Thursday, October 4, 2018

Seattle trip 2018 - 4 days in the PNW

Earlier this year, my boyfriend had purchased tickets for the September 29th Childish Gambino concert in Seattle. Although I hadn't intended on being included in the trip, we discussed it later and decided to make a little vacation around the concert. My bf actually graduated from a university in Seattle, so he's comfortable with the area and still has tons of friends there. I had never been to the Pacific Northwest myself and was really looking forward to the short trip so I could get an introduction to it from someone who spent their college years there!

Jump to a section:

Day 0 - Thursday, September 27, 2018
We did a half day at work and then went straight to the airport and got on a 13:00 Hawaiian Airlines flight from HNL to SEA. It was actually a little delayed because we were waiting for other passengers' bags to be loaded on to the plane that needed to make a transfer, but other than that, it went quite smoothly!

Rearranged our Zippys' Zip Pac and Surf Pac to our own liking.

We landed just after 22:00 and then needed to make our way to our accommodations. We booked an Airbnb in Belltown/downtown Seattle which is around 15 miles away from the airport. Instead of taking an Uber directly there which would have cost around $50, we opted to use the light rail system which only cost us $3 each to get to the closest station (Westlake). The ride took around 50 minutes.

We did end up using Uber to get us to the exact Airbnb location since it was pretty late at night by that time and we'd never been to it before. Once arriving, we followed the check-in procedure and called it a night!

It's been a while since I've been to the west coast of the US and the flight was much more pleasant than flying internationally or to the east coast! SEA also seems like a really reasonably organized airport, and I liked that we had different options to get into downtown Seattle even late at night.


Day 1 - Friday, September 28, 2018
We had initially intended on waking up pretty early and starting our day, but thanks to the late night before and the jet lag (thanks 3 hour time difference), we didn't end up making our way to Pike Place Market until about 10:00. It was about a 15-20 minute walk from our apartment, but thanks to the nice, cool autumn weather, it was actually really pleasant and I got to look around for the first time as we slowly made our way there.

We essentially just browsed and I took in all the sights in the area. Aside from food/snacks, we didn't end up buying much but the market area is a lot bigger than I thought it was going to be! It's very extensive and has so much to offer. I understand why it's such a popular destination for locals and tourists.

Stopped for Beecher's mac n cheese -

And a photo op!

Also stopped at the gum wall which apparently usually has more gum, but all you really need is some appropriate cropping to make it seem full!

After we stopped for a drink from Starbucks, next up was the Seattle Aquarium!

My dad loves fish so I grew up going to tons of aquariums. Although some can get a little repetitive, I think the most interesting part is seeing the local variances. For example, this tank had only fish/creatures that you could find in the Seattle/Washington area, and it's certainly different than what we have in Hawaii or what I typically see in Japan.

One of the first few exhibits has several touch tanks with lots of invertebrate that are available to interact with! I was surprised to see so many in this green color.

We continued to make our way around the aquarium, looking at all the different exhibits.

They also had some marine mammals and even some birds (which were hard to capture) in bigger, outdoor exhibits.

We were getting hungry so it was time for lunch! We walked to Westlake because my bf specifically wanted to eat Pike Place Chowder in the Pacific Place Shopping Center which is much less crowded than the actual Pike Place Market location.

Idk ootd selfie in the bathroom because the Airbnb doesn't have the best mirror.

Then we opted to walk back to the apartment (about 20 minutes) which again was nice because I got to do a little more casual sightseeing!

After a brief rest and shoe change (for me!), we walked to the Seattle Center which is super close to the Airbnb - about 5 minutes.
First try to get a selfie with the Space Needle while being way too close to it.

Then, Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum! I snapped quite a few photos that I'm just going to dump here, but unfortunately I didn't take any of the info boards/placards for each exhibit. I feel like those really made some of the pieces stand out (when you understood the background a bit more), so I would highly encourage you to go for yourself if you get the opportunity and take the time to read them and have your own experience if you're intrigued at all!

In addition to the fantastic indoor exhibits which are showcased in dark rooms with black walls, there's also the garden portion of the museum which is a nice contrast and shows how the pieces can work more organically with nature.

We took a break to just relax after the glass museum by finding a place to sit in one of the green areas between the museums. As we were discussing what we'd get for dinner, we looked up one of the restaurants and realized they were having a happy hour special right then and decided to head over immediately!

Along the walk, I took a picture of this purple cabbage looking plant flower thing that was just in some of the landscaping along the street. It was one of my favorite things!

We reached our destination about a 15 minute walk later. Serious Pie! This was a must-do/eat restaurant for my boyfriend and because we made it before happy hour ended, it became practical to try a few more things than we would have at full price.
We ordered 3-half size pizzas which ended up being the perfect amount: 1. the buffalo mozzarella, 2. roasted seasonal mushrooms, 3. prosser heirloom tomatoes with the house bacon. All delicious!

After eating, we stopped at CVS on the way back to the Airbnb to pick up a few snacks and then just relaxed until evening. We ended up meeting with my bf's college friends at one of their apartments and finished the day there. (No pictures for privacy reasons + I didn't take any tbh.)

Looking back at this, I can tell I/we didn't take advantage of Pike Place as much as we should have. I think I often have trouble spending money right off the bat when I first start my trips (unless there's something specific I knew ahead of time I wanted to buy), plus I always feel uneasy in a market with stalls because I feel like if I just walk a little more, maybe there's another vendor with the same item but cheaper which is a terrible mindset to have and not very productive. It was still great to visit and experience, but if I ever go again, I definitely want to BUY something, at least as omiyage.
Although I didn't have many expectations for the Seattle Aquarium and the Chihuly Glass Museum, I think both were really interesting to me because they highlight the local area specifically which is totally new to me. Chihuly has a Native American background and was born in Tacoma and studied at the University of Washington, so it's really nice to see a whole museum dedicated to his iconic work.


Day 2 - Saturday, September 29, 2018
After coming back from his friend's house pretty late the night before, we had another later than usual start, but as it happens, there's nothing really particularly pressing for us to do in the 08:00 -10:00 hours anyway, so it's really just as well that we got a nice night's sleep, especially when we're on vacation with a schedule that allowed for it!

Breakfast was first on the agenda. Bf had looked up places the day before and The 5 Point Cafe was just down the street from our Airbnb and seemed pretty popular for breakfast. There was a small wait to be seated when we signed in at around 11:15, but the weather was very pleasant outside at least.

We were seated at the bar next to the kitchen where there was a TV that was playing a DVD of Catch Me If You Can on a loop. I'm not much of a breakfast foods person but I do like to have something in my stomach, so I just ordered a side of bacon. Bf ordered chicken fried steak.
Tbh this was one of my least favorite eating experiences on the trip despite the really reasonable reviews this restaurant has. The food took forever to come out (meanwhile, we watched tons of plates just sitting in the heating area because it was about 3 feet away from us waiting to be picked up) and since I was right in front of a sink at the bar, I kept smelling the bused, used/dirty dishes from the other tables. I'm one of those weird people who is a bit nauseated at the sight and smell of a bunch of half eaten food all mixed together (especially foods that I don't like to eat myself - of which there are a lot that are specifically breakfast foods), so this was really unpleasant to me as they continued to stack up the dishes and dump out drinks and coffee. My bf knew I was bothered and asked if we could be moved somewhere else (we could see other empty tables), but the waitress told us that since we had already ordered, it was not possible to move. To top it off, once the food arrived, it wasn't as good as my bf had hoped based on what he had read and didn't even bother eating more than half. I don't know if it's actually one of those restaurants that is themed for the wait staff to be a little rude and haughty with mediocre food otherwise, but it's not a place I would recommend personally. 

After our disappointing late breakfast, we took a short walk to the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP). There's a lot of stuff going on in there right away when you enter, but we made our way to the ticket counter and ended up purchasing 2 regular adult admissions ($28 each) + entry to the special MARVEL exhibition ($8 additional each).

Our first stop right next to the ticket counter was "Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame".

Then we continued upstairs to the "MARVEL:Universe of Super Heroes" exhibition where we had to present our extra ticket and could only enter once.
I don't have a lot of personal commentary about this stuff, but the exhibition is pretty extensive and I don't think it was a waste of $8 since it's such a big feature in MoPOP right now. If you're actually a MARVEL fan, I'm sure you'll get a lot out of it. For someone who just goes to the movies if I'm being dragged along, it was still really informative and well done. I really liked the explanations they had for each section, and we probably could have easily spent 2x the amount of time we did in there if we actually read every little thing. (It took us about 45 minutes to just kind of look at everything and closely examine a few.)

"Nivana: Taking Punk to the Masses"
It included a lot of personal items/mementos from the band with specific stories and information. There was also a video about the rise of punk culture which was really interesting that had many personal interviews with different band members.

"Indie Game Revolution"
This one was a dark room with lots of different stations where you could basically play a bunch of indie games. We didn't try very many of them because you'd have to wait in line (most were occupied), but there was a great selection across different kinds of platforms. If we had more time/patience, it would have been cool to try more of them.

"Hendrix: Wild Blue Angel"
I hardly knew/know anything about Jimmy Hendrix or his music, but it was still fantastic to read more about him in this exhibition. I had no idea he was from Seattle. It largely focused on this movement abroad between 1966-1970 which was quite extensive. I really liked how the information was presented with the map and travel tags on it as well as integrating posters and art in between.

"Pearl Jam: Home and Away"
I have to admit, I did more looking in this one than reading. But in my defense, there's a LOT going on in this space and they even let you go upstairs to a lofted area so you can see some of the displays from a different angle. I'm sure Pearl Jam fans would find a ton of interesting things in this exhibition!

"Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic"
This was one of our favorites as a whole exhibition and maybe the easiest for me to relate to as I've actually seen some of these movies or are somewhat familiar with them. It included actual costumes and props from fantasy films as well as some general information about the fantasy genre. There were a few interactive screens as well where you could take a mini quiz to find out what archetype you would fit into and also a create your own digital fantasy map activity.

"Scared to Death: The Thrill of Horror Film"
I thought this was another really well executed exhibition, but just haven't seen very many horror movies myself. I think the hanging body bags right at the entrance for this one was one of the best parts of the museum. Patrons can actually walk through and "interact" with them to get to more displays and since it's such a dark space, it seems really creepy!

"Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction"
Similar to the fantasy and horror exhibitions, but obviously science fiction themed, this one felt a little limited because it felt like some of the bigger/more popular scifi movies were missing (maybe because Disney wouldn't give anything up?). That being said, I thought the displays they did have were effective and cool to see everything in one place.

Going through the exhibitions after the MARVEL one took about 1.5 hours, and we were pretty much ready to go after that.

The last stop was "Sound Lab" where there are sound booths and other interactive displays/exhibits that basically include instruments or music related tools.
This one was super crowded, especially with children and some booths even had their own number system for what was essentially a wait list.

The only thing we didn't end up doing was "Holodome" which I think is some sort of interactive hologram experience but you can only do it during certain time slots, requires a reservation (which can be made at the museum same day) and does have an additional cost associated with it. Because there seemed to be at least an hour wait associated with it + $$, we opted out.

Then the only thing left to do was take pictures with the outside of the building!
I didn't get a chance to take a picture of the museum as a whole from the outside, but it's massive and has these really interesting curves and surfaces. Give it a google if this sort of thing interests you!

It had been a handful of hours since breakfast, so we stopped at a nearby food stand for a snack - corn and pink lemonade.

And when I realized it was actually almost dinner time, we stopped at Zeek's Pizza which is between the Seattle Center and our Airbnb. We had passed it a couple times already and the restaurant looked really nice. We ended up ordering 1 medium pizza for take out and my bf had to wait outside because something in the restaurant ended up really making his nose run wtf.
I was happy with the taste of the pizza, but then again, I'm not that hard to please when it comes to pizza lol. Bf said it wasn't worth the price we paid and basically tasted cheap. I think it didn't help that we were sitting in the restaurant for a long time waiting for it to be ready and then out of nowhere, they ask if we're waiting for take out and pull it out from under the bar counter lol.

We ate and rested at the Airbnb for just under an hour before getting ready to go out again to Safeco Field for a Mariners game! We caught an Uber straight there which took about 12 minutes with a bit of traffic.

We were about 40 minutes early before the first pitch, so we took our time looking around the venue. There's so many eating options, even a Din Tai Fung!

There's also a exhibition explaining the history of the Mariners and highlights for some of the memorable players. My favorite Mariner has always been Ichiro Suzuki, but it was interesting to read and learn about others as well.

For a game snack, Bf chose to eat from Sausage Company and we also got a bottomless drink (with souvenir cup) and garlic fries later on as well!

Our seats were in the highest section along the 3rd base line which were the most reasonable cheapest tickets we could find lol. I think it wasn't too bad for the price we paid, and we had a great overview of the whole field.
The game was a bit slow at first (although the innings were passing somewhat quickly), but once the Mariners started scoring points, it really picked up. We ended up leaving in the middle of the eighth inning because they were doing so well already and we didn't want to get stuck in the masses trying to leave once the game actually ended.
It turned out to be such a mess leaving even at that point because other people had the same idea about leaving early and there must have been a rave about to start somewhere nearby. There were tons of Ubers and Lyfts in the street aside from the usual traffic trying to pick up and drop people off. We finally got in one probably about 15 minutes later and made it back to the Airbnb shortly after.

Even though we got off to a bit of a slow start and it wasn't the best day in terms of meals, MoPOP was definitely a highlight this day and had so much to offer. I also really enjoyed the Mariners game for the part that we stayed for because in general, I don't have a hard time sitting and just watching sports or things like that. The stadium itself is massive and seemed really well designed. We don't have any pro sports teams in Hawaii, so seeing a major league game is definitely a treat!


Day 3 - Sunday, September 30, 2018
This was the day we planned to go hiking with my bf's friend from college, Z. We were ready for him and his girlfriend to pick us up at around 08:00.

We had initially planned on going on a pretty long (11 mi??) hike, but with the slightly later start, decided on something a little closer, less strenuous and time consuming - the Talapus/Olallie Lake Trail in Snohomish. Z is an experienced hiker and we were happy to go with what he recommended.
We started hiking after about a 45 minute drive.
There is a parking lot at the base of the hike, but it was full when we got there, so we had to park along the road. There's also a bathroom/toilet hut at the start of the trail but I wouldn't recommend it if you're queasy for toilet odors because there isn't running water in there, and you may need to bring your own toilet paper!

The trail is reasonably wide and defined so it's good for beginner hikers. It's easy to know where you're supposed to go, and there's also a lot of tree cover. It was a bit chilly when we started and it took my body at least 20-30 minutes to warm up even with the constant walking!

There's actually 2 different lakes along this trail - Talapus Lake which is a bit closer, and then Olallie Lake which takes about 20 minutes more walking.

We finally made it to Olallie Lake about 2 hours after we first started out. This is moving at a pretty casual pace and stopping a lot along the way for photos and observing nature. The time passed by really quickly imo!

And then we started on our way back out! The trail is the same way in and out, so we were basically retracing our steps and going downhill instead of up.

We hadn't really stopped at Talapus Lake along the way earlier because we saw a few signs that said there were restricted areas for conservation, but on the way back, we noticed other hikers right along the banks of the lake in a different area. We took that as a sign that maybe only certain parts were restricted and took in the view and snapped a few photos of our own. It was still lightly drizzling at that time and there were many others waiting to take pictures, so we couldn't hang out as long as we liked, but it was still a really magical view!

We made it back to the car safely and started heading back to Seattle. Z and G were making decisions about lunch while my bf and I ended up taking a nap in the back of the car lol. We first tried to go to the Capitol Hill area for pizza, but after 10 of driving around and not finding parking, we gave up and redirected to Frelard Pizza in Fremont. My bf's other friend and his fiance joined us for lunch even though they couldn't make it on the hike.
All three couples ended up ordering a medium specialty half-and-half pizza each. Ours was half Whole Hog and half Carbonara and delicious! Even though this wasn't the first choice restaurant, it turned out really well anyway.

For dessert, we went to Salt & Straw Ballard location which was a short drive away. They had some interesting seasonal flavors like Bone Marrow & Smoked Cherries and Hey Boo Coconut Jam & Rice Crispy Treats that we sampled, but ultimately, my bf ended up with the Vanilla and I ended up with the Chocolate lol.
Which I think we were satisfied with despite them not being the most adventurous flavors out there. The samples of the exciting flavors was really good enough.

After ice cream, we were dropped back off at our Airbnb and essentially ended up calling it a day! The hike was a good length - not extremely tiring but still felt like a physical activity and we spent it in great company as well. It was great to meet my bf's friends and to sit down and have a meal with them as well.


Day 4 - Monday, October 1, 2018
This was our first day of actual rain while in Seattle!
Another day of sleeping in (despite even going to sleep early the night before! haha) led us to leaving for the UW campus at around 09:30. We had a couple options to get there, but chose to catch an Uber to Husky Stadium and walk onto campus. 

I could tell it would have been a really nice walk with clear weather, but honestly I don't feel like the weather was a downer. If anything, it made the experience seem a little more authentic lol.

It did put a bit of a damper on my ability to take pictures though because my phone isn't waterproof and also I was (hopelessly) trying to protect my hair because I didn't have a hood. This is what I get for spending 30 minutes that morning curling and styling my hair lol.

I didn't have a lot of expectations for the campus, but I did know it would be big! It's definitely much better maintained (or so it seems from the outside) compared to UH. I guess I think the school I went to for my freshman year of college in CA compares a bit, but that was a small university and I can't imagine them having kept up with the grounds maintenance on this scale. It really is expansive.

Looking at the map, you can tell that it's quite a trek from one side to the other. I can't imagine doing that everyday in the rain.

There is some amazing landscaping though. I really have to love the PNW greenery.

We took a quick look through some of the buildings that my bf wanted to share with me which was only just a small selection of the campus, and it already seemed like we had been walking for awhile. We ended by going to the bigger campus bookstore so we could look for some gifts.
We purchased some things for my bf's mom who is an alumna herself and also got a shirt for me which I'm super excited about. It's simple but still really cute.

For lunch, we went to U:don which is a short walk away from the bookstore and where my bf used to eat sometimes while he was in school. Since it was still a little bleak and rainy, it was perfect udon weather. They actually have a lot of choices in a "made to order" style that's kind of like Marukame Udon here in Hawaii.
I think because the weather played into it, this was one of my favorite meals on the trip even though I can't say udon is something I really enjoy eating. The flavor was really nice though and the restaurant is pretty low key and casual but still clean feeling.

I hadn't bought much as omiyage at that point, so I asked if we could go to Trader Joe's. This is a pretty common place to bring back stuff from when you go to mainland and I had a few things in mind for my workplace.

From there, we caught an Uber back to the Airbnb.

And then dropped off our purchases and walked over to Dahlia Bakery.
I picked up a few pastries that the staff said would be okay over 1-2 days for my family but didn't end up getting anything for ourselves. Lots of stuff looked delicious though and my bf said that he's had the donut holes in the past and that they're really good.

We took a break for a little while once getting back to the apartment and then made our way over to the Seattle Center Monorail. A one way ticket is $2.50 for adults.

We missed getting on the soonest monorail by less than a minute (we were paying at the time), but they leave every 10 min, so we just had to kill a bit of time until the next one.

And then easily got a seat once it arrived.

We disembarked at Westlake Center a handful of minutes later and decided to look around in the mall for a little bit. I was surprised to see a Daiso store!
But really couldn't bring myself to buy anything since I shop in them so often in Japan anyway. It was weird that it still kind of had an American "dollar store" feel despite all the products being Japanese though.

We also stopped at Lolli & Pops because the displays caught my eye as something that might be nice to give away as well. Apparently it had just opened in the mall at the beginning of September so it was reasonably new although the chain has many different locations.
There was a lot to choose from but much of it is at "high end" candy prices. Think of Sugarfina but not just candies in acrylic boxes. I did still end up getting a few things for my parents though because I thought it might be interesting for them to try and the shelf life was pretty good.

Finally, for dinner, we made it to Din Tai Fung! It's actually right next to the Pike Place Chowder that we ate at on Day 1, but since chowder was priority #1 at the time, dim sum took a backseat. There was a short wait, but we were able to be seated at a small table next to the floor to ceiling windows after about 5 minutes.

I'm not really a stranger to eating at Chinese restaurants, but I don't think we have too many like this on Oahu. I guess I'm more used to the old school, family run ones that aren't so slightly upscale. \
The waiter explained the menu to us in detail after learning I hadn't been there before and also made some recommendations. Ordering is done on a memo pad with a list of items.

We ended up getting 1 order of the pork xiaolongbao (10 pieces), 1 order of the shrimp & pork shao mai (10 pieces), 1 order of the pork bun (2 pieces), and 1 order of the braised beef soup. The waiter had mentioned that 3 items would likely be enough for 2 people but because we wanted to try a bit more of an assortment, we went with 4.
And actually it was a lot of food lol. The waiter was certainly right - I think 3 dishes would have been perfect, but we don't regret trying what we did since this isn't a place we can easily come back to. For someone who is picky about dim sum, I thought the items that I tried were pretty good, but personally I prefer the cheap stuff we have back home.

Originally, we planned to walk back to the Airbnb since we had stuffed ourselves with food, but because of the rain + bf's impending cold, we decided to just catch a $6 Uber back. It's definitely not worth it to be sick to just save $6 when you're traveling.

We spent the rest of the night in, with mostly me trying to shove all of our layers of clothes and hiking gear back into the suitcases. Although we really didn't buy very much, it still was a bit of a challenge to make sure the luggage weighed the right amount and balanced correctly.

Despite the gloomy weather, the day was a really great experience and made the noodles/soups we consumed that much better. I really feel like a trip to Seattle wouldn't have been complete without one gray, rainy day, so I can't complain. It was a pleasant conclusion to a low key trip.


Leaving Seattle - Tuesday, October 2, 2018
We woke up early in the morning (for once!), got ready and then checked out of our Airbnb. The process was pretty simple and mainly just included putting the key back into the lock box after making sure the apartment was clear.

We caught an Uber to Westlake station and then used the light rail to get to SEA-TAC airport.

The ride took just under 50 minutes. I believe we caught the 06:09 train and got to the Hawaiian Airlines check-in gate just before 07:00 (which includes a pretty long walk from the rail station).

After about a 6 hour flight, we landed back on Oahu. The flight actually landed about 45 minutes earlier than scheduled which was great, but then we were stuck taxing for about 1/2 at least because another plane was at our gate (I guess bc we were so early). The luggage also took forever to arrive at the baggage claim, so we didn't even leave the airport until over 1 hour after we landed, but it was good to be home!...and go back to work that afternoon lol.

It was a short trip, but we had something fun to do every day, so it filled the time well. I didn't feel rushed or that we had to stick to a super strict schedule which was really relaxing. I really enjoyed walking to and around the downtown area which isn't something I do a lot of at home. It was also my first time ever catching an Uber (for the places that were a little farther) and it was actually pretty convenient. The big downer was that the Childish Gambino concert was cancelled, but aside from that, I'd say it was a successful introduction to Seattle for me.
Hopefully we'll continue to explore what the PNW has to offer in future trips!