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Bound for Asia

When I first conceived of doing on a full-time basis, one of the things I wanted to do was to go to Asia and document the experience for the site. Several micropatrons asked me to use their contributions to, quote, “get out of the house, for the love of God, and go somewhere nice and take pictures and tell us all about it”. Unquote.

So, that’s what I’m a’gonna do. In a couple days time, we (Meg and I) will be traveling around Asia for about 3 weeks. We’ll be heading to Hong Kong, Bangkok (where we’re meeting up with my dad, who has traveling and living cheaply in Asia down to a fine science), and Saigon (or more properly, Ho Chi Minh City). We’re planning on having internet access for most of the time, but we may be without it for short periods, so updates might be sporadic at times, but they will happen as often as I can manage.

What will probably not be happening is the usual updates to the site, i.e. non-trip related stuff. Few remaindered links for 3 weeks…I don’t even think I’m gonna open my newsreader. No movie reviews, no book reviews (with one possible exception). No posts on sandwiches, Web 2.0, or popcorn (ok, everyone stop cheering). Bottom line, the usually scheduled programming will be interrupted by a 3-week Asian travelogue.

I’m leaving the comments open, so if anyone has any suggestions on stuff we should see, things we should do, food we should eat, we’d appreciate it.

Reader comments

JohnNov 05, 2005 at 2:23PM

Great -- something that makes me glad I contributed! I can't offer specific advice about the places your going, but I do hope you'll try to get off the beaten path and show us (via words and photography) the unusual and the unexpected. And have fun.

kitNov 05, 2005 at 2:36PM

Why not try Jakarta, Indonesia?

ShiiNov 05, 2005 at 2:55PM

Try Thailand, it's super cheap and rather beautiful in places.

Behen MayawatiNov 05, 2005 at 2:57PM

What! you're going to Asia and you're not going to India?

Newley PurnellNov 05, 2005 at 3:12PM

Great news! In Bangkok, don't miss the Chatuchak weekend market. Simply amazing. My prediciton: Vietnam will be your favorite destination. Never been to Saigon, but if you have a chance to see the central highlands or Hanoi, jump on it (domestic flights in VN are really cheap). Have fun.

Riaz MissaghiNov 05, 2005 at 3:28PM

I would check out India too, the Baha'i temple in india is an amaizing community project. Also i'm sure that one of the IT jobs i didn't get is there now :) I would be fun and insightful to interview an outsourced employee. Best of luck to you.

MattNov 05, 2005 at 3:29PM

I just got back from Hong Kong only a week ago. I wish I had known you were going when I went to the talk at Eyebeam the other night. Anyway, I have a ton of stuff worth doing, so let me know what you're looking to do and I'll pass on some recommendations (via email or whatever).

GeoffreyNov 05, 2005 at 3:31PM

I'm heading to Bangkok on Wednesday myself. Chatuchak is great as Newley said, and if you have the time, head up to the old capitol city called Ayutthaya. Lots of ancient ruins and temples. I have some photos here. There's a quaint $10 a night hotel on Rojana Road called Wiang Fa. It's a little rough around the edges but the free coffee in the garden easily make up for it.

Have fun!

MattNov 05, 2005 at 3:32PM

In fact, now that I think about it, you could also read my Asian travelogue if you want to skip the pointed recommendations.

damonNov 05, 2005 at 3:35PM

Vietnam is amazing and there a lot of places you should consider that lie between Hanoi(more like the east village than any place else i've been) and Saigon(hyperactive hot metropolis). A place called Hoi An is a place I wouldn't want to miss as well as Mui Ne and Hue and... wow there are a lot! Here are some pics I took of some of these places.

If you get a chance, take a walk by yourself. I was there alone and the people SO want to hang out with you but will be more likely to walk on over if you just sit on a bench and look friendly. The kids are so smart and fun and wonderful.

Get off the tourist beat and just sit and chill out once in awhile. It's where the best stuff happens.

Anthony CantarellaNov 05, 2005 at 3:42PM

Are you not in the least bit worried about contracting the Avian Flu Virus?

Terence PatrickNov 05, 2005 at 3:49PM

Check out the beaches in Vietnam. Water is clean and warm and you can get fresh crab cooked for you by vendors right on the sand.

And in all seriousness, I'd pack a small box of those Charmin Fresh Mates (flushable wet wipes). The paper over there is like a fine grade sandpaper.

KevinNov 05, 2005 at 4:13PM

Try a thai iced tea in a pastic bag - really great. Don't be scared of the street food.

Callum McleodNov 05, 2005 at 4:13PM

You'll have a great time. I've spent the last two summers in Thailand, Cambodia, and Malaysia.. never been to Vietnam, but its definitely high on my list..

I look forward to reading about your journey :)

Just to agree with the rest, Chatuchak (or JJ as the locals call it) is a fantastic market.. although very large, and easy to get lost in :D

NickNov 05, 2005 at 4:21PM

I've done a fair amount of travelling in the past few years including trips to Israel, Central America, Nepal and recently to Thailand. It's probably too late, but I would strongly recommend not doing 3 countries in 3 weeks. This summer we spent 6 weeks in Thailand alone, and never got tired of it. Bangkok is probably even one of the least pleasant places to visit - even if you like big cities. Anyway...happy travelling.

alNov 05, 2005 at 4:32PM

(with one possible exception)

the beach?

i'd try repulse bay and a day at the races... oh and don't forget the child prostitutes :P


Paul BNov 05, 2005 at 5:52PM

I just got back from 3 months touring around Southeast Asia. Thailand is fantastic, the historic sites are wonderful. However . . . if you want to lounge on beautiful beaches for a moment - try Koh Tao and/or Koh Phi Phi (both are excellent for diving as well).

Based on Meg's blog, I'd highly recommend taking one of the numerous cooking courses early on in your trip. It's great fun, you get to go through a food market with a local, you get an inexpensive meal and best of all, you'll get a real insight into Thai food you won't get anywhere else. The final payoff? Great food choices for the rest of the trip.

Finally, the most amazing place I went was Angkor in Siem Reap Cambodia. If you possibly can, head in that direction and experience something as incredible as the pyramids.

~bcNov 05, 2005 at 5:52PM

I like popcorn. I expect reports on on Asian popcorn makers.

I second the Thai Iced Tea suggestion... although I have not had it *in* Thailand.


tastingmenuNov 05, 2005 at 6:01PM

Please make sure to not truly superlative restaurants and eating experiences along with details. I'm taking a similar trip in a few weeks - Hong Kong, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Angkor Wat, Tokyo.

Toni CarrellNov 05, 2005 at 6:34PM

"No posts on sandwiches..."

Surely you jest! Vietnamese bahn mi are great! I'll be expecting a report on them.

John FrostNov 05, 2005 at 7:51PM

I'm biased. But if you're in Hong Kong do you think you'll get a chance to swing by the new Disneyland park there? If you don't make it in, I'd at least be curious to hear what the locals think of the park.

nexNov 05, 2005 at 7:54PM

jason, why not invite a guest-related-links-blogger? haven't you even already done that once? i'm sure you could find a suitable fellow and it would be very much appreciated. other than that, no complaints, have fun!

GramsNov 05, 2005 at 8:05PM

The word is not 'unquote' but rather 'endquote' (or 'end quote').

And when quoting someone (putting what they have to say in quotes) it's not necessary to use the word endquote.

PeterNov 05, 2005 at 8:09PM

Don't worry about posting everything, take time to soak it up. And try to meet people, tell us what they're like. Local people, that is. That's where I've always had the most interesting experiences travelling.

mat honanNov 05, 2005 at 8:09PM

I spent six months in SE Asia a few years ago. You're going to have a great time no matter where you go. I think the best advice would be to try to get out of those big cities as much as possible (large cities being in many ways more similar than different) and to try and tack on at least another week if you can. Between the travel time and the jetlag those three weeks will go by quite quickly. A few other tips:

Bring some good earplugs. Better yet, bring two pair.

DEET! DEET! You won't be there long enough that you should take malaria meds, but you still ought to take precautions against various MBIs. My wife and I both caught Dengue Fever, and it was one of the worst experiences I've ever had. I think I can say the same for her. When we arrived, we were all about natural repellants. Lemongrass, various oils, etc. But those are completely ineffective. Don't take my word for it if you don't want to, but bring some DEET in any case as a precaution. You can get great, highly concentrated stuff from REI.

HCM City/Vietnam:
Get it in writing. Tour/travel/booking agents in Vietnam are notoriously shady. Generally they have the worst reputations for ripping folks off in Vietnam. It's the one country where I'd suggest spending more with a more touristy trip organizer.

Stop by the Rex and have a drink to the Five O' Clock Follies.

It's a quick trip from Saigon to the Mekong delta. There are great markets there, including some floating ones that are incredibly cool.

Think about swinging up to Hanoi while in Vietnam, it's very different from HCM City. The old city is really remarkable, with narrow twisting streets and thousands upon thousands of people out by the lakes doing Tai Chi every morning. This is also where you should go if you have any desire to eat dog (a December treat) or drink the still-beating heart of a cobra in a shot of whiskey. Not that those are really strong selling points.

The Phra Arthit area along the water in Bangkok has got some really cool, laid-back, arty restaurants, shops and bars. It even has some good coffee shops, with the best coffee I found outside of Vietnam. The kind of places you'd expect to see in Tokyo, maybe, but are sort of surprising there in Bangkok. It's easy to get to, and adjoins Banglamphu (Khao Sanh Road area).

Take a boat trip through the city. It's a great way to get around quickly and escape the heat. Seeing Bangkok from its canals really gives you a different perspective.

Definitely jump on a train and head up to Ayuthaya for a day. There was a recent Ayuthaya exhibit here in SF at the Asian, and while it was quite remarkable, it was nothing compared to what you can see there, sans museum crowds.

mat honanNov 05, 2005 at 8:13PM

Oh -- and consider Laos. It was by far the least developed place I've ever been. Really nice. I I used an internet connection that was only open during the day there, while solar cells could charge a laptop making a long-distance phone call to Vientienne for service.

AmyNov 05, 2005 at 8:16PM

Even though it's nowhere near where you guys are going, you gotta see the Great Wall... if you can.

Minic RiveraNov 05, 2005 at 8:29PM

No matter how Asia is portrayed in the news... I still believe that it is a very beautiful place. Try Philippines... go to Palawan... Boracay... or in Sagada.

pickyinNov 05, 2005 at 8:51PM

One thing about Asia you can be sure of: come here once, and you'll want to come back again.. soon. Enjoy! ;)

Jamie WilsonNov 05, 2005 at 8:53PM

When in Hong Kong, go check out The Temple of 10,000 Buddhas. They have, surprisingly, about 13,000 buddhas (most small, some huge) and it's really worth checking out.

I love Hong Kong from the two brief visits i've had. You'll have a blast.

Benedict SongNov 05, 2005 at 9:11PM

For an amazing dim sum experience (either eaten as breakfast, brunch, or lunch), try Luk Yu Tea House in Central or Victoria City in Wan Chai. Both are very famous and can't be missed. Enjoy!

I'm actually studying here in Hong Kong at the moment. So shoot me an email for any further recommendations!

DaveNov 05, 2005 at 9:13PM

I fold up nicely in a suitcase. ;)

Stuart TownsNov 05, 2005 at 9:48PM

I'm an American who has lived in Bangkok for three years now and I've been traveling around SE Asia as much as possible all this time.

Thailand is a wonderful place, especially outside of Bangkok. If you want inexpensive, not-over-developed beaches, I'd recommend Ko Samet. If you want beaches with Starbucks and good diving, I'd recommend the islands in the south.

If you want culture and history, the old capital of Ayutthaya is a good day-trip from Bangkok.

My favorite two places in all of SE Asia though are Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Luang Prabang in Laos. They are both UNESCO World Heritage sites and both are must-see's in my opinion. Both are easily reachable by air from Bangkok. You can get air-hotel packages at any travel agent in Bangkok (there are hundreds).

Angkor Wat is amazing -- both at a small scale (every inch of stone is carved) and a large scale (the main temple is absolutely huge). Luang Prabang in Laos is a small town on the Mekong with French colonial architecture and many many centuries-old buddhist temples. Beautiful and relaxing!

I've been posting travel stories and pictures on my website all this time, so feel free to check it out. If you want more info, feel free to get in touch.

Have a great trip. And don't worry, no matter where you go, you will have a great time. SE Asia is truly an amazing place.

reflexorsetNov 05, 2005 at 10:35PM

penang sounds pretty cool :D

keke, or you could just go back to paris again and rent an apt in the suburbs!

PatrixNov 05, 2005 at 10:44PM

Don't miss Leh-Ladakh in Jammu & Kashmir, India. The landscapes will leave you speechless.

Rajasthan is another culturally vibrant state in India and of course, how can I forget God's Own Country, Kerala.

Best of luck. Look forward to reading your travelogues.

Chris MitchellNov 05, 2005 at 10:51PM

I'm a British guy living in Bangkok for the last year. I can tell you where to get a perfect pint of Guinness in this city. Just in case you need to know...

Becky VNov 05, 2005 at 11:05PM

Please, for all that is sacred, eat yourselves silly while in Vietnam. Please.

DaveNov 05, 2005 at 11:38PM

While you're over there, you really should get to Siem Reap & Angkor (makes a nice trip Bangkok - Siem Reap - Phnom Penh - Ho Chi Minh). We've done a number of trips to long trips to Asia, and the Angkor ruins are among the most memorable places. Be sure to see more than just Angkor Wat (i.e. dont take a bus tour!!), and read the guide book re: how to avoid the hordes of tourons from the bus tours. Taking a boat from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh is really cool, and the Foreign Corespondents Club in PP is a great place to eat/drink/hang out. Have fun - I'll be living vicariously!

justinNov 06, 2005 at 12:05AM

Read this book if you haven't already.

endaNov 06, 2005 at 12:05AM

hi, it will be great if you have time to meet us here in bangkok.

let me know when u have free time. i'll give you my cell number :D

stuandgravyNov 06, 2005 at 12:14AM

I'm mostly just going to reinforce from above...

Chatuchak market in Bangkok is great fun - although you might want to avoid the live birds section at the moment! If you have time to travel outside the capital then there's a wealth of culture to dicover.

In Saigon, the War Remnants Museum (previously the 'American War Crimes Museum') has plenty of anti-American jingoism, but also 'Requiem', one of the most powerful photography exhibitions I've seen. From Saigon, a couple of days in the Mekong delta is well worth doing (as Mat said above): awesome floating markets and a taste of Cambodia. And again: eat! Unlike Thai, I have never had Vietnamese food outside of the country that comes close to the real thing. And Hoi An (mentioned above) has a whole extra, local cuisine on top of that! An unexpected bonus: Vietnamese coffee (often actually Laotian) rocks.

Three weeks? You'll have an amazing time, but not nearly enough...!

ArtemNov 06, 2005 at 12:19AM

I have one main message and I will make it as clear as possible:

Be very careful of the cab drivers.

shakyNov 06, 2005 at 1:13AM

Some good Hong Kong tips here:

chrisNov 06, 2005 at 2:06AM

yay, Hong Kong! no tips, since I'm just a boring student, but tell us where we'll be so we can stare at kottke and meg. =)

do beware of chickens, though.

HamNov 06, 2005 at 2:58AM

A couple of others have already mentioned this, but I must jump in just to emphasize. GO TO ANGKOR. Really. Many people told me that it was the most amazing place they'd ever been. But I went skeptically. I thought, "come on, it must be interesting, but can it really be that great?" It was, and then some. Far and away the most incredible place I've ever been. And having been to some 35 countries and five continents, that's not a little thing. This was four years ago, and I hope it hasn't become too overrun by the tourism business, but it really is an absolutely incredible and amazing experience. You will not be disappointed. While you're there, in Siem Reap, get a $3 massage (1 1/2 hours) from the blind folk (you'll know what I talking about when you get there) and stop by the Kantha Bopa children's hospital to donate some blood and hear a cello recital.

FrankensteinNov 06, 2005 at 3:18AM

Assuming that this is your first time going to these places:

1) don't be embarrass'd about going to the tourist spots (i.e. the Peak in Hong Kong, Ginza in Toyko, etc.). Not going would be like going to New York and not stopping at the Empire State Building.

2) Don't forget to tag your flickr photos with 'globalvoices'.

MahanguNov 06, 2005 at 3:51AM

Sri Lanka - culturally and geographical diverse, breathtakingly beautiful, and cheap to boot (thanks to a really sucky Dollar - Rupee exchange rate). It's really a must see.

Full disclosure : I'm Sri Lankan. :)

AIMNov 06, 2005 at 5:29AM

Sounds great! You should check out Singapore as well...

MartinNov 06, 2005 at 7:54AM

Wow, you are going to Asia without stopping in Japan - Tokyo and Kyoto are two of the most amazing places I can think of.

ethyleneNov 06, 2005 at 8:08AM

brava and godspeed--
lay out an itinerary if you'd like specific places to catch (and avoid)

Jeremy AbbettNov 06, 2005 at 8:31AM

I love Vietnam! I am Vietnam!

JeffNov 06, 2005 at 8:49AM

In Hong Kong go to the top of Victoria Peak. Contrasting the extreme urban quality of the city, the Peak is amazingly serene.

That being said, since you are so close you should visit the other part of China. While the Great Wall would be great, it's a 3 hr flight from HK. I would recommend you take a boat up the Pearl River to Guangzhou (you can also take a train). Formerly "Canton," Guangzhou has some incredibly history. My number one pick is the Western Han Nanyue King's Tomb Museum where we saw king Zhao Mei buried in body armor made entirely of Jade (the photo doesn't do it justice).

And as you pack for the trip, you might want to check out an article in today's Washington Post: Your Mobile Medicine Cabinet.

since1968Nov 06, 2005 at 9:33AM

Lots of great advice in this thread. One thing to consider while in Thailand is flying to Chiang Mai in the north and from there heading to the hinterlands. Mae Hong Son is a short flight from Chiang Mai -- right next to the Burmese border -- and is a great place to start a trek.

Jonathan SuterNov 06, 2005 at 11:54AM


Steve PortigalNov 06, 2005 at 1:09PM

This is a great thread. We're headed to Bangkok/HK/Bangalore/Mumbai in January so this is good stuff.

AskMefi thread on Bangkok here

AskMefi thread on HK here

kyleNov 06, 2005 at 2:25PM

For food, don't be affraid of the street food. It may not look to sanitary but it usually is. In Thailand you definatley must try the fruit. There are so many exotic things that you'll find no where else for 10 cents US. The "normal" fruit is also the best tasting i've ever had. It is available all over the place from vendors on the streets. Thai bannana "tourist" pankaces are also quite special in my opinion. I live in India and have dreams about these when i look at my Dal rice.

Muffy WongNov 06, 2005 at 3:14PM

If you do decide to go to Singapore, let me know. I'll hook you up.. or something. Or at least recommend what to do. It IS my hometown after all.

AdamNov 06, 2005 at 5:50PM

just got back from a SE Asia not too long ago, figured I'd share some thoughts/links - mostly just recapping earlier comments, but here goes...

get to Siem Reapin Cambodia (spend at least 4-5 days there...just too much to see in Luang Prabang in Laos (a weekend is fine, although you'll want to stay a lot longer...the waterfalls and night market are awesome).

the pollution in Bangkok is pretty bad (worse than anything in the states) but it didn't bother me too much...tuk tuk rides (or even better, moped rides) throughout the city are great fun...just as long as they're late at night or early in the morning (less traffic, pollution). another good alternative to Bangkok is Chiang Mai (2nd largest city in Thailand...much more laid back than Bangkok)

ps: absolutely do not open your feed reader during the 3 weeks! just try and spend as much time off-the-grid as possible.

pps: as for reading during the trip I recommend Michael Crichton's Travels and Garland's The Beach.

adamNov 06, 2005 at 6:41PM

wow...sorry for all the typos...what I meant to say was - try to stay in Siem Reap for at least 4-5 days, and a weekend in LP is good enough.

jtntNov 06, 2005 at 6:54PM

Bangkok would make a great place to ask for Meg's hand in marriage, I think. Then you two can bask in your newly-engaged bliss in Saigon! Just imagine how romantic a story that would be! (Getting the ring through customs without spoiling the surprise might be tricky, but it's doable.)

MicheleNov 06, 2005 at 7:19PM

Have a wonderful time and be careful!

SimonNov 06, 2005 at 10:14PM

Let me know when you're in HK and we can meet up for a drink and I can introduce you to some bloggers from here if you like.

asia expertNov 06, 2005 at 11:04PM

Try to make it to Hanoi, it rocks.

RussNov 07, 2005 at 2:52AM

I would like to know more about how your dad has "traveling and living cheaply in Asia down to a fine science". Can you post more about him and his travelling exploits in Asia?

popagandhiNov 07, 2005 at 3:39AM

Take a rickety bus from Saigon into Phnom Penh. I believe it is 9 hours. No journey into Asia is ever complete without a bus ride of that sort, in which you'd wonder why you ever came, then thank yourself for it.

Don't eat too many touristy-oriented pancakes and sandwiches. Eat on the streets, eat in a hole in the wall. Most importantly: in Vietnam, eat a lot of "pho bo", and add a lot of lime!

[email protected]Nov 07, 2005 at 6:47AM

Visit Pakistan too, people there rocked.

DavidNov 07, 2005 at 9:08AM

Re Hong Kong, I posted an Ask Metafilter answer not long ago that should prove useful. Have a great trip.

OttoNov 07, 2005 at 9:26AM

Who takes a three week vacation? Bloggers are the new ski bums...

dr. glassesNov 07, 2005 at 9:43AM

Bangkok=meh. Chiang Mai up north is where the real action is. Make sure and take a cooking class. We did a one-day thing at Thai Cookery School, and I highly recommend the place. Before you do the cooking, you head out as a group to the market to buy fresh ingredients. The best food we had in Thailand (besides the dishes we cooked ourselves at the school), was had for less than a dollar on the street.

harryNov 07, 2005 at 9:50AM

We just returned from Vietnam. Don't miss Com Nieu Sai Gon (6C Tu Xuong, District 3) in Saigon (about a ten minute cab ride from city center). I went on Anthony Bourdain's recommendation. It was by far my favorite meal of the trip. We were the only non-Vietnamese in the place so our pathetic chopstick skilled drew looks from the diners, but we felt welcome nonetheless. Order anything. Everything is fantastic. You cannot go wrong. And it's uber cheap of course.

AlexisNov 07, 2005 at 11:10AM

In Kowloon, do not miss visiting the Bird Market. I found it very special, a tiny bit of authenticity hidden in a big bad urban China. Though more traditionally "tourist," the Hong Kong Park (on the island) is worth a visit. Macao, I wouldn't visit again, but nearby Coloane is wonderful and unique.

I went in March; spent two weeks in Hong Kong and Kowloon. I hope you have as wonderful an experience as I did.

AlexisNov 07, 2005 at 11:16AM

P.S. Three weeks is no where near enough. ;) Have fun.

ericaNov 07, 2005 at 11:18AM

Try some xiao long bao (soup dumplings) while in Hong Kong (or Shanghai, if you go there)! I've heard really great things about cooking classes, particularly in Thailand. And please photograph your food for us vicarious travelers. Have fun!

KateNov 07, 2005 at 11:33AM

Please consider a guest editor for the remaindered links. I don't think I can handle three weeks without them.

Mike BNov 07, 2005 at 12:41PM

-Kao San Road streetside pad thai for 15 baht. Banana shake in a bag. Yum.
-Massage at the temple next to the national palace. Home of the world's largest reclining Buddha.
-The river taxis and the BTS Skytrain are fantastic for transit.

___Cambodia___ (even though it wasn't on your list, it is *awesome*)
-Angkor Wat. Older than the Taj Mahal, and it shows.
-Fully-automatic gun ranges in Phnom Penh. A favorite with Brits, Aussies, and Japanese tourists.

GlennNov 07, 2005 at 3:33PM

I haven't read through all the comments but I'm sure somebody other than myself will urge you to go to Angkor Wat in Cambodia (an easy flight from Bangkok, or a miserable train-truck combo if you go overland). The collection of temples is one of the most incredible things you'll ever see.

In Ho Chi Minh City, the war museum is excellent and the homemade beer (purchased on the street) is cheap and pretty decent.

In Bangkok there's a multi-level mall with computer shops and stalls selling (almost exclusively bootleg) software and all kinds of gadgets. It's called Pantip Plaza. You might find it interesting to stroll around there. Any cab driver will know where it is.

gbalajiNov 07, 2005 at 7:50PM

If you plan to visit india,chennai,Tamil nadu just mail me the date.

i am the daily visiter of your blog and i want to do something in turn when u visit chennai,india.

see you

JonNov 07, 2005 at 8:32PM

If you don't go to Singapore you're missing out. I've travelled all over Asia, and Singapore was my favorite destination. Thailand was a close second.

BWGNov 07, 2005 at 11:33PM

If you want, you can trawl through BWG to learn about what to expect in Hong Kong.

Someone made reference to Disneyland -- I reviewed it after a visit last week.

Anyway, I hope the air clears a bit during your stay. Have fun!

Tom - Daai Tou LaamNov 08, 2005 at 1:22AM

I'd pass on HK Disneyland. Several of the Hong Kong bloggers, including myself and Flying Chair, have reviewed it. I get to see the fireworks every night which is fine if you like the smell, smoke and sound. Most telling is the news that Disneyland, after being open only a few months, is starting promotional pricing for locals.

If you're wanting the amusement park thing, better to check out Ocean Park and see the pandas.

If you're interested in the computer oriented shopping, find certain mini-malls in Wan Chai or Sham Shui Po.

And yes, you can easily spend weeks exploring just the urbanised areas of Hong Kong, but you might want to get out to the New Territories or Islands for a peek at the rural side of life and some great nature/history walks/hikes.

TonyNov 08, 2005 at 1:23AM

If you visited Japan,you could take part in,or at least attend a taping for a game show,like this one:

arvindNov 08, 2005 at 10:31AM

If you think you are going with most important woman in your life (Other than your mother), visit Taj Mahal on a full moon night.
Trust me you will remember it rest of your life.

GregNov 08, 2005 at 4:20PM

Sounds fun!

Enjoy your stay.

Bill LeeNov 08, 2005 at 8:45PM

3 weeks! One country and two airports will be all the time you have.

Take more, go in golden season, your spring or fall time.

If not to Hanoi, and Hue, do get up to the hill town of Dalat (Da lat),108.448105&spn=0.269316,0.672535&t=k&hl=en

for the coolth and colonial times. Hanoi is nicer than Saigon.

If you can get a visa, fly up to Kunming in China and see the other
side of the Mekong in Xishuanbanna district on the Burmese border
and the other Thai (Dai) peoples.

Eat, sample, make notes and try to find the same ingredients at home. It is possible.

Rice porridge is your friend if you get stomach upsets.

Take pictures, record sounds, learn new words and make notes to read the 300 books you need for cultural and historical backgrounds after you get back.

And realize that you could do the same job if you resided there 10 months of the year. hmmmm

javajiveNov 08, 2005 at 10:01PM

Jason, my offer still stands.

If for any reason you'd like to see Indonesia or would be able to extend your vacation, consider visiting Bali or Java. As I mentioned a while ago, I could offer you places to stay, or at least direct you toward some fascinating adventures off the tourist trail.

Don't let the media scare you away from Bali - it's truly a magical place. I've been here for over three years and have never felt in danger. Ok, ok, so we have terrorists and bird flu, but in all seriousness, it's not like the media portrays it.

If you'd like to see a bit of Indonesia through my eyes, you could either drop by my site, or flickr stream. Both have lots of imagery from this beautiful island. No self-promotion intended. ;)

I can't wait to hear more about your experiences, wherever they may lead you.

alexNov 09, 2005 at 3:14AM

You should check out Girls Guide to Hong Kong - written by a local 20something on all good spots to hit.

NickNov 09, 2005 at 3:43AM

Best restaurant ever in Bangkok: The Hemlock, 56 Phra Arthit Road, Chanasongkram, Opposite express boat pier, Bangkok, 10500 Thailand.
Cheap, tiny, friendly, great traditional cuisine - we went there FOUR times within 8 days of Bangkok. Beware of the spicy fish patties, though...

AlanNov 09, 2005 at 3:50AM

I'm writing you a more detailed email about food in hong kong, but this is the summary: (all chinese characters here is in unicode, email me if you would like them in Big5)

You need to decide what style of chinese food you want. There is technically no such thing as "chinese food".

The traditional food around Hong Kong is cantonese style (粵菜). This is what yum cha is and it is characteristically mild with few spices.
In particular, you should try Steeped chicken (白切雞) and fresh steamed fish (清蒸魚). Also you should try meat and vegetables in a slightly spicy XO sauce (XO 醬).

other styles you might want to think about are:
Shanghai cuisine (滬菜) has lots of dumplings and noodles. they also have a nice sweet pancake with red been sauce which the chinese escapes me right now (email me if you want to know)

Szechuan (川菜) style is rather spicy, but of course you can ask the chef to put less chili into the dishes!

For something uniquely Hong Kong, try a Cha chaan teng 茶餐廳, which is a strange fusion of east and west.

Be sure to try hong kong style Milk tea (奶茶), brewed with silk-like cotton bag filters with a mixture of several types of tea leaves and mixed with evaporated milk before serving, is a fascinating fusion of cultures. And Yuanyang (鴛鴦), a special Hong Kong concoction of milk, tea and coffee. This is strong stuff though, and you might not sleep if you drink this too late at night!

I can't give you specific recommendations until I find out where you're staying in hk, in the meantime try asking your hotel's concierge desk or try the hong kon tourism people on 2508 1234.

PS: Just a small point, the people who run the "subway" system in Hong Kong would rather prefer you calling

AlanNov 09, 2005 at 5:00AM

(frobbed the sumbit button, sorry!)
PS: Just a small point, the people who run the "subway" system in Hong Kong would rather prefer you if you called it the "mass transit railway" or the "MTR" ( I know, I referred the MTR as the "subway" first time around I emailed you, sorry for the confusion.

BoazNov 09, 2005 at 10:33AM

Alan got some good pointers there. Milk Tea is my favorite drink; you should also go to a supermarket or 7-11 to try the Vitasoy soy drink (make sure you try the original and the malted version). Most popular soy drink in the world probably.

For food, first try usual things like Won Ton Noodle (not Won Ton soup, there's no US kinda Won Ton soup for real Chinese) or Hot & Sour soup in a proper restaurant and you'll know what Americans are missing. You will find restaurants of different provinces of China in HK. My suggestion would be Shanghai style but you should try different ones too.

If you dare try the street snack like curry fish balls... that's the standard HK style street snack though it probably taste neither like fish or curry to you.

You can try Thai or Vietnamese around HK too; there're places in HK that has high Thai and Vietnamese population (like Kowloon City), but of course you should save it when you're actually in the countries.

Yes, beware of the word subway. Once when I was still living in HK and went out with friends and some dude ask about "subway", my friend pointed him to get a bus or taxi to the Cross Harbor Tunnel... in HK whenever you see "subway" it means predestian underground tunnels, or tunnels in general.

Also make sure to try all route of the trains (not in peak hours though, you'll die). The transport system & Octopus card, together with the Cell phone system are probably the best in the world nowaday.

For hygiene and safety, just make sure you wipe your hands often with wet paper tissue, and don't touch stuffs in shops and then your face/nose/mouth/eyes. It's simple hygiene but here in US people are less careful on this.

p.s. always read Kottke and Megnut but never realize a connection. Shame on me. Will post more food pointers to you after talk to Wife, she probably can point you to specific shops & knows the location.

mayNov 09, 2005 at 5:20PM

if you ever need to escape the hyper-urbanism of HK, one of my very favorite places to go for a hike in Hong Kong is Sai Kung. Not a lot of people head out there, but it's peaceful and provides a nice contrast to the neon landscape. have fun! :)

Raywat SingsornNov 09, 2005 at 5:49PM

Checkout Lamma Island whilst in HK. interesting place, soooo not HK.
Stanley is nice too, dont forget to stick your low denomination paper currency on the ceiling at the Smugglers Inn.

Nana Plaza in Bangkok is erm, interesting...
A side trip to Rayong would be nice.

Regarding the previous comments about the iced tea in the bags.
Iced Tea....I thought it was Iced Coffee :-0 ...doh!

shakyNov 09, 2005 at 8:44PM

Oh shame the air quality is so bad this week. Can hardly see Kowloon from my desk on the harbour front.

If you fancy a tour of the entertainment districts in HK, give me a shout.


ArthurNov 09, 2005 at 10:40PM

Bit late on this, but hopefully I can still help. You said you're in Kowloon; I typically stay in Tsim Sha Tsui by the Harbour City Shopping Centre, so here are a few recs around there. They might be walking distance if you're close to Harbour City, the Peninsula, Sheraton, or HK Hotel.

Crystal Jade - inside the Harbour City mall, must go for noodles and xiao long bao
Spring Moon - fine dim sum, inside the Peninsula Hotel. Make absolutely sure you get the roast pork and the mango pudding - no trip to HK is complete without them.
- across the street from Harbour City, awesome simple little noodle/congee place. Make sure you get zha leungh - chinese donut wrapped in rice noodle.

Got plenty more recs if you need em.

ArthurNov 09, 2005 at 10:41PM

Murdered that HTML there. The place is called Wing Yuen, and the link sorta works...

Andrew DuyNov 10, 2005 at 2:29AM

All of the destinations that you are traveling to have pretty fast/inexpensive internet access. Many places offer free wi-fi as long as you purchase a drink or pastry at their cafe.
In Ho Chi Minh City, there is a French ice cream parlor right off Pasteur Street towards the Sai Gon River, that offers free wi-fi. I've forgotten the name of the establishment but it was mentioned in the current Lonely Planet.
In Bangkok, you have a lot of choices so you will easily find a place to get online.
My partner and I have been traveling in this neck of the woods since February 2005. I've met your fiancee through Evan Williams in San Francisco a long long time ago. I doubt if she would remember me. Anyway, let me know if you need info for Cambodia, Laos or any other city in Thailand. We've been updating our website regularly while traveling so it shouldn't be a problem for you.
Happy Travels,

whatiseeNov 10, 2005 at 2:43AM

One small comment from my trip to HK a long time ago. If you do go to the Peak, dont stop there. Keep hiking up the road with houses. The road gets smaller and smaller, turning into a footpath and then a trail. Eventually, you wind up right below the military station on what appears to be a covered resevoir. The view is out of this world and orders of magnitude better than the "peak" (which is really better called a low shoulder). It's a wonderful place to eat a sandwich and I didn't see anyone up there on a Saturday afternoon.

Enjoy your trip.

BoazNov 10, 2005 at 10:35AM

Meg asked about the Flat Ducks you saw in the street. We basically chopped them into pieces and steam them over rice. It's quite salty, think of a very dense country ham made with duck meat. You'd have also seen Chinese version of bacon and sausage there too.

Checked with Wife. She recommended seafood but obviously you've been there. But if you want to try it second time, you'd try steamed fish and lobster with top-soup and crabs with ginger and green onion.

Oh, also Beijing style food.

whatisee's recommendation is quite good, walking along the path up the Peak -- it's a nice path. It's harder to find that path now, I think the entrance is now right next to a restaurant.

BoazNov 10, 2005 at 10:38AM

One more thing: The "Pepper Salt Shrimp". The Shrimp is basically fried shrimp, yes with garlic & pepper, but the point of "Pepper Salt" is actually that greyish powder (salt) thing either they put onto the shrimp already or on a small dish (sometime the dish has 2 section, one side with soy sauce and the other Pepper Salt). Pepper Salt is Salt cooked with peppercorn AFAIK, so it has a black-pepper scent in it.

timNov 10, 2005 at 11:34PM

JUMBO floating restaurant. Go there. The world's largest floating restaurant. It's BIG. Don't forget to learn how to play mahjong.

MeganNov 11, 2005 at 12:04AM

I spent 6.5 months in 2004/2005 traveling around Asia by myself--mostly overland. I had a great time in Myanmar (Burma). A lot of people are against traveling there as a protest against the horrible government but I found the locals who I bought food/transport/opium weights from quite appreciative. If you're interested in specifics, budget and routes I have a site (my URL is below when you click on my name). I did write a blog while I was gone but I think the budget breakdown and the route maps are especially helpful for fellow travelers.

the myoclonic jerkNov 11, 2005 at 10:53AM

There's a list of Hong Kong MUJI stores here!

And do check out G.O.D for some local designs. Not the typical dragon-and-phoenix brocade!

Kubrick bookstore on Public Square Street (nearest station: Yau Ma Tei) has a film library, cafe, arthouse cinema, and yes, a bookshop. Stocks lots of Wong Kar Wai-related material.

Do try the HK-style french toast and milk tea! The Tsui Wah eatery chain does it real good.

EnaNov 11, 2005 at 12:22PM

but I do hope you'll try to get off the beaten path.

nickNov 11, 2005 at 8:08PM

On clothes in HK: possibly a good idea is to seek out one of the tailors who can knock up a made-to-measure suit in a matter of weeks (and mail it back to the US). You never know when you'll need one. Raja Fashions is the most famous one, but there are guides out there to the others. So get yourself measured up!

maddyNov 12, 2005 at 2:15AM

There's a great Muji store in Causeway Bay and G.O.D. is just over the road too - both highly recommended. Also try the Page One bookshop at the top of Times Square (also Causeway Bay).

If you like Hongky bread I'm afraid that only proves that Americans don't know shit about bread.. it's truly awful.. so sweet - almost like marshmallow! Wait till you get to Vietnam and have some French style bread.. YUMMY

SeekerNov 12, 2005 at 5:26AM

As always beautiful,

Helen HockneyNov 12, 2005 at 10:56PM

Jason, Luk Yu (yes rhymes with F U) is an amazing place. have not been for 15 years, but from what i read below it seems the same. i didn't read the other posts, so forgive if this is a repeat. If you want to go during the non tourist time when it's hard to get in without a chinese friend, you might tip the concierge at the peninsula (when you go for more mango pudding), to call the Luk Yu and get you a table during morning dim sum , when non chinese mostly can't get in. the peninsula hotel concierge will call and mumble something in chinese and get a table waiting for you. it's worth the "bribe". a real "old Hong kong" experience.
Luk Yu Tea House
Cuisine Cantonese
Hours Daily 7am-10pm
Address 24-26 Stanley St
Location Central, Central District
Transportation MTR: Central
Phone 852/2523 5464
Prices Main dishes HK$100-HK$220 (US$13-US$29); dim sum HK$25-HK$55 (US$3.25-US$7.15)
Credit Cards MC, V
Frommer's Review:
Luk Yu, first opened in 1933, is the most famous teahouse remaining in Hong Kong. In fact, unless you have a time machine, you can't get any closer to old Hong Kong than this wonderful Art Deco-era Cantonese restaurant, with its ceiling fans, spittoons, individual wooden booths for couples, marble tabletops, wood paneling, and stained-glass windows. It's also one of the best places to try a few Chinese teas, including bo lai (a fermented black tea, which is the most common tea in Hong Kong; also spelled bo lay), jasmine, lung ching (a green tea), and sui sin (narcissus or daffodil).
But Luk Yu is most famous for its dim sum, served from 7am to 5:30pm. The problem for foreigners, however, is that the place is always packed with regulars who have their own special places to sit, and the staff is sometimes surly to newcomers. In addition, if you come after 11am, dim sum is no longer served by trolley but from an English menu with pictures but no prices, which could end up being quite expensive unless you ask before ordering. If you want to come during the day (certainly when Luk Yu is most colorful), try to bring along a Chinese friend. Otherwise, consider coming for dinner when it's not nearly so hectic and there's an English menu listing more than 200 items, including all the Cantonese favorites, though you'll be surrounded mostly by tourists.
Source: Frommer's Hong Kong, 8th Edition
Author: Beth Reiber
Pub Date: February 14, 2005

Alex BestonNov 13, 2005 at 2:04AM

Currently in KL - food is good there!

john WeeksNov 13, 2005 at 8:43PM

Jason! I hope it's not too late! You've got to get a picture of one of the signs on a toilet notifying the user that "the water in the toilet is salt water".
Appearantly they save fresh water by using straight sea water to run that system. This was in a really swank hotel in Kowloon, too. Good luck.

the myoclonic jerkNov 14, 2005 at 7:24AM

Nick: Custom tailoring is much cheaper and quicker in Bangkok, and the quality doesn't suffer for that.

boazNov 14, 2005 at 11:04AM

Glad to know that Meg likes the Vitasoy. I posted about it on my blog but basically what I want to tell you are:

1. It's available in many Chinatown supermarkets.

2. You'd try it warm (not boiled of course) as well.

I figure after you guys plugging it Vitasoy probably should have a better oversea sales this quarter! :-)

RyanNov 14, 2005 at 5:38PM

Jason and Meg -- if you're able to take a trip outside of Saigon, might I suggest Tay Ninh to visit the main Cao Dai temple. Cao Dai is an indigenous Vietnamese religion that very few westerners know about, but it's a very cool amalgamation of Christianity, Taoism, Islam, Buddhism, ancestor worship, and spiritism.

Let me know if you want any more info.

nickNov 14, 2005 at 9:47PM

the myoclonic jerk: very true, though given the choice I'd buy the suits in HK and the shirts in Bangkok. Personal preference, that's all.

Oh, another bit of consumption in Bangkok: custom-set jewellery. Buy the stones from one place (Bangkok is better for coloured stones than diamonds), then get them set at another place.

jeremiahNov 16, 2005 at 3:05PM

Jason, I would completly avoid that place. Just fair warning.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.