Saturday, January 31, 2009

Koh Samui on Chinese New Year

Hong Kongers don't tend to stick around for Chinese New Year, and after seeing my fair share of lion dances last year, I was anxious to get out of town this year, too.

Our destination? Koh Samui. Friends of ours had raved about this small little island off the coast of Thailand, and we were anxious to check it out for ourselves.

We booked ourselves into a villa, one of our favorite ways to feel home away from home. Villa Sunshining, and the people who manage it, were amazing. Perched upon a hill, the villa commands a fantastic view over Big Buddha harbour. From our high vantage point, we were able to enjoy spectacular sunsets each night of our stay. This was the high point.

As for the rest of Koh Samui, it is quaint, but doesn't go so far as charming. Like most of Thailand, it has a pieced together feel: Big glitzy resorts next to shacks and huts. And, like many travel guides warn, it was overrun with folks seeking a neverending spring break rather than the neverending summer.

Chaweng Beach is the biggest and best known in Koh Samui, but unless you plan to stake out a piece of sand early, you will be hard-pressed (between bodies that is) to eek out blanket space. The beach is nice, however: calm waves lap against soft, white sand beaches. At night, Chaweng get groovin. The bars don't really start

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Top Ten Things I Love About Hong Kong

It's exactly one year today that I arrived in Hong Kong. It took me a while to get used to this city. At the beginning, I would bemoan the loss of my dear NYC. However, over time, I've come to realize that this place has charms all of its own.

Here's a list of my favorite:

1. The tram. It's quaint and riding from the top deck gives you a different view of the city.

2. Junk trips. It seems everyone's company out here owns a junk, and they're a boat-load of fun to be on for the day.

3. Tropical plants growing EVERYWHERE ... the kind we keep as house plants in NYC.

4. Dim sum. Hong Kong's answer to weekend brunch.

5. The Star Ferry. The Hong Kong tourism board actually requires that the Star Ferry be added to any list on Hong Kong. It is a pretty great ride from Central to the Kowloon side.

6. Urban hikes. Having so many mountains means you can hike in Hong Kong just by walking outside your door.

7. Outdoor escalator. Did I mention the mountains? For those who don't want to hike, there is an outdoor escalator in Central. Very cool.

8. Gleaming skyscrapers. OK, so most cities have them, but I think that Hong Kong takes the cake when it comes to architecture. My favorite - Bank of China.

9. Shek-O. More like Vietnam than Hong Kong. In just 20 minutes you feel worlds away from the city at this shanty beach town.

10. Sheung Wan. This has become my favorite neighborhood. Antique shops, quaints cafes and restaurants, plus an old Hong Kong charm that seems to have faded from the rest of the city.