Tag Archives: walks

Hong Kong Colada – A Tropical GetAWAY from the City

6 Dec

Celebration!

My broken camera (actually, G’s camera that I broke…lovingly) has magically fixed itself & now I can finally share some pictures from Hong Kong.

I have so much to tell you about our trip, mostly re: food, food and food (as usual), but I’ll start off with our most impressive and awesome Hong Kong activity- hiking the Dragon’s Back trail.

**Directions at the bottom of le post**

After two days of stomping around the high-rising city, waiting in lines (for eats, not museums…sorry dad) and pushing our way through markets, G and I decided it was high-time to nature-up & do a short hike called, Dragon’s Back trail.

The hike was nothing short of perfection- like a direct IV of gorgeous, straight to the system.

The trail was clearly marked and rather easy (an unexpected delight, after some of my more complicated Korean hiking experiences), so the 2 hours of walking were spent completely devoted to devouring the dramatic views of the South China Sea.

And the cherry on top? We had little hiking cheerleaders, who held signs of encouragement before the steep inclines.

I need to hire these ladies to cheer for me at the gym…

Anyway, the hike was over way too quickly (2.5 hours if you take your time and snap A LOT of photos), and G & I were not near ready to return to the hullabaloo of the city… so we opted to follow the trail to Shek O, a small beach-side village nearby.

I’m not sure what I expected (Maybe an extension of the city’s bustling downtown with a small beach attached?), but when we reached Shek O, I couldn’t believe my eyes- we stumbled upon a lazy, tropical, beach town in Hong Kong!

I had no idea this type of paradise exists only a few metro stops away from the city.

We sat on the beach for hours, reveling in our fantastic elastic (minute 1:25, if you watch the video) beachy discovery,  saddened only by the fact that we didn’t bring our bathing suits…

But the mocktails made up for it.

And thus ends my prescription for the antidote to city-life.  (If you ever need it.)

***

Directions:

To reach the trail-head, take the MTR to Shau Kei Wan Station, exit #A3.  From there, walk toward the Shau Kei Wan bus terminal and hop on Bus 9 (headed to Shek O).  Get off at Cape Collinson Road.  The bus should take about 15-20 minutes total.

The hike is approximately 4.5 kilometers long.

At the end of the trail, you can either take a taxi to Shek O, or head back to the bus terminal on Bus 9.

Easy as pie!


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Mt. Yongmasan – Where a Hike Is So Much More Than Just Walking

22 Nov

A few weekends ago, when the weather was still warm enough for T-shirts and spur-of-the-moment hikes, G & I made our way to Mt. Yongmasan (용마산).

**Directions and details at bottom of post**

The Yongmasan trail was supposed to be a straightforward 2 hours of mindless hiking fun, but it actually turned out to be so much more…

So what exactly did this hike entail?

1.  Cardiac Arrest

At the beginning of the trail, I made the mistake of declaring to G that I wanted a LAZY hike.  None of that sprinting up the mountain- like we usually do. So, in order to set a slow and steady pace for ourselves, I told G that we should follow behind the 70 year old ajusshi (elderly man), who was also standing at the trail-head.  He would surly be a slow walker, right? WRONG!

Next thing I know, I’m freaking running to keep up with this old man!  (Meanwhile G is having the laugh of his life.)  After about 15 minutes of  following the pace of Mr. Speedy Gonzales Kim himself, I nearly fainted.  Some visual evidence:

I know what you are thinking, “She is totally posing for this photo.” INCORRECT!  I was seriously on the verge of passing out.   You can tell because in the second picture taken, I am still too embarrassed to show my face, but you will notice my stomach sweat… which is clearly a sign of distress.

2. Alcoholic Picnic

If you are like me, you believe that the key to a successful hike is: (a) Nice Views (b) Good/Challenging Trail (c) A High Caliber Picnic (and not necessarily in that order).  Koreans seem to agree, as they take their hikes and their mid-hike picnics very seriously…

But lucky for me (and you), they take their drinking even more seriously.  That’s why, on the peaks of most mountain trails, you can find a makeshift outdoor bar, selling Makgeolli, the delicious Korean rice wine.

And for those hikers who nearly lost their lives in “an uphill battle” following the pace of an elderly man – a few cups of rice wine can really rejuvenate the spirits.

3. Ice Cream Party

We walked, we talked,

we saw some views…

But nothing was as exciting as spotting the ice cream man (seriously) at the vista point at the top of the mountain.

4.  The New Workout Plan

Actually, wait, I should take back that last statement – nothing was as exciting as eating our ice cream while watching other people work-out at the exercise park, which magically appeared along the trail.

5.  New Friendships

I guess that watching other people exercise must have been really exhausting because next thing we knew, G & I had stopped paying attention to the trail signs and got totally lost.  Luckily, the mountain was filled with hikers and we stopped a few strangers to ask for directions.

One particularly nice Korean man took pity on us (foolish white-folk) and decided to lead us all the way down the mountain.

And as we walked, a small love developed between the man with the yellow hat shirt & G.

G shared stories about his life in broken Korean, while the man with the yellow shirt shared his food.

You can bet that I was pretty happy with this arrangement.  Rice cakes, sweet potatoes and corn?  I’ll take it!

6.  Shoe Shine

It’s like the hike that keeps on giving, right?!  Well, get this, at the bottom of the mountain, the man with the yellow shirt instructed us to stand in line to clean our shoes…

Does hiking get better than this?

Oh yes, just wait.

7.  Children’s Grand Park

When we had finally reached the end of the trail, G & the man with the yellow shirt had a harder-than-expected time bidding adieu to one another.  (Cue Juliet, “Parting is such sweet sorrow…” No joke.) So, instead of hopping on the metro back home, like we had planned, the man with the yellow shirt insisted on taking us to one last adventure – a walk through the neighboring, Children’s Grand Park.

You just can’t make these things up.

We went to the botanical gardens & the zoo…

and now you understand what I mean when I said- it was so much more than a hike.

***

DIRECTIONS:

The best photo by photo directions can be found HERE.

Also, here are the directions per the Visit Korea site: Take Subway Line 7 to Yongmasan Station (Exit 2) → Walk into the entrance of Hanshin Apartments, and walk ahead → Go up the stairs next to the pavilion and take a right past the playground to an exercise facility → Next to the facility, go up the stairs behind the wired fence.

We followed the Visit Korea directions and got lost before reaching the actual hike.  I know, it’s a gift.  In case you find yourself in the same situation (walking aimlessly out of  Exit 2 of Yongmasan Station), make sure to be on the lookout for a sign like this:

Then just go up the stairs,

You’ll see an I Park Building in front of you, and just keep on walking along the trail until you reach a number of steep steps – which will lead you directly to the trail-head.

ENJOY!

Tokyo Highlights (Part 3)

27 Aug

I realize that I shouldn’t be abusing my lovely blog platform to wax-poetic about Tokyo (see Tokyo Highlights Part 1 & Part 2 for evidence), but I just can’t help myself.  So, dear friends, allow me to indulge in 1 final post about this delicious city & then I promise I’ll stop with all the Tokyo talk (for now).

Dōmo arigatō.

Okay, so let’s talk Sunday FUNday.

If you happen to be visiting Japan on a Sunday, I’d highly recommend that you spend the day people-watching and boutique hopping in Harajuku and Aoyama.  These vibrant, young neighborhoods are the best places in Japan (dare I say, the world?!) to indulge in crazy, cool and unbelievably unique fashion.

For someone who is lightly obsessed with fashion, like myself, walking around Harajuku is pure divinity- neon pants, colorful wigs, 6 inch platforms – anything goes!

But this area isn’t fun for the fashionistas alone, it’s also the perfect place for the anthropologically-minded tourist.  Believe me, you’ve never seen anything like it.

On a sunny afternoon, Jingu Bridge (right outside the Harajuku metro stop) is the perfect place to witness some of Tokyo’s many sub-cultures.  Here you’ll find Harajuku’s cosplayers, Lolitas, anime characters, etc. hanging out with each other and getting photographed by wide-eyed tourists, like moi.

(Stare all you want, but be sure to ask permission before taking a photo.)

If you need a little break from the “cray-cray” Harajuku fashion, cross the Jingu bridge to reach the beautiful Meiji Shrine.  The gardens surrounding the shrine are so lovely, that you can easily forget that you’re still in ultra-modern Tokyo.

But I didn’t want to forget.

So, after the quickest of walks to the Meiji Shrine (I didn’t have time to dilly dally – I was on a fashionably anthropological mission here, folks!), I pushed G & my friends toward the neighboring Yoyogi Park.

Looks pretty normal, right?

WRONG!

Yoyogi Park, on a Sunday, is one of the kookiest places I have ever visited.  (And for point of reference, I went to U.C. Berkeley, so I know kooky.)  Remember the quote from Zoolander, “I feel like I’m taking CRAZY pills?”  That’s exactly how I felt when walking through Yoyogi.

Let me explain.

At the entrance to the park, we had our first encounter with weirdness (in a good way) – the Rockabilly dancers.  This eclectic group of rockers, rappers, greasers and twisters gather every Sunday at Yoyogi Park to perform their favorite dances.

You know, just for fun… leather jackets, pompadours & all that jazz.

It was a fascinating display, to say the least.

Once we were finally able to detach ourselves from this bizarre jiving site, we entered the park & saw…

HAIR!  And lots of it.

But that was probably the most “normal” thing we saw that day because right around the corner there was…

a novice boy band!  (It wasn’t pretty.)

And just a hop-skip away, we ran into…

and people playing…

and dogs wearing…

and who can forget…

not to mention…

Now can you see why I fell so hard for Tokyo?!

I thought so.

Okay, now I’m done.

Tokyo Highlights (Part 1)

23 Aug

Planning a trip to Tokyo?

Then you know that Japan’s capital city can be a bit overwhelming.

Tokyo is huge, modern, unexpected, fast, bright, electric, stylish, and unbelievably gorgeous.  (Yes, I could use every positive adjective to describe it, but I think you get the point.)  There are so many sites and flavors that it’s easy to be daunted by Tokyo’s immensity.

So, if you want to visit Japan, or if you’re just interested in sampling a bit of Tokyo from your computer screens- I’m happy to share my top-Tokyo-picks, in hopes of making a BIG city feel a bit smaller.

So, first thing’s first – to get around Tokyo, you must be equipped with at least 1 good guide book.  I mainly used Lonely Planet’s Tokyo City Guide as well as Tokyo Encounter.

But here’s the catch…

No matter how much you read, organize, plan and prepare – you will get lost in Tokyo.  Fact.  Own it and get comfortable with it because it’s just going to happen.  Tokyo’s streets are rarely named and the buildings are numbered in the order in which they were constructed – so following a map or finding an address isn’t easy AT ALL (even for the savviest of navigators).  Luckily, if you really are a lost sheep, you can always rely on the trusty Japanese, who are EXTREMELY nice and super helpful.

Okay, so now that you are mentally and emotionally prepared for this adventure, it’s time to dive into one of the coolest cities in the world.

First stop: Tsukiji Market

Quick tip: Unless you want fish guts all over your feet, I'd highly recommend close-toed shoes for the day!

Tsukiji is Japan’s biggest wholesale fish market, and is packed to the brim with colorful stalls selling over 450 different types of seafood.  G & I got an early start on Tsukiji (arriving around 7:00 or 8:00 am) to fully experience the hustle & bustle of the market in action – and trust me, there was ACTION!

In fact, the first time I went to Tsukiji, I was so consumed by all the colors and activity (like an infant attracted to light and sound), that I almost got run-over by a zooming mini-tractor-cart-thingee without even noticing *woops*!

Lucky for me, Superman G saw the electric cart speeding in my direction and pulled me backward by yanking my shirt (and then I got mad at him for stretching out my T…  I’m not a morning person).

After wandering the many aisles of the fish market, G & I headed to breakfast with our friend K, at the nearby Sushi Daiwa (and later came back to eat at the neighboring, Sushi Dai- which was even tastier! tel. 03/3547-6797), where we devoured the freshest sushi in Tokyo.

Think it’s weird to eat raw fish for breakfast?!  Think again!

I’m drooling as I post these pics.  Tuna, scallops, yellowtail, shrip, tomago… what more can a sushi fanatic ask for?!?  Oh, and please note the intense amount of ginger that the chef so lovingly placed in front of me (per my request… alright, I begged).  I’m not ashamed to admit that I had 2 more heaping servings of ginger that morning.

YUM!

To walk off our breakfast belly, we took a quick stroll to & through the beautiful Hama-Rikyu gardens.

The serenity of Hama-Rikyu helped us unwind and relax after a crazizle morning at the market.  When we finally felt bastante rejuvenated, we walked towards the Garden’s pier, where we caught a sightseeing boat up the Sumida River to Asakusa.

By the way, if you take this boat tour & are offered a weird looking waffle-covered-ice-cream-sandwich-type-thing, DO YOURSELF A FAVOR and buy it!  G hasn’t stopped dreaming about this yummy & bizarre treat since.

The boat dropped us off at Asakusa, where we visited Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest temple.

And when in Tokyo temples, do as the locals do – so we spritzed ourselves with healing water, burned some incense and got our Buddhist fortune on.

As you can imagine, performing all these Japanese Buddhist rituals can really make a girl (and guy) pretty hungry.  So, after a quick tour around the old & quaint alleys of Asakusa, G & I met our friends for a delicious tempura lunch at Daikokuya (tel. 03/3844-1111).

Feeling fat and happy after yet another great meal – we lazily decided to head to Ginza, one of the poshest and most expensive shopping districts in Tokyo.

And, of course, where there is status, there is the Gap!  😉

(Miss you guys!)

FYI- this picture was actually taken in Shibuya's Gap, but I thought I'd add it anyway

All kidding aside, if you like international luxury brands and beautifully modern stores – Ginza is your place.

Unfortunately, with no full-time job and the slight absence of incoming $$$, I did not have the best time in Ginza- swooning over product that I couldn’t afford to buy.

In retrospect, I would have much preferred to spend a low-key afternoon exploring the less touristy areas of Ebisu, Daikanyama & Naka Meguro (which I visited with J on my most recent trip to Tokyo).  These neighborhoods have no major sights, but are littered with hip cafes, well-designed boutiques, and European-type streets.  If I could live in Tokyo – this would definitely be my area of choice.

Exhausted of this post yet?!  So am I…  Too bad we haven’t even gotten to Tokyo’s nightlife, Japanese sub-cultures and, HELLO, shopping!  If you are still interested (and honestly, I commend you for reading up to this point) – tune in later this week for my Tokyo Highlights Part 2.

Under My Umbrella

16 Aug

The pouring rain kept me indoors for most of the day, but around 10pm, when the rain was reduced to a warm drizzle, I decided to take a night-walk in my new neighborhood.

Thought I’d take you along…

(By the by, I am way too scared of the dark to walk alone at night in most cities, but Seoul is extremely safe & there are many people strolling the streets at all hours.)

Also, dear family & friends that read my blog, I’ll be gone for the rest of the week, but I’ll be sure to update by Sunday night.

Thanks for walking with me.