Category Archives: Hong Kong

Here I Come (Again), Asia!

In exactly two months from today, I will be hopping on a plane to Asia!! First stop: Hong Kong! For the past three years, I have been dreaming of the day I get to return to my favorite city in the world. The layover will be less than 24 hours, but I’m planning on packing in as much as possible: cupcakes at Sift, xiao long bao at Crystal Jade, a peek at my old apartment, a jaunt through Hong Kong Park, and hopefully a ride up to the Peak. I am beyond excited about the entire trip, but these mere 40 hours (20 on the way there, 20 on the way back) are what I’m the most geeked about. Hopefully, I’ll even get to catch up with friends (if that’s YOU and you’re reading this in Hong Kong, save Dec. 10 and 29 on your calendar!).

I’ll be traveling with my friend Lindsay from Chicago for 10 of the 21 days I’ll be gone. Our flights were awesomely cheap. Get this – to fly direct to Hong Kong is $1,040; to fly to Phnom Penh, Cambodia through Hong Kong is $840. It’s $200 cheaper to take two additional flights. I don’t get the logic, but I love it!

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The Best Friends A Girl Could Ask For

There are many things I miss about Hong Kong, but most often I miss my gorgeous group of girlfriends. They were my family and the people I could count on the most. Whether it was someone to gab over drinks with at 4:00 on a Tuesday, gals to go out with for free vodka on a Saturday night, or friends to hike up a mountain with on Sunday morning, my friends were always there for me.

I desperately miss these friends on my weekends in Chicago when I struggle with what to do with two free nights. I knew in Hong Kong that every Saturday night was ladies’ night. I didn’t have to think about what to do or worry that I’d be all alone; I always had them.

Of course I’ve made friends in Chicago, but there’s something about the lovely group of friends I made in Hong Kong that’s unbeatable. Most of us lived thousands of miles from our families and trekked to Asia only to have each other. If one of us was busy, we had the rest to rely on. When we made plans, it was in a group chat so everyone could join in and know the plan.

So as Thanksgiving nears, I want to give a shout-out to the loveliest friends a girl could ask for. Thanks for making my life in Hong Kong sweeter, more enjoyable, and something I miss each and every day. And thank you for still being wonderful even though it’s been two years and we’re thousands of miles apart xoxo


I Miss You, Hong Kong!

Chicago in winter is brutal. Negative temperatures, gusty winds regularly, snow falling at any moment, and ice covering every surface. This winter has been especially awful making me wonder why the hell I chose to come here. I had the perfect opportunity at the end of my time in Hong Kong to move anywhere…Seattle, Florida, the Bahamas! This extreme winter has also caused me to reflect on my time in Hong Kong, particularly when I look at my weather app and it touts 70 degrees for HK. I miss Hong Kong. I miss the weather, I miss my friends, I miss traveling, I miss the culture. In fact, there’s really not much I don’t miss. 

Here’s an excerpt from a conversation that I recently had with my friend Shelley that I met in HK: “Do you ever have moments where you really miss Hong Kong?  I think I feel that way right now because of the really cold weather. I just keep getting suddenly sad about missing it. Random things bring it on. Is this what happens after a year and a half or will we always feel this way?”

I know that there will always be a part of my heart in the Kong. I’m getting verklempt just thinking about it. Random occurrences bring on the tear-welling: articles posted on Facebook, Christmas and birthday cards from HK friends, not too long ago I even got choked up reading about the wet markets. If you’ve never been to a fish market, it’s this bloody, smelly mess of a street filled with cow hearts hanging from hooks, whole chickens in windows and fish flopping around. But I had tears in my eyes just reading an article about it. 

It’s not that I truly ever see myself living there again, but Hong Kong is this whole other part of me that I can’t access easily. Sure, I can Skype with friends, Time Out Hong Kong can plaster my Facebook wall, and I can talk all day and all night about my experiences to my new friends in Chicago, but it isn’t the same. I’ll never again be “that girl who lives in Hong Kong,” that anomaly to my friends here in the U.S.

And it’s true that I feel pretty *normal* being in Chicago, I also really, really miss Hong Kong. And it’s sunny winter. Here’s a great idea: I can live in Hong Kong during the winter and Chicago in the summer (Chi is the best in summer!). Now what job can I find where I can get the best of both of my worlds?

Insert Sad Face Here

Home is great—of course it’s great, with its big refrigerators, friendly people, country roads, and my family nearby it was bound to be great.  And though the adage always says “Home is where the heart is,” I’ve definitely left a little piece of my heart in Hong Kong.

Living alone in a country 8,000 miles away from my family taught me a good lesson on biting my lip and shoving down the tears. If I’d cried every time I was frustrated, sad, lonely, or upset in Hong Kong, I could have rowed my way back home, but instead I sucked it up and moved on. Thanks to this new-found ability to “cry without crying,” I’ve wiped away only a few tears since hopping on a plane at HKIA. The first time was when I found a card that my friend Jamie had given to me on the morning before I left. I’d tucked it away in my suitcase and forgot to open it until I started unpacking; when I finally slipped it out of the envelope, even the outside made tears spring to my eyes. “Cupcake Queen” the card boasted with a handwritten arrow pointing to it, saying “That’s you!” Inside, Jamie made a list of the top 10 reasons she’ll miss me, including:

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I vow

I vow to be more open-minded when I move back home.  Hong Kong has taught me a valuable lesson in opening myself to the possibilities that something else great, better, or even fantastic can be waiting around the corner, if only I’m willing to open my eyes to see the light.  Tonight, I went out for drinks with a fellow Sassy blogger whom I’ve known for a few months; besides chatting at our writer events, we’ve never spent time together outside of Sassy.  We had a great time sipping on raspberry martinis and chatting about life; now with only 2 weeks left, I’m sad that she and I never agreed to meet up sooner.

I’ve met all of my friends in Hong Kong through a quirky girl with whom I used to work.  None of my closest friends are random girls I just went up to and said, “Hi, I’m Ashley, let’s be friends.”  Okay, so that’s a ridiculous way to meet people, but how hard is it to go up to someone you’ve never met before and make conversation?  Apparently really, really hard because almost no one I know does it…except in Hong Kong.

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Reverse Culture Shock

“No one really cares about your ‘life-changing’ experiences abroad.”

Wow!  Can it be true?  Will no one want to know about the last 2 years of my life??

I recently read an article about expats returning to the US and a few lines caught my attention, so I thought I’d share:

Reverse culture shock

The United States you remember has been replaced by its cinematic evil twin.

It’s really just the same old country with a mustache, but that’ll be enough to cause what is widely regarded among the expat community as reverse culture shock: the unexpected difficulty of adjusting to life back home.

According to Mobility magazine, “For many, it takes a full 12-month-cycle of holidays and work-related events before [returning expats] feel fully re-established back home.” Here’s what to expect …

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