Tokyo Tower, HamaRikyu Garden, Zojo-ji Temple

My first full day (Tuesday) in Tokyo landed me at Tokyo Tower, HamaRikyu Garden and Zojo-ji Temple.  It was a beautifully clear, crisp Fall day.  It was actually nice to feel Fall temps as it’s still been in the 70s in Hong Kong.  Tokyo was in the 40-50s and it smelled like decaying leaves and the recycling of life.

I started by heading to the Tokyo Tower.  I was disappointed to find that the top floor observation deck was under construction so I could only gain views from 150m high.  However, there was no line and the ticket was 900yen or ~$9 US.  Essentially the yen was 100 to 1 dollar so I knew it was less than $9.  It was pretty affordable for the second highest observation deck in Tokyo!!IMG_20171121_140156

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Here are some views from 150m.  Not too shabby!

I think I’m regressing in my selfie skills but I’m embracing it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many selfies as I have since I’ve been in Asia. Oh here’s a Christmas tree–and there’ll be like 5 people taking selfies with it

Check out the sink in Tokyo Tower….air dryer, sink basin, soap and water all in one–but hopefully not in that order!  They have this same set up in some Hong Kong washrooms too.

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When I walked out of the tower, I witnessed this:

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at this time, I was disappointed because I thought I didn’t get a good picture of these adults in Mario Karts(that’s what this is—right?), but alas (SPOILER ALERT!!!!) this is only my first day and first viewing….

On my way to HamaRikyu Garden, I passed some great scenery and the Zojo-ji Temple.

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I walked miles this day.  I was so pooped when I got back to the hotel.  IMG_20171123_143615 IMG_20171122_075742 IMG_20171122_075736 IMG_20171121_161043 IMG_20171121_154437 IMG_20171121_154536 IMG_20171121_154732 IMG_20171121_154116

I made it to HamaRikyu Garden 30 minutes before they closed.  It was already getting dark.  It gets dark ~6p in Hong Kong and ~5p in Tokyo.

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I didn’t get as many pics in the garden as I would’ve liked.  I also didn’t have the camera (don’t ask!) so these are all pics with my cell phone.

festive street on my walk back to the hotel

Next up:

Other landmarks near Mt Fuji, food in Tokyo and the neighborhoods.

Thanks for reading!

Tokyo-transit, etiquette, SIM card, cleanliness

I don’t know where to start.  I LOVED TOKYO!  

Just a heads-up–this post doesn’t contain lots of pictures from my travels in Japan.  It’s purely informational–about the culture, transit, SIM card, and etiquette/cleanliness.

I arrived in Tokyo late Monday night.  Tokyo is an hour ahead of Hong Kong.  The flight was ~4h.  I flew with HK Express an airline akin to Frontier or Spirit Airlines in the US.  They have extra fees for checking-in luggage, refreshments and food on the plane, seats, etc.  It was my first solo trip to a foreign country where a native speaker wasn’t waiting for me at the airport.  I was very nervous and still fighting that head cold.  Although at this point, I was functional.

I took the airport express MTR line to the Hong Kong airport.  We couldn’t do that when we arrived in Hong Kong due to all our luggage, but I just had a little carry-on roller bag.  Once I arrived in Central station (Island Line), there were so many signs demarking the airport express line location.  It was a very pleasant commute and easily navigable from Wan Chai.

The day before my trip, I had purchased a 7-day SIM card for Japan at the local computer center in Wan Chai.  It ended up being China Mobile Network and was 4G for $100HK or ~$15 US.  CSL and Sun Mobile do not sell SIM cards for use outside of China–I checked with them both.

I switched my SIM card on the plane….there were 2 passengers very interested in this endeavor and were blatantly watching me.  Well I looked like a genius (when actually I was 50% sure I knew what I was doing!) changing my SIM because it worked!  I had to change my network, but I figured it out all while still on the plane.  And I didn’t even use 1G while I was there.  It was a wonderful purchase.  I was so thankful I had Google Maps at all times on a 4g network.  It was instrumental for me and gave me more flexibility in my day.

The things I’ve learned about Google Maps–I had no idea if you don’t choose to “navigate” that the little circle (your location) on the map will still move with a spotlight beam in the direction you’re traveling.

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see how the blue dot has a big blue “<” beaming from it to the right or east? That shows that I’m facing/heading in that direction(east)….and it will move as I move, so direction can be continually monitored on the route

First, this is a great way to know you’re traveling in the correct direction and second, it doesn’t use your cellular data.  I didn’t realize this but my Qi is very smart and he knew.

Right away I felt at home in Tokyo.  It’s so clean!!  At the airport, when I got off the plane, there was a washroom with a bidet.  Even butts are clean in Japan.  Oh and this guy coughed on the metro and I saw this young  lady do a rubber neck just to give him the dirtiest look in the world.  It was like my utopian society!  I contacted Qi right away and told him how much I loved Tokyo.  He said that it’s the perfect place for someone who’s a neat freak (I don’t take offense because it’s true– I am!) and who’s polite to a fault–I need to work on that attribute.  He’s right.  I felt right at home!

I did some research in advance (not as much as I would’ve liked since I was sleeping most of the week before) but I knew that I needed to get a N’EX ticket.  N’EX is the Narita Airport Express transit to neighborhoods in Tokyo.  It’s an actual train line that runs only from the airport to neighborhoods.  It’s cheaper to buy a roundtrip ticket instead of 2 one-way tickets.  After arriving at Narita airport, head to the JReast ticket office to purchase a round trip ticket.  Or if you want to just buy a one-way, you can use the automated kiosks….they do not sell round trip tickets at the self service kiosks.

And as far as I could tell, these tickets could not be purchased until physically in Japan.  If a round trip ticket is purchased, a car and seat are assigned for the immediate trip.  The return trip ticket will not have an assigned seat….at least mine didn’t since it was 5 days later.  I went to the ticket office on the way back and they assigned me a seat on the day of my trip.

The subway was dead quiet.  No conversations could be heard.  No one spewing animatedly on their phones or even at all.  I was flabbergasted.  Was it a one-time fluke?  No I can assure you, it was not.  Although, there was a train line where I remembered hearing whispering, but nothing I could decipher.

And I couldn’t hear any music from someone’s headphones that was blaring too loudly.  People were so respectful of each other.  It’s as society should be–when you have consideration for your fellow man/woman.  It felt selfless and freeing.  And people were so happy!  The Hong Kong subway system, although not as quiet as Tokyo, is still more respectful than the US.  I haven’t heard any loud conversations (except mortifyingly Americans! –at least I assume by their accent) nor have I listened to anyone else’s music spilling over from their headphones.

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The transportation in both Hong Kong and Tokyo has been quite superior.  You can get anywhere with the train systems.  It’s pretty amazing.  In Tokyo, there were so many options for trains/subways.  Again, I was so thankful for Google Maps–I was informed that my station in Shinjuku was the busiest station in the world.  In 2017, 3.8 million people used that station per day…..per day !  The first day, it definitely felt like that.

inside Shinjuku station at off-peak hours

I spent a couple hours navigating in the station looking for a Pasmo card vending machine.  Pasmo is the rechargeable card in Japan (much like the Octopus card in Hong Kong) that can be used for most public transportation as well as several shops, convenience stores and some restaurants.  It’s really nice in lieu of cash.  I knew I wanted to get this card so I didn’t have to worry about figuring the fare for every trip and purchasing my ticket ahead of each ride.  This was helpful, because sometimes, I would change my mind!

I stayed at the Hotel Gracery which was amazing.  It was right in the center of everything!!

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There were tons of things to do right outside the hotel.  And the closest entry to the subway line was 5 min walk.  If you stayed outside the whole time and went directly to the main station in Shinjuku, it was only 12 min away.  Given the chill in the air, it was nice to have an option.

Stick around for more posts on parks, shrines, Tokyo Tower, food!, garbage, other stops around Mt. Fuji and neighborhoods of Tokyo.  The hold-up is getting all the pictures uploaded!

And in other news–I applied for my Chinese Visa.  I should have it by this Monday.  I want to travel to Beijing and the Great Wall in December before it’s too cold.

 

Mount Fuji – Sunrise Tours- bus tour

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I went to Japan last week.  For the most part, I stayed in Tokyo.  I did so much on this trip which was essentially only 3.5 days.  I came back to the hotel pretty tired in the evenings so I am very behind on my blog.  I still plan to give a run-down on all my travels, probably ad nauseam.  Up first–the majestic Mount Fuji.  I did a day trip with Sunrise Tours.  It was a bus tour where we visited several sights (I’ll cover them later!) but our first stop was Mount Fuji– it truly deserves its own post.  It’s the highest mountain in Japan and an active volcano that hasn’t erupted since 1707.  The first snowfall this year was October 23, 2017.

We met at a local hotel in Tokyo and then drove about 2.5hrs.  Our tour guide, Katie, was very interactive with us during the bus ride.  She was a wealth of knowledge (she is a tour guide so this might be obvious, however, there are some duds) and I took advantage of that since I was assigned to the seat directly behind her.  She didn’t seem to mind my incessant questions–not that it would’ve stopped me!

I had only been in Tokyo 1 day at this point and most of it had been navigating the subway, subway rechargeable card, getting my bearings and very relaxed sightseeing.  I went to Tokyo Tower and a beautiful shrine….more to come on that shortly.

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inside our bus
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back of Katie’s head

I must’ve shut my alarm off in my sleep but luckily I still woke up 15 minutes later so I had a feeling that it might be a good day!  I’d been looking at the weather forecast since I booked the excursion and it looked dismal.  I was so worried but wasn’t certain what to expect.  The tour specifically stated that there were no refunds if Mount Fuji wasn’t visible.  I guess even Katie was concerned because she was in the midst of singing the Mt. Fuji song and then she saw a glimpse of Mount Fuji.  She exclaimed “Oh good, it’s visible!  It was supposed to be cloudy and I didn’t think we’d see anything!  Get pictures now as this is the best time and best vantage point!”

Here are pictures from the bus (about an hour from 5th Station):

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breathtaking view—even with the reflection off the window!! How lucky am I that I was assigned a window seat on the correct side of the bus??  It felt like I could touch it!  Amazing!!!

After another 1h in the bus, we arrived at 5th Station.  There was a souvenir shop, washrooms, observation decks, coffee, snacks, etc.  Trees weren’t as prevalent here and it had started to flurry.  We had only 30 minutes to spend as we were on a tight schedule.  It was just enough time for me to get pictures, use the washroom and collect my bell (for good luck-it was part of the tour package) but I didn’t have time to shop or get coffee and melon pan.

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selfie- yes! I was there!

Right after we left the 5th station, they shut it down due to snow.  So the next group of bus tours could go no higher than the 4th station and at this point, there were no longer views of Mount Fuji.  I’m so unbelievably blessed that we had clear skies for our trip to Mount Fuji and were able to go to 5th station.

The rest of the day was rainy and cloudy….yet still fruitful, I promise.  I really only wanted to see Mount Fuji so everything afterwards was a bonus!

Just in case you didn’t see it the first time, here’s a view of Mount Fuji:

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unbelievable!!! and look at that sky!!!

 

Blue House and Pak Tai Temple

Last weekend, we went to the Blue House in Wan Chai and the nearby Pak Tai Temple.  The night before, we had gone to karaoke and hadn’t made it home until 4:30-5a.  Qi and I sang for over 5 hours!  It was so much fun.  We even did duets where Qi was Tom Petty and I was Stevie Nicks and our favorite–where Qi was Kid Rock and I was Sheryl Crow.  Qi can really belt out Aerosmith  and Queen.  I prefer Patsy Cline, Simon & Garfunkel and we both love to sing Billy Joel.

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Blue House

This building is a historical landmark in Wan Chai.  The color blue of the house doesn’t bear any significance other than it’s all the paint that the builders had left.  The orange and yellow house are part of the “blue house cluster” because they are all connected.  The green house stands alone.

Then we walked up the street to the Pak Tai Temple.

incense coils burning and the smoke exiting via a very ornate hole in the ceiling
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food offerings

We stopped for some pho.  Qi had the standard beef pho and I had mushroom.  There’s definitely not a lack of good restaurants around our place!

We also had ice cream at this ice cream shop that just opened.  Their waffle cones are ringed with rice krispy treats or cocoa puffs or fruit loops on the outside.  I guess it’s a chain from the USA called Emack & Bolio’s.  We enjoyed our ice cream at the roof top garden we’ve been to previously.

We’ve also been to a tiki bar.  Neither of us could sleep one night so we went there for a drink.  It was all bamboo, rattan, incense and palm trees and it was on the 27th floor of a building nearby.  There were gorgeous views and the building had an outdoor space with a nice breeze.

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it was almost closing time so we had the outdoor space to ourselves

IMG_20171105_232921I still have more to write about last weekend.  This head cold has definitely slowed me down.  I am especially excited to share our experiences during Singles’ day (11/11) in Hong Kong.  FYI, Singles’ Day in China is like Black Friday in the States–and unbeknownst to us, we went shopping!!  Oh boy, was that an experience.

However, I fly for Tokyo in the morning so it’ll need to wait.  Here’s a teaser so you’ll come back for my next post on Victoria Park and Singles’ Day.

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we went shopping on Singles’ Day and got silly

TEDxTinHauWomen and Foreign Correspondents’ Club

Wan Chai Hills and Escalator/Travelator

 

 

Tea Ware Museum and Fruit Market

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I’m so sorry for the delay, I have a miserable head cold that’s kept me in bed.  Don’t worry, Ma, Qi has been taking great care of me!!

The Hong Kong Art Museum is located on Kowloon in Tsim Sha Tsui (TST).  It is currently closed due to expansion/renovation.  It will not re-open until 2019.  However, the Tea Ware Museum, located in Hong Kong Park and a subdivision of the Hong Kong Art Museum IS still open.  We went there and the Fruit Market.

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Tea Ware Museum
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built in 1846, it makes it the oldest Western building still standing in HK

Unfortunately, they do not allow pictures to be taken inside the facility.  If you know me, you know that I obey authority.  There was someone blatantly taking pictures and I contemplated confronting them.  If they would’ve been using a flash, I wouldn’t have hesitated!  Ha ha- I’m such an annoying rule follower!!!

Most of the tea ware was donated by Dr. Lo Kwee Seong.  And the museum is very proud to exhibit some more modern tea ware from the potters competition.  Hong Kong had an insanely huge pottery industry until the 1970s when it could be manufactured en masse and cheaper in mainland China.  There was a period where pottery-making became relatively dormant in HK.  Then with the movie “Ghost”, (Yes, you read that correctly– I had to read it twice too!) there was a resurgence and it’s again an integral part of the local art scene in Hong Kong today.

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this is a fountain in HK park enroute to the museum; these folks were taking a selfie under the fountain…they were absolutely drenched if you’re wondering
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unobstructed fountain–the light looks so pretty!
outside the Tea Ware Museum

I saw pottery from the Yuan dynasty (13th-early 14th century) and from the Ming dynasty (mid-1400s).  A video on traditional Gongfu Tea confirming that Qi does it correctly at home….as if I had a doubt.  I also saw a gongfu tea table in rosewood for sale in their gift shop.  It was amazing.  We already have a beautiful set with table that Qi bought in a visit in 2010 or I would’ve purchased it.  I was actually thinking of who might like it as a gift, it was that gorgeous and I’m pretty sure rosewood cannot be harvested any longer because it’s an endangered species.  Unfortunately, they do not allow pictures in the gift shop either…..yup, I asked if I could take a picture of it because maybe Qi’s parents would want it?  Ah, it was probably over-priced at the gift shop anyways!IMG_20171110_141608

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the one with a split trunk is a lychee tree!

Lychee (the tree pictured above) is one of my favorite fruits from Asia.  In taste, it’s rosy, sweet, juicy with underlying sulfury notes.  It has an interesting texture, is opaque white but also sometimes almost translucent in color and is fun to peel and eat.  The outside skin/shell is almost like bumpy bark.  It’s not tough to peel at all though–at least not as strong as bark.  It can be purchased in the States–fresh or canned (although canned is missing some of the floral top notes).

Some other fruits here I enjoy are the rose apple and jujubes.

Rose apples in texture are like a mix between watermelon and pear–slightly spongy but crisp.  Its taste is mild green.  It’s very high in vitamin C.  I like it because it’s almost like eating water, it’s so juicy and the taste is so mild but it’s quite filling.  Aside from a small seed it’s all edible.  The seed is in a web/foamy like structure that you’re supposed to eat, but I didn’t like the texture.  It’s not as big as an apple or pear core so leaving the webbing behind didn’t seem wasteful.

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rose apple fruit

I didn’t take a picture of the jujube (also called Chinese winter dates)…..if you click on the link it’ll take you to a description where there are pictures. We were walking through the market and I asked the seller what the fruit was.  He was kind and gave me one to try.  It’s like eating a baby apple.  It’s a little bit bigger than a quail egg–maybe the size of a whole walnut?  It was green with some brown speckles and extremely crispy and tasted like a green apple.

I’ll try to keep up with the fruits and veggies in the market.  Mangosteen, rambutan, dragon fruit, passion fruit, starfruit, jackfruit, durian and papaya are all pretty mainstream, right?

We did find salad greens in several places and have been buying either ready-made salads or building our own.  It’s been great for us.  A lot of the restaurants we’ve gone to don’t focus on salads so it’s a very nice reprieve.

I’ll leave with this picture.  It’s a hanging bouquet of dried orange peels and a natural air freshener.

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TEDxTinHauWomen and Foreign Correspondents’ Club

 

High Tea at Grand Buffet in Hopewell Centre

Qi made reservations for our High Tea at the Grand Buffet in the Hopewell Centre.  We had to wait almost two weeks to get in.  The restaurant serves a buffet in the rotating restaurant (yes, it’s a rotating restaurant!) in the evenings but additionally, has high tea from 3-5pm on the weekends.  They only had guests seated at the windows, all other tables were empty.  We’re uncertain if they did that on purpose so everyone gets an amazing view or if people aren’t interested in high tea.  It would make more sense to be the former, as it took almost two weeks for us to get a table.  However, you could still see the amazing views even if not seated directly next to the windows.

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lobby at Grand Buffet

They called Qi to let him know that the restaurant wouldn’t revolve during the High Tea but I can assure you that is incorrect– at least for the day we went.  We weren’t expecting much except amazing views from the 62nd floor restaurant.  But the food was delicious and the palette was diverse and creative!!  We were there the whole 2 hours and almost did a full revolution.  It was totally worth the $30 US per person.  I want to go back.

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inside the restaurant
these tables all remained empty

The Views:

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that green is the playground across from our apartment!

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again, the green is the playground at our apartment

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hello people lounging at the rooftop swimming pool

horse race track is in the distance

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hiking trail

And then the food:

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toasted coconut & corn pudding- sounds like an odd combo, but refreshing and delicious

What a great experience!  It was a bit overcast, but the views were still top-notch.  We’re thinking of heading back to their buffet and going to high tea or dim sum at Sky100.  It’s an observation deck on the 100th floor.

We are both craving some raw greens though.  I’m on a new quest for salad.  Will keep you posted on how that goes.

I have 50 subscribers!  Thanks very much for taking this journey with me!

I just booked my flight to Tokyo and am super pumped for a day trip to Mount Fuji among other excursions in the city.  Stay tuned.

Wan Chai Hills and Escalator/Travelator

The Peak – Victoria Peak

 

Sai Kung Adventures and Sing Kee

My tummy was upset so we got a late start.  We intended to head to Po Pin Chau Sea Stack (Ma- just in case we don’t make it back- please click on the link as it’s quite beautiful!) but we arrived to Sai Kung too late. The last bus had already left for the sea stack and we weren’t sure if we could get a cab back to Sai Kung.  It was a 10km walk back but after our late night snafu at Sunset Peak, neither of us wanted to be out in the dark in uncertain territory.  Instead, we had the opportunity to explore the seaside town of Sai Kung and surprise—eat at a Michelin star restaurant, Sing Kee!  It ended up being an enjoyable afternoon even if it didn’t go as planned.

It was a bit of a trip to Sai Kung–it took us 1hour and 45min to get to the town, but mainly because we took our time.  We had to travel to another island.  This time we chose to use the MTR and travel in a tunnel under water.  Previously, we’d only taken the ferry to get to Kowloon.  This was our first time taking the subway under water.  And then we had to pick up a bus that was ~30min ride further north.

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we had to go on two different subway lines and then a bus….picture of bus to follow.

The MTR station, where we were transferring to a bus, ended up being in a mall.  So we looked around a bit.  We believe they were getting Christmas decorations ready.

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Christmas decorations??

One of the shops was selling a square watermelon, which I’d never seen before.

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say what?

Here’s the bus we took to Sai Kung.

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inside view- 2 seats to a row on the right side and the left side was just a single seat

It cost $9HK which is ~$1.30US.

The town was so charming and we took lots of pictures.

pier lined with fishermen selling the catch of the day

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And we ate some little fishy shaped pastries that were filled with custard.

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shop selling the fish-shaped pastries
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pastry filled with custard; Qi had a good time taking pictures of this!

We walked around the market. There were more dogs in Sai Kung.  Lots and lots of people were pushing their dogs in strollers.  But there were also people who walked them.  We also saw more bicycles.  In HK proper, we’ve maybe seen 4 bikes on the roads total since we arrived.  That’s very different than mainland China and any other warm city we’ve visited.

There was a long dock with fishermen selling fresh fish. There were boats ready to take passengers for a ride in the harbor, vendors selling food and trinkets and there were people sitting on benches enjoying the nice weather on a Saturday.  It was a very relaxed feeling.

We walked down to Sing Kee and decided on a table outside.  There was a nice breeze off the water (it was still in the 70s though!) and we had some very fresh seafood.  Along the way, we saw other restaurants.  They all had big tanks outside with various seafood choices….abalone, geoduck, lobster, crab, eel, all sorts of fish, etc.  And it again smelled like the balmy salt water that is so comforting.

salt & pepper tofu

action shot of me eating prawns
abalone

scallops and noodles

our view
whole steamed fish with ginger

After dinner, we headed inland and walked around.  There were tons of little shops in town.  We saw a doggie grooming shop, a leather store, coffee shop, plant store, farmer’s market, etc. We picked up some fresh fruit from the market for home.

Our meal and day was superb.

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lamp posts throughout the town

We both fell asleep in the tiny bus back to the MTR station.  That night, we finished watching Stranger Things Season 2 and slept like cherubs.

 

 

 

TEDxTinHauWomen and Foreign Correspondents’ Club

When I woke up on Friday, I knew that I had plans for lunch with two of Qi’s colleagues, but I had no idea what an amazing day I had ahead of me….unreal!

Foreign Correspondents’ Club

The week prior, Qi’s firm had a social event after hours (no spouses invited– boo!) where he met two lovely Aussies.  They both told him they remembered when they first arrived in Hong Kong and offered to take Qi and I to lunch.  We went to Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC).  Wow, this place has witnessed many a great journalist.  Qi’s colleague is a member and very proud of the club and its history.  FCC is well known for being a meeting place to many journalists and diplomats over the years and it was considered a place of respite during the Vietnam War.  It has also been used for scenes in a couple movies.  Previously, it was an icehouse.  Ice was stored in the basement level.  I believe the basement is now a bar.  Chairman Mao was pictured on the wall along with other very famous figures and journalists throughout history.  It is still a popular venue for various lunch talks.  Many of the journalists who frequented the club now have their work displayed throughout the building.  It seems to be the club’s way to pay respect for their part in history.

We had our first Indian food since we arrived in Hong Kong and it was beautifully fragrant and the chicken in my tikka masala was perfectly tender.  I’m not a fan of the rice used in Indian cooking (I’m a snob and prefer jasmine rice!) but it became more tender when it soaked up the amazing tikka sauce!  Truly splendid and the company was lovely as well.

TEDxTinHauWomen “Bridges:  Two Become One”

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One of Qi’s colleagues was heading to an event at the PMQ building (please check out the link as there’s so much history to this structure) not far from our lunch.  She thought there might be an extra VIP ticket due to a last minute conflict and there was!!  She called me 15 minutes later because she put my name on the registration list.  It took about 20 minute cab ride to get there at $50 HK–that is ~$7 US.  I had no idea what to expect.  What I witnessed was powerful women sharing their stories.  It was humbling and brilliant and extraordinary.  I hope to do them justice with my brief summaries.  Oh and Qi’s firm, I’m extremely proud to share, was a sponsor of this event.  WELL DONE!

The TEDx event was called TEDxTinHauWomen.  “Tin Hau” in Cantonese means “Goddess of the Sea” which is befitting to Hong Kong since it’s surrounded by water.  This was the first TinHauWomen event and I’m honored to have witnessed it.  Oh and the swag they gave us was awesome!  I used my Vans Snoopy book bag over the weekend.

  1.  Lucy Choi– she was majoring in music–specifically piano in college.  She had a debilitating injury and couldn’t play the piano anymore but needed to have an “instrument” to graduate.  She eventually found her voice (ha ha, I didn’t even do that on purpose!) and fell in love with singing and opera.  When she sang on the stage, I had tears running down my cheeks.  Thank goodness it was so dark because I had tears running down my face much of the afternoon.  She started her own company with the intent to change the landscape of opera.  She plans to make it more accessible, modern and mainstream.
  2. Fiona-Callanan-Thorsby– she was loving life as a very young, but well-paid corporate lawyer in Bangkok.  She was on vacation in Thailand during the 2004 tsunami and lost her right leg.  She went through some lows but her story was so inspiring because she decided not to live in self-pity.  She began her rehabilitation in a wheelchair, then crutches and now she’s an avid bicyclist.  She uses her experiences to fuel her passion for helping others with disabilities and attends (and coordinates) biking fundraisers for charities while inspiring others.  I doubt there was a dry eye in the building.
  3. Cristina Tahoces– was a young professional and very successful in the corporate world.  She gained weight after the birth of one of her munchkins and she had some serious health issues as a result that cost her her career.  She is now a business owner and Nutritionist.  Her message was about mindful eating and understanding what your body wants vs. needs in living a healthier life.  “Eating with purpose” was the take away for me.  The tears I cried in this talk were due to laughter.  It was a wonderful reprieve and still an empowering talk.
  4. Liza Avelino– I cried the most during her talk.  She grew up in poverty and then became a married woman in poverty.  Liza left her family in the Philippines to be a domestic worker in Hong Kong. She left behind two kids because she knew she could provide more for them by working in HK.  She wanted to break the mold and not be defined by her social status.  One Sunday (her only day off) she decided to go hiking and felt a wild exhilaration from the breeze on her face.  Now, she routinely uses her day off to hike and is also an established guide for local hikes.  She has climbed many of the highest mountains in the world all while raising money for charities.
  5. Joey Law and Hillary Yip– are a mother/daughter duo who have questioned the education system in Hong Kong.  Hillary is now home-schooled and the founder of her own company that focuses on education.  She seems much older than her 12 years…..geesh, I was building forts and climbing trees at 12!!  I have heard about their education model previously.  They believe that instead of teaching the same curriculum to all students, instead the student could choose a subject to learn that interests them and not be hindered by others that may learn at a different pace.  Hillary is clearly excelling.
  6. Tricia Yap– a daughter always trying to live up to her father’s expectations/society’s expectations and gauging her success on that standard– until she lost everything:  her husband, her job, her company, her sport, her outlet and she felt she had nothing.  She contemplated taking her own life.  Instead she realized that “success” as it was defined by others, wasn’t working for her.  So she re-defined what success meant to her.  Her mantra “I am Enough” is what motivated her to build back her confidence and shatter others’ definition of her success.  She is again a business owner and she coaches and helps others achieve their goals in health and wellness.

I definitely didn’t feel like I was enough after their talks.  But I did feel extremely inspired and blessed to hear about their perseverance and then ultimately their SUCCESS.  It was a truly humbling and eye-opening day.  What great role models!!

The look on Qi’s face when I said I was looking into opera tickets- PRICELESS.

Here are some pictures from my walk home after TEDx.  It’s still 70-80F…even at night.  It astounds me that people wear long pants and coats.  However, I guess since it was >100F right before we got here that 70F could seem chilly?  I’m hot!  I was wearing a dress with pantyhose only because I didn’t want to make a bad impression with Qi’s colleagues, but I won’t make that mistake again.  That brings up a question I’ve been wondering:  Am I the only person still wearing pantyhose?

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hello moon

Stay tuned for our High Tea experience and our trip to Sai Kung.

Alex- If you’re reading, thanks for the cell phone charger and seeking me out when I was standing there drinking wine by myself during the reception.  That was very sweet!!  Tell your wife she should write a blog if that’s what she wants.  Mine is infantile but surprisingly still so very time-consuming.  At present, I love it!  I honestly don’t know if I could keep up AND have a full-time job though.  She’d have to be mindful of the blog topic and very passionate about the subject matter to choose it over other pastimes.  Obviously people do it all the time, but I had no idea how much of my time it would entail.  Cheers and best of luck to you!  BTW, I seem to have misplaced your business card.  Look me up on LinkedIn.

Causeway Bay, Times Square & Central

Oyster House, Queen Victoria & Mansons Lot

We went to a couple pretty good restaurants recently in Wan Chai.  We had seafood and foie gras at an Italian restaurant called Oyster House, fish and chips at a British Pub called Queen Victoria and amazing coffee and breakfast at an Australian “brekky” place, Mansons Lot.  We also had wontons but it wasn’t my favorite so that’s the end of that.

Italian Seafood at Oyster House

I’ll start with the meal we had at Oyster House.  We went pretty early in the evening for Hong Kong.  People tend to get up later and stay up later here….so their meals tend to reflect later times than I’m used to in the US.  It was probably about 6-7p.m. and it wasn’t that crowded yet.  Qi spoke Mandarin to a gentleman who I presume is the owner.  He said we were lucky there was a table since we didn’t make reservations….in a nice way.  There were several families eating but there were still a couple open tables so he sat us right away.  The place was BYOB but they also served drinks– or wine at least because that’s what I had with my meal.  We started with Australian oysters that were delicious.  I don’t think I took any pictures but they were delectable.  We slurped them right up!  Good job Oyster House!  They have a deal where if everyone at your table has at least 2 glasses of wine then there’s a 10-20% discount on oysters.  They had quite a selection.  Qi and I have had an array of East Coast and West Coast oysters at other restaurants, but never Australian.  Next time, we should just plan to drink and eat oysters.  Although our meal was quite delicious, the seafood was the star at this restaurant….so fresh and perfectly prepared.

IMG_20171029_195847 foie gras at Oyster House
foie gras with cherry jam at Oyster House
IMG_20171029_201211 scallops at Oyster House; italian seafood
scallops and pasta at Oyster House

British Pub– Queen Victoria

I went to Queen Victoria to watch Game 7 of the World Series.  We had passed it several times and I knew it was a British pub.  I was super pumped because they were open and I found it without using directions even though I originally went the wrong way!

I decided on their fish & chips and the bartender was nice enough to let me know that if I waited 30 minutes or so, they’d be 50% off.  I was content to watch the game and drink a couple beers so I wasn’t in any rush.  I had a blast (it helps that Houston won!)and the fish & chips were pretty standard.  I loved that the fish was a giant fillet and not frozen fish sticks and the fries were already drizzled with malted vinegar but not soggy.  It hit the spot and I cannot complain.  Qi and I returned to Queen Victoria for a drink the other night and several people came up to talk to us at our table.  There’s a mixed crowd but many are British and super chatty.  They had both Guinness and Stella on tap.  They had other beer on tap but I do not remember–and I wasn’t intoxicated or even tipsy, they’re just evading me right now.

Australian Brekky at Mansons Lot

Qi found a “brekky” joint and wanted to check it out over the weekend.  This is an Australian breakfast.  We went to Mansons Lot and had very good coffee.  Qi prefers The Coffee Academics.  I think their coffee is good, but the place is over-priced and maybe a bit pretentious.  I don’t think I can go back and pay that much for a coffee.  My favorite place for coffee has been Venchi.  They are a gelato and chocolate shop nearby but their coffee is amazing and very strong.  They also serve it with a morsel of dark chocolate which never hurts!  I thought Mansons Lot was just perfect though.  It still costs more than Starbuck’s and Pacific Coffee but it seems much stronger.  It’s the best coffee I’ve had with a meal….other than of course the Vietnamese-like coffee we had at Toast Box.  This place was very tiny (typical in HK)–it had maybe enough room to seat 15 inside (very cozily) and then there were a couple tables outside too.  Neither of us had their brekky special but Qi had an omelet and I had the avocado toast with poached eggs and ricotta cheese.  Ricotta cheese was spread on the bread.  We both enjoyed our meals very much.

IMG_20171105_114958 Mansons Lot- avocado toast
avocado toast at Mansons Lot–you can see the edge of the omelet on the other plate

Other than these three places, we’ve had some great street food and milk tea with boba….all within a couple blocks of our place and open at the wee hours of the night.  An interesting street food to note is the “bubble waffle”.  We didn’t have our bubble waffle with ice cream yet but it tastes like an airy version of the dense waffles I grew up with in the States.  In Hong Kong, it can replace a waffle cone and is used as a vessel for ice cream.  Or, it’s also served on its own as a snack.  See this Eater story for details:

https://www.eater.com/2017/7/7/15928320/hong-kong-bubble-waffle-egglet-gai-daan-zai-ice-cream

So much for losing weight while I’m here!

Up Next:

-TEDx TinHauWomen- Bridges Two Become One

-Sai Kung

-High Tea

-The Quest for Salad

 

Wan Chai Hills and Escalator/Travelator

exploring our neighborhood- the grocery store and dim sum

Wan Chai & Tsim Sha Tsui

Central Waterfront, BBQ Pork Buns, The Moon! & Hong Kong Park

Causeway Bay, Times Square & Central

Over this past week, I’ve been exploring Causeway Bay — a neighborhood to the east of us and the location of Times Square and also the neighborhood of Central — the swanky financial district to the west of us and the location of Qi’s work.

Sidewalk Etiquette and Cross Walks

I’ve been walking around a lot and getting to know the neighboring neighborhoods such as Central and Causeway Bay.  Lots of the signs are written in characters (which I don’t understand- and I cannot differentiate them!) so I have to pay attention to other sorts of landmarks.  And where in many other cities I’ve been to, most of the shops are on the ground level, here, you have to pay attention to several levels….remember it is a vertical city!  So it’s been a bit slower for me and some days it’s more overwhelming than others.  Also, apparently, due to this, I guess I’ve become a bit of a “slow-walker”.  There are many more people on the streets.  There is a mix of slow and fast walkers and seemingly nothing in between.  Although when the kids are walking home from school, there are a lot of pre-pubescent boys on their phones playing video games and not paying attention either….however, I would still consider them to be slow walkers.  I might have created a slower than slow walker category.  I might be in the category of dawdler.  Yup, Hong Kongers, I’m that person just looking around as I aimlessly walk/scuffle down the street.  You’re welcome!  My doctor would be so proud that I’m slowing down.

Really quick, there’s an observation I’d like to pass on.  Remember that the cars are driving on the left hand side of the road.  Just in case this is forgotten, there are reminders on the road at many cross walks.

road signs
in this case, signs warn pedestrians that this is a one-way road; regardless, the signs are a great reminder to me because I still find myself looking in the wrong direction

Causeway Bay

One MTR (for those not reading all my entries, this is the underground railway system) stop east of Wan Chai (location of our home) is Causeway Bay.  Causeway Bay is home of IKEA, Times Square, street markets and loads and loads of food!  The exit of the MTR stop for Causeway Bay is in yet another fancy mall.  Chloe, L’Occitane, Prada and many more shops are located in this mall.  We browsed around the mall for hours.  They are in the midst of getting the Christmas displays together.

me standing next to darth vader
this is for the Foye boys- Jackson, Parker and BIF!
Merry Spacemas

 

Qi found a restaurant called Crystal Jade.  They are compared to Din Tai Fung for their soup dumplings or xiao long bao–in HK they call it XLB.  We had their noodles (la mian), XLB, green beans and their pan fried dumplings.  The XLB were amazing!  Off the charts.  I could eat there everyday–so delicious.  And $35-40 HK for 4….that’s ~$5 US which might be slightly pricey but worth it.  The soup in the dumpling had the best flavor.  Typically I prefer the crab and pork blend but they only serve the pork and they do it so well.  And their noodles– la mian (Chinese version of ramen) were clearly homemade.  The chicken broth we had with it was extremely comforting and light but also packed with great flavors.  This was my new favorite meal in Hong Kong.  And it was in the mall at the subway station.

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Toast Box- Causeway Bay

We also went to a place called Toast Box in this mall.  They are a Singapore chain restaurant.  We had their laksa and kaya toast and their bread with butter.  Their coffee is delicious and reminds me of Vietnamese coffee.  It’s very strong and is mixed, by the barista, with sweetened condensed milk.  They are known for their butter and a giant mountain was on display behind the counter.  That is where they carve off the butter for their dishes.  Was it really ghee?  I don’t know.  But I plan to return for their peanut butter toast in the near future.  It was so affordable and very good food.

Times Square

Here are some pictures from Times Square.  It’s right outside the Causeway Bay MTR stop and it’s sensory overload.  I’m sure I could spend days people watching there.

IMG_20171103_203452 times square IMG_20171103_203448 times square IMG_20171103_203445

 

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Central

I also did some more exploring in Central, the neighborhood where Qi works.

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enroute to Central- there are a lot of indoor cross walks to avoid the heat in the summer
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park right outside Qi’s building

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beautiful government building in Central
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gardens outside a building in Central

I have lots more to share over the coming week:

-I experienced the most inspiring and empowering TEDx talks

-We had our High Tea and saw 360 degree views of Hong Kong

-We went to Sai Kung

-I met some of Qi’s lovely colleagues for a lunch at The Club

I’ve had the most amazing week and I cannot wait to tell you.  Tune in for more to come!!!

If you missed out please check into some of my other posts:

exploring our neighborhood- the grocery store and dim sum

Central Waterfront, BBQ Pork Buns, The Moon! & Hong Kong Park

Oyster House, Queen Victoria & Mansons Lot

Kam’s Roast Goose, Lantau Island- Tree Walk & Sunset Peak