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Read on for the story of our Buddhist temple stay, and how these guest rooms are a hidden travel gem. In 1959, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi arrived from Japan to be the head of the Soto Zen temple in San Francisco. Plus, we felt great about supporting the Zen Center, and taking part in the Buddhist practice. One of the foundations of Zen Buddhism is to live in the moment — something that people often forget, leading to stress and unhappiness. The bathroom is as large as an apartment in Japan (400 sq ft), and stocked with every amenity imaginable. The Upper House is located at Pacific Place in Admiralty — an ideal location, only a few stops from Central and Causeway Bay. The Upper House staff goes out of its way to make guests blissfully happy, and left these thoughtful gifts in our room.
The Upper House is under the Swire Hotels umbrella, and designed by young architect Andre Fu. Once again, an example of the glorious guest service: the manager heard we were having a get-together, so he sent up a bottle of champagne! I wish I could have spent more time on the 49th floor Sky Lounge, which has a fireplace, snacks, and reading materials. Finally, whenever my filmmakers and I have a moment to breathe, we’ll capture stories about Asia subcultures for you. Many paid tribute to Africa, by depicting animals such as the ones we saw at Aquila Safari. Juma walked with us all around Woodstock, pointing out hidden works and talking about their inspiration. What a coincidence: this segmented rainbow lion statue perfectly matches my Thailand t-shirt! I thought the most successful works were the ones that were vivid, had a connection to Africa, and made you think. Time to explore Woodstock Exchange or WEX, a modern building that incubates young artists and creative shops. PS: Don’t forget, I will be in the Philippines (Cebu), China (Shanghai) and Hong Kong soon! If you miss it, you can instead visit the permanent Hello Kitty Secret Garden cafe (address: 19 Ormsby Street, Tai Hang near Causeway Bay). As you can see from his photos, the mall is filled with your favorite Sanrio characters, past and present. You know the 1990s revival is in full swing when you see Bad Badtz Maru, the angsty black penguin.
Hana Maru, the white seal from the Bad Badtz universe, seems to be directing the crowd into an orderly queue. Remember that this Sanrio food fiesta closes on September 14 in Hong Kong, so get there stat. Mr Skeleton went to another quirky Hong Kong exhibition, this time starring your favorite Japanese anime pirates. This little boy seems more enraptured with the toys than the gargantuan Battle Frankies, a type of battleship. Photography is allowed — unlike in Japan, the attitude towards photo-taking is more relaxed in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong always has funny, kawaii exhibitions — most are free, and open to the public. Remember when I saw the big floating rubber duck, and when John sat with 100 Doraemon statues? Next, our driver took us to the Victoria & Albert Waterfront, a favorite destination among both locals and tourists. One of the oldest houses is now the Bo Kaap Museum, filled with photos and objects that chronicle the district’s history over the years. Across the street lies Atlas Trading, a 70 year old spice shop with bins of exotic flavors. When we left, we saw that this image was superimposed on various backdrops, and packaged as a souvenir!
On the way back, we ran into a dassie, a squirrel-like rodent found only in southwestern Africa.
The dassie lives on rocky outcroppings, and since there are tourists carrying food on Table Mountain, they’ve become rather bold. A million thank yous to Cape Town Tourism, for bringing us to this fascinating and beautiful city!

Raise money automatically through simple, everyday actions - like searching the internet, shopping, or eating out! He came to Buddhism through the arts, Western philosophy, and participation in alternative communities. He is a Gerontologist who currently works with the families of those with brain-impairing conditions such as Alzheimer's Disease. The Board and Council have overall responsibility for the Center, with the Chair, (Viveka) and Center Director, (Padmatara), acting as an executive committe.
The Center Management Team (CMT) is responsible for the day to day support of retreats, keeping the building clean and organized, and other Center activities. The Teaching Kula focuses on evaluating and planning teaching, as well as suggesting policies. Center Management Team: Padmatara, Drew Folta, Hridayashri, Myra Bicknell, Mary Salome and Brad Schwagler.
The front hall is decorated with sparse but graceful elements, like this meditating Buddha. The door leads to the meditation hall, where all are welcome to take off their shoes and enter. The Zen Center offers lovely guest rooms for $105-$162 a night, which includes a healthy breakfast with the residents, and lunch and dinner by donation.
However, the longer you stay here, the more you’ll notice subtle elements that convey a warm and peaceful feeling. Our guests ate up everything in the complimentary Maxi Bar: free coconut water, juices, beer, sweets, cookies. As guests ascend, they enter into a serene mindset, leaving behind the bustle and noise of the city.
Yukiro enjoyed berry pancakes with creme fraiche, while I had truffled eggs on a croissant. The most basic rooms are $700 US a night, but the numerous perks and attentive service make it worth the value. I’m going back to Hong Kong, and for the first time, I’ll be in Cebu and Shanghai!
If you have tips for places to visit, especially in Shanghai and Cebu, please leave me a comment.
In 2011, a local artist called Freddy Sam launched a revival project, aiming to bring pride and color back into the community. This dog painting integrates with the existing materials of exposed brick and cracked walls. Juma told us that these murals revitalized the area, and created a sense of pride in the community. Many incorporate portraits of the homeowners, or elements that reflect their personalities. Children help out with the painting, and locals say they’re proud of their decorated homes. Some had important messages of anti-poaching; this one reminds us that hundreds of rhinos are still killed each year for their horns.
Woodstock is next to District 6, where 60,000 people of all ethnicities lived together until they were relocated by force in the 1970s.
I could eat their veggie sandwiches and protein-salad plates every day; everything is prepared with locally-source seasonal ingredients. The Twin Stars, popular in the 1980s, have made a comeback (probably because their retro-pastel color scheme fits with the current pastel-goth and fairy kei styling).
Hong Kong locals adore Hello Kitty and friends, so this exhibition got an enormous attendance.
In fact, Kuromi and My Melody are the major players since they have their own temporary cafe here. Notice that her pink hair bow is topped with a chef’s hat, forming a vaguely phallic symbol.
The backdrops are designed for 3D interaction, so that you can pretend to ride an ice cream truck with Hello Kitty, or take the cone from her hand. Unfortunately, the One Piece ship has sailed, but you should still check out Times Square Mall for its ever-changing free exhibits. When you visit HK, make an effort to find out what’s currently on (most take place at PMQ, Langham Place, Times Square, and Tsim Sha Tsui terminal). There’s no better way to see the scenic city and its beaches on the Atlantic Ocean coastline. As you’re probably aware, the city has a tumultuous history from the days of slavery and apartheid, to independence under Nelson Mandela.

Since the late 17th century, the Dutch have used this as a jail primarily for political prisoners, and as a leper colony. Many visitors take the ferry here, and go on tours led by guides who were formerly prisoners on the island.
There are many attractions for families including the Two Oceans Aquarium, and four museums. This was the traditional neighborhood for the Cape Malay, an ethnic group descended from the Indian and Malaysian slaves brought over by the Dutch East India Company.
Our guide told us about the insane Dutch system of racial classification: Cape Town was divided into black, white, colored, and Indian (each with sub-sections). They received worse treatment in prisons, and limited opportunities for jobs and businesses. She offers a unique cooking tour: visitors come into her house to learn how to make Cape Malay specialties, and eat lunch at her table.
At least she didn’t get bitten, unlike the peacock that pierced her skin during our safari. Coming up, I’ll take you on a tour of the street art, fashion designers, and African cuisine. To make a regular contribution, see Dana Program, or to make a one-time donation, see Donations & Payments page.
As a result, the Zen Center became a gathering spot for creatives in the Beat and hippie movements. The SFZC also has locations in Tassajara and Green Gulch, for more isolated retreats and intensive practice.
These accommodations aren’t listed in any hotel sites, and are an incredible value considering the location and experiences offered.
I hope you’ll also get the chance to visit, take a class, or rent a guestroom in this Buddhist monastery. The next day, there was a complimentary tea box in the room, along with a handwritten note!
I’m working on a number of travel projects, including a partnership with a new hotel group. Juma turned this tragedy into an impetus for change: he now uses art to educate children, and inspire social development in disadvantaged areas.
Today, Woodstock is a trendy hub with homes painted by dozens of international artists, mainly with messages of peace and love. For a drink, it’s hard to decide between the fresh lemonade, ginger kombucha, local roast coffee, and craft beers. They don’t take advance reservations, and patrons often must line up for hours to get a table. I’d be tempted to eat the pastel Twin Stars macaroons, Kuromi berry tart and Pom Pom Purin pannecotta. On Day 1, I experienced the city’s kind people, diverse neighborhoods, soulful cooking, and intriguing history.
Today, Cape Town has a new and developed vibe, and is a safe destination for anyone to visit.
The first post-apartheid President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, was famously imprisoned on Robben Island for 18 years. We finished with sweet koesisters, a traditional syrup-coated doughnut, washed down with cardamom tea.
Everything is close together in Cape Town, so you never have to travel far to reach attractions.
After he gave us a tour, we fell over on the floor, dazed by the unpretentious yet majestic treatment we had received! I’m also doing a major network TV shoot in Hong Kong, appearing on-camera as host and also arranging the production. It ended up being one of the most memorable meals I had in South Africa, and certainly the warmest.
The star of the show is the limestone free-standing bathtub, fronted by a curved, abstract sculpture made of sandstone.

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