I Love Hong Kong: Mong Kok

If you know me by now, it’s pretty obvious that I am a devoted Forever 21 shopper junkie. I may be twice as old as 21, but that sure the heck doesn’t stop me. Pretty much over 80% of my wardrobe very well may be from Forever 41–op 21! It used to be when I needed a day to chill out, I’d head down to Causweway Bay (20-30 minutes away) and hit the 6 story Forever 21. With that vacated, if I want my fix, I must head over to Mong Kok for the three story Forever 21 that remains in Hong Kong. That’s ok. I love Mong Kok, and even though it’s a little over an hour away, it’s always fun to head to the chaos.

Mong Kok, a neighborhood on Kowloon side that’s even crazier and busier than any neighborhood on the island. But I love it. I love Mong Kok! I did something very, very different this time around for my I love Hong Kong series: I just brought my camera along with me and simply asked strangers to take my picture. That’s right! I’d walk up to people and ask them to take my picture. Hong Kong folks are pros at the selfie, so it didn’t even phase them when I asked.

I will say that this Forever 21, with its three stories, and despite being in the highly dense Mong Kok, is an amazingly calm Forever 21. I have never had to wait for a dressing room, there’s always space to move about, and even though it’s further away, it’s a very manageable shop. The folks over there even know me!

After a thorough look around my store, I head across the street to check out another favorite of mine: NYX Cosmetics. Again, the girls here are so kind. They always help me find something to buy! (I don’t think it’s too hard. I’m definitely easy bait!!)

Now for some of the cultural and very fun bits of Mong Kok. These are the red packets meant for lai see at Chinese New Year. Let me translate–money! Given to anyone younger than yourself. So, if I were a celebrating CNY with my family, I’d be doling out all the cash! I’m the oldest of five with six nephews and nieces; I’d only receive packets from my folks….

These stores, filled with the goods needed at Chinese New Year, are found all over–all year long. Lai see is also given out at weddings too.

Lots of peeps….

I seriously need to ask someone what these tripods are all about, but this is my guess based on what I witness every time I walk down this street. I think there may be two purposes. First, some of the vendors take pictures for people. But this activity seems rare compared to the next. Tons of people, I mean tons, simply sing their own little karaoke hearts out. It’s rather hilarious–without being disrespectful of course. And some of these folks must have true fans because there are always audiences. I’ll have to investigate a bit more to see if my two theories are correct. Hey, maybe I should try a gig of singing. Just kidding! I’m tone deaf.

This is an example of a building under renovation. The entire site will have bamboo scaffolding built around it. This is a very, very common sight seen all over Hong Kong. For such a modern city, the bamboo scaffolding is always a surprise; but hey, if it works, it works!

There you have it: Mong Kok.
Yes, it has one of my favorite stores, but even so, I love going there anyway. There’s always something new to see and learn about Hong Kong!

Angkor Wat: Day 2

One day at Angkor Wat doesn’t suffice. In fact, Vincent and Kevin went back a third day on mountain bikes just to cruise around. Unfortunately on our second visit to Angkor Wat Gigi wasn’t feeling well–at all. She was such a trooper, continuing on, but by the fourth temple, she lost it. Literally. We had managed to see three though which was plenty for me. I immediately returned back to the hotel with my sick little Gig while the fellas stayed on. Momentarily, I got sick approximately 8 hours later. It was a nasty but quick flu–thank goodness. But boy, Gigi was such a trooper. In any of these pics you will notice how pale and non Gigi-like she was.

See that hole in the middle–that’s where the bamboo pole would go. In this way two people were able to take either side of the bamboo pole and transport the bricks that were used to build these temples. Amazing, huh?

This is a regular market scene. It actually could be anywhere in Southeast Asia!

We had two really great tuk tuk drivers both days. They were so sweet with us. There was this older guy, and then a younger one that I really wish I had captured. I guess I must go back….

See how totally ill Gigi looks. She couldn’t even smile her real self into the occasion. I felt so bad after she got so sick!

Again, it just isn’t the real Gig.

Gigi isn’t the only photographer in the family. When Gigi allows Vincent to borrow hers, he takes some pretty good shots too. Hmmm, his birthday is in May…

Once I sweated my way through this cute blouse with just a touch of yellow–yes, you will see me trying to attempt this spring! I bought myself an “I <3 Cambodia" tee which after this trip is completely true! Again, we will be back....

This is Kevin’s blogger pose. Pretty good eh?

Happy Chinese New Year!

Chinese New Year

It’s the Year of the Dog! Happy Chinese New Year!! Remarkably, one of the best things from living overseas (for over 20 years!) has been experiencing all the wonderful festivals and holidays around the world. With three years in Beijing and our sixth year in Hong Kong, we’re on our 9th CNY! It’s such a fun holiday too. First the house gets cleaned and household becomes orderly. What’s not to like about some spring cleaning!? The holiday celebrates new beginnings, so it’s best to start off in a clean way–so to speak. Good health and wealth are the wishes for every year–basically everyone desires a good year. I can agree with that. Family time is the most important; the eldest in a family hosts everyone. Games and candies are out for everyone to enjoy–a majohng table is always going somewhere in the house. (I learned last year and experienced some serious beginner’s luck!) Finally lai see, red packets, are shared. The youngest receive the red envelopes filled with money. These special packets are wide spread since usually someone is usually still the youngest until they are the patriarch and matriarch. There’s usually an aunt or uncle out there though that might still be older than grandma and grandpa–I say this because a recent older taxi driver told us he still gets packets! He was definitely in his late 60s, maybe even 70. Regardless of the money, Chinese New Year is a very special holiday. Happy Year of the Dog!!

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year

Yes to red! It’s an auspicious color for the Chinese, so it’s seen everywhere. I do a lot of shopping after the Christmas and New Year sales. When I saw a table of berets at Niko and … (a super hip Japanese clothing and home store–the Japanese are amazing marketers, click the link), I wasn’t sure which color to go with. There was grey and black, a khaki version, and then a red one on the table that when I put on said, “Go with me!” I couldn’t resist this bright beret, and happily I’m wearing the heck out of it (also seen here in Lan Kwai Fong). This year’s Hong Kong winter has been cold enough for some sort of head topper each day, and I’ll go ahead and admit I’m enjoying all the hat wearing!

Chinese New Year

Do you celebrate Chinese New Year?
Kung Hei Fat Choy!

PS I’m realizing now that this would have been the perfect post to highlight my pooch, Rani! I’ll save that one for another time…

Angkor Wat

Buddha

Goodness, we’re seriously into February, and before my family travels again for Chinese New Year, I better share pictures from the beginning of January. After spending an amazing Christmas and New Year with my sister’s family, the four of us with my sister’s mother-in-law went on to travel to Siam Reap, Cambodia. We were able to visit Angkor Wat twice. All I can say is, “Holy TEMPLES!” Angkor Wat is actually the largest religious complex in the world! These pictures are just from one day’s visit, and we saw so much. This is a picture heavy post, so I’ll quit writing and let the images speak….

Angkor Wat

I’m happiest in the library! (Proof from our first stop of the day.)

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

monks

monk

All of a sudden a large group of young monks was amongst us. They were tourists at Angkor Wat just like us. I found this monk to be so breathtakingly beautiful. He was definitely shy, but he allowed me to take his portrait. This monk below served as my translator. He seriously cracked me up! First of all he was so kind, translating for me allowing for the photo shoot that ensued. After all was said and done though, he got out his iPad, went straight to Facebook, and made sure we became “friends” right away. So, amongst my Facebook friends, there is a very kind Buddhist monk among you!!

monk

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Within the ancient temple walls, there are young monks sitting about. For a donation, they will offer up a prayer for you. I still have the two threads from my two blessings around my right wrist. I am not allowed to take them off; rather, they should fall off naturally. After a year, I may take them off once I’ve received another Buddhist’s blessing–signified by a new string.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

I saved the best for last: my little photographer–I love seeing her in action. She didn’t even know I captured her in her element.

Have you been been to a Buddhist temple?
Stay tuned for day two’s tour of Angkor Wat next Monday….

I Love Hong Kong: LKF

The signs on this red wall say, “No posting on this wall.”

For this round’s neighborhood of the I love Hong Kong series, I went with Lan Kwai Fong–also known to locals as LKF. This neighborhood has a split personality: by day it has shops like Cotton On and Sasa, there’s a Starbucks across the way from these two stores, and there are plenty of dining options (although sadly, Boomshack was closed, and it was the main reason we were in the area!). Then by night, this strip on a hill filled with bars, pubs, and clubs, becomes a packed block party. It can be quite fun, but as an educator, one never knows who they might run into, so there’s that. Plus, it’s a bit of a scene–one for the singles. However, I will say, a night out with the girls can end with some fun dancing in this neighborhood (and I’ve never ran into anyone!). Date night is also a possibility: start at a stellar roof top bar head to California tower and cruise up to the Cé la Vie; it’s magical up there amongst the other skyscrapers all perched on the hill. Then have an amazing dining option at Brickhouse, with its fusion of Asian and Mexican–they have the best watermelon salad in town. Don’t expect to make a reservation though; it’s one of those show-up-first get-on-the-list type of places–that have become very popular in Hong Kong. The best thing that I love about LKF is it’s always bustling whether it’s the middle of the day or the middle of the night!

Hey, hey, hey! Look who’s making an appearance! I love that he photobombed me in a bunch of pictures this time around!!

I finally figured out how to wear these touches of scarlet with my red beret and red belt bag. They’re just accents amongst the all black with touches of white. I think it finally worked to wear these two new accessories.

My photographer, Gigi, seriously gets the best shots: look at that lady looking at me as I’m looking extremely dorky. Love it! I had to share it!!

Um…. I wasn’t the only blogger in the neighborhood!

Where would you like to see next? Midlevels or Causeway Bay?!

Elegant Elephants

Our Christmas day this past 2017 was completely magical: we spent the entire day with some very elegant elephants! Elephants have long been a favorite animal in the Krembs’ family, so spending Christmas day with them was an extremely cool gift. The other amazing part of Christmas 2017 was being with my sister’s family. In the photo above you will the four Krembs, my sister and her family with husband and three kids, her mother-in-law, and her husband’s brother plus cousin and his wife. We were a party of 13! The night before we had all exchanged gifts via a Secret Santa. To say it was fun to be with everyone is an understatement. Because we live overseas, we often spend Christmas with just the four of us; this Christmas was especially unique and one that we will all remember forever–especially Christmas day with these elegant elephants!

This blog started as a family blog back in 2006! It’s evolved since then, yet I wanted to share a memory from way back. Here’s a picture of the kiddos as toddlers. Vincent naturally took care of his younger sister. I don’t have any pictures from our elephant experience from that first trip to Goa, India, so I’ll share the story here: we took our first Indian beach trip during our first break of our first year. We had just come from the beach party country of Venezuela. We often went to Margarita Island where the rum was flowing and the tanga (thong bikinis) were jiggling to the salsa music on the beach. As we sat on the very quiet beach of Goa, India, we felt an intense longing for the chaos of Venezuelan beaches. It was then in our self-pity, that I looked way off into the distance, and I saw a real dark, large blob. The blob kept coming closer and closer, and we had now idea what it was. Form finally began to take shape, and we realized an elephant was coming toward us! As we sat there on the beach with two toddlers aside us we watched this elegant elephant pass by. It was remarkable to say the least. Vinnie and I got up, held hands, and followed this gigantic beast. We were in awe. We never considered the Indian beaches boring after that, and Vincent and I rode many elephants together during our stay in the beautiful country of India. When we had to choose a partner for Thailand, I instantly asked Vincent if he’d ride with me.

I love the calm of my sister in these two pictures; look at the reverence she expresses in her hand gestures. I think it’s ok if I share that Julie was a bit scared, but she made it through, and in the end I think she found the elephants to be magical.

If by chance you visit Chiang Mai, Thailand, may I recommend Woody’s Elephants to you. They really care for their elephants. Each elephant has his own mahout, and as a witness those fellas really love their elephant. Also, lunch was amazing!

This is Tim and Marina. It was so fun to travel with these two. They gobbled up the culture with such a zest for life–same with Carol below. We feel quite special to have family extend beyond blood! (Stay tuned for more pictures with Carol; she traveled to Cambodia with us at the end of Christmas vacation.)

The first thing they did at Woody’s Elephants was write all of our names on our hand in Thai. This says “Annie” and “Elle.” We were kind of shocked how similar our two names looked….

Have you met an elephant before?
What did you think?

Covered Perfectly

covered perfectly

I get pretty excited when a brand reaches out to me–it’s like, “Yes! I’m doing something right!” When a female entrepreneur contacts me, I get even more excited–like with this cozy loden green lounge suit/pajamas. Pauline Durban founded Covered Perfectly when she couldn’t find tops that made her feel good while wearing them. Rather than deal with too short of a sleeve or no tummy coverage, she made a clothing line to suit her needs. She started with just tops in 2013, but since that time her line has extended to pants, skirts, and even dresses. Everything in her line is made from the super cozy fabric called MicroModal–and I can attest that the fabric feels very soft. Not only that, but waking up in something presentable right away made me feel so good–basically like the line totes, I felt covered perfectly! Add a little Lipstick Queen Frog Prince mood lipstick, and I was set–and these shots were literally taken straight out of bed. I mean look at my bedhead!!

covered perfectly

covered perfectly

covered perfectly

I love mood lipsticks. I think it might have to do with my lil’ sis in the sorority I was a part of my first two years of college. Her name was Candice, and she got me hooked on those magic mood lippies from Fran Wilson (this ten pack looks real fun–it’s like a crayon box of mood lipstick goodness!). Do you remember those? Candice had the hottest, coral pink, bright lips back in 1991. I had to have them! Ironically, once we got to Bangkok and I headed to Watsons, I think I pretty much found THE best Magic Lip Balm: it’s a perfect reddish pink, it lasts super long (like the next morning kind of stain!), and the best part is it has an SPF of 30. I’ve linked it to the Thailand store, but I’m on the hunt to see how and where this can be purchased outside of Asia. In fact, I think my hunt for the very best mood lipstick is worth of its post…. What do you think? In fact, the mood lipstick I found tonight while writing this post combines the best of both worlds: metallic AND mood! Yes, it’s in my Amazon shopping cart. Now I just have to decide which color(s)!

covered perfectly

covered perfectly

This post gives proof that I can wake up out of bed and both feel and look pretty good. In my lovely lounge suit from Covered Perfectly with a little mood lipstick there are two other little tricks that make me feel presentable. One, I’ve got a bralette on–that is a must. I’m to busty to go without a bra. The other is the eyelash extensions I’ve got on in these shots. They are so nice to wear–even if they wreak havoc on your eyelashes after they’re gone. (I’m in that stage now. Oh well…)

Please do go check out Pauline’s line of Covered Perfectly. And thank you for the lounge suit/pajamas Pauline!

And guess what?! If you’d like to purchase from Covered Perfectly, add the code AK20 at checkout for 20% off!!

I Love Hong Kong: Wan Chai

I’ve been missing out on something, something with a whole lot of potential: Hong Kong! So many times I find an interesting wall and then use that as my backdrop. Well, there’s so much more to this city than it’s cool, grungy walls. For this reason, I’m starting a new series today called “I love Hong Kong”–which is so completely true. Pretty much every weekend we venture out into the city, and I always dress up, so I’ve decided to share the neighborhoods I love in this great, bustling, and actually very tiny island city.

My “I Love Hong Kong” series starts with a neighborhood called Wan Chai. Historically it was known as the spot for the sailors to go to when they came to port. Sadly a red light district still exists, but it’s easy to avoid that area. An extremely great book to detail this part of Hong Kong is a story called The World of Suzie Wong by Richard Mason.

Basically there’s this very busy street called Queen’s Road that runs through the northern part of the island. When you’re on Queen’s Road East you can pretty much head north toward the waterfront onto any one of the alleys and find bustling markets and funky store fronts. Now that the neighborhood has experienced gentrification in multiple places, the café, restaurant, and bar options are super fun to explore. The tram runs through Wan Chai, and there’s an MTR stop as well. It’s one of our favorite neighborhoods to explore because there’s something always new–or often quite old, to stumble upon.

This bamboo…it’s actually scaffolding. Yes, the Hong Kongers use bamboo that scales stories and stories upward into the sky, and the bamboo creates the scaffolding. Next time I’m out and about, I’ll make sure to take a building covered in scaffolding.

Yes, sequin mini skirts are great for New Years Eve, but in my opinion they’re also great for Saturdays around the town. Why not! I feel like life, even little daily, mundane Saturdays can be elevated with a little sparkle. I don’t relegate my sequin options to special events. Rather, I like to make a day strolling out and about in the city a special day. Why not make the best of the best, right?!

By chance we have found our optical store in Wan Chai. They are the sweetest folks in this little store. Part of this past Saturday’s venture was to get my prescription updated. Awww, I can see again! I’ve been needing to purchase new contacts, and the world is now visible to me again–thanks to the gentlemen at Wing Kwong Optical (Shop IC, G/F, Newman House; 35-45 Johnston Road; Wan Chai, Hong Kong).

I’m always happy touring around with Gigi!

I love Hong Kong!
Shall I continue with more posts like this highlighting the city I call home?

Merry Thai Christmas

Do you remember our trip to the Philippines in October? Remember how I was gushing about the Forever 21 in Clark, Philippines? Well. It was during that trip that I basically purchased all the holiday outfits I’d wear during this winter break holiday to Thailand. When I saw this bright off-the-shoulder red lacy dress, I knew for sure it was going to be my Christmas dress in Thailand. Here in Railay, Krabi, all these decorated longboats serve as the perfect celebratory backdrop. In a spot with no cars–except for an occasional hotel golf cart–these longboats are the mode of transportation. While obviously rickety, they are definitely a fun ride!

I’m about to make a very spoiled statement: I’ve lost track as to how many times we’ve visited this beautiful country. We first came to Thailand in 2000–we think. Back then we were living and working in Saudi Arabia for the airline company’s school; we travelled like banshees on I-90 tickets (in airline speak that means you pay 10% of the ticket but fly standby). We met both of Kevin’s brothers here in Bangkok. (Also within that 2 year time during our employment at the airline company, we also travelled to Hong Kong for the first time and definitely fell in love with our now current home!) Basically ever since living in India, Thailand has been the place we’d go for some luxurious yet affordable comforts. And yes, each trip always seems to end with some awesome shopping for Annie in Bangkok. (This trip we’re on will be no different!) The extremely special part of this trip is my sister is here! We spent two days with them already on their sailboat, and tomorrow we meet her and her family in Chiangmai Mai. (For moment to moment details follow my Instagram stories!)

Here’s my silver fox photographer. While he refuses to let me take videos of him, he’s really getting into the selfie these days. I guess, when I think back on our 20+ relationship, he’s always been up for a selfie–even before that’s what they were called!

Have you been to Thailand?

What sort of things would you like to see while I’m here?

Merry Christmas (from last year!)

Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas with pictures that were meant to be sent out last year… I had the best intentions of sending out a New Year card then a Chinese New Year Card, then maybe just a card, and well, there never was a card! These are a few of the family pictures we took during our trip to India last Christmas. Oh, it was such a fabulous trip! We started in Bombay meeting up with old friends which was so special. Then the magic started happening once we got to Rajasthan. These first two pics were taken on Christmas Eve in Udaipur.

A trip to Rajasthan wouldn’t be complete without a little safari action. We actually saw a snow leopard on this excursion. It was wicked cool! The animal just sat perched up there on his rock, chillin’. It was quite a sight. And typical of an India excursion, we stopped for chai and biscuits.

Another magical moment to be had in Rajasthan is staying in an old havelli. This havelli was ancient–very rustic too, but it was a very cool experience.

Finally, our trip was completed in Jodhpur’s Red Fort where we zip lined across the canyons. It was a phenomenal experience, one that won’t be forgotten!

Our family is very blessed. Kevin and I have somehow created this life full of travel. It’s exciting and fun, and we all have a really good time together. Now, today we start our three week vacation for winter break. We’ll be spending our time in Thailand–with my sister and her family!! We can hardly wait! It’s going to be so fun to share our special Thai times with our family members!

Merry Merry Christmas from the Krembs!