In February of this year, I took a trip with my family to Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Groggily stumbling off the plane deathly exhausted after a 16 hour flight and a crazy difference in time zones. Once I managed to hobble out of the airport, I shielded my eyes from the blinding light. After adjusting to the light, I opened my eyes and was immediately reinvigorated by the smell (different countries have a different smell in their air), sounds, movement, and the people of Japan. I love that feeling of stepping into a new country and feeling the anticipation of walking in a locals shoes for a few days just gets me giddy with excitement. Japan is a country that I learned is so rich in a culture that has been developing for the thousands of years that the local people have been innovating. From the preparation of the food they eat to the way they dress and even the way the act. I learned to love the way people are and the mild OCD everyone has about things, like what to do before they walk into a room or how to eat sushi. It is a country where there's a place for everything and everything in its place. I really appreciate the order that is in their daily lives, which makes life there feel more crisp and neat. The Japanese go out of their way to be polite and that quality is so prevalent in their moral beliefs. Japan is a beautiful country with a buzzing and booming city just minutes away from picturesque havens of serenity. I have a doting affection for Japan mainly for the reason of the people. The incomparable "welcome to my country, I hope you love it" that I received persistently made me feel so gladly received into a culture that I know so little about prior to diving into it. From Japan, we jumped on a plane to the capital of Taiwan, Taipei. If you have been to loud and crowded mainland China, Taipei is a far way from that. None of those infamously loud talking, crowd flocking people are in Taiwan. They are a different breed, they talk with a soft warmness and love to share what they love about their home. After meeting with the locals and cab drivers everyone seems so happy to live in Taiwan and they all know where the best place to eat is. Food is a huge (HUGE) part of the Taiwanese identity. They have such mouth-wateringly delicious foods. Taipei is where the original location of Din Tai Fung (a hugely popular worldwide chain stores that specialize in soup dumplings and other Taiwanese specialties) is located. There you also have the opportunity to devour some beef noodles or a fried chicken bun or noodles with meat sauce. However, the most famous foods in Taiwan are in their legendary night markets. Walking through all the stalls, the steam and flavors waft through the air, tantalizing your palate until you beg for food. At the markets you can find the most tasty and interesting foods like a sausage cooked in a rice sausage or fried crabs or live Thai prawns. Taipei is a city where food is the prevalent theme, but there is also lots of fun that you can have in the city.

Following my adventures in Taipei, we made our way to the city of Hong Kong. Walking out of the airport, I still on that feeling of a post-Japan elation and faith in humanity. It didn't last too long. In my experience, the people of Hong Kong are rushed to the point that they have left manners behind. A place I really did enjoy was outside of the frenetic tumult of the city. On Lantau Island (just a short cable car ride away from Hong Kong) is where rising above the people, a tranquil face is staring back at you as you climb the steps to be in his presents. It is the Tian Tan Buddha. This towering bronze sculpture is a much needed reminder for the scrambling city to just take a breath and be a little more centered. Near there is also the Wisdom Path where you can look at these Sutras carved into timber and planted around a mountain path. It is so beautiful being up there. Hong Kong, though not the most courteous of cities has its own hidden beauties.

These cities that I visited are steeped in their own captivating and vibrant cultures that are so different from my own. I loved trying the foods and learning about their different beliefs. I learned so much about the cities I went to and got to walk in a local's shoes for a few days. I love traveling because I get to see how people on the other side of the world live. I documented my journey and put it into this book. I hope you enjoy it.