5 Places to Visit Before Your Knees Give Out

I’ve been to some of these places for work and to others for pleasure, but they all became etched in my memory. I want to give a special shout-out to TRAVELOCITY . As my work travel started to intensify in the last few years, I had to keep all my trips organized, added to my phone calendar, with reminders and real time flight updates and Travelocity did all this for me and more! Several times I had to cancel or change flights, they worked with me to get me either a refund or a great alternative. I love this company.

Breakfast at the Kahala in Oahu, Hawaii…heaven.

Breakfast at the Kahala in Oahu, Hawaii…heaven.

HAWAII. When I was a little girl in grade school, my family and I lived in the Honolulu on the Island of Oahu. I don’t remember much from my childhood but I remember Hawaii. I remember it was the first time in my life I felt like I belonged. Most of the population in Hawaii is Asian so when we moved there, I quickly picked up the Hawaiian Pidgin English- a combination of English, Hawaiian and other languages from Asia (you can read a great article on how this language developed here: https://beyondhonolulu.com/lesson-hawaiian-pidgin-english/ . Once I had the pidgin down, in a matter of a couple of weeks everyone took me in as one of their own and I never once felt like an outsider.

One thing I will never forget is one of my teachers arriving to class with her surfboard under her arm. Once the school bell rang and we were excused for the day, she would grab her board and all we would see is her in her shorts (you’ve GOT TO love a place where the teachers are allowed to go to work in shorts!) running out the door with her surfboard.

I love everything about Hawaii: the people are so incredibly warm and friendly, the food is amazing because you can get the best of all Asia and the weather is perfection. I thank my Dad for taking us to Paradise because the 4 years we lived there molded me into the person I am.

Yes, I look angry…I’m actually exhausted…but about to go into the pyramid to buy tickets to the Louvre Museum!

Yes, I look angry…I’m actually exhausted…but about to go into the pyramid to buy tickets to the Louvre Museum!

PARIS. The first time I went to Paris with my sister, everyone told me: “Paris is beautiful, it’s amazing…yadah, yadah.” I went because I had studied French for years and I simply had to go. Well…I hate to admit it and I hate even more that everyone told me so, but Paris is indeed quite breathtaking. The minute our taxi reached central Paris, I thought: “Oooooh, I get what they mean.” The uniformity of the architecture, the beauty of almost every single building, the almost overwhelming array of cultural activities and sites, everything hits you the very first day you’re there and you get it. The simple act of sitting at a sidewalk café and having a croque monsieur with bubbling melted cheese on top, people watching…it DOES feel different in Paris than in any other city. And one of my favorite things about it is walking around and finding unbelievably gorgeous little side streets or cul-de-sacs that are just THERE, minding their own business and being breathtaking!

These ladies performed a tea ceremony at the VIP lounge every day. They always welcomed us with a smile and it was the best part of the day!

These ladies performed a tea ceremony at the VIP lounge every day. They always welcomed us with a smile and it was the best part of the day!

SOUTH KOREA. These ladiesin the photo performed a tea ceremony at the VIP lounge every day. They always welcomed us with a smile and it was the best part of the day!

You know how these days everyone is all about 23andMe and finding their roots? I know where my roots are. One of the two countries is South Korea and I went there for the first time for work. Once I left Hawaii as a kid in 6th grade, I never again felt I belonged anywhere, simply because I am an Asian not living in Asia. Everywhere I’ve lived or traveled, people have always asked me where I’m from. I remember in the Beijing 2008 Olympics, people would look at the accreditation around my neck that clearly said “MEX”…then at me and back again at the accreditation and a look of confusion would cross their face and I would have to explain that I am half Korean and an “Oooooooh” and a smile would follow.

So after years of feeling like an outsider in my own country, every trip to Korea has been like coming home. Scents, sounds, tastes, everything brought back memories of living with my grandmother. Korea is the perfect mix of ultra-modern and ancient beauty. How can you not fall in love with a country where you are greeted with a bow every time you enter a department store and when you pay for something, you get your change handed back to you with both hands and a bow.

The Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR. Those are the Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, in the photo above.

I’ve just realized that my favorite places tend to be a combination of traditional and modern, ancient and new. I was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia very briefly for a SportAccord Convention and International Olympic Committee meetings. My boss gave me half a day off and I got into a taxi so fast, I would have won the Gold if sightseeing was an Olympic event!

First, I googled places to see in Kuala Lumpur, found a couple of places that spoke to me and off to the races I went! The Statue of Lord Murugan - a Hindu deity- at the Batu Caves was quite the contrast to the 5-star hotel around the corner from the Petronas Towers and I love that! There are bats and monkeys in the caves, little shops that smell of humidity and old souvenirs. I would like to go back and really explore this city one day…these quickie sightseeing forays during work trips always leave me wanting more.

Dhigu, Maldive Islands…another piece of heaven.

Dhigu, Maldive Islands…another piece of heaven.

THE MALDIVE ISLANDS. This is one of those places where I didn’t even KNOW we were going until we were practically landing! My boss travels in his own jet and sometimes, when I travel with him, I know our final destination…but not much more! We were on our way to Asia and since the pilots are only allowed to fly for 10 hours straight, we had to make a stop and this is were we stopped.

We landed at night, a fast boat picked us up and about 20 minutes later we arrived at an island but it was so dark we couldn’t really see much beyond a couple of feet in front of us. We were taken to our rooms which, on turning on the lights, I realized was a huge luxury hut, with a tub outside in its own little hut. I was exhausted so I just went to bed.

The next morning, I opened the door and realized my room was right ON the beach! I booked a massage at the spa and that’s when I saw the purest most crystaline sea water I had ever seen in person. I stood there, took a deep breath and tried to believe what I was seeing was real. Check it out here: https://www.anantara.com/en/dhigu-maldives

Every single one of these places is special for different reasons. Every singe one is bucket list material!