Curaçao : Willemstad

Willemstad walk

Willemstad is the capital of Curaçao. Equipped with a rich history, dating back to the 16th century, Willemstad has so many historic buildings that the old town is recognized as Unesco World heritage site. Split in two by the Queen Emma Bridge - that swings open and close to let big ships cross the channel - the former capital of the Netherlands Antilles is a city split in two, Otrobanda - with Rif Fort - and Punda - with a million colorful houses. You can explore Willemstad in one day, but make sure to start by Museum Kura Hulanda, which is one of the best museums I ever visited in my life - deserves its own post, actually.

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Curaçao : Museum Kura Hulanda

Willemstad walk

No sé si se debe a los dos meses que llevo bailando Ragga, pero tengo la sensación de que hoy en día se celebra la cultura Afroamericana. Vogue anunciando la era del booty sumado al twerking como forma principal de baile, Rihanna en #cropover, los cho-chorts y las lunas de miel de Safari en Tanzania + Zanzibar siendo el hit de las últimas bodas.

Pero por qué hay tantos negritos en Curaçao, en comparación con lo que había en Aruba y Bonaire?

Reconocer tu ignorancia es el primer paso para aprender algo nuevo. 

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Bonaire : Pink Flamingos

pink flamingoes in Bonaire

The Caribbean Flamingo inhabits the Caribbean Islands and the north coast of South America, but is extremely picky about breeding sites. The ground needs to have the right consistence to make that volcano shaped nest, so a thick layer of firm mud is preferred. They also crave enough food (with high salt content) and fresh water. And silence please. If a predator or human noise reaches the flamingoes, the breeding will stop. Bonaire is therefore a sweet spot for them to breed.

Flamingoes are the only filter feeders among birds. They are able to eat by holding their heads down and into the water. With those long legs, they shake the salinas and use the tongue as fast plunger to drive water and mud along the bill, which is equipped with filters that are able to separate food from mud. Young flamingoes have smaller holes in those filters, so they only eat algae but as they grow up, the holes grow too, letting through tiny mollusks, shrimp and larvae - no longer vegetarian.

Their height is usually between 115-170 cm, wingspan is around 2.5m and their weight remains below 4kg. They only lay one egg, that takes 28 days to incubate. They may live up to 50 years (even if 25 is average). Bonaire is key for flamingoes, out of the 50K that inhabit the Caribbean, 8K are in Bonaire.

Their color comes from the betacarotene content on the animals they feed upon and since their feathers fade in the sunlight, they escaped the plumage trade. Flamingoes are monogamous and cute as hell. I like them so much that I got Kudasai home a long time ago, getting him to travel the world with us.
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Taipei: The diner

the diner, best brunch in Taipei

When I am traveling, I always take eggs for breakfast. They are easy to digest, filling and unlikely to get your tummy swollen making the pencil skirt a lot less flattering. Specially love those hotels where they have “the omelette fella” so you can ask him for veggie and no-cheese scramble. So good.

Still, in some extreme situations, I don’t manage to wake up early enough for breakfast. In this case, I arrived g at 3AM to the hotel thanks to a China Airlines delay - by the way, try to avoid them if you can, CA flights left delay twice in the same week, soI almost missed the flight back to Europe - so I woke up quite late the morning after, left the hotel super hungry at 12.

What to do then? Brunch, of course.

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Tokyo : Urth Caffé Daikanyama

for brunch in Tokyo go to Urth Caffé in Daikanyama

Tengo la tensión bastante baja, así que necesito empezar el día con un café (solo) gigante y un buen desayuno. De ahí que durante los viajes, este momento se convierta a menudo en la comida estrella del día. En la que te sientas a planear lo que vas a hacer, compartes unas fotos del día anterior o respiras hondo, pensando en cómo irá el customer meeting. A menudo, la tripa - normalmente llena de verduras y pescado - se resiente de especias, arroz y carne, a las que no estoy acostumbrada. De ahí que siempre termine buscando sitios de brunch en los que reiniciar mi organismo y recuperar el bienestar en lo que me queda de viaje.

Urth Caffé Daikanyama - el barrio de Tokyo donde vivimos casi 3 años - es bastante especial, principalmente porque habré pasado por la puerta unos tres millones de veces (era parte de mi ruta preferida, caminando 15 min desde casa hasta el famoso cruce de Shibuya) pero nunca encontré el momento de probarlo. A veces la vida te da una segunda oportunidad y creo que la aproveché al máximo en este segundo viaje. Los que seguís a Rumi Neely, estáis acostumbrados a sus post en los que siempre aparece con un almond latte en el branch de LA, que es de donde viene este cadena que se centra en productos 100% orgánicos, con presencia en el US West Coast. En Mayo de 2014 abrieron otro en Omotesando, dado el éxito del primero que estaba siempre lleno de adolescentes, expat wives y ladies who lunch.

Soy una fanática de los huevos, así que probé los Eggs Benedict with Salmon y el Egg & Avocado Sandwich, además de los zumos orgánicos y un café gigante. Es más caro que Starbucks (que por cierto, en Tokyo es de lo más barato que hay) pero merece la pena, porque con un brunch así llegas casi sin hambre hasta la cena - cuanto menos paras, más te da tiempo a ver (^ * ^)

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Bonaire : Summer Nights

girl in Bonaire beach club

While in Tokyo, I visited my old neighbors who had just become parents. When I check your blog, it looks as if you were always on vacation. Indeed, I might have been traveling a bit, but it was mostly for work. Of course, given I am away from home, trust me I'll do as much as possible to make the most out of it. Simply because life is too short to waste time, we never know when the dream could end. I learnt this lesson when the situation forced us outside Japan and trust me, I won't fall into the same mistake again.

Enrique spent the entire summer home, working remotely on a project. While he couldn't take any days off, at least, we have been able to enjoy these months in Spain. I took one week off in Tokyo during my June trip and that was all for summer vacay this year for me. 

The office is empty these days - probably like yours - and colleagues from here as well as overseas started teasing me about "being the girl without holidays". Well, I was waiting for September, hoping for a more flexible schedule on his side to be able to plan for a getaway around my birthday. But maybe this will have to wait as well, as he might get sent to another project starting asap, until Christmas. BUMMER. 

This is a major throwback to Bonaire, during January 2015, to one of those many sexy summer nights we enjoyed during that magic holiday in the Netherlands Antilles, and a reminder to you, to make the most out of the days you are probably enjoying with friends and lovers by the seaside. Squeeze them to the max, you never know when would be the next chance.
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Tokyo : Akihabara「秋葉原」

Akihabara snapshots

Akihabara is not my favourite part of Tokyo, but it is a meaningful one as it was the first place we visited during our first day in Japan ever. Coming back to the city, I decided to take some more pictures. But it was not until arriving home... That I got stuck on this thought.

Akihabara, we all know it as a place for nerds (otakus), for anime, for Japan pop culture, for maids and maybe even teenage prostitution.  But when did this all started? And how did it end up like this?

Tokyo became the center of Japan during the Edo Period (1603 - 1868). Tokyo indeed means Eastern Capital「東京」to indicate that it was a place located on the right side of Kyoto - where the Imperial Palace had been - until Meiji-sama decided to move East and reallocate the Capital of Japan. At the time, Akihabara was a a huge flat land - 30000 square meters - that had been cleared to prevent fires from reaching Edo Castle.

It wouldn't be until 1925, when Akihabara train station - cargo only so far - started to accept passengers. Extremely convenient transportation turned Akihabara into a fruit and veg market. it countinued this way until Japan lost the war in 1945, when many engineers (radio and electronic focused) started to come back home to Japan. Not many jobs around, they could either focus on building rice cookers or try to proactively contribute to the reconstruction of the country. So they picked the second option, and called engineers to gather in the area. Given that TV was not there yet, Radio was the main form of entertainment. So they focused on bringing more radios to the peoples.

This brought electronic stores to start selling household appliances in the 60s and as PC and music became more mainstream, the 70s turned the area into a hub for nerds (music or computer). In 1973, the main street was pedestrianised during the weekends so that people could shop in a more relaxed way. With gaming appearance in the 80s, the area was covered of games and music stores. However, as competition between electronic vendors became more fierce, many stores closed down to transform into selling pieces for DIY PC aficionados.

Videogames lost hype in the 90s, when manga became major. Books, figures, merchandise, cosplay, anime. It was crazy until 2008, when a crazy guy went out and stabbed a bunch of people. Cosplay disappeared from the streets, moving into controlled events like COMIKET - but the otaku atmosphere remained, looking like what you can see today.

On one side, the expected. Dolls. Neon. Electronics.

Akihabara snapshots
Akihabara snapshots
Akihabara snapshotsAkihabara snapshots
Akihabara snapshots

The backstreets are a mixture of small electronic stores and darker places.

Akihabara snapshots

Maid Cafés. The first one appeared in 2001, but in 15 years they have become mainstream in Tokyo and even spread to other countries. They look inocent, kistch. But there's something sketchy on having grown up salaryman coming in there. Watch the documentary. Judge yourself.

Akihabara snapshots
Akihabara snapshots
Akihabara snapshots
Akihabara snapshots

I couldn't help myself and went to Gachapon Kaikan to get some cute figures I keep as amulet in my security card at work. I know it sounds childish, but they've been there since that very first visit to Japan. That brought us back there for a loooong time, that got us married and who knows what. I may be back in Spain, but somehow I feel that they keep bringing me back to Asia - guess you get why I like them.

Besides. Gachapon IS FUN. Feels like a return to childhood. Drop the coins. Turn the thing.
Get a cute little figure! Smile every time you look at it, regardless of stressful environment (^ * ^)

Akihabara snapshots
Akihabara snapshots
Akihabara snapshots
Akihabara snapshots

Ironically, I took exactly the same picture of the Akihabara corner as Enrique had taken like 3 years ago...
Akihabara snapshots

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Bonaire : Washington Slagbaai National Park

Washington Slagbaai National Park, Bonaire

Bonaire es paraíso sin explotar. La isla está rodeada de dive sites - literalmente una tras otra. El interior es una sucesión de desierto con lagunas salinas, en las que viven los pink flamingoes más cool de todo el Caribe, burros que están protegidos y cuidados en el Bonaire Donkey Sanctuary, mientras que el norte (aproximadamente el 20% de la isla) está ocupado por una reserva natural de casi 6000 hectáreas, que visitamos hoy.

Para hacer cualquier cosa en Bonaire, tienes que pagar una especie de impuesto ecológico (llamado nature fee). Lo primero que hacer al llegar a la isla es comprar esas etiquetas y colgártelas de las gafas de bucear porque te vas a pasar la estancia enseñándolas. No son demasiado caras (unos 25$ por persona, si buceas), así que mejor comprarlas y ahorrarte el mal trago con el ranger de turno.

El Washington Slagbaai National Park aloja a las especies nativas y endémicas de Bonaire. Loros, flamingos, iguanas y muchos otros pájaros y reptiles viven en la reserva. Las playas dentro del parque sirven de nido para las 4 especies de tortugas marinas que hay en el Caribe. Antiguamente, esta zona fértil fue explotada como plantación durante el período colonial, hasta que en 1969 se convirtió en la reserva que podemos visitar hoy.

El parque es enorme, así que tienes que explorarlo en coche. Abren a las 8AM y la conducción es lenta, así que si te decides a hacer la ruta larga, mejor madrugar para completarla antes de que cierren a las 17. Nosotros dimos la vuelta corta y aún así, nos dio tiempo de sobra a contemplar los contrastes entre la escarpada costa, los caminos secos y la parte con más jungla, donde los reptiles viven entre las sombras. Bonaire es una isla grande, así que para explorarla lo mejor es alquilar un 4x4 en el que puedas dejar las botellas de bucear, el kite (o windsurf) sin problemas. No es una buena idea (y no creo ni que esté permitido) entrar con un coche normal en esta reserva natural, porque las lluvias repentinas pueden convertir el camino en un barrizal y dejarte clavado en el medio de la nada.

El camino termina con las ruinas de los edificios del período colonial, que ponen un toque cultural a tanta naturaleza. Muy recomendable si vienes con algo más de tiempo, es parar a hacer algo de snorkel en Boca Slagbaai o Wayaka. Wayaka en particular es una playa muy bonita en la zona del noroeste, donde no hay corales, lo cual es mejor a la hora de nadar porque se reduce el riesgo de cortes con el fondo y a la hora de tomar el sol, siempre es más cómodo tumbarte sobre la arena que sobre las rocas.
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La ruta de las especias

Seoul, Tokyo and Taipei shopping

En mi oficina se ríen bastante de mis rutas de las especias, que por trabajo o placer, tienen tendencia a prologarse más de lo planeado, tomar giros inesperados y terminar en trayectos de 40 horas. Sin embargo yo, todos los días doy gracias de tener la oportunidad de seguir trabajando (en remoto) con Asia y de visitar mi lado favorito del mundo, de vez en cuando. Ya no vivo allí, por lo que sentirme conectada a "mi mundo" es clave para conseguir encontrarme bien en mi lugar de residencia actual.
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Tokyo : Prepaid SIM for tourist

prepaid SIM for tourist in Japan

Finally Japan realized that a wonderful holiday is even more amazing if you get a chance to browse Google Maps every now and then - basically to find your way out of a kanji web - or to post some cool shots in social media. In the past, getting a prepaid SIM card in Japan was something that require a permanent address in the country y probably an alien resident card.

Thanks god, this is over now and the major electronic stores (Yodobashi Camera, Bic Camera, Labi and the likes) are now selling pre-paid SIM cards「SIMフリー」for ALL OF YOU, GAIJIN TOURISTS IN JAPAN - REJOICE!!

Por fin es posible comprar una SIM de prepago para que pases tus días en Japón algo más conectado. Están a la venta en las cadenas de electrónica (Yodobashi Camera, Bic Camera, Labi, etc) marcadas como「SIMフリー」así que si eres un adicto al móvil, no te lo pienses. Por unos 20€ tienes acceso a unos 4GB de datos, a consumir durante un par de semanas, que suele ser la duración típica de los viajes a Japón. Yo fui a Yodobashi Camera, justo en la estación de Akihabara.

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Taipei : Maokong Village「貓空」

Maokong Village in Taipei
Maokong - literally cat「猫」sky「空」- is a village located nearby Taipei Zoo. This is one of places in Taipei where you feel like traveling back in time. To tea plantations, slow lifestyle, somewhat tacky tourist stalls, tea cups drank in small little houses at the top of the round mountain - literally, the name of the mountain during the Japanese invasion「丸山」.

The zoo closes at 17:30 so it is perfect time to jump in the gondola and explore the streets amid the greenery. I did not have to wait a lot, maybe it was to hot for anyone to bother or maybe it was that skipping "the glass gondola" was a smart idea - yes you can see the typical cute teenage couple queueing for hours to experience something "oh-so-special" as hovering over the lush mountain top with full 360 degree view, but this is not worth when you have my patience.

As I took a stroll, somehow I started thinking about time. Nothing changes all of the sudden. 
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