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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Lessons on the Road: Friends and Connectivity

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 […]

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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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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Quarterly Review: A Travel Postmortem

I found myself trying to plan out the next few months this Monday and realized that it has been a little over 3 months (!) since we started our year of traveling. In some ways, it’s felt so much longer than that; in other ways, I’m slightly panicked that our year is already a quarter of the way done. Since being on the road, there have been some things that have gone as expected — we miss our friends, family and community; our reliance on one another has intensified, and our relationship has strengthened (it’s like doing a trust fall with your partner every day); we miss not having to think about whether we’re fitting in culturally or not; and I would go slightly crazy without work.

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Las Vegas, 2018 when we were planning the trip.

In an effort to document my own learnings on this trip, I wanted to share a list of things that surprised me about our travel along with what we expect the next 3 months to bring. I hope I can read back on this when I am far wiser and more experienced, shake my head and say, “Oh, look at how naive I was,” or, “Wow, I was pretty perceptive about that one!” Continue reading “Quarterly Review: A Travel Postmortem”

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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Where the Wild Things Are: Scottish Highlands and Edinburgh Fringe

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I have no known connection to Scotland. For all I know, my ancestry goes back to when the first humans arrived in the land that is now mainland China and settled there until 1990 when my mother boarded a plane and arrived in La Guardia, Queens in New York City with two suitcases and $300 in her pocket. My Company, on the other hand, has traced part of his lineage back to the Mackenzie clan of the western Scottish highlands. Steeped in mystery with emerald green mountains, navy oceans and lochs with an unsettling fog that moves through the land during early mornings, Scotland would be the next destination in our exploration. Continue reading “Where the Wild Things Are: Scottish Highlands and Edinburgh Fringe”