Asian Gotham in 6 Days

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.

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Victoria Peak by foot on a foggy November Day.

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”

Korea Tell All

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.

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Out in the old neighborhoods of Seoul

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Seoul Food Journey

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.

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The First 48 Hours in Seoul

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.

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Seoul is really hilly and surrounded by mountains. There are also a lot of cars.

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Tokyo Tell All

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.

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A gloriously lucky clear day to see Mt. Fuji after Typhoon Trami blew by. On Lake Ashi in Hakone. Most times, Fuji isn’t visible at all or just a faint outline disappearing into the clouds.

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Tokyo, The Food Diaries

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.

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A sit-down, traditional sushi restaurant called Abe sushi in Roppongi. It was incredible and has amazing lunch deals.

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Finding Gems Walking Tokyo

One of my favorite ways to explore is finding a place to start and just walking. Anywhere. For me, this beats all other types of tourism. It’s like trying to find hidden gems when you’re in sensory overload with new sounds, smells and sights. Here, I’ll share some of my favorite walks in Tokyo so far through photo stories and brief descriptions*.

*To be sensitive of privacy, I’ve either cropped or only used photos of people without their faces turned to me.

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Impressions: The First 48 Hours in Tokyo

We landed in a rainy Tokyo in a daze at noon after a sleepless night on the flight from London*. I had known we’d be in good hands the minute AirFrance had pulled out edible food – a Japanese curry – and after we had watched the translated version of Inuyashiki, a story about a middle-aged Japanese salaryman who is turned into a cyborg and saves humanity.

Anyone who has done that flight from Europe or North America to Asia knows that the first 48 hours is filled with a wondrous daze of “WTF and where am I.” Part of it is the jet lag, and if you don’t sleep on the flight, you’re hit with double confusion – the smells, sights, language, and customs with the compounded effects of no sleep make you feel as if you’ve stepped in Alice’s Wonderland of Weird, Tasty and Awesome. I was born in China and yet every trip back still fills me that same initial shock for at least the first 48 hours. This would be my first time in Tokyo proper. The initial landing felt no different in that sense, and yet it was very different compared to any trip I’ve ever made to Asia before.

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Harajuku at night

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