50 Things I Love About Hong Kong

Lonely Planet "tweeted" the link to an article called The 50 Things We Love About Hong Kong. The people that wrote it did a great job capturing the charms of the city. However, they wrote it from the perspective of a "resident"... I thought I would take a shot at creating my own list from the perspective of a visitor. I've been fortunate enough to travel to Hong Kong many times over the last several years and have developed a special bond with the city. It's definitely unlike any other place in the world.

I'm splitting up my list into a series of "sub-groups" (grouped together by activity type)

View of Hong Kong skyline from Kowloon

Best places to get a view of the city
Hong Kong has some of the best "views" in the world. There are several distinct types of views that people (and hotels) refer to... but all are spectacular (whether it be harbor, city, or island).

1. Kowloon Public Pier. The best view of the best skyline in the world. Suggest brown bagging a bottle of wine to watch the 8PM light show!

2. The Star Ferry!! For the equivalent of US $0.70, you can go on a boat ride from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island. Beautiful views from the boat... and a great way to get from Kowloon to Central (and visa versa).
The Star Ferry to Central

3. Avenue of the Stars. The avenue of the stars extends for a couple of miles along the waterfront in Kowloon. It features statues of movie celebrities (Hong Kong has a small movie industry). As you walk, you can take in some lovely views of the Hong Kong skylines.

4. The Felix. Go inside the Peninsula Hotel and take the elevator up to the top floor. As you get to the top, the elevator lights will dim... creating a very nice ambiance. The Felix is predominantly a restaurant (expensive), but they also have two bars on the right and left side as you walk in. The left side has a "city view" and the right side as a "harbor view" (everyone will be sitting on the right side). The drinks are expensive here... so I don't recommend staying for more than one drink. However, before you leave, be sure to use the restroom facilities (you'll see why).

5. Aqua- Located at the top of 1 Peking Rd, this establishment has the same view as The Felix. However, I think the atmosphere is a bit nicer... and giant windows surrounding the bar offer more of a panoramic view of the city. I suggest coming here for a pre-dinner drink to watch the light show at 8PM.

View from the Peak
6. The Peak. The only place on Hong Kong
Island that you're actually above the buildings. The first time I went here, I stayed for about 5 hours staring in amazement. It's an amazing view of the Hong Kong city skyline and Kowloon. If you go to the Peak, I recommend taking the tram to the top (don't walk the stairs)... the train goes up an insane incline (pretty rad).

7. Azure- at the summit of the Lan Kwai Fong Tower. It has a stunning 270 degree view of the city. This bar is also in the middle of the restaurant/party districts of Soho and Lan Kwai Fong.

8. The Ritz Carlton at Kowloon Station. It hasn't opened... but when it does, this hotel will have one of the best views in the world.

Places to stay
Hong Kong has some very beautiful and luxurious hotels. If you're willing to invest a little money into your stay, you will be staying in pure luxury (if not, you'll be staying in a room where you can reach out your arms and touch both sides of the wall).

At the Shangri-La... room with a view
1. Shangri-La (in Kowloon). This has been my "go-to" hotel in Hong Kong. The service is world class, the rooms are spectacular, and if you're lucky enough... you'll get a harbor view. After spending a week or two in China, the Shangri-La just feels like home. They've even developed their own "scent" that you recognize as soon as you walk into the lobby (actually sell it in the gift shop). Their robes are also quite nice. Location is convenient... right next to MTR.

2. Langham Hotel (in Tsim Sha Tsui). Great location... right next to Ashley Rd (good sushi place there), Canton Rd (giant shopping mall), and Star Ferry. The hotel also hip/cool vibe. The price is also a bit less expensive than some of the other hotels on my list.

3. The Peninsula (in Tsim Sha Tsui). Great hotel if you have the budget for it. Right next to the Star Ferry... great views of Hong Kong skyline (if you're high enough in the building).

4. Lan Kwai Fong Hotel. Located at the top of Lan Kwai Fong street... in between LKF and Soho. Great views of the city and a great location to do a bit of partying. If you stay there, it's pretty easy to crawl back home after a long night out.

The ICC Tower (home to the Ritz Carlton)
5. The Ritz Carlton (Kowloon Station). This hotel opened in early 2011 and has one of the best views in the world (it also is the "highest" hotel in the world). I don't care how much this hotel costs, I'm definitely going to stay there at least once (or twice)

6. The Four Seasons (Hong Kong Island). I haven't stayed here, but the restaurants inside are very good. Nice place to go for dinner if you have some extra cash.

7. Sheraton Hotel (on Nathan Rd). Very good hotel at a convenient location in Kowloon. It's walking distance to everything. This hotel used to have beautiful harbor views... but they've built so many buildings in front of it, that you need to go up quite high in the hotel before you can see the water. There's a nice gym on top of the hotel... and the executive longue is pretty rad.

Things to do when the weather is nice
Junking it up with friends!
1. Junk boat rides! This is a great thing to do during the summer months. If you have a group of friends to go with, that's great... but most of the junk boat rides end up having random strangers mixed in (the more people you pack into the boat, the less expensive it becomes per person). Just bring enough alcohol and eventually everyone will become friends! The boats travel to the outer islands... and whenever you want to stop, just yell to the captain. If you get too hot, open a cold beer... or jump into the water. Just make sure you pace yourself when you're drinking (as most junk boat rides start around 10am).
One of the more colorful "junk boats"

2. Wakeboarding at Tai Tam. I was lucky enough to make friends with people in Hong Kong that wakeboard. I thought it would be super easy since I can surf and snowboard... but the most difficult part was standing up (felt like my arms were getting pulled off). Once I figured out how to stand up, everything was great. It took a bit of time though. Great fun!

3. Walk through Victoria Park on a Sunday. Sunday is considered "maids day" in Hong Kong. All of the domestic helpers from the Philippines and Indonesia have Sunday off... and the popular gathering spot for all 200,000+ of them is Victoria Park. It's definitely a unique occurrence from a visual and auditory perspective.

4. Take the cable car from Tung Chung to Ngong Ping to see the Big Buddha on Lantau Island. When I was about halfway up the cable car lift, someone decided it was a good idea to inform me that one of these cable cars had fallen a month prior. Why would someone do that?!? Nonetheless, the views were amazing (and my cable car did not fall). The giant Buddha was pretty cool as well.

Dog Watching!

5. Watch people walking their dogs in Sai Kung. Apparently, having a dog in Hong Kong is a bit of a status symbol (they're expensive). Also, since people in Hong Kong tend to have small apartments, the dog will share the tight space with the family... and really become part of it. It's amazing to see how people dress up their dogs.

6. Go hiking on Lantau Island... where you can get an amazing view of the Hong Kong International Airport. Suggest to not do this during the middle of summer. 

A Hiking Trail?

7. Take the ferry to Lamma Island. If you're by yourself and can't find anyone willing to go on a junk boat ride (but still want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city), you can take a ferry to get to Lamma Island. Hanging out on this island will make you forget that you're in Hong Kong... it reminds me a bit of Indonesia. There are also some amazing seafood restaurants there.

One of the great things about Hong Kong, is that you can eat whatever type of food you want (Chinese, Japanese, Italian, French, American, Mexican, etc...). This is something that you will greatly appreciate after spending a couple weeks in China.

1. Sushi One on Ashley Rd. Living in Boston, I don't have the best options for purchasing sushi. Therefore, Sushi One is usually my first stop when I get to Hong Kong. The sushi is super fresh and they have a nice selection of specialty rolls. My favorites: peppered tuna, uni, toro, mango/salmon, A5 beef, fatty salmon (they also do a good job of "searing" the sushi). If you get there after 9PM, you'll be waiting in a rather long line. Always sit at the sushi bar... and don't bother bringing a ton of cash because prices are good (the plates are color coded to indicate price).

View from BLT Steak... not too bad. 
2. BLT Steak. If you're craving western food while in Hong Kong, this is the place to go. BLT is a modern steak house that has elements of a French Bistro.  It's located in the Ocean Terminal and is right next to the Star Ferry. Recommend coming here for the "all you can eat" Sunday Brunch... it's INSANELY GOOD!

3. Sunday morning Dim Sum. If you like dim sum and have nothing to do on a Sunday... find a sim sum restaurant (and yes, the dim sum restaurants in Hong Kong are much better than the dim sum restaurants in your local "China Town"). I recommend asking a local to suggest a good spot. Below is some advice that I received from a local expert:

For expensive but super tasty dim sum:
Four Seasons HK - The best of the best
Shangri-La Kowloon or HK - Excellent
Intercontinental Kowloon - Excellent

Super tasty, but a pain to get to and need to queue for an hour if you dont go at 9:30am:
Tin Ho Wan - Mongkok

Accessible, Tasty, and Easy:
Li Garden - Mongkok (favorite), IFC, Elements, TST East
Jade Garden - Star House TST (cheap and local but pretty tasty)
Sweet Dynasty - TST (cheap and easy)

**If you don't have a reservation, go to Li garden. Any of the locales are good, but Mongkok has the best atmosphere. If you plan ahead enough, and money is not an option, go to the 4 Seasons or the Shang.

Looking down on Nathan Rd
4. Indian restaurants on Nathan Rd. Just walking down Nathan Rd in Tsim Sha Tsui is an experience in itself. In less than one block, you will be harassed to buy suits, rolexes, hash, and Indian food. I've never partaken in the first three (although, a friend of mine once bought a suit and said it was decent), but I have enjoyed the Indian food. Getting to the restaurants is interesting. You start by finding someone on the street level yelling about their Indian restaurant. As long as they don't look too sketchy, you give them the thumbs up... and they'll take you through a labyrinth of hallways, stairwells, and shops until you finally arrive at your destination. The restaurants are small and usually packed with people. All the chefs/servers are Indian and the food has always been quite good (although, I once got sprayed with boiling grease).

5. Stinky Tofu restaurants. I've been to a couple of these restaurants, but have no idea what any were called (names were in Chinese, menus were in Chinese, and everyone inside the restaurant spoke Chinese). Luckily, I had friends take me... so they did all the ordering. A "stinky tofu restaurant" specializes in stinky tofu (which is kind of gross). However, they usually have other Chinese food that is really good.

6. Fish balls! Need I offer more of a description? Fish balls are exactly what the name would suggest... balls of fish. It sounds a little weird/gross, but they're actually quite good. They're usually spiced a bit. You can purchase them at any Chinese restaurant, grocery store, or 7-11.

Delicious seafood restaurant (aftermath of a meal)
7. Any "Hot Pot" restaurant. Sometimes hot pot restaurants can be a little gross (because you're sharing a giant broth with a group of people), but there are many upscale ones in Hong Kong that are extremely delicious. It's fun to go with a big group of friends so you can hang out and chat while you're eating/cooking. One good hot pot restaurant I can recommend is in Times Square: Budaoweng

8. Seafood restaurants on Lamma Island. Lamma Island is a short ferry ride from Hong Kong. It's a nice place to go if you want to get out of the city. There are a lot of hiking trails... but more importantly, there are some really nice seafood restaurants.

HKG - predawn hours
9. Hong Kong International Airport. The Hong Kong airport is one of the best airports in the world. When I'm departing from HKG, I will actually arrive early so I can hang out inside (it's the one airport I don't mind have a long layover). There are hundreds of shops, cafes, lounges, showers, work out facilities... and some really nice restaurants. I recommend trying a few before your flight.

Places to party at night
1. Lan Kwai Fong is definitely the most popular place to go out in Hong Kong. It's filled with Europeans, Australians (watch out for the Aussies), Americans, and even locals. The bars close when the people leave (no set closing time) and you can take your beer wherever you want. Lan Kwai Fong street is actually on a bit of a hill... so as the night progresses, you will see more and more beer bottles rolling down the street. It's a fun time, but I can only take so much of it... must be getting old.

2. Soho is just above Lan Kwai Fong (literally). The name is derived from it's location... "south of Hollywood Rd". Soho is a bit more "classy" (when compared to LKF). Between Lan Kwai Fong and Soho, there are hundreds of bars and restaurants mixed into the streets. It can be a lot of fun "bar-hopping"... but if you get separated from your party, you're not going to find them again (which doesn't really matter if you're having a good time).

TST - nighttime
3. Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) is not quite as big of a party scene when compared to LKF/Soho, but there are still plenty of places to get a drink. One of the more popular spots is called Knutsford Terrace. Knutsford Terrace is a pedestrian only street and is filled with tables and chairs for all the bars and restaurants. There are also a lot of bars (more pub-like) in the section of the city between Nathan Rd and Chatham Rd. This is the place to go if you just want to "chill out".

4. Outside any 7-11 store. The great thing about Hong Kong (unlike USA), is that you can drink alcohol in public spaces. Therefore, the outside of most 7-11 stores (which sell extremely cheep alcohol) become mini-party zones on weekends. I suggest pre-partying at the 7-11 before going out to a bar/club.

5. Rooftop parties. If you're lucky enough to have a friend with roof access, there's no better place to hang out.

Best shopping
Hong Kong is basically a giant shopping mall. It has literally everything you could ever want (from super high end luxury items to counterfeit knock off goods). The uber-rich from mainland China will flood the markets on the weekends. Hong Kong has more Louis Vuitton stores per square mile than any other place in the world (queues will actually form outside the shops on the weekend). What's also pretty amazing is that stores in Hong Kong will stay open past 10PM (they're actually more crowded in the evening than during the day)... just don't try shopping before 11AM, as nothing will be open.

Harbor City in the background
1. Harbor City- biggest mall in Hong Kong (right on Canton Rd). It has everything you could ever need (including a grocery store). You could literally spend a week of your life in here and not know it. The mall is a dizzying array of shops, escalators, restaurants, elevators, cafes, etc. Once you get to know the mall, it all makes sense... all of the stores are grouped together by type of product they sell. It's a bit overwhelming for first timers.

2. Miramar Arcade. This is a smaller mall that I usually go to for Uniqlo, Muji, D-Mop, and Hare. There are some other cool shops in there too. I just like it because it's smaller and less overwhelming.

3. Granville Rd. This is a street in Tsim Sha Tsui that is more known for its factory clothing outlets where you can buy stuff at really cheap prices. However, there are also some really good shops right on the street... or just off of it. Here are a few to be on the look out for: EXIT Double Park, A.P.C., 5cm, Stussy, Take 5 (I'll let you find them yourself).

4. Mong Kok preserves its traditional characteristics with an array of markets, small shops, and food stalls that have disappeared from other areas in Hong Kong over the past several decades of economic development. As such, many of the streets have acquired interesting nicknames reflecting their own characteristics... such as: Sneaker street, Ladies Street (Market), Tile Street, Temple Street (men's market), Goldfish market (can you guess what they sell there??), etc... Wikipedia describes it much better HERE
Looking up at the IFC in Central
5. IFC Mall. Another enormous shopping mall in an enormous building. This mall is right in the heart of Central and has a pretty decent movie theater.

6. Queens Rd (in Central near LKF)- Joyce, Bape, Coach flagship, Gucci

7. Times Square (at Causeway Bay). Times Square was one of Hong Kong's first "mega malls"... and is still considered to be quite mega. It has 16 floors and over 230 shops inside. The one thing that sets Times Square apart from the other malls is that it has more mid-range shops that the average Hong Kong person can afford.

8. Stanley Market. This is definitely a "tourist trap"... however, if you've never been, it's worth a trip (can cross off all the items to buy on your souvenirs list). Actually, the funnest part about Stanley Market is getting there. I recommend taking a double decker bus and sitting at the first row on the top. The bus drivers are amazing... lanes are super narrow, tires are inches from the cliff... and they're still cruising along at top speed. I think they might be robots?

MTR map
1. The MTR (see map link). The subway (MTR) in Hong Kong is amazing. Outside of Tokyo, it might be the most efficient train system in the world. If you need to get anywhere in Hong Kong, the MTR will get you close. My only problem with the system is that it shuts down around 12:00am (luckily, there are enough taxis)

2. Taxis in Hong Kong are cheap (when compared to the US) and plentiful. It can get a bit annoying if you have to get a cab at 3AM in LKF, but it's not too bad. The taxis are color coded depending on where they are licensed to drive.

3. Double decker bus from Central to Stanley's Market. This is a pretty unique experience that I already described above. Actually, the funnest part about Stanley Market is getting there. I recommend taking a double decker bus and sitting at the first row on the top. The bus drivers are amazing... lanes are super narrow, tires are inches from the cliff... and they're still cruising along at top speed. I think they might be robots? 

4. Double decker trams. A cheap and semi-convenient way to cruise around Hong Kong Island. The trams were the first form of public transportation in Hong Kong... and not much has changed since then. They definitely add some character to the modern city.

5. Pedestrian walkways. The highways, speeding taxis, and windy roads can look a bit daunting to the average pedestrian. However, if you know where you're going, you never have to step foot on the road. There are pedestrian walkways that will pretty much take you everywhere. Just follow the signs!

Finally, my favorite thing about Hong Kong (#50 if I counted correctly) is the people. I'm not sure if I just got lucky and met nice people... but most everyone I've met has been super friendly and has opened me up to their life. I'm very grateful for this... and hope to continue the relationships.

HK friends

30 Things That Interest Me About China

I've been lucky enough to be in an industry that does business in Asia. Over the last several years, I have gone on many trips to China... and have come to appreciate its unique culture. Whenever I go there, I always experience something completely different. Below are some things I find interesting about China:

1. Automatic urinals flush BEFORE you use them
Enjoying some delicious "bone juice"

2. The dialects in China are based on "tones". Therefore, the same word can mean several different things depending on how you say it.

3. There are MANY different dialects in China (no such thing as simple "Chinese")

4. Coke and McDonald's seem to taste better in China

5. Maids like to turn off air conditioning and open windows when you leave hotel room

6. People prefer to drink HOT water (instead of cold). Apparently, it's supposed to be better for your body

7. Lane dividers (and stop lights) are more of a suggestion

8. Musicians specifically write songs for karaoke purposes

9. Karaoke involves dice, "companions", and drinks

The "7 Star" Lake in Zhao Qing

10. Getting pizza in China is easy, but getting a plain (non-seafood) pizza is not

11. Hong Kong and Macau are parts of China, but not all Chinese people are allowed to travel there freely

12. "Yes" doesn't necessarily mean "Yes" (it means I heard you)

13. Breathing in through teeth means "No"

14. If food is gross or doesn't taste good, it's either "good for body" or "good for man"
Whole fish (including eyes)

15. If you order fish, you're going to get a "whole fish" (eyes are "good for man")

16. "Seafood" means that you're going to see your food alive before you eat it. Chinese people like fresh food!

17. Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook are blocked in China... but Chinese websites featuring copyright videos are not

18. DVDs cost $1 (series like Prison Break & 24 are super popular)

19. Fried rice is served at the end of your meal

20. People do not own ovens (therefore, cookies are a luxury item)

21. Beer is not drunk purely for enjoyment... people either abstain from drinking or drink to get drunk (no middle ground)

Guangzhou sunrise
22. Getting a dark beer is nearly impossible

23. Go-kart racing is the best thing ever

24. The train system is more advanced than in US

25. Mobile phone ringtones are all cheesy pop songs

26. Fruit is served after every meal

27. Hotel rooms are much more spacious than in the US (better service as well)

28. People don't drink very much coffee (obviously)... and most coffee shops open after 9am

29. The average age of a millionaire in China is only 39 (that average is much higher in USA)

30. Many Chinese citizens that live in rural parts of the country are not allowed to work/live in the major cities. 
Chef Ken#1 (me) cooking up fried bananas

London Calling!!

I have only been to London once, but I received some incredible travel advice from a few friends prior to my trip... and I constantly reference the advice and send it to other people. Therefore, I thought I would transcribe a bit of it below.

First, anyone that is going to London needs to have a map of the London Underground:
(this will get you anywhere you want to go)

Second, you will need somewhere to stay:

Wieden+Kennedy office

Hip/boutique style hotel on London's East side. I really enjoyed staying there. It's really close to the "Old Street" Tube stop... and the east side is definitely an "up and coming area"... lots of advertising agencies (Wieden+Kennedy) and boutiques have moved in. The financial area is a short walk and you can get to the London Tower in under 30 minutes by foot. Check out the website: Hoxton Hotels

A few other hotel options:
The Charlotte Street Hotel (if you’ve got more budget…)

All of these hotels are located in the East of the city, close to the best places to hang out – Shoreditch, Hoxton, Islington, Spitalfields. The nearest tube stations are Old Street (Northern Line) and Liverpool Street (Circle, Hammersmith & City, Central and Metropolitan Lines)

Third, you might want to do a bit of shopping:

There are several distinct shopping areas of the city. 

Area #1: Spitalfields & Dray Walk (off of Brick Lane), nearest tube stations are Liverpool Street & Old Street. This is where the "sneakerhead" or "hipster" is going to want to spend most of their time. All of the best/small boutiques are in this area. There is also some amazing graffiti art located in random spots (just keep your eyes open)

Spitalfields itself is an old fruit market which is periodically renovated and updated – this is a good place for lunch as well as to check out Albam and the other stores below – all of which are within walking distance within 15 minutes

Albam, Old Spitalfields Market, 111a Commercial Street, E1 6BG, Alistaire & James are the owners – mostly own-brand clothing, a great example of trend fashion for the UK.

Folk, 11 Dray Walk (off Brick Lane), E1 6QL, Cathal & Fraser are the owners, Mike & Colin are the managers – again, mostly own-brand clothing (this brand has a good name amongst top tier stores)

Number Six (owned by whenwewerecasuals.com), 6 Dray Walk (off Brick Lane), E1 6QL, Mark and Chris are the owners, Jack is the manager and Vere and Pete also work in the store  – a very good independent store run by an agency
Lots of cool shops in this alley (good Indian food close by as well)

The Three Threads, 47-49 Charlotte Road, EC2A 3QT, owned by the agency for Carhartt, Edwin Jeans & Pointer Footwear, Gareth is the owner, Matt the manager and Heidi runs the women’s section – with the stores above this will give you all you need to know about the current trends for clothing in the UK

Start, 59 Rivington Street, EC2A 3QQ (right by The Three Threads) – owned by Phillip Start this is high end casualwear

Present, 140 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JE – really quirky new store run by the former founder of Duffer of St George and his former head buyer – Eddie & Steve

Nike also has their 1948 popup store on Bateman’s Row in Shoreditch, EC2A

The Liberty Department store (best in London)
Area #2: Carnaby Street & Oxford Street, the nearest tube station is Oxford Circus (take the Argyle Street exit and turn left for Carnaby Street (it’s to the left, behind the huge black and white tudor building – Liberty ((the best department store in London in my opinion)) or turn right out if the Argyle Street Exit and you’re on Oxford Street – the busiest shopping street in the world – turn left for Schuh, Urban Outfitters and Selfridges department store…all of which will be on the other side of the road)

Size? 33-34 Carnaby Street, W1f 7DW, the best sneaker stores in the UK, owned by JD Sports 

Office, 16 Carnaby Street, W1F 9PB, the largest Tier 2/3 footwear retailer

Carnaby Street at night
Carnaby Street also has all of the branded stores, plus Kingly Court – a great little gallery of stores, and Adidas have their No.6 store (perfect for Tier 0) on Newburgh Street, a small side street which runs parallel with Carnaby Street. 

The Hideout, 7 St James Street, W1F 9DH (a very short walk from Carnaby Street), this very cool store is definitely worth a visit though closed for refurbishment till the 27th Feb.

Schuh, 200 Oxford Street, W1D 1NU – one of the best commercial footwear chains in the UK for Tier 2/3

Offspring, Selfridges Department Store, 400 Oxford Street – high end sneaker store owned by Office 

The stables at Camden market
Area #3: Camden Market. The best place in London to go if you want to haggle with a vendor for a $1 scarf! I stocked up on gifts here for my mom and sister in-law. It can be a little sketchy here at night... and the tube station closes early. Nonetheless, great for an afternoon shopping trip. It kind of has an interesting punk/grunge scene. 
The Locks- Camden market
If you miss the last train at Camden, take a bus map with you... or if you don't do buses, take a cab (only get in black cabs though... as those are the only safe/official ones)

Fourth, eventually you will need to eat/drink:

Some places close to the Hoxton Hotel:
-Apostrophe is good place for lunch, just turn right out of your hotel and it’s on the left just a minute or so down.
Pie and mash... delicious
-The Great Eastern Dining Rooms – turn right from your hotel and it’s on the left.

-Old Blue Last, this is probably known as one of THE places to hang out for the fashion brigade, full of trendy types and worth a look in if you fancy a beer one night and don’t want to venture too far from the hotel.
-Spitalfields is great for lunch and has a buzz going on. Lots of eateries inside the market.
-The Golden Heart – definitely have a drink in here at some point! A great and very well known (in the clothing/art/media trades) pub on the far left corner. Its run by Sandra, a loony-aunty-type woman who happens to know loads of artists, plus her regulars include many from our industry as well as the local hip brigade.
-Los Parelos – great Tappas Restaurant for dinner.

Saturday morning recommendation: Borough Market. It's an amazing food market and full of hustle n bustle.
Enjoying a pint at The Golden Heart pub
Finally, there is a lot of history and touristy stuff that you might be interested in as well:

The best way to see any city is to walk. Yes, the tube will take you everywhere you need to go (and will be much faster)... but you'll miss a lot of what makes that city special by being underground (especially a city like London). Assuming that you will be staying in East London, I've arranged a bit of a walking tour.

The Tower of London
I'd recommend starting your day by walking down to the Tower of London.  It is super touristy, but rightly so as it is pretty cool.  You can see the crown jewels, where people were hung, the ravens, etc.

After you leave you are right by the tower bridge and the river (cool looking, worth taking pictures of). I would recommend coming back to the Tower Bridge at night as well... very beautiful.  Don't go in the tower bridge though as it is not worth touring.

Next, I would then walk along the river towards the center of London.  It is a nice 1 or 2 mile walk, but is scenic and will take you right past the houses of parliament (which is Big Ben).  You'll also see the restored Globe Theatre across the Thames and the giant ferris wheel (or eye).

The Giant "Eye"

Tower Bridge

When you are by Big Ben I would head to Westminster Abby, which is where all of the kings and queens are buried.  It is a big quasi church, and is the spot where the king or queen has their coronation.

At this point you are right by Trafalgar Square, 10 downing street (where the prime minister lives), and Buckingham Palace.  You can check out all of them without worrying much about time, as you can just tour them from the outside and do not have to worry about getting in before they close.

The British Museum is a bit out of the way, and is not the one thing you should do if you are short on time. 

The National Gallery is only good if you like paintings, but again not really worth it if you don't have a lot of time (one benefit is that it's free).

If you get a chance at night, one show worth seeing in London is Les Miserables. Probably the best musical in London. London also has the original Hard Rock cafe with an amazing assortment of memorabilia.  Finally, you really cannot go wrong with finding pubs. They are everywhere. Pub crawls are a lot of fun, but they do close at like 10 or 10:30. After that, you can go to other places that are open later (many places are near leicester square).


Overcoming the "Jet Lag" terrors

Over the years, I've been on many long haul flights to Asia... and have had to suffer through many bouts of jet lag. I don't think there is any way to completely eliminate jet lag, but I've developed a decent system to minimize its effects. Below is a synopsis of my system.

First, it really depends on what time of day you arrive at your destination. I prefer arriving early in the afternoon (as opposed to late at night or early in the morning). My arrival time will effect how I deal with the airplane flight... and how I deal with the first day after arrival.

If arriving early in the afternoon, below are some flight & first day tips:
-Sleep as much as you can during the first half of your flight
**Don't take sleeping pills!!
**If you have trouble sleeping (or are forced to fly coach), have a couple glasses of wine (alcohol is free on international flights)
-Make sure not to sleep too much though... because this will affect how well you're able to sleep through the night upon arrival.
-When you arrive, do anything you can to stay awake until after 10PM
**Again, a glass or two of wine will help

If arriving early in the morning, follow same steps as above with one exception:
-Sleep as much as you can during the duration of your flight

If arriving at night, you will need to make a few adjustments:
-Stay awake for the duration of your flight. Yes, this might suck... but it will suck even more if arrive at your destination and aren't able to get to sleep until 6AM (and then sleep through the day... when you could be out doing stuff). By staying awake for the duration of your flight, you will be exhausted by the time you arrive at your hotel... and will fall right asleep.
**Occasionally, I will wake up around 4am and be wide awake. The key is to just clear your mind and relax.
**Again, a glass or two of wine will help upon arrival.

Now that you have the flight and Day 1 taken care of, you will have to deal with Day 2.
-When you wake up, have a quick snack (apple is good) and go to the gym.
-After the gym, have a full breakfast.
-No matter how good you feel in the morning, you're going to hit the "2PM wall". Do not nap!!.. because that will just screw you up the following day. If you feel exhausted, get up and walk around (preferably outside). Coffee will also help.
-If anyone offers to take you out to dinner, accept the invitation!! This will help keep you awake.
-Do not go to sleep until after 10PM  (11PM is better).
**Repeat these steps in Day 3 and Day 4. 

By day 3, the jetlag effects will start to dissipate... and by day 4, they should be almost gone.

Hope this helps!.. and enjoy your travels.


My name is Ken Straka. I've always enjoyed traveling. Some of my fondest memories from childhood involve me being away from home. I think I inherited these traits from my mother... who was always planning our next holiday. As I've grown, I've kept pushing the limits of where I go... and don't even consider myself to be on a holiday unless I'm getting my passport stamped. I was extremely lucky to find a career that actually requires me to travel (to the other side of the world). I've been around the world many times and have had some incredible experiences with some incredible people. This has only increased my desire to continue "jetsetting".

Anyways, I think my reason for creating this blog was to share some random experiences. It also gave me something to do while I was stuck at the airport. Enjoy!