Okay, so I'm back!  After a journey of outlandish misadventures, I left the Philippines with an extra few lbs., a MemoryStick full of sick-tastic photos, and experiences I never knew I was always waiting for.

Aside from my 4-part series on Wine and Food Travel, here are some special memories of my trip starting with... The Plunge!  Enjoy.

Smiles,
Kat



 
Show your ALOHA for Japan with a t-shirt designed by GRP HOME CO.  The t-shirts are available for $20 and 100% of the proceeds benefit the Hawaii Red Cross Foundation to support victims in Japan. 

Find more information here: http://alohaforjapan.com/tshirts.html.

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How many times do people say that to be a writer the first step is to write... not get a publisher or an editor or a book deal, but just write.  That's why when I ran across this website I was so charmed by the concept -- to write a letter each day and document it, just because -- to write for the love of writing, and for the happiness it would bring to another.

Please check it out if you're in the mood:  http://lettersfromlauren.com/, it brought a great big smile to my face.

In other news, I'm fresh from my 5+ weeks in the Philippines -- Cebu and Bohol, specifically -- and am so glad I didn't let fear and doubt let me miss out on a trip of a lifetime.  I discovered little treasures on the island of Bohol where someone could spend a month and not get tired, a hidden getaway in Mactan that hotel insider's recommended again and again, a local Cebuano delicacy that made Anthony Bourdain's head spin and that in the little town my family  is from (Guadalupe, Cebu) come some of the most luscious mangoes in the world.  Market Man wrote a great blog post in 2005 about our beloved mangoes.  

As with most trips, I've come out the other side somewhat older, somewhat wiser, and with a great many experiences that I would not trade for all the money in the world: the great days spent in the melting humidity talking and laughing with my Lola, the many weeknights spent sitting around the TV watching Mutya (which has inspired me to start working on the mermaid book again) and sharing meals with the family, the new friends met in far-off places that have become like family, having my best friend come to see the place where I'm from and experience some Filipino hospitality, and most of all to do my small part in sharing with the world more about the Philippines.  I will do my best and do it with a smile.  :)
 
For now, it's so good to be home in O'ahu.  Here is a photo of my first sunset back; I missed it so much.  Aloha!

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Whirlwind travel is exhilarating.  4-5 hours of sleep, 10 towns in 10 days, and still so much more to explore in idyllic Bohol.  They say there are cave paintings here that are one of 3 red hematite paintings in the world... IN THE WORLD, on this tiny island in the middle of the Pacific.  There's so much more here than a simple day trip could cover; I can't wait to share it with you!

Over and Out.

Kat
The Wandering Concierge
 

Find the perfect spa for you and your sweetheart.  Only 3 weeks til Valentine's Day; do something other than roses this year (unless it's petals in an infinity tub at The Kahala. ;)
http://www.wineandfoodtravel.com/travel/spa-pas-de-deux-10-best-couple-spas-for-valentines-day/
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One of the coolest things I've learned about Japanese culture was in Hawai'i.  I was told that when a friend is feeling under the weather you never say, "I'm sorry."  I find this intriguing because there are precious little things in Japanese that don't apologize for something... I've even gone so far as to joke and ask how to say, "I'm not sorry." (the best we could come up with was Sumimasen janai-yo.  Which is total contrivance since there is NO direct translation.)  Anyway, it is the fact that when someone is down they focus on the positive ... on getting better, on healing, and soon.  It's something I admire very much and have tried to incorporate in mon vie quotidien.

It's hard when you  get sick while traveling, especially when it takes two days in and out just to adjust to the jetlag.  But somehow this is just what happened on our trip to Japan.  Enter Kiyomizu.  In literal translation it means "pure water" and the whole place was constructed around a waterfall in 780.  The massive structure was made sans-nails and has several mini-shrines which come together to form one structure.  My favorite two are the Jishu Shrine, which lies at the heart of the temple and the waterfall itself, named Otowa.

The shrine at the heart is dedicated to "the cupid of Japan" fitting, no? At its center are two Love Stones.  The story goes that if you can safely walk from one stone to the other, eyes closed, your love wish will be realized.  There was barely enough time to try with every 20-something within a 50 ft. radius walking between the stones.  It makes me wonder if by "safely" they mean "without bumping into another person making the same wish." Ahhh... tricky Japanese cupid you are!
Looks like a win-win to me.

Now the waterfall is a bit trickier.  Otowa Falls is the reason behind the name "Kiyomizu" but has three separate streams.  I've read different interpretations of what each trickle stands for; from love, beauty, longevity, wisdom, and so forth and am still researching for a definitive answer.  Anyone out there have some insight?  Pretty please?  The water tasted like water from a source many thousands of years old and with many stories within it.  Don't go late or they won't sell you a 200 yen cup (the lady selling them seemed irritated that I dared be a skeptic), and its a pretty cool souvenir or maybe it just gives me a reason to visit again someday.

Apart from that, the temple provided a separate peace amongst the very busy throng.  It was similar to what surfing feels like on a crowded day when you just wait for your perfect wave, one (if not all) of those shrines calls to you. Just make sure to bring coins.

 Perhaps because I can't understand Japanese the language wasn't a barrier.  It was like hearing larks singing around you... you know it means something, you're just not sure what.  I chose to believe it's several hundred strong well-wishing for whatever ails you to "feel better soon."  



 
Mass transit becomes me.  Why, right this very minute I sit on the LIRR on my way into the City.  Kris and I watched On the Town and I was reminded of a childhood full of movie musicals and stardust.  I passed the house of my "walking buddy" and realized how big the world really is and instilling me a humbling dose of gratitude for this life.

I'm off to a hotel where I can get my Dewey Decimal on... literally.  Each of the guest floors is dedicated to one of the major categories of the DD system:  Social Sciences,  Literature, Languages, History, Math & Science, General Knowledge, Technology, Philosophy, The Arts, and Religion and can't wait to see what room I'll be in!  

In the next week I'll check out places high and low that I couldn't get enough of when I lived in New York but with new eyes and a renewed spirit to show you some of the best sights of my favorite City.  Looking forward to sharing you some of the gems I find in 2011!  Aloha!

XOXO,
Kat
 
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A few days before our tour with John Langenstein, Judy (an enthusiastic member of the Mountain Thunder team) gave us some show-stopping coffee trivia.  Enjoy!

"In the morning, when the palate is open, sensitive and receptive to flavors, the medium roast is just right and gives you all the caffeine you need to get your body rockin'; later in the day, a darker roast will be more bold and flavorful and the carbon in a darker roast will assist in digestion.  Many restaurants offer a dark roast at the end of a meal so the carbon will help you not feel so full, give you enough caffeine not to go into a food coma [to get you home safely], but not too much to keep you up all night  - since a dark roast has up to 40% less caffeine than in a medium roast.”


The article can be found here: 
http://www.wineandfoodtravel.com/featured/kona-the-opus-one-of-coffee./

 
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Noelani Designs Anuenue Earrings.

When I first met Noelani she was bursting with an irresistible energy while playing with her son, Aukai, and as I walked into  her studio (which has a simple sign on the front door -- LOVE -- in shells) it was easy to tell that this was the house where "love" lived.  With an infectious laugh and an ingrained talent for creating inspired works of wearable art, Noelani's five-year-old company, Noelani Designs, is coming into its own.  Her pieces radiate aloha (love) and have a whimsical quality that is sure to make you smile.  This holiday season Noelani has offered a special holiday gift to readers of the WAFT
 holiday gift guide... 30% off her pieces!  Read the article to get the code (you have until Dec. 24, 2010!) then get ready to fall in love with everything in her shop.  Merry Christmas!

Xoxo,
Kat

 
So, San Diego is pretty rad.  Leaving Hawaii, I had my typical panic attack but when I woke up in California it seemed Hawaii followed close behind.  A perfect cloudless sky and a whole new world (I've been on a Disney kick) of possibilities welcomed me in California.  I look forward to a week of exploration and perhaps even some surf!
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Check out this photo from one of the ships that are part of The Maritime Museum, cute yah?
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Happy Holidays to my Hawaiian 'ohana.   See you in 2011!

http://www.wineandfoodtravel.com/travel/hawaiian-holiday/.



Aloha!