Archive | September, 2010

better late than never?

30 Sep

time changes kick my butt. being busy also kicks my butt. after somewhat adjusting back to east coast time last weekend i packed up for lax this week. i’ve got 4 more weeks here before the end of november so i’m trying to make the most of my time and wake up super early.

i had a random fun day on tuesday – some kind of fire explosion happened and work was canceled. i checked out la’s public transportation and went to long beach to the aquarium of the pacific. it’s not georgia aquarium but it was pretty cool. especially enjoyed the sea lions. but of course i have no pictures because in my time change haze i forgot to pack my camera. bad kate.

i have a few pictures left from hong kong. these were all taken on tai o which is a stilt house community and fishing village. we took a boat tour and saw chinese dolphins (which are very hard to capture on film). i had never heard of chinese dolphins but apparently they’re pink. i’m not entirely sure there isn’t just a large albino dolphin population. after the boat tour we walked around the island and picked out our long from a tank. you can’t get any fresher!

Advertisements

checking out the scenery

20 Sep

i let julie play event planner this whole trip. and she did a great job finding fun places to go. she read about neighboring lamma island and mapped out our morning. hong kong and kowloon are very much big cities, lamma island is more bohemian/island feeling. it’s known for fishing villages and scenery more so than versace and bright lights.

the ferry over was just gorgeous, with the city on one side and lots of small islands on the other. we were able to capture a lot of great pictures. we hiked through the village to a path that takes you from one end of the island to the other. we walked about 45 minutes through some pretty steep inclines to get to a beach and then on to a lookout point. if you look closely in my pictures you’ll see one of a small chinese-style roof from very far away and then just below the view from that lookout.

 

after our hike we walked back to town for lunch. you literally picked your lunch out of the tank. can’t get any fresher. it was a bit awkward and i felt slightly sad for the fishes. we picked out a big ‘ole lobster, which was delicious but a big fat tourist rip off, and snacked on prawns and squid. fantastic lunch. we caught the next ferry and headed back to our hotels for showers and then attempting to shop.

shopping here is really strange. it’s either super high-end (lots of versace, chanel, hermes, etc.) or the complete opposite. finding souvenirs has been very difficult because i want to bring back trinkets people will like but that won’t cost me $300. tougher than i thought. and the shopping culture makes me feel incredibly awkward. someone literally follows you around the store. standing two feet behind you. staring at you. i want to shout, “i’m american, pretend to be busy because i’m weirded out.” but i haven’t. i’m going on one last-ditch effort tonight, else everyone gets mooncakes. which is another story.

official vacation

19 Sep

friday night started my official vacation. i was feeling weak sauce after the night befores stomach antics so i was not feeling adventurous. we decided to stay close to the hotel and check out a rooftop restaurant named seeva that had the best views of the harbor. it lived up to expectations.

the food was exceptional and the view was spectacular. each night, hong kong has a light show of featuring the largest skyscrapers. it’s the largest permanent light show in the world. crazy. my pictures did not turn out very well but here’s a little video i found to show you how cool it looks. i was on the side that they are filming.

here’s julie with here dinner. i would look scared, too if they served me a dosa that size!

and my only somewhat cool picture of the skyline.

We called it an early night (for HK) and went to bed early for our excursion the next morning on Lamma Island.

it was bound to happen

17 Sep

my stomach is finicky. it doesn’t like most fast foods (save micky d’s chicken nuggets) and apparently 5K races. this trip i was surprised to see my stomach handling the traveling quite well. that came to a screeching halt with last nights dinner.

we met up with our other work friend and headed down to “Central” for a true Cantonese dining experience. FYI: The Hong Kong population is 95% Cantonese whereas mainland China is Mandarin. Two very different languages and according to our friendly trainees, Mandarin is the easier of the two languages to pick up. and i really want to bring home a small hong kong child. cutest kids ever and they’re small, so they would fit in my luggage.

here’s Julie and Matt at dinner:

we ordered a pre set menu and when we realized all the dishes had come we were still really hungry. so matt ordered another bottle of wine and a peking duck. i basically had two food goals: dim sum and peking duck. check and check. another fun fact, wine is not so big in asia. like, as in, it’s pretty bad. but i digress.

the peking duck is a whole presentation experience. a nice little fella comes and hand carves your duck. it’s served to you on a platter where you can make what are essentially tiny duck burritos.

i don’t have any pictures of the full carving because that was devoured in about two seconds. and then we took a picture in a foundation. because everyone knows you have to take your picture in a fountain in hong kong. 🙂

and then my stomach exploded. all night. it was graphic. today has been tough! but hey, only a few more days before i head back so i better enjoy every second, right?

just another day in asia pacific

15 Sep

the work day starts late so i’ve got a little time to update before starting training. my hotel internet was not working this morning but i’ve come in a little early just to say hello.

funny things that happened yesterday:

i realized my out of office reply had a spelling error. no one told me. i mentioned this to the gal i’m working with and she told me, “yeah, i noticed. i probably should have told you.” thanks julie.

my blackberry mysteriously started working last night. until then, i hadn’t been able to send/receive emails and i reached in my purse and saw the red light blinking at dinner last night. even stranger-my work friends blackberry is still not working. i’ll take what i can get.

we met up with two of our co-workers that are in town last night – one from australia and another from our charleston office. our australian friend knows a few people here and we tagged along with her for the most amazing meal i’ve had here yet. we went to a vietnamese restaurant with a line out the door from open to close. and it was worth the wait. he ordered for all of us and we just ate every morsel of food we were served. LOVED it. i knew i liked pho but there was something amazing about the version we had.

it wasn’t a particularly eventful night of sightseeing but we were able to go to SoHo and take a ride on the “longest escalator in the world.” i’m going to break some sad news to you. it’s not really an escalator. it’s a moving sidewalk. but still very long nonetheless. i think i mentioned that hong kong is very mountainous but you can get a sense of that from some a couple of these pictures. i’m standing in the middle of the hill looking up/down.

this may sound a bit silly but i’m so used to only seeing things written in chinese being official warnings or messages that sometimes i’ll look around and i’ll be thrown. they’re probably advertising for dog food and i wouldn’t know the difference. 🙂

here’s julie and i on the escalator

i should also mention that my hair has not seen a straightener in almost a week so please excuse my ‘fro. and below is a picture of my drinking a baby coconut. this isn’t a mixed drink, literally a baby coconut. you drink the milk and then scoop out the good stuff. it was quite delicious.

on today’s agenda: dim sum. yum. and hopefully some shopping.

jet lag schmet lag

14 Sep

i’m now officially over it. wahoo! i can do things like eat dinner and walk around at night. very exciting.

here are my latest nuggets:

  • everyone, and i repeat everyone, has a smartphone. and they’re always using it.
  • people are extremely kind to us english speaking folk. there is a fair amount of the population that speaks some english and they will do their best to help you find wing fat street. amazing what can be done through non-verbal communication.
  • i’m now really perplexed as to how these people stay so thin. they eat 3 heavy meals a day and always save room for dessert.
  • hong kong is a beautiful city. the city part is intense. all the hurry-up-and-go of major cities with the lights of vegas and backdrop of vancouver mountains set on the sea.
  • they drink hot tea in 90 degree weather. constantly. maybe that’s the skinny secret?

last night we took the ferry from hong kong island to kowloon at sunset. gorgeous. my pictures are a little fuzzy because we were moving pretty fast (and this emphasizes my want for a new camera, hint hint).  i had a moment on the ferry where i realized that i was in a special place vastly different from anywhere i’ve been and how lucky i am to be here.

we tried to eat at a recommended peking duck restaurant but were turned away because they were just too busy. we took that as a sign that we would have to make reservations and return.

we ended up at a chiu chow restaurant. we didn’t really know what this meant but our client recommended it and we were in. apparently it means lots of choices. like 20 pages. and i don’t do well when i’m overwhelmed with choices. we basicly ordered the top 5 favorite dishes.  here’s what wikipedia says about chiu chow:

“Teochew cuisine is particularly well known for its seafood and vegetarian dishes and is commonly regarded as being healthy. Its use of flavouring is much less heavy-handed than most other Chinese cuisines and depends much on the freshness and quality of the ingredients for taste and flavour. As a delicate cuisine, oil is not often used in large quantities and there is a relatively heavy emphasis on poaching, steaming and braising, as well as the common Chinese method of stir-frying. Chaozhou cuisine is also known for serving rice soup (潮州糜 or mue), in addition to steamed rice or noodles with meals. The Teochew mue is rather different from the Cantonese counterpart, the former being very watery with the rice sitting loosely at the bottom of the bowl.

Authentic Teochew restaurants serve very strong Oolong tea called Tieguanyin in very tiny cups before and after the meal. Presented as Gongfu cha, the tea has a thickly bittersweet taste, colloquially known as gam gam (甘甘).”

and there you have it. we were served the oolong tea and jasmine tea throughout the meal. i LOVE jasmine tea. a lot. if you’re curious, we had sharks fin soup, abalone, meat plate (goose, duck, and apparently pig intestines), shrimp balls, and a pudding/jello action.

after dinner we grabbed a macaroon and headed back to the hotel — it was after 9 and we were tired girls.

playing tourist

13 Sep

i guess i’m not really playing tourist because there’s no question — i’m a tourist. i stick out like a sore thumb. i haven’t felt this different since africa. not that it bothers me, just a funny feeling. 🙂

so what have i learned so far?

  • hong kong has amazing public transporatation. it reminds me a lot of DC’s metro but a lot cleaner. and that says a lot.
  • no matter how hard you try, you can’t beat jet lag in a day. i thought i managed this but at 8 pm last night i crashed. only to wake up at 4 am. i’ve decided that i am done with this jet lag business and i’m going to go out tonight if it kills me. i’ve skipped dinner the past two nights and that’s just not acceptable. too much to do, too many places to see.
  • i don’t trust guide books. we used my travel companions book on what was supposed to be a “heritage trail.” i got the heritage part less the trail. we wandered around a lot. and we met a few french women who decided that we knew where we were going and followed us. we got them to a few walled cities and then were too hungry to continue the trek. but i’m glad we got way out of the city to see some of the historical places.
  • it amazes me that people wear face masks but have raw chicken for sale on the street corner. i guess the flu > salmonella?
  • i love japanese, cantonese, thai. anything with noodles is still awesome. i was surprised that a lot of the japanese/thai/ramen dishes we have in the states are pretty authentic.
  • the markets here are amazing. i haven’t found souveniers just yet — and from what the locals tell me hong kong isn’t known for one specific thing so i’m going to have to be creative.
  • i scored free tickets to hong kong disneyland. that makes it okay to go, right?
  • these people LOVE sweets. there’s a bakery one every corner. i’m in sweets heaven. lots of different types of sweets from donuts to custards to macaroons. little alex – this is your kind of place!
  • i took a ton of pictures sunday and instead of uploading them one at a time i’m adding a gallery. i tried to take a signage picture with each of the historical places and the large market is called Tai Po Market.