So we bought a house. More specifically- we put down a deposit to build a house. It was a little bit of a fast experience. Comparatively we probably bought the house quite quickly compared to some people. We have a baby coming in November so we wanted to get the house squared away well before so there would be no stress when baby Lucas comes into this world. I thought I’d go over some of the experiences we had looking for houses and the criteria if why we pass/bought.
We didn’t really look at preowned homes too much. The ones we did look at were open houses that were publicly advertised. DFW area is a pretty hot real estate market- so I got the impression that the houses that got to the “open house” stage were either grossly overpriced or had something emphatically wrong with them. I understand that you might have painted the house the way that you liked it when you were living there, but if you plan to sell it I’d suggest a more neutral paint tint than “maharajah purple”.
Ingram Terrace (David Weekly)
These were by far one of the best customer experiences we had when looking at new houses. The sales rep was super helpful and actually made a legitimate effort to show us around the houses. The houses were beautiful and the location was ideal (Plano ISD). The main problem? The back yard was at max about two feet away from the neighbor. Same with the side yard. I swear I could’ve knocked on my neighbors’ windows from my own window. If they had made two less houses and given people an actual yard we probably would’ve gone here. Land is a premium though and I guess a nice yard is not a big careabout for a lot of people.
Hudson Heights (Village Builders)
We were too late here- there were only a few available houses. The guy seemed a bit apathetic and uncaring. I guess he realized that the community was all but sold out and that he did not have a huge chance for a commission.
University Place (Ashton Woods)
Super nice houses, but again no yard. We actually had to hike up to McKinney to see a model house as University Place was still in Phase I. The “garden” homes were a bit cozy and at the top end of our budget. The model homes were gorgeous, but we got the impression that they probably had at least $60k worth of upgrades in them. On top of that the houses had literally (I say that knowing what literally means) a two foot by two foot patch of grass in the back that was supposed to be the “yard”. This is Texas- not Tokyo. I expect a yard.
Malibu Heights (Megatel)
Houses were beautiful but they were at the top of our budget. On top of that the sales lady was a bit discontent. She seemed to not really care and didn’t really make much of an effort to try to help us.
Creekside Estates (KHOV)
We ended up buying here. The sales rep was super helpful, the homes were modest yet luxurious, and we actually got a yard. On top of that there was a corner lot available- so our yard is actually going to be a good yard that Lucas can play in. Is it Plano ISD? No- but from what I hear Plano ISD is super competitive. You want your kid to actually experience the fun and joy of being a kid without having to endure the monumental stress of trying to place in the top 10% to get into a name brand college. Wylie ISD is ranked highly and besides- when he gets to high school who knows if I even will still be living there.
So as I said in my last post it has been a long time since I last posted. A lot has happened. When I last posted I was a bachelor, still living in Shanghai, and writing about the business trips I took to various parts of Asia. Since then I have moved back to USA, got married (with someone that I met in Shanghai), and am expecting a baby boy in November. Life certainly does come at you fast and it seems like just yesterday that I was on a plane ride for my first trip to work at Asahi Kasei. That was really the catalyst that set the tone for my twenties (I am now thirty). Before living in Japan a year I was a twenty year old sophomore in college with only dreams of being able to even visit overseas. Fast forward ten years I am married, have lived in both China/Japan, and have made more overseas trips than I can even remember.
Instead of writing a full blog post on everything that I have done since in the two years since my last blog post I thought I would just summarize here and write my thoughts of each one of the events.I’ll try to “reset” from here and do my best to update the blog as I go along.
Korea/China Trip – April 2016
- About a month after I came back from living in China I went on a business trip to South Korea/China.
- South Korea was pretty uneventful. I was visiting a customer (Samsung). I remember them having more security getting into the Samsung campus than I have seen at most airports.
- At the Samsung campus you have to catalog every single piece of electronics that you bring in so that they can account for it on the way out.
- I stayed at the IBIS Ambassador Suwon. It was a pretty standard business hotel with no fluff. Still it was clean and they seemed to speak relatively good English.
- Incheon Airport was a nightmare coming in. I carry-on only for business travel and good thing I did so on this trip. The line for security was about three hours long. Luckily I had coworkers that had already been in line for three and a half hours (they came in from San Francisco, I came in from Dallas), and I could just cut in front of them.
- Pollution in Suwon was noticeably bad.
- Food was awesome. Had the normal kimchi, barbecue, grilled octopus, soju, etc.
- Went to Shenzhen to visit another customer. It was Shenzhen- a boring city with not a lot to do. Stayed at the pirate ship hotel.
More Korean BBQ
Random street in Suwon
Me “working” at the hotel restaurant in Shenzhen. Not a strip club, this is the restaurant at the Intercontinental.
Wedding (in Hawaii) – June 2016
The wedding was at the Disney Aulani hotel in Oahu, Hawaii. The location was somewhat chosen as it was a good halfway point for her family (in Japan) and my family (in USA). Pictures of the wedding at:
- Mickey and Minnie Mouse came to the wedding. It cost an extra $1200 for that to happen. If I ever want to give up the life of being an engineer I should try to be the guy under the Goofy suit.
- Even with the $1200 premium it wasn’t that expensive. The wedding was small (both my parents, her parents, her grandma, her sister, and my sister (and her boyfriend). Disney did a great job catering the event.
- After the wedding we stayed at the Outrigger Reef Waikiki. The sense I got from this hotel was that it was really something in the 70s, but somehow has since become a little dated.
- The wedding dinner was at Roy’s Ko Olina. Great food and good service. I remember my wife and I being the dividing line at the table of Japanese speakers (her family) and English speakers (my family)
- American Airlines direct from Dallas was fine. The plane was ancient, but it got us there on time.
- We actually got legally married in Richardson TX at a small ceremony in a court house. We did this so that Asumi (my wife) would be under my health insurance in case anything went sour in Hawaii
Wedding on the beach
Me with Minnie
Us with Chip and Dale
Near Disney Hotel in Hawaii
Tennessee Trip (July 2016)
- Went to Tennessee to introduce my Grandma and my Uncle to my wife.
- Stayed at the Holiday Inn in Columbia. It was adequate and a standard Holiday Inn.
- I remember when we were at my Uncle’s house there were a ton of fireflies. Asumi said that fireflies only are in places with very clean air
- In Nashville we stayed at the Indigo Hotel. The hotel was nice and the location was great, but the room was small. Somehow I preferred the Holiday Inn.
- On the last morning we were walking around Nashville and say a 5K/10K that was being run. This is what first made me interested in 5K running.
- We saw fireworks over the Nashville river. It was pretty nuts. Sheryl Crow was there live and it was on-and-off rain
- We went to the zoo in Nashville. It was a nice walk.
Fish at the Nashville Zoo
Fireworks in Nashville
Palo Duro Camping Trip (October 2016)
- Went out to Palo Duro Canyon for a camping trip.
- We tried to cook the first night. There were bugs everywhere. We had very small dinner and pretty much sprayed the entire campsite with hardcore DEET pesticide.
- Went hiking the next day on one of the intermediate camping trails. Was a nice walk. Had the dog in a “doggy” backpack.
- The second day we didn’t want to go through the bug camping dinner so we drove to The Big Texan in Amarillo. Had a big Texas sized steak.
- Stopped by Texas Tech on the way back and walked around. Talked to some professors.
- Sleeping at Palo Duro in the tent was an ordeal. The wind was strong so going to sleep was challenging with the constant violent flapping of the tent.
- Wild packs of turkeys were constantly making the gobbling noises throughout the night.
Samantha in her backpack
Asumi and me at Palo Duro
Big Texas Steak
Me making fire in Palo Duro
Japan Trip (add-on to business trip) – February 2017
- Took advantage of the business trip airfare to Asia and stayed at Japan for a few days on my way to China (see below)
- Stayed at one of my favorites Hotel Century Southern Tower. It has a nice view and is on the quieter Shinjuku Southern Terrace Entrance.
- Visited the old bar that I always went to (Gina’s in Atsugi). Atsugi is so nostalgic to me. It’s nice how some places don’t change.
- Bought a ton of stuff for my wife from Daiso in Atsugi as well as Uniqlo in Shinjuku. I had two bags that I had to lug back from Asia.
- I went to Kappabashi (a place that sells those fake food samples that sit in front of restaurants) and bought a fake beer to keep on my desk at work.
- Went to eat at Tsukiji at least once (and had the obligatory toro sushi)
Uniqlo in Shinjuku
Atsugi never changes
Me with friends at Gina’s in Atsugi
China Trip (return) – February 2017
- Went to Shanghai and Shenzhen in February 2017 for work.
- In Shanghai I stayed at the Hongta Hotel. Was nice because this is not too far from where I used to live in Shanghai.
- I met up with a previous coworker and we all ate at one of my favorite restaurants (Ding Tai Fung in Lu Jia Zui).
- Went to Kang Dao massage in Tangqiao (where I used to live). The masseuse did not mess around- my back was purple by the end.
- Shenzhen was boring Shenzhen. Stayed at the pirate ship. I remember going to an awesome Sichuan food restaurant at a mall.
- Getting out of Shenzhen was a bit hectic. Tried to get home a day early and really JUST got on the ferry from Shenzhen to Hong Kong airport. Was able to get back to Dallas for two full days before I had to ship out to Germany (see below)
Went to the Ritz Carlton bar in Shanghai
Ding Tai Fung!
Germany Trip (Munich) #1 – February 2017
- This was my first time in Germany (or rather my first time in mainland Europe).
- I went from DFW->LHR->MUC (Munich). I remember being surprised that British Airways charges for any sort of drink on the plane from London to Munich.
- In Germany I was staying at the Airport Marriott in Freising. Freising is where my company has their main office in Germany.
- I had one day where I went into proper Munich for sightseeing. I went to Marienplatz and walked around downtown.
- I distinctly remember in downtown Munich going to this place which had a ton of wooden picnic tables and places that were just slinging out beers for a few Euro. I had my nice morning beer at 11am.
- I wrote post cards as a souvenir and sent them out from the Munich post office
- The train getting from Freising to Munich was a bit confusing. I didn’t know if I had an assigned seat or what. I should’ve done more research here beforehand.
- One night in Freising the guys at the local office took us out for a night of laser tag and drinking. It was super fun. I remember feeling in bizarro land running through the German laser tag arena while X’ gon give it to ya by DMX was blasting.
- My go to restaurant in Freising is Weissbraeu Huber. They speak English, the food was good, and they take AMEX (my company card).
- Went to the Weihenstephaner brewery. Oldest brewery in the world supposedly. A bit touristy, but the food was good and the beer was world class.
Morning drinking is OK if everyone else is doing it.
Israel Trip – June 2017
- Went here for business to sync up with the team about some collaborative projects between Dallas and Israel.
- Office is in Ra’anana, hotel was the Dan Accadia in Herzliya. This was probably one of the best hotels that I went to for business. Right on the boardwalk of the Mediterranean Sea and reminded me of Venice Boardwalk in California.
- Getting into Israel was a bit tough. I took American Airlines from DFW to Frankfurt, and then El Al Airlines (Israeli) from Frankfurt to Tel Aviv. Security to board the El Al flight was super strict. I got screened for “extra” security. They took me to side room and made me go over every single article of clothing and completely stripped my luggage to the bone to make sure there wasn’t anything dangerous. I had to specifically tell them what I was doing and which parts I was programming. They made me check my carry-on.
- Security actually at Tel Aviv airport was not too bad. I think the amount of business travelers going to Israel is small compared to tourists so I was pretty easy to go through.
- Food summaries:
- Hummus restaurant. In USA hummus is something more to snack on- not a full blown meal. This was delicious, however was super filling. I wanted to pass out afterwards.
- Gloria’s Cafe. A restaurant owned by someone from South Africa. Went there for lunch and had a Jem’s Beer. First time drinking beer for lunch on a workday.
- Kosher McDonald’s. I had to stop by amall to get some Laline bath souvenirs for my wife. Had McDonald’s. It was very similar to USA McDonald’s except there was no cheese on the Big Mac (this is not kosher)
- Hotel breakfast. No bacon (there is not a lot of bacon in Israel). A lot of fruit. Wasn’t my favorite, but it was good quality.
- Yam 7 Bar. My “go to” as it was next to the hotel, had a great view of the Mediterranean, and had cold beer. Had burgers, fish dishes, etc. Was a bit pricey but they took Amex.
- The office was nice. They have really gourmet coffee and these huge bean bag chairs everyone uses to take a break (these were particularly nice after wanting to pass out due to hummus).
- Had one free day. Decided to book a tour to see Mazada and The Dead Sea. Chose this over Jerusalem as I only had one day and I did not think this was enough to really see all of Jerusalem. I am also not religious so the religious aspects would’ve been lost to me.
- Tour bus booked online through some tour company. Wanted to do a canned tour as I wasn’t too familiar with Israel and didn’t want to get lost somewhere I was not supposed to be.
- Tour group was about 15 people and was in English. They gave you freedom to walk around.
- Mazada was amazing. History aside, the view from atop the mountain was breathtaking. The Dead Sea looked like something out of a movie. Words cannot do it justice.
- Dead Sea was also awesome. After changing we had to take a trailer/shuttle to the actual shoreline. The Dead Sea is disappearing so the actual shore was a mile or so from where the resort was.
- I’m sure people say this a lot- but I can’t believe how salty The Dead Sea was. A drop of water accidentally got into my mouth and it was one of the most disgusting tastes ever.
Hummus. AKA cement
Me at Mazada. Awesome view.
Me floating in Dead Sea
Sunset in Herzliya
New York City Vacation – June 2017
- Quick two day baby moon. The last trip Asumi and I took together without a kid.
- Found awesome airfare. Round trip from DFW to Newark was $75 per person.
- Stayed at the Holiday Inn Times Square. Location was great, staff was friendly, and it was relatively cheap considering we were a couple of blocks from Times Square. I think it was something like $220 a night.
- Flying into Newark wasn’t that bad. Uber was easy to get and I don’t remember it being particularly crowded.
- We saw Aladdin on Broadway. Show was good and cast was amazing. What you would expect from Broadway.
- Tons of kids (it was Disney). Some kids were distracting.
- As there were a lot of kids I decided to get a double Maker’s Mark neat from the lounge bar. It came to $30. Granted it was a souvenir glass I could’ve just bought an entire bottle of Maker’s Mark at a liquor store.
- One morning we decided to go get some bagels for breakfast. Line for the bagel place was around the store so we decided to go a diner (as New York is famous for). We went to Brooklyn Diner. As we passed by I remember thinking “the guy in the window looks a lot like Jerry Seinfeld.” Once we sat down I realized “the guy in the corner IS Jerry Seinfeld.” Did my best to eat the eggs and hash (Asumi got Eggs Benedict) with Jerry Seinfeld in my peripheral vision. Didn’t want to be “one of those people” that bothered him or even stared in star shock.
- Went to the Modern Art Museum. It was nice, but I think a lot of it was lost on me as I am not exactly a scholar of art.
- Went to Chelsea Market. A lot of nice looking food there, but it was crowded. A bit touristy.
- Walked around Central Park. Was nice, relaxing, and free. Not everything in NYC will cost you that much money.
- Had nice Italian food the first day at Casa Nonna. Hip and relaxing place. Near the hotel.
Both of us at Times Square
Asumi in Central Park
Asumi in NYC
Asumi at the Aladdin entrance
Aladdin on Broadway!
India Trip (Bangalore) – July 2017
- First time flying to India from USA. That trip sucks. I flew from Dallas to Dubai and then from Dubai to India. That trip really sucks and you end up a zombie by the time you actually get to India.
- I brought power bars this time as a backup so I didn’t have to eat too much of the food
- More of the food- I ate breakfast at the hotel, power bars for lunch, and a mix of either power bars for dinner or hotel food for dinner
- There was an alcohol ban in Bangalore when I was there. I tried to go to TGI Fridays to get a nice frosty Kingfisher, but had to settle for a luke warm Sprite instead. It sucked.
- I stayed at the Hyatt MG Road. I wouldn’t stay here again. They were doing construction until late at night and it wasn’t that great of a hotel to stay at. Next time I am going to opt for the Leela Palace.
- I remember thinking how dirty the roads were and how trash was caked everywhere. Cows were hanging out wallowing in and eat garbage piles.
Garbage cows. This was not actually the worst I saw.
Germany Trip (Munich) #2 – July 2017
- I came here directly from India and was greeted with clean streets and safe food. I made up for the beer that I missed out in India.
- I did laundry at the hotel. Laundry at the Marriott in Freising is expensive. It came out to about 150 euro. If I had known it was going to be this much I probably would have just bought new clothes.
- The first full day I was there we went to some sort of carnival/mini Oktoberfest in the country. Pretty much a bunch of carnival games and a huge beer tent. Had a couple of liters of beer. Beer turned into schnapps. The rest of the day was a bit hazy after the schnapps.
- At the carnival I was introduced to Wurstsalat. My new favorite German food.
- Ate at all of the restaurants from my first trip to Germany. Didn’t make it into Munich proper this time.
- It was Biergarten season this time around. First Biergarten we went to was Plantage in a forest area. It was nice, but I remember constantly having to dodge bees. Food was “Biergarten” food which included the jumbo pretzels and the “currywurst” (a sort of curry and sausage combined).
- Second biergarten was a place by the lake that we went on the last day. Very local place and super chill atmosphere. Seemed like more of a family place where the locals go to wind down after work. Weather was perfect.
- Coming back to USA I went through Chicago, and then onto Dallas. My flight from Munich to Chicago was delayed so I had to sprint through the airport in Chicago to make the Dallas flight. Thank god for carry ons and Global Entry.
Festival in downtown Freising
Me at the carnival festival