Blog posts where the author writes about a specific topic.

Buying a Suit in Hong Kong: Sam’s Tailor

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Discovering Sam’s Tailor

In November of 2004 I found myself flipping through an issue of the magazine GQ (Gentlemen’s Quarterly). Within that month’s issue I saw an article titled “The Quest: Find the Perfect Suit… in Hong Kong”. The author, Greg Emmanuel, was retelling his experience of flying from New York to Hong Kong. His entire reason for the trip was to buy a suit at Sam’s Tailor. To me it sounded insane that someone flew sixteen hours to buy a suit when they could just visit a tailor in New York where they lived. Except then the author detailed the cost of the trip versus buying a high-end tailored suit in New York. It was at this point I realized Greg Emmanuel wasn’t crazy but a brilliant fellow. In the article he wrote, “I found an $850 round-trip flight and a $100-a-night hotel. Factoring in a three-night stay and a reasonable budget for food and drink, I planned to spend only $1,500 on the entire trip – in other words, about half the cost of a custom suit back home” (GQ: Gentlemen’s Quarterly; Nov 2004, Vol. 74 Issue 11, p106). Flying to Hong Kong to have a tailored suit custom-made fascinated me. After reading the article I ripped it from the magazine and sequestered it in a safe place. I figured it be best to hold on to as reference just in case I ever wound up traveling to Hong Kong.

Signs on Nathan Road directing you to Sam's Tailor - Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, China

Signs on Nathan Road directing you to Sam’s Tailor

Visiting Sam’s Tailor

I’m not as adventurous as Greg Emmanuel, I never traveled to Hong Kong just to buy a suit. Yet two years after reading the article, in 2006, I found myself in Hong Kong on vacation. As I prepared for my trip I re-read Greg’s article. I knew that during my time in Hong Kong I was going to get myself a tailored suit. After I arrived in Hong Kong I made way to Kowloon. As I walked along Nathan Road a slew of shopkeepers bombarded me and asked me if I wanted to get a tailored suit. I realized how fortunate it was that I found and read that article in GQ. Without Greg’s recommendation I do not know how I could have selected which tailor to visit. Yet there I stood in front of the door to Sam’s Tailor, just as Greg Emmanuel had two years prior. Before visiting Sam’s Tailor I’d never owned a piece of custom-made clothing. I admit I was nervous but excited that my dream of owning a custom-made tailored suit was going to come true.

Two things struck me the moment I entered Sam’s Tailor, how small the shop was and how many types and colors of fabric lined the walls. As I gazed upon the various fabrics I noticed photos hanging on parts of the walls. I moved closer to the photos and realized that these were not random photos, but photos of celebrities from around the world. There were politicians, musicians, actors, and athletes getting measured for a suit at Sam’s Tailor. When I saw these famous faces I realized that I was at the right tailor shop. It was my lucky day because behind the counter there was Sam himself. In an instance I recognized him from the photo in the GQ article. I came to find out that Sam’s real name is Manu Melwani, who took on the business from his father. Manu welcomed me and even asked if I wanted a beer while I perused the various color and fabric samples. The beer helped calm my nerves, and I narrowed my fabric and color selections. Manu and his colleagues answered my questions and after a while I’d settled on a black pinstripe suite. In addition to the suit I ordered two custom-made dress shirts, one white and one light blue. With my color and style of suit decided upon it was time for my measurements. Another tailor took my measurements and told me to return in two days for another fitting.

I was fortunate on this trip to Hong Kong in that I was in town for over a week. This allowed me the luxury of being able to return to Sam’s Tailor for a fitting during the sewing of the suit. If you aren’t in town that long Sam’s Tailor claims they can make a suit for you within 24 hours. Even if you won’t be in town that long you can have the suit shipped to your home. Best-case scenario though is to return to Sam’s Tailor over the course of a week to make sure that the suit being made will fit. At the fitting the suit still appeared rough, with a missing sleeve, and inner lining bare for the world to see. What this fitting ensured was that the length of the jacket sleeves and pants was correct. The tailor checked the size of the waistband and if the jacket closed without issues. After the fitting the tailor told me to return in two days.

On my next visit the tailor handed me my completed suit to try on one final time inside Sam’s Tailor. It was amazing how well the suit fit. Every part of the suit lay upon me in perfect proportion to my body. Unlike an off the rack suit there were no unseemly bulges or bulky shoulder pads. The suit just fit. I felt as if I was James Bond and I couldn’t ever again imagine owning a non-tailored suit. When I left Sam’s Tailor I felt happier than I’d ever had leaving a department store with one of their suits.

I’d heard horror stories of suits from Hong Kong disintegrating once tourists arrived back home. The pinstripe suit I bought still hangs in my closet and to this day not one seam has ever come undone. I wore the suit on many occasions, and it has withstood the test of time. The only issue I ran into was that I’d outgrown the suit. Since 2006 I’d lost over forty pounds through diet and exercise. I didn’t believe it was worth having the suit altered considering my waist size had decreased six inches. Truth is it saddened me to not have a suit that fit me so well anymore. Then in 2015 an opportunity arose for me to once again visit Hong Kong. Without hesitation I knew a return trip to Sam’s Tailor was in store for me.

Entrance to Sam's Tailor - Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, China

Entrance to Sam’s Tailor

Returning to Sam’s Tailor

On this trip to Hong Kong after I landed and checked into my hotel I wasted no time and went straight to Sam’s Tailor. Although nine years had passed since my last visit the shop had not drastically changed. Sam’s Tailor is still in the same location on Nathan Road and still run by the Melwani family. In fact Manu’s son, Roshan, is following in the family’s footsteps and these days is running things at the shop along with his father. In the nine years since my last visit the shop had become more popular, with more shoppers and more staff to accommodate them. Even with the extra people a controlled chaos emanated throughout the store and I received the same great customer service as on my first visit years ago. A woman who worked there helped me pick out a color and fabric and asked me what style I wanted for both my suit and shirt. This time around I went with a slim fit dark gray suit and a traditional white dress shirt. I was in town for a week and able to return for the fitting and to pick up my new suit. Once again Sam’s Tailor created the suit of my dreams. A year later and the suit and shirt are still in perfect condition.

Twice in my life now Sam’s Tailor has made me a happy customer. To this day I have no buyer’s remorse with the two suits I bought at Sam’s Tailor. Over the years I’ve received countless of compliments on both of the suits. When asked where I bought the suits I grin and say “oh from my tailor in Hong Kong”. If I’m fortunate enough to visit Hong Kong again I will for sure go back to Sam’s Tailor. There is something satisfying in flipping through fabric samples in person. If I’m not able to go back to Hong Kong I can contact them on-line to have a brand new suit sent to my home. Either way I will always look forward to the times I wear a custom-made Sam’s Tailor suit.

Inside Sam's Tailor - Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, China

Inside Sam’s Tailor

Tips for Visiting Sam’s Tailor

Your first visit to Sam’s Tailor is overwhelming, especially if you have never bought a custom tailor-made suit. Before you go, I recommend you skim through magazines and clip out the photos of any suits you fancy. Take those clipped photos with you and show them to the employees at Sam’s Tailor so they know what style of suit you want made. Besides the style of the suit it’s a good idea to have decided on what color suit you want. It’s hard enough deciding on color at the shop when every color has a wide spectrum ranging from light to dark. For example if you’ve narrowed your color to gray you’ll still have tons of color swatches to browse through at the shop. Along with color you will want to think ahead of time what fabric you want, for example wool or linen. This decision-making beforehand will make things easier on yourself once you are at Sam’s Tailor. If you have questions while there don’t be afraid to ask as the workers at Sam’s Tailor are knowledgeable and will help you.

One perk of being a customer at Sam’s Tailor is that each person is given a unique number. That number is kept on record at Sam’s Tailor and includes what you bought and your measurements. With that information on file you can contact them via their website, e-mail, or by phone and order another suit. In 2015 Sam’s Tailor could ship a new suit to the United States for a shipping cost of only twenty-five U.S. dollars. Even with the added shipping the final cost of the suit is still a bargain compared to having a custom-made suit made in the United States.

Sam's Tailor

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Sam\'s Tailor 22.299237, 114.172290 Buying a Suit in Hong Kong: Sam’s Tailor


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Travel As A Local

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When we travel sometimes it’s as if we never left home, what with the buildings being different but the corporate logos being the same. Crave a hamburger and you need only find the golden arches of McDonald’s. Need caffeine and Starbucks can fulfill your wish. Forgot to pack your favorite top and you can buy the same shirt at the Gap. This familiarity makes it easy to avoid the local scene. Yet why spend your hard-earned money traveling to another state or country just to buy what you could at home. By using the Internet and talking to people you meet along the way you can escape globalization and travel as a local.

Local Lodging

Hotel Monaco - Portland, Oregon

Hotel Monaco is a boutique hotel in Portland, Oregon

The easiest route in booking a hotel is to stay with a brand you’re familiar with, such as Hilton or Sheraton. The downside to this approach is that these well-known hotels carry a hefty price tag. Unless you’re willing to stay in out-of-the-way locations such as near the airport. The name brand hotels often lack charm and regardless which part of the world you have traveled to each location is the same.

There are other alternatives and sites such as can help you discover local hotels or boutique hotels, such as Hotel Monaco in Portland. Other websites such as VRBO and Airbnb have listings for vacation rentals such as bed & breakfasts or apartments. By staying at these places you can imitate a local’s way of life. Be sure to cross-reference any lodgings you are thinking of staying at with websites such as TripAdvisor. You can read reviews by past occupants to make sure the lodging is up to your standards and is in a safe location of the city.

Local Meals

Aside from sightseeing the biggest thing for tourists to do is eat the local cuisine.   Still, fears of eating something you’re not familiar with can lead you to slipping back to your default and eating at restaurant franchises you can find at home. This can happen if you’re tired and don’t want to figure out where to eat. If you do this then you’ll be missing out on amazing new food experiences. The best thing to do is to research places to eat before you even leave on your trip. With a list of places to eat throughout the city you will have a restaurant choice no matter where you are in the city during the day. When hunger strikes you can eat at one of the many restaurants you’ve pre-selected.

The easiest way to avoid fast food chains is by using websites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, and similar region specific ratings websites. These websites will include both tourist and local reviews. You’ll know which restaurants serve good food, based on reviews from other travelers and people who live in those cities and eat at those restaurants regularly. Don’t be afraid to use a search engine such as Google to find websites and blogs of travelers and use their suggestions on where to dine. Another suggestion is when you check into your hotel ask the staff for recommendations. The hotel workers live in the city and will have recommendations for the best restaurants on any budget.

Food purchased at local market - Nice, France

Food purchased at local market in Nice, France

An alternative is to skip the restaurant and visit a local farmer’s market or grocery store for a meal you can bring back to your hotel. A sampling of local bread, cheeses, meats, fruits, vegetables, and candies can turn into one of your most memorable meals. If you are traveling with checked luggage bring a bottle opener with you to use on an alcoholic beverage. A local beer or wine from the market will enhance your hotel picnic even more. Cities such as Nice in France are perfect for such meals. You can dine in the comfort of your hotel room on local delicacies such as foie gras, comté, and salami. Pair your food with a slice of fresh baguette and a glass of French wine for a delicious meal.

Local Shopping

Pedestrian zone with stores and restaurants - Bern, Switzerland

Pedestrian zone with stores and restaurants in Bern, Switzerland

Chances are you packed more clothes than you’ll ever need for your trip in your suitcase. It’s human nature to over pack. What’s unfortunate is that the heavy suitcase you’re now lugging over town and over cobblestones has made you crazy. The next time you travel, consider not filling up your entire suitcase. Pack enough clothes to begin your journey and buy the rest of your clothes.

Pedestrian only zones, such as those found in Bern (Switzerland), are great places to find local brands of clothing. Shopping while on vacation is an adventure and it will help freshen up your wardrobe. Plus the clothing you wear will resemble the clothes the local population wears. If you wear local attire it allows you to blend in and trick the locals into thinking you aren’t a tourist. In addition clothes make a great personal souvenir and when your friend asks you where you bought that article of clothing you’ll be happy to tell them where.

When using your credit card if the store, or restaurant, asks if you wish to pay in your home currency versus the local currency always select the local currency. If you choose to pay in your home currency you may find your credit card company will charge you additional service fees. The service fees will be on top of getting the worst currency exchange rate possible for that day. Save yourself money and pay in local currency every chance you get.

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London Holiday Travels

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Christmas tree in front of St. Paul's Cathedral - London, England

Christmas tree in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral

Those of us who are able to revisit countries we’ve visited before are fortunate. Each revisit brings with it a renewed interest in that country. Of course that first trip will always hold a special place in your memories. The next visit may not have that same emotional punch but it may hold even greater surprises. A first time visit often means a hectic itinerary rushing to and from sights and eateries, with nary a break for rest. Follow up trips means that you won’t have that same necessity to see the requisite sights again. You certainly may but there won’t be the same crunch on your time.

National Gallery - London, England

National Gallery

Another visit means exploring areas of the city you didn’t get a chance to the first time. You’re able to eat at different restaurants, or try something else on the menu at a favorite restaurant. The biggest gift in revisiting a country is the opportunity to experience the cities in new ways. Spend time in local coffee shops or parks or even go grocery shopping. Stroll the streets and get in sync with the ebb and flow of the city and how the residents spend their time living there.

Deer in front of Covent Garden Market - London, England

Deer in front of Covent Garden Market

An especially stark contrast is to visit the same city during different times of the year. Doing so can bring an entirely new perspective on a city you thought you knew. You can see how the locals relax under the summer sun versus how they handle snow in the winter. This holds especially true during the winter holiday season as cities are decked out in their festive best. City squares are filled with Christmas market stalls and monuments are decorated.

London Eye Lights - London, England

London Eye Lights

London in December is particularly filled with holiday cheer. Many of the streets, including those leading into Piccadilly Circus, are dressed up in holiday lights and signs. St. Paul’s Cathedral has two Christmas trees, one on each side of the Cathedral. A large tree adorned with lights is lit up in front of the National Gallery as well. Covent Garden Market has a giant topiary reindeer to get visitors into the holiday spirit.

Fireworks and the London Eye - London, England

Fireworks and the London Eye

This festive cheer culminates in a spectacular New Year’s Eve celebration. The best viewing areas are by The Houses of Parliament and Elizabeth Tower (often referred to as Big Ben) and across the riverbank from the London Eye. Along the riverbank are crowds of happy people partying and dancing to music being pumped out on large speakers by local disc jockeys. It is behind the London Eye that an array of fireworks is fired into the night’s sky for a dazzling display at the strike of midnight. After the fireworks show the city of London does a nice job of ushering out the crowds through specific streets and back safely to their hotels and homes. To view London through the lens of the holidays gives visitors a newfound appreciation of this wonderful city.

Wherever in the world you may be celebrating, Check Before You Trek wishes you a very happy holiday and a happy new year! May your next year be full of travels to both new and familiar locations!

London During the Holidays

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St. Pauls\' Cathedral: 51.513845, -0.098351
National Gallery: 51.508929, -0.128299
Covent Garden Market: 51.511732, -0.123270
Houses of Parliament: 51.499629, -0.124648
The London Eye: 51.503324, -0.119543
Piccadilly Circus: 51.510101, -0.134661
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St. Pauls' Cathedral
London Holiday Travels
St.Pauls' Cathedral, London, United Kingdom
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National Gallery
London Holiday Travels
National Gallery, London, United Kingdom
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Covent Garden Market
London Holiday Travels
Covent Garden, London, United Kingdom
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Houses of Parliament
London Holiday Travels
Houses of Parliament, London, United Kingdom
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The London Eye
London Holiday Travels
London Eye, London, United Kingdom
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Piccadilly Circus
London Holiday Travels
Piccadilly Circus, London, United Kingdom


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Tips on Wine Tasting in Napa Valley

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It’s easy to spend your travel budget on wine tasting fees alone. This article offers tips on how to get more for your dollar when in Napa Valley.

The Tasting Fees

This is anecdotal but before the dot-com bubble of 1997-2000 if you were to visit Napa Valley wineries only offered free wine tastings. During the dot-com era the number of folks who moved to the Bay Area and had disposable income skyrocketed. They wanted to spend that money and Napa Valley was an easy hour to two-hour drive away. With this sudden influx of new visitors the wineries had to adjust their procedures and institute tasting fees. This allowed the winery recoup money lost on the wine being served in the tasting room. Even after the dot-com bubble burst the wineries kept the tasting fees.

There are wineries in the industry that have priced their tasting fees at $25 or higher per person. This tasting fee might garner a visitor tastings of five different wines with pours for each tasting being minimal. The quantity might equal one glass of wine. Mind you, a tasting need not mean a full glass of wine. Wine tasting is not to get drunk. You are wine tasting to see if you enjoy the wine or not. Yet these wineries are selling bottles of wine that cost less than or the same as the tasting fee. Proportionally the cost of wine tasting is too high. Additionally most wineries have stopped waiving the tasting fee if you buy a bottle of wine. If you and a friend buy a tasting fee and each buy a bottle of wine a single visit could cost a $100 per winery.

Of course, a tasting fee is understandable. The wineries can’t just give away their wines for free. It is an extensive production to make a bottle of wine. It takes years from the moment the vines grow the grapes to the time a wine bottle hits the shelves. Plus, many people are involved with the production of the wine. This includes the employees in the field, wine makers, and tasting room attendants. If every person who wine tasted bought a bottle of wine it’s possible tasting fees could stop. Except there exist individuals who go wine tasting with no intention of buying wine. Regrettably this practice of tasting fees hurts those visitors who are new to wine and those who love wine and want to try out different wines and wineries.

Those new to wine may find tasting fees to high and avoid ever tasting at wineries. This leads to wineries loosing potential customers and prevents a person from even finding out how much they may enjoy that winery’s wine. For long time wine drinkers that same high wine tasting fee may stop them from visiting a winery and that too is a lost consumer. My suggestion to wineries is that their tasting fees should not be more than half of the cheapest bottle of wine in the tasting flight. If someone will buy a bottle of wine you don’t need to comp the entire tasting fee, but you should give a percentage off the total sale. Rewarding customers is a good practice and could land you a consumer for life.

Internet research can help you find wineries with no tasting fee, a low tasting fee, or tasting fees that go towards buying a bottle of wine. If you have a winery you want to visit but don’t want to pay the high tasting fee, my suggestion is to skip the tasting room. Instead, buy a bottle of their wine out right. For example, pack yourself a picnic lunch. Go to Frank Family Vineyards, buy a bottle of their wine, and ask them to uncork it for you. Snag a spot at one of their picnic benches outside and you and your group can split the bottle while eating lunch. If you have a big group you can buy more than one bottle. You’ve gone from a small pour in a tasting center to savoring the wine in a relaxed setting.


Regardless of which wineries you visit there will be crowds. The number of people visiting Napa Valley has increased over the past couple of decades. If you’re with a big group and you’re just there for a fun outing this may not be an issue. If you’re there only for wine tasting it can be annoying. You don’t want to struggle for a spot at the wine bar or be jostled while trying to sip your wine. The only way to avoid crowds is to visit Napa Valley during the off-peak season, or weekdays. Visit wineries the moment they open in the morning to avoid crowds. If you are visiting Napa Valley with a large-sized group try calling the wineries ahead of time to let them know when you will visit them. There are wineries that offer group rates, with discounts on tours of the winery or packaged deals that include wine pairings with food. There are wineries that have specific tastings areas for larger groups that you can reserve ahead of time.

Release Day Events

Another tip to get the most out of your dollar is to attend a winery’s release day event. There are wineries that offer one or two such events a year. There is an entrance fee that may appear steep but includes unlimited tastings plus hors d’oeuvres. The best part of these events is the chance to try higher end bottles of wine. The wineries are attempting to sell cases of newly released wine, including cases that can run upwards of over a hundred dollars a bottle. If you’ve never tried wine that expensive these events allow you to do so. A lot of people attend release day events, be sure to arrive as early as possible. Even though it’s crowded, these events are wonderful for a group outing. Release day events are held outside or in event halls, which means more space than if you were inside a tasting room. Wineries that put on great release day events are Silver Oak Cellars and Groth Vineyards & Winery. Check on-line for other wineries that may host such events.

Napa Valley on a Budget

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Frank Family Vineyards: 38.559106, -122.521703
Silver Oak Cellars: 38.440849, -122.381457
Groth Vineyards & Winery: 38.449131, -122.379458
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Frank Family Vineyards
Tips on Wine Tasting in Napa Valley
Frank Family Vineyards, Larkmead Lane, Calistoga, CA, United States
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Silver Oak Cellars
Tips on Wine Tasting in Napa Valley
Silver Oak Cellars, Oakville Cross Road, Oakville, CA, United States
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Groth Vineyards & Winery
Tips on Wine Tasting in Napa Valley
Groth Vineyards & Winery, Oakville Cross Road, Oakville, CA, United States


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Hello world!

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Say hello to the world and the world will say hello back to you.  As our first post, we welcome you to our site and say hello!

This site is dedicated to helping people plan their travels. Often travel is walking a path into the unknown. To ease the not knowing we can research the places we want to visit ahead of time and be as prepared as possible when we arrive in our desired location.

That’s where this site can help you. This is a place where the authors can share their various travel experiences with you the reader.  We hope that the knowledge we have gained will help you out in your own travels.  Articles on the site will run the gamut from itinerary suggestions to helpful mobile applications to where to eat and what sites to visit. Each article’s aim is to help you plan your travels.

The world has much to offer travelers. There will be things we won’t be able to cover on this site. If you have traveled to a location we’ve highlighted, and we didn’t mention your favorite tourist spot or restaurant, please share that information with us. We encourage you to use the comment sections after each post to offer your suggestions on the topics covered.  Together we form a community of travelers helping one another out.

Bench at Canada Place

Bench at Canada Place – Vancouver, British Columbia

With the information on this site you will know to check here before you trek.  Armed with the information learned here, you will be as prepared as possible when you embark on your next journey.

So grab a seat on your favorite bench, read our articles, share your travel experiences with us, and get inspired for your next trip!

Wishing you safe travels,

Check Before You Trek (CB4YT)

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