Thursday, September 29, 2011

Connvoyage Goes on Vacation!

I'm headed to Taiwan this morning for my much-needed ME trip!

There will be occasional updates on Twitter but I'm going to take a short break from blogging until I return on October 10.

Taiwan, HERE I COME!

© Connie Hum 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wine and Dine at The Press Room

Last week, I attended The Press Room's "Tour de France" tasting event to celebrate the newly launched menu and the restaurant's exclusively French wine list. Located on Hollywood Road in Sheung Wan, The Press Room is an all-day bar (rejoice!) and casual brasserie that serves French-European comfort food using only the freshest, quality ingredients.

Upon walking into the bright, airy, open-spaced dining room, I immediately loved the The Press Room's atmosphere. The wide windows in the dining area allowed for plenty of light into the room, but surprisingly, the noise from the street didn't make its way in. The warm lighting, provincial paintings and plush leather seats instantly transported me back to the laid-back bistros in France that I used to haunt.

The tasting event started with a phenomenal tuna tartare served over a creamy avocado salsa, which is always a winning combination in my book. It was a gorgeous dish to look at and an even better appetizer to devour. The tiny slices of chilli pepper hidden within the avocado gave the tuna tartare an occasional and unexpected kick. Extremely well done.

Although I'm not a fan of beetroot, I have to mention The Press Room's beetroot carpaccio appetizer that my neighbor, the Hong Kong-based foodie e_ting, enjoyed. The colors were stunning and the ingredients were crisp and fresh. It was everything a good salad should be.

My main course of rosemary marinated lamb chops with mixed bean salad and mint pesto fell a little short of my expectations. The meat was cooked a bit too long, leaving certain areas of the lamb chops slightly tough and chewy. The mint pesto was pleasant, but no unique flavors were gained from it. I was hoping for a more interesting flavor to surprise me from the lamb chops, but the dish proved to be rather ordinary.

At this point, I suffered a bit of food envy for the chargrilled spatchcock e_ting had ordered. My mouth watered at the mere whiff of the garlic butter, lemon and thyme that smothered it. I was lucky that e_ting offered me a portion of her massive plate to try. The chicken skin was crisp and full of flavor. Although the portion I tried was tender and juicy, e_ting mentioned that the breast was dry. The meat could have been further infused with the flavors that made the skin so amazing, but I did enjoy my small tasting!

I enjoy wine, but I wouldn't classify myself as a wine-person. I can distinguish between which wines I like and which ones do not suit my personal palate, but I can't even begin to discuss individual grapes, robustness or acidity so I'm not even going to try. Luckily, The Press Room Group's wine director and sommelier, Kavita Devi Faiella, was on hand to offer her expertise on the three wine pairings. 

I enjoyed the Couly-Dutheil "Melodia" 2010 Sauvignon Blanc served earlier with my tuna tartare, but I was quite taken with the Deux Montille 2008 Pinot Noir, served slightly chilled. It was the perfect pairing for my main course and I wished I didn't have to leave the luncheon to return to work, else I would have enjoyed a couple more glasses!

Full of food and slightly inebriated (there already had been at least two glasses of wine with my lunch so far!), my second stomach had to take over when the desserts were served.

I'm not usually a fan of citrus desserts, but the BEAUTIFUL lemon meringue tart (a Press Room signature dessert) caught my eye. The meringue was gorgeously executed and I felt a little guilty for having to destroy it in order to taste it. As a lover of sweeter desserts, the tartness of the lemon meringue could have been better balanced with a sweeter filling, but the rich, buttery pastry convinced me to forgive and helped me thoroughly enjoy this glorious dessert.

As many of you know, I am a dessert person. A sweet end to any meal will always make or break my overall experience of a restaurant. The desserts at The Press Room perfectly encapsulate my general impression.

In short, The Press Room serves beautifully plated food in a casual and open environment. There are pleasant flavors present in each dish to delight, but on the whole (save my tuna tartare), I felt there was just one element missing to pull out all the stops. Service was attentive enough without being intrusive. The major draw for me personally will be the impressive French wine selection. I can definitely see myself giggling over glasses of wine with friends at The Press Room on any given lazy Sunday afternoon.

*The Press Room just announced weekday three-course prixe-fixe lunches starting at $138! Main course options are rotated weekly. This, I like!

Jorge de Silva, Head Chef at The Press Room

The Press Room, Ground Floor, 108 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
(852) 2525 3444

© Connie Hum 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

#TTOT Round-Up: Visa & Immigration

Every Tuesday it's Travel Talk on Twitter! Follow the #TTOT hashtag to see what all the commotion and Tweets are about! There are two sessions to join, one at 9:30am GMT and the other at 9:30pm GMT.

Here's the round-up of this week's #TTOT: 

Q1 via : Ever been stopped at the Airport Immigration? What happened?
  • : Worked with a guy who bought a replica hand grenade cigarette lighter on holiday. He almost got shot at Dubai Airport
  • To the amusement of my friends I was stopped at NZ immigration for taking a tent with me from OZ. They needed to check for bugs
  • I find when travelling with 4 screaming kids - no-one stops you at customs
  • : In India and in Myanmar. They saw my journalist visa and wanted to know why I was in their country
  • I was denied entry into the nation of Kiribait because the ink on the visa bled off the page of my passport
  • : Once in new York- questions about black eye in the the visa photo!

Q2 via : Most treasured visa in the passport and why?
  • : Turkmenistan, via the Caspian Sea ferry. Quite rare
  • My chinese visa in my previous passport. It took me 3 weeks and a fake plainticket to get it
  • I love the fact that I have a Pakistani one as it's something a lot of people are wary of getting these days
  • : I am very fond of my triangular Zanzibar visa stamp!
  • My first one - England. It was weirdest feeling when he stamped it. It was the sound of uncertainty and adventure
  • : I love the one for Stewart, BC. We had to ask them to stamp it for us. It's cute, and not many people enter Canada from there
  • : Not a real visa but in Galapagos you can have a fun'stamp put in your passport One of the prettiest I have and always get comments

Q3 via : What's the funniest question you ever got at immigration?
  • : US visa app- I said I was visiting my boyfriend and the lady asked, "Have you actually met him, sweetie?"  
  • : My most recent Russian one: "Do you have any experience in specialized weapons training or manufacturing explosives?"
  • : Have you ever smuggled reptiles or birds illegally?
  • : Don't have anything funny, but they made me pull cash out of an ATM at Heathrow - they sure don't like 1 way tickets
  • I often get funny looks ... Iceland? Is that a country? 
  • : When I was a kid, the question at the Canadian border: "Why are you here?" 'Hockey." "OK, you can go." 
  • : US consul asked me what was my favorite type of ice cream, with a very serious face expression
  • : Why did you continue to travel by yourself in South America after your family returned to the US? Me: It's fun
  • : "Do Twinkies have meat in them?" From an Australian Immigration Officer.

Q4 via : Have you ever been refused a visa and been given the weirdest reason as to why?
  • Chinese border officials wouldn't let us in carrying the Lonely Planet guide book - it lists Taiwan as a separate country
  • : My friends & I almost weren't allowed in Slovakia because we didn't have some sticker on car. $ worked though
  • Got rejected 3 times when applying US visa after 9/11. Reason from the embassy: Nobody would fly to US at that time
  • : Refused entry because the people I was travelling with tried to bribe the border guard
  •  Yes, at the French Consulate in Istanbul for arguing with them about the way they were treating headscarved people: like shit
  • : Was in India when they suddenly decided tourists can't reenter too quickly after leaving

Q5 via : Do you think it's fair that the world is not open to travel by everyone?
  • : Fair? No. Can I understand why countries worry about migrants sneaking in? Yes
  • The problem is that illegals still scam the system while legals try to do it right and still fail sometimes
  • : I think in an ideal world this would be amazing. Unfortunately we live in a world where some can't be trusted/don't have respect 
  • Oh, boy. I wish I was here live to get into this. Of course it's fair. We live in a world of countries and laws. Deal with it
  • Some places are being spoilt by unrestricted tourism. And clearly politics plays a part. I don't like it, but I understand
  • No! I have 4 nieces that had their dreams of coming to visit US crushed by an official that denied their Visas 
  • : Travel opens minds about the world in ways that no other experience can. I wish entire process was easier for all

And there you have it, "Visa & Immigration"!    

Next week's #TTOT topic is "Group Travel." Submit your questions HERE! Don't forget to follow the #TTOT hashtag every Tuesday at 9:30am and 9:30pm GMT to chat about all things travel!

As always, a HUGE travel community thank you to our #TTOT hosts and organizers: traveldudes, , , , , , and !

Have YOU got anything to add to the Visa & Immigration travel discussion? 

© Connie Hum 2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

#TTOT Round-Up: Music & Travel

Every Tuesday it's Travel Talk on Twitter! Follow the #TTOT hashtag to see what all the commotion and Tweets are about! There are two sessions to join, one at 9:30am GMT and the other at 9:30pm GMT.

Here's the round-up of this week's #TTOT: 

Q1 via : What is your favorite travel memory that is linked with a song?
  • : For me, it's Israel Kamakawiwo'ole - Somewhere Over The Rainbow. It reminds me of my honeymoon
  • Seeing Tarkan (Turkish pop star) live in Skopje, Macedonia in 2007
  • Van Halen's "Jump!" when doing the Kawarau Bridge Bungy for the first time
  • : On government press trip in Romania in '86 during dictator Ceaușescu regime & listening on WalkMan to "I'll Be Watching You" by the Police
  • : It would have to be Shakira's Waka Waka and K'naan's Waving Flag, played everywhere in South Africa during the 2010 World Cup 
  • : "Here comes the sun" by The Beatles as I touched down in Thailand 
  • : This is so cheesy but I remember listening to Toto's "Africa" on my walkman in Kenya back in the 80s and just loving it. I was 9
  • : I always sing Leaving On A Jet Plane when a big trip is coming up. That song reminds me of all of them
  • : Listening to Weezer's blue album with my Dad and sister on repeat during our yearly road trip from Missouri to Michigan

Q2 via : If you could organize a world-wide concert for the 'citizens of the world', what 3 bands would you choose?
  • connvoyage: Iceland's Sigur Ros, Algeria's Cheb i Sabbah and India's Ravi Shankar
  • Kings of Leon, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and U2
  • : Backstreet Boys, Take That, Tom Jones. The world will be united in panty-throwing
  • : Mumford and Sons, Devendra Banhart and Bon Iver
  • The Beatles, Miniature Tigers, and Devotchka - Just weird and obscure enough
  • : Bueno Vista Social Club, Cat Empire & Playing For Change

 Q3 via : What & where was the best local music you saw live?
  • : I'd say seeing the locals of Rio drumming on used paint buckets in the city's favellas 
  • In Venice, Italy - stumbled upon a string ensemble performing Vivaldi's Four Seasons in full Baroque costumes. I was a music major
  • : We heard a brilliant local band in Pokhara, Nepal, playing rock in a pub.  They were amazing! 
  • : Smashing Pumpkins' last show at the Metro. Couldn't believe Billy Corgan cried
  • : Flamenco show in honor of Spanish writer Garcia Lorca in gardens of Alhambra, Granada. Magical full moon summer night
  • The best local music I saw live has GOT to be the African drumming at an impromptu full moon party on the beach in Zanzibar!
  • : Fete de la Musique Festival in Paris (Summer Solstice) Fabulous Street bands all over the city 

Q4 via : Most memorable karaoke moment (oh, I know you have ONE)?
  • : I once had to sit through a 7 hr bus ride in Vietnam while all the locals sang Karaoke. For 7 whole hours
  • Doing actual karaoke IN JAPAN! We still had time so my friend and I started in on Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys numbers
  • : Getting invited randomly to a Cambodian wedding & watching all the guests sing 1 after another. This'd take 10 pints in England! 
  • : Our Chinese guide singing Edelweiss in the karaoke system on the bus in Xi'an, China. Absolut winner 
  • : Karaoke in front of 200 people at a piano bar in Vegas on my bday stands out as really special 
  • : Once, I sang "Oops, I Did It Again" and did part of the Britney choreography while singing

Q5 via  If you could travel back in time and see one concert, which one would it be?
  • Definitely Queen at LiveAid. I remember switching on the TV in the morning intending to watch a few minutes. I was glued all day
  • : Jimmy Hendrix at the Isle of Wright - would have been epic
  • Billie Holiday, in some small jazz joint...
  • 1969 in London for the last The Beatles performance together 
  • : Dylan and Van Morrison live in front of the Acropolis in '84
  • : Frank Sinatra in full glory at Sands Hotel & Casino, LV, 1966
  • : Michael Jackson's Billie Jean performance at Motown 25 when he first did the Moonwalk
  • : New York, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. I think I would die if I saw them live

And there you have it, "Music & Travel"!   

Next week's #TTOT topic is: "Visa & Immigration." Submit your questions HERE!

As always, a HUGE travel community thank you to our #TTOT hosts and organizers: traveldudes, , , , , , and !

Have YOU got anything to add to the Music & Travel discussion? 

© Connie Hum 2011

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance

Inconspicuously tucked between Hong Kong's busier districts of Causeway Bay and Tin Hau, lies a small district (and one of my favorite places to hang out) called Tai Hang. Although usually not crammed full of people, Tai Hang draws in the crowds during the Mid-Autumn Festival with the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance.

The Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance begins

According to local legend, a typhoon and the subsequent cholera outbreak wreaked havoc on the fishing village of Tai Hang over a century ago. A soothsayer decreed the only way to end the plague was to appease the gods and perform a fire dragon dance.

Apparently it worked and Tai Hang has continued the tradition of the Fire Dragon Dance every year since. It's near pandemonium, but absolute fun!

Young girls dress up and carry pretty lanterns

The drumming is deafening, perhaps to wake the Fire Dragon?

The formidable Fire Dragon

The 220-foot long Fire Dragon dances its way through Tai Hang

The Fire Dragon's tail is filled with incense sticks for good luck

Fire Dragon dancers hard at work

The Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance goes on for three consecutive nights leading up to the Mid-Autumn Festival. You can catch the dancing smoke within walking distance from the Tin Hau MTR, exit A1. Just follow the crowds until you reach Tai Hang. Trust me, you can't miss it.

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival! How will YOU celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival???

© Connie Hum 2011

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

#TTOT Round-Up: New Seven Wonders

Every Tuesday it's Travel Talk on Twitter! Follow the #TTOT hashtag to see what all the commotion and Tweets are about! There are two sessions to join, one at 9:30am GMT and the other at 9:30pm GMT.

Here's the round-up of this week's #TTOT on "New Seven Wonders!"

Q1 via : From the 28 Finalists pick your number one and tell us why : ?
  • Great Barrier Reef. It's dying before our eyes and taking the cast of Nemo with it.
  • Amazon, one of the most diverse wonders of our world
  • :I'm voting for the Grand Canyon. It's literally breathtaking
  • : Those mud volcanoes in Azerbaijan just sound really cool
  • :What a toughie! Close my eyes and point to...Galapagos!
  • : My new 7 wonders pick is Halong Bay, Vietnam! It's just magical, worth the long drive!
Magical Halong Bay in Vietnam

Q2 via : Do you think a specific region is under/over-represented on the new list? Why?
  • : I really can't believe the Canadian and US Rockies aren't on this list
  • : Africa under-represented hands down — there's definitely more than 2 candidates on the ENTIRE continent!
  • : Looks like Russia is missing out on the party
  • I think any region which you are familiar with, for me Europe, can be seen as over-represented

Q3 via : What would be your 8th wonder in fitting with the 7 Wonders of the World & why?
  • : 8th Wonder of the World? Lake Hawea or Tekapo in New Zealand! Anyplace I'm in awe at has my vote
  • : The Dead Sea
  • May not be a wonder, but Kilimanjaro
  • My 8th region would be the Polar regions. The most fragile of all and determining the fate of an entire plant 
  • : Technology: the fact we can all be chatting from different parts of the world!
  • : Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors & Horses and Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum, Xian China cuz its wicked 
  • : Mount Everest. Takes your breath away even if it wasn't the world's tallest mountain
  • : Aurora Borealis, doesn't get enough attention for how amazing it is
The Aurora Borealis, as seen from Iceland

Q4 via : Which do you find more impressive, natural wonders or manmade wonders? Why?
  • Both really
  • Natural wonders attract me more.. there's just something about nature
  • : The sublime beauty of the Taj Mahal matches almost anything in nature, which is saying a lot
  • : Natural Wonders! human engineering is great, but planet earth is better
  • I'm going to say manmade, simply because we can relate to that achievement. The power of Mother Nature is far greater
  • I love the inspiration and accomplishment w/ manmade, but the natural are truly mind-blowing n beautiful
  • : Mother Nature will kicks our butts every time when it comes to building and destroying. She wins
Q5 via : What do you think of the list of the New 7 Wonders? Does it influence your travel plans? Explain!
  • : I wanted to visit all the places listed (and more) before I knew about this list. So this just makes me want to travel sooner
  • I haven't even heard of this new list. 7 wonders of the ancient wonders inspires me more
  • The list doesn't influence my travels, but I did learn about new places. Plus I'm hoping it spawns a new season of Idiot Abroad 
  • : The list is too big to fit into 7, so a list of 7 means nothing to me. We should make our own lists
  • : List is a popularity contest, would never influence my travels, lists and trails are made to be broken be a pathfinder

And there you have it, the "New Seven Wonders"!  

Next week's #TTOT topic is: "Music & Travel" submitted by . Submit your questions HERE! And don't forget to follow the #TTOT every Tuesday at 9:30am and 9:30pm GMT to chat about travel!

As always, a HUGE travel community thank you to our #TTOT hosts and organizers: traveldudes, , , , , , and !

Have YOU got anything to add to the New Seven Wonders travel discussion? 

© Connie Hum 2011

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sh*t Hit the Fan, Or Why I Haven't Been Blogging

Many of you may have noticed the lack of, ahem, original content in my blog in recent weeks.  I sincerely apologize for this. My only excuse is that my life has been slightly more than chaotic and stressful that I haven't really been able to string together a proper sentence together, much less an actual post.

Having a bad day

As you have probably read my three-part "Love Story" blog series, I guess I should start by saying that M and I have broken up. Out of respect to M and our relationship, I'll leave it at that. It's a sad time for sure, I mean, not only did I break up with a good guy, but I also lost my best friend. I would just like to say that I am doing okay and looking optimistically toward my future adventures, whatever they may be.

For the time being, I'm staying put in Hong Kong while I decide where I want to go next.

This strange place I call home: Hong Kong

This is the exciting part.

Where to go next?!?!?

I don't think I will staying too long in Hong Kong. I do enjoy this city but I just cannot seem to align myself comfortably here. I find teaching English here less fulfilling than I would like and part of why I left New York City in the first place was to contribute and make a difference in the world. I just don't feel like I'm doing that in Hong Kong. Or perhaps the reason I left NYC was a little naive? I certainly hope not as I still have every intention to continue trying to help make this world a better place!

I've had this conversation with so many people about what it is about Hong Kong that I can't seem to find my place here, especially when I managed to make myself feel at home just about everywhere else. I really don't know what is it, except I know that, out of all the places I've ever lived or traveled to, I am the least happy here. I'm sorry, Hong Kong. It's not your fault and it's not mine, it just wasn't meant to be.

So back to the exciting part. WHERE TO GO NEXT???

I honestly have no idea, but all those extra pages in my passport are beckoning to be filled, just as my sense of adventure is screaming at me to get back out on the road.

So many passport pages to fill in!

So far, I know that I will be taking a ME trip in the first week of October. Again, to where? I have no clue.

I also bought a flight home to New York City and San Francisco for the month of November. I'll spend my birthday with my glorious friends in NYC before heading home to San Francisco for Thanksgiving with my family. I'm really looking forward to November because it's been TWO YEARS since I've been back! TWO YEARS!

I've got a date with pumpkin pie in November!

I hope that you can forgive me for the lack of interesting travel-related posts in the recent weeks. I promise I'll get back into it soon!

So, where do YOU suggest I go on my ME trip in October??? What about AFTER Hong Kong???

© Connie Hum 2011

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