Happy New Year!
Wow, what a year it’s been. This marks my first full year living in Asia. In a lot of ways, it feels like it has flown by and I am just now starting to get settled. On the other hand, I feel like I have learned so much since moving here and I am sure I have changed in a lot of ways, From that perspective, my life in Boston seems like a long time ago. I started out this year having only spent a few months in Hong Kong. I had no job, hardly any friends, and not a lot of activities or structure around my life. Now – one year later – things look really different. I have a full-time job, I have made some really friends, and I am involved in many different activities. It’s nice to have structure, and it’s also amazing how long it takes for one to really feel settled.
I’m not fully there yet, but I’m well on my way there. I look forward to what this next year might bring!
For now, here’s a brief look at the past year and what I’ve been up to . . .
January – Yunnan, China
In January, I traveled with Bryan’s cousin to Xishuangbanna in Yunnan Province, located in the southwestern region of China, bordering Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar (Burma). This warm, tropical, and mountainous region is known for having the largest minority population in China as well as the richest diversity of plants and animals. People know Yunnan Province for its bountiful produce, especially its wild mushrooms (over 800 varieties!), Pu’er tea, and wild foraged greens.
We re-connect with old friends and savored local dishes from the two largest minority tribes (Dai and the Akha). I fell in love with Yunnan noodle 米線 (pictured above), enjoyed the tropical heat in January (yes, we went swimming!), and even tried deep fried street insects 🤢. It was a significantly enriching trip, both from a personal perspective and also a cultural one.
February – Thailand
I spent much of February blogging, after committing to write 50 posts in 50 Days at the end of January.
We also traveled to Thailand over the Lunar New Year, where we enjoyed warm weather, great street food, and quality time with friends.
March – Sonoma, California
I never would have imagined that I would have the chance to go to Sonoma again this past year (something we did regularly when we lived in Boston). But the stars aligned and I tagged along on one of Bryan’s business trips in Sonoma. We love seeing Sonoma in the spring, when the hills are at their greenest and the golden mustard flowers are in full bloom. This time we visited a stunning winery/open air art museum, got our fill of authentic Mexican food, fantastic California-style sandwiches, and excellent wine country fine dining. We even got to meet up with some of our Northern California friends, which was a real treat. All in all, Sonoma was a much needed escape from the crowded and intense hustle and bustle of Hong Kong.
April – Day Trips from Hong Kong
Bryan’s parents visited us over the Easter holiday in April. Although we weren’t super locals yet, we at least had gotten settled in Hong Kong and could show them around a bit. We took them all over Hong Kong as well as went on several excursions. We spent a day in Shenzhen marveling at China’s most modern city.
We took a day trip to Cheung Chau Island, a fishing town with no cars best known for its annual bun festival and pirate’s cave. We also spent a day on Lantau Island, taking the Ngong Ping 360 cable car (one of the longest in the world) to visit the Big Buddha and also Tai O, yet another quaint fishing village with the best charcoal Hong Kong waffles around. Finally, we took the ferry over to Macau for a day of sightseeing this unique Portuguese and Chinese influenced location.
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Fascinating to see the blend of Portuguese and Chinese influences on the architecture, food, and culture of Macau. Really enjoyed our day trip visiting various historic sites (all within walking distance of the city center) and trying lots of Portuguese food! 🥘🍖🥔🍮😋 . Loved the huge pedestrian-only portions of the old town, a UNESCO world heritage site! #tinyurbantravels #macau #tinyurbanmacau #ruinsofstpaul #senatesquare #unescoworldheritage #unescoheritagesite
May – Xiamen, China
May was special because of an unusual trip we took to Xiamen, China, the city where Bryan’s paternal grandparents grew up. We hadn’t meant to go searching for Bryan’s “roots” when we traveled to Xiamen. However, as chance would have it, Bryan’s grand-uncle happened to be Xiamen while we were there, and he ended up introducing us to all of Bryan’s relatives and even letting us visit the old family home (which still hasn’t changed too much!). It was really special to touch a piece history that was so close to home. Of course, we ate well in Xiamen, and especially enjoyed exploring all the different types of street foods they had.
In May, I also took (and passed!) a level 4 Chinese language proficiency exam (called the HSK, or hànyǔ shuǐpíng kǎoshì 汉语水平考试). I had spent countless hours in April studying for it, so passing the exam was a big weight off my shoulders.
June – Boston, Massachusetts
In June I flew back to Boston to attend my 20th (!) MIT college reunion, where I gave a speech to my fellow classmates about my experience moving to Hong Kong and what that (along with other moments in my life) have taught me. It was so, so nice to reconnect with old friends at the reunion, some of whom I have not seen for many, many years. It was also just nice in general to be back in Boston visiting all of our favorite haunts, everything from Public Garden and Harvard Square to eating Boston-0nly specialties we can’t get anywhere else (e.g., hot buttered lobster roll and raw oysters from Row 34, a drink (and food) at the bar at Bergamot, cheesy wafflatos from PAGU, and of course, ice cream from Tosci’s).
In June, my life in Hong Kong changed because I began my new job working at a boutique patent firm as a US patent attorney. I would soon learn what it is like to commute on the Hong Kong subways during rush hour (not fun). The job would also make me realize I wanted to improve my Mandarin Chinese and also learn Cantonese, which I started in August.
July – Tokyo, Japan
In July we flew to Japan to celebrate an important milestone birthday for a very close friend. Because this trip was for him, the focus was less on food (!) and more on other fun aspects of Japan. We spent a packed day in Hakone, a town about an hour away from Tokyo that boasts mountains, hot springs, museums, and gorgeous scenery.
While in Tokyo, we experienced the quirkier side of Japan, such as maid cafes, porcupine cafes, and restaurants where stuffed animals serve you your drinks. I had certainly never seen this side of Japan before! We did have lovely meal at Crony, a newish 1-Michelin starred restaurant that serves French cuisine with Scandinavian, North American, and Japanese influences.
To see the full write-up of our Japan trip, click here.
August – Chengdu, China
Bryan had a work trip to Chengdu, China, home of the pandas and spicy Sichuan cuisine. A friend and I flew out over the weekend to join him. Chengdu is a really nice city with lots to do and TONS of good food. The pandas are ridiculously cute (worth seeing!), and the food is super fun. It IS super spicy and if you’re like us, your body will be begging you to stop eating spicy food after a few days of non stop heat. I plan to write a few blog posts about my trip to Chengdu sometime in early 2019.
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September – Boston Take II
September was a crazy month. The first half was great. Bryan and I were able to line up our business trips and both go back to Boston for over a week. We even had a chance to play music with our old church band on Sunday morning during a church service (just like old times!). It was really special and nostalgic. My mom even flew out to Boston to meet me there, which was really cool.
Within a week of returning from Boston, Hong Kong was hit with the largest typhoon of the year, Typhoon Mangkut. It was a nerve-wracking experience, sitting at home all day while watching the building sway and hearing the strong winds and rain whipping at our windows. Aside from random leaks that sprouted through the apartment, we were spared any major damage, and for that we are extremely thankful.
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Crazy LONG sustained periods of heavy wind & rain this entire afternoon. We put up so many towels to stop the leaking 😂😂😂, and our building lightly swayed for so many hours (see the lights moving in the video??). Been feeling mildly seasick 🤢 all afternoon. Thankfully the storm is now FINALLY moving away from HK. I can feel the swaying subsiding and the winds & rain calming down. Still lots of gusts, but overall it feels better. What a CRAZY afternoon!! #hunkeringdown #typhoonmangkhut #hongkong #hkblogger #hklife #wanchai #hiriseliving #windy #typhoon
October – Hosting Friends in Hong Kong
Bryan’s best friend and his entire family flew to Hong Kong to celebrate Bryan’s birthday. We organized a packed 4 days full of great food including top notch Cantonese seafood from The Chairman, 3-Michelin starred Italian food from 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo, and world renowned sushi from Sushi Saito. We cherished our time together, missing the days when we used to be able to just hang out at a moment’s notice in Boston.
November – Singapore
November is one of the nicest months in Hong Kong, weather-wise. I was thrilled to finally be able to go hiking on my birthday, something I could never do while I lived in areas with much colder climate. It was also Thanksgiving, where we actually enjoyed a full turkey dinner together with a group of American friends living in Asia. It was really special. My mom visited me in November, so we took her on a hike and a lovely seafood dinner at Lamma Island.
I traveled to Singapore at the end of November for work. It was a bonus to be able to meet up with a few friends in Singapore, who took me to eat all sorts of amazing Singapore hawker stall eats!
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Enjoyed an amazing assortment of food at Zion Riverside Food Centre, such as spicy dumplings, pan fried dumplings, soup dumplings, braised duck, and laksa! We showed up a bit early so certain stands weren’t open yet, like the famous carrot cake 蘿蔔糕 and the char kway teow). #singapore #tinyurbansg #dumplings #餃子 🥟 #小籠包 #鍋貼 #叻沙 #zionriversidefoodcentre #hawkerfood #hawkercentre #新加坡 #🇸🇬
Dec – Los Angeles, California
And just like that, it was December. December was a busy month at work as everyone was trying to finish stuff up before the end of the year. We traveled to Bryan’s family in Los Angeles over the Christmas holiday. Though the time was short, we had many good opportunities to catch up with various family members. We even had a chance to do a bit of “touristy” things, such as visit Santa Monica Pier, go on a Paramount Studios tour, and visit the beach. Of course we did our regular activities, like visit Costco and Target, stores that we can’t find in Hong Kong!
Here’s to a great 2019!
Some upcoming posts that I plan to write on this blog include more detailed articles about the trips I mentioned in this post (e.g., Chengdu, China, Singapore, and Macau) as well as more Hong Kong restaurant posts. If I have time, I hope to start making some lists to publish, such as “my favorite Japanese restaurants in Boston” or “my favorite Western restaurants in Wan Chai”.
Have a great New Year!