Note: this piece was originally started in December when I was in the US. I got lazy, forgot about it, and now it’s just in time for the Lunar New Year – all the rave here in Singapore – to be revived and published!
I had a flashback in Hong Kong when the waitress at our local dim sum joint in Western Hong Kong island slapped menus onto our table and said quickly and impatiently in English, “What are you ordering?” The bustle and clamoring of the restaurant mingled with the honking and general street noise of Queen’s Road West: everyone was busy, and no one had time for two confused tourists.
On the surface, Hong Kong – covered in November fog and lit up florescent at night with old British colonial road names and cantonese conversations – seemed like an expensive, crowded, dirty city that’s caught in between the cross fires of Eastern and Western identities. We had just arrived from Singapore, jungle paradise with ridiculously clean roads and public spaces, into an uncleaned Airbnb apartment wedged next to two open air meat stalls. We were supposed to be on vacation and instead, it felt like we had stepped into the Manhattan of the Far East, or, Asian Gotham.
After a night’s rest and some explorations, I developed three distinct impressions of Hong Kong over the course of our 6 day vacation that distinguished it from any other place we had traveled so far. Continue reading “Asian Gotham in 6 Days”
I admit it took me a while to begin this post. In hindsight, I think it’s because Seoul confused and fascinated me. Close your eyes, and you can almost imagine Seoul to be Los Angeles transplanted right into the heart of South Korea, an intersection between the West and East, a budding economic power with cultural soft power that has spread across the world, and a city proud of its powerful identity after years of conquest from outside forces. As American influenced as the city may initially feel, keep your eyes closed and you can sense China there too. Perhaps this is because we met several Koreans fluent in Korean, Chinese and English, and perhaps it was because I could palpably feel the North and South split. Yet despite this, South Korea was also distinctly, proudly and beautifully Korean.
Do you like spicy food? What about onions and strong, salty flavors? Or maybe you’re swearing off all carbs to try that new paleo or whole 30 diet. Well if you can check off any of the above, Korea is the place for you. The champions of fermentation (seriously, kimchi will be your primary source of vitamins during any trip to Korea), mysterious red chili sauce, and two inch thick pork belly BBQ, Seoul is a meat lover’s dream.
Written October 30, 2018 in the middle of the night.
Background on the blog series “Lessons on the Road”. I used to have this overly analytical way of calculating whether a year was net positive or negative, kind of like a personal yearly report. So come every December, I’d be stressfully trying to tally up all my experiences: “Did I give enough? Did I learn […]
Before coming to Seoul, everything I knew about Korea was based on my lil Sis’s love of BTS and the Tofu House in Palo Alto. To me, Seoul was squarely in lil Sis’s domain; it was her place, and I would feel a weird sense of betrayal for coming here before her. For that reason, Seoul wasn’t originally on our travel itinerary. But since Seoul is a major Asian technology hub with a consumer base obsessed with blockchain, AR/VR and mobile technologies, and since it’s only a 2 hour flight from Tokyo, we decided that lil Sis would have to stew in her envy for just a little longer until she can make the trip out. In the meantime, I am trying to memorize the faces of the Korean boy bands so I can immediately alert her of any sightings.
I write this as I’m sitting at the Sakura Lounge in Haneda Airport, waiting for our flight to Korea, our next destination. I feel depressed, and I’ve been trying to find ways to spend more extended time in Tokyo in the future. For years, Japan was on the top of my list of places to visit, and after finally making it over, I can confidently say it exceeded all of my expectations.
I can’t believe it, but it has been a little over four weeks since we last arrived in Tokyo, tired and weary from a long flight, and I’m not nearly close to sharing all of my stories yet. I still have to write up our outdoor adventures – including a typhoon filled weekend in Hakone, cultural learnings and the nightlife subculture (e.g., the weird, the fantastic, the colorful, the dark). Due to popular photo requests, however, and even though I haven’t knocked off everything on my list yet, this piece will be dedicated to my favorite part of Japan: food.