north america

Postcards from San Francisco

san_francisco_sophia_hsin_Golden_Gate_Bridge_Sunset

Dusk at Golden Gate Bridge. 

San Francisco is the city of golden light. It is the city where you embrace the west coast the moment you step out of the airport. The air is not humid like New York, there are palm trees, bursts of colors, fog and sunshine. 

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You know you are in California when you take photos of palm trees. 
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Stumbled across the newly opened flower shop Marigold. A beautiful space.
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Local flora and street art. 

San Francisco is bay windows, lemon trees outside your window and Hispanic grandmothers selling cups of fruit with chili powder on the street. It is tacos for three square meals and tracing the light from your morning coffee till it disappears behind the Golden Gate Bridge. San Francisco is watching fluffy dogs leaping around in Mission Park with fresh nectarines in your bag and juice dribbling down your chins. 

I loved walking through the packed streets of Chinatown, the familiar smell of fading groceries and the lineups up for boba tea. San Francisco is the quiet across the water, the trains, the buses, the people that cannot block the chill of summer and light that streams between buildings and museums that make this city.

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Ferry Building Market. Explored the area with friends, sampled six different kinds of peaches. A place where you want to eat and photograph everything.
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A white eggplant!

San Francisco is where I crossed off another city on my list and went home satisfied knowing that my world is smaller. It is a city to cross off your travel list and return to visit again and again.

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Greens at Conservatory of Flowers
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Till next time, San Francisco. 

Some recommendations:

Ferry Building Marketplace: A mecca for chefs, food lovers and tourists like me.

Tartine Bakery: Everything is delicious here! Coffee, artisan bread, everything. I loved people watching here. Must visit and eat here.

Conservatory of Flowers: If you love plants, come here for a half day trip. Beautiful and photogenic too.

Boba Guys: I don’t even drink boba in Taiwan but this place was really good! Impressed with the quality of my matcha tea and almond jelly.

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Postcards from New York II

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A quiet moment from Washington Square Park, NYC

Hello from Taipei, Taiwan!

I have this funny feeling that I have to be in a new city before I can process and write about the previous one. It is wonderful being back in Taipei. There is much inspiration in revisiting old places and some days it feels like I never left. Although it is interesting living in the grey area between a local and a foreigner — I have never felt more clarity that I am in the right city at this time of my life.

This season will be spent working on a personal projects (hint: hedgehog book) while taking on freelance photo shoots. Between jet lag, stuffing my face with Taiwanese eats, waking up super early and navigating this familiar and unfamiliar city — I am slowly discovering a handful of local and international creatives. Excited for the next season and trying not to book a flight to Japan anytime soon.

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Sunset with Lady Liberty from Brooklyn Bridge Park
Now, back to New York City — the city of creativity, art, thunderstorms, scorching metro systems, and galleries you can spend a lifetime exploring with crowds as dense as any major Asian city.sophia_hsin_new_york_yoko_kato_long_island_city-8sophia_hsin_new_york_yoko_kato_yokocca-9Studio visits with @yokocca
I love a social media friendship turned into an afternoon of conversation with homemade jam and chiffon cake. It was a delight being able to visit Yoko’s studio tucked away across the water in the quiet of Long Island City. yoko_kato_japan_new_york_city_family_portrait-1Akari and Kaisei are the most adorable active kids. I could have spent a long time taking photos of them.della_orrey_c3_brooklyn_new_york_portraits_photography-1Portraits with Della
Della Orrey — my boo, talented musician friend and sister in Christ. It was inspiring getting to see her work at C3 Brooklyn. Getting to experience New York from a local’s perspective was also an eye opening experience though I got reprimanded a couple of times for being too much of a tourist 🙂Hanging with the talented Mark Leubbers at Le Labo in Williamsburgsophia_hsin_new_york_queens_-6Chasing light on the streets of New York. The light and shadow on fire escapes get me every. single. timesophia_hsin_new_york_ineriors_guggenheim-1Interiors from the Guggenheim. I love you Frank Lloyd.sophia_hsin_new_york_nalata_nalata_photographer-7
Shop visits with Natala Nalata
It was wonderful meeting the shop owner and fellow Canadian in the city. The ceramic exhibition from husband and wife — Momoko and Tetsuya Otani was also a pleasure to experience.sophia_hsin_new_york_matcha_shop-10ichiyos_matcha_vancouver_bc_styling_photography-1Matcha Matcha
I am really getting into matcha these days and New York had so many matcha shops to offer. My favourites — Cha Cha Matcha and Ippudo New York. Here is a set of new photos I shot for Ichiyo Matcha in Vancouver too.

Next week I will be heading down South to tropical Kenting for a creative retreat. I look forward to spending time by the ocean, getting my feet in some white sand and unwind from the last season of work and travel.

Till next time x

Postcards from Virginia: A Holiday With my Irish Family

washington_dc_ Shenandoah_National_Park-3The wonderful view from Shenandoah Park, Washington, DC

Hello from Virginia.

I have been spending the last week in our cottage in the mountains with my Irish family, whom I met in China a few years ago and it’s been a jolly time. I feel fortunate to see to new places surrounded by family, and am learning lots about British culture and Irish tradition.

A few curious things I have learned about the Irish:

• Tea and biscuits are to be had at least three times a day
• The Irish find humour in everything
• Peanut butter is deemed a North American evil. The smell — just as rotten as veggie mite
• To be Irish you must have a love for potatoes and butter
• Every kind of fabric in the house goes under the iron. Towels, jeans, socks, sheets, ties, you name it

madison_county_usa_1Mornings around the breakfast table. Toast with butter and jam are staples.

Virginia is a peaceful county, it is a land filled with blue skies, sweet corn, and rolling hills dotted with animals. It is a nice change of pace from my previous week in New York. It is one of the first places in North America where I can hear summer cicadas that remind me of Asia — an unfamiliar yet peaceful place.

washington_dc_ Shenandoah_National_Park-4washington_dc_ Shenandoah_National_Park-10My Irish family. All three generations

We will spend the next few days visiting historical places, civil war monuments and local towns that hold much Southern charm. Most of the time it feels like I am taking a crash course in American history and but I am gaining an insight into a culture that is different than what I have learned from Hollywood films. It is an educational and eye opening experience.

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Chatham Manor in Fredericksburg. This place has the loveliest gardenscharlottesville_virginia_usa.jpgA little corner from Charlottesville, Virginia. A beautiful little town despite the recent riot

With all the negative news that comes from the media these days, I find myself especially thankful to be here. I am reminded that even though the world is not always a peaceful place, there is much good and beauty to be captured and look forward to.

Till next time.

En Route II

The end of August brings to the day a slight chill in the air, a change of pace and the quiet announcement of fall just around the corner.

I love these moments before making a big trip — days of madness where you scramble to make last minute errands, work on that last minute project and pack your worldly belongings in a travel friendly box.

There are those precious mornings where you wake to the quiet of the day and sit to watch your city wake up with the light glinting off windows, take in the hum of traffic and cries of the birds heading south.

With each trip I make and home I move I feel a shift in the idea of home. Home — really is a place to sit on your sofa and contemplate a city, a place to make food for people in your life, a shelf to store your books, and a place to shut out the world and leave and to return again.

I am excited for the next season of adventure that awaits.

new_york_city_the_met_museum_sophiahsin.jpgYesterday morning at The Met in New York City. The moment — the light, the music, the colour — was perfect.

Toronto City Guide: 10 places to eat, visit and photograph

This post has been updated on my website here.CN_tower_toronto.jpgTaking in the city from the CN Tower

The last time I was in Toronto was two decades ago when my parents took us on a family holiday to Niagara Falls shortly after we moved to Canada. I remember being drenched in my raincoat under the falls and the thrill of knowing I was in a place where everything seemed new and exciting. It was wonderful to be back and experience the city as an adult, this time accompanied by my camera.

Toronto was fast-paced, it was cold, grey and very diverse. I stayed in the heart of downtown where high rises loomed like giraffes and everyone seemed like they had a place to go. The city felt a little overwhelming for a newcomer but the temptation to explore was far too great to keep me at home. I loved the excitement of knowing there was so much to see and do and enjoyed discovering the pockets of peace and quiet in a bustling city.

Here is my list of favorite places:

Eat

baddies_cafe_toronto.png1. Baddies Cafe

The story behind Baddies is that Alex (the owner) found himself with the space after his dad passed away without realizing his dream of opening a cafe. Needless to say, that was exactly what Alex did. The words “You Beauty” written on the walls are favorite quotes from his dad, whom you can find in photographs on the cafe walls. The chia pudding tasted as delicious as it looked and the smashed avocado on polenta with chili jam reminded me of India and all that is well in the world.

the_drake_hotel_brunch-1.jpg2. The Drake Hotel

I have always been a fan of The Drake General Store and was extra excited to visit the hotel known for brunch and funky interiors. The chicken and waffles were delicious and meant to be shared with at least two friends.

See

art_gallery_ontario_toronto.png3. Art Gallery of Ontario

The AGO was by far my favorite place in the city with it’s an abundance of exhibitions, the beautiful space designed by architect Frank Gehry and a quiet cafe to sit and watch the city go by. If you are an art nerd like me don’t miss out on the AGO.

aga_khan_museum.png4. Aga Khan Museum

I could have spent an entire day at the Aga Khan marveling at the architecture and reading books on Persian folklore in the museum library. I am always amazed by the intricacy of middle eastern art and the space is beautiful with a great curation of artifacts and modern Islamic and Persian Art. The museum is a little far out of the city but definitely worth the trip.

_toronto_sophia_hsin-9.jpg5. Sugar Beach

I am in love with the water and look for it wherever I go. Here I found a quieter corner of Toronto and stood here taking in the sunset, beautiful even in the cold of winter. I can imagine coming here often in the summer.

university_of_toronto_chapel-1.jpg6. University of Toronto

The interiors of the Trinity Chapel was what drew me to this location. There is so much history about the campus grounds and the university felt like another city to explore in itself. The campus is best to walk around with a local friend.

Do

7. CN Tower

If it’s your first time visiting Toronto I recommend checking out the cityscape and nearby islands from 180 floors up in the sky. The view is breathtaking and the CN Tower is next to the Aquarium which makes it a great outing for families and children.

8. Ripley’s Aquarium

If you love aquariums and fish Ripley’s is your ideal place to visit. The stingray tank was basically a lake and I loved the underwater tunnel and interactive areas where you get to pet sleeping sharks and hold tiny shrimp.

Shop

souvenir_studio.png9. SOUVENIR

A minimalistic boutique shop and studio on College Street run by Danielle. An inspiring place for the creative. The area reminded me so much of New York and here I found familiar brands from Vancouver and a beautiful curation of gifts and souvenirs. Queen Street is also a lovely place with shops like Old Faithful, Warby Parker, and countless boutiques. My favorite concept lifestyle store Mjolk Shop is just a little further away.

Stay

hazelton_hotel_toronto_yorkville.jpg_toronto_sophia_hsin-12.jpgView of Yorkville and pancakes to start the morning 

10.  The Hazelton Hotel

If you’re looking for an independent luxury boutique hotel to stay in Yorkville this is it. I spent an evening at the Hazelton with my sister and had a great time unwinding in a quiet area. The neighborhood is beautiful though I have to say nothing beat the blueberry pancakes that arrived in the morning. The staff is very personal which made it a great stay.

Other than that, Ossington, Koreatown, and The Distillery District were places I wish I had more time to explore. The diversity of Toronto is amazing and despite being fast-paced, everyone seems to have a story and are very open to sit down for a chat or stop to point travelers in the right direction. I felt tiny in the city but found comfort in discovering areas that reminded me of home and connecting with an array of interesting people. I hope to be back again.

Till next time, Toronto!

Photographed in partnership with Tourism Toronto | @SeeTorontoNow.

Photography and writing by me

Gratitude

FullSizeRenderSunset at Lions Bay – moments before I jumped off a 50 feet cliff and got covered in barnacles scratches and a heart filled with adrenaline. We stayed out till midnight and watched the water light up with bioluminescent plankton. It was one of those moments where you feel really alive and actually want to tuck away your camera to enjoy the moment.

Tonight as I’m typing out this post I’ve just moved into a new apartment, picked up my visa for India, sent off prints to the print shop and I’m eating fresh mochi from a friend that dropped me off to my new home. It’s beautiful, bright and everything I ever imagined in one of the nicest places in the world.

I can look back on this week and think of all the friends that I have around me, people I got to meet, events I attended and the satisfaction I have everyday from working for something I’m passionate about and believe in.

I’m so excited thinking of the next few months of travel. Places I go and things I see that break my heart a little and make me appreciate how human I am. I can’t wait to see the photos I’m going to take, people that will leave footprints in my life and pieces of history that’s bound to make me small and powerful at the same time.

At the end of the day, I am just thankful—for work, an education, things that kick my bum and motivate to learn and be a better human, opportunities to be more authentic and fearless and days to look forward to. I don’t know where I’ll be without my community. And of course the little things that make the days sweet and beautiful.

Here is to the next season of exploring the unknown and moving onward. 38 days till India!

Postcards from New York

brooklyn_bridge_nyc_sophia_hsin (1 of 1)Hai Brooklyn Bridge

Remember when you were little and read all the E.B.White books and watched the sailboat race in Stuart Little and decided that you wanted to go to Central Park and visit New York for yourself?

The New York I met this winter was crowded, incredibly hot (I’m talking about 20 Celsius in December here) and a few shades grittier than I imagined. But the moment you find yourself in a city you’ve had on your travel list for so long is the moment you believe you can do anything you put your mind to. It’s a girl boss moment.

I love waking up in a new city to the twitchy feeling in your stomach because you know there are so many new things to try and places to explore.

Here are a few favourite photos from this trip.

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The Egyptian exhibition was beyond cool and I stood here and took like 10,000 photos.

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Eats with the lovely Nana. Yes, the food is as good as it looks and Whyte Hotel is probably my favourite non-minimal hotel ever.

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Brooklyn Bridge

Tourist check.

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Not going to lie, I can live off coffee and milk bar ice cream.

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Totokaelo 

Cooler than the one in Seattle. Unrealistic wardrobe goals check.

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Came here for marbled tables and photogenic matches lattes.

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Bakeri
My future home is going to have this lightning. Plus Williamsburg is the neatest hood for shops and coffee ever.

Thanks to Justin for showing me around. Too bad we came on a cloudy day and missed the window light. The sculpture with the creepy dead cat is worth checking out though.

That’s all for now. And for what I haven’t photographed here’s to more future trips.

Till next time New York City, you were a dream.

Shirt from COS, ZARA. Photo 1 of me by Nana. Everything else by me.