SOTM Tour: Month Nine of Twelve

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Kate in Macau

I’m writing this post from the sunny town of Jacksonville, Florida, as I reflect on the previous month’s travels. During this month, I found two new cities to love deeply — Hong Kong in New Orleans, I made a very happy return to the US, and I explored some truly interesting places — oh, and had one very itchy incident.

Here’s the best of Month Nine!

French Quarter

Destinations Visited

Hong Kong


San Francisco and Los Angeles, California

New Orleans, Louisiana

San Francisco Best View

Favorite Destinations

Hong Kong — The city I’ve been waiting for. It combines everything I love about Southeast Asia — street food, markets, fun chaos — with sleek modernity.

San Francisco — Still one of my favorite US cities — breathtakingly beautiful and full of culture.

New Orleans — As fascinating and beguiling as it is delicious, musical…and haunted.

Dim Sum


In Hong Kong, we stayed with our friend Richard and his wonderful family, and we were welcomed so warmly. More on Hong Kong later, but we spent 10 days exploring the city to the fullest, eating tons of amazing Cantonese food, and hanging out with cool friends we met along the way. We finished with a fun and colorful day trip to Macau.

In San Francisco, we walked all over the place, ate all over the place, explored tons of different neighborhoods, and adjusted slowly to the time change, which left us feeling like zombies for most of the time (and led to a few House of Cards marathons at 5 AM). And then there was Alcatraz!

Santa Monica

In Los Angeles, it was mostly about hanging out with friends — we stayed with Mario’s friend Crystal, hung out with her friend Cathy, and met up with plenty of other friends along the way — from my college bud Victoria and her boyfriend Nick to Mario’s actress friend Mara (also known as Pawnee’s finest porn star on Parks and Recreation).

In between Los Angeles and New Orleans, a three-hour Denver layover allowed me to meet up with my cousin and longtime online friend Colleen for the first time ever!

In New Orleans, it was undoubtedly celebrating Mardi Gras — which, it turns out, starts long before Fat Tuesday itself. Things really started kicking off on the Friday before. In addition to Mardi Gras, there was exploring the city’s architecture and culinary traditions, along with a dose of spookiness.

And a behind-the-scenes highlight: one way I make money is through Amazon affiliate links (if you click any of my links to Amazon and buy something, I get a small percentage, at no extra cost to you). This month, someone bought a DIAMOND RING from Amazon using my affiliate link! That was nice!

SOTM Aruna

Memorable SOTM Pic

This is Aruna, a woman Mario and I met at a Christmas Eve party on Koh Lanta. The little boy is her son. He was squirming around but stopped perfectly as Mario took this photo.

I love it as a family photo, but also her quote, which translates to, “The good that one does has no immediate recompense. It will come by and of itself.” Find out about why she chose this quote here.

Alligator Cheesecake

Best Thing I Ate

It was between two cheesecakes this month — a red velvet cheesecake from San Francisco and a savory cheesecake from New Orleans — and the latter won out. This is the alligator sausage and shrimp cheesecake from Jacques-Imo’s Cafe in New Orleans.

I know it sounds like a gimmick, but trust me — this concoction is fabulous. It’s similar to a quiche, but it has a level of richness, deepness, meatiness, that takes it to the next level. It is one of those astounding dishes that bends your mind and leaves you marveling afterward.

The cheesecake is served as an appetizer, costs $9, and I gladly would have eaten three or four of them in one sitting.

Green Tortoise, San Francisco

Best Place I Stayed

In San Francisco, we stayed at the Green Tortoise, which is the first hostel I’ve ever stayed at in the US — and one of the best hostels I’ve stayed in, ever! This is a hostel that does everything right.

Some of the great things about the Green Tortoise: free breakfast (including eggs and BAGELS, two rare finds at hostel breakfasts!), free dinner three times per week (!!), and lots of fun activities. The Green Tortoise also runs an adventure travel company with trips to places in California like Death Valley, longer trips within the US, and even some trips to Mexico and Central America.

But the best thing about the Green Tortoise is that it’s located in the heart of North Beach, my favorite neighborhood in San Francisco. North Beach was once the Italian enclave of San Francisco, so there are lots of cafes and restaurants, both Italian and otherwise, and it’s easily situated for access all over the city.

We booked a private room and soon learned that all the private rooms aren’t in the hostel but instead in a quiet house a block away. All the rooms share bathrooms, a kitchen, and laundry machines. For $80 per night for a double room, not just in San Francisco but in the heart of North Beach, the Green Tortoise offers incredibly high value. I highly, highly recommend it.

Santa Monica Pier


This is the first time I’ve said this publicly: I got head lice this month.

I had thought I was going through another round of an itchy scalp and dandruff, which happens to me about once a year, but when I pulled a tiny dark bug out of my hair, I thought, “That better not be what I think it is,” and ignored it.

Well, a second bug came out a few days later. It was no big deal. I shampooed my hair with lice shampoo (and discovered a few new bugs in the process), combed out my scalp painstakingly for more than an hour (found a few more there), and I’ve been fine since. I’m about to do the second “just in case” round of washing.

Macau at Night

Most Popular Photo on Instagram

It wasn’t easy getting a shot at night in the rain with lots of motion, but this image of Macau’s old town at night paid off. With 232 likes, it’s my seventh most liked photo of all time.


What I Read This Month

Nothing! Eek! It’s been a very busy month. But I have started two books: The Queen of Hearts and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Expect more on them soon.

Pensacola Beach

Coming Up in Month Ten

We’re a week into Month Ten and have been spending it on our #SouthUSA Road Trip! It’s been fascinating so far, and I can’t wait to write about it in depth.

The road trip will take us from Louisiana to South Carolina via Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Georgia. Next up is an Amtrak ride from Charleston to DC, then hopping across to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and finally the Boston area, where I will see my family for the first time in nearly a year.

Any suggestions for month ten? Let me know!

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25 thoughts on “SOTM Tour: Month Nine of Twelve”

  1. You’ve had a streak of bad luck with those pesky bugs… first “fleas” and now lice D:! At least your travels and good food experiences help make up for it!

  2. Can’t wait to hear about Hong Kong as I’m going there in 2 weeks for ten days also. I also loved San Fran and Bangkok is one of my favourite cities ever visited so I hope I also love HK!!

  3. My name is on your blog! That means I’m famous. I had such a lovely, lovely time meeting you and Mario, who was absolutely charming. I’m so proud that we are family, and following your adventures is something I absolutely love. It’s a little escape in my mornings when LittleM takes a nap. I hope sometime you make it back to Colorado and I can truly show you the state I love! And I hope you enjoy Queen!

  4. You are just whipping through the whole world! And lice. Nooooo! No nononno. I had it once as a kid. Ew. Ewwwww. ew. So sorry. It’s traumatic. I think there’s something happening with the itchy skin bugs lately — fleas and ticks have been extra bad the last couple of years. My dogs got fleas for the first time last year (even though I give them a monthly treatment), and it was just… horrific. It took over a month to get rid of them. Anyway. This is my long-winded (and gross) way of saying I hear ya, girl. And I feel your pain.

    But Alcatraz!! I’ve been twice — last time was a night tour last year. So cool!

  5. I used to laugh at the people in Thailand actually wearing winter coats when it dropped to a bone chilling 70 degrees at the beach at night. I know what you mean about freezing like zombies. Once you’ve lived in a tropical climate for a few years it takes a while to get used to the cool weather again. When I moved back to California I thought I would freeze the first year, but I acclimated to it over time until now I feel comfortable again.

  6. OK, so you know that in Charleston, you have to eat ALL THE FOOD, right? Right. Jestine’s Kitchen (the fried chicken! the Coca-Cola cake!), Poogan’s Porch, the desserts at Kaminsky’s, and my best find was Ernie’s, which doesn’t look like anything on the outside, but it does absolutely amazing (and cheap) soul food. Go just before lunch to get your order in before the rush hour. The Battery is also a beautiful area to walk around and marvel at all the gorgeous southern mansions that line the oceanfront.

    That alligator and shrimp sausage sounds absolutely divine, and your posts on Facebook about New Orleans are making me reallllly want to go! Oh, and I stayed at the Green Tortoise, too, and it was wonderful. The breakfasts were pretty damn good. Diplomatic Stay in D.C. was another great hostel, if you haven’t yet sorted out accommodation there yet.

    p.s. that photo of the Painted Ladies in San Francisco in this post? Amazing.

  7. I’ve never stayed in a U.S. hostel either, but was curious what they were like compared to those overseas. I’ll have to be sure to check out Green Tortoise next time I’m in San Francisco.

    1. I think I got them in San Francisco. I bought lice shampoo at Walgreen’s, and it came with two combs in the package. (Which is good because my crazy curly hair broke one of the combs!)

  8. Love the photo of Aruna and her quote! And jealous of all the food! Though I just got to Iran and am pretty much eating everything in sight – sooo delicious!

  9. You’ve had a busy month but lice? Eeek! Brave of you to say so though. You went to some of my favourite cities:Hong Kong and San Francisco. Happy memories and happy days. You’re coming to Germany soon. If you’re meeting people in Berlin, I’d love to join before flirting off to Poland!

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