GadlingTV’s Travel Talk 006: New York City, Engadget Show, Strikes & Protests!

GadlingTV’s Travel Talk, episode 6 – Click above to watch video after the jump

Ready for the City that Never Sleeps? This week we’re hitting the streets of Manhattan for a jam-packed episode that will take you through the Big Apple, behind the scenes of the Engadget Show, and show you how to get away from it all in a city like NYC.

This week we discuss the ongoing red-shirt protests in Thailand, the long awaited British Airways strike, significant new routes from Virgin America, a bus journey from D.C to Antarctica, and how NYC’s metro matches up against one of the most modern metros in the world.

Of course, there’s more Travel Tips with Bruce! and an epic Adventure that only left one of us curled up in a bathroom…

If you have any questions or comments about Travel Talk, you can email us at talk AT gadling DOT com.

Subscribe via iTunes:
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Hosts: Stephen Greenwood, Aaron Murphy-Crews, Drew Mylrea
Special guests: Mike Barish, Joshua Topolsky, and Bruce!
Produced, Edited, and Directed by: Stephen Greenwood, Aaron Murphy-Crews, Drew Mylrea
Special thanks: Chad Mumm & the Engadget Team


Camping with Mike
“Camp Walk”
Derek K Miller

Travel Tips with Bruce
“Sonata in E-flat Major, Hob. XVI:49, III. Tempo di Minuet”
Mario Ajero

Engadget Show
“Le Conseil Militair pour la Justice”

Adventure of the Week
“New York City Heat”
Dead Heart Bloom

“Indian Funk”

all songs courtesy of

Dim Sum Dialogues: Planes, Trams, & Automatic Doors

This is a continuation of yesterday’s column on the transportation of Hong Kong.

After seeing various Youtube videos of the infamous landing at Hong Kong’s now defunct Kai Tak Airport, I’m disappointed that I never had the chance to experience a 747 roaring over a narrow Kowloon street. But the beauty and convenience of Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok Airport make up for that disappointment, and have even earned it the first & second spots on international airport surveys for the past seven years.

For those of you that just can’t wait to throw your savings away at the Happy Valley Racecources, or blow it all in the numerous shopping malls of Hong Kong – the fastest and easiest way (but most costly – $13 USD) to get to the heart of the city is on the MTR’s Airport Express. Covering 35km in just 24 minutes, the trains depart every 12 minutes to the remote airport and convention center. If “investing” your money at the roulette tables of Macau is more to your liking, you don’t even have to officially enter the territory – a direct ferry terminal is situated before immigration in the airport for arriving passengers. The transit system was designed to be tourist-friendly, so there are plenty of accessible options.
Once you get settled inside the city, the MTR remains the most efficient way to get from end to end, or to cross under Victoria Harbor between Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon side. But as any well-traveled soul will tell you, the scenic route is often the best – and the Star Ferry offers some of the most enjoyable views of the city at the right price. For roughly USD 25¢, you can ride between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui – a service that has been operating since the 1870’s. The Star Ferry has become a major icon in Hong Kong, so much so that people often rent out ferries for a day to host private events, weddings, and dances on. For USD $500 to $700 for the day, it might not be the most luxurious cruise that you can take on the harbor – so I’d recommend sticking to the regular fare.

However, if the idea of hosting a party on public transport still appeals to you, look no further than HK Tramways. The Hong Kong tram system has been serving the city for over 100 years, with narrow double-decker tramcars running on overhead electric cables through the busiest areas of Hong Kong Island. When the expansion of the MTR threatened to make the tramways redundant, the public concluded to keep the service active because of it’s low fares and frequent stops on popular routes in the city. In my opinion, it is by far the most fun way to travel in Hong Kong. I guarantee that the views from the upper deck combined with the smells and sounds of the markets of Central will keep you entertained for your entire journey. If it doesn’t, I’ll personally mail you the 25¢ you spent on the journey. After you’ve sampled it (and fallen in love with it), get 25 of your HK friends to rent out a tram for USD $150 an hour and party your way through the city. Don’t get too distracted when you pass by Wan Chai though, the private trams run in a full loop that last from 2 hours to 3.5 hours.

Finally, if you refuse to take public transport, or the rain threatens to ruin that new designer item from Lane Crawford, Hong Kong taxis are remarkably cheap and easy to come by. Now I haven’t traveled anywhere in Asia, so this might just be my naivité here – but the taxis in Hong Kong have an amazing feature that I can’t believe doesn’t exist anywhere else (I’m sure it does, so readers help me out) – the back doors open automatically. The driver pulls up to your spot on the sidewalk, pulls a lever and bam – the door is open and ready for you to get in. Genius. Don’t worry about closing it on your way out either, because the driver has that covered too. On average, USD $15 will easily get you from one end of the major urban area to the other – with average city center cab rides being $5. Another reason I don’t particularly miss Los Angeles.

There you have it – the major travel methods in Hong Kong. Now that you (roughly) know how to get around, I’ll be taking you deeper into the destinations and traditions of this eclectic city. If you have specific questions about how to get around, or want to know more about the methods covered here – feel free to leave comments below.

Dim Sum Dialogues: The MTR

I love public transport. For me, it’s one of the factors that define whether a city is good or great…and after living in Los Angeles for 4 years, I’ve been overdue to live in a city with great transportation. I’ve navigated the underground systems of most of the major U.S cities, as well as London, Barcelona, & Paris – but none of them are as efficient or well-maintained as Hong Kong’s MTR.

The initial proposal for the MTR system began with four rail lines in 1967, with the first line opening in 1979. It has since expanded to 82 stations served by 10 rapid transit lines and 68 stations on 11 light rail lines – carrying an estimated 2.2 million passengers every day.

Each MTR station has multiple street exits that are easily marked alphabetically, with accompanying numbers for exits that are near each other. For instance, if two exits share the same street or provide two stairwells to opposite sides of a street, they are paired as A1 & A2. This is extremely useful when trying to arrange a meeting point with someone in the city…simply name the station and the exit and there’s no confusion on where to be.

Since 2000, the MTR corporation has begun to offer retail space for small shops in most stations. So it’s typical to find stores like 7-11, Circle K, and Mrs. Fields Cookies in every major station, with larger stations offering full fledged clothing stores or health and beauty shops. Small MTR signs encourage people in transit to “pause, take a short break” in the shops – something that might be inconceivable amidst the bustling Monday-Friday rush hour from 6-7pm.

Glass walls with sliding doors separate the platforms from the railways, with overhead signs that display when the next train will arrive. The trains are fairly standard, with each car seamlessly linked to the next – allowing passengers to move freely to less crowded cars.

PSP’s and iPhone’s are the standard gadgets found in the hands of at least 60% of the passengers on any given day. Verbal announcements are made before every stop in Cantonese, Mandarin and English, respectively – and regularly remind passengers to refrain from eating or drinking in the trains or in the stations (which, to my surprise is strictly obeyed). LED signs above each door map the train’s progress on the line, and indicate which side of the train the doors will open on at the next stop. It’s smooth, fast, and cheap – the most you’ll end up paying from one end of the city to the other is the equivalent of $2 USD.

After about a month of riding the MTR, two facts dawned on me: first, there are no bathrooms to be found in any of the stations. This is probably the biggest drawback of the system – but with abundance of McDonald’s on Hong Kong’s streets, finding a nearby toilet is never really a problem. The second revelation was that some of the biggest shopping destinations are conveniently situated directly on top of a few of the major MTR stations.

After a couple of online searches, I learned that the MTR corporation is also one of the largest property developers in Hong Kong – collecting major profit from constructing shopping centers, office spaces, and residential buildings on the land above their stations…a perfect example of the sharp business sense that is prevalent in Hong Kong.

So if you’re headed to Hong Kong – rest assured that you’ll be able to find your way around very easily. If you’re planning on staying for more than a week, or will return frequently for business, don’t forget to pick up an Octopus card – the RFID system that allows you to load money onto a smart card for payment in supermarkets, fast-food restaurants, convenience stores, at parking meters and even vending machines. It’s genius, and just one more reason why I find the MTR to be one of the best rapid transit systems in the world.

The rest of the week I’ll be covering Hong Kong’s various modes of transport. Stay tuned to find out what makes the taxis here unique, and which public transport you can throw a party on…

Dim Sum Dialogues : An Introduction

This post is the first installment in a twice-weekly feature column covering the culture, sights, sounds and current events of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.

I think the best way that I can introduce myself is to explain how I ended up in Hong Kong.

A year ago I graduated from UCLA’s film school after studying interactive design & media for two years and documentary film for two years. With no firm job offers and an eager desire to travel, I accepted an invitation to chronicle the construction of an orphanage in Arusha, Tanzania. Our original assignment got sidetracked when we stumbled upon a different orphanage that had essentially been abandoned by its staff and financiers. We sought to find out how this could happen, and what it could tell us about the larger picture of international aid in countries like Tanzania.

My partner on the project is a classmate from UCLA, and a native of Hong Kong. He invited me to return to Hong Kong to edit the material together. After six months of eating beans & rice, a bout of malaria, and once-a-week hot showers, the glittering skyline of Hong Kong sounded pretty appealing. Okay, very appealing.

It’s been nearly four months since I arrived on the Asian continent, and I’ve long forgotten chips mayai for tasty dai pai dong and the unpredictable dalla dallas for the ultra-efficient MTR. I’ve been lost in shopping malls that surpass the luxury and scale of any that I’ve found in America, and been engaged by the blend of modernity and ancient Chinese culture.The title of this series, Dim Sum Dialogues, stems from a famous type of Chinese cuisine. Dim sum literally means “a bit of heart” or “touch heart”, because it was originally only served as a light snack – not a main meal. It’s a practice traditionally served from early morning until noon, intended to be an occasion shared with family members or close friends with long conversations over many cups of tea. I like the idea of Dim Sum as a practice, and I want this series to be simply something that serves as a snack until you are curious enough to find out more about Asia by yourself. I want it to be something that engages you to debate, ask questions and participate with me, as if a friendly conversation over a long serving of steamed buns and rice noodle rolls. And occasionally, I hope the naiveté of a westerner’s first experience in Asia makes you laugh.

I’ll be covering my revelations about Chinese culture, the colorful history that has shaped Hong Kong, and applicable current events from all over Southeast Asia. Occasionally, I’ll be reflecting on my experiences from Africa as we continue to edit the project and make follow up trips to Tanzania. So whether you’re fluent in Cantonese or have never even considered making a trip to see the Great Wall, I hope that you’ll find something in this series that you enjoy – and that you’ll join in the dialogue too.

– Stephen