Edwin

The Road to Happiness

Eveyone’s end goal is always retirement, right?
You go to school for 22 to 28 years, then work for another 35 to 44 years. Then you can start enjoying life at 65.

I think people have this concept all wrong. By 65, you probably can’t hike that hill anymore, can’t golf as much, can’t scuba dive, and can’t party. Your body at 65 is a lot different than a 45 year old version of you. And for some people, they save all their money, and sadly don’t make it to 65.

When I was 38, I had chest pains so bad, I thought I was going to die. That’s when I realized that life can be cut short anytime. Since then, I lived my years like it was my last one.

When I was young, I have always aimed at becoming rich someday. Now, I don’t care about money as much. Experiences, adventures, friendships, charities, kindness and happiness are the core values I strive for. (Not always successful, but I always aim for them).

My mother, a planner, constant worrier and the most frugal woman I know, always worried about me. “What will happen to you when I pass?” She would always say that. And now, my sisters ask me the same question . “I will be fine,” I assured them.

Though money is important, always remember that when you pass away, no one cares about what car you drove, but they would remember how you many times you made them laugh, how you made them
feel, and how much time you spent together.

I have learned from the Dalai Lama that one’s goal in life should not be to be rich, but to be happy. And the only way you get there is through contentment.

Happiness is not just a fleeting emotion, but an essential aspect of our well-being. It is the fuel that propels us forward, giving us the strength to overcome challenges and embrace life’s joys. Striving to be happy is not a selfish pursuit. When we prioritize our own happiness, we become better equipped to spread positivity and make a meaningful impact on the world.

Remember that happiness is not a destination to be reached, but a journey to be embraced, and let us strive for it with unwavering determination and gratitude.

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Asakusa is Tokyo’s Best Area

My family ranks Japan in their Top 3 favorite countries- except for me. I have been there 6 times and never understood the fascination until my recent trip. I never used to like it because for me, Tokyo looks like New York, but with Japanese writings on the buildings. I have always thought that Japan lacked culture unlike Bali.

 

However, during our last visit, we stayed in Asakusa. It was my first time there and I fell in love with it immediately .

Asakusa retains the vibe of an older Tokyo, with traditional craft shops and street-food stalls along Nakamise Street near the ancient Sensō-ji temple. Mid-19th-century Hanayashiki amusement park has rides and cafes, while riverside Kuritsu Sumida Park hosts regular festivals and firework displays.

I would get lost in alleys lined with traditional stores selling kimonos, silk fabrics, Japanese wares, etc. This is how I imagined Japan.

If you’re ever in Tokyo, I recommend you stay in this area.

Home is where your mother is …

Back at our lake house in Tagaytay. This place holds so many memories for a over 2 decades now. It was my mom’s dream house she had constructed based on a cabin we stayed at in Big Bear.

 

It was here where I surprised my family after 8 years of absence. I wrapped myself up in a blanket and walked towards my family while they were eating. The screaming can be heard for miles and miles.

It was also here where I first Introduced John to the family. “Mom, this is my American ‘friend’ John.” She hugged him and gave him a tour.

When my sister was assigning rooms, she said “John will sleep in the masters bedroom.” So I leaned over and whispered “Where will I sleep?” She said “Masters bedroom with John, of course.”
They knew.

The house is about 5,000 square feet in size (464 square meters) and has 5 floors. But our entire family of 20+ always hang out In one room- the kitchen. My parents watched their smalll family of 6 grow and grow and grow.

When we are here, we would literally sit around all day and the housekeepers (or my sisters) would bring out food and snacks all day long. We have had this house for over 25 years and we have never seen most of the attractions around the lake. Being together with the family was the main attraction when we visited.

Even at my age, my mom insisted I sleep on her bed with her. There are a dozen beds, but I had to sleep next to her. We would be face to face and she would hold my two hands with hers and caress it. I can’t understand it back then, but she must have been enjoying having her child home.

As we grew older, our nephews and nieces made their own memories here. They have many drunken moments here. (Yes kids, we know). They have brought their friends here for weekend getaways and sung karaoke all night long.

My mother loved this house. Even during her last years, she would ask the family to visit. She would lay on the couch while all her great grand kids scream and jump all over her. She enjoyed every minute of it.

She loved this place so much, she purchased the four other parcels of land next to it. She didnt want to have neighbors.

It was a bit bitter sweet coming In to the house last night without her. There’s so many memories of my mother in every corner.

Thanks mom … we will cherish you, and this house forever.

Guatemala: Exploring the Rich Heritage of Antigua and Lake Atitlan

Villa Santa Catarina is on the base of this beautiful mountainside community. Just 2 minutes walk is the lake. The rooms offer views of the 3 majestic volcanoes.

Welcome to the heart of Central America, where ancient traditions meet breathtaking landscapes. Antigua, Guatemala, and Lake Atitlan together create a magical journey that blends colonial charm with natural splendor. Over the next seven days, I invite you to immerse yourself in the vibrant culture, explore historical sites, and unwind by the serene shores of Lake Atitlan.

Fly to Guatemala’s La Aurora International Airport (Airport Code: GUA). There are several airlines that fly direct to GUA from LA (Delta and Avianca). Upon landing, skip Guatemala City because there is not much to see in this city, even my Guatemalan friends would admit this. Guatamala City is safe and very clean, but the beauty of the country is outside the city.

From the airport, you can arrange for a private service from your hotel, take a taxi or uber to head to Antigua, which is roughly 15 miles from the airport, or a beautiful 45 to 60 minute car ride. A private car costs about USD $60 to $70, and about USD$40 for uber. My friend Charlie Revolorio is a travel guide and can help you book a seemless ride – you can reach him on Whatsapp at +502-5559-8986. He is very kind, honest and amazing.

Side tip while you’re at the airport- buy a simm card for your phone. They can do it quick and cheap!

Day 1-2: Antigua – Colonial Marvels and Culinary Delights

Start your adventure in Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its well-preserved Spanish Baroque-influenced architecture.

I stayed at the Hotel Meson de Maria (http://hotelmesondemaria.com/esp/) which is a mansion or a noble ancestral home turned into a hotel. I loved this hotel and it was fairly inexpensive ($80/night for the regular room). If you have more budget, stay at the room that has a balcony or has a window that overlooks the outdoors. The location of this hotel couldn’t be more perfect.

 

Hotel Meson de Maria is a small hotel centrally located in the heart of the historical district.

 

There other more fabulous hotels in the area. The key in picking a hotel is to make sure you’re in the town and NOT OUTSIDE OF THE OLD TOWN. I cannot stress this enough.

Spend your first day wandering through cobbled streets lined with pastel-hued buildings. Don’t miss the iconic Santa Catalina Arch, a symbol of Antigua’s rich history. Visit the Central Plaza, Parque Central, surrounded by the stunning Antigua Cathedral and the Palace of the Captains General.

 

The famous arch in Antigua. You must come here!

In the evenings, explore the local culinary scene. Antigua boasts a diverse array of restaurants, from traditional Guatemalan fare to international cuisine. Savor a cup of world-renowned Guatemalan coffee in one of the charming cafes, and treat your taste buds to local specialties like Pepián or Kak’ik.

Day 3-4: Antigua – Cultural Immersion Dive deeper into Antigua’s cultural treasures on day three. Visit the Santo Domingo Monastery, home to the Jade Maya exhibit and a stunning courtyard. Explore the Casa Popenoe and the La Merced Church, each showcasing unique architectural details.

If you want to know more about the rich history of the town, please call Charlie for a very fascinating walking tour of the town. He can take you to secret spots as well!

Take a coffee tour to discover the journey from bean to cup, learning about Guatemala’s coffee-making traditions. (This was incredible!)

In the evening, join a traditional dance performance or catch live music at one of the local venues. You can arrange this coffee tour from little travel shops in the town. The hotel can also make a recommendation.

When dining, ask for authentic restaurants from a local and read reviews. There are so many restaurants in town that try to be too westernized (avoid those).

This may sound silly- but check out the local Starbucks and McDonald’s. They are probably the most beautiful Starbucks you have ever been to. Don’t worry, they serve Guatemalan coffee.

Antigua’s Starbucks isn’t your typical chain outlet in West Hollywood. As you step inside, the air is infused with the warm aroma of freshly brewed Guatemalan coffee beans. The interior design pays homage to the city’s colonial heritage, featuring intricate wooden accents and vibrant textiles that mirror the traditional Mayan craftsmanship found in the local markets.

One of the highlights of the Starbucks in Antigua is its charming outdoor patio adorned with terracotta tiles. Surrounded by lush greenery and colorful bougainvillea, the patio offers a tranquil escape from the bustling streets. It’s an ideal spot to sip your favorite Starbucks beverage while soaking in the colonial architecture and absorbing the vibrant energy of Antigua.

Me at Starbucks waiting for my order. The leaves protect me from the sun. LOL.

Day 5-7: Lake Atitlan – Tranquil Bliss and Indigenous Culture

On day five, embark on a scenic journey to Lake Atitlan, one of the most picturesque lakes in the world.

From Antigua, you can take a public shuttle to Lake Atitlan for 2.5 hours (Panajachel is the main town there). The shuttle costs about $22 per person. Or you can hire a private driver like I did and pay USD$100. I heard that the shuttle service is pretty safe.

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Surrounded by volcanoes and indigenous villages, the lake offers a serene escape. Stay in one of the lakeside towns like Panajachel, San Pedro, San Marcos, Santa Cruz or Santa Catarina. You can get to Santa Catarina by car or tuktuk (motorized vehicle for 3-4), and take a short ferry ride to San Pedro, Santa Cruz and San Marcos.

Charlie (left, my tour guide and friend) and Miguel, a new friend I met there from Colombia. Amazing guys!

I met Julie from New York when I offered to take her photos. Gaby is Charlie’s best friend. Great group!

There are many small hotels by the lake which are very charming and fairly inexpensive. I stayed at Villa Santa Catarina and it was absolutely peaceful and gorgeous. The only downside are – 1) There are no restaurants outside the hotel (but many street food vendors) 2) You have to take a tuktuk to get to a ferry. HOWEVER, the upside is, it is very tranquil and peaceful because it is off the beaten path. To book this hotel: https://www.villasdeguatemala.com/es/villa-santa-catarina (Rates go for $85 to $100 and it includes a delicious breakfast).

Airbnb has incredible Conde Nast-worthy lake houses that will make you the envy of your social circle. The best part? Many are under $150 for a 1 bedroom with a view of the 3 glorious volcanoes and the lake. (There are even gems for $50/night).

Days six and seven are dedicated to exploring the beauty of Lake Atitlan. Take a boat tour to visit the charming villages of Santiago Atitlan, San Marcos, and Santa Cruz. Engage with the indigenous Mayan communities, known for their vibrant textiles and handicrafts.

For adventure seekers, consider hiking one of the surrounding volcanoes for panoramic views of the lake and its surroundings. There are so many hiking trails for all levels. We managed to hike several hills and the view was absolutely incredible.

Wind down your week with yoga by the lake or a relaxing spa day. Have a cerveza or two from any of the beautiful cantinas. I hired a local masseuse for only $35. I also had a foot massage at a local spa for $28.

The lake is so peaceful, I can stay here for a week and not get bored. (With $40 massages, yoga and delicious fruit salad – I am a happy camper).

A week split between the historical wonders of Antigua and the tranquil beauty of Lake Atitlan provides a perfect balance of culture, history, and natural splendor. As you bid farewell to this enchanting region, take with you not just memories of picturesque landscapes but a deep appreciation for the rich tapestry of Guatemala’s cultural heritage.

Top Neighborhoods in Paros, Greece

Exploring the Timeless Beauty of Paros

Nestled in the heart of the Cyclades archipelago in Greece, the picturesque island of Paros beckons travelers with its enchanting landscapes, crystal-clear waters, captivating traditional charm and wonderful locals. Renowned for its traditional whitewashed buildings, idyllic beaches, and rich history, Paros has become an increasingly popular destination for tourists seeking a perfect blend of relaxation, culture, and natural beauty.

President Barack Obama and the first lady were both in Paros vacationing at the same time I was on the island. Last year, I was on the island at the same time James Franco was visiting. We were at the same restaurant Stratheros, just a table away. Then two years ago, Justin Bieber and wife Hayley, were on there the same time I was visiting.

Join us as we embark on a virtual journey to discover the top tourist spots that make Paros an irresistible gem in the Aegean Sea for these celebrities:

  1. Parikia – The Charming Capital:

Your exploration of Paros begins in Parikia, the island’s vibrant capital. This enchanting town welcomes you with its narrow streets, traditional architecture, and a delightful waterfront lined with tavernas and cafes. Stroll through the winding alleys of the old town, visit the historic Church of Panagia Ekatontapyliani (Our Lady of a Hundred Gates), and immerse yourself in the captivating atmosphere of this ancient Greek port. Great shopping on these winding alleys! Greek designers are very talented! I always come home with a suitcase filled with locally-sourced products.

  1. Naoussa – A Seaside Paradise:

Located on the northern coast of Paros, the quaint fishing village of Naoussa is a must-visit destination for travelers. Its picturesque harbor, adorned with colorful fishing boats and lined with charming waterfront restaurants, exudes a romantic ambiance. Explore the narrow streets filled with boutique shops, visit the Venetian castle, and bask in the idyllic beaches nearby, such as Kolymbithres Beach, known for its unique granite rock formations.

  1. Lefkes – A Step Back in Time:

Escape the coastal allure and venture inland to the picturesque village of Lefkes, situated in the heart of Paros. Immerse yourself in the island’s rich history and traditional way of life as you wander through its whitewashed houses, Byzantine churches, and winding stone paths. Don’t miss the opportunity to hike along the Byzantine Road, offering breathtaking views of the island’s verdant landscapes.

  1. Golden Beach and Pounda – Paradise for Watersports Enthusiasts:

Paros boasts some of the most stunning beaches in the Aegean, and Golden Beach (Chrissi Akti) is a paradise for watersports enthusiasts. With its golden sand and turquoise waters, this expansive beach offers excellent conditions for windsurfing, kiteboarding, and other water activities. If you prefer a more relaxed atmosphere, head to Pounda Beach, where you can enjoy the tranquil surroundings or take a short boat ride to the neighboring island of Antiparos.

  1. Antiparos – A Hidden Gem:

While technically a separate island, Antiparos is easily accessible from Paros and well worth a visit. This unspoiled paradise captivates visitors with its laid-back atmosphere, pristine beaches, and charming cave, the Antiparos Cave. Explore the winding streets of the main town, relax on secluded beaches, and savor the tranquility that defines this hidden gem of the Cyclades. Tom Hanks and wife Rita has a house on this island.

Paros, with its unique blend of natural beauty, rich history, and timeless charm, offers a truly unforgettable Greek island experience. From the captivating capital of Parikia to the romantic village of Naoussa, and from the windsurfing paradise of Golden Beach to the hidden gem of Antiparos, every corner of this idyllic island has something special to offer. Whether you seek relaxation on pristine beaches, a glimpse into ancient Greek culture, or an adventure on the turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea, Paros is a destination that will undoubtedly leave you with lasting memories. So, pack your bags and embark on this wonderful journey.

 

Discovering Santorini’s Secret Treasures (An insider’s guide)

“But Santorini is so touristy,” is what everyone says.

They are absolutely right. I have been to Santorini five times, and the towns of Fira and Oia are getting more and more crowded by the season. Sometimes, you can’t even find a space to stand on.

While the main attractions of Santorini are undeniably captivating, let’s embark on a journey to explore some lesser-known, hidden tourist attractions that offer a unique perspective on this Greek paradise. Prepare to be amazed as I unveil the secrets of Santorini’s off-the-beaten-path gems.

  1. Amoudi Bay: Tucked away below the iconic village of Oia lies Amoudi Bay, a hidden coastal enclave that feels like a world of its own. A scenic hike down the cliffside will lead you to this picturesque harbor, where colorful fishing boats bob in the crystal-clear turquoise waters. Here, you can savor the freshest seafood at one of the charming tavernas while enjoying breathtaking views of the Caldera. For the adventurous, take a dip in the inviting waters or even try cliff jumping for an adrenaline rush.
  2. Pyrgos Village: Escape the crowds and head inland to Pyrgos, a tranquil hilltop village that exudes traditional Cycladic charm. With its labyrinthine alleyways and Cycladic architecture, Pyrgos offers a glimpse into the island’s rich history. Climb to the top of the medieval Kastelli, the village’s highest point, and be rewarded with panoramic views of Santorini’s vineyards and the Aegean Sea. Explore the quaint shops, indulge in local delicacies, and immerse yourself in the slow-paced ambiance of Pyrgos.
  3. Akrotiri Archaeological Site: Step back in time at the captivating Akrotiri Archaeological Site, often referred to as the “Pompeii of the Aegean.” This Minoan Bronze Age settlement was preserved by volcanic ash for centuries, offering an unparalleled glimpse into ancient Santorini. Wander through the well-preserved ruins, marvel at the intricate frescoes, and learn about the lives of the inhabitants who thrived here thousands of years ago. This archaeological gem is a must-visit for history enthusiasts.
  4. Vlychada Beach: Escape the crowded shores of Kamari and Perissa and make your way to Vlychada Beach, a hidden gem with a distinct lunar landscape. Nestled in a secluded bay, this beach boasts dramatic cliffs sculpted by wind and sea, resembling an otherworldly setting. Relax on the unique grayish-black sand, soak up the sun, and admire the rock formations that add an ethereal touch to the scenery. The tranquil ambiance and natural beauty of Vlychada Beach make it a true hidden paradise.
  5. Megalochori Village: Immerse yourself in the authentic village life of Santorini by visiting Megalochori. Wander through its narrow streets adorned with bougainvillea-covered houses and traditional wineries. Take a leisurely stroll to the village square, where you can sip on local wines, savor Greek delicacies, and engage in friendly conversations with the welcoming locals. Megalochori offers an unspoiled glimpse into the island’s traditional way of life.

6. Fishing Boat Trip: Overall, fishing boat trips in Santorini offer a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty of the island, engage in a relaxing activity, and potentially catch some delicious fish. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a curious traveler, this experience can be a memorable addition to your Santorini itinerary. I highly recommend this company owned by my violinist friend Antoni’s family. You can learn more about the excursions at: www.florafishingtours.com/el

EXTRA TIPS:

a) While most guide books will tell you that the best place to watch the sunset is Oia, try to go to Pyrgos instead. There are lovely wine bars on top and it is not nearly as packed.

b) You definitely need to visit Oia and Fira, but try to get there at 7:00 am so that you can easily find parking and beat the Cruise ship crowd that arrive around 10:00 am.

c) Rent a car or a motobike and venture out to uncharted areas! Seek out these hidden gems and create unforgettable memories in this Aegean paradise.

 

Traveling to Koufonesia: A Hidden Gem in Greece

While popular tourist spots like Athens, Santorini, and Mykonos attract thousands of visitors each year, there are still hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Welcome to Koufonesia, a picturesque island tucked away in the Aegean Sea, offering an authentic Greek experience away from the crowds.

Koufonesia is so small, its full time residents is less than 500 people. There is no airport, hospital or car rental companies on the island. There are, however, bike rental companies.

Arriving in Koufonesia

To reach Koufonesia, you’ll need to take a ferry from the port of Piraeus (in Athens) or other neighboring islands such as Santorini, Naxos, Paros or Syros. As you approach the island, you’ll be mesmerized by its rugged coastline, crystal-clear waters, and the scent of olive trees lingering in the air. Koufonesia may be lesser-known, but its beauty rivals that of any famous Greek island.

Idyllic Beaches

One of the main draws of Koufonesia is its pristine beaches, each with its own unique charm. Agios Sostis is a secluded sandy cove, perfect for those seeking peace and tranquility. For water sports enthusiasts, Fokos Beach offers excellent conditions for windsurfing and snorkeling. Don’t forget to visit Tsigrado Beach, accessible only by boat or a short hike, where you can bask in the sun and swim in the turquoise waters.

There is Peri Beach which is quite a trek- but definitely worth it! There is a heart=shaped natural pool there that is just absolutely beautiful/

Captivating Villages

The island’s villages are straight out of a postcard, boasting traditional Greek architecture, narrow cobblestone streets, and vibrant bougainvillea adorning the white-washed houses. Wander through the alleys of Ano Meria, a charming village perched on a hilltop, and catch breathtaking views of the Aegean Sea. Embrace the laid-back atmosphere as you sip on a cup of Greek coffee at a local café and immerse yourself in the warmth of Koufonesia’s friendly residents. The past place to watch the sunset is at Milos Koufonesia – a traditional windmill that is now a chic lounge bar.

Delightful Gastronomy

Greek cuisine is renowned worldwide, and Koufonesia doesn’t disappoint. Indulge in mouthwatering dishes, fresh from the sea to your plate. Head to a taverna and savor the catch of the day, grilled to perfection and accompanied by a refreshing Greek salad and homemade tzatziki. Koufonesia is also famous for its locally produced olive oil, a staple ingredient in many dishes, adding a unique touch to every meal.

The best meal we had on the island was for dinner at Capt Nikos. It is a family-owned restaurant on top of the hill.

Exploring Historical Treasures

Despite its small size, Koufonesia is steeped in history. Visit the ancient ruins of Kastri, a prehistoric settlement, and imagine life on the island centuries ago. The Church of Panagia, with its intricate frescoes and panoramic views, is a testament to the island’s deep-rooted religious traditions. Explore the nearby archaeological sites and gain insight into Koufonesia’s fascinating past.

Sunset Magic

Sunset in Koufonesia is a magical experience. Find a spot along the coastline, whether it’s a quiet beach or a cliff-top viewpoint, and witness the sun painting the sky in a myriad of hues. As the day draws to a close, you’ll understand why this place is considered a hidden gem, a paradise for those who seek serenity and natural beauty.

Final Thoughts

If you’re yearning for an authentic Greek experience, away from the tourist crowds, Koufonesia is the answer. This hidden gem in the Aegean Sea invites you to embrace the simplicity and charm of island life. Explore idyllic beaches, captivating villages, and immerse yourself in Greek culture and history. Koufonesia is a treasure waiting to be discovered, offering an unforgettable journey that will leave you with memories to cherish for a lifetime. So, pack your bags and set sail to this enchanting island.

 

Koufonesia is Mykonos 40 years ago.

Koufonesia is a very peaceful and quaint island. Unlike Mykonos, there is no Fendi store here, no big parties, €100 cabanas, papparazzis or €400/person dinners. Unlike Santorini, the cruise ships does not stop here, and there are no tourist buses. There arent even rental car companies on the island. Instead, there are bike rental shops and water taxis that can take you from one beach to another. People also walk from one beach to another.

I travelled with my Greek friend Vasilis from neighboring island Paros. The ferry took an hour and 45 minutes and cost €45 each way (around $52 USD). The ferry boats in Greece are fairly big and comfortable. You can buy your ferry tickets at ferryscanner.com.

If you go to a restaurant here, you can see Grand ma in the kitchen and the grand children serving dishes. The fish of the day was caught by their close friends or cousins who are fishermen. This is how I remember Mykonos when I first visited 14 years ago.

This was kinda how Boracay was when I first went there in 1998- before Jollibee, Mcdonalds and Starbucks opened.

I didn’t bring my DSLR Yes, I regret it. The place is insane stunning. I have not seen acqua blue waters like what I see here.

Because the island is quaint, you don’t have a lot of hotel choices. I was unusually picky this time because I wanted to splurge on this trip and check off all the boxes- proximity to the beach, pool, access to the town and port, and nicely updated bathrooms. We found Paradise Hotel after a long search.  And the hotel did not disappoint. The minute we got to the property, my jaw dropped! It definitely has the island vibe I was looking for.

The staff picked us up at the port for free, and our room was incredibly gorgeous. The rooms are updated and immaculately clean. The staff were also beyond friendly and helpful. We appreciate their kindness and flexibility with our requests. Great hotel and I highly recommend it!

If you visit- make sure you have cocktails at Milos Koufonesia and eat at Capt Nico.

I hope that the island keeps its charm. The only way to do this is to keep is a secret. So promise me not to tell anyone. Okay?



The balcony of Paradise Hotel
The view from Milos Koufonesia Bar

Tsibog, a Filipino Restaurant in Sicily

I’m While I love Italian food, it kinda got too much after 3 days. In Sicily, the food selection is kinda limited- pizza, pasta, and panini at every corner.

So when I learned that there is a Filipino restaurant a mile away, I was determined to go despite the rain and my exhaustion. I took the Bird (rental scooter) in the rain, and drove on cobblestones just to go buy pancit, sisig and menudo with rice. My sister was like “Please don’t hurt yourself”.

Thankfully, I got back safely and we devoured it in our hotel room! Yummmm! It was definitely worth risking my life for .

We have a cousin who lives in Palermo and we have not seen her in over 30 years. I asked the restaurant owner if she knows her since there are only 1,000 Filipinos in Palermo. By coincidence- they know each other and she even called her for me. So we got to facetime each other and got caught up. The owner of the restaurant and her son were so incredibly kind and friendly.

Tsibog is at Via Ugo Basi 41, Palermo. When you visit, please order their Bihon. It is absolutely out of this world!

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20 Tips You Must Know Before Going to Greece

Greece is a beautiful country with a rich history and culture. If you are planning a trip to Greece, here are some tips to help make your travels more enjoyable:

  1. WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO GO? To get the best deals, the best time to visit are the months of April and May, or Sept and October. Hotels are more affordable, weather is also a bit cooler and beaches won’t be as packed. June through August are the peak months and hotels are more expensive. Greece is pretty much closed for business from mid October through mid March.
  2. BOOK AHEAD. To avoid long lines and overcrowded attractions, plan your trip in advance and book your accommodations, flights, and tours ahead of time. It is hard to go wrong with hotels on the islands. Greek locals and hoteliers have great taste when it comes to accommodations. They love to entertain and are obsessed with cleanliness. Even inexpensive hotels are beautiful and clean.
  3. DRESS AND PACK LIGHT. Greece can get very hot during the summer months, so be sure to dress in light, breathable clothing. However, remember to dress appropriately when visiting religious sites, such as churches and monasteries, by covering your shoulders and legs. No need to bring special shoes – the official footwear in Greece are flip flops during the day and stylish sandals at night.
  4. TRY THE LOCAL CUISINE. Greek cuisine is delicious and varied, so make sure to try as many local dishes as possible. From fresh seafood to souvlaki and tzatziki, the food in Greece is sure to delight your taste buds. Ask your hotel owner for suggestions. They know all the secret places that are good and inexpensive.
  5. BRING CASH. While credit cards are widely accepted in larger cities and tourist areas, it’s always a good idea to carry cash with you. Many small shops and restaurants only accept cash, and some rural areas may not have ATMs.
  6. LEARN BASIC GREEK WORDS. While many Greeks speak English, it’s always appreciated when tourists make an effort to speak the local language. Learn some basic Greek phrases such as “hello” (yasou), “thank you” (efharisto), and “please” (parakalo).
  7. BE KIND AND GENEROUS. The tipping practice, according to handbooks, is “just leave your change” after dinner. WRONG! The American tourists ruined this for everyone. Always leave at least 10% for the staff (15% if you’re REALLY happy with your meal and service).
  8. BE RESPECTFUL OF CUSTOMS. Greece is a surprisingly a conservative country, especially when it comes to public behavior. Always be respectful of local customs and traditions, especially when visiting religious sites. At the beach, you can wear whatever you want. But when going out at night, dress nice.
  9. BEFRIEND THE LOCALS. If a local invites you to dinner at their home- don’t even think about it, say “YES”. Greek people are such kind, hospitable and loving people. Once they welcome you to their home, you are FAMILY to them. They would give their own bed for you! An amazing Greek friend’s family insisted I stay at their house for 2 weeks. They also fed me non stop and loaned me their car during the duration of my stay.
  10. EXPLORE BEYOND. While Athens, Santorini, and Mykonos are popular tourist destinations, Greece has much more to offer. Consider exploring some of the lesser-known islands, such as Patmos, Ios, Antiparos, Naxos or Paros, or visiting some of the smaller towns and villages on the mainland.
  11. PACK FOR COMFORT. Wear your most comfortable outfits. Remember that whatever you bring, you have to haul this around from one island to another. I have traveled to Greece for a month with one small suitcase. I generally wash my clothes and they dry easily. They also have inexpensive laundry services around the island.
  12. BE STYLISH! The Greek islands are probably one of the most instagrammable countries in the world, so BRING FABULOUS outfits! You will be the envy of all your friends. Everyone looks like an influencer here. LOL.
  13. THE ATHENS AIRPORT IS VERY FAR FROM TOWN. It is an expensive cab ride ($50 to $60). So plan your trip accordingly. If you’re visiting the islands, it may be faster, easier and cheaper to take a ferry.
  14. USE THE FERRY. The inter-island ferries between islands is absolutely beautiful (and generally safe). They are almost never on time, but they are beautiful inside. If you have an option between a large or a small ferry, go with the larger one. The larger the boat, the more amenities it has. GET TO THE FERRY 15 MIN BEFORE DEPARTURE. Most passengers think that they have to be there 1 hour before your ferry schedule. Arrive about only 15 minutes before arrival. You will just be burning under the sun. Most likely, the ferry will be late anyway. LOL.
  15. YOU CAN HAGGLE. If you visit during off season, you can haggle. I have done this at rental car companies. You can get as much as 20% to 25% off if you have bargaining skills. “Hi, the other rental car company only charges 40 Euros a day (they are not LOL), but they don’t have the type of car I want. Can you match it?” If they have 10 cars on their lot, they will match it.
  16. VISIT SANTORINI ANYWAY. Yes, Santorini is insanely touristy. But you have to visit it at least once in your lifetime. Stay in Akrotiri, a less touristy part of the island.
  17. AVOID THE CROWD. If you want to avoid the crowd, walk around Oia and Fira (or any touristy town) from 7:00 am to 10:00 am. That is before all the cruise ship people show up, or from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm, when all the cruise ship crowd are gone. It will be just you and the local cats. LOL.
  18. BUY A SIMM CARD. There are many kiosks that sell them for under 10 Euros and they are good for 1 month. It will keep you connected to the world.
  19. PARTY FIRST! If Mykonos is on your itinerary, visit Mykonos FIRST. You would most likely party a lot. And it is best to get the partying out of the way, and you can recover in other islands after. You won’t want to fly back to the US with a massive hangover.
  20. ATTEND THE LOCAL EVENTS. If you find yourself in Greece during Easter Sunday, that is their most celebrated holiday. You are in for a treat! You can partake in this local, festive tradition and you can party and dine with the locals. They have many other holidays and cultural events (like dance or concerts) that are geared for locals. Try to ask your hotel owner or locals if they know of any events in town.

Overall, Greece is a beautiful and fascinating country that offers something for every type of traveler. With a little preparation and an open mind, your trip to Greece is sure to be a memorable one.

If you need a travel agent to help plan your trip- my friend Mina’s travel agency is one of the most reputable Greek travel agencies. Visit their website at: https://www.travelive.com/ or call 1-888-377-5483. They can help you in planning the most perfect itinerary that fits your budget. PLEASE TELL THEM THAT EDWIN REFERRED YOU! You will get an extra special attention!

I don’t know a single a person who went to Greece and did not have an amazing time.

 

My Greek posse in Paros! They are all so amazingly kind, generous and thoughtful. Top – Christos, Giannis and Nikos. Bottom row – Vasilis and Sarantos.

My two Greek BFFs who I met in Paros. I met Sarantos (right) one evening when he found my wallet at the restaurant he works at. I was island hopping during COVID and felt lonely halfway through the trip. “Come back here to Paros,” he said, “You have friends here.” So I came back and he introduced me to his family and friends (who later became my friends too). They have visited me in LA twice, and I have visited them in Greece twice.

 

The whole posse during my good bye dinner in Greece.

 

My Greek posse in Paros! They are all so amazingly kind, generous and thoughtful. Top – Christos, Giannis and Nikos. Bottom row – Vasilis and Sarantos.

My two Greek BFFs who I met in Paros. I met Sarantos (right) one evening when he found my wallet at the restaurant he works at. I was island hopping during COVID and felt lonely halfway through the trip. “Come back here to Paros,” he said, “You have friends here.” So I came back and he introduced me to his family and friends (who later became my friends too). They have visited me in LA twice, and I have visited them in Greece twice.

 

The whole posse during my good bye dinner in Greece.