Lucas Lok-Hong

Other than honeymoons, what else follows marriage? Babies!

So have a baby we did. And perhaps I’m a rather unreliable source, since I’m somewhat biased, but I’d say we had a pretty cute one. We welcomed him to the world at 4:29pm on December 7th, 2017 after a long induction and an even longer pregnancy. I made it almost to week 42 before the doctors gave up on him coming out on his own, and evicted him. It was pretty rough on me – normal labour contractions are about 20 minutes apart at their natural onset and then become closer together and more intense until transition to active labour. In an induction – that’s not always the case – and wasn’t at all what happened for me. I had contractions every 1-2 minutes within the first hour, and that continued for 16 hours of labour. And when I think about how rough on me it was, it was probably pretty rough on my little monster also, being squeezed all around like that – they had to put me on oxygen at the end to prevent his heart rate dropping too low during the intense contractions. But at the end of it, all 7lbs 12oz (and 21/22 inches) of him joined us (the hospital couldn’t decide his height – which I suppose is fair, if you’ve ever tried to measure a wriggling baby).

The next 6 weeks of our lives was a bit of a living nightmare. Trust me when I say that I have now learned that you should never keep a newborn awake longer than 45 minutes – the overtired cycle is NOT something you want to mess around with. Also SUPER SWADDLE. It’s a game changer. Google it.

But we figured out where we were going so wrong, and he grew out of a lot of that newborn fussiness, and now he’s a very cute, and very fun baby.

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Kauai

What naturally follows weddings? A honeymoon, of course! And where better, than Hawaii?

The four biggest islands in Hawaii are “The Big Island”, Maui, Oahu, and Kauai. Each are a little different and have something unique about them. We chose to honeymoon in Kauai, which is the smallest, most secluded, and dubbed “The Garden Isle” for its lush vegetation. It’s most famous feature is probably the Napali coastline which is featured in Jurassic Park (and amazingly beautiful). It’s a pretty long flight from New York City, no direct flights, so total is something like 14 hours. Is it worth it? For paradise, I’d say so. Touching down in Lihue and making our way to the hotel was magical – even the smell of the island was amazing. They try to bottle it up and put it in air fresheners, like Febreze “Hawaiian Fragrance” but nothing comes close to the real deal.

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We spent the majority of our time on the island on the south part of the Island at the Grand Hyatt Kauai, where we each had 2 free nights from opening a Chase Hyatt credit card. It was actually a pretty amazing hotel, probably the nicest I’ve ever been to. We were pretty tired from the flight and it was late at night, but opening the door to the room, flopping on the bed, and hearing the ocean waves pounding away outside our room’s lanai was so peaceful and beautiful. The weather on the south side of the island is drier and sunnier than the north, so if you’re after a beach vacation, it’s smart to stick to the south side, and plan trips up to the north to see Hanalei Bay, swim with sea turtles, and the view Napali coast during good weather.

Grand Hyatt Kauai:
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Gorgeous, updated hotel, with amazing amenities, 2 outdoor swimming pools, a lazy river, hiking trails, a golf course, and a salt water lagoon, all right next to the beach. Unfortunately the surf is a bit too rough for anyone other than unseasoned locals to swim in during a lot of the year (including the time we went) so sticking to the pools is your best bet for swimming, but you won’t be bored in these pools. There’s plenty of fun to be had, from the lazy river, to the water slides interconnecting pools, beach balls, nets, and on the salt-water lagoon there’s even kayaking (that’s how big it is!).
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We took one of the hiking trails that cuts through the golf course on this hotel property, and took it up around to Punahoa point, which was a nice walk, and had nice views of the southern part of the island.
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St Regis Hotel, Princeville, Kauai:

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This hotel has the million dollar view you’ve been dreaming of. The amenities are kind of old, and it could use a bit of shaping up. They’re not as generous to honeymooners as Grand Hyatt was (think mini-bottle of champagne gift vs a whole bottle) but we did get a room with a crazy amazing view which, to me, was worth blowing all 30,000 of my SPG points for one night in. Everything is crazy expensive in Princeville, so it actually ended up being cheaper to just order room service in the St Regis.

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So if you’re deciding between the two, really the tl;dr of it is: if you want a quieter hotel with an amazing view, to be based in the North, and don’t want to be around kids much, St Regis is for you. If you want more activities, better weather, more updated amenities, and more kid-friendly, Grand Hyatt is for you. But you can’t really go wrong with either. In fact, you can’t really go wrong with Hawaii.

The best thing we did there, that I can’t recommend highly enough is a Helicopter tour of the island. I tried to pick a company with a good safety rating, and one that had good reviews from people (some tour companies cut the tours a little short to be cheaper, some pilots only give a good view to people sitting on the right hand side of the helicopter, etc) and we had a wonderful time. We opted for the open-door chopper, which was awesome, but keep in mind for booking that there’s two passenger seats in the front, next to the pilot, and 2 in the back, one on each open door. Since there’s 2 people in the front, to best distribute weight evenly, they weigh passengers and put the lightest two people in the front. So it’s definitely another incentive to lose those pounds before your beach vacation – getting sit up front and have a cockpit view. Unfortunately, I was sandwiched in between the pilot and Kelvin, and didn’t get to be right ON the open door, but it was close enough I guess. If you do choose to go on a helicopter tour, be sure to ask for safety information for how to get out of the harness in case of emergency (something I didn’t do but should have) in light of the recent East River open door helicopter crash in NYC where tourists drowned because they couldn’t get out of their harnesses. I would have had no idea how to get out of mine on my tour chopper either, they belt you in, and don’t really show you how to get out in case of emergency.

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The food on Kauai is insanely expensive. We ate a lot of poke, and did splurge on a local fish dinner, but tried not to go crazy. I’m not saying we stopped at Costco in Lihue on the way up to the St Regis from the Grand Hyatt for a cheap hot dog lunch, but I’m not saying we didn’t….Also on the foot note – try the Maui pineapple wine – sounds weird and sounds like it would be sweet…but it’s not. I was picturing sweet white wine flavoured with pineapple juice, but it’s actually wine made from fermentation of pineapples instead of grapes, and has a faint rotten pineapple taste, but its weirdly good. Then again, I rather like Durian, so you can feel free to take what I say with a pinch of salt.
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3 Weddings

It’s been over 2 years since I last posted as life has changed so drastically these past two years. We are a lot more stationary than we once were, and are back at home in New York City where we have done all the things expected of us: got married, had a baby, and bought a home. I will have another separate post about our son, Lok-Hong, but this one will be about weddings.

Weddings are complicated at the best of times. Since my family is entirely in the UK (with the exception of my older brother), and my grandma is not well enough to travel, and none of them speak Cantonese or eat Cantonese food and Kelvin’s family doesn’t speak any English, can’t travel either, and don’t eat white people food, we were faced with some crazy options when it came to a wedding. How do you combine all of those people in a room, and make everyone happy? The answer is: you don’t. It’s not possible. So to make things easier on ourselves, we had 3 weddings. Yes. You read that correctly. 3 weddings. to make these easier on ourselves. Because 3 weddings is easier than getting both our families in one space at the same time and happy. I think learning Cantonese is easier than that come to think of it….

Each wedding was relatively small . ~25 people each for the wedding in the UK with my family, and the wedding in NYC with our friends, and ~70 people that were entirely Kelvin’s family in NYC also. We got legally married at City Hall and basically had those 3 reception parties (with a church blessing in the UK for my family, which was special since it was the church I was christened in). It ended up being so much easier, and honestly, maybe even easier than a giant party – since logistics of those size gathering is much easier to deal with than trying to plan an event for 150 people. Plus, we got to spend more time with each group, and have more fun ourselves. Best of all, we had time to eat and drink with our guests, instead of spending the entire party desperately running around between people you’re expected to spend some time with.

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East/Southeast Asian Travel Destinations 2016

If I had a dollar for every time I was asked this question, I’d be rich indeed: “Out of everywhere you have been, where was your favourite destination that you visited on this trip?”

It’s an impossible question to answer. There was only one place I really probably wouldn’t go back to: Siem Reap, Cambodia. There was nothing to do outside of the temples so when it’s hottest during the middle of the day you don’t have much to do except go back to your hotel and go to the pool – and the tuk tuks and child beggars are super aggressive which can be unpleasant.

But every other destination had something that made it truly special and it would be impossible to choose my favourite one (especially considering how unique and special my time in Hong Kong was compared to every other destination).

So this list is exploring the best of the places we went, and where you might want to visit if you’re interested in particular activities.

Best Beaches: Phuket, Thailand
So you want to laze around on a beach, enjoy the scenery and just soak up some rays, ocean, and natural beauty? Phuket is perfect. There’s soft sand, perfectly clear and warm water, and amazing scenery around. I’ve heard Pattaya, Thailand, and Palawan in the Philippines are other amazing beach destinations, but never actually been to either myself.
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Honorable mention: Sai Kung, Hong Kong
It might be in one of the busiest metropolitan areas in the world, but honestly, you feel completely isolated on one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, comparable to those in Thailand. I was literally alone on this beach – which is definitely something in Hong Kong. Plus (if you’re in decent shape enough to hike) it’s relatively accessible by public transportation!
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Best Shopping: Seoul, South Korea
Seoul is super trendy and has several huge shopping areas for different price points, including the super exclusive Gangnam-gu area, made famous by PSY’s Gangnam Style, and the more young and trendy Myung-Dong area. But what I thought was most unique about Seoul, and makes it truly the ultimate shopping destination in Asia was that while there’s tons of modern shopping complexes, malls, boutiques, and more, they also keep their traditional clothing markets like Kwangjang, and Namdaemun market. And most ridiculous (and amazing) of all is the place called Dongdaemun market. When Kelvin and I went there, we initially thought it referred to the traditional fabrics, and clothing market (which seemed to span for miles)….but no….there’s more. There’s at least 10 massive modern shopping malls included as part of the Dongdaemun shopping complex. And it’s open until 4:00am. Yes. You read that right. 4:00am. People are still shopping after partying late at night in the early hours of the morning. In fact – it’s totally normal to stay out all night here, shop, and then spend the hours after 4:00am either eating or at a spa (or both).
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Unfortunately I simply couldn’t capture the magnitude of the expanse of Dongdaemun in any image – you have to actually be there to really feel the enormity of it.
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Honorable mentions: Singapore, Osaka
Marina Bay Sands is one of the biggest shopping malls I’ve ever seen – and they take Shopping malls seriously in Asia. It was so big (and Singapore is so hot) that I saw people running inside there. There’s also streets of massive malls and shops at Orchard Road in Singapore
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While Tokyo (and Bangkok actually) have several large mall regions, and Tokyo has the Harajuku neighborhood, which is a shopping experience in of itself, seriously Osaka takes shopping to another level. To put it into perspective a bit, walking from Namba Station along the Shinsaibashi main shopping street to Shinsaibashi station is over a kilometer solidly of shops. Now remember that the area a few blocks the right and left are also part of this shopping area and it’s just mind-boggling huge. Especially considering how small Osaka is compared to Tokyo! And in case you weren’t satisfied with the selection there, there’s the Umeda area a few stops on the train away that has shopping malls as far as the eye can see, complete with a ferris wheel on top of one. It’s seriously impressive (but not open until 4:00am).
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Best (all around) Food destination: Singapore
Singapore is almost as good as New York when it comes to variety of food available – the population here is so incredibly diverse that you can find so many different kinds of cuisine and all really authentic and really great quality. But it definitely beats New York when it comes to price – even in the financial district downtown, there’s an amazing Dai Pai Dong (much more succint Cantonese word for open air cluster of food vendors) where you can get Singaporean Laksa, Hong Kong roast pork, Thai stir-fries, Japanese noodles, Pizza, Indian curry and more for crazy cheap. And at night they close down the street adjoining for all the Satay vendors. It’s the perfect spot to hang out with friends so no one needs to feel pressured to spend a ton of money, everyone gets what they want, and it all tastes pretty great too! And they have plenty of little vendor market areas like this all around the city if you know where to look! There’s 4 official languages in Singapore: English, Mandarin (Chinese), Malay, and Hindi – so likewise there’s a heavy food influence from those 4 groups (and more!).
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Honorable mentions: Osaka, Tokyo
Osaka and Tokyo really are food heavens. Plain and simple. The selection and quality of food at varying price points is amazing! However, I ranked them as below Singapore because while every city’s restaurants cater to local palates, Japanese cities are so homogenous that the palate is pretty specific, so if you’re not looking for Japanese food, or Japanese fusion food, you’re not going to have an easy time finding somewhere to eat. The only kind of food I saw frequently other than Japanese food was Italian (but really looked more like Italian-Japanese fusion) and Chinese (which didn’t really look like the Chinese food you’d get in China…)
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Best street food destinations: Thailand (Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai),;Seoul, South Korea
In Thailand street food is on another level – and Bangkok is pretty much the world capital of street food. Chiang Mai is similarly street food oriented, just on a smaller scale since it’s a smaller city. Almost every street corner has a stall of some kind, and there’s tons of areas where vendors cluster together so you can walk past rows and rows of delicious smelling and looking street food. You can eat great in Thailand never setting foot in a restaurant. Though honestly, if food hygiene is a critical issue for you – you’re probably not into street food in the first place, but if you are – Thailand might not be your first choice (there were a couple of rats hanging out in the dirty pile across from me in the second picture), I’d check out Seoul or Taipei instead. Thai street food standards of hygiene are not as high as they are in South Korea or Taiwan – so while I love it dearly, I always leave Thailand with a stomach full of delicious things but totally unsettled.
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Seoul takes their street food seriously. It’s perhaps not as famous for street food as Bangkok, but the markets in every neighborhood always have so many street food stalls. They often even have chairs so you can stop and eat it right on the street too. It’s kind of hard to walk around Seoul and not feel hungry all the time because you smell food everywhere. I actually wasn’t really expecting this, and was a little surprised – I think Hong Kong used to be a prime street food destination in the 90s, but they’ve all been cleared out, while Seoul’s remain. Plus, in Seoul you can also super casually just buy Soju for really cheap from most street food vendors. Awesome. I love South Korea.
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Honorable Mention: Taipei, Taiwan
Taiwan food culture is insane and awesome. It’s like…actually it’s not like…it’s actually what happened…all the best chefs from China ended up moving to Taiwan during the Cultural Revolution in China because highly skilled workers were persecuted. So you have this rich cultural heritage of amazing chefs from various regions of China coming together to make a super awesome cuisine. But Taiwanese people also particularly appreciate night markets, and there are several really fantastic ones in Taipei that you can’t miss – including the Raohe street market…yes, that is the first place we went after getting off the plane, why do you ask?
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Best Adventure Destination: Chiang Mai, Thailand
There’s so much to do in Chiang Mai. In one day trip I went white-water and bamboo rafting, rode an elephant, visited an orchid farm, hiked to a waterfall, and ate pad thai wrapped in a banana leaf in the middle of the jungle. But that’s only a small sampling of the activities you can do! You can trek in the jungle for days at a time, bathe and take care of elephants, ride ATVs, meet Tigers, go ziplining, and visit hill tribes and see what village life is like there (I don’t really know how I feel about that because on the one hand it does increase peoples’ awareness of how other people live, and raises money for the village, but on the other hand, it destroys a way of life and makes people almost a zoo attraction). All of it is affordable and accessible, with the flexibility of group tours or going private.
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Honorable mentions: Bali, Indonesia
Bali has some insanely beautiful scenery, and temples, with beautiful waterfalls, a Volcano, beaches, snorkeling, fishing, diving, boating, ATV adventuring trekking and more. It’s less accessible than Chiang Mai, since there are not very many group tours or packages, you mostly have to rent your own driver privately to take you around all of these places. It’s actually pretty affordable to do that, but I always hate being on private tours because you feel like you have to create conversation with your guide, and your guide most of the time will try to spend most of the day telling you how hard up they are for money, and how difficult it is to find work in the town, and how they have families to support, so that you will give them a bigger tip. Of course I totally get it, and I feel for them, but I don’t particularly enjoying spending my time off feeling guilty and fretting over how much money I need to tip the driver. I (and the guide I think) feel much more at ease when it’s all included as part of what you initially agreed upon.
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Best Spa Relaxation: Bangkok, and Chiang Mai, Thailand; Bali
Thailand is famous for massages, and if you thought they were cheap in Bangkok, they’re even cheaper in Chiang Mai! Personally I prefer the Thai style massages which are supposed to be more therapeutic than relaxing. If it doesn’t hurt a bit while they’re doing it – it’s not that great. I love how it stretches you out, targets stress centers of your muscles, and makes you feel amazing afterwards. It’s considered medicine in Thailand, and many locals go for the health benefits, and there’s a ritual to it which you should respect if you are there. Quiet, and peacefulness are keys to a good massage. The massage will end with them giving you a cup of a tea, and sometimes a biscuit. You should feel free to relax and recompose yourself before changing back into your street clothes and leaving.
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In Bali, Balinese massages are king and over the world they are famous, but not as famous as Thai massages. Balinese massages include lots of fragrant oils, and it’s a much more relaxing massage than a Thai massage. There’s not stretching, no pain, no working out of knots in your back, really, it’s kind of more like a relaxing body rub with oils. It does feel nice (but personally I like the Thai massage better…). So really it’s up to you to decide what’s your favourite style of massage and pick your destination based on that.

Best destination for a bit of everything: Hong Kong
Hong Kong has it all – food, street food, beaches, hiking (OK, not so much snorkeling, adventures, ATVs, elephants, or ziplining), but it has a lot of stuff to do and is a great compromise between outdoorsy with it’s amazing hiking, jungles, beaches, and parks, with modern urban city tourism with food, sleek skyscrapers, and shopping
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So all in all, if you want to know what’s the best one, there isn’t one. But if you want a recommendation for a travel destination in Asia, based on what you’re looking for in a vacation, then I’ve got you covered!

On learning Chinese

In a way, my adventures in Hong Kong are over, I may never live there again, and I have returned, more or less permanently to New York where the official language is English. As I’ve said many times, though I had wonderful experiences, it wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination. It took me far out of my comfort zone, and I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times when I wanted more than anything just to go home. But my year in Hong Kong learning Cantonese was really just an intensive year to prepare myself for many years of future communication with Kelvin’s family (almost none of whom speak English).

You cannot learn a language in a year, or even 2 or 3, and certainly not one as difficult (for a Native English speaker) as Cantonese. When I learned French in High School and College it came to me easier because the sounds are more familiar and there are no tones. There are so many aspects of Cantonese that simply aren’t in Western languages. The pitch you say a word changes the meaning, and the even slightest pauses (or lack of pausing) can change the meaning and confuse your listener if you get it wrong. Saying “ho chi” fast without a pause between the syllables means “very similar to” but if you meant to say “very late”, you should make sure there’s a small pause in between each syllable. When you’re nervous to speak a foreign language, struggling to find the words, and trying to remember the word order, those kinds of things are easy to forget for a Westerner, but they are often the most most important.

But remember that you’re still learning your native language. There are words in English that I still don’t know, even though I have a very advanced vocabulary – I mean that if I read an SAT word list, I know and use most of them, but I certainly still come across a few I don’t know or remember. So with a second language, even if you have working knowledge of most of the things you need for basic speech, when the conversation takes a different turn, that requires a more specialized vocabulary – such as crime lingo for movies, medical vocabulary to describe what hurts, and words for things like food stamps, government assistance, and other things that aren’t used commonly enough to be in your vocab book.

I’ve now returned to a country where the main language is English, but I have moved in with Kelvin’s parents, so my main language at home is now a blend of Cantonese and Taishanese more than ever. Everyone always asks me now, “so are you fluent?” And my answer is – “I’m conversational” because I still would not consider myself fluent, but I can have long conversations one-on-one with Kelvin’s mother, and I can participate in wider discussions, with minimal translation. I can laugh along with most of the jokes, though there’s still a few that go right over my head – and I can help explain what’s happening in the conversation to Kelvin’s white brother-in-law who hasn’t made the time to study Cantonese (which his parents don’t mind – they’ve said they wouldn’t haven’t minded if I didn’t either, but I know they appreciate the effort). But I still have a long way to go – it feels great to be able to talk to Kelvin’s mother about things of substance finally, not just about food – but she still has to dominate the discussion. I can’t ask her things I would like to sometimes, because I know that I wouldn’t understand most of her response. She tries her best to simplify her language for me – and use Cantonese, though sometimes she’ll tell me she doesn’t know how to say it in Cantonese, and use her village language which I try to follow.

So while my year abroad in Hong Kong is over, the learning isn’t, and will continue for many years to come. Learning a language takes discipline, concentration, and most of all time. It’s not a 5K, or even a marathon, it’s an ultra-marathon which is possible, but must be taken one step at a time, one foot in front of the other.

新年快樂! (San Nin Fai Lok) Happy New Year

It’s New Years Day here in New York, and it’s a time now for reflection of the year past, and to make goals for the coming new year.

I’ve had quite a 2015, and I’m rather sad it went by so fast. I had so many amazing experiences: eating Banh Mi on the side of the road in Ho Chi Minh City,
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climbing Mount Inari in Kyoto,
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lazing on a beach in Phuket,
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watching the sun rise over Angkor Wat,
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stumbling around Siem Reap after eating Happy Pizza,
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riding elephants in Chiang Mai,
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eating Macarons in Paris,
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and watching the sunset over the Mekong River in Laos.
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And that’s just a few of the incredible things I’ve done this past year.
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Top 13 Most Memorable Meals

We ate so many delicious things in so many different places, but here’s a small sampling of some of the best of the best that tasted so good that I can still recall how they looked, smelled, and best of all tasted to this day. These are some of the meals I’ll remember hopefully forever.

Ramen Sen no Kaze in Kyoto
(shio ramen with soft-boiled egg)
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Pork-Basil rice, and Pad Thai on the street on Patong Beach, Phuket, Thailand
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Laosian Pho, random noodle shop, Luang Prabang, Laos
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(another variation at Villa Lakkham Hotel)
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Khao Soi, Chiang Mai, Thailand
(please forgive the horrible quality of the picture – it really was delicious)
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Vietnam ((almost) everything we ate there)
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Char Siu/Siu Aap/Bo Jai Faan in V-City, Tuen Mun, Hong Kong

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Hainanese Chicken in Bugis Village, Singapore
Honestly, it looks totally bland, but it’s very flavorful!
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Doekbukki and Jap Chae in Gwangjang Market, Seoul

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Daikichi Yakitori, Kyoto, Japan

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Nasi Goreng and Chicken Satay, Febri’s Hotel and Spa, Bali, Indonesia
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Wonton Min, Sham Sui Po, Hong Kong

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Din Tai Fung, Taipei 101, Taiwan
It just wasn’t as good in Bangkok
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Chicken Murtabak and Biryani at Zam Zam, Kampon Glam, Singapore
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Of course there were so many other delicious things that we ate (including my favourite Sichuan numb and spicy potato noodle soup) but these are just a few of the most memorable, that I’d highly recommend if you ever are in the neighborhood of these places!

Tuen Mun: Tsing Shan Square

I’m back in New York now, it’s definitely weird and kind of difficult adjusting back to life here – especially as we came back just as winter is really closing in. I just need to put it out here that I hate daylight savings time (China does not do daylight savings time) because I hate that it now gets dark an hour earlier – it’s seriously dark at like 4pm already. But that’s maybe just me, I don’t care if it’s dark in the morning because I’m not fully awake yet.

But in all the time that I was living in my little area of Tuen Mun, I had described a bit about my daily life and my building, but never really took pictures of the surrounding area. It felt weird taking out a camera and snapping pictures in the market. But on my last day, that’s what I did, so that I can remember my home away from home.

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That’s our old building: Man Bo Building, on Tsing Hoi Circuit in Tuen Mun. You can see some mountains behind, that we liked to climb every so often.

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And that’s where I bought most of my vegetables, fruits, and pork. Everything is out in the open markets, but there’s also a large covered market where I’d go for other things, like fresh tofu, thai herbs and veggies, pickled vegetables, fresh noodles, shrimp and other things.

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I miss how lively everything was, and how much fresh food was around all the time, and for reasonable prices.

Well that was my little piece of Hong Kong where I lived for a year. I sure do miss it already.

下次見香港: Until next time, Hong Kong

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My year abroad is already drawing to a close, and it’s certainly bittersweet. While I’m looking forward to getting back to work, earning some money, and seeing all the faces from home that I’ve missed, I’m certainly going to miss Hong Kong more than I ever expected I would, and it’s sad that this wonderful chapter of my life, full of adventures, is now ending. I have done, seen, and learned so much in this past year, and while moving on is sad, a new and hopefully just as exciting chapter of my life is beginning in its wake.

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This city has become my home, familiar in a way that only home can be. I’ve become familiar with the language, people, food, culture, and quirks: the men rolling up their shirts in the front exposing their bellies (aka Beijing Belly), the old people hoarding cardboard boxes (seriously don’t touch a cardboard box you see lying on the street – you will get attacked), the Filipino and Indonesian domestic workers taking over every inch of public space with picnics on Sundays, and the infuriating fact that Hong Kongers haven’t really decided whether they prefer to walk on the right or left side of the street causing pedestrian traffic nightmares.

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But despite that, and despite the insanely ridiculous humidity, Hong Kong is a truly great place to live – one of the only places in the world where you can go hiking in a lush green jungle,
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to a pristine, empty, world-class beach,
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to a 3-Michelin-star restaurant at the top of a sprawling urban jungle in a few hours on public transit. It’s vibrant, alive, and an incredible mix of traditional old and something distinctly modern.
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The city has so much to offer: shopping, food, natural beauty, hiking, beaches, mountains, amusement parks, temples, and so much more. I can’t recommend it highly enough as a travel destination, so while I have to leave for now, I’m going to leave Hong Kong saying “Joi Gin” instead of “Good Bye”. In Cantonese, “Joi Gin” is the traditional way of saying “goodbye” (though “bai bai” has also made its way here) but the literal translation is “again see [you]”. See you next time, Hong Kong, Ha chi gin Heung Gong, 下次見香港.

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Sai Kung, Hong Kong: Maclehose Trail Stage 2

I’ve known about Sai Kung country park in the eastern part of the New Territories in Hong Kong for quite some time now. It’s known to be the most wild, remote,  and naturally beautiful region of Hong Kong. I hadn’t gone because it’s so far from Tuen Mun (Google predicted 3 hours by bus, which turned out to be a little less than 2 hours). Being so remote, the public transportation options are limited – and in the park there are few roads, just hiking trails. The world famous beaches are accessible only by hiking at least 1.5 hours over a mountain. So a day out at the beach there isn’t as easy as taking a bus with your beach mat and towels, it’s a 2 hour ride to the park plus a 1.5-3  hour hike (depending on your level of fitness) to the beach. Is it worth it? Yes.

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The hike itself is not as strenuous as some others I have done, the mountain you must cross to get to the beach is not as steep or tall as Victoria Peak, for example, and it’s certainly not as tall as Castle Peak here in Tuen Mun, which I’ve climbed a few times. What makes it difficult is that it’s long. It’s 6-7km from the bus stop to the beach, and I hiked the same way back, because that was the easiest in terms of getting to a bus. On the way there, it’s downhill from the bus stop all for awhile, until you reach a little inlet, uphill over the mountain, and down to the beach. On the way back, you’re already tired, and have crossed the mountain twice, so the last uphill back up to the bus stop feels tiring.

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But there’s no shortage of beautiful sights to see along the way. There’s spectacular views of various harbours, inlets, and you can see all the way to Mainland China. There are also lots of little abandoned villages along the way, some of which are only partially abandoned, which are really cool. They are windows into Hong Kong’s past. You can see the way people lived before the high rises, and the way they still do live across the border in the villages of China (like Kelvin’s village). Some say they are haunted, especially when you see the elaborate graves, and all the urns of the remains of the families who once lived there, but I like to think it’s just an extraordinarily beautiful resting place.

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It certainly is one of, if not the single most beautiful place that I’ve been to in Hong Kong. The day I went was cloudy with sunny periods, and unfortunately it cleared up around noon, which meant tremendous amounts of glare for which my poor little camera simply can’t compensate for, but on a perfectly clear day, it’s simply breathtaking.