20

Apr

Snapshot: Hong Kong

  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px Snapshot: Hong Kong
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px Snapshot: Hong Kong
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px Snapshot: Hong Kong
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px Snapshot: Hong Kong
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px Snapshot: Hong Kong
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px Snapshot: Hong Kong
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px Snapshot: Hong Kong

No, I’m not back in Hong Kong…not yet. But an article I wrote and my photographs were recently published on Smithsonian Online. Check it out, and don’t forget to click on the photo gallery to see my pics with captions!

Snapshot: HongKong

A forward-thinking city with ancient traditions
By Lisa Lubin

 Snapshot: Hong Kong

In a place where Cantonese and English are the official languages, Hong Kong’s seven million inhabitants thrive in this center for international finance and trade. Hong Kong is a vibrant city with an infectious rhythm. On the surface it’s a huge metropolis like any other, with mobile phone-carrying workers hurrying to meetings in a forest of steely skyscrapers, but look a little bit closer and you find an ancient land full of traditions and culture. Here East truly meets West.

Origins: The area now known as Hong Kong has been inhabited since the Paleolithic Era. The region officially became part of Imperial China during the Qin Dynasty (221-206 B.C.) and later served as a trading post and naval base during the Tang (A.D. 618-907) and Song Dynasties (A.D. 960–1279).The first Europeans arrived in the 1500s when a Portuguese seaman claimed Hong Kong for Portugal.

Then and Now: This very animated city was just a collection of small fishing villages when the British claimed it in 1842 after the First Opium War.Hong Kong was returned to the Chinese in 1997 and is now known as a “Special Administrative Region,” along with nearby Macau, of the People’s Republic of China.Today, this former fishing colony is a huge international metropolis boasting one of the world’s most open and dynamic economies.

Appeal: Hong Kong is a bustling coastal city that offers a full-on assault of sounds, sights and smells.A simple stroll down Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui is invigorating.You hear constant calls from street corner vendors (‘handbag?’ ‘need a tailor?’), see stores jam-packed with shoppers, and breathe in the enticing smells of steamy noodle shops that remain open late every night.Standing on the tip of Kowloon Peninsula, visitors can gaze across Victoria Harbor to the full expanse of the Hong Kong Island skyline, with a total of 7,681 skyscrapers. And while other great cities like Paris, London and New York took several centuries to build, Hong Kong built almost everything here in the time since today’s young investment bankers were born.A seven minute ferry ride costing only about 30 cents brings travelers across the harbor to Hong Kong Island. This 30-square-mile financial center is the heart of Hong Kong.Here visitors experience the fusion of past and present by walking around a mix of modern skyscrapers and centuries-old markets.

Who goes here: Hong Kong is a forward-thinking city with ancient traditions. It welcomes visitors from all over the world, and since the handover of Hong Kong back to China, increasing numbers of migrants from mainland China have been coming to the city. The Hong Kong Tourism Board estimates the number of visitors in 2006 was 25.25 million. Ninety-five percent of the residents of Hong Kong are ethnic Chinese. But there is also a large community of foreigners with Filipinos, Indonesians and Americans being the largest immigrant groups.Expatriates from Europe and America have flocked here, working on the “Wall Street of Asia,” where steely skyscrapers hover over ancient temples and a few remaining rickshaws.

Famous sons and daughters:

Bruce Lee (November 27, 1940 – July 20, 1973) was an American-born, Hong Kong-raised martial arts actor and is widely regarded as the most influential martial artist of the 20th century.

Jackie Chan (born April 7, 1954) is a Chinese stuntman/actor/producer/director. He is one of the best-known names in kung fu and action films.

Maggie Cheung (born September 20, 1964) was born in Hong Kong and raised in England. She is an award-winning film star who’s appeared in more than 80 films. She is best known in the West for her roles in the movies In the Mood for Love, Hero and Clean.

Interesting Fact: Hong Kong is geographically compact and boasts one of the world’s most efficient, safe, and affordable public transportation systems. In fact, over 90 percent of daily travels are on public transport. Also helping Hong Kongers and visitors traverse the city is the world’s longest covered escalator.Because part of Hong Kong Island is built into the side of a steep hill, the Mid-Levels escalator— stretching 800 meters in length and consisting of 20 escalators and 3 moving pavements—moves more than 35,000 commuters each day (it operates downhill during morning rush hour and reverses direction for the remainder of the day).

(See more of my published articles here.)

15

Apr

Falling in love all over again

  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px Falling in love all over again
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px Falling in love all over again
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px Falling in love all over again
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px Falling in love all over again
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px Falling in love all over again
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px Falling in love all over again
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px Falling in love all over again

 Falling in love all over againFor the first time in my life, I am one of ‘those people’ I always see in the middle of the day lingering over a latte and a laptop at Starbucks. I always wondered who they were and how did they manage to be doing virtually nothing in the middle of a weekday? Now I am one of them. A freelancer. A writer. A vagabond. Slightly jobless and ever so slightly homeless and it’s great.

But it did take me a few days to transition back to this life again. After all my adventures over the last year Falling in love all over again and a half and all the new relationships I’d forged, after one ‘catch-up’ drink here with old friends, would anyone really care? I had been growing anxious for my return to Chicago. I was excited to see old friends and just a bit trepidatious since it meant kind of an unofficial end to my ‘round the world’ travels. But nothing prepared me for what I really did feel once I was actually in my favorite city. Everything was the same and everything had changed. Nothing seemed different and yet I was different and the little life I had here was no longer here ready for me to just jump back in. Or was it? In some ways, it was like time stood still. While I was off having the most amazing experiences of my life and making more friends than I ever have in such a short time, everything here was pretty much status quo. It was like I never left except for one thing: the life I had assembled for ten years in Chicago had dissolved into the city air. Of course I am being a bit dramatic (I have to keep you interested dear reader); many of my friends were here doing pretty much the same thing they were doing when I left and it was great to see them. The “Ferris wheel” that was my life with my different groups of work/neighbor/activities friends on the ride in different carriages with me in the middle of all the spokes had been broken down and dismantled. Everyone had gotten off and gotten on other rides or even gone to other amusement parks and random traveling carnivals. I felt like after I said all my ‘hellos’ to friends, maybe I’d start to feel down. But I realized that I could settle back down and reassemble this ‘Lubin Ferris Wheel of Fun’ in no time and all would be fine. Although some riders really did up and run away with the circus including one of my best friends who had moved back to Germany while I was gone and the ex-boyfriend, whom I did everything with and went everywhere with, was now in another relationship. Even though I managed to wrangle him out for a beer one night, he was simply just not around. I haven’t missed being in a couple at all, but I have to admit, coming back to Chicago was like a slap of reality. I was out in the world being footloose and fancy free and not in a position to miss it.

But before I could get too sad or nostalgic for the ‘old days,’ I was falling in love with my city all over again.  Falling in love all over againNot only was I catching up with old friends, but also meeting new ones. I was finally meeting some folks who’d contacted me through my website from articles written about my trip or various links on the web. They’d written me over the last two years while I was away, like new pen pals, and now we could actually meet face to face. Meeting lots of new people was one of the best things about my travels so I really enjoyed keeping this going even in my hometown.

When I first returned to Chicago, I have to admit, I was a tad let down–not sure why–but it was a combo of things–missing my trip, having a very, very delayed reaction to my break-up with my ex-boyfriend (after five years of being together in Chicago, I associate a lot of the city with him), and just general stress that comes with the place you actually call ‘home’. Falling in love all over again

 Falling in love all over againBut after a few days of self-wallowing, the sun came out—-literally and figuratively—-and I realized it was springtime in Chicago. There is no better time to enjoy Chicago than in the spring—the enormous lakefront is alive with cyclists and joggers, restaurants put out their alfresco sidewalk tables and chairs, and the Cubs’ season starts.

What a great time to be alive. I re-immersed myself in my city: caught a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, went to Falling in love all over again a friend’s barbecue, wandered around the phenomenal Millennium Park, caught a couple Falling in love all over again flicks at the International Latino Film Fest, joined the Chicago Couch Surfer group for a pub crawl in Bucktown, picked up the Emmy award I’d won while I was away (!), and caught up with old and new friends nearly every day and night doing various lunches, dinners, and/or drinks. Before long, I had reclaimed Chicago as my own and once again, had no regrets.

10

Apr

From Where I Stand…

  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px From Where I Stand...
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px From Where I Stand...
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px From Where I Stand...
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px From Where I Stand...
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px From Where I Stand...
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px From Where I Stand...
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px From Where I Stand...

On my trip, I somehow managed to travel 42, 220 miles around the planet.

I didn’t walk around the world, but my feet certainly got to stand in some pretty amazing places. And for the first time in my life…I really did wear out my shoes. They finally earned their worth!

8

Apr

Just the FAQs, Ma’am

  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px Just the FAQs, Ma’am
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px Just the FAQs, Ma’am
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px Just the FAQs, Ma’am
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px Just the FAQs, Ma’am
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px Just the FAQs, Ma’am
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px Just the FAQs, Ma’am
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px Just the FAQs, Ma’am
  • Time traveled: 15 months or 75 weeks or 522 days
  • Countries(just during this trip):  24
  • Continents: 5
  • Flights: 115 Hours/42, 220 miles (67, 946kms)
  • Pictures taken (after deletions): 6120

Here it is, what you’ve all been waiting for. You have either already asked me this, you are thinking of asking me this, or you don’t give a rat’s ass, but I’m going to answer you anyway:

“So, what was your favorite place?”

Well, after 15 months, 24 countries-visited (now about 36 total if you count the Vatican and Monaco), you can imagine my dilemma with this question. So in response to this very common inquiry, I offer you the following Top 5 lists (keep in mind these lists are limited to this particular trip, NOT my favorite places of all time—that’s why Chicago, New York, Italy, Greece and others are omitted):

LL’s Top 5 Fav cities:

  1. Berlin–The hype was right. Literally every single other traveler I met who had been to Berlin said it Just the FAQs, Ma’am was awesome. I was afraid it was over-hyped, like when a good movie gets ruined before you see it, but I truly loved it. Modern. Progressive. Fresh ideas and design. This city is going places…fast. And it’s the one place I have said ‘I could live here in a second.’ Maybe I still will. Ja? Just the FAQs, Ma’am
  2. Buenos Aires—A very European city in the Southern Hemisphere that has a lot going on. It’s sexy. It’s sophisticated. It’s cosmopolitan. And there are hot men running around playing lots of futbol. There are cute neighborhoods where you can hang out a café all day without a care in the world. Viva Buenos Aires!
  3. Istanbul—Not only is it mystical, thriving, and one of the fastest growing economies in the world, I Just the FAQs, Ma’am was literally stopped in my tracks by the inhabitant’s sincere warmth and friendliness. So much so that what was originally going to be a two week visit turned into three months—with my own apartment, temporary adopted cats, a job teaching English, and a long list of new life-long friends. Tea, sugar, a dream Istanbul.
  4. London—I had a ‘brilliant’ time in the ‘Big Smoke’. I spent a month in this little town of 7.5 million Just the FAQs, Ma’am getting to know the wonderful neighborhoods within the M25 Motorway and being charmed by its inhabitants. I’d been here only once before back in the 90’s and honestly wasn’t bowled over. But the place has completely reinvented itself since then with modern skyscrapers, fabulous museums, and an amazing riverfront. Cheers!
  5. Hong Kong—Although I was tired from a long flight from Australia, my first night here I felt compelled Just the FAQs, Ma’am to get out and join the feverish momentum on the streets. There is a great energy here in this crazy metropolis where east meets west. It really is a perfect mix of new and old—pagodas are wedged in between skyscrapers in a city that has to have the most spectacular skyline I’ve ever seen.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Melbourne—This sparkly city reminded me much of my hometown of Chicago. It’s full of great neighborhoods with lots of ethnic eateries, great modern architecture, and helpful bike lanes criss-crossing through it. My favorite part had to be all the little back-street ‘lanes’ (read: alleys) that Just the FAQs, Ma’am were turned into hip cafe-filled streets and nighttime destinations. Thanks mate!
  • Budapest—Emerging from a soviet state into an arty, cosmopolitan city with grand architecture andboulevards.
  • Gothenburg, Sweden—Three Cs—clean, charming, cute. It also has an underground vibe of progressive artists and forward-thinking thought that breaks the IKEA mold. Just the FAQs, Ma’am
  • Transylvania, Romania–charming medieval villages dotting the green, hilly countryside. The picturesque hamlets of fairy tales.

LL’s Top 5 Natural Places: Just the FAQs, Ma’am

  1. Galapagos Islands—Every volcanic, scenic island was a completely different utopia teeming with life. Sea Lions, Tortoises, and Birds, oh my!
  2. Northern Vietnam–SaPa, Vietnam is the quintessential Vietnamese mountainous countryside with terraced rice paddies clinging to mountainside hills. It has gorgeous vistas everywhere you turn. Just the FAQs, Ma’am
  3. Bozcaada Island, Turkey—A great escape from Istanbul and just ‘off the beaten path’ enough to be an island of mostly vacationing locals and not the hordes of tourists going to the other Islands on the Aegean Sea. Gorgeous blue waters, tasty local fare, and lots of sun. Ah, the simple life.
  4. Munsterland, Germany—Rolling green countryside dotted with Just the FAQs, Ma’am charming medieval towns that are connected by meticulously charted bicycle paths. Leave it to Germany to make it perfect.
  5. Southern Patagonia—Jagged peaks and ominously huge glaciers as far as the eye can see. Just the FAQs, Ma’am

Honorable Mention:

New Zealand—Unfortunately, I was sick there but it seemed amazingly clean, blue, and beautiful.

LL’s Top 5 Experiences

  1. Meeting people and building new friendships all over the world. The discovery of how easy it is to basically build my own community wherever I was…gives me such a rush and renewed sense of trust in the overall goodness of man.
  2. Couchsurfing.com –an amazing travel community and great way to meet locals. Just the FAQs, Ma’am
  3. Pueblo Ingles – a fun, intense, and unique English immersion program for Spaniards and a great way to spend a free week in Spain making new friends.
  4. A spontaneous romantic week motor biking the hills of SaPa, Vietnam.
  5. Volunteering at Crisis UK during Christmas – an amazing weeklong program held every year in London to help and support the homeless.

Honorable Mention: eating my way around the world