Hong Kong Weekend

I've had a couple days off from filming Go Back to China, so production was kind enough to arrange for me to hang out in Hong Kong. Even though it takes a few hours and crossing the border is a bit of a pain, I jumped at the opportunity to explore this city a little more.

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Friday

I was a bit tired from working all week, and traveling down from Shenzhen, so I decided to just hop on the Hong Kong Tram (nicknamed Ding Ding) and explore from the top of a moving vehicle. Starting at Western Market was a good idea, since it's the first/last stop and you're guaranteed a seat.

After an hour of street/people watching, I just hopped off the tram and took a subway over to Sheung Wan/Central. Abe was in Hong Kong earlier this year and stayed in this neighborhood. I got lost looking for the places he suggested, but stumbled upon Jenny Bakery, famous for their cookies. Apparently there's usually a long line and the workers are kind of rude, but at 5pm they were very pleasant and I walked out with two large tins (not gluten-free - a treat for the cast/crew) within 5 minutes.

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Saturday

This was my only full day in Hong Kong and I originally planned to go to Disneyland, since I'm a fanatic. But ultimately I decided it would be too crowded and went for something more local - Ocean Park - mainly because they have giant pandas. And I can never resist a panda. Sadly, the pandas were breeding so their exhibit was closed, but I still had a great time. If you go right when they open at 10am, you'll have the entire park to yourself. See my vlog at the bottom of this post!

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Later that same day I was disappointed to find that the Yuen Po Bird Garden is also temporarily closed (until May) but it is close to the Flower Market, which was also on my to-see list.

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Sunday

I've never really adjusted to the time change and have been waking up at 5am every day for the last 3 weeks, no matter how early/late I go to bed. So this morning I went back to Sheung Wan/Central and tried not to get lost again. This time I found Man Mo Temple!

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Finally, I took the Star Ferry back to my hotel in Kowloon. Now I'm going back to China to finish this movie - follow along on my Instagram Stories for the final few days.

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Filming in China

Hello from Shenzhen, China! I've never been to this city before (I actually haven't been back to China in over two decades) - unfortunately I haven't really had the time to explore because we've been working, but I've been having a ton o' fun.

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Filming food scenes is a lot more challenging now that I'm gluten-free, but I am loving this cast and crew...

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...also, the Go Back to China production team has been taking incredible care of my celiac needs with homemade meals and snacks. Anna Akana, the star of the movie, is vegan - so between the two of us these Chinese chefs are learning a lot about cooking for dietary restrictions.

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When I'm on my own, I've been making do with snacks that I packed (oatmeal, miso soup, energy bars/protein powder) plus REALLY plain stuff like steamed veggies/meat/rice and fresh fruit that have low risk of cross-contamination. As long as there isn't soy sauce in it, I've been pretty safe.

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Of course, I've been missing home like crazy!

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Here's a quick vlog I was able to put together while we were staying at The Mission Hills Resort. We're off to another city soon - follow along on my Instagram stories, where I have the entire trip saved in the highlights.


Filming in Hong Kong

This city is marvelous.

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We got a great view of Hong Kong Island from a cast dinner our first night at Hutong in Kowloon. This restaurant was not only gorgeous, but knew how to handle my gluten allergy with a multi-course tasting menu.

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I haven't been here since I was a teenager. Maybe that's why I'm still drawn to stuff like this.

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Sadly, I haven't had too much free time explore, but it's not like being on set with Anna Akana isn't fun.

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I have the morning off so I'm going to get my tarot cards read and walk around the city a little before we head to Shenzhen for the China part of "Go Back to China." Follow along on social media @mslynnchen!

Ojai Love

Abe and I love Ojai.  After the January fires took its toll on the community, we've been looking for an excuse to come back and put money into the tourist economy. It's Abe's birthday weekend and a month away from our 15th wedding anniversary, so we took a 2-day trip to the area using the Ojai Love Package - and I have to say this is our favorite stay so far.

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We arrived late on Friday, but beat traffic. We woke up before the sun both days and headed straight to the new-to-us Beacon Coffee, where they have lots of gluten-free options. This morning we played Chinese Checkers next to a movie star and her emotional support dog. The cafe is also next door to the adorable - and fun to say - Cattywampus Crafts, filled with yarn and gifts and things that make me want to knit. Sidebar - I've tried 4x to learn how and failed every single time.

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Saturday afternoon we stood on line with the rest of the town lunch at Ojai Tortilla House (104 N. Signal Street) where they quickly serve tacos, burritos, and quesadillas on homemade corn and flour tortillas.

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I got a gluten-free burrito bowl with chicken, while Abe went to town on his vegetarian wrapped version. Glorious and filling.

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After a free tour + tasting at Ojai Olive Oil, we stopped by Bart's Books for some requisite outdoor book browsing. I wish we had time to visit Meditation Mount but it was a little too chilly...

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...plus all I really wanted to do was cozy up in the most comfortable bed ever at The Emerald Iguana Inn. We've stayed at The Ojai Valley Inn and Spa + Ojai Rancho Inn in the past, but we definitely preferred this place. I feel like it's worth every penny.

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We ordered takeout from Farmer and the Cook (Abe loves their veggie burger), I took a terrific hot bath, and just like that our weekend was over. We're already missing Ojai like crazy.

Kauai - The Food

The night we arrived in Hawaii, we were greeted with a bottle of wine in our fridge and a beautiful pineapple. It took several days to work our way through this baby. It got sweeter and sweeter each night.

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Most of our meals took place at our gorgeous hotel, The Grand Hyatt. Pretty much every morning I had a veggie omelet and fresh fruit while enjoying this spectacular view.

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We'd spend most of our days driving but make frequent stops along the way (like Little Fish Coffee) for beverages and snacks.

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Even though we were in the land of Shave Ice (I had to keep reminding myself not to call it "Shaved Ice!") we found ourselves having more of a smoothie/acai bowl craving.

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Anake's Juice Bar is located in the back (next to the karaoke machine!) of Kukuiula Market, a family owned market in Koloa. We split a Hulk bowl (green from spirulina and kale) layered with gluten-free granola, which Abe pointed out was inspired by the color of Hulk's shorts and skin. We couldn't stop talking about this lunch. In fact, we went back on our last day right, right before the airport.

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Also back there - mason jars filled with homemade chia seed pudding and overnight oats! I felt so at home.

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In general, it was so unbelievably easy to eat gluten-free and there was no shortage of amazing produce.

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On Wednesdays from 3-6:30pm, the Kauai Culinary Market is hosted at The Shops at Kukuiula. This reminded me a lot of The Grove/Farmers Market in Los Angeles...

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...except better. Because Hawaiian Santa.

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We had a last-minute dinner there at Merriman's Fish House. The meals were pretty expensive but we made do with a bunch of sides/appetizers - all gluten-free!

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Only two dishes were on my Hawaii Bucket List, and they're both brought to you by the letter "P."

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Poke (above) which we got from Fish Express, and Poi (below) from Hanalei Taro Company. Both did not disappoint. Poi is kind of bland - with a yogurt consistency - but it tastes great with pork and fish on top! Abe had a veggie burger with taro, too.

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For the most part, we would eat snacks for dinner in our hotel room while watching a movie filmed in Kauai. Lots of fresh fruit, mac nuts (as I often heard them called) and local chips. I even had a glass of the aforementioned Pinot Grigio one night.

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Here is a little vlog I made on the first day, featuring Fresh Bite Kauai, a food truck. Seriously that salad I ate was one of the best I've ever had. And I come from the land of salads.



Kauai - part 3

For our last full day in Kauai, we drove an hour and a half back up to the North Shore to take a walk. But not just any walk - the Wai Koa Loop Trail is quite possibly the most beautiful 4-mile trek I've ever taken.

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So many trees....

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...and a beautiful waterfall as well.

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Nearby is the Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife refuge.

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This wasn't really worth the $5 admission fee (Abe and I agreed Maine does lighthouses better) but the views are still spectacular.

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Kauai - part 2

We've been on Los Angeles time in Hawaii, which means we're trying hard not to fall asleep at 10pm and waking up before the sun. Lucky for us, there's a beautiful hike near our hotel. Shipwreck Beach Kauai Hawaii

This morning I was a little too tired for an upward climb so we opted for an easy garden tour instead. The self-guided option at McBryde Garden was a perfect hour-long trek.

We went first thing in the morning and pretty much had the whole place to ourselves. Can you picture the brontosaurus walking by?

Speaking of which, things got super Jurassic Park on my first helicopter tour! We went with Jack Harter Helicopters - not cheap but totally worth it. I took a Less-Drowsy Dramamine, wore these Sea-bands for motion sickness, and I felt fine.

Warning though - it can be freezing up there! I can't believe I was in a bikini just yesterday.

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A lot less expensive - Spouting Horn! It's free to visit, and right by the gardens. A fun little stop.

Kauai Part 1, Part 3, and  view the Hawaii highlights on my Instagram Stories.

Kauai - part 1

Aloha!!!! Abe and I are currently taking a much-needed escape in Kauai, Hawaii. It's our first time here. We're never going home.

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First on the agenda - BEACH BEACH BEACH. We drove an hour and a half up to Hanalei Beach (above), and hiked out to Queens Bath (below). The hike out to the latter is very slippery and muddy with some weird wobbly parts - make sure to pack some sturdy shoes that you don't mind mucking up.

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It was a little rainy today so we put on some more layers and headed to the Kauai Plantation Railway. This 45-minute train ride was so much freaking fun. Tons of fruit trees.

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Also, we got to feed bread to baby pigs. I'm still freaking out.

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We drove through a lot of cute little towns, but our favorite was Hanapepe, home of Lilo and Stitch.

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There's also the Hanapepe Swinging Bridge...

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...and Talk Story Bookstore, the country's western-most independent bookstore.

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The sun came out just in time for us to check out Waimea Canyon State Park. Jaws dropped. It reminded me a lot of The Grand Canyon, where Abe and I were engaged almost 15 years ago.

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Gluten-Free Snacks at Disneyland

Abe had his first day off since working on Big Mouth all year, so he took me on an impromptu trip to my favorite place on earth!

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This was my first trip to Disneyland since discovering my gluten-sensitivity. Lucky for me, two of my favorite snacks are 100% gluten-free - Dolewhip and Popcorn!

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Both happen to be vegan as well.

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One new treat we've never tried before was their giant dill pickle. It was incredible - crunchy, cold, and perfectly sour.

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We brought a lot of bars/snacks from home to supplement our hunger. But there are so many gluten-free options at the park - pretty much every place as gluten-free bread to sub. If you go to City Hall on Main Street, USA they can give you a current list of everything available.

Big Bear/Lake Arrowhead Weekend

One of my favorite parts about living in Los Angeles is the ability to just go away for a last-minute trip where you feel like you're worlds away. I feel like I've done pretty much all the quintessential LA getaways - Santa Barbara, San Diego, Julian, Oak Glen, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Ojai, Palm Springs, Temecula, Borrego Springs, Solvang - the one place I've been hearing about for years but never visited was Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead.

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We drove up on Saturday morning to Big Bear. The town is full of interesting shops that are rather niche for your typical tourist spot. I wound up buying a fitted LA Dodgers hat - even more fitting that I wound up watching the documentary Long Shot on Netflix that night (if you haven't seen it, it's really incredible. Especially if you're a Curb Your Enthusiasm fan like me and Abe).

Food-wise we just brought our own meals/snacks and went to the grocery store - with my gluten allergy it was just easier.

Our hotel (Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa) check-in wasn't until 4pm so we stopped by SkyPark at Santa's Village - a newly reopened theme park totally devoted to Christmas! Longtime readers know I'm a freak about the holidays (because I was born on Xmas Eve). It's never too early for me to start celebrating. You can watch more in the video at the bottom of this post.

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The hotel is a bit overpriced for what it is, but most of the other places I looked at required two nights. Next time I'd like to get a house with friends and stay a little longer. We woke up early in the morning and headed to the Heart Rock Trail for a morning hike.

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Take your GPS to 250 N Highway 138 Crestline, CA - when you see the "Camp Seely" sign, drive up the one-way dirt road to a small parking area. Follow the trail past the pool and make your way (about 20 minutes) to the rock with the heart in it! For the most part this was an easy hike, though I did need to find a large stick to help get me up the steep parts near the end.

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