunch before going on the train to head back to Cusco. We had our ‘last supper’ in Cusco with everyone, and then only us youngins (Corrine, Derrick, Alicia, and our guides Javier and Yenrri, and myself), went to a popular club for tourists in town, Mama Africa! What’s funny is in Peru they have promoters in the streets giving out free drink tickets. Being me…I usually say no to everything that is passed around by strangers, we had to scramble back tot he promoter grab it when we noticed Javier got it, and that it was for a free drink.

The night was fun and enjoyable, I always enjoy going out to experience the night life in foreign countries. There is something amazing and oddly freeing in partying in a place where you don`t know anyone and vice versa (not that we do anything crazy). It was a great way to say goodbye to Peru.

In the morning we said goodbye to a few other groupmates who were in the same connecting flight as us from Cusco to Lima. It was quite bittersweet as we had really bonded with some of them throughout this time. Doing this hike was tolling, physical, and tough, so our group really did feel like a family as we spent a week travelling, eating, and living together :) #hungryhikers


This was a very adventurous trip compared to travels that I have gone to in the past. I went to a new country, a new continent, and even hiked/camped! Many people told me they were shocked or impressed with me on embarking such a trip. I’m not really sure how I feel about these comments to be honest. Maybe subconsciously throughout the years I’ve grown into someone that liked adventures, or maybe I was always that person but just didn’t have the chance or take the jump to do it. Nevertheless, I am really glad that the idea of Machu Picchu was instilled into me from my friend Adrienne which ultimately led me to pursue the goal, and for Alicia who joined me in this journey <3

I’ll be continuing my travel blogging on my trip during the Christmas holidays to San Francisco, and on trips that are scheduled for 2016 so far. I’ve got Boston for this upcoming long weekend, and Jordan & Dubai/Abu Dhabi with Alicia (again, hehe) in May 2016! Very excited!!!

Peru, travel

Jumping Through Peru – Inca Trail Pt. 3

Day 3 of the hike was relatively supposed to be the easiest, as it would be a steady decline, but it would be for the longest length at 16km.¬† This day we actually had a lunch break in the middle of the hike as the total hike would’ve taken too long. I thought it would only get easier since we had already completed 2 days, and my legs weren’t even sore! However, slowly but surely my feet itself started to hurt from each step’s pressure on the rocky ground floor.

Before going on the hike Alicia had attempted, and successfully, scared me on how her co-worker’s friend got their big toes all numbed from the hike it had to be amputated off.¬† I was VERY worried about it especially when my toe started to feel a little weird!!!! No lie, parts of it were slightly more numb (or rather it had less sensory feeling) than the rest of my toe, or other toes for a couple WEEKS after the trip even! #thankyoutoes


She also tries to scare me every time the plane take offs and lands :'(


The day felt like hours on end of walking mostly because we don’t know where or when the finish line would be. The one eventful thing that happened was we all had to walk through a little cave where our tour guide, Javier, hid in a dark corner to scare each person (mostly girls) as they walked through. I was arriving to the cave just shortly after Karen entered it, so I heard her scream and seeing its a cave….it was a bit no brainer that someone was definitely hiding in there. So the prank didn’t’ work on me :)


Day 3 was also going to the our last night of camping. As a celebratory surprise, the chefs baked for us a whole cake! They basically are so much more competent at the hike they had time to spare to prep, bake and decorate a whole cake before we arrive, *sigh*.


There were many memorable moments throughout the trip and mainly at the camp-site that I can’t help but want to share and be nostalgic about. Fore-warning….as I type I realize, they are mostly poop related. Not for the faint-hearted.


1) The Lava Story: 
Alicia and I quickly befriended our fellow Torontonians Derek & Corrine as we were well, easily the youngest and from Toronto (and Asian!). At dinner we were talking about the Lava short that aired in the theatres with the movie Inside Out, and how Corrine loves it. As Alicia didn’t see the movie or short, we were explaining to her the plot. As we reached the ending of the story where the volcano erupts, Alicia says “gotta go” and darts away. Alicia had a lot of washroom issues throughout the hike, so we could ONLY imagine what she left for. To make matters worse, she forgot where the washroom was and had to come back asking for directions, Javier saw her gather leaves, and our other tour guide Yenrri lost his appetite after hearing that she didn’t make it to the physical bathrooms. Only she and God will know where those landmines were dropped.


2) More Cake
Usually after dinner, and after our hot waters ;) the 4 of us would kind of chat outside the food tent before going back to our own. The topic of course was on poop (namely Alicia’s). Javier, who was also young would walk up and talk to us, and the topic didn’t seem to go very well with him and he would awkwardly laugh with us and step back & away. In about a minute or so, he would return to the conversation only to realize the topic has been unchanged :) and repeat.


3) A Manly Dump
I have no shame in admitting that at times, especially at night I am far too lazy to walk to the dirty/dark/smelly porta-potty or bathroom at site and would simply just go (pee only, okay) in the bushes.. Alicia on the other hand, had a midnight dump one night by our washroom spot which was a large tree a bit beside our group of tents.¬† Unfortunately said spot was near our group mate, Mark’s tent…and said tree was also HIS peeing spot. ¬† I sat with him on the train ride back to town after Machu Picchu and he was telling me a story on how he woke up and was so upset when he nearly stepped on a pile of poo while trying to take his morning piss. He was saying how he can’t believe some guy would do that! Key point he thought it HAD to be a male. ¬† I was thinking to myself that this sounds SO familiar….and it clicked to me that it was Alicia’s -_- ¬†He was in shock because he said the poo just looked like it had to be a man’s, whatever that means! We laughed.


4) Anis Tea
This was our tour guide, Javier’s favourite tea. Just read the name and that is all.


5) Coca Leaf Dealer 
Even in Cusco our group mate Chris was extremely affected by the altitude. One morning at our hotel we noticed that there were a lot of tea bags available on our tables and we suggested to Mark that we should take some bags for ourselves on the hike, and also for Chris especially. He agrees that it is a good idea and proceeds to take more and more of the tea at our table, and then even to all the other tables. There were no more bags for anyone else. It was very entertaining as this is a 40 year old man, who is jokingly yet very seriously taking all the tea bags with no shame.

There were so so many great memories where if I had to write about them all, it would be an essay, but these were some of the most memorable. Next post will be the finale of my Peru journey, what we’ve all been walking for – Machu Picchu!

Peru, travel

Jumping Through Peru – The Inca Trail Pt. 2

As bedtime is usually at around 8pm when the sun sets and dinner is over, waking up early to hike at 5 or 6am is usually not a problem. Day 2 of The Inca Trail has been said to be the hardest day of all as we will reach the highest altitude point of Dead Woman`s Pass at around 4,200M.  Not only can altitude sickness due to lower atmospheric pressure kick in, the walk itself would be a steep incline.

Alicia and I were the youngest members within our hiking group (other than one boy who was there with his family on a 1 year trip to travel the world! How cool is that?). ¬†However, we were one of the slowest walkers in the group….. Alicia, one of the fittest people I know, was surprisingly quite affected by the altitude and lack of oxygen. It was very strange to see her out of breath. I on the other hand, was relatively unaffected and am just probably out of shape, or not as fit as the others :( ¬† It was quite embarrassing to be honest as some of the other group mates were in their 30’s and 40’s!

However on this day 2 trail, I have discovered my strength in long distance hiking on incline terrains! Day 2 was set up in the way that you walk for 2-3 hours on your own pace whereas in Day 1 we would walk for about half an hour to an hour, and always regroup before starting again. ¬†I’ll walk slowly, but very consistently and never stop for breaks especially on staircases (unless absolutely necessary) because I find stopping kills the momentum and makes it harder to continue with the same speed again. I guess slow and steady does win the race as I made it up to Dead Woman’s pass 4th out of 14 people.

Finishing early amongst the group was a proud moment of mine and also a relief as it gave me about half an hour or so of resting time before we were to start again. Keep in mind this first half of the 12km hike took around 2-3 hours.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

View of a porter and the view at Dead Woman’s Pass

After a short break, we started the hike to go down the mountain to our camp spot.  Going downhill was much harder for me as I was very worried on putting my foot wrongly on the rocky trails and slipping, so I had walked much more cautiously and slowly. Unfortunately rain started to pour in the afternoon making the trail even more slippery.  I did have one fall when I was very close to the camp grounds, but no injuries luckily.

As it was raining I went straight into our tent to change and rest up as the 6 hour hike had left me completely spent.

We basically only come out of the tent for meal times haha and shortly after dinner we had to head back into our tents to sleep / rest as without any electricity or lamps it was pitch black outside if not for flashlights. Our food tent was also the sleeping/resting tent for all the porters, so we couldn’t hang around there without feeling bad. We were actually quite shocked when we discovered that was their only accommodation, because it meant the porters¬†basically slept side by side in a row, and just on the dirt ground (with their sleeping bags and mats).

By the second day we were all quite used to the hiking and camping lifestyle that we weren’t too worried about the next day’s trek, and were quite eager to finish the hike in order to reach Machu Picchu.



food, toronto

Hotline Fring’s

Apparently Drake is our hometown hero, did you know that? While watching the Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers game in Oakland on Christmas Day last year, the guy beside me who was from Vancouver said to me after finding out Matt and I were from Toronto, “Your hometown hero is here.” Took me a few miliseconds to realize he meant Drake….cause I mean, no one would call Justin Bieber our hero I assume. Plus, Drake is well known to show up to basketball games with his love for popular players like Stephen Curry and Lebron James.


That’s Drake right there to the left of the guy in the Santa hat (our neighbour saw it on Snapchat) and amazingly in our far seats, Matt’s camera was able to zoom in enough. #drizzydrake

Anyway, to the main point of this post, after a 2 month reservation wait (booked on OpenTable) Matt and I got our turn to visit Drake x Susur Lee’s restaurant Fring’s a couple weeks ago.

As we are kind of poor after our San Fran trip in December,  and I felt bad for dragging Matt along with me, I decided to just order lightly. I think as Matt still wanted it to be a rather nice dinner :) that he still suggested us to order and share a few things.


We started off with the Avocado Toast which was our favourite dish. Matt still talks about how good it is, and that’s saying something. Next we had the Grilled Octopus (made up for me not getting it previously at Bar Isabel, though I think the dish itself looked nicer there). And lastly we shared their pasta special of the day, Seafood Pappardelle. I quite liked the texture of the pasta, but they had sand in their clams which is a big no-no.

Service was good in the start where the waiters will explain the specials and also the dishes ordered as they arrive in detail. However we did not always get waited on by the same staff which was sort of strange.

Major complaint of the night however was when we declined on dessert and the waiter pushed us to “look at the menu and reconsider” as we would be missing out, and promptly left. He did not come back until I waved him down, declined dessert and asked for the bill. Which he then rudely and hastily just says okay and grabs the menus away. ¬†This is annoying because although we were probably a bit stingy and didn’t want to spend more money, we genuinely weren’t very interested in their overpriced desserts. ¬†The waiter completely disregards the fact that maybe we don’t like dessert, or can be allergic to some of the items on the menu??? Regardless of the reason to decline anything it was no¬†way to treat a customer by any means.

All in all, the food is decent and acceptable even for its expensive price (it was not bad at all). But I don’t think I’d go again because it was not particularly exceptional. I was also a bit annoyed that they purposely left many tables empty while online they are “fully booked”. There were many tables around us that were empty for the whole 2 hours that we were dining there, and you could tell they purposely tried to space people out as everyone was tables apart (we entered right when the restaurant opened for dinner at ¬†5:30pm).


friends, life, Peru, travel

Jumping Through Peru – The Inca Trail Pt. 1

The day of the hike has finally begun! Unfortunately for our group (and all the groups doing the hike the same time as us), we had to walk an extra 1-2km due to road closures. There was only one small road that brings us from Ollantaytambo to the starting point of The Inca Trail at KM 82, and that road just so happened to be going through restoration, so many large holes were dug up and filled with local construction workers. ¬†As much as we were unhappy with the extra distance…it made us realize the ones who were least lucky were the workers themselves who frequently would have to stop whatever they were doing for us to all walk through.

Our bus dropped us off on a grassy field where we got our first glimpse of all our porters. I think we were all in shock to see just how many porters there were in total! Our group ended up with around 20 porters and 2 cooks!  And this is for a group size of only 16 + 3 guides.  We are all eternally grateful for all their hard work as they not only carried most of our belongings, but also all of our food, tents, utensils, and even tables & chairs!

This image below was posted by one of our tour¬†guides¬†which¬†perfectly¬†describes the hike between locals and foreigners. Them carrying around 20kg (44 POUNDS) and breezing through,¬†while most of us carry only a 20-30L daypack at most, – not to mention the high disparity in footwear. Many of our porters were in regular sneakers, some in converses to be specific,…and there were some porters especially from other tour agencies in, can you believe it, SANDALS. ¬† ¬†And here the rest of us are all struggling with our hiking poles and expensive hiking boots…It must be all the coca tea!!!!!! ¬†(side note: we were allowed to give the porters up to 6kg of our luggage and gear, and were advised to only carry essentials needed during the day hike itself. ¬†Mine was heavy because I unnecessarily filled up my 2.5L water bag. Alicia’s was even beavier¬†because her sleeping bag was huge and took up most of the duffle bag that was given to us to put the 6kg in)


The Inca Trail is a 4 day hike where by mid-day of the 4th, we would arrive at Machu Picchu. ¬†Day 1 was supposedly the easiest as it was shortest at only 11KM. To be honest I took very little photos while walking mostly because I was 1) Dying from exhaustion¬†and had no¬†energy to even bother to take my phone out, let alone take pictures ¬†2) Many of the paths with views are cliffside ones where the path is only a couple feet wide…and I’m very afraid of heights. So most of the time I was just focusing on walking right by the moutain’s side to not fall and die, not getting ran into by porters dashing by, and just walking.

2 of our group mates ended up dropping out and heading back to Ollantaytambo within the first 1-2 hours. Unfortunately as we all walked at our own separate pace, many of us were not even able to say bye. ¬†We were glad at least they had each other as company, and we did reunite with them at Machu Picchu! ¬†Supposedly there is a certain point of the hike that is “the point of no return” where you simply cannot head back anymore due to distance. Although we jokingly laughed about who would be next, I personally was a bit worried about the hike to come as I had never done a multi-day hike and in such terrain before.

Day 1 of hiking ended as we finally¬†arrived to our campsite mid afternoon in shock,¬†relief, and gratitude that all our tents were prepared and set up for us. All we had to do was figure out which tent was ours. ¬†It was very embarrassing to walk past the porters who were applauding our arrival when they arrived so much earlier than us carrying so much more. ¬†They even prepared water for us to drink and wash up :’) ¬†Due to my small Asian feet….I used my basin as a foot soak as they were majorly swollen from the full day of walking. ¬†I sincerely hope for others’ sake that this basin was thoroughly washed because I’m sure it was re-used for cooking…hehe.

After a short nap (or a siesta as they affectionately call it), dinner was served. We had 2 wonderful cooks who came along on this trek with us; this is their part time job too! Our meals for lunch and dinner always consisted of soup, protein + veggie + carb main course, and dessert, always delicious and plentiful. Some of the days, lunch would be in the middle of the hike, and others it would be after the hike – to be honest I can’t exactly remember when lunch was for each day exactly. ¬†However in general, lunch was VERY important to us, hence we named our group the Hungry Hikers as we always liked to ask what time lunch was. ¬†To me, my goal of completing the hike was FOR lunch.

Post-dinner, we had our formal meet and greet with all of our porters. Unfortunately as there was about 20 of them, I could not remember any of their names/faces except one called Walter mostly because he had a distinctively English name and always wore a cartoon-ish toque. He also usually brought us drinks while we were having meals. Everyone had fun proclaiming whether they were single or not in the introduction (with those who were single cheered loudly for, of course). ¬†What we discovered from this introduction was that sadly, the job of being a porter (and chef too) was a part time job for what we can only assume, ¬†to raise extra money for their family… Most of our porters were either very young 16-21, or middle aged 40+. So they were clearly raising money for education or for their family/children. We were told many of them are farmers from the rural areas (not cities like Cusco or Lima, possibly not even Ollantaytambo) and after the hike would be going straight back to working on the farm. The oldest porter we had was in his 60’s! ¬†It was very heartbreaking to see him and some of the older men carrying so much weight…we can only imagine the toll it must take on their body, regardless of how physically capable they were. The daily limit of people allowed on the trail each day is 500, where only 200 are actual trekkers. That means there is nearly 300 porter/laborers working on trail every single day.

Yelling “Porter!” to let the hikers in front of you know they are approaching is a very common phrase you’ll say and hear along the trail. Mostly so we get out of their way as usually they are scampering down in groups.

Overall in Peru, I did have a bit of a culture shock on the high disparity between our lifestyle and theirs. Not so much that I was in shock of the living standards…but more so that it made me realize just how lucky I was, and made me more humble and grateful for what I have. ¬† In the cities of Lima, Cusco, Ollantaytambo, we saw many women and children running food or merchandise stalls on the streets, and also many that will carry around goods to flock around tourists for sales (increasing as we went¬†farther away from the urban core). It’s difficult to fully understand and accept the fact that in other countries, that is a typical and standard way of living. Porters in specific, as the task is very physical and tough on the body, it was very saddening to think that for the need of additional income, they would need to time after time do¬†such a ¬†feat,¬†especially at the older and young ages. ¬†In general, I couldn’t help but feel bad, and also wonder how they feel knowing the standard of living differences we have. Makes me wonder if it is like how we regular “middle-class” look at and compare to the wealthy upper-class 1%, or if it is a different sort of view. Makes me wonder if they are envious of our luxury, or resentful (if at all?). Or rather, are they are simply appreciative that tourism has allowed and opened new streams of employment for society? I like to hope and think it is the latter, as everyone we’ve met in Peru has been nothing but kind to us.



When I was compiling my top 9 memories of the year while everyone was doing their best nine Instagram photos (I wanted to be a part of it too and to also be nostalgic of what I had done the past year), I was a bit disappointed and shocked that I had difficulty in choosing my last 1-2 photos. I thought I had done more.

I felt like I had at the least, I mean, I went to freaking Peru!

Here is said collage:

This collage making has showed me that if I want to have more memorable moments / proud moments I have got to do more¬†in 2016. But it has also allowed me to realize a lot of memorable moments don’t have to be big per se where a photo was taken to commemorate.

In a similar fashion to last year, here’s a list in no particular order of moments that I am proud of and thankful for.

  1. Finishing the CMA board report and obtaining my designation
  2. Completing the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and making great new friends along the way
  3. Participating in my first 10K race and completing it at a time very close to my one hour target (I blame the heat, it was ridiculously hot that day)
  4. Learning how to snowboard (kinda) and going on an awesome yet frigid road trip to Lake Placid (New York, Vermont…same difference)
  5. Proving myself in the wilderness through several camping trips this summer and of course in Peru!
  6. Meeting and having an awesome group of friends that I can call my regulars
  7. Fulfilling my promise of visiting Bea in San Francisco
  8. Getting a new job, again. Hopefully I’ll be here for a longer run.
  9. Everyone that accepts my weird and whiny antics and frequent resting bitch face and somehow still loves me

I was reading Mark Manson’s article earlier last week on how habits are a better action item than goals for a New Year’s resolution and it made a lot of sense to me… As habits are small tasks you do that compile (or in his words, compound) to help attain the final goal / desired result. His theory is that once the habit is formed it becomes more easy to ultimately meet your end goal, as you will be regularly and habitually be working towards it. Supposedly it only takes 30 days to form a habit! Isn’t that amazing?

Many of the habits I want are similar to last year’s: getting back to that gym, having a more tidy room on a daily basis, having a less lazy skincare routine, and maybe to be more sociable and less judgemental of strangers.

I’m looking forward to what 2016 will bring. One thing is for sure, I’m going to Dubai in May ūüėé

friends, Peru, travel

Jumping through Peru – Sacred Valley & Ollantaytambo

On our third day, we travelled further into even more rural areas visiting the Sacred Valley of the Incas on our way to the town of Ollantaytambo. The morning started with an educational visit to Ccaccaccollo’s Planeterra which was a women’s weaving co-op (supported by G-Adventures) where we got to learn and see how the textiles were weaved and created. Many of us got the opportunity to take the famous #llamaselfie shots as they had a small farm.  Only later we discovered most of them were alpaca instead. This was also the main location that most of us bought our llama and alpaca wool souvenirs for family and friends.

I got toques for my parents, mittens for myself, and socks for Matt (which later I kept myself..hehe. I found Matt a hand crafted chess set from a street vendor for only 5 USD!). Didn’t haggle too much although a friend of mine had advised me to cut the price in half to start, as I felt kind of bad.

One of the memorable things I learnt from this Planeterra (although probably not useful in life) is their hats are different between women who are married vs. single!  If you’re married your hat will be flipped down with the white inteior facing upwards, if you’re single it will be flipped upwards like a bowl!!!!  The other aspects on how they use vegetables , plants and what not to create dye colour was something that I already expected as it is a typical method throughout all cultures.

Lunch was at a local restaurant (also supported by G-Adventures) in Huchuy Qosqo where we got to try out authentic and organic Peruvian cuisine. This was agreeably one of the group’s favourite G-Adventure suggested restaurants as 1) It was an included cost so we didn’t see any mark-up 2) It was authentic and delicious  3) View was beautiful.  Some of the other locations they brought us to (which was voluntary of us to join, but most of us did just for camaraderie’s sake) were very Westernised cuisine which were a bit disappointing. Especially since the price we felt was marked up for tourists at $15+ USD…so it did not seem like an authentic location that real locals go to for meals. And that was the sort of experience most of us wanted to have. However, I do have to admit later on in the trip many of us started to crave simple American food like pizza, which surprisingly, is quite plentiful in Peru.

Funny story at this one restaurant however is that I had gotten stuck in the washroom stall and was unable to unlock the door.  I wasn’t in an extreme panic mode though because from eyeballing the layout of the stall, I would be able to climb over the stall and jump out -which I successfully managed to do! Sorry !!

This day we also got our first taste of what the hike would be like as we visited two different ruins, Pisac Ruins and Ollantaytambo ruins of Temple Hill and various agricultural terraces.  Not sure if the altitude was getting to us, but most of us were shocked by how tired and how much huffing and puffing we were experiencing just from walking a flight of stairs.

From the two tour ruins, we started to worry about the intensity of the 4 day Inca Trail ahead for us the next morning, and whether we would be able to complete it…