Wrapping up Hong Kong

Where I left off last, I was in Kowloon on Saturday afternoon. After getting lunch at El Cid (a tapas place), I tried to go to the Peninsula for afternoon tea. There was a line that went out almost out the building, so I decided it wasn’t worth it so I skipped out and got back on the Star Ferry and went back to the Hong Kong Island side.

Back in Hong Kong, I decided to partake in what is an elevated art form here: shopping. I walked through the IFC Mall and Pacific Place (I think). I didn’t buy anything, but I’ve never seen a place where there is so much retail in so many places. I can’t count on my two hands how many Prada or Louis Vuitton stores I saw in Hong Kong. It’s out of control to say the least. Plus, all the various Hong Kong specalists, like tailors (who, apparently, came from Shanghai in the 40s) and Asian brands make it unlike any shopping spectacle I’ve ever witnessed.

After getting my fill of Central, I went back to my cousin’s place and hung out with them for a while and we went to dinner with some of their friends at the Summer Palace Resturant in the Shangri-La. The restaurant had a full page of vegetarian options and was fantastic. Acutally, overall, all the food I had in Hong Kong was quite good. After dinner we went and had a few drinks at Red in the IFC, which faces the harbour and has a really nice outside seating area for viewing.

Today I went over to Lantau Island (pictures) to see the Po Lin Monastary and the giant Buddha sculpture. From Central, I had to take a ferry (a hydrofoil, very cool) to Mui Wo/Silvermine Bay and then took a bus up the island to the monastary. When I arrived up there, around 10 in the morning, the entire peak of the island was covered in fog so there was little visibility. In any case, the monastary was quite nice and the Buddha is simply gigantic. The clouds really didn’t break the whole time I stayed there, so I didn’t get to enjoy many of the views it’s apparently known for, but I can imagine the island being very popular for the hiking, biking and beach crowds. I finished off Lantau with lunch as the Buddhist restaurant in the monastary, which was excellent. It’s likely the best veg Buddhist food I’ve had yet.

I took the same route back (bus to ferry to taxi), hung out with my cousins in the afternoon and then caught the Airport Express to my flight to the maglev to the metro to the taxi and now I’m back home. Overall, excellent trip to Hong Kong. I’ll definitly go back again when the weather is better.

Greetings from Kowloon, Hong Kong

I’m in Hong Kong, arrived last night from Shanghai. Hong Kong, from what I’ve seen so far is pretty much awesome. It feels a lot like Tokyo, but spread over rolling hills and mountains. I’m staying at my cousin’s place in the Mid-Levels, and walking around there feels like you’re on the worst hills of San Francsico. It’s that hilly.

Last night, I took the Airport Express from HKD to Central and a cab from there to their appartment and promptly passed out. This morning, I walked down from the Mid-Levels to Central. That’s a feat on its own — the sidewalks come and go, disappearing at random locations, and othertimes suplanted by strange circular staircases. Getting from the mountain down to sea level is a feat. I walked through Central, around Deux Vougex Road, Cogunaught [sic] Road and took the tram from one side to the other. The buildings and skyscrapers of Hong Kong are fantastic. From I. M. Pei’s Bank of China building, to the crazy Norman Foster HSBC Building, to the graceful IFC Tower, everything is on that skyline. I decided to take the Star Ferry across the harbor so I could take in the full skyline and once I ended up in Kowloon, I ended up staying here.

The Star Ferry building itself leaves a little to be desired, esp. considering how well it’s spoken off. But the ride (only HKD 2.20 on the top deck) is fantastic and gives you a great view of the HK Island skyline. Once in Kowloon, I walked up Nathan Road and took some time in Kowloon Park, and ended up on some of the side streets in the area, such as Saigon Street, Nanking Street, among others. Oh, of course. I went and checked out the Peninsula Hotel. It’s just as beautiful and timeless as I imagined it to be. As you talk in to the round about for the valet, their fleet of Rolls-Royces stand as guardians. I even saw one ease its way out with some very large American looking guy in the back seat.

I’m going to head there again this afternoon for tea, but now I need to get some lunch. There’s a Spanish place up the street, where I think tapas sound plenty good now that it’s started to rain.

Vienna Cafe in Shanghai

This afternoon I had coffee and cake at the Vienna Cafe in Shanghai. Set on the quiet and picturesque Shaoxing Road, it offers the best true cafe I’ve yet to see in Shanghai. Once you cross through the doors from the street, one of those “am I in China” moments happens and you feel like you can spend the afternoon in there. The cafe is quite small on the inside with only 12 or so tables, three of which in the very back are in what looks like a converted patio with light streaming in through glass on three sides.

The cafe offers a special Sunday brunch, which we didn’t partake in but it did mean that we had to make reservations for a table and were not able to spend as much time there as we liked (since others later had reservations for our table). The coffee (latte) and (chocolate) cake was quite good, but without a doubt, the best part was the atmosphere. In so many cafes here, you never feel quite comfortable for various reasons but Vienna Cafe hits the nail on the head. I’ll be back for sure.

25 Shaoxing Road (绍兴路25号), near Shanxi (S) Road.

Does your VP Wear a Suit?

I’ve been doing a bunch of interviews recently and had a good friend go through a set of interviews in the Valley which got me thinking if I was actually a candidate, what would I be asking to my interviewer. Some of the obvious questions came to mind would have been “where will this job be in X years” or “what are the companies long term grown plans”, etc, etc. But none of them really go to the heart of what I would want to know about a potential employer: Does your VP wear a suit? Sounds like a bizarre question, but it speaks directly to the age, vitality and culture of a company. Yes? I’m probably not interested in working there. You’d have to throw a whole lot of money at me to make it appealing to work in that kind of a company. No? I’m starting to like the way you think. Your company knows that dressing up for work doesn’t make things happen. Sure, go ahead and dress up when you’re speaking the press (maybe), but in the office, or addressing your troops I’d rather work for the guy who worried about the product than his looks. So, does your VP wear a suit?

6PM at the Apple Store

On Friday on my way back from the train station, I dropped in to the Apple Store on Market Street to test my self will not to buy a iPod Nano. Inside, I saw the most interesting thing. Every single computer in the store was being used by people as if the store was an internet cafe. People were writing emails on Yahoo and Hotmail, checking their messages on MySpace, browsing craigslist and doing all sorts of varied things. About a third of the folks were typing away in Spanish, firing off emails in every direction. Some girls were taking photos of each other and posting them online. How cool is that? The Apple Store was a hub for after work connectivity for people from all walks of life. You can’t buy goodwill like that.

My Wireless Networks

Windows has these following networks listed in the order below in my network settings. I thought it was a bit interesting to share where they’re from:

  • MSFTWLAN – Microsoft’s corporate wireless network, works across continents and offices so I don’t have to switch networks based on my location
  • MissionNet – my home in Shanghai. Called MissionNet since it’s the same wirelss router I had when I lived on Mission Street
  • SmokeNet – my parents place in New Jersey. Called ‘Smoke’ since it’s a part of their street address
  • SunsetWire – Ami’s apartment in San Francisco. Named for the district of San Francisco she’s in, plus ‘wire’ since it’s a 2Wire router
  • NRT-AIRPORT – Narita Airport, Tokyo. They have pay-per-day internet access at the airport and I find myself there frequently enough that it’s worth keeping

Vedas in Shanghai

Last Wednesday Richard and I had dinner at Vedas in the French Concession. It’s the second Indian restaurant I’ve been to in Shanghai. The first one, Indian Kitchen, was pretty bad both times I went serving up fairly flavorless dishs. Vedas, thankfully, was pretty good. I’d rate it average to above average compared to Indian restaurant in the Bay Area. I had the palak panner. The palak wasn’t bad (right texture but the flavor wasn’t the best) but the panner was excellent and what I expected it to be. Richard said he enjoyed the lamb he ordered, as well. They claim on their menu’s to be the only authentic Indian resturant in Shanghai and from my experience it holds up. Now, if only I can find a good Mexican restaurant.

36 Hours in Soma from NYT

The New York Times’ weekly piece, ‘”36 Hours” focuses this week on the South of Market district of San Francisco, my old home (at 7th and Mission). Of the list of things they mention to do in Soma, I’ve only done three: kayak in the bay at City Kayak, visit SF MOMA and been dancing at Mezzanine. It’s hard to consider City Kayak really in Soma, it’s more on the Embarcadero but the latter two were about a 10 minute walk from my house. The restaurants and bars change so frequently that I haven’t been to any that were listed.