Friday, March 29, 2013

Learn About: Belize

I think I've mentioned previously that when I go to new or unfamiliar places, I like to do a little bit of research. I like to familiarize myself with some of the history and culture because for me, that makes the experience of going more fulfilling and satisfying.

Usually, I'll go to my local bookstore and spend an afternoon with a stack of guidebooks and read up that way but today, I thought I'd do something a little different and share what I've learned thus far right here on my blog. And even if you're not planning a trip to Belize, it's always nice to learn new things and maybe this will entice you to go.

First things first, where is Belize? I'd let a few of my friends know about my trip and surprisingly, many of them did not know where Belize actually was. It's in Central America, bordered to the north by Mexico and to the west by Guatemala; the rest of it is coast.

I don't want this post to get all school-ish and boring so I'll just list some facts that I found interesting:
  • The official language is English. To be completely honest, I had just assumed it was Spanish. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that after emancipation from Spain, Britain declared it a colony.
  • Chewing gum was invented here.
  • It was home to much of the Maya civilization (yes, "Maya," not "Mayan" - "Mayan" refers to the language, "Maya" refers to the people) which means there are many amazing ruins to visit.
  • The Belize Barrier Reef is one of the largest in the world - it's only smaller than the Great Barrier Reef (duh) and the New Caledonia Barrier Reef. Charles Darwin has had some nice things to say about it.
    • The reef is so amazing and precious, it's been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
    • It's such a huge and diverse ecosystem, there's still a lot of research and discovering to be done; scientists estimate that only 10% of the reef has been explored thoroughly.
  • The rainforests are full of the Belizean national tree, the mahogany tree, which is the main reason Britain wanted to colonize Belize.
  • The national animal is the Baird's tapir, which I think is adorable. See photo below!
    {via: acuteaday.com}
  • Belizean cuisine is an eclectic mixture influenced by Spanish and Mexican foods (think rice & beans and tortillas) and Caribbean dishes (e.g. coconut milk and seafood).
  • Belize is known for Punta, a style of music and dance. Google it, it's pretty cool.
Okay, so I want to stop before this post gets way too long and ends up being more tedious and boring than interesting. I hope you learned something.

Cheers.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Girly Post: Gold & Black Polka Dot Nails

Quick post on my nails this week:
{Base Color: Essie's As Gold as it Gets}
{Dots: Essie's Licorice}

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bring Me Back to Paris: Wall Decals

I've been feeling really wanderlusty lately - is that even a word? Yes, I have a trip to Belize planned but that's in July, which is quite a ways away (a ways away? oh man). Unfortunately, my workload and my budget just aren't flexible enough for me to just get up and go whenever I feel like it.

Thankfully, last weekend, I was in Target and I spotted some wall decals and ended up finding one of the Eiffel Tower with bokeh hearts and decided I could bring some holiday cheer (meaning the happiness one finds being on vacation, not the Christmas season kind) to my room. I didn't link the exact decal because for some reason, Target doesn't have it on their website. They do have one that's called "Wall Decal Paris" but from the photo, and the reviews, it looks like it's actually Parliament and Big Ben. And I totally wouldn't have minded getting that one either but it wasn't available in my local store.

To apply, I just took a damp sponge and wiped down my walls to make sure they were dust-free and clean so the decals would stick. Then, I made a few measurements using a ruler and a level and marked off corners with a pencil and then stuck on the stickers. I think this would be a great craft idea too - you could most definitely buy some contact paper and print an image onto it and then slap it onto your walls.
{tada!}
{forgive my messy bedspread}
{and here I am, pretending to be hanging out by the Tour Eiffel}
Cheers!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Coconut Oil: First Impressions


Yesterday, my favorite friend came over to my house to do a bit of planning for our joint blog (808duo - click to take a gander). I mentioned that I'd seen a youtube video (thanks, shaaanxo) and read some articles about the benefits of coconut oil and how it could be used as a moisturizer. D was equally as excited as I was so we decided to go buy some. I called my nearby Trader Joe's to see if they had any in stock, which they did, so we drove over and bought some (for $5.99 per 16 oz. jar). Okay, so now that I've gotten that long-winded, slightly unnecessary story out of the way, let me talk to you a bit about coconut oil and why it's awesome.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Camera Case

A few weeks ago, I shared about how I bought a new camera, remember? Since then, I'd been looking for a case because I am a worrier and I like to protect all my electronics. I even have screen protectors and a case for my Nintendo DS - that's how much of a nerd I am about it. I was shopping online and looking all over for the ideal case - something protective and functional but still stylish and not overly bulky.

I ended up buying the Acmemade Montgomery Street Case. It's plush - like a sweatshirt or a fluffy comforter, it has two zippered areas - a big pouch for the camera and a smaller pocket for small accessories, it has a strap and a little handle so you could hang it off a belt or strap, and it's pretty! It comes in two colors, grey and olive, (I chose grey), and it's $30 (minus the shipping fees). I've had it for almost two weeks now and I love it. It fits my Sony NEX 5R perfectly and could definitely hold another smaller-sized lens without feeling overcrowded.

I know this case is going to be great for traveling because it's compact enough to pack in my bags and I won't worry about my camera being crushed or broken en route.

Cheers and happy shopping!

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Belize - BZE to SPR

We are flying United Airlines from EWR (Newark Int'l Airport) to BZE (Belize City). However, our hotel is in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye so how do we get there?

From my research so far, it looks like there are two options:
  1. fly
  2. sail (Or boat? Which verb is more appropriate?)
Flying from Belize City to San Pedro takes about 20 minutes. I've found two airlines that service this route: Tropic Air ($62.50 one way + $5.00 fees) and Maya Island Air ($67.25 one way includes fees). These airlines also have routes to Caye Caulker and Corozal and a few other cities for similar prices.

Taking a water taxi from Belize City to San Pedro takes a bit more planning and time. You have to take a taxi from the airport to the Marine Terminal (which is about $25 - for the ride, not per person - and takes about 25 minutes). Then you have to hop on the water taxi (San Pedro Water Taxi) which is $17.50 one way and takes 1.5 hours because obviously, water travel is slower than air travel and the boat makes stops.

Personally, I'm opting for the flight. The water taxi is only cheaper if I'm of the belief that my time is worthless. I think that the stress and effort of lugging my bags through the city and onto a boat just isn't worth the $20 savings, but hey, that's just me and where I am in my life now. In my college days, that $20 would've been worth so much more to me than my time.

I haven't booked my flights yet, so there's still a minute possibility that I might change my mind. However, it's really just because the flights are fixed price.

115 days!

Monday, March 04, 2013

Belize!

A couple days ago, I booked a trip to Belize and I am really excited. We're flying into Belize City and then taking a short flight to San Pedro Airport and then hopping on a water taxi to our hotel. We'll be staying right in San Pedro which is a part of Ambergris Caye (pronounced "key"). At the southern tip of the caye is the Hol Chan Marine Reserve which boasts some of the best snorkeling in the world so I am really happy.

I booked the trip through hotels.com because my Chase Freedom card offers 4 extra points per dollar spent through the Ultimate Rewards program. I used kayak to compare a few sites like Priceline and Expedia and they were all the same and none of the sites were having particularly amazing specials. The Ultimate Rewards program only offers 1 extra point per dollar spent for Priceline and Expedia.

I'm going with my family (sister and dad) and it was $1300 per person. The hotel we're staying in is The Palms Oceanfront Suites which is located right in town and is ranked #6 (out of 51) on TripAdvisor. The nightly rate was on the order of $200/night for this particular hotel but you can find hostels for $15/night and lower end hotels for $50/night and then on the other end of the spectrum, you can find amazing resorts for $500+/night.

Choosing the right hotel is a bit of work because, if you are like me and don't have unlimited funds, you need to find a nice hotel with decent amenities within your budget and it's always a balancing game between trying not to spend too much while avoiding dumps disguised as nice hotels. That's why TripAdvisor is an amazing tool because you can read real reviews and see ranks and average prices all in one spot.

I'm really excited to snorkel and explore Mayan ruins so stay tuned for some more posts about Belize!
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