I compiled a video of memories from my recent trip back to California for summer break. I spent most of my time in Orange County and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I’ve been living in Korea for six years now and any chance I get to visit home is a welcome one. Some of the highlights of this trip include: Phuoc Loc Tho night market, OC Fair, and eating Vietnamese food!
I am currently at a hair salon in Little Saigon getting my hair cut and color retouched. I’ve been hanging out in Garden Grove for a little over a week now. It was a much-needed reset. I haven’t been this relaxed in a long time. Since I moved to Seoul, work has been an endless cycle. Shout-out to all the teachers covering for me so I can take some extra time off to hang out with my dog.
My vacations to Garden Grove are so repetitive and that’s what I love about them. I usually go on a grand tour – Walmart, Target, Party City, Dollar Tree, and the 99Cents Store. This time, I often found myself at South Coast Plaza for Sephora and Forever 21. My latest obsession with skin care had me spending a good amount of money there.
I hung out my friend Tina, as usual. I can always count on her to make time for me when I come home. We had cajun food and went to the Phuoc Loc Tho night market. That was fun considering neither one of us remember enough Vietnamese anymore. We also went to the OC Fair to binge on food. Kinh joined us as well. I remember the last time I talked to her was when we sat next to each other at our high school graduation. Time flies… next year is our 10 year reunion!!
I fly back to Korea tonight. I decided to go back a bit early to chill out and do things I don’t normally get to do on a weekday such as go to the doctor and eat lunch not provided on a metal tray.
My final day in Hong Kong started off on a gloomy note. Literally. The weather was awful. I had plans to check my luggage in through city check-in at Kowloon Station, then head to the Tai O Fishing Village. I used to teach this lesson back at Chungdahm April about a kid named Tim who visits the Tai O Fishing Village and writes a letter to his friend. I assumed it was a fictional place, but lo and behold, that shit was real! A quick search on Youtube showed me that the Tai O Fishing Village was actually real! I thought it’d be hilarious for me to visit the place and do a letter video blog for my former students.
The people at the hotel checked the weather/stats for me and advised me that it would probably be a waste of my time if I went. My plan was to take the cable car up to Nyong Ping Village and then zip over to Tai O Fishing Village. Since it was muggy, rainy, and foggy, taking the cable car would’ve been a waste of time/money. Not to mention, most things would probably be closed once I got to the fishing village. I really want a proper visit there, so I decided to hold off on visiting.
Well, the next best thing was to go find breakfast. I went to a local meat shop since I was craving roasted pork belly again. Despite their signs in English, I had trouble communicating my order to them. But, I still got my food. It was all right. I mean, pork belly is always good no matter what, but there was nothing spectacular about it. I say the pork belly at the mall food court was better.
After breakfast, I took a stroll down the street to find Wing Wah. I knew it was a long shot, but I wanted to find some moon cake. Thanks to Google, I found a Wing Wah about 5 minutes from my hotel. After some shopping, I wandered over to Tsim Tsa Tsui to visit a museum. I also took a stroll around the area, which sort of sucked since it was humid AF.
I collected my luggage at the hotel and took a cab to Kowloon Station. Once there, I was able to check in my luggage right at the station. So convenient. No one wants to be tied down to their luggage. I took the express back to the airport. A lot of people online complain about how expensive the ticket is… DUDE, convenience and scenic views! So worth the 100 HKD.
My last real meal in Hong Kong was at Cafe Coral. I was expecting the budget-friendly Hong Kong style cafe, but I was wrong. Since this was located inside the airport, the menu was expanded. I ordered bird nest noodles, shrimp wontons, and Ovaltine. It was wayyyyy too much food! I should’ve gotten a pineapple bun with some coffee. Oh well, go out in style.
The check-in process was fairly easy since I already had my boarding pass. The only part that killed me about the Hong Kong airport was the amount of trains I had to take to get to each terminal. It was confusing as shit and if you don’t pay attention, you pretty much miss your stop. Numerical order and logic are out of question at this place. My flight was supposed to board at 9:10pm and take off at 9:50pm. However, we didn’t even START boarding until 9:55pm. But somehow, we made it back to Seoul before the expected time. After all the stuff at immigration and waiting for the late bus, I made it back to my apartment at 5:30am. Work then started at 10am. All in all, it was a fantastic trip. I could’ve done a lot more, but I didn’t want to stress myself out. I just wanted a mini breather and more importantly, a break from Korean food. I definitely ate my way through Hong Kong. I hope to come back soon and spend more time on the Central side.
And here’s a glorious shot of my last snack in Hong Kong… xa xiu bao:
For Day 2, I woke up at a comfortable time. The weather was super muggy and slightly rainy. My first mission was to hunt down breakfast. Strangely enough, the local dim sum joint did not open until 11am. I always thought dim sum was an early morning thing… not in Hong Kong I guess. I walked down Tung Choi Street and found a local noodle shop that was open.
My original goal for Day 1 was to go to Sister Wah for brisket noodles. However, the heat wave and my inability to cope caused me to give up rather quickly. The good thing is that good food is everywhere in Hong Kong. I ordered some brisket with rice noodles. I also ordered a side of shou mai. This shou mai was slightly different from the shou mai you would normally get at dim sum. It had a fish paste filling vs. pork/shrimp. My bowl of brisket noodles was perfect for breakfast. The brisket was super tender and the broth was right on point. I think this meal came out to be about $6.
After breakfast, I loitered around the Mongkok area and went to places such as the Argyle Shopping Center and the Fa Yuen Market. I took the MTR to the Temple Street area in hopes of visiting the market there. However, I was way too early and nothing was remotely close to being set up. I checked out the surrounding area and saw some of the old mansions. A lot of them are now just various types of shopping centers. After getting bored with the area, I walked to Tsim Tsa Tsui to find the clock tower. I got a bit lost and ended up on the street with a lot of posh brand names. CANNOT AFFORD, MUST DIVERT GAZE. I ended up having lunch at the Food Republic again.
This was probably my favorite meal of the trip. Crispy pork belly with chicken stock rice and a side of blanched bok choy. I thought this was so much better than the Vietnamese variation I had back in California. Actually, they’re probably exactly the same thing. I was just so deprived that this meal tasted extra delicious. For dessert, I got myself a papaya milk at the local juice joint.
After taking a break in my comfy hotel room, I headed out to Temple Street again. The market was alive and kicking by the time I returned in the evening. It was similar to the Ladies’ Market in that there were stalls full on random shit. There were more local eateries around the premises, though.
The prices at this market were slightly higher than the Ladies’ Market. I only managed to get a few knick knacks before heading back. I did eat a pandan waffle and that was delcious!
After returning to my hotel, I dropped off some stuff and headed out again. This time, I was determined to eat dim sum for dinner. I wanted to go to Tim Ho Wan, but Dim Sum Specialist was so much more convenient.
The only downside to traveling alone is that I can’t try as many foods haha. For dinner, I ordered fung chao (chicken feet), turnip cakes, shou mai, and a salted plum soda. The shou mai was so legit. The chicken feet was braised well and definitely hit the spot. The turnip cakes were a bit greasy, but I enjoyed it anyways.
For the rest of the night, I wandered the streets and ate snacks. I went to a local supermarket to try and find strange flavored chips… I noticed that Hong Kong sells a lot of foreign snacks on a regular basis. Korean and Japanese snacks are extremely popular. I couldn’t find any local flavored chips so I ended up getting a canister of Buffalo Wings pringles. Perfect.
Back in the middle of May, I traveled to Seoul to participate in the KAFLA Charity Walkathon at Gwanghwamun. Since the event started early Sunday morning, I spent Saturday night in Seoul near the City Hall. It was kind of cool since my hotel was right where they were having the Lantern Festival parade. I met up with some of my past Poly co-workers since I was the only one from my school attending. First, it was Mr. Kim. Then came my hero Mr. Roseberry! Man, I miss working and snacking with these people 🙁
We were given a map with 14 checkpoints to collect stamps from. First of all, it was sweltering hot. Second of all, I am fat and therefore cannot effortlessly stride along like Mr. Kim (pictured above). Martha and I did not follow the recommended course. We went from Checkpoint 1-4, hopped to 8 then backtracked to 7, 6, and 5. Then we went back to 9 and made it through 14. We finished in a little over 2 hours.
After finishing the race, Martha and I weaved our way through the backstreets of Bukchon Village. There’s a really cool market area there that I’ll have to come back and check out sometime. We met up with the rest of the Poly people and watched Mr. Kim play dodgeball. It almost made me miss teaching gym to 7 year olds. ALMOST.
We grabbed lunch at a local kimbap joint afterwards. I should’ve opted for fancier meal, but to be honest, I was starving. I spent the rest of my Sunday at Kyobo then Myeongdong. I met with Martha and Chom again to have dinner at Myeongdong Kalguksoo. I love that place! Anyways, I’m glad I went. Even though it was hot and I am horribly out of shape, it was a great day. I mean, when else are you going to roam around Bukchon Village. I can’t wait for the fall walkathon!