Seeing People Change

Lately, a single thought has been lingering in my mind:  “Are people changing that much that I haven’t noticed? I feel like I’ve stayed the same as I always have been.”

Last month, I took a trip to Taipei to visit my friend Wei Ni. I haven’t seen him for 3 years when he moved back to Taipei from San Jose, California due to his dad’s deteriorating health. So I figured since I have a bunch of free time, it would be nice to get together since I live in Hong Kong and the flight is only 1.5 hours away.

When I saw him, already I had the impression he was a different person, never mind the looks (I guess staying off American food reeaaaallllly slims you down) but his personality too.

I remembered back in the days when we would go out for drinks, oyster farms (even though i hate oysters), bars, Karaoke, camping etc… He was always there to encourage me to drink up or more. This time though… I was the only encouraging him. Yes life circumstances are different; his dad passed away and he took over his dad’s dental clinic. He seems settle down with a nice girlfriend and living a rather simple and quiet life.

Not that there is anything wrong with that, I’m glad he is happy and found someone to be happy with… its just not the Wei Ni that i remembered… this is Calm Wei Ni and the whole time, I was both happy and thought “Where is the Crazy Wei Ni?”

Change is inevitable as was quoted in the Matrix. I realized that and as I see everyone around me changing, getting married, moving on to other countries, starting a family or opening a new business… I look back at myself and think… “What has changed in me?”

C.S. Lewis once wrote “It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”

It seems to me that change is just another natural part of life… part of me doesn’t want to change yet and is comfortable living as I am. Yet I’ve come to realized… I too have changed. Certainly the experiences of living in Hong Kong couple with doing a startup here and affected me. I am more independent, can survive in a foreign place and learned so much about business that it all felt like a long college abroad trip.

It will be interesting to look back years from now, the type of person I was (probably make fun of myself In the process).


Continue Reading

A Trip to Taipei, Taiwan Part 1

Last week, I took a last-minute trip to Taipei. It was a sudden decision and I booked the flight and place the night before. I need a break from what was happening with the two startups I’m involved in and away from this bustling city. My friend Monique persistently persuaded me to go to Taipei as she was going from Hong Kong. I also wanted to visit one of my best friends Wei Ni whom I haven’t seen for 3 years since he moved back to Taipei. Wei was a friend I made in the US a while back (he moved there from Taipei) and it was sad to see him moved back here due to family reasons. I contacted him to see if he would be free which sealed the deal.

So Thursday to Monday was my duration of stay and this time, I made use of AirBnb, a very famous startup from Silicon Valley who gained worldwide recognition.

I was never a fan of staying at hotels… I always felt they were boring and too proper. Which is why AirBnB and service apartments were that much interesting and what perfect chance to try it out!

Photo Mar 21, 12 20 25 PM (1) I ended up booking a room in a 3 bedroom flat next to Yongchun MRT station, 1 station away from Taipei 101 and few from downtown. It was ideal location. This allowed me to connect deeper with the city and feel like I am living as a local. Living in Hong Kong, I was used to taking the subway system to learning the MRT in Taipei was a breeze. There’s event apps to help you with your direction.

One tip, when you get out of the Taipei Airport custom, buy a sim card at the stand on the right when you exit the arrival gate. The deals are better than the ones you can buy in the city.Photo Mar 20, 12 11 15 PM

When I arrived to Taipei, the weather was a bit cloudy with some light showers. Thinking it would be nice and warm (according to the weather app), I only had with me shirts and tees. Well here was a perfect opportunity to do some shopping. Luckily my friend Monique who also came to Taipei the night become, helped me buy a jacket (and few more later) as she can speak Mandarin.

The rest of the trip followed with more eating and drinking and repeat. My landlord took my friend Monique and myself to visit Danshui as catching the sunset there was beautiful… except it was a rainy day. Still, we got to try some street food and visit around a rather nice area.

Monique’s family in Taipei invited me for dinner that evening. It was quite enjoyable and they made me feel welcome. They tried to speak to me in English and my dialect Chaozhou which I was glad about. I’ve never seen Taiwanese people eat that fast before though… Monique’s uncle and son are… amazingly fast at swallowing food lol.

Dinner done and all full… I head into a street market to buy myself a jacket as its freezing cold. Few hours and careful pickings later, I have myself a light jacket and head back to meet my friend in front of his clinic to go for couple drinks.

Wei takes me to check out the rooftop at W Hotel which we have been become in San Francisco. Yes its nice but since its so windy and chilly… we left after one drink. I still glad to be able to have taken a few photos. The drinks are as pricey as their US counterpart. Worth it for the view but you better off getting something strong.

Next bar is called Barcode, a very chill, classic jazz bar opened by Taiwan Gangsters apparently. Few drinks…couple shots and few extras, we decided to call it a day as my friend has work the following morning.

Continued in part 2…

Continue Reading

Doing a startup is hard. Doing a startup in another country is even harder.

I wanted to take the time to write a reflection post today after spending more than a year here in Hong Kong. As many of you know, I came from the Bay Area of Sunny California. The warm weather, the nice drive with a convertible on highway 17 to the beach or the special brewery house and munching on my family’s trade bagels. Boy do I miss these little seemingly nothing moment.

When you’re exposed in the Bay Area to all the happenings, the tech stories, the people changing the world, you feel your life is boring; but a dot in a sea of sand. One wise man once said, “The greatest struggle is to be something different from what the average man is.” And I guess that was my feeling too at that time I decided to embark for Hong Kong. Although the original plan was to come for only three months, it grew to 7 and still until now.

There are times where I wonder if this is the place where I really belong. Life is challenging, cost are high, there is a somewhat language/culture barrier yet Hong Kong has this magical feeling about itself. Although most expat view Hong Kong as a hub where one comes and goes in life, to learn about himself and learn what is most important. There are friends here like my buddy Vladimir, who reminded me to keep going through the tough time, the impact on the community I’ve made, and the important of finding oneself in your own journey of life. “A man can tell another man’s worth just by looking him. Men do not have to speak to each other, it’s a feeling we just get, we just understand. JM, you’re a good man.”

There are days where I just feel the world is a wall too tall to climb. Not enough grip for me to hold on to and one wrong step and everything will come crashing down. These moments are quickly forgotten thanks to my group of supporting friends. These friends who encourage me during the tough times, I cannot never be thankful enough. I’m often reminded of a quote by Will Smith, “If you’re absent during my struggle, don’t expect to be present during my success.” 

Being in Hong Kong, you never truly feel as if you belong. I did not come here seeking love or here to work at a bank. Hong Kong was never more then just a temporary stop. The fast lifestyle, the distant feeling you get from people and most of all the somewhat fake friendship that seems the common norm especially during networking session. Although these are prevalent throughout the world, you glimpse at it from an outside perspective and cannot help to surprise you. People here are focused and often called rude because they only see themselves and where they should be heading. No fault in that, its normal but I do miss the times when I could go to a bar in California and pick up a chat with the guy next to me with ease. Here people don’t want to be bothered…

Recently I was interviewed in a local newspaper about the lack of funding in Hong Kong, another disadvantage for startups (that and the housing difficulties i’ve had). I’ve pitched publicly so much that an executive assistant who trains executive to give public presentation says I speak like a pro (I’m sure he was exaggerating as its his job) but the hunt is still on with no sight yet of the treasure.

We are having tough times and plenty more to come. I know I will be alright in the end. I’ve always been positive and optimistic. I just need to ride through this wave. Time to go polish my surfboard…

bob marley quote

Continue Reading
1 2 3 7