Oh, happy 2020. Last winter, O and I had the pleasure to stay at the legendary Skywalker Ranch. Because O’s mom was teaching George Lucas’s daughter horse riding + Chinese classes…. we were able to enjoy such a unique opportunity with O’s family. Who knows how to polo and speak Chinese and English well in the westside? Mama Yang obviously. So. badass.

For that holiday, we stayed at one of the bed and breakfast inns. I usually don’t really like rustic interiors, but I’d say that the farm-like furniture with bright whites, surrounded by cool Skywalker decor made me feel like I was in a clean, cozy and kickass cabin.

Our artisanal bed and breakfast included a spacious living room, two bedrooms (one master), one spacious kitchen and dining room, and two bathrooms. Of course, the bathroom was a huge plus to me because it included a bathtub and gold finishes-perfect for reading and relaxing.

O and I’d slip out by about 6AM, eat some cereal or some breakfast in the kitchen next door, slide a Skywalker ranch bike out, and roam throughout the ranch, gardens, vineyards. Breezing through trees made me feel like I was speeding through the kickass bike chase in Endor  – but without stormtroopers. (Refer to Star Wars Episode VI, Return of the Jedi)

By the time we reached Lake Ewok, I felt like a compulsive Star Wars maniac especially when holding the stuffed Ewok toy. There was something also magical to see studio where all the magic happened and Lucas’s old Victorian residence.

Aside from the lush fields, we also played with some of the residing animals including goats, which were delightful to feed.

Oh, and did I mention that her horse was at the ranch? She wanted to keep her gorgeous quarter horse healthy and active and even gave me an opportunity to ride her horse. I’ve never been so prouder to be with my second family.

Goals for our future home. Stoked for 2020.


My favorite type of tofu is now the yuuba. With a burner heating a pot of tofu soup,  I’ve learned to use a bamboo stick to pick up layers and layers of tofu skins gradually. Who knew tofu could be served in so many ways. The first time I came to this comforting tofu restaurant was with my Kyoto friend, Rika-chan. Ever since then, it’s been a tradition for me to visit the Kiyomizudera temple and tofu restaurant everytime I come to Kyoto. And of course, end with tofu ice cream – creamy, slightly sweet with subtle flavors of soymilk and tofu.

Before/after tofu and ice cream I know it’s always a good idea to swing by Kiyomizu dera aka “Water Temple” – which was and is always particularly beautiful in the fall, not necessarily for their light show nor the swarms of tourists in kimonos, but how gorgeously red and vibrant it stands with bright leaves – naturally and from all angles.

Kiyomizu dera (清水寺)


Fushimi Inari Taisha 伏見稲荷大社)

This Shinto shrine of thousands of gorgeous Torii gates is perhaps most infamous. there’s no wonder why it’s featured in so many films, music videos, posters, art in general. This is hands down, a favorite stop that I love walking up in early mornings. While I should’ve truly believed my friend that there isn’t much at the top, O and I hiked to the top.


% ARABICA Kyoto Arashiyama

3-47, Sagatenryuji Susukinobabacho, Ukyo-ku
Kyoto 616-8385 Japan

Although I never like to wait in long lines nor be associated with coffee snobs, I always make time for Arabica Coffee, particularly the one next to the breathtaking Arashiyama river.  After I saw Arabica Coffee in a magazine last year, A and I taxied over first thing in the morning and was alright with just a few people in front of us in line; A liked it so much that he went again the next day – and bought a bag of coffee beans to bring back home. Not sure if we were just lucky then going in early in the morning or if it’s gained so much more popular by now, but even after O and I taxied over on a Friday morning, we had to wait a good 30-ish+ minutes in a line full of other coffee enthusiasts/photographers/foreigners around the world. No, they don’t offer seating, but yes you can sit outside and enjoy the gorgeous scenery or you have to rent that space for $10 per hour.

I’m still seriously amused by their consistency in serving superb coffee  in such small space with mobs of customers. Something about the coffee beans being brought from high elevations elevates my experience.

Kinkakuji (金閣寺)

I also tell my friends who want to see the Golden pavillion, to visit either by sunrise/early morning or sunset; it’s one of the best things you could do for your soul. O and I arrived shortly before it started raining and the sun set, which created such a heavenly experience.


Since I’ve been particularly fascinated with history and learned more about samurai and imperial history, I fall in love with Nijo castle and am always mesmerized by how sophisticated the Japanese culture has been throughout centuries and how well they preserve their culture. Although photos are prohibited, I well…. accidentally snagged a few.

Kyoto wouldn’t be Kyoto for me without the nostalgic Mister Donut “pon-de-ring” – this very chewy sugar coated donut  that’s filled with mochi. Thank God there is one in Kyoto station. I always love to snag one (or two) as soon as I arrive and just before I leave. Something about that texture in donut form…

Our one night stay in our tiny little hotel in Shimogyo-ku was not only traditional and clean, but so serene with the phenomenal view. Who knew sleeping on the floor could be so dreamy. This time I also appreciated Kyoto just as much or more than I had Tokyo. Not sure if it’s because I’ve gotten older, or if it’s because I was so much busier in Tokyo meeting with friends and old coworkers, or if it’s a mix of those and Kyoto’s traditional architecture and general serenity made it so much more peaceful than our lives  in New York City.