How to visit Hong Kong’s Buddha Statue: Tian Tan, Ngong Ping cable car, Lantau Island.

ngong ping 360 cable car

I’ve been to Hong Kong over 20 times. Many of my relatives live here, and in recent years, jobs have taken me to HK at lest once a year. Despite my frequent visits, I’ve never visited one of the biggest landmarks: the giant Tian Tan Buddha statue, on Lantau Island.

hong kong big buddha statue

On our last trip, my film friends and I had the perfect excuse to pay Buddha a visit. We were shooting a video for sáv Hong Kong, a new hotel in Hung Hom centered around the theme of love. What better place than Tian Tan to represent loving kindness?

hong kong subway, line characters

First, here are instructions on how to get to Tian Tan, located on Lantau Island.

1. Ride the subway to Tung Chung station. Since this is the end of the line, give yourself time (from Hung Hom, it takes about 45 minutes). If you’re like Line Friends Moon and miss the train, don’t worry, they run every few minutes!
2. Walk out of Tung Chung station through exit B, and follow the signs to Ngong Ping cable car.
3. Purchase a ticket for the cable car: there are options for standard, private cabins, and glass bottom ones. We went for the standard ($19 round trip) and the three of us had the lift to ourselves anyway.

lantau island cable cars

The ride takes about 30 minutes. We sat back and enjoyed the 360 degree view of the Lantau Island mountains, South China Sea, and praying big Buddha in the mist.

lantau island cable car, tian tan

I wore a plum tiered Valance dress from Gloomth & the Cult of the Melancholy. You may recall that I met up with designer Taeden in Toronto.

My sunglasses are these exact ones by House of Harlow 1960: Nicole. I’m carrying a bouquet of violet flowers to offer to the Buddha.

po lin monastery village

We arrived at Ngong Ping Village, which held traditional Chinese jewelry shops, tea houses and other cultural attractions.

tian tan buddha temple of heaven

The enlightened one is still a good 15-20 minute walk away. The Buddha is 34 meters tall, and constructed in 1993.

bruce lee theme park

Since the cable car station was built not long ago, some of the attractions are quite touristy. There’s a live action Stage 360 that celebrates another Hong Kong hero, Bruce Lee. Here, you can watch stuntsmen perform martial arts sequences in front of your eyes.

po lin monastery monks

However, the adjoining Po Lin monastery dates back to 1906. Anyone is welcome to visit the monks, and join them in the kitchen for a vegetarian meal.

lantau island wild cows

Who else lives on Lantau Island? Wild cattle and buffalo!

lantau island buffalo

I offered a cow a flower, and she chomped it down. Suddenly, I was surrounded by hungry cows trying to bite at my bouquet of flowers! They fenced me in and I had nowhere to escape. Somehow, I got out of this fiasco unscathed.

wild cows hong kong

Filmmaker Melissa learns from my mistake, and keeps a safe distance from this cow and her feeding calf. (Photos in this post by La Carmina, Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann.)

hong kong buddhist statue

Buddhist deities pointed us towards Siddhartha. This funny one has a rooster on his head, and appears to be doing a Saturday Night Fever disco move. 

hong kong buddhist temple

Buddhism x Goths? Why not. How nice to run into two of my friends here, Lam and Hin Ng. (Remember them from my Upper House penthouse party?)

climbing stairs buddha statue lantau

Here we are, at the base. Now we have 268 steps to climb, in the drenching humidity.


The Buddha sits on a lotus, and raises his right arm in blessing. Such a serene expression on his face.

lantau bodhisattva statues

On each side him, three Devas give offerings. I bowed to them and extended a flower (you’ll see how this all fits in with the video, once we release it.)

hong kong buddha tour

We saw some Buddhists circling the platform and kneeling in front of the statues.

flower offerings for buddha

We went inside the statue, and saw a collection of traditional Buddhist art. After giving away most of my flowers to strangers — as a symbol of bringing love into the world — I left the rest for the Buddha.

lantau island scenery, sunset

Landmarks can be cheesy, which is why I try to avoid them. However, the scenic Lantau Island and Tian Tan Buddha were a pleasure to visit.

hong kong cable cars, landmark

On the ride back, we saw the sky turn pink as the sun set over the mountains, just like an ancient Chinese painting.

Hong Kong is known (and loved) for its fast-paced lifestyle and trendy shopping, which I’ve written a lot about. But if you want to see the serene side of the city, I encourage you to spend a half-day with Buddha and his Bodhisattvas. (Note that the last cable car descends at 6pm on most days, so try to go early.)

scottish fold cat face

I leave you with my own big Buddha: Scottish Fold kitten, Basil Farrow! Cats are naturally Zen-creatures, aren’t they?

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Hipster Hongdae! Seoul’s coolest neighborhood: graffiti walls, robot bar, Zombie cafe.

hongdae graffiti wall robot

I survived a Korean robot attack! This photo captures the spirit of Seoul’s hippest neighborhood, Hongdae (pronounced “hong-day”). Many compare it to Tokyo’s Harajuku, since both are youth hubs with a quirky, colorful, indie vibe.

hongdae graffiti street mural

If you want to see the cool and cute side of Korea, then Hongdae is for you. I loved this area so much that I came back the next day.

Enjoy my tour of Hongdae’s best street art and cafes, including gourmet ice cream, a robot bar, camping-themed restaurant, Zombie coffee and graffiti galore!

korean street style, kpop fashion blogger

I’m wearing a seahorse tank c/o Show Me Your MuMu, a free-spirit label with plenty of beach cover-ups and pastels. Wildfox also has a cute breezy top like mine, and here’s a similar silver metallic skirt.

Shop the Look (click the images below for details):

hongdae shopping map

Remember when I visited YouTube stars Eat Your Kimchi in their Hongdae studio? Simon and Martina drew me this map of their favorite surrounding dessert shops and theme restaurants. On panda paper, no less. Naturally, I had to visit them all.

To get to this part of Seoul, take the subway to Hongik University Station (Hongdae is an abbreviation of the university’s name).

zombie coffee seoul

I was feeling weary and needed a caffeine fix. Fortunately, Hongdae is on a gourmet coffee kick, and I spotted at least two specialty coffee shops on each street.

(Eat Your Kimchi established their own cafe, You Are Here, in Hongdae! It wasn’t open when I was in Seoul, which is why I don’t have photos of it, but it’s at the top of my list for next time.)

hongdae specialty coffeeshop

Zombie Coffee Roasters are leading the pack. The name is also apt for the caffeine-deprived, and lets people pose like this in front of their awning.

seoul coffee roasters

Zombie takes pride in roasting its own beans, right in-store. Through a glass door, you can peek in on the process. The young and smartly dressed baristas have won awards for their latte art prowess, and demonstrates these skills in every milk pour.

hongdae zombie lattes

In fact, the barista was such a perfectionist about his craft that he tossed out the first drink he made for me — saying the art wasn’t up to standards, when I thought it was a swirling masterpiece.

pirate espresso cup

The cafe drinks are a bit expensive, averaging 4000 won, but that’s the price for Pirate perfection.

electric fan korea

If you’re an early riser, Zombie has public “cuppings” or tastings at 7am each day, which lets you sample a variety of their roasts.

chikalicious cupcakes hongdae

Dessert club, table of three: yes please. Martina (of Eat Your Kimchi) is a cupcake connoisseur, and says she can never resist stopping at Chikalicious. At night, the cafe makes a nice picture window. This part of Hongdae is especially charming, with winding streets lined with cute cafes and boutiques.

cupcake bakery seoul

She’s right, this Seoul cupcake parlor is a winner. The Meyer lemon was bursting with real flavor. My photographers still had a sweet tooth, so we went nearby to…

fell and cole gastronomic ice cream

Fell + Cole, purveyors of gastronomic ice cream. Everything is made with natural ingredients, in small batches.

seoul handmade ice cream shop

We died over the makkoli ice cream, made from the milky Korean rice wine. Yoda says, “Ready are you to be amazed, hmm? Then to this shop, come.”

(All photos by Jacqueline Kwok / noircorner and Ken Yuen.)

vinyl bar hongdae

I am doing robot-dance moves because I’m in front of the Robot Vinyl bar. Only in tech-crazy Korea, right?

seoul weird strange bar

The robot’s eyes flash, and beckon you in. The menu consists of standard cocktails (about 5000 won for my grapefruit rum mix). But unlike in regular bars, the drinks are served in a clear vinyl bag with a straw. How… future-pop!

vintage retro korea bars

Inside, the atmosphere is vintage-cozy, making Vinyl Robot a favorite spot for friends to catch up over a drink. Chances are, you might spot Eat Your Kimchi here.

You are allowed to take the drinks outside, and many patrons get cocktails to go. It’s funny to see young Koreans walking around with what appear to be a medical bags dangling from their lips.

music notes kpop graffiti

There are a few Graffiti Streets in Hongdae. The art is diverse — note the cows and the music notes. It’s not what I expected of Korea.

avantgarde korean modern art

There’s a off-kilter aesthetic in the street art here. It’s not as cutesy as Japan, but striking in its own weird way.

evolution of man painting

The next step in the evolution of mankind… is the Kpop girl! Joke, or not? Korea is certainly pulling ahead as the world’s most tech-progressive country.

hongdae free market, 홍대앞

In the late afternoon, vendors set up food and craft stalls at the Hongdae Free Market, which encircles the park.

Hongik University Street students

Since this area is the site of Hongik University, there’s a youthful energy here. Unlike in Japan, Koreans rarely dress up in subculture fashion (such as Goth, Punk, or style tribes like the Diamond Gal-Circle). As Simon and Martina put it, a hardcore Korean metalhead might have hundreds of albums and go to obscure concerts, but on the surface, he looks like an “Average Kim.” I’ll show you the Kpop fashion in the next posts, since there is much more to say…

outdoor factory camping bbq

For now, let’s focus on food. I’m not fond of “roughing it” so I was excited to visit Outdoor Kitchen, a Korean BBQ joint that simulates camping in the woods.

korea camp themed barbeque restaurant

Small touches, like a lantern and camp chairs, create the “campy” feeling of being in the great outdoors. There’s even a refreshing fine mist that sprays from the ceiling. Seems the puppy was glad to cool off.

hongdae korean bbq grill

The staff drops hot stones into the grill at your table, and it’s up to you to cook the high-quality beef, soup, and sealed package of hot dogs.

outdoor factory hongdae

Unlike many theme restaurants (like the Hello Kitty Cafe), the meals are great here. A dinner set for four campers — including salad, kimchi, sides and meat — ranges from 30,000 to 70,000 won. Mosquitoes not included, thank goodness.

hongdae park performers

We ended the evening at Hongdae Playground, or Hongik Children’s Park. On the weekend, it’s more like a young adult playground. Everyone sat around, drinking and listening to bands perform. What a sight — you have to experience it for yourselves.

eat your kimchi, you are here cafe

Thanks to Simon and Martina of Eat Your Kimchi for this guide to Hongdae! For more, check out my visit to the EYK Studio.

Have you been to Hongdae, or heard of it? What do you think of the shopping and cute art?

PS: if you like what I wore in this post, details are below:

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Sherlock Holmes theme cafe in Shanghai, China! G9 & G2 design restaurants, Lane Crawford.

sherlock holmes restaurant

I spy a mysterious sign in Shanghai’s French Quarter. “Crime in progress. Please disturb.”

What bloodshed lies behind these doors?

sherlock holmes theme cafe, shanghai french quarter

Shh, it’s a secret… there’s a Sherlock Holmes theme cafe in Shanghai, China! Read on to peek inside, and I’ll also take you inside two fantastically-designed restaurants, G-9 and G-2. 

221B Baker St china cafe

The name of the cafe is 221B Baker Street, but don’t tell the taxi driver to go here or you might end up in London. The Sherlock Holmes cafe’s actual address is: 50 Ruijin 2nd Rd. (Gaolan Rd.), Shanghai.

The game is a-foot… but don’t try to find the place by foot. The street signs are confusing, and Google Maps doesn’t show the correct location. Instead, hail a hansom (or taxi) and ask your driver to take you to 瑞金二路50号, 近复兴中路. Cab fares are extremely low in Shanghai, so the ride will probably only cost you a few dollars.

sherlock themed cafe shanghai

Once you’re inside, you can lift a finger and announce, “Elementary, my dear Watson!”

Dress: Shakuhachi Future Minimal from West LA Boutique – purchase the same dress here.
Skeleton necklace: from LLazy Bonez.

(Above, click the images to shop the looks featured in this outfit post. I love this brand so much!)

bbc sherlock souvenirs, memorabilia

The entrance looks like a shrine to Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays the master detective in BBC’s Sherlock TV series (which is one of my favorites).

bbc sherlock and watson statues

Who knew the show was so popular in China? Of course, there are cute miniature “chibi” versions of Watson and Sherlock.

sherlock holmes museum

The cafe is designed to look like Sherlock Holmes and Watson’s shared flat, 221B Baker Street. One room looks a Victorian parlor, with brocaded curtains and a game of chess.

sherlock holmes violin

Customers can pose with the props: this is not a real violin, and obviously I don’t know how to play it. Behind me, you can spot test tubes and a microscope for Holmes’ forensic examinations.

deerstalker hat sherlock holmes pipe

A deerstalker hat and a pipe are the ultimate Sherlock Holmes fashion accessories. Below are more must-haves for gumshoes in training.

interior review 221b china

Much of the decor feels authentic to fans of Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels. But a few rooms have a “huh” feeling, like this tropical wallpaper and portrait of Edgar Allan Poe. 

sherlock holmes cafe menu

The clever menu looks like a newspaper, and the top right indicates the cafe’s opening date: July 2013. The front page has “recommendations by Mrs Hudson,” the landlady of Watson and Holmes.

sherlock holmes coffee

My baby niece sniffs at the decorated latte, with a coat of arms that shows Sherlock Holmes in profile. I ordered the “Moriarty” drink, an appropriately evil mix of iced coffee with vanilla ice cream on top.

bbc sherlock cups, postcards

The cafe serves sandwiches, cakes and other snacks as well. However, the selection of BBC Sherlock memorabilia is the biggest draw.

benedict cumberbatch painting

You can pick up Sherlock-themed bookmarks, art, and jewelry.

sir arthur conan doyle museum

When you ask for the check, the waiter flips a top hat onto the table. Aha, the receipt is pinned to the brim! Case closed.

llazybonez jewelry, chinese sherlock holmes books

If you have never read the Sherlock Holmes novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, you must get your hands on them. The stories hold up over time and the writing doesn’t at all feel dated. You can get the whole Sherlock collection here.

Above is a close-up of my skeleton and black pearl necklace, by LLazy Bonez. These Hong Kong jewelers custom-make spooky skull pieces with quality silver and stones.

lane crawford shanghai china

Now, let’s explore two more uniquely-designed restaurants in China. My team and I were invited to dinner at G9, a new restaurant at the department store Lane Crawford. 

shakuhachi future minimal dress

There was a light display in front of the designer mall. (All photos by Melissa Rundle, Eric Bergemann and La Carmina.)

lane crawford china shopping

Lane Crawford is the high-fashion destination in Hong Kong and China. The floors carry international luxury brands (like this Alice + Olivia Panda sweater) as well as local labels.

G九 上海 restaurant

We were here to experience a dramatic new restaurant,  G九 (上海) – also known as G-Force or G9 Shanghai. Address: 3/F Lane Crawford block, Shanghai Times Square, 99 Huaihai Zhong Road.

Designed by Ian Douglas-Jones of Atelier I-N-D-J, the interior is pop art meets vampire — a mesmerizing play on light and shadow. Above us, nearly 1000 pendants glow in a moving wave across the room. As you talk and eat, the experience changes as the lights constantly reveal and hide.

g9 shanghai restaurant, atelier INDJ

A long brass table cuts across the room, serving as both a catwalk and a dining space. Even for jaded diners like ourselves, the atmosphere was dazzling.

lane crawford restaurant food

G9’s dramatic design is complemented by the artfully-presented meals on the menu. We shared a number of starters, including tuna tataki served in half an avocado, presented like a floral arrangement.

china interior design hip restaurants

We ordered the lobster linguine twice — it was that good. The pumpkin ravioli and dry-aged beef (carved right at the table) were also outstanding.

All of the G restaurants emphasize local and pesticide-free ingredients. I’m surprised but pleased to see this approach to food taking root in China.

Atelier INDJ, architect Ian Douglas-Jones

Dessert was literally a masterpiece. The young chef covered a canvas with Jackson Pollack-like swooshes, using ingredients like chocolate sauce as his paints. He told us the picture was inspired by the planets and stars.

jackson pollock dessert

For the grand finale, he used molecular gastronomy to release a fog of steam… and with a yelp, he smashed the “planet” on the canvas! We lapped up every last bite of the white chocolate shards and flavors.

jellyfish in fish tanks

The next night, we had Chinese food at G-2, also designed by Ian of INDJ. Once again, the interior design pulled at the imagination. We ate while were surrounded by a 14 meter aquarium of jellyfish, drifting through purple lights.

Address: G2, Shanghai Plaza, No.138 Huaihai Road 4th floor.

G2 极贰

The patio gave a glowing view of the city. I can’t believe how much Shanghai has developed the past 5-10 years.

modern shanghai chinese restaurant

At G2, the food is contemporary Cantonese seafood. I tried tilefish, octopus, and glass noodles with an unidentifiable seafood (despite the mystery, it was my favorite).

shanghai bund skyline

I leave you with a colorful view of The Bund. What fun to explore Shanghai, which is becoming more cosmopolitan by the day.

Oriental Pearl Tower shanghai

And here’s the Oriental Pearl Tower, glowing like a space pod.

Were you surprised to see a Sherlock Holmes theme cafe and avantgarde restaurants in China?

(PS – if you want to learn more about the clothes I wore in Shanghai, browse and click the images above.)

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I judged the Miss Scuba Philippines Pageant! Cebu beauty queens, ocean conservation.

mermaid skirt, costume

Why am I waving like a beauty queen? Because I was a judge in the 2014 Miss Scuba Philippines contest, held at Pacific Cebu Resort

Unlike typical pageants, Miss Scuba has the meaningful goal of promoting marine conservation. All the contestants learn to dive, and are questioned on how they’d preserve the ocean ecosystem.

beauty queen wave, waving

Let me tell you, it was difficult to crown a winner from the 12 contestants. Read on, and I’ll show you what went down at this unique Filipino beauty pageant.

pacific cebu resort lodge

Hong Kong-based hotel group sáv Hospitality hosted Miss Scuba Philippines at Pacific Cebu Resort. Since the resort is right on the water and home to a diving school, it was a perfect fit.

mermaid skirt, fashion

What I Wore: didn’t plan this outfit in advance, but somehow it came together and fit the ocean-theme of the pageant.
Crop top: Show Me Your Mumu Lil Miss Crop Top in teal green (get it on sale, they also have it in black).
Skirt: The bottom half is actually a scarf with a fish-scale pattern, similar to this tie-dye maxi skirt.
Browse more mermaid-styles by clicking the images below:

princess jasmine costume, cosplay

Princess Jasmine meets The Little Mermaid. The shell hair accessory is a gift from the Nalusuan Island marine sanctuary that we visited.

cebu swimming pool, vacation

Before heading to the pageant, I waded in one of the hotel’s three swimming pools. (There’s one just for the diving school — you can see it in this post.)

pacific cebu resort spa

Spa treatments are available at all hours — the resort can even send a masseuse to your room. But if you’re a DIY type, there is this self foot massage from smooth white rocks.

miss scuba contest

To get to the pageant, I walked down a jungle path lit up with torches. At the entrance, I posed for photos with the Miss Scuba backdrop, and left a drawing of my Scottish Fold cat. 

travel tv crew, equipment

My film team and I also posed for a nice souvenir: Polaroid photos to take home. (Images in this post by Eric Bergemann and Melissa Rundle.)

miss scuba competition judges

I went to my judge’s head table, and found my place card. The other pageant judges included the mayor of Lapu-Lapu, and sáv Hospitality founder/CEO Edwin Chuang.

2014 miss scuba pageant contest

The sáv team did an impressive job with the stage design, lighting it up in colors with a big screen in the back.

filipino beauty queens, models

Here come the Miss Scuba contestants! They wear sashes that indicate their hometown in the Philippines. Amazing how they can walk in those heels, and toss their heads just so.

This contest is held in English, since it’s an international pageant (founded in 2011). The winner of this regional round will go onto the Miss Scuba finals in Kota Kinabulu, Malaysia on November 28.

philippines traditional dance

Between the pageant segments, there were singers and performers, such as this happy number by the University of Cebu Dance Company.

swimwear pageant contestants

So hard to give a score for each lady! There are typical sections like the swimsuit contest, but the most important criteria is how well the contestant advocates for marine conservation.

asia beauty queens, runway walk

Pageants are a huge deal in the Philippines, and many young women spend a year in beauty queen training. They learn how to walk, carry themselves well, and speak eloquently — and all of them do their own hair and makeup.

witch costume theater

In the Talent contest, their personalities come out. Some danced, some sang, some drew pictures. This contestant did a theatrical monologue, complete with evil queen cackling! 

beauty contest talent piano

It was fun to get to know these young ladies during my stay in Cebu. I learned a lot about their daily life and pop culture — such as their love of “chika time” or girl chatting, and karaoke. Celine Dion’s “All Coming Back to Me” was stuck in my head because I heard several people bawl it out!

evening gown contest, miss scuba

A quick change, for the evening-wear presentation. Everyone wore long, sparkling dresses that reflected the colors of the ocean. 

asia beauty contest, pageants

They make it look easy… but the competition takes a lot of dedication. I was impressed by their unshakable poise. (Love this lady’s long blue ball gown — shop more styles like this below.)

beauty competition question answer

Pick an envelope, and it’s time for the question and answer. Since Miss Scuba is a spokesperson for “saving oceans through beauty,” they were quizzed on how they’d educate the public on marine conservation.

miss scuba 2014 contestants

Cebu’s “Prince of Ballad” Philip Mancol serenaded all the contestants, while I handed in my final scores to be tallied up.

miss scuba philippines winner

Congrats to the winners of Miss Congeniality, Miss Photogenic, Bets Evening Gown and Swimsuit. They received a sash and cash prize.

amanda arbitrario, miss scuba winner

Confetti rained down for Amanda Arbitrario, winner of Miss Scuba 2014! Last year’s winner, Christine Paula Love Bernasor, gives her the tiara, while the mayor of Lapu-Lapu and Edwin cheer.

miss scuba contest winners

Amanda stands with Princess and Reygin, the second and first runner-ups. Congratulations to all!

sony dslr fireworks

We ended the night with cocktails at the afterparty by the beach. Fireworks exploded above us — I’ve never seen them from so close.

pacific cebu resort, sav hotels

It was an honor to be a judge in Miss Scuba, a beauty pageant with the goals of protecting the planet’s oceans, promoting safe diving practices, and inspiring the next generations.

Above is a selection of brands and styles featured in this post. Select the images for more details, and to shop.

Does this story make you think differently about beauty queens?

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