Travel tips, stories, and adventures from around the world.

Tim Ho Wan – The world’s cheapest Michelin-star restaurant

Let the food and adventures begin! We started out our trip in Hong Kong, and while our list of places to write about is long, I figured this is a good place to start since they’re slated to open up a store in Royal Hawaiian Center this summer!

Let the food adventures begin! We started out our trip in Hong Kong, and while our list of places to write about is long, I figured this is a good place to start since Tim Ho Wan is planning to open up in Royal Hawaiian Center this summer! They also have a location in NYC if you can’t wait that long!

TL;DR: This place is worth it. If you’re anti-queues, go at an off hour and make sure you read the notes below on how to get there (if you’re headed to the HK MTR location). If you only have room for one thing: Baked Bun with BBQ Pork ?

Navigational woes

Google Map

There are four locations in Hong Kong and we had originally planned to go to the one in Olympian City, but since we were already at IFC (International Finance Center) after trekking the mid to central escalators, we decided to check out the one in the IFC Mall.

The address listed online was IFC Mall MTR Shop 12A, which seemed easy enough to find, but it’s a maze! I’ll save you our 15 minute back and forth confusion:

46

It’s actually NOT in the IFC Mall. Go to the Hong Kong station and head toward the Airport Express ticketing area. At the end, take the escalator down, go straight ahead, and it will be on your right. It’s in the L1 section on the above layout.

If you’re already in the mall, you can find it by heading toward the Airport Express or the MTR station (Tim Ho Won is located one level above the Airport Express). Look for this logo:

600px-MTRAirportExpress_logo.svg

We found it!

We arrived at a weird time, around 3:30 pm, but there were still a few people in line. Since we were on a pretty tight timeline, we opted for takeout and were given a paper order sheet to check off what we wanted.

Most people said it was packed when they came for lunch/dinner, so I definitely suggest coming at an off hour if your game plan is to sit down and eat (there aren’t any shared tables or places to sit in the station). Since our next stop was the Kowloon Walled City Park, we decided to jump on the MTR and eat in the park.

HOLY COW. The baked bun with BBQ pork was maybe the best thing ever. It’s not the traditional char siu bao that I’m used to getting at dim sum places in Hawaii (or anywhere else we’ve been, really). It was slightly sweet, flakey and so delish! So good that the previously vegetarian husband had TWO.

The pan fried turnip cakes were also great, but the baked pork bun stole the show. At $58 HKD (~$7.50 USD) for everything, it was definitely the cheapest Michelin-star food we’ve ever had, and chances are high that we’ll check out the one in Waikiki.

Tim Ho Wan (添好運)

中環香港站12A鋪(IFC地庫一層)
Hours: Mon to Sun, 9am – 9pm
Note: Cash only

Additional Links

Open Rice Link (Asia’s Yelp)
US Menu with pictures
Yelp Link for NYC location

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What to pack on a 14 day cruise

If you’re planning on taking a cruise, trust me when I say that cruisecritic.com will be your new best friend. We spent hours on that site (the forums are addicting) looking up…

If you’re planning on taking a cruise, trust me when I say that cruisecritic.com will be your new best friend. We spent hours on that site (the forums are addicting) looking up everything. Here’s what we learned from our first cruise:

How big is your stateroom?

This should be the first thing you figure out, and a quick google will pull up not only the exact square footage, but photos of the interiors of specific stateroom numbers (you should get this when you book your cruise). Our room included:

  • Total of 170 SF
  • Bed: 2 twins pushed together (this is the norm for “queen” beds)
  • Small couch and table
  • Closet with 24 hangers
  • 2nd closet with 6 shallow drawers and some space above
  • Safe that would fit my ipad air, but not Ry’s (15″) laptop
  • Under TV cabinet with mini fridge and drawer
  • Bathroom:
    • Two small shelves on the counter
    • 1 cabinet with 2 shelves (the other cabinet was for trash)

Protips

If you only read one section, read this one:

  • Pack a suitcase in a suitcase, or bring a foldable duffel – For the omiyage/shopping space
  • Dramamine / Ginger pills / those pressure point wrist things – we had 2 days of some pretty rough sea (17 foot waves!) and lots of people were sick. You can bet they were selling and not giving away the dramamine.
  • Take a photo of your luggage – This came in handy when we disembarked since one of our bags went missing. I showed them the pic and they pointed us toward where it was (the tag fell off and it was off in some random area).
  • Bring a pen – Every country has some sort of form to fill out and it’s always when there’s only one pen for 100 people to share.
  • Something to hold your room key in that isn’t your phone – Your room key doubles as your charge card on the ship, so you need it all the time. Mine demagnetized a bunch and was a huge pain (they blamed my cell phone).
  • Bring on Wine and Soda/Water – You can bring on up to 2 bottles of wine when you embark (per room). If you’re into soda/bottled water, this is a much cheaper route.
  • Downey wrinkle release – You can’t bring an iron, and getting your things pressed will cost you a pretty penny.

Note: these are tips specific to the Celebrity Millenium and may not apply if you’re on another cruise line or ship.


Our packing list

Won’t be detailing all the clothes, because when it comes to fashion, I’m probably the LAST person you should be taking notes from.

General

  • Extra hangers – on longer cruises, this is a lifesaver. I brought along 10 of those cheap ones from walmart and left them onboard when we disembarked.
  • Over the door storage – Because you’d be surprised what you can lose in 170 SF. This help beanies, umbrellas, lotions and all the random things we brought along. It was also only $5 at Ross, but I saw some hanger versions on Amazon that were like $2.
  • Hydroflask – for water because you’ll feel bad calling room service for water, but you also won’t want to walk up 8 decks to get it.
  • Hand sanitizer – For when you’re not on the boat. There are literally hand sanitizer machines at every turn when you’re on board.
  • Curling iron – for the fancy nights, also doubled as a make shift iron to get out some stubborn creases.
  • Silicone Makeup Applicator – I wasn’t a huge fan of these until I took them on this trip. It takes a bit of getting used to, but I LOVE them. Saves on so much product and super easy to clean. (This is the brand I purchased)
  • First Aid Kit
    • Immodium / Claritin / Benadryl (Since we were in China, but we ended up not needing at all)
    • Cold pills (Lifesaver, since I got sick then promptly spread my sick to Ry)
    • Cough drops
    • Thermometer (because I overpack)
    • Band aids (mostly used to cover up blisters from epic walking)
  • Febreeze – for when you don’t wash your clothes. KIDDDING. I brought because I hate smoke in my clothes and I thought we might go to an arcade in Asia.
  • Travel sized detergent – I hate paying for laundry and I hate overpacking so I washed some things in the sink. There was a line to hang things in the shower.
  • Razor / Shaving Gel / Shampoo / Conditioner / Bath Soap – Because I couldn’t just not shave for 14 days (haha). My hair is destroyed from coloring and my skin gets crazy dry in winter, so didn’t want to bother with the generic stuff. I just threw some half-empty bottles in my checked bags and tossed them at the end of the trip (more room for shopping!)
  • Covered coffee mug – Good in theory, but we only used it a couple times. If you’re an all day coffee drinker, I still suggest it. Or you’ll be carrying around hot water in those 6 oz mugs while you curse the rough water with burnt fingers.

Tech

  • Extra batteryThis is the beast of a power brick that we brought. It’s heavy, but it charged everyone’s things all day (3 phones, 2 pocket WiFi) without a problem.
  • International adapters – You don’t need this for the ship, as it includes 2 North American 110V outlets and 2 circular European 220V outlets, but we brought it for our nights in Hong Kong/China/Korea.
  • USB / Power strip – Most ships won’t allow you to bring a surge protector on board, but you can bring smaller extension cords. We brought this USB extension cord without incident.

Other Notes

When we were looking things up, there were a few things that I couldn’t find, so including those here.

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24 days around Asia

It’s been a whirlwind of a trip, and I made the huge mistake of not bringing my laptop. It made for a completely work-free environment, but it also meant that organizing and editing photos, as well as drafting blogs was a bit difficult. So get ready for the outpouring of content!

We’re back!

It’s been a whirlwind of a trip, and I made the huge mistake of not bringing my laptop. It made for a completely work-free environment, but it also meant that organizing and editing photos, as well as drafting blogs was a bit difficult. So get ready for the outpouring of content!

Four countries in 24 days

While that seems like a long time, aside from Hong Kong, Beijing and Seoul, we only stayed in each city for about 8-10 hours.

  1. Hong Kong, China
  2. Taipei/Keelung, Taiwan
  3. Nagasaki, Japan
  4. Busan, South Korea
  5. Jeju Island, South Korea
  6. Incheon, South Korea
  7. Beijing, China
  8. Shanghai, China
  9. Seoul, South Korea

Pounding the pavement

If you’ve read Ryan’s post about taking public transportation and the types of adventures he likes to have, you probably already have an idea of how we like to spend our vacations. That being said, the real proof is in the miles. Based on the S Health app on my phone, we averaged 11 miles everyday (when we weren’t stuck on the boat). If you’re curious how much actual walking we did, I dropped our stats into a spreadsheet, because #math.

Land tours vs exploring solo

With three days and two nights in Beijing, we decided to jump in on a land tour that Ry’s family booked. This was a huge help in terms of logistics, and our tour guide was extremely well-versed in the history and background of the locations we visited, but it did have the downside of being a pre-determined schedule that left zero room for meandering. I’ll write more about it in the post about Beijing – the overall experience wasn’t bad, but personally, I didn’t love being rushed around.

The best and worst of the trip

Since coming home, pretty much everyone I talk to has asked what the highlight of the trip was, and it’s been a hard question to answer. One friend put it pretty simply, and asked what I’ll remember most when I’m looking back on this in 10 years. Honestly?

The raccoon cafe! They were cute, mischievous, and honestly – that’s probably the only time I’ll ever play with a raccoon. Hahaha.

Cutest raccoon ever

The worst was having a fever for 4-days when we got back from China. Luckily two of those days were sea days, but we didn’t get to see much of anything in Shanghai because of it.

That’s it for the summary – look forward to lots of posts about the specifics of where we went and what we did!

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Why I catch public transportation in foreign countries and you should too!

I always find that one of the best experiences in a foreign country is taking public transportation. Whether it’s by bus or subway, you get an intimate glimpse into the daily lives of someone local to the area.

tl;dr – If you easily get anxiety, skip this blog post. You’ll thank me later. If you like adventure but have been taking taxis or ground tours in foreign cities, this is most definitely for you.

I always find that one of the best experiences in a foreign country is taking public transportation.

Ryan on the bus in Nagasaki

Whether it’s by bus or subway, you get an intimate glimpse into the daily lives of someone local to the area. It feels so alive to be deeply immersed in a foreign locale.  How else will you see all the drunken salary men stumbling home in Asia (!?!) or the amazing subway performers in NYC?  I often read travel blogs that skip over the logistics of getting to a destination and think to myself that they’ve missed a good chunk of the local culture – #DoingItWrong.

I get that it’s scary to not understand nor speak the language.

I get that it’s daunting to not be able to read public transportation schedules or catch a bus *gasp*! (It’s crazy how few people catch the bus here in Hawaii!)

I get that it’s nerve-wracking to be lost in a place you’ve never been.

#protip: Try it sometime when you’re not alone. It’s also (generally) cheaper than a cab.

It’s exhilarating. It’s educational. It’s exactly what I love about travel. In our latest travels, Sara and I headed out to Haedong Yonggungsa – about an hour and a half adventure on a subway + bus to a beautiful temple out on the northeastern Busan coast. I won’t lie – it was a bit harrowing being out in the middle of nowhere where people didn’t understand much English, and we spoke minimal Korean, but it was absolutely worth it. I’ll link to Sara’s blog post when she posts about it. 😀

Even though I’ve done it hundreds of times at this point in my life, here’s some helpful tips so that you can stop taking those guided land tours and venture out a bit to explore a foreign country’s countryside.

Some helpful tips if you plan on following my advice:

  1. Always have a portable electronic device like a cell phone or an iPad handy.
  2. Always carry an extra battery pack to make sure #1 stays on.
  3. Always have an Internet connection. It could be a cell phone plan, SIM card, or pocket WiFi, but always make sure you’ll have an Internet connection. Trust me when I say that there are hundreds if not thousands of apps that can help you navigate in a foreign country. This isn’t critical, but if you don’t have a connection, you’ll probably have to do a lot of pointing and what not to the locals (trust me on this one). 😀
  4. If available, download offline maps (re: Google Maps) so that you can screenshot locations and show bus drivers / subway operators / locals where you want to go in the case you lose Internet.
  5. Always carry your hotel card (or AirBnb location starred in Google Maps) and enough money to jump in a taxi if your anxiety ever gets too great. I think having this fail-safe allows me to explore with a greater level of confidence.
  6. Look to download the country’s messaging app as many services are integrated. For example, if visiting China, make sure you have WeChat. It even has a helpful Chinese-English translation tool in the case you really get stuck. If you’re in Korea, make sure to get Kakao, Line in Japan, Google Translate, etc. You get the message. There are so many digital applications that will help you not only communicate with others in a foreign country, but also help you navigate so you can GTFO.
  7. If you can afford it, buy the all-you-can-eat daily | weekly pass, etc. In my experience, this usually costs a bit more than paying for individual tickets, but it saves you the trouble of having to purchase a ticket every time and/or having exact change. If anything, see if the destination has the equivalent of a refillable transit card that you can deposit one lump sum and just swipe at stalls like the Pasmo/Suica cards in Japan or the T-Money cards in Seoul.
  8. Be respectful and learn a few words that you’d use on public transportation like “Thank You” or “Excuse Me”. Nothing worse than being “that American” in a foreign country.

So take my advice on your next adventure and tweet me a photo of your transit pass!

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Getting Around Japan – Pocket WiFi

When you’re running around an unfamiliar country, navigating streets and transportation, the last thing you want is to be without Internet – especially when getting it is pretty easy and affordable.

TL;DR

This is totally worth it. Affordable, fast and convenient. If you’re convinced, skip to Step 3. Need more convincing? Keep reading.

Pocket WiFi – What is it?

When you’re running around an unfamiliar country, navigating streets and transportation, the last thing you want is to be without Internet – especially when getting it is pretty easy and affordable.

In Japan, Pocket WiFi is just another name for a mobile hotspot. Speeds vary based on where you’re staying (country vs. city) and what package you get.

Step One: Contact Your Mobile Provider

T-Mobile coverage in Tokyo and surrounding area

T-Mobile coverage in Tokyo and surrounding area

Before anything else, it’s best to know what your current phone service provides. We both have T-Mobile, which for us meant free international data, text, and $0.20 per minute for calls. Knowing this, we decided not to get a Pocket WiFi from the airport because it would be provided at our AirBnB. No problem right? Wrong.

We got turned around at the train station and that slow as molasses Internet had us frustrated and waiting while holding our bags after a 9+ hour commute at 11pm. I also made the mistake of saving everything on dropbox and it wouldn’t download the PDF no matter how many times I tried. I ended up using my broken, grade-school level Japanese to ask for directions.

During our second week, in between AirBnBs, we didn’t have WiFi and while we managed to navigate, it was tough to do any research on things to do in the area. Rather than pay the $25/day fee for hotel WiFi, we ended up sitting in the lobby of our hotel and ordering one from Global Advanced for around $10/day (because it was the first one on Google and easy enough to figure out).

Note: We couldn’t find a single store in Nagoya that rented Pocket WiFi on a short term basis, and only monthly contracts were available. All signs pointed to either finding an online service that would deliver or going back to the airport. 

Step Two: Check your options

Pocket WiFi in our AirBnB

Pocket WiFi in our AirBnB

If you’re staying at an AirBnB, we noticed a lot of them provide a Pocket WiFi that you can take around with you. Another reason to book AirBnB!

Hotels, on the other hand, will typically charge a ridiculous fee (the one we stayed at was $25/day) and it’s only available in your hotel room. If that’s the case, it’s not only more affordable, but also way more convenient to pick up a Pocket WiFi at the airport.

Step Three: Order!

A quick google search will show you dozens of options, and since I already went through this, I’ll summarize the top 5 results. This is totally just based on Google’s magical gnome search algorithms, so feel free to research away!

**1/22/18 Update: HIS in Hawaii now offers Pocket WiFi rentals for ~$45/week with insurance!

Company Speed Daily Cost* Additional Days Additional Charges Delivery Fee
Global Advanced Communication 75Mbps 990 JPY 300 JPY None None
Pupuru 75Mbps 800 JPY 800 JPY 1,500 JPY Registration 800 – 1,000 JPY
Japan Wireless 75Mbps 990 – 730 JPY None 500 JPY
Japan Rail Pass  75Mbps $8 – $10 USD None None
CD Japan 220Mbps 730 JPY Discounted None 540 JPY

*Days 1-5

Things to note:

  • Japan Wireless and Japan Rail Pass costs vary based on the number of days.
  • None of the companies charge a return postage fee, and they all come with a postage paid envelope to send the device back in.
  • Many offer insurance, but we were reckless and didn’t get any 🙂
  • While all pricing was based on “unlimited” data usage, all of the companies have fine print stating that speeds will be reduced drastically after a certain GB of usage (usually around the 10GB mark over the last 3 days).
  • There was only one time we hit that mark (Whoops. Dropbox was syncing photos!) and we were both connected to it.

Protip: Pack a battery charger

Dead WiFi = No WiFi. When used consistently, most Pocket WiFi devices last around 8 hours. Which could work for us on a lazy day, but not so much on the kind of adventures Ryan likes to have. 😉

We brought this Epic Charger to End all Chargers by RavPower and it saved us from dead WiFi and charged up everyone’s phones as well. I won’t lie – it’s a beast of a charger and weighs a pound, but without it we would have missed the amazing opportunity to take photos in alllllll the hats!

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My Adventures…

TL;DRIf you like adventures off the beaten path, you’ll definitely want to follow my posts. 😉 Choose Your Own Adventure While calculating with most decisions in life, I’m fairly instinctive…

TL;DRIf you like adventures off the beaten path, you’ll definitely want to follow my posts. 😉


Choose Your Own Adventure

While calculating with most decisions in life, I’m fairly instinctive when it comes to traveling and adventure. While I love to research “all the things” prior to arriving at a destination, once I’ve arrived – I absolutely hate schedules.

I’m not sure if it’s the monotony of living life in some predetermined loop (re: West World) or #fomo on serendipitous experiences, but I just can’t travel like that.

Some of our most amazing life experiences have come when Sara and I have decided to “go check something out” and we somehow find ourselves at Sing Sing Karaoke until 4 am.

These are the adventures that I long for.

Anyone in 2017 can go to Yelp and find the places that everyone loves.  Do you really want to go to where everyone else has already gone?

You’d never be able to find the ridiculously amazing Spaghettini Al Limone at Serafina Osteria on 58th or the free falafels from the King of Falafel on 53rd. What about Sunshine Laundromat and Pinball in Greenpoint? You’d never make it past Barcade in Williamsburg if Yelp is all you consulted.

*Which reminds me… if you’re traveling to New York and don’t want to do what the tourists do, check out my blog about all the things I’d do in NYC.

I think you get the point.

Follow my stories as I write (once a month) about all the places I drag my wife to along with some sprinkles about Islay Scotch, the science behind bread (pizza) making, arcades, and well, the one thing I’m pretty good at, technology.

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