Hong Kong: Day 1

Grace and I recently took advantage of a convergence of holidays to visit Hong Kong. Neither of us had been before and we were able to snag some pretty sweet tickets with frequent flier miles. We flew through Bangkok and were able to get business class upgrades for ~$75 from Bangkok to Hong Kong and back. Man... business class. So nice. So unnecessary. It's easy to see how, with enough power, privilege, and wealth it would be pretty easy to become detached. Sure, some aspects of business class seemed over the top, but a lot of it just felt like the way one deserves to travel. If it were a more frequent occurrence I can see how one would quickly become very entitled. Let me go into that "deserves" thing a little more. Things that felt completely silly: tablecloths on the tray tables, multiple course meals (food didn't taste any better, was just served up a little fancier), etc. But it was remarkably refreshing to just have enough space for my fellow passengers to feel like, well, fellows. In economy I feel like it's every man for himself in terms of fighting for overhead compartment space, desperately hoping the person in front of you doesn't decide to recline their chair, strategically queuing for the restroom, etc. It seems like there would be some option for a happy medium of a decently spacious cabin without all the fancy accoutrements, but I'm sure airlines have considered and dismissed this idea many times over.

Anyway, yeah, we arrived in Hong Kong around 10:30 PM. Everything was so easy! SIM card from 7 Eleven in the airport took like two minutes. Tickets for airport express train were similarly easily acquired. The train itself took 24 minutes (they are precise) to get to the stop closest to our Airbnb apartment. Cab from the train station took only a few minutes. Hurray. We managed to find a pretty great place on Airbnb. Not super fancy, but really, really spacious (for Hong Kong, that is) and a lot cheaper than a similar option at a hotel. We stayed in the SoHo neighborhood (named after the same in London) which was, I guess unsurprisingly, pretty hip.

We didn't do anything but crash and wake up super late (yay, vacation! boo two hour time difference!). The first order of business was getting food. There's dim sum chain of some renown (for being the cheapest Michelin star restaurant) called Tim Ho Wan that we set out for. There was a pretty big crowd, but it moved quickly enough and we got a seat:

Happy to no longer be waiting in line.

The food was pretty great, with a couple exceptions. The baked pork buns were beyond great. They were fantastic. So, so good! We actually revisited this place a few days later and the guy seated next to us ordered nothing but the baked pork buns. I don't blame him. The other exception was the poached cabbage. I felt compelled to get something green (as dim sum is otherwise pretty meat- and carb-heavy) and a lot of times there are pretty good veggies (Chinese broccoli, green beans, etc.). These were not so good. Oh well!

Delicious pork buns on left. Not so delicious cabbage on right.

After eating we spent a good chunk of the afternoon wandering around the Central neighborhood and ridiculously fancy malls. I'll let the pictures (and captions) tell most of that tale.

Malls, no matter how absurd, get old fairly quickly. Towards the end of the afternoon we headed to the waterfront to take a Star Ferry harbor tour. This was a great way to spend an hour and again I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

We ended the day by grabbing dinner at Little Bao, which was absurdly delicious.

R&R: Thousand Oaks

So I have a new favorite post-landing ritual: immediate Dim Sum after leaving the airport. Grace's parents picked us up from LAX and whisked us away to an entirely Asian (and predominantly Chinese) shopping center where we had fantastic Dim Sum. A great start to our visit in California.

Our time in California was very relaxing. Mostly we hung out with Grace's parents, ate a ton of delicious Chinese food as prepared by her mom, ate a ton of delicious fruit as grown by her mom, and went hiking in the hills surrounding the neighborhood. California, or at least Thousand Oaks, is a sort of bizarre place. The neighborhood Grace's parents live in is a little island of greenery surrounded by mostly shrubby desert. I guess the climate is such that with a little extra water things just sprout out of the ground like crazy as there's naturally a ton of sunlight and very mild temperatures. At first it was a little unsettling for someone who is so used to more East coast or the not-too-dissimilar Pacific Northwest style vegetation, but after a day or two there it started to seem pretty idyllic. Grace's mom has a garden where she grows pretty much everything: lemons, limes, oranges, cumquats, avocados, kale, sweet potato leaves, green onions, cucumbers, grapes, and about a dozen other things I'm forgetting. One of the most memorable fruits we tried was a calamondin. Wikipedia describes it as "quite sour," but Grace and I found this to be quite the understatement (video evidence follows). I actually really enjoyed the sourness - I think it was so intense that it gave me a bit of an endorphin rush, perhaps similar to that experienced by some people after eating really hot chili peppers.

As I mentioned, we did a good amount of hiking in Thousand Oaks. About one and a half to two hours each day. This was really, really nice, since we basically do no walking in Dhaka. I think walking through the airport in Abu Dhabi was the most I'd walked in one session since Istanbul. Sort of shameful, but the reality is that walking in Dhaka is just not pleasant. It is very pleasant in Thousand Oaks, though. It was just a tiny bit cool - perfect exercise weather. I took a lot of pictures of the (unusual to me) vegetation. Perhaps very boring to those used to California, but I was intrigued.

As with Arlington, our time in Thousand Oaks was all too short. Hopefully we'll get more time there, or at least with Grace's parents, next time we're back in the States.

R&R: Arlington Part 2 (the interesting part)

Okay this will mostly be a bunch of pictures with just a little bit of verbiage to explain what in the world is going on (only particularly necessary for one set; you'll see).

First, a quick picture of Sebastian modeling his presents from Bangladesh.

He looks thrilled...

Next, the Chung trio doing their thing (this might soon be reduced to a single picture).

We had a family picnic the day before Memorial Day. Unfortunately Bruce had to depart just a bit before, but everyone else was there!

We had a bit of a photo shoot with Gabriel the next day. The idea was to recreate a picture taken of my grandfather (on my mom's side) when he was a baby.

Our last day in Arlington was Memorial Day. While Joyce had to leave before the cookout, our numbers were bolstered by a few friendly neighbors.

Hope you guys enjoyed the pictures!