Being born and raised in Hawaii has its perks – but traveling is not one of them. Going anywhere outside of the state requires a 5-hour flight, minimum. Living in NYC for 4 years also meant a LOT of 10.5 hour flights across four time zones to go home for holidays and weddings – sometimes for just a weekend.
With a week notice, we helped our family put together a family reunion. Sharing our tips so you can too!
Our family tree with corrections!
Update: If you’re planning on throwing your own family reunion, check out:
Part 2 – Download all the tools and design materials we used in our reunion!
Part 3 – Family reunion retrospective aka what we would have done differently
Whether it’s obsessing over Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History or interviewing my parents to learn more about their childhood, I’ve always been fascinated with the past.
Luckily for me, one of my grandmother’s sisters, my “Aunty Jean” as we call her, was visiting Hawaii with her extended family – most of whom I had never met. This meant that my Aunty Gerry would be responsible for organizing a casual family get-together.
If your family is large and anything like mine, this usually consists of a meal at Zippy’s where families sit next to their immediate family and talk story / catch up with those they’re familiar with. I mean, I should know since I’m definitely guilty of this myself.
After all, we’re human. We tend to gravitate towards familiarity.
Yet, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that this setup isn’t ideal since we don’t get to learn about other family members aside from at a “surface level”. There isn’t much depth to the relationship, and sadly enough, we end up knowing more about our friends than our own blood. Don’t get me wrong – some families may be better off this way, but I’d like to think that my family should know (and want to know) more about one another.
I wanted to do something different.
With about a week’s notice, Sara and I helped my Aunty Gerry organize the reunion. Even though we have quite a bit of experience organizing large community and corporate events, there’s an inherent pressure in dealing with family. No matter the size, you always want it to reflect the best of your abilities because ultimately, it’s a reflection of your parents.
When thinking about what a successful outcome would be, I came up with the following three outcomes that would ultimately shape the day’s activities:
Family members should interact and meet one another – no matter their lineage. This was our main goal. If this happened at some level, even if none of the other outcomes occurred, we would have had a successful reunion.
Take a family photo that every family should receive.
Enable corrections to the family tree that my Aunty Gerry and I have spent hours constructing.
All in all, the reunion turned out better than even I could have imagined!
Not only did we accomplish all three outcomes, but as a bonus, we received email contacts for family members whom I had never even met prior to the reunion! Big props to my wife, Sara, for doing a large chunk of the design work including the design of the game, the program, and the family tree above.
Over the next two blog posts, I’ll be posting the documents and visual assets we used to plan and organize the events of the day – so that you too can plan your own family reunion! I’ll also be detailing how the day unfolded and things we could improve upon for the next reunion.
Stay tuned for the next post where I discuss what goes into planning a reunion when given a week’s notice!
Make sure to continue reading:
Part 2 – Download all the tools and design materials we used in our reunion.
Part 3 – Find out what we would improve on if we could “do it all over again”
A quick peak into what we did while we were in Hong Kong. Day 2 of our trip was much more relaxed since we had to be at the cruise terminal by 2p.
Our second day in Hong Kong was much less crazy than our first. Partly because we needed to be at the pier to board the cruise ship by around 2pm.
After the adventures of the previous day, we were pretty beat up and slept in a bit. One of Ry’s college classmates (and old coworker in NYC) is now living in Hong Kong, so we met up for breakfast.
He took us to a classic Hong Kong family style spot, Kai Kee Restaurant just a few blocks from where we were staying (mentioned it in the Eating in Hong Kong post). I kind of wanted to try the instant ramen dishes, mostly because noodles are my favorite thing, but we opted for sweets instead. Toast with sweetened condensed milk, egg tarts, a melon bun and coffee. Note: saying you just want coffee will give you coffee with milk already mixed in. Kai Kee Restaurant, Hong Kong
Everything was amazing, and while there’s a small part of me that wants to DIY that sweetened condensed milk toast business at home, I also feel like it’d be such a waste since I wouldn’t use up the whole can – and then what do you do with it? Hahaha.
From there we walked around and talked story until we ended up at a small grocery store near our place. We wanted to pick up some cruise ship necessities to carry on (a case of diet soda, 2 bottles of wine and random snacks – details in our cruise packing post).
We went back to our AirBnb and filled one of our empty bags with all our new goods then relaxed a bit before heading back out in search of (you guessed it) more food.
We had read online about a cute coffee shop down the street from us – that was supposedly tucked away in the back of a clothing store. When we got there, however, it was actually just a clothing store. Whoops! On our way to the next coffee shop, we walked by the Ya Kun Family Cafe and decided to check it out.
They specialized in Kaya toast, a snack from Singapore/Malaysia. It’s essentially a toasted sandwich that’s made with kaya (spread made from coconut milk, eggs, sugar and pandan) and butter. They sell a set with soft boiled eggs, so naturally we got that then proceeded to google how the heck you’re supposed to actually eat it. That’s where it got interesting.
Lots of seating
Apparently you mix up the eggs, add in some dark soy sauce and white pepper, then dip your sandwich into it. In all honesty, it sounded kind of disgusting. Sweet + butter + eggs + shoyu?! Can’t knock it till you try it though, so we gave it a go and it was actually pretty good. The sweet + salty + savory combo worked well! This place is actually a franchise and there are a ton of locations across Asia. Ya Kun Family Cafe / Website
After that long detour, we went to check out N1 Coffee, which based on the Internets is a popular and very instagram-ey coffee shop. The shop was cute, but a little crowded, so we swung in to take a few pics but didn’t order anything. N1 Coffee & Co.
Loved the decor so hipster. Haha
Fancy pour overs
When we were leaving, the signage for Owl’s Choux next door caught our eye. Mentions of Michelin street food guides and cross sections of the little custard puffs drew us in. Lunch? Who needs lunch?
These were DELISH. Crunchy and soft at the same time, with a light and fluffy filling. I kind of wish we tried the ice cream sandwich versions – but we decided to just try the two small choux and keep moving. After all, we only had a few more hours left! Owl’s Choux Gelato & Coffee
One of the last places that we had bookmarked to check out was Wah Kee Snack Food Shop. It was a little spot on a busy corner filled with all the street food you could ever want. We opted for some cheese sausage in spicy sauce, and ate it while we walked back to our AirBnb to pack up and head to the Cruise terminal. Wah Kee Snack Food Shop
Protip: if you don’t have pocket WiFi and you’ve been using your AirBnb or Hotel’s internet for everything, remember to order your Uber BEFORE you leave. We forgot this gem, and while T-Mobile does provide some service in Hong Kong, the signal wasn’t strong enough to get us an Uber.
Luckily we were just down the Street (we had gone down with our bags to get to a less busy corner so a car could pull over), so I trekked it back up and then sprinted back down when the car was on its way.
We got to the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal a bit early and had some time to kill before we needed to board, so we walked around the roof deck / garden. Having just opened in 2013, it still seems shiny and new. There were a handful of restaurants, but most weren’t open, so we decided to just board early.
Ryan likes fish
From the rooftop, the boat looked huge
The terminal was so fancy
Here we go!
…and away we go!
We checked in, got our “Seapass” cards (your form of identification / how you pay for everything on board the ship) and toasted to a fun couple of days in Hong Kong. Next up on the blog: Day 1 at sea!
A quick peak into what we did while we were in Hong Kong. Day 1 of our trip – eating, walking and exploring Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon and Central!
A picture is worth a thousand words
Since we already wrote about a lot of the bigger places that we stopped at while we were in Hong Kong, I figure it’d be a fun post to just write up what our full days looked like! It’s a pretty long post, so grab some coffee (or just scroll through to look for the ?).
We started the morning off at (don’t hate) Starbucks in iSquare, because coffee! Plus Ry’s mom collects the cups from all the cities they go to, so she wanted to pick one up. From there, we walked down the street to check out the Chungking Mansions.
Chungking Mansions Main Entrance
Interior of the ground floor
via PermanentWalkabout.com – Interior of ground floor
via PermanentWalkabout.com – Queue for the elevator to the guesthouses
Food for sale on the ground floor
Rows of shop space
It honestly felt like stepping into a completely different world once we walked through the doorway. Some reeeeeally aggressive people trying to sell you everything from cell phones to tailored suits. Probably worth the walk through, but better when all the shops are open later in the day. note: I didn’t take great photos of the interior, so I included a few from Bennett Cain of permanentwalkabout.com check out his site for more details / photos. Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong
From there, we walked toward the Avenue of Stars – but found out it was closed due to nearby construction. We headed to the “Garden of Stars” instead.
Walking to the Garden of Stars
Just about 10 minutes away from the Tsim Sha Tsui (“TST”) MTR station, the Garden of Stars is a small park with a bunch of statues along the water. We went early (around 830a) so it was empty, but as we were leaving the tour groups started coming in. Garden of Stars, TST East Waterway
We decided to walk along the water toward the clock tower on the other side of TST and check out the skyline on the other side of Victoria Harbor. It was a a pretty view, despite the cloudy skies. Former Kowloon-Canton Railway Clock Tower
We didn’t have anything for breakfast, so now we were getting hungry. In search of food, we walked back toward TST and stopped in the basement level of Silvercord, a small shopping mall that had not only a bunch of food stalls, but an arcade in the basement, where you know we had to spend a few minutes checking out the games. Silvercord – Shopping Mall
We didn’t see any food that we were interested in, so we continued on our way toward Kowloon Park, until we walked by this place:
It smelled amazing so of course we stopped in and tried the samples. We saw this pretty much in every city we stopped in for the rest of the trip, but since this was our first time having it (and it’s delish!) I’m including it here. They have different kinds of meat and we tried a bunch before deciding to go with the pork.
From there we walked around Kowloon Park, checking out the waterfalls, flamingos, and the hilarious Avenue of Comic Stars. The latter felt a bit out of place in such a serene location, but it’s also in the middle of a bustling city, which you’re reminded of as soon as you walk back out into the street. Kowloon Park
Right around the corner from the flamingoes and the aviary
Lots of seating areas to relax and enjoy the scenery
From greenery and aviaries to pandas and anime
It’s official, I’m starving. After the park we did a quick search for some dim sum and came across Crystal Jade. Highly reviewed and just five minutes from where we were in the park, it was a done deal. The only problem was that it was also inside a mall full of distractions in the form of Uniqlo, Laneige, Eyeko and every other skincare and makeup brand I have love/hate relationships with. Hahaha. Harbor City Shopping Mall
The entrance to one of my all time favorite shops
We made it, though. Crystal Jade had a computer instead of a host, and when you punched in the number of people in your party, it printed out a receipt with a number. We waited for just a few minutes before we were seated. **drools**
After lunch we actually went back to Chungking Mansions to see if it was a bit more lively during the day (it is!) and also to meet up with Ry’s sister and her husband who were staying with us at our AirBnb. They decided to head back to the room with our parents, and Ryan and I decided to make our way to Hong Kong Island.
We caught the MTR from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central on Hong Kong Island with the intention of finding Oddies Foodies. It was a bit of a trek, around 15 minutes through various side streets, but we found it in all it’s ice cream and eggette glory. I may or may not have also stopped in Fresco Cafe, a random Hong Kong style bakery we walked by, for a custard bun. I have a serious weakness for them.
Fresco Cafe – Custard Bun
Oddies Foodies – Night Wolf
Next stop – work off all the calories from the ice cream! The way up was a breeze since we got to ride every single escalator (the escalators switch directions from down to up during morning and evening rush hours – we made it in time for the afternoon switch to ride all of them up).
From one of the upper platforms – looking back toward the rest of the escalators
Lots of people on the escalators
It was a pretty surreal experience, you continue to go up and along the way there are shops, restaurants, and winding roads. When we finally got to the top we decided to hyperlapse the entire way down. 10 minutes on Hyperlapse == WAY TOO MANY STAIRS. I was dying. Haha.
The escalators end at Tower One of the International Finance Center (“IFC”) so we walked in to cool off and since we were there, decided to check out the observation deck on the 55th floor of Tower Two. It’s a little tricky to find coming in from the escalators (you’re at the other end of the mall and when you get to Two IFC, all you’ll see is the front desk. You can ask them for directions (they spoke English) and they’ll point you around the corner down an escalator to a different check in desk – you’ll need to present ID to get to the info centre.Hong Kong Monetary Authority Information Centre – 55th floor of Two IFC tower
Mosaic of Hong Kong Skyline
Mosaic of Hong Kong Skyline – Close up
Mosaic of Hong Kong Skyline – Close up
Not much visibility today
If you look down, though…
For the history buffs
As if we didn’t have enough to eat yet, we read that there was a Tim Ho Wan in the IFC Mall, so we picked up some dim sum (it’s a little tough to find, so check out my earlier post for directions) and made our way to our next stop. IFC Mall
We caught the MTR from Hong Kong Station to Lok Fu Station (~30 minutes) and made our way to the Kowloon Walled City Park, about 15 minutes from the station. We ate our dim sum and walked around the park before deciding to head back toward our AirBnb. While we were at the Lok Fu Station, we noticed a poster for “Namco Playground” and if you know Ryan, then you’ll know that that’s where we were headed next. Kowloon Walled City Park
Made a new friend while we were walking around
We caught the MTR to Mong Kok station, which was just a couple stops and on the way home. If you take Exit E1 and walk away from Nathan Road, you’ll be right in front of the Langham Place Shopping Mall, where Namco Playground is. This was a pretty huge mall, with hundreds of stores, restaurants and entertainment.
The escalator of doom!
Not for the faint at heart – the view from the top
Don’t look down!
We took the huge escalator up to the top and made our way down all the floors, stopping in the Line Store and Namco Playground (turns out it was pretty tiny and we didn’t stay long) as well as a few other shops. Like most of the malls in Hong Kong, this places takes advantage of their vertical space and had “express” escalators that skipped floors and went up a LONG way. If you’re afraid of heights, don’t turn around when you’re on these – I definitely felt my stomach drop into my feet as we made our way to the top. Langham Place Shopping Mall
Finally back in our AirBnb, and my phone was telling me we clocked 18 miles today. We were going to call it a night, but in typical vacay mode we got hungry. So back out we went! We probably should’ve looked up a place and gone directly there, but instead we decided to walk around until we found a place that looked good.
We stopped by the Charlie Brown Cafe, but it seemed more geared toward coffee and cakes. Finally stopped at a small Japanese-style cafe on the fifth floor of a building filled with restaurants. Their omu rice hit the spot and was the perfect end to a super long day.
Walking around near our AirBnb
I spy the Charlie Brown Cafe
Charlie Brown Cafe
Cute little cakes
Omu rice from Ufufu Cafe
We got home around 930p – and immediately passed out. Hahaha. Since day 2 is less aggressive, I’ll include some pics of our AirBnb and details about that.
Living in Downtown seriously has its perks. Taking a quick break from the trip posts to write about some food you can eat right now!
Living in Downtown definitely has its perks. Spacing out the travel posts with some local places. Some of it will be food, and others will be coffee shops that we visit on “Work from Wherever Wednesday” – our team’s excuse to get out of the office and get our collaboration on.
tl;dr: This place does happy hour and specials right. Come here early on Thursdays (make a reso as this place gets crowded quick) and take advantage of happy hour food + half off cocktails!
We’d been excited to come here after seeing the signage and peeking in windows when we walked by on lunch breaks. Hard to miss, it sits on the corner of Fort Street Mall and S. Pauahi, a block in from Hotel Street. If you’re driving, they offer 2 hours of validated parking at Mark’s Garage.
On a normal night (after happy hour), this place is pretty pricey. Drinks range from $10 – $12 for their cocktails and entrees are around $16 – $23. It’s definitely not an everyday place for us, but the interior has great ambiance with the lighting, music and decor.
You should either make reservations or plan to sneak out of the office and get there early. Both times, when we arrived at around 5p, it was fairly empty, but filled up quick as folks got off work in search of happy hour.
Looking down from loft seating
Larger tables in the loft area
Larger tables in the loft area
The happy hour food menu is an amazing deal. The portions were large enough to share as apps, and everything we ordered was tasty! The menu changed a few times in the beginning, but it seems like it’s pretty set now.
As for the drinks, the classic and hand crafted martinis all come with a “sidecar”, basically another full drink in a tiny carafe in a fish bowl of ice. So you’re really getting two drinks for the price of one – hard to go wrong there.
Last but not least, make sure you check out their specials:
We’ll definitely be back for that Monday AYCE chicken. I can already think of a few people that would eat their $13 worth (and more) of fried chicken. If you live or work nearby, definitely check this place out. It’s a great happy hour spot to get the night started.
As of June 14th, they’re also open for lunch – haven’t been yet, but linked the menu at the bottom.
A quick summary of everywhere we ate on our short trip to Hong Kong!
Going to be totally honest here – when it comes to travel, one of our first priorities is figuring out where we’re going to eat. Below is a snippet of the places we ate while we were in Hong Kong. I did full write ups on the few that I felt were worth mentioning separately, but linked them below as well. Hope you’re not hungry before you dive in!
Xiao Long Bao
Xiao Long Bao – Close Up
Dan Dan Mian
We stumbled across this restaurant after we checked out the waterfront in Tsim Sha Tsui. There are a bunch of locations, but the one we went to was in the Harbor City Mall.
Go there for the: Xiao Long Bao (aka soup dumplings) and the Dan Dan Mian.
Actually stumbled across this place while we were in search of the coffee place next door. There was a sign on the window saying they were on the Michelin Guide for street food, so of course we had to try them even though we just ate lunch.
Go there for the: We only tried the salted caramel and vanilla cream, but if we go back, I’d totally try those epic looking gelato sammies.
We met up with a friend in town and he took us here for a classic Hong Kong breakfast. The menu was pretty interesting – Western breakfast included dishes with instant ramen and macaroni noodles. We opted for coffee and pastries.
Go there for the: Toast with sweetened condensed milk. It’s such a simple thing, but so perfect! They also have a take out window for grab and go pastries.
Go there for the: Kaya Toast! Make sure you order it with the set. It’s interesting – comes with 2 poached eggs and you’re supposed to scramble them up with the pepper and dark shoyu. Then dip and eat. I’ll admit I was a little apprehensive, but ended up really liking it. For the less adventurous, they also have just butter + sugar toast, which I imagine is just as tasty!
A bit off the beaten path, but an awesome spot for unique dessert that’s tasty and totally instagram worthy. Definitely get one of the eggette sundaes!
Where did the month go?!
I can’t believe an entire month has gone by since my last post. Yikes. Aside from the usual shenanigans, my rather addictive behavior has been currently focused on marathon training and a new diet that we’re implementing into our lifestyle. So lots of meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking and running.
Not a lot of blogging.
Regardless, I’m back and jumping right back in with one of my favorite dessert spots from our cruise destinations.
tl;dr: A bit off the beaten path, but an awesome spot for unique dessert that’s tasty and totally instagram worthy. Definitely get one of the eggette sundaes!
Ryan came across this place online while he was researching where to go. It’s a cute little shop, located about a 5 minute walk from the Central to Mid Level Escalators, or 15 minutes from the Central MTR stop.
We took the scenic route and went through a bunch of the small streets, passing tables setup on sidewalks serving noodles and vendors selling household items and produce. It was pretty crowded walking there, but I figure we should walk off the impending calories.
The shop doesn’t really stand out on this colorful street, but once you step inside, the brightly lit interior and fun neon signage definitely feels modern and new. A convenient plus is that all of their signage is in both English and Chinese. When we got there (around 3pm on a Thursday), it was pretty empty – occupied with just a single worker and 2 customers ahead of us.
There are only 6 seats along a high top that’s against the wall, so if you’re coming during peak hours, expect to stand around or take this on the go.
What makes Oddies so odd?
From their facebook page:
‘Odd Food’ – it’s being creative on food combinations, be brave with our palette and most importantly, have fun playing from street food style to premium ice cream theme dessert.
They aren’t kidding around – with gelato flavors like “Oh My Abs” (Apricot gelato, graham crackers, toasted hazelnut and vanilla chantilly cream) and toppings that range from butter crumbs to apple yuzu jelly, you can imagine how some of these pairings can definitely be “brave”.
Coming in at around $8 USD ($1USD: $7.80HKD), it’s pretty cheap when you consider all the things that go into it. For our order, the Night Wolf, there was twist soft serve, butter crumbs(!?), caramelized banana gelato, passion fruit panna cotta, brownie chocolate chip eggettes and crunchy flakes. That’s Ryan eating it in under 2 minutes! 😀
I would definitely come back – but only if we had other plans in Central. As much as I loved it, it’s hard for me to say I’d go out of my way for ice cream – especially when I’m sure there are awesome places that we haven’t tried all over Hong Kong.