Transylvania, Romania: The Land of Dracula

When we hear the place Transylvania, we almost always think about Dracula, the bloody vampire, that always makes a good Halloween story. So, when I visited Transylvania early this year, it's hard not to associate the places, like the Bran Castle to the famous novel "Dracula" by Bram Stoker. 

It’s said that Bram Stoker’s inspiration for the Dracula was a historical character Vlad Tepes or Vlad III, the ruler of Wallachia in the 15th century. During Stoker’s research on the region of Transylvania, he came across the brutal accounts of the atrocities committed by Vlad III, also known as Vlad Dracul, aka Vlad the Impaler. He was known for committing brutal acts of war and was under constant threat of attack from the Ottoman and Hungarian forces. During his infamous retreat from the Ottoman forces, Vlad the Impaler had the bodies of his enemies and his people alike impaled on large spikes in the field surrounding his county.  

The inspiration for the made-up character may have …

Hawaii Adventure Series: Sunset at Hapuna Beach

Dr. Beach named Hapuna Beach as one of the best beaches in America. With sugary white sand stretching for half a mile, Hapuna Beach is best for beach volleyball and other forms of recreation. And with clear water and rock-free bottom, its best for swimming, boogie boarding and body surfing. But for our friend's BF it was best for watching the sunset.  So he took us there late in the afternoon.

After setting up our tent, J went snorkeling. E followed him, and they ended up swimming and chasing the waves. I did swim for a few minutes, but for me, it was about chasing sun-rays, waves, and sunset with my camera. I started taking pictures as soon the sun made its way into the horizon, built its color intensity, and until it faded. 

I was able to capture J & E as he splashed her or they splashed each other playfully and embraced as a single silhouette against the fading sun. 

But my favorite moment was when my 'Mr. Cool’ slipped quietly into the shimmering waters in his surfboard t…

Hawaii Adventure Series: Laupahoehoe and Waipi'O Valley

I’d always assumed that Hawaii was for tourists who just wanted to stay at the beach. After exploring some roads less traveled on the Big Island, I realized how wrong I was. Thanks to 'J' our companion on our Hawaiian adventure. Not only did he drive us around the Big Island, but he did his research and enthusiastically covered miles and miles of road with us, including the drive to Laupahoehoe and Waipio Valley.
Laupahoehoe We suddenly stopped at a lookout off Highway 19. I thought we just stopped to look at the ocean view, but J surprised us by driving the very narrow road to the Laupahoehoe Harbor. He said we’re going to see the memorial village. When we arrived at sea level, we saw a small monument with the names of the school children and teachers killed in the tsunami that hit the island in 1946. The whole area was very scenic with coconut trees and green grass and tall and craggy lava rocks along the shore. It looked very peaceful; the peace was only broken by the sou…

Hawaii Adventure Series: Deep Blue

Our outing was not really in pursuit of dolphins. We hired a boat to go snorkeling at Kealakekua Bay or Captain Cook Bay, the most famous snorkeling area on the Kona coast. We set off from Kalaoa, about an hour boat ride to Kealakekua Bay. It was a beautiful clear day, with fresh air in abundance and temperature in the low 80s. Our boat captain got us underway and we made our way from the harbor into the open sea. Our captain pointing to the area where we’re not supposed to be. To be honest, I was actually nervous not wearing a life jacket with our small boat floating in the deep blue sea with crashing waves. But I assumed that he knew what he was doing.  

I got confused when our captain started talking about snorkeling with the dolphins. Apparently, dolphins were plentiful in the last couple of days. It didn’t take very long before two dolphins came surfing the wave and then a few more followed. Our captain continued giving us precaution and what not to do if we encountered a dol…

Hawaii Adventure Series: Waterfalls and Gardens

WaterfallsI thought I would not be able to appreciate a modest 80 feet waterfall after seeing waterfalls that seemed to have started from the clouds in the Norwegian Fjords weeks before my trip to Hawaii. But I enjoyed the Rainbow Falls as much as I did the many waterfalls I saw in Norway. Perhaps, it was because of its accessibility. The Rainbow Falls are part of the Hawaii State Parks and Wailuku River, the longest river in Hawaii, and flow into a lava cave said to be the home of Hina, a Hawaiian goddess. It’s also called Waianuenue Falls which means “rainbow seen in the water”. It's said that a rainbow can be seen arching across the falls on a sunny morning. It was raining on and off during our visit, so we did not see a rainbow. But it was beautiful nonetheless. 

We planned on hiking the two and a half-mile route from our friend’s house, but because of the rain, we decided to drive and just walked the short trail to the viewpoint facing the waterfalls (there were a big drop …