Wednesday, February 6, 2013


When M's parents were in town in December, we took them on the Dragon's Back hike, which I posted about last year. It was our 2nd time completing the hike and we enjoyed it even more than the first since we were in such great company.

The hike was much hillier than I remembered and the ground was uneven in several places. After selling my in-laws on a "leisurely" hike that was "easy" and "flat," I felt terrible when we hit some of the more difficult stretches. Everyone was a bit surprised by the difficulty... and rightfully so based on my description.

Love this view with the city peaking out through the hills

After the 2+ hour hike, you can reward yourself with a hearty lunch in Shek O. We recommend two lunch spots after the hike. The first is the Shek O Chinese & Thai restaurant which serves up better Thai food than we found in Thailand. We definitely recommend their tom yum soup and curries. Our 2nd recommendation is Black Sheep restaurant if you are in the mood for delicious Italian pizza, a difficult find in HK. We really enjoyed the mushroom pizza.

Friday, February 1, 2013


It's a gorgeous 72 degree sunny day in Hong Kong today. Have I mentioned that I have not seen snow this entire winter? I know... so strange having grown up in the mid-west!

That all changed this past week while on a business trip. I flew about 4 hours north to Tianjin, China and was greeted by snow dusted streets! Very exciting!

View from my hotel room (on a lake) in Tianjin

I was also greeted by the recent high pollution levels that are impacting the Beijing/Tianjin area as you can see if the picture above. Thankfully I did not spend too much time outside, but I did purchase my first face masks in case of emergency. On a side note, I will be taking my dad to Beijing in 2 weeks for his first trip to China. I am hoping we will be able to see more than 2 feet of the Great Wall:)

I didn't have time to explore much of Tianjin, but I did leave wanting to book another trip just for sightseeing. The British and French settled in the city during the foreign concession era. So similar to Shanghai, Tianjin's architecture was greatly influenced by the Europeans. It's a very charming city.

A house in the 5 Avenues Area
Celebratory lights for Chinese New Year

We had dinner one night in the "5 Avenues Area" at a GREAT Chinese vegetarian restaurant called Twin Lotus which is located in an old historic European home. It's especially hard to find good vegetarian restaurants in China, so we were all pleasantly surprised. While in Tianjin, we also had dinner one night at the Din Tai Fung restaurant (great Taiwanese restaurant chain), a must when visiting China or Taiwan. I am constantly craving their soup dumplings!

On Wednesday, we traveled from Tianjin to Beijing via a 40 minute express train. I've been traveling frequently to China for a year now and I am always impressed with how modern the cities are becoming. Even in just a year, I have seen much progress. Check out Tianjin's modern train station below, a much improved version of the train stations I frequented when traveling throughout the East Coast.

My trip to Beijing was rather short with just 36 hours and a packed work itinerary. Although, I did get to walk in some snow (yay!) and eat at a very cool vegetarian restaurant.

We had dinner Wednesday at Pure Lotus, a vegetarian restaurant that serves up the most artistic and tasty dishes.

We were greeted by this Monk

He showed us the way to the restaurant with his brightly lit lantern

The interior was extremely colorful

We had the delicious vegetarian sushi for our fist dish

Followed by the roast "duck" which tastes just like the real thing!

We also had the sweet and sour tofu

Followed by delicious carrot cake

And winter melon

After a quick trip to Beijing, I departed on a flight for Hong Kong hoping that the air quality improves and the weather warms up for my Dad's visit in less than 2 weeks. I am beyond excited to celebrate the Chinese New Year in Beijing with him!

Friday, January 25, 2013


Ubud, Bali has been probably one of my top travel highlights this year. It's a land of lush rice fields, peaceful rivers and the warmest people. I had a hard time leaving.

We traveled there with our good friends, Katie and Steve, in town from Chicago. We stayed at the beautiful Villa Semena where the hotel owner, Jurg, and his staff took the best care of us. They arranged every detail of our trip and gave us great recommendations on what to do and where to eat during our stay in Bali. The complimentary daily breakfast and afternoon tea outside overlooking the beautiful hotel pool and and river below was definitely a highlight.

The door to our villa

Plunge pool overlooking the rice paddies

A special spot to meditate by the river

I could easily come back to Ubud just to chill out at Villa Semena for a week. It was such a peaceful place.

However, this time our 2 day schedule in Ubud was packed with activities including a trip to Monkey Forest, a bike ride through the town and surrounding villages, lunch in the rice paddies and practicing our acrobatic moves at a Flying Yoga class.

Monkey Forest may have been the boys highlight of the trip. Monkeys were everywhere looking for all of the bananas and treats they could find. I have to admit, they were pretty entertaining to watch.

A monkey jumped on M's back while taking a picture:)

Feeding the babies

They loved the offerings

After Monkey Forest, we headed to Yoga Barn to take our first Flying Yoga class. Flying yoga is best described as acrobatic yoga with partners. Still confused? The pictures below may be helpful.

I am glad we tried it, but we all agreed that the more mainstream vinyasa yoga was more for us. Regardless, the Yoga Barn is a great place and I would definitely recommend you check it out if you travel to Ubud.

The Yoga Barn

That evening, we had dinner at Naughty Nuris, a place famous for their ribs and martinis. I can't say Bali is known as the BBQ capital of Indonesia, but if you're craving grilled meats and a strong drink, this place is the perfect spot.

We kicked off day 2 with a private bike ride tour of Ubud with the goal of seeing a picturesque volcano that the locals rave about. After visiting an art gallery and coffee plantation via a minivan, where kick-backs were definitely involved, we told our tour guide that we had no interest in visiting the breakfast spot, since we had already had breakfast at our hotel. We wanted to start our biking adventure. Unfortunately, the breakfast spot was located at the volcano. so skipping breakfast meant missing the volcano (which we didn't learn until it was too late to turn back). On the bright side, we did see many beautiful rice paddies and some of the local villages.

Local waste management

We visited a local school

And rode past some breathtaking fields
Our bike adventure ended at Sari Organik, a popular restaurant situated in a rice paddy (we couldn't get enough of them!) where we had lunch. The menu included things like a "happy potato salad" with a "purple haze" juice. We definitely enjoyed the refreshing fresh juices and vegetarian friendly meal.

After lunch we went back to our hotel to pack up our things before heading to Semiyak (the beach!) that evening. Before leaving town, we had one final meal at Lamak, which serves delicious asian fusion dishes. I highly recommend the restaurant if you travel to Ubud.

I will write a detailed post on Semiyak, which was beautiful, but I must say Ubud is one of my favorite places I've visited. I hope to get back there again to spend some more time in the rice paddies:) In the meantime, I will live vicariously through Julia Roberts in "Eat, Pray, Love" as I re-watch the scenes in Ubud.


As I mentioned in a post last year, our goal for 2012 was to visit a new country every month! Unfortunately due to work and holiday schedules, we didn't visit a new country every month...  However, we did visit 12 countries in a year! Have a look below...

1. January - Phuket, Thailand

2. February - Shanghai, China (The list of cities visited since we moved here includes Chongqing, Chengdu, Wuhan, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing)

3. March - Singapore, Singapore

4. April - Bagan, Myanmar (Burma)

5. May - Penang, Malaysia

6. June - Taipei, Taiwan

7. July - New York City, USA

8. August - Hanoi, Vietnam

9. September - Tokyo, Japan

10. October - Bali, Indonesia

11. October - Forster, Australia

12. Our new 2012 Home - Hong Kong

In addition to the travels above, we also made some side trips, which didn't exactly count as a new country (for me)... But thought I would share.

April - Manila, Philippines (I missed out on this trip. But, M had a great trip with his friends from California!)

August - California, USA

November - Chicago & Detroit, USA

December - Bangkok, Thailand

2012 was quite the travel year for us. We are looking forward to more adventures in 2013!