TRAVELER OF THE MONTH: GILBERT CHRISPIN | DECEMBER 2017
AND THE TRAVELER OF THE MONTH IS gilbert chrispin
I'm so excited about this month's featured traveler, Gilbert Chrispin.
Travelers come in all shapes, sizes, colors and genders and I think it's important to highlight them all! Gilbert is the first man (and hopefully not the last) to appear on my blog. I loved learning about his recent trip to Hong Kong, and I'm hoping you will, too. So let's dive right in. Please give a warm welcome to Gilbert!
Tell me about your recent trip to Hong Kong. What was the purpose of going? vacation, backpacking, business?
The purpose of going to Hong Kong was pure pleasure; no business whatsoever. I like to take three or four big trips a year to recharge, get inspired, be immersed in another culture, create outstanding memories and eat amazing food.
Was this your first time visiting Hong Kong?
This was my first trip to Hong Kong and it blew my mind in so many ways.
In many ways, Hong Kong felt like New York on crack and/or steroids. There were lots of luxury retailers all over the city, and at times, it was a challenge experiencing the true lifestyle without the impact of western brands influencing the culture. However, when I did manage to come across neighborhoods that were not as gentrified, and still predominantly Cantonese, it was heart warming and refreshing. It just felt right.
On another note, the live music scene was extremely impressive, as was the ability to get anywhere in Hong Kong by train. I was quite impressed with Bangkok's train system, but Hong Kong has it beat. In the Miami area, public transportation is pretty poor. So whenever I travel, I take the opportunity to commute by public transportation, walking or Uber.
How was the food? Did you experience any odd delicacies?
The food was FUCKING phenomenal! Actually, I'll say freaking phenomenal in the event this is a family blog, lol.
I'm extremely critical of food, and I can say I didn't have a bad meal. I ate at a two Michelin starred restaurant by the name of Duddle's, and the atmosphere was incredible. I ate at Ho Lee Fook and managed to surpass the three hour wait for some outstanding roasted goose.
Odd delicacies? In truth, nothing was too odd. However, my palette is pretty wide open, so I may be the wrong person to ask. I ate congee, goose, shrimp, lobster balls, crispy buns with condensed milk and loads more. But as I previously said, the food was FUCKING phenomenal, and the decor and vibe was amazing, It would be remiss of me if I didn't mention Potato Head. It is one of the most beautiful and comfortable spaces I've ever been in, not to mention the food was great. The manager showed me the whole 8,000 square foot space and their private music lounge. I still can't get over how lovely and homey it felt. They also had loads of old Monocle magazines, which I've been reading cover to cover for the last 10 years of my life. As soon as I walked in, I knew I was home. Lastly, the manager played a Prince record for me in the private music lounge and the acoustics were insane.
Before I move on to the next question, I would like to say it's in an area of Hong Kong that still actually feels like Hong Kong, but gentrification is happening there too. Rents have quadrupled in the last 2-3 years, so move fast if you wanna experience the neighborhood in its truest form.
I've heard Hong Kong is extremely crowded. What's the best mode of transportation for getting around the area? Car, Bus, Train?
Hong Kong is definitely crowded; there are people everywhere. On occasion I'd get up early and look outside of my window and it felt peaceful. However, when I ventured home really late, it always felt busy.
The best mode of transportation are the buses, trains and my Chevylegs (that was so corny). In five days, I clocked in at 56.13 miles by foot. As far as trains and buses, they're extremely accurate, timely and get you to where you need to go. All of the signs are in English and Cantonese.
Your Octopus card, a card designed to allow you to use all forms of transportation, can also be used to pay for things at grocery stores, pharmacies, and can even be used at some museums and stores. If you do get an Octopus card, keep it and turn it in upon departure. Unused funds will be refunded, as will the card.
The last note about Hong Kong is that it's extremely expensive, so prepare yourself. If you're expecting to pay Thailand or Vietnamese prices, you're in trouble. You are more likely to pay prices comparable to LA, NY, or Miami.
Your friend told me you went to Vietnam. What cities did you travel to? What was your favorite place?
I went to Ho Chi Minh City a.k.a Saigon. I spent six days there, and I loved every minute of it. I also thought about venturing to Halong Bay or Hanoi, but decided I'll visit when I return.
Name something unexpected that happened to you while traveling through Vietnam?
Discovering hammock cafes.
They are literally pseudo grassy areas underneath a huge roof like covering filled with hammocks. You go there and drink coffee, tea, wine, a beer or whatever else and just lay there and decompress for no other reason than because that is how life should be lived. It was so unexpected and such a joyful discovery.
Other unexpected things: I was buying some Bahn Mi's (a.k.a bread); two to be exact because they were soooooooo damn good and I'm semi greedy. I had a large bill and no change. I asked the gentlemen in front of me if he thought the vendor would have change, and he said, "she should, but if she does not, I'll pay for your Bahn Mi's." He bought his and then kindly waited for me. Thankfully the cashier had change and the gentleman wished me safe travels. I was just so touched by his gesture of kindness. It was a really beautiful thing and I had so many other experiences in Saigon that really exhibited just how kind and warm Vietnamese people are.
There was one more thing! I discovered a street in Saigon near the cathedral that was dedicated to books. It was kinda like this open air book market with about 12 mini book stores and a couple of cafes. I was stunned and blown away. Moreover, it wasn't something that just opens on weekends, nor was it a book fair. This was an every day thing and that really made me happy. In this day and age where book stores in the states can barely remain open, here you had a whole block dedicated to nothing but books.
What piece of advice would you give someone traveling to Hong Kong or Vietnam for the first time?
If it's your first time visiting Hong Kong, get off of the beaten path and eat everything. (That goes for Vietnam, too; the food is stupendous). Also, don't be afraid to get out of the stores and wander down back alleys and get lost.
For Vietnam, just immerse yourself in their world. The Vietnamese know how to live, they take relaxation and pleasure to another level. I've been to several places around the world, and I've never seen people take their quality of life as serious as I take my own. I'll also add that you may want to rent a moped, unless you're prepared to walk a ton. Walking across intersections in Vietnam is an art form. Please proceed with extreme caution.
What did you like the best about the culture?
I liked how relaxed people in Vietnam were. There wasn't a sense of an emergency to get somewhere or to do something. I never felt rushed or anxious. I also loved how kind the people were. That really warmed my heart over and over again.
I have readers who would love to travel to Asia but are worried about the language barrier. If someone doesn't know the language, do you think they'll have a difficult time getting around?
It depends where you go.
In Hong Kong, absolutely not. All of the signs are in English, so no one should have any trouble.
Saigon is a bit different. English is not widely spoken in Saigon, but who needs English when you have hand gestures, body language and plenty of time. An added note, almost every one of my trips has been taken alone, so people should not hesitate to go at it solo. You'll be surprised how much you learn about yourself and how much more you'll grow personally, professionally, and spiritually.
If you were not traveling, what would you be doing instead?
Hmmmm...That is such a tough question. I would probably be playing tennis, working, sleeping, or reading.
How can my readers get in touch with you?
If you would like to be the next Traveler of the Month, please send me an email. All travelers are welcomed!