Friday, March 26, 2010


TCM=Traditional Chinese Medicine. It consists of acupuncture, herbs, diet, and lifestyle. I have been intrigued by TCM since coming to Hong Kong. All my Chinese friends see a TCM doctor. So, I finally went for my own diagnosis. TCM works with the balance between yin and yang energies, and its goal is to balance the system. It treats the whole body, not just the symptoms. TCM is a very different philosophy than western medicine, and it takes an open mind to believe in it.

I was curious to see if TCM could help my chronic TMJ and a few other minor aliments. I was prescribed weekly acupuncture sessions and given some herbs to drink. The herbs are horrible, but I do feel better taking them. The acupuncture is wonderful, very calming. Additionally, I am making changes to my diet. It is recommended that I do not eat any raw foods such as salad and eat mostly warm/hot foods and drinks. I should limit caffeine, alcohol, dairy, refined wheat, sugar, and fruit. It may seem a bit wacky, but I really feel better. I am going to stick with it for awhile.

Friday, March 19, 2010


I recently paid my Hong Kong taxes and reflected on how vastly different the process is than the US system. First, I take home 100% of my paycheck which is standard (OK I do have to contribute about US$125/month to something equivalent to Social Security). Absolutely zero taxes are withdrawn from anyone's paycheck.

The HK tax year follows the fiscal year, April 1-March 31, so in January, the tax form comes in the mail. It is literally 2 pages long and takes about 10 minutes to fill out. It is very similar to the short form I did in college. Again, this is the standard tax form for everyone. I don't have a special circumstance because I'm an American. I am a local hire.

About a month after the tax form is submitted, the bill comes. This is a bill for the whole year's taxes to be paid in one lump sum. Hong Kong has more or less a flat tax rate of 15% which is amazing considering all the social programs including almost free healthcare for everyone. Thus, it is no mystery how much your tax bill will be--far different situation than in the US.

To pay my taxes, I could do it online through my bank's website. They have a special button to "Pay Tax", just type in the amount and it is done. Easy Peasy. Why can't it be this simple in the US? I know many American's would not have the discipline to save 15% of each paycheck for an entire year. Isn't this is heart of America's current economic problems?

In comparison, our US, expat tax return is over 40 pages long!

Similarly, when we first contemplated moving to Hong Kong, we were warned that banking was difficult. The reality is that it is difficult to get credit cards and loans, but every other aspect that we've encountered is much more streamlined than in the US. I think the main reason is that the majority of people use 2 main banks. Paying bills is super easy and can be done at the ATM simply by transferring money from your account into the service provider's since you both bank at HSBC. I love it.

Good luck to all the US folks who are currently struggling with their tax forms.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Urban Improvement

I have mentioned before that Hong Kong does not have a strong art scene or vibe. The city is so focused on money and shopping. Most urban improvement and development results in more shopping, housing, and/or eating. I was delightfully surprised to see the most recent project take on a green and arty theme. There is a heavily traveled walkway connecting to the Mid Level escalators that is getting a face lift. Before, it contained a few rundown shops and was often inhabited by beggars and homeless. Now, it is decorated with hand-painted murals and living walls. Of course, there is some life-size anime, but at least it is handmade. I have seen many people stopping to photograph and admire the new design. Way to go Hong Kong!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Private Kitchen

After 2.5 years in Hong Kong, we finally went to our first meal at a private kitchen. A private kitchen is rather like a small, private restaurant and quite a unique experience. The one we went to, Da Ping Huo, it quite famous. It is owned and operated by a husband and wife team. The husband works the front of the house and helps serve, and the wife is the head chef and entertainment. At the end of the meal, she sings an opera song, as she is a former Chinese opera star. There is no menu and no choices; however, the meal is multiple courses with lots of variety. The cuisine is Sichuan and very spicy. We absolutely loved it, and it was pretty reasonable. This was the first time in ages that Erik and I went out by ourselves for dinner in Hong Kong.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I Heart Sydney

Wow, Sydney is amazing. We spent about a week there for Chinese New Year, and it exceed our expectations. We had about 5 other destinations we wanted to go to which were fully booked, because we planned so late. Sydney was a "lame fall-back" since tickets were still available. It is crazy that Australia is "close" to Hong Kong, but Sydney is still a 9 hour plane ride. Our 6 days were spent as follows: 1 day at the nature preserve visiting the koalas, 2 days at 2 different beaches, 1 day in the mountains, and 2 days in the city. We did everything by public transportation.

I love the beach. Sydney's beaches were the best I've ever seen and the most intimidating. At Bondi beach, the current was so strong that I was knocked down knee deep. I quickly gave up my idea of taking a surfing lesson. I know when to fold.The food was excellent, very fresh. The local wine and beer was great. Coming from polluted Hong Kong, we appreciated the clean, clear air. It's been the first trip in a while where we spoke the native language. The only negative of the whole trip was that Sydney is expensive. While it is true that we are used to cheap South East Asia destinations, Australia seemed more expensive than the US; more like Europe. A simple lunch at a deli (no wait service) was US$30. A Coke at the convenience store was about US$3. Regardless, Erik and I would go back in a heartbeat.

Here is Erik's beautiful slideshow followed by a few choice shots and must have pics.