Saturday, December 18, 2010


Today was a weird day. I took my second trip to China. First time was Beijing this time was just across the border from Hong Kong to Shenzhen. I had to get my China visa for it which was processed in about a week.^ The reason for the trip was to go for a massage, dinner and some shopping with coworkers, all local to Hong Kong.

The train ride to China from Hong Kong island is about an hour including the 3 transfers necessary. Border crossing is pretty straight forward though extremely tacky, no big surprise. The border area was lined with cheesy souvenir shops, liquor stores, fake jewelry vendors and big advertisements for spas nearby. It's common for Hong Kong people to go to Shenzhen for the day for a spa. It's half the cost of what it would be in Hong Kong and about a 10th of the cost in the US.

Once we crossed into the smoggy city of Shenzhen we found the van that would take us to Queen's Spa, our first destination of the afternoon. We arrived to a dozen employees dressed like World War II nurses with Santa hats who ushered us downstairs into the spa. The place was MASSIVE! Imagine a casino floor in Vegas but the spa version. Rather than gambling tables there were reclining chairs, hundreds of them. Some people were sitting having a massage, some were eating from the fruit buffet provided, some sleeping because the spa allows you to spend the night. My thought was this is definitely not like any Western spa I've been to.

The 6 of us went into the womens changing room to change into the spa attire. Rather than the plush spa robe I'm used to I was issued a pink and orange scrub set that was 2 sizes to small. Hot. We all laughed because we looked like we were in spa prison, then we went upstairs to the lazy-boy casino to start the treatments. We ordered 45 minute foot massages and a 90 minute body massage. The foot massage was very nice, if you haven't had one I suggest you get involved, its a must for someone who wears heels all week. When 45 minutes was up we left our row of chairs and the hot teas we had been drinking to go to the massage room.

Still in our prison uniforms we went into a room that had 9 massage tables. It was like summer camp and we were all bunked up in a cabin in our matching outfits. Again the massage was nice but I couldn't shake the creepy casino feeling of the place. The weird clothes, the smokey smell and the loud people yelling in Chinese all around didn't do anything for the spa ambiance and started to get to me after 90 minutes.

Overall it was an interesting experience, not something I would rush back to do but that US$30 price tag for it all made the weirdness easier to handle.

The rest of the evening was spent shopping around in stores stocked with the random things made in the factories nearby and a Hot Pot dinner. A very Asian day which reminded me that I am living in China even when Hong Kong doesn't always feel like that.

*Note to travelers with US passports - get a China visa in the US. It's less expensive and you're able to get more entries into China than if you apply from other countries.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Wednesday in Photos

A glimpse at a typical Wednesday in Hong Kong:

My co-workers love me or, well, they like me and I think they are a little afraid when they know I am stressed out. So, they bring me presents all the time. The presents are pretty much always food. One day I came back to my desk from a meeting and found these.

Here is Taro Bubble tea which I can best describe as Taro flavored milk. It has my favorite Tapioca balls aka Bubbles at the bottom. Problem is the drink only comes in this huge size, I can never drink it all. My favorite flavor is actually the Milk Tea flavor but for some reason they thing I like Taro so that's what they bring me all the time. Also pictured is a Hong Kong egg tart. This is a signature Hong Kong treat. It can be eaten for breakfast or for dessert and is an egg-y custard inside a somewhat flavorless crust.

Here is a picture I snapped on my commute home from work today. MTR is always packed. The person with the sign's sole job is to make sure people don't charge the train. The train runs every minute and still it gets this crowded at rush hour.

This is the view from my apartment building at night. 45 floors up on the roof is the perfect place to watch the Hong Kong light show - a lazer light show that happens every night at 8. All the buildings light up and are timed to music. If you watch it down by the harbour you can hear the music but you can see the buildings "dancing" from anywhere high enough!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

This week I celebrated my first birthday in Hong Kong. Overall it was a very good one. Over the weekend I had brunch with a group of friends and felt good about having 14 new friends around the table.

At work, word got out that is was my birthday, so did word that I love elephants so while I watched the World Series in a conference room my friends embarrassingly decorated my desk with balloons and elephant pictures. I also got some really thoughtful gifts from my coworkers including the following:
-Printer paper sized box full of Asian treats. I have no idea what any of the snacks are but look forward to trying them
-A leaf sitting in water in a martini glass. Apparently it grows into a plant. I'm skeptical. So far on Day 2 is still just looks like I have an alcoholic drink on my desk with a leaf stuck in it.
-3 cute necklaces they got from a local market.

The night of my birthday I had a low key dinner with friends and stayed up late talking and drinking wine. It was a good day here combined with lots of nice messages and calls from friends away. AND the Giants won the World Series! What's a better birthday present then that?


Friday, October 29, 2010

I'm Back

Hello! I apologize for the lack of blogging over the past couple months. September and October were hectic and travel heavy but now I’m back, settled in Hong Kong and it’s time to get my blogging on.

So let’s see, a couple big things have happen since I last posted. Two of my very best friends got married which was the reason for much of my travel (note – they did not get married to each other). Both weddings were a blast and, I never thought I would say this, the 16 hours of travel x4 in coach actually weren’t that bad. I mean, it’s a really long time to spend on a plane but I was able to catch up on a ton of B list movies. Plus, the time spent at home seeing friends and family was worth the hours in flight. The homesickness now that I’m back hasn’t been easy but that’s besides the point…

I also took a trip with some friends to Cebu, an island in the Philippines. We booked a last minute flight and hotel deal on and went for a 3 days weekend. Cebu is a 2 ½ hour flight from Hong Kong which just far enough for a weekend away at the beach. We stayed at a hotel that was right on the beach and painted totally pink. The highlights of the weekend were #1 the day we rented a boat to take us snorkeling. We stopped at 3 different sites and saw loads of fish and other sea creatures. My favorite was an electric blue starfish who had legs that were each a foot long. The Philippines is made up of thousands of little islands so there is a lot to see under the sea. Highlight #2 was visiting the home of my friend’s family. It was his cousins birthday so they invited us over for dinner and karaoke. There were probably 30 people there in backyard/courtyard sandwiched between other two story homes. We ate some crazy food (e.g. goat stew), drank the Filipino version of Smirnoff Ice and sang karaoke. Not only did they welcome 4 strangers into their home, they let us eat at the dining room table which made all the little cousins jealous and they enthusiastically listened to me sing Total Eclipse of the Heart and didn’t boo!

That’s all the major stuff that’s happened lately. This weekend is Halloween. It should be a wild one. They close down the streets in an area where there are lots of bars and everyone comes out in costume. I’ll be there, dressed as Wonder Woman…



Mango in Cebu

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Just your ordinary couple taking a weekend stroll through Causeway Bay

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Typhoon Season

The rain today on my way to work. There was no rhyme or reason, just downpour. By the time I got to work I had puddles in my shoes. Really, they were squashing around.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Everyday in Hong Kong is a Culinary Adventure

There is lots to say about the food in Hong Kong and there will be many posts about it. Here is the first.

I think the best way for me to describe eating here is that anything that appears to be similar to something I've had in a Western restaurant definitely is not. Don't get me wrong, there is a huge variety of food here and it is possible to get a basic sandwich or salad but anytime I'm in the mood for one of these things I somehow end up in a super local place with something covered in mayonnaise. For example, I went to lunch with coworkers the other day to an innocent looking lunch place called Deli France. I've walked by dozens of times and envisioned it as the Subway of France, harmless right? Wrong. I ordered a sandwich with BBQ chicken and vegetables with side salad. What I got was a doughy roll slathered in sweet BBQ sauce with pretty much every piece of the chicken that is not white meat - tendons, skin and other chewy things. And the harmless side salad was lettuce and bacon covered in mayonnaise. Mmmm.

I have to laugh when things like this happen and take it as a learning experience. Through these experiences I'm realizing that it's better to just forget about trying to find things similar to San Francisco and just embrace the local food. Today my coworkers took me to Dim Sum, my 2nd time to Dim Sum since being here and I love it - steamed buns, shrimp dumplings, sesame balls - but this too is an interesting dining experience. You have two sets of chop sticks, one to use on the shared food that rotates on the lazy susan and one to eat with but it's unclear which is which, chicken's feet and shark fin are often eaten, a delicacy even, and another challenge is that it's very difficult for me to have favorites. I've eaten Dim Sum many times but despite my efforts to remember the Chinese names, I can never seem to reorder the same things unless I see it walking by on a pushed cart. A little anecdote - my coworkers somehow got confused (thanks to KP) and think that I love beef (there are really only two things I won't eat, mayonnaise and red meat). At first I thought they were being sarcastic but of course sarcasm isn't part of the culture here. Today they ordered special "beef balls" just for me. When they arrived they looked exactly like the name, balls of rare ground beef in a steam basket. Thank goodness for the little bowl they give you that I can hide uneaten food in.

Oh and here is a fun fact, "Dim Sum" literally translated means "from the heart" named such because wives used to make Dim Sum for their husband's for breakfast. Aww how cute. That must have been what my coworkers were thinking when they ordered me beef balls.

I do have to admit though, I can get my western food fix when I need it. City Super is the Whole Foods of Hong Kong, it will cost me an arm and a leg but I can still get California grown Nectarines. The total opposite of eating local and being Green but that's a whole nother issue...

From the heart,