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Canyon X, the Unexpected

Over the last few days, I had driven more than a thousand miles across different landscapes from Phoenix, Arizona to the borders of Utah.  Along the way I managed to stay in a small motel along the historic Route 66 in Flagstaff, see the Grand Canyons from different angles in varying times of the day, breathe fresh chilly air up in Jacob Lake among alpine trees covered in snow, and walk through amazing rock formations and slot canyons in Page.

On the third day of my journey, I was driving somewhere in the afternoon about 11 miles away from Page when I saw a dirt road that I decided to turn to. On the map, it seemed that the small dirt road would lead me somewhere close to a portion of the Colorado River, although I knew it would require me to hike a long distance from where the road ends.  I still decided to give it a try. Barely halfway through the dirt road, I was beginning to realize that my intermediate sized vehicle was not made for such roads, and I decided to turn back at the halfway point. But as I was just about to leave from the dirt road, all of a sudden my car couldn’t go any further.  My feet pressed on the gas as far as it could go, but to no avail.  I realized my car was stuck in deep fine sand.

This has never happened to me before, and I started thinking of ways to get out of my situation.  I started digging the sand with my hands and throwing it to the side, and then tried to accelerate the car after removing enough sand from the front wheels.  I moved about an inch.  Frustrated, I tried reversing the vehicle, which didn’t really help but probably got me even deeper into the sand.  I realized pressing on gas was probably not helping me in any way, so I put the car in neutral and tried to push it forward with what arm strength I had. Sadly that didn’t work one bit.

I sat back in the car and decided to call up roadside assistance.  Luckily there was reception from my mobile network even though I was in the middle of nowhere! The agent said through the phone that it would take about an hour for a tow service to come, but that was not guaranteed and I might end up waiting longer depending on the availability of the nearest tow truck.  I decided to wait it out, but was also strongly fighting the urge to pee. About 500 yards away was the main road, where cars were zooming past in high speed through the highway – and that didn’t really help with my situation.

Across the highway was a dirt lot that carried a sign saying Canyon X Tours, and I decided to cross the highway to ask for help.  The family who runs that tour company offered to help, they were natives of Navajo Nation, and they showed me the canyons that they own.  This video was the result of that afternoon – of the misadventures and later on realization that everything really happens for a reason.

Old Wild West

I never understood the fascination people had about horses in Texas, until I surrounded myself with horses.  Last weekend we went to Texas and had a great time in Dallas and Austin.  Dallas had huge expanses of land owned by locals who kept ranches, while Austin had the younger metropolis vibe – with streets full of Saturday night party-goers and late Sunday morning brunch scenes.  The Dallas we saw was a very quiet city, where you could go on horse riding for a whole day if you wish.  So to say it was very peaceful.

Marshall Creek Ranch was my favorite thing about Dallas.  They had beautiful horses which they let run free in the golden hours after a long day of carrying people like me around.  The thick forest on their backyard is there for them to explore, and the volunteer wranglers in the ranch feed them with treats after a good gallop.  The ranch dogs run wild and free too, and quickly warm up to visitors like me, hoping to get a pat or a treat as they rest their chins on my knees or sit under my feet.

The truth is, this is all quite a new experience to me.  I grew up in a city far from wild things like horses.  I’ve only ridden a horse twice before, and both times with a wrangler walking next to my horse when I was a kid.  So feeling like I missed out on some of those experiences made me jump to the opportunity of riding on a horse in Texas.  And it was exhilarating.

Documentary : Clay

Good craftsmen are a rarity these days.  I had the opportunity to document Ryan Van Hoy, a potter from Indianapolis, as he shares his story on how he came about to doing pottery, and what influences him in his profession.

Anchored Away in Cancun

Towards the end of last year, my husband and I (I’m still not used to calling him that) decided to go on a relaxing trip to Cancun.  In case you didn’t already know, Cancun is best to visit in the months of December to February, when the country experiences milder temperatures thanks to the cold winds of the North.  This being their peak season, we dreaded flocks of tourists so we decided to avoid that by going just a bit earlier.  And our timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
One of the many reasons we chose Cancun to holiday in is because it’s undeniably close to the United States.  If we can’t go back to the pristine beaches of Asia, where else could we turn to?  From L.A. we took a direct flight to Cancun, which took about 4 hours and under $300 for a return ticket.  Not bad eh?  And then we landed here.     Luckily because we came at the end of November, we didn’t have to face a crowded island and rub shoulders with other tourists.  There was plenty of space and privacy, it almost felt like the resort was all ours.  We stayed at the Marriott Casa Magna Cancun using our SPG points and we think we made the best choice, because we loved the colonial style architecture and the spaciousness of the resort (compared to the JW Marriott next door).  Going to Cancun cannot be complete without visiting one of the seven wonders of the world.  The Chichen Itza, the world renowned historical city which dates back to 600 AD, was an amazing sight to see.  Walking through the grounds felt different, or at least to me I imagined what it must have been like to live there in that era.
And while you’re in the Yucatan Peninsula, I highly recommend dipping yourself in one of the mysterious cenotes.  The cenotes are natural sinkholes that could be deeper than 60 meters or comparably like a 20 to 30 floor building.  It’s so deep that when you look below all you’ll see is an abyss – dark, mysterious, and scary.  Naturally, the water is cold and will make you shiver on your first dip, but feels very refreshing on a warm summer day.  In the photo below you’ll see all of us wearing life jackets because it’s a requirement. The depth of the hole is not to be joked about.  One good thing I took away from this trip was I learned the Mexican way of appreciating life as it is, and to enjoy the art of doing nothing.  Though we explored the city, we put aside a lot of time to just relax by the beach, play in the pool, or enjoy a good meal.  It gave me a relaxed and peaceful feeling which felt like something I hadn’t felt for a long while.  I’m the type of person who can’t stand sitting by the beach all day – although some people really enjoy doing that, I never understood what good came out of it.  So I can almost say it felt like my first time to go on a holiday.

Travel in Morocco…of a Time Past

Looking outside the moving car window one day during our journey in Morocco, I couldn’t help but feel like being transported back to another age, that of decades ago when digital wasn’t even a concept yet.  As the sun was setting and turning a mellow pink and purple, teenage children were coming out of schools like sheep out of a cage, some of them in groups and most of them looking happily content and talking to each other.  It made me realize how different kids are here in another world, where gadgets are in closer proximity to their faces than real human interactions.

Though there certainly were mobile carriers and data connectivity almost everywhere we went in Morocco, I did not find the urge to look at my phone either, even probably spending the entire day outside without needing to check my phone.  There was a certain peacefulness to the place, even in Marrakech in the midst of the chaotic souk.  Or perhaps it’s because the country is brimming with so much art and color that the people didn’t need to distract themselves from the otherwise gray drudgeries of our familiar world.  I would like to believe that rather than think that the country’s technology has been lagging compared to other first world countries.

If you ask me what I think of Morocco, I would never deny that it is beautiful.  It’s natural rustic beauty is so inviting that I would not mind staying there for a few months just to explore the towns and absorb the culture.  With it’s expansive farms sprawling with olives and sweet oranges, you can tell that nature has been kind to the locals in giving them great harvests, never having to withstand severe winters that take away dear life out of plants.

If you scroll down below, you’ll see some of the photos I had taken from our route from Marrakech to Essaouira.  And if you pass through the goats picture, it’s true – they do climb trees to get some of their favorite olive skins.