Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Traveling’

Getting to know Hong Kong all over again and meeting the Empress of Tea

June 01, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Drink, Places, Traveling No Comments →

View from the Hotel Stage, 1 Chi Wo, Jordan

I will always have a special fondness for Hong Kong because it’s the first foreign city I ever visited on my own. (There’s an extremely detailed account of that trip in the first Twisted book.) Since then I’ve been to Hong Kong a few times, but it doesn’t get old. Hong Kong is not just about the spectacular sights and food: there’s something in the air, something thrilling and vaguely chaotic. It’s a sense of possibility that you get in a world city. You know that things are happening that were not stage-managed for promotional purposes.

We spent several days in Hong Kong at the end of May to shoot two episodes for Trippies. We had wonderful meals that we burned off by walking, walking, and walking from markets in Kowloon to hiking trails in the New Territories to Old Town Central where we looked for the locations of Wong Kar Wai movies, to the Film Archive to Sai Ying’s haunted houses to the dojo of one of Ip Man’s students, to new food and drink haunts like May Chow’s Happy Paradise and Victoria Chow’s Kwoon cocktails.

At the end of a long, packed but strangely not exhausting shoot, we met Vivian Mak, whom I hereby dub the Empress of Tea. Vivian is the proprietor and soul of MingCha Tea House, one of the finest tea shops on the planet. She gave us a quick workshop, during which we sampled a variety of teas, each with a distinct flavor and aroma, which is more than I can say for some overpriced tea shops. It’s not cheap, but you get more than what you pay for and leave feeling clean and almost virtuous.

Even the setting is dramatic: MingCha is hidden inside an old factory building.

Now I’m going to re-watch Chungking Express and In the Mood for Love, and if anyone borrowed my DVDs and didn’t return them, prepare for pain.

You can watch the previous episodes of Trippies (China, Turkey, Thailand, Korea) here.

Calculated misery: How airlines turn your discomfort and aggravation into profits

April 19, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Traveling No Comments →

Some airlines make the experience of flying so awful that you would pay extra to avoid the awfulness. In the words of the law professor who coined the term “calculated misery”:


Now you can watch Trippies online!

March 20, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Television, Traveling 10 Comments →

Watch TRIPPIES online at PhilStar TV. (Thanks, jaypee, for sending the revised link.)

Answers to questions you might ask:

1. Yes, it is completely unscripted and spontaneous.
2. Yes, Pepe and I were acquainted but we never hung out until we started filming Trippies.
3. Yes, we have no make-up or styling because we have enough to do without worrying about how we look. Yes, we could do with make-up and styling. (After I viewed the first two episodes I realized I should go back to wearing black because I look even weirder in color.)
4. No, I have the easiest job on the show because I just stand there and yak while everyone has to plan and execute shots, etc.
5. No, the age difference is an advantage to me because I can use it as an excuse. Example: Naah, I won’t go down the loooong stairs to the underground tunnel, I might re-injure my knee.

TRIPPIES airs on Sundays at 730pm on CNN Philippines, with replays Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at lunchtime. Pepe and I guest on Real Talk with Christine Jacob Sandejas and Rachel Alejandro this week.

Our travel show, Trippies, premieres on Sunday, 12 March at 7:30pm on CNN Ph. Watch it!

March 10, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Television, Traveling 11 Comments →

Photo by Royd Santiago

Filmmaker Pepe Diokno and I talk our way around the world in a weekly half-hour show. TRIPPIES premieres on Sunday, 12 March at 7:30pm on CNN Philippines. Replays air on Tuesdays at 1:30pm, Thursdays at 12:30pm, and Saturdays at 11am.

Trippies has conversation, food, history, and an international cast of dogs and cats.

Help us spread the word!

Got a question about the show or about travel in general? Post it in Comments or email me at

Back from the land of K-Pop

February 22, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Places, Traveling 2 Comments →

Drogon is not amused at his human’s constant absence.

Just returned from a week in Korea, the land of K-Pop, Koreanovelas, kimchi and general kookiness, where the toilets have settings that never occurred to me and everything is good for you (They’re not just stairs, they’re the Stairs of Longevity leading to the Gift Shop of Good Fortune).

The travel show Trippies premieres on CNN Philippines next month.

In Istanbul, living in the present moment is a form of defiance.

January 19, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Food, Places, Traveling 2 Comments →

Marzipans. All photos of Istanbul vitrines and shop displays by JZ.


Candied fruit

A sparrow was sipping water from a half-filled glass in an Istanbul café Wednesday morning. Customers had their lunch outside, thanks to the warm weather, and chatted about the latest episode of Sherlock, screened hours after the terror attack on the city’s Reina nightclub on New Year’s Eve, which killed 39 people. Two cats were fed leftovers; a stray dog watched the scene from a safe distance. The terror threat level had been raised as high as it would go, not only because of the Reina attack, but also a simultaneous attack in the capital Ankara that had been foiled at the last minute, not to mention many more that had been thwarted in the past month. But this did not at all seem like a city under threat.

How do Istanbulites do it? It is a hard trick to pull, this immediate return to normality. Some consider it an expression of powerlessness, but I find wisdom in the ability to counter shock with calm. After the suicide attack at the Ataturk Airport in June, the scene was cleaned of signs of chaos in a matter of hours. The shattered glass was swept away, airport personnel reopened their desks, baristas served overpriced Caramelattes to travelers—it didn’t really feel as if 45 people had died hours earlier. And yet those people were not trying to erase history. Living in the present moment, for them, was a form of defiance, not amnesia.

Read Kaya Genc’s dispatch from Istanbul.


More teas

Dried fruit