Gone to a place that is unknown to many...

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My Galapagos trip - 2014

A year ago, I decided to grab an opportunity to take a week-long solo trip to the Galapagos Islands. It was something I have always wanted to do since the age of eleven. The Galapagos Islands inspired Charles Darwin to form his theory of evolution. I had an option to take a cruise tour, but I elected to book a custom land tour with Galapagos Alternative instead. The land-based tour allowed me to meet the locals, experience the culture, and support local businesses. The idea of seeing Galapagos tortoises, blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, and many wildlife animals lured me to book a flight to South America and visit the continent for the first time in my life.

After two-night stay in Quito and arriving in Santa Cruz Island, my first stop was the Charles Darwin Research Station in the Galapagos National Park. I got to see 100+ years old Galapagos tortoises and was amazed by their sizes. At one point, the population of Galapagos tortoises was 250,000 in the 16th century but decreased to 3,000 in the 1970s. The sharp decrease in the population happened due to human activities and introduction of non-native animals to the islands. The current number of the tortoises is estimated to be around 25,000. Upon the conclusion of my visit to the research station, I went to a local restaurant in Puerto Ayora for a Galapagos lobster dinner. After dinner, I took a walk around the downtown. I was surprised to see several sea lions sleeping everywhere in the public benches. It was a great ending to my first day in the Galapagos Islands

For the next two days, I took two separate guided day tours to the uninhabitated islands of North Seymour and Bartolome. The activities and highlights of these two islands involved sightseeing birds such as blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, and Galapagos hawks, and climbing to the summit to see the Pinnacle Rock.

During my last day in Santa Cruz Island, my tour guide took me to visit the twin craters of Los Gemelos, see the Galapagos tortoises freely roaming around, and cross through lava tunnels. I spent my last night in Santa Cruz by camping outside in the middle of nowhere under the amazing sights of stars.

After the stay in Santa Cruz Island, I took a public speedboat to Isabela, the largest island in the Galapagos. My exciting activities in the island in the Galapagos included visiting the iguanas colony, viewing the Galapagos penguins on the rocks, hiking around the Sierra Negra Volcano, taking a lava tunnels boat tour, and snorkeling with sea turtles.

On the Sierra Negra Volcano tour, my group and I hiked to the rim of the six mile crater, and then trekked across an alien landscape of lava fields to Volcan Chico. The lava tunnels boat tour took us to Los Tuneles, a network of lava tunnels, and provided opportunities for us to trek across natural lava tunnels and bridges and to snorkel with sea turtles.

My Galapagos trip had come to an end. As I returned to the United States via two hours on a public speedboat, one hour in taxi, and two hours flight from the Galapagos to the mainland Ecuador, I made a promise that I will return to the Galapagos for more fun-filled adventures!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Mauna Kea, a volcanic mountain in Hawaii

I was planning to blog about my trip to Mauna Kea, located in Big Island, Hawaii, many months ago, but never got around to it. I guess I finally have a chance to do it this time.

Anyway, when I was in Big Island last August, one of the places I really wanted to visit was Mauna Kea. Since I believe that many people do not know about Mauna Kea, allow me to explain about Mauna Kea.

Mauna Kea is the highest point in Hawaii, almost 13,800 feet. However, if you measure from its base on the ocean floor, it would be more than 33,000 feet, which would be the world's tallest mountain. On the top of the volcanic mountain, there's Mauna Kea Observatory. After visiting there, I could see the reason for the existence of the observatory on the summit. The sky is very clear that it is easy to stargazing with naked eyes.

I hitched a ride with Mauna Kea Summit Adventures. The vehicle I rode was a custom four-wheel-drive turbo-diesel van.

Saddle Road

We are above the clouds!

4x4 wheels are needed!

The Onizuka Visitor Center, at the 9,000-foot level

We made a stop at the visitor center so that we could eat our dinner and to get acclimizated to the altitude.

Great for stargazing


Me in parka. Yes, it was that cold up there!

No, it is not snow in the background. In fact, what you see are clouds!

According to a guide, the ancient Hawaiians believed that the top of Mauna Kea was where the gods and goddess lived.

If you plan to visit Mauna Kea, I would recommend you to go with a group of friends and rent a jeep and drive to the top of the mountain. If I go there again, I would stay there all night, just to look at stars!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Harbin Ice Festival

My mother came to DC to visit me and my brother two weeks ago. When she was here, she brought a lot of pictures so that I could view them. My father took these pictures when he was in China two months ago for his business trip. The highlight of his trip was a visit to the Harbin Ice Festival. Here are several pictures I saw:

An ice sculpture over an Olympics logo

"Snow" house

Even a door could be found in a 'snow' house

A typical day during the festival

May the night began!

You can walk on the sculpture!

Ice sculptures decorated with impressive colors of light!

This is what "Ice and Snow World" in Harbin is like!

I learned that this is the 23th International Ice and Snow Festival in Harbin, the China's northernmost major city. I also discovered that Harbin was in a race for the 2010 Winter Olympics, but it was awarded to Vancouver, Canada, instead. I don't think I will ever visit Harbin, due to its murderous cold weather - how does -15 degrees Fahrenheit sound to you?! However, I am really glad my father got a chance to visit there.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ever heard of Valentine, Texas?

Yes, there is a town of Valentine in Texas. For some real fun, you could mail a stamped letter to a post office in Valentine and ask a postmaster to mail it for you.

This is the stamped letter I wanted to be postmarked in Valentine, Texas

To make it even more exciting, how about using a pseudo name so that the recipient of your letter will never know who it comes from. That's what I did last year, and it was a lot of fun! It drove the recipient really crazy, as she was unable to figure where the letter came from!

This is the one I mailed to a postmaster in Valentine, Texas

That's a piece of cake, don't you think? I did a google search on Valentine, Texas, and discovered that they receive a large volume of letters in month of January or February. They even have their own postmark design, made for Valentine's. Other than that, it is pretty small town - only 200 people live there.

I would also like to mention that there is also a town of North Pole in Alaska. In fact, I have been there before, as mentioned in a post of December 2005. Perhaps you could have your Christmas cards postmarked there and mail them to your friends? Now, that would be a lot of fun and add more spices!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Where Amelia Earhart lived

WHERE EARHART LIVED: Allow me to tell you a bit about myself. I was born in Boston and grew up in Medford, Massachusetts. Some history buffs probably would already know this, but Medford is also a town where Amelia Earhart lived. In fact, her house is on the same street where I lived and grew up.

A marker of Amelia Earhart on Brooks Street

Amelia Earhart's home

My family's next-door neighbor in Medford happened to be a good friend of Amelia Earhart's sister, Muriel Earhart Morrissey. I had a privilege to meet her in our neighbor's home. She even wrote a biography book, "Amelia Earhart, my courageous sister." Not only that, but she also gave a book to my family and signed it. From what I know, Muriel died in 1998. Thus, that means she spent more than 60 years wondering what happened to her sister. Nevertheless, her book is very detailed and I really enjoy reading it!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Volcano, Hawaii

If you ask me for my top moment at Hawaii, I would have to pick the moment when I actually hiked across the lava flows and witnessed the glowing orange molten lava entering the ocean. It produced a huge fume and you would have to see it with your own eyes.

It all started when I entered the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. I also made a 20-mile trip from the visitor center to the lava flow. If you ask me, yes, there is an active volcano.

Kilauea Volcano is probably the most active volcano in the world. The eruption of the volcano started in 1983 and is still ongoing. I also learned that there is a submarine volcano named Loihi. As of right now, it is only 970 meters below the sea level. It would take at least dozen thousands years before it finally merge. There is also a chance that it might never merge at all.

An aerial view of Kilauea Volcano

Yes, I did take a helicopter tour around the volcano, but I would strongly recommend you to hike across the lava flows. If you take a helicopter, the excitement isn't the same if you hike across the flows to see the molten lava entering the ocean.

Walking across the lava flows

When I hiked across the lava flows, I noticed that there were many tourists who actually wore gloves. Yes, these volcanic rocks are very sharp! My North Face hiking boots took a lot of abuses and you could see a lot of scratches on these boots.


The picture you saw above was the lava flow covering the road. I would have to say that it is one of the coolest views in the park.

I decided to take a night hike in hope of seeing glowing orange molten lava. Of course, I had to do my homework before I started hiking. I asked a park ranger a lot of questions and stayed updated on the condition for the trail. I brought two oranges and two 1.5-liters bottles of water with me. I would later realized that I should have brought six oranges with me. A flashlight is a must, especially for a night hiking.

I started my night hike at 5 pm and it took almost two good hours before I reached the ending point. I made it right before the sunset, and the view of glowing orange molten lava entering the ocean was really unbelievable!

The molten lava entering the ocean

I stayed there for an hour and enjoyed the creation of God. I cannot think of a word that would describe a feeling of seeing new earth being formed at NIGHT. I would definitely camp there overnight if I had more time. From there, you could see tourists enjoying the view and not saying a word at all.

One more snapshot before I leave the park

Overall, the night seven-miles hike took me about five hours (with one hour of viewing the molten lava). Now, few of you might ask me whether I brought any volcanic rock with me. I was told not to take a volcanic rock with me when I leave Hawaii. I've often heard of stories of people who were cursed for taking volcanic rocks.

When I was a RIT student, I had two Hawaiian roommates - Karl and Jared. I remember how Christine asked Jared to bring sands from Hawaii. Karl warned Jared not to do it or he would be cursed. Jared went ahead and did it anyway. Karl and I do remember how Jared was plagued with a lot of bad luck within few weeks after bringing sands to Rochester.

I don't think I would want to mess with the goddess of Pele by taking a volcanic rock with me! What matters the most is the fact that I left Hawaii with a great memory!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

There is such as North Pole!

Remember my blogs about my trip in Alaska several months ago? I blogged about a road trip and few fun things we did in Alaska. However, there was one thing I did not include in these blogs. After seeing several posts about Christmas, I think I should go ahead and post something about Christmas.

What I did not include in my Alaska blogs was a city where Jon and I visited. What you see is not a joke. Immediately after Jon and I reached Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, we got to the city of North Pole. Ok, I know what's in your mind, but actually, it is about 15 miles away from Fairbanks, Alaska. If you drive in the city of North Pole, you will see Christmas theme there. There are candy-cane light poles everywhere. Jon and I decided that we should visit a post office in the city and we saw a candy cane decoration near the sign of the post office.

We then decided to visit Santa Claus House, which is right in the heart of the city. You can bet that the house gets many tourists everyday. It's just a store where there are many Christimas collectibles.

Okay, maybe you would want to ask me a silly question whether I have met Santa Claus or not. Let's put this way - I left the city with a lot of charcoals in my hands!

Should you be surprised? Nah!!!

Self-explanatory - Merry Christmas to you, my friends!

You can say that the city is a place where there is a Christmas everyday. From now on, if anyone ever tell me that there's no North Pole, I will simply shoot back and show these pictures. Maybe Santa Claus does exist? Umm, maybe. Anyway, consider this to be a holiday greeting from me and Merry Christmas to you all! :)