Ni hao! Isn't this what List App was created for? Travel logs? @bjnovak? Didn't know how best to share my recent 19 days in Hong Kong, so I'm dumping it all here, in no particular order. 🎒🐟✨🍜🎡📸📒⛰🛍🌃💮
  1. Dim sum and the world's best dumplings
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    Din Tang Fun. The original is in Taipei, they've expanded to 80+ locations worldwide, including The OC. The xiao long bao dumplings explode in your mouth. Ordered so much in line that we had to cancel the second half of our order. Later found out the "soup" in soup dumplings is made from lard so I'm recontemplating my love of this experience. Also tried Maxim's China Palace near City Hall. Traditional yum cha (carts). We grabbed two French strangers to qualify for the 7+ table (shorter queue).
  2. Workouts I saw
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    I was wowed by the Chinese dedication to moving the body and the openness to doing their routine in public, with no fear of judgment. Some moves: tai chi (wide variety: paper fans, hands only, swords), jogging, walking backwards down stairs, adults playing on children's jungle gyms in the early hours (monkey bars were choice apparatus), dancing the Macarena to a traditional Cantonese song, badminton, stretching on handrails anywhere (in groups or alone), standing and swinging arms.
  3. Peak during the day
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    We took a 400HKD cab up because some sleezy salesman convinced us that the tram line was two hours long (it likely was) and it cost 200HKD anyway (it definitely does not). The top has a mall and a million tourists. Take your pictures at the first opening and then put down the camera and walk. Circle the top of the peak and peek into the gates of the 1980s-style mansions.
  4. Peak at night
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    The real cost to ride the tram up is 40HKD round-trip. Add 28 more if your ticket "blows away" at the top, which mine did. The tram speeds up as the incline steepens. Stay calm. It is rickety. Looking at the city lights helps. At the top, take a video. Pictures don't always do the view justice. Offer to take strangers' photos; don't be sheepish when they offer to return the favor. Don't overstay, don't be lured into the restaurants or shopping. The way down is crowded, be prepared to squish.
  5. LKF
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    Lan Kwai Fong. It's Bourbon Street meets LES Manhattan. People can drink in the streets and often purchase alcohol from 7-11 to do just that (7-11 is a big thing here). Bar hopping is the norm. From clubs to hidden speakeasies to sports bars, there is something for everyone. Still lively into the wee hours of the morning. Not recommended for a nightly visit, due to crowding and inevitable poor health decisions, but a fun place to see how much HK likes to go out. Laden with ex-pats.
  6. Stairs and slopes
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    Escalators are boring. The world's (or is it Hong Kong's?) largest escalator was a major disappointment. Although what did I expect, really? The cool part is that they change directions based on traffic patterns throughout the day. I think they are closed off at night. Take the stairs. Alternatively, sometimes an option to walk up/down sloped inclines is there, which adds a bit of uncertainty to normally sure-footed paths.
  7. Karaoke 🎤
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    First weekend, first time out, atop the Shangri La tower building. We (new British friend) and I crashed a private room with a work party on its last legs. No one would leave until the boss went home. Half the room was sleeping whilst sitting up. The only song I could recognize from the list (mostly in Chinese characters) was Donna Lewis's "Always Forever" and though I'd never performed it before, that had to do. They graciously thanked us and quickly, sternly ushered us out after the one song.
  8. Simple pleasures
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    Flowers & vines & glimpses of peaks amidst the buildings and busy streets. Design events, maker meetups and art gallery exhibits w/ no admission fees. City stairs as a midday workout. Rainbow lights that make giant, formal skyscrapers appear whimsical. The city's showing of love for "Xmas." Huge video reels in Central where you can watch Gucci's runway show on repeat. Cheap taxi rides. Clean subway stations. Parks with traditional Chinese architecture. Slighty-off translations. Views and vistas.
  9. Things I bought
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    All prices HKD (~7X USD). Electric green plastic wallet (10). Speckled green merino wool sweater from COS (not a HK-exclusive, I know) (690). Lace-up Breton stripe top from Seed, a whimsical store for teens and tweens (299). Hand-lettered Hong Kong neighborhood postcards from dittoditto (150 for 4). Fjallraven Kanken backpack (750). White turquoise + moonstone bead bracelets (100 for both).
  10. Vagabonding
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    I stumbled upon a book exchange shelf at a cafe in Sheung Wan. Having no books with me, I wanted to pick one out but also wanted one from my "To Read" list (an overwhelming 40 titles and growing). Did not find any matches, unsurprisingly. Until! I saw an off-white spine, a book with the cover ripped off. It was Vagabonding, one I'd been meaning to read. Appropriate timing. Kismet is real. I finished it by the next day.
  11. Hikes and nature
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    I spent an afternoon climbing the Tim Tam Reservoir trail. Took about 90 minutes from top to bottom. Wear long pants. The best views of the city and open water were in the first quarter, while the middle portion had paths overlooking the peaceful reservoirs. By the end, the trail had morphed into a spot for visitors to BBQ and hang out, w/ paved pathways and picnic tables for public use. Close to Stanley beach. The Peak is another way to get away from the city bustle (avoid the mall at the top).
  12. Walking everywhere
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    I even learned a new word to describe this: peripatetic. It's the cheapest and healthiest mode of transportation. Provided you have the time, why not walk? You might encounter something unexpected along the route. I found this to be the optimal way to get my bearings around the city and learn where the neighborhoods connect. Other modes I used: MTR, double-decker bus, taxis, ferry, tram, coach bus, escalator
  13. Taxis
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    Are super cheap and often the most efficient way to get from A to B (unless you have time to walk, which will always be my first recommendation, see above). For reference, a 25-minute cab ride up the peak to the other side of the island cost 81 HKD, barely over 10 USD. Uber is here but hard to get and maybe illegal.
  14. Missing NYC
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    Things I did that reminded me of home: found this Anna x Karl replica street art, ate McDonald's breakfast, bought dark chocolate and Quaker Oats
  15. Daily habits I picked up
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    Meditation, journaling, squats, 7-9 hours of sleep, no coffee after noon, no biting my nails. I find extended travel is the best way to pick up new habits and drop old ones. The trick will be keeping it up upon return to America.
  16. China Visa
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    I was officially granted a 10-year multi visa to mainland China. $3500 HKD for 2-day turnaround. Had to take new photos for the application (note: if traveling across multiple countries, come prepared with wallet-sized photos of yourself to save the hassle and cost). The visa lasts even if your passport expires within the timeframe (which it will). Visited Shenzen and Dongguan to see the factories, an experience I won't soon forget.
  17. Cuisines I ate from other parts of the world
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    Indian (two nights in a row, one was Thanksgiving) - palak paneer will not disappoint. French (chèvre chaud) although the goat cheese served was actually Brie. Did they think I wouldn't notice? American/"Western" - salads, omelets, etc. Vietnamese - summer rolls, cucumber noodle salad with pork/prawn. English breakfast (as gross here as it is there). Singaporean/Malaysian - mostly saucy meat, very few vegetables. Italian (gelato, pizza, duh). Japanese (sashimi). Thai set lunch. Avoid Mexican.
  18. Colorful skyline
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    The skyscrapers light up different colors and patterns every night. Not unlike the Empire State Building, but there are more and the lights move (and sometimes spell out words and phrases) so it's more eye-catching and fun. There is a light show every night but I never caught the full thing.
  19. Coffee notes
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    Cupping Room and Brew Bros both served up a memorable avocado toast with poached eggs. To my surprise, dismay, and eventual acceptance and routine enjoyment, Starbucks is the go-to for many businesspeople all over HK. They served weird foods like lasagna and croque monsieur. Pacific Coffee is the other major chain. Always specify that you want black coffee as it's not assumed. They automatically add lemonade to any iced tea. Go for flat whites and cinnamon lattes if you're feeling extravagant.
  20. Kowloon
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    I consider this the Brooklyn of Hong Kong. Across the Victoria Harbour from HK island. Tons of shops and people and markets. I checked out Mong Kok and the flower market near Prince Edward ($$). Gorgeous views of HK. West Kowloon Cultural District waterfront park has concerts and markets (see: Clockenflap). The W hosts the aerial student showcase (sophisticated pole dancing) a few times per year. Take the Star Ferry, MTR or a bus. Cab takes longer and the tolls will cost you.
  21. Getting lost
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    Roads and sidewalks will end without explanation nor fair warning. Turn around and try again. Led me to find this secret clearing off Boden Rd. in Mid-Level that had an unobstructed view of downtown. Took in the beauty but still thought I might get run over by a car and scurried back to the main path.
  22. Weird things I ate
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    Minced pigeon, jellyfish, veal sausage, roasted meal worms, squid, congee, squid crackers, a few other mysterious things I never deciphered
  23. PMQ
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    The Hollywood Road Police Married Quarters, now renamed as PMQ, has become a hub for the local design and creative industry. Its buildings have been refurbished and upgraded to host new creative enterprises. I stopped by during Business of Design Week for gif-making and open house visits of design galleries and storefronts with homewares, jewelry, fashion accessories and more. The open courtyard is ideal for events and there is a rooftop bar and restaurant overlooking Hollywood Rd.
  24. Things I didn't do
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    For lack of time or interest, or perhaps because I know I'll be back, I missed out on many popular places and activities. To name a few: horse races, Disneyland, small islands and fishing villages, Dragon's Back, ferris wheel, nightlife in Wan Chai, museums of any kind, Tim Ho Wan, Great Buddah, Macau, traditional Chinese or Cantonese souvenirs, street trolley ride.
  25. Wordsmithing
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    Can never know for sure how intentionally hilarious the marketing copy is on menus, signs and pamphlets but it makes me crack up regardless. Here was one page of the drink menu from Duddell's - MARTINI. Many shops and restaurants have motivational sayings, in English, plastered all over the doors and walls. I sincerely appreciate the sentiment.
  26. Best public artwork I found
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    A mural of drunk pandas, for your viewing pleasure. See what I mean about Lan Kwai Fong?
  27. Most cultural experience
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    I attended a 7AM Sunday mass at St. George's Catholic Church. Beautiful 60s style church with rainbow stained glass windows. Bright teal exterior. Mostly women in the pews. I felt tall, as if I was towering over this sea of raven-haired songbirds. They loved to sing! In English! They had a PowerPoint with all the prompts and rotating graphics of Jesus. After Mass, the congregation gathered downstairs for rice and tea.
  28. Restaurants I'd go back to
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    Duddell's (two Michelin stars, all the appetizers and mains were amazing, sesame almond dessert), La Vache! (steak, unlimited fries, house red wine, apricot dessert), Cafe Fresca (perfect lunch spot, mostly vegetarian), Ho Lee Fook (short rib), Nood (massive salad options, below Pure gym), Corner Cafe (Western and just what I needed at the time, good view of local park)
  29. Bars and cocktails
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    Ronin (Japanese whisky), Duddell's rooftop. Not cheap! Rummin' Tings (fun music and crowd, 2-for-1 ladies' night on Wednesday)
  30. Clockenflap
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    3-day music and art festival at the scenic West Kowloon cultural promenade. Coachella meets Lollapalooza meets summer camp for kids? Art installations, markets, food trucks, bars, little kids with flower crowns everywhere. I went on Sunday only and got to see New Order close out the show. "Your Silent Face" still gives me chills. Neon Indian and CHIC feat. Nile Rodgers were honorable mentions. Ate ice cream over dry ice. First time I ever went to a concert alone. See below for the sunset vista.
  31. This.
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    Never seen a sunset like it. I literally ran to the waterfront to watch, transfixed, the descent in its entirety. Thank you, Hong Kong, for your beauty and for accepting an outsider like me into the eclectic mix. See you in 2016!