Monthly Archives: August 2012

South Korea – Seoul & Jeju Island

In 2005, I had the opportunity to go to Jeju Island, South Korea for a conference, which was paid by my former employer. So I took the opportunity to extend my stay for sightseeing.

Jeju Island is known to a lot of people as a romantic island and a perfect spot for honeymoon.  Back in 2005, Korean drama frenzy had been ongoing for awhile in Malaysia, such as Winter Sonata, Dae Jang Geum, Stairways to Heaven, etc. I am not an avid fan of Korean drama as I found them a bit too long-winded and slow in pace. Therefore, unlike Hong Kong, I do not have any prior knowledge about South Korea and this trip was more of an excitement for holidays rather than reliving some of the drama scenes.

Perhaps I did not put any expectation on this trip, the outcome was pleasantly surprise.  In fact a really pleasing experience and perhaps the most memorable and longing one.

First of all, my biggest excitement was I saw my idol in Jeju Island.  Hacken Lee, a canto-pop singer from Hong Kong, was recording his album Concert Hall in Jeju and he stayed at the hotel where I had the conference. My husband spotted him first while I was in the conference during day time. So at the very same night, we waited for him to go back to the hotel.  The first attempt was futile and we decided to go and explore the vicinity. After all, it was still a holiday for us and we should not waste our time on this. But deep down in my heart, I wasn’t giving up. And so after an hour to two of exploration, we called it a night and went back to the hotel to try our luck again. After 30 mins of wait or so, I was really giving up hope and ready to leave. But then my husband alerted me that he has just walked in into the hotel. I was really chuffed and speechless. Luckily Hacken recognised my husband as he had hassled him earlier in the afternoon. I did a “taking a photo” gesture, and Hacken nodded his head. Voila, I have my picture taken with him! 🙂

The hotel where I saw and took picture with Hacken was Lotte Hotel. This is also where I had conference. Beautiful hotel but  expensive. Lotte is a South Korean company, which initially I thought is just a brand of food products. But after this trip, I realised that it is more than that. It has hotels, amusement parks, eateries, and even shopping malls.

This picture was taken after we decided to give up “stalking” Hacken.  I thought that even if I didn’t manage to take a picture with him, I would posed outside the hotel where my husband saw him.

Obviously outside of Hackenation’s world, there are a lot of interesting and memorable incidents in Jeju Island.

     

From breathtaking scenery to exploring the local food and markets, Jeju Island has it all! The first 2 pictures were taken by my husband, a beach and waterfall he explored on his own while I was in the conference. He told me that there were a lot of divers catching fresh seafood, which they then ate them fresh and alive there and there.  My apology as I didn’t know the name of this place he went to, and he has also forgotten as well.

The 3rd picture is me enjoying local food at a night market in Seogwipo. That was right after the conference and we moved out from the hotel to a local guesthouse in Seogwipo.

Hallasan or Mount Halla, is a National Park which we hiked up with the intention to see the volcano crate. However we didn’t manage to, as  the trail to the  crate was temporarily closed. It was more than 3 hours to hike up and we were lucky that a very kind couple offered to send us to the nearest bus station when they saw us limping down the mountain. We did not speak a common language yet we magically could understand each other. The couple was really kind and did not ask for anything in return of the favour they gave us. They even taught us how to speak and recognise Korean alphabets for beef, chicken, fish, pork, etc.  Which we communicated by drawing pictures of the animals and of which they replied in Korean language. That was a brief encounter, but will be in my memory forever. Kind-hearted Korean couple in Jeju Island!

 

After spending 3-4 nights in Jeju Island, we reluctantly left the beautiful island to Seoul. We spent the first night in a guesthouse in Seoul but we spent our next night on a bus to go to another national park, Seoraksan. Luckily we did not have to hike this time as there is a cable car service. Scenic view and breathtaking.

After a day at Seoraksan, we went back to Seoul. Seoul is a big city, and we did struggle a bit manoeuvring ourselves, especially finding the guesthouse that we booked online. The best guesthouse that we stayed at was Tea Guesthouse. It was rather pricey but it was for the experience. We slept in a traditional Korean way, i.e. on a tatami (or in another word, on a mat placed on the wooden floor) and paper-pasted windows. That one night stay also included a free session of tea ceremony and a try-on on Korean traditional costumes, hanbok, which could be charged up to 20K won.

  

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The first picture was taken outside of the guesthouse and the 2nd picture was taken at the courtyard inside the guesthouse.

The 3rd and 4th pictures are David and me in hanbok after the tea ceremony. The hanbok was actually belonged to the owners and they wore the very same costumes on their wedding night. We felt really honored to be able to try them.

I can’t not comment about the food in Korea. Korean pickled vegetables, including kimchi, to me is the best dishes I had in Korea, and it is served free and topped up however much you like to. It is definitely one thing I enjoyed most but alas, in London each plate of pickled vegetable is charged exorbitantly at £2!

Besides pickled vegetables, we also tried a lot of other food in Korea, such as BBQ meat with delicious marinade, rice cakes served in sweet and  savoury, fried rice and noodles. But my favourite is  stew tofu, which we had it twice at an eatery (which I only knew it by the name of Sik Dang), near Ewha Women University.

Other places that we went to in Seoul included Insadong, which is famous for its local designers artworks and antiques.

  

Gyeongbok palace – where we learnt about the history of Joseon dynasty, and how 4th king of Joseon dynasty, simplified Chinese characters to current Korean alphabets. The first picture was taken outside of the entrance to the palace and the 2nd picture was with a guard at the gate. There was also a guard changing ceremony at the courtyard of the palace.

This is one trip that I always long to go back again.

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Categories: Jeju Island, Life, South Korea, Travel | Leave a comment

Count Down to my top 5 favourite trips!

In the next few blogs, I would like to recount my experience, feeling and share some pictures of the places that I have been to. I have been to quite a few of places, but sadly to say that I haven’t managed to explore all 7 continents. Let me do a bit of counting:

1) The first continent : Asia 

a) Malaysia, where I grew up, have 14 states, and I have been to Perak (my hometown), Kedah (where I studied my degree), Perlis, Penang, Kuala Lumpur (where I worked), Selangor, Malacca, Negeri Sembilan, Johor, Pahang, Kelantan, Terengganu, Sabah & Sarawak.

b) Singapore (a neighbouring country)

c) Indonesia (Bali)

d) China (Guangzhou, Harbin, Changchun, Guilin, Shenyang, Shaoxing and Shanghai)

e) Hong Kong SAR

f) South Korea (Seoul and Jeju Island)

2) The 2nd Continent: Africa

a) South Africa (Johannesburg)

3) The 3rd Continent: North America

a) Chicago

b) San Francisco

c) Yosemite

d) Orlando (Disney World & Universal Studio)

4) Australia (Sydney & Melbourne) 

5) Europe: 

a) UK – London, Southampton, Bath, Oxford, Cambridge, York, Lake District, Peak District, Snowdon, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Windsor, Liverpool, etc

b) France – Paris, Champagne, Loire Valley, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Alsace, Aquitaine,

c) Germany – Frankfurt, Black Forest, Baden-Wuttemberg, Rhineland

d) Iceland – Reykjavik

e) Norway – Oslo, Flam and Bergen

f) Sweden – Stockholm

g) Denmark – Copenhagen

h) Austria – Salzburg, Mayhorfen, Innsbruck, Wattens

i) Switzerland – Zurich, Appenzell, Interlaken, Jungfrau, Geneva, Lucerne, Lausanne, Thun, Frutigen

j) Malta

k) Italy -Rome, Venice, Verona, Milan, Pisa, Florence

j) Belgium – Brussels, Ghent,

k) The Netherlands – Amsterdam,

l) Portugal – Lisbon

m) Spain – Barcelona, Madrid

n) Russia – St Petersburg

o) Bulgaria – Sofia

p) Greece – Athens

q) Vatican City

r) Luxembourg

A long list but there are still a lot of places that I haven’t been to.

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Next trip to China: Shaoxing and Shanghai

I am not intending to write a travel blog that introduce places to go and must visit. I am just merely recounting my experience, and perhaps rekindle the feeling at  that point of time. Be warned that it will not always be  a pleasant ones.

The next trip is a good example. China is again not a by choice trip, but a business trip. China is my ancestral origin however born and raised in Malaysia, I do not have much love for China. However, I thought by tracing my ancestral roots in China, it will be a better way to ignite the love of my ancestry motherland.

I like ancient Chinese histories. China long histories, not only just about the dynasties, kings, and wars, but the scholars, beautiful costumes, Chinese musical instruments, Chinese art of cooking, Chinese traditional medicines and healing methods, etc. I learnt about Chinese culture, aside from at home, which I suspect have assimilated with Malaysian Chinese culture, but also through TV. There was once  a yearn to visit this country to explore it in person.

Finally in 2005 this dream finally came true. My family decided to go during Chinese New Year to Harbin, north of China for its ice sculptures. Those who live in 4 seasons country, will wonder why we chose to have our holidays during winter and in sub-zero degree. Malaysia is hot and humid throughout the year, and no season. So winter will always be a hearsay and never an experience. That is why we braved ourselves during this time of the year to visit the country. Besides, we thought holidaying in China during Chinese New Year will somehow or rather let us have more atmospheric festive season. Furthermore, Harbin is famous for its ice sculptures, so if it is not a winter holiday, when can we see the ice sculpture?

We departed 2-3 days before Chinese New Year to Guangzhou with an escorted tour group. I wouldn’t go into the details but this trip had not only didn’t manage to ignite the love for my ancestral motherland, it had in fact made me feel of not wanting to return to the country again. Not because it was cold, but we unfortunately encountered unpleasant experience. My father’s friend lost his luggage in a train that we took between the cities/ towns, caught in a heated argument, which almost turn from verbal to physical fight. We were also have to be fully alert when walking on the streets, not only for pick pockets, but for the locals who spit like no other people’s business!

Despite the histories, I am afraid that since that trip, I have never planned my trip to China again, for holidays. However, with China as the emerging market, everyone is flocking to the country and my company as one of the multinational, have started its business in the country too.

Last year, as my second trip in the Company and my life, I went to China again. This time to Shaoxing and Shanghai. I was assured by my colleagues that I will like it and our Chinese colleagues are very hospitable and easy to deal with. And China has changed a lot since my last visit, which was almost  10 years ago.

Whilst travelling in winter was difficult, travelling during summer was not pleasant neither. Last year, we went in July and it was not only humid, the air and noise pollution had made the journey even more dreadful. Smoking indoor is still not prohibited in China and so, anywhere I went, I was struggling for more oxygen!

Shaoxing is still up and coming and incomparable to big cities like Shanghai. I know that it will be unfair for me to compare these two places, but these are the places that I went last year and this year too.

People in Shaoxing are more down to earth and they are hospitable, with all sorts of food. We literally are fed every single day, for dinner and lunch. I almost suspect that my colleagues in China were using this as a tactic to stop us from digging in too much into their business. I felt stressed as with all these invites to lunches and dinners, that shortened our working time tremendously. Unfortunately in this kind of situation, extensive hospitability is not really what I will appreciate for.

Before I stepped my foot into Shaoxing, my only knowledge about Shaoxing is its wine, which is used in cooking. Now after having been to the city, I’d say its stinky tofu should overtake its wine. Simply because nothing beats the smell from feet apart than gulping down a cuppa or two of its yellow wine (黃酒, pronounced as “huang jiu” in mandarin or “wong jau” in cantonese). What surprises me more was that stinky tofu is also served as a dish in a high class restaurant. Now, out of courtesy, I had to down one piece, but that last in my mouth.. till tomorrow! And that is the stinkiest tofu I have eaten.

After a week in Shaoxing, we left the place to Shanghai and on the way, we managed to stop over at West Lake in Hangzhou. It is a beautiful place, however due to the heat and humid, I didn’t manage to enjoy it too much. So our stop over was only for an hour or so.

In Shanghai it was a different city. Cosmopolitan, a mixture of past histories and modern facade. I haven’t been to Hong Kong then, but now that I have, I can’t stop to compare both places.

Perhaps the highlight of this trip was the water village, Wuzhen that we spent a day at. Image

The tilt houses are built by the river and built during dynasty era, which majority have been converted to eateries and hotels or hostels nowadays. The water town is not big but adequate for a day trip.

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A traditional barber still in operations.

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A week before I left to China, I watched a documentary on BBC that highlight this unique fishing method, by using birds! Unfortunately all we saw was just the fisherman resting with his birds by his side. But we were told that is the method that he uses to catch fishes everyday!

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Chinese all times favourite – mahjong!

Now, I am not too sure what to expect in the next trip!

Categories: China, Life, Travel | 5 Comments

Hong Kong Trip – My-money-can’t-buy-and-once-in-a-lifetime-experience (Fingers crossed)

Hong Kong is not the cleanest city in the world, but definitely this is not a norm sight. But if you are patient enough, you’ll find out why I posted this picture and what has it to do with my not-so-sought after HK experience.

To begin with, I loathe travelling in summer, let alone for holiday! Perhaps due to the fact that I grew up in a tropical country, Malaysia, which is hot and humid all year round, the idea of travelling during summer is a no-no for me.  However this Hong Kong trip was not up to me to decide since it was a business trip and I took this opportunity to extend another week for my own exploration.

I know that this won’t be a convincing reason to advise people to stop travelling during summer, but I have a more compelling reason for not doing so. It is none other than the tropical typhoon!  You must be wondering, how often could it happen? I supposed it is not the question of how often but when the likelihood of it happening, and the impact is high, we are at high risk of exposing ourselves to such an incident.

It is common for Hong Kong to have tropical typhoon during summer. And so your next question will be how severe could it be? And how often will that severity occurs? I can’t answer that as one can’t quite predict or control the weather, well at least not way in advance. Hong Kong Observatory is the government department that forecasts weather and issues warning accordingly. The warnings include the speed of wind and rainfalls alongside other usual weather related information. Specific to tropical typhoon,  the warnings are issued in escalating number signals, which are based on the wind speed:

a) signal 1 (or T1) is if the cyclone is within 800 km to HK

b) 3 (T3) is for wind speed between 40 and 60 kmph

c) 8 (T8), if wind speed is beween 60 and 110 kmph

d) 9 (T9) –  wind speed of 110 to 120 kmph

e) 10 (T10) – wind speed more than 120 kmph

How often will T10 be issued? The latest was on the 23rd July 2012! Yes, that was when I was in Hong Kong, supposedly enjoying myself with the food and er.. warm weather. The last time T10 was issued was more than a decade! How lucky could I be?? Mind you, we did pay our first visit to Hong Kong Jockey Clubs to place our bet on the Mark 6 Lottery. Alas, we didn’t manage to leave Hong Kong as millionaire!

Anyway on the day of the typhoon, at around 4 pm, HK Observatory announced that T8 will be issued at 6 pm. My friend advised me to go back to our apartment, and stock up food, for dinner and perhaps the following day too. Just in case the typhoon will last for more than 24 hours! Ironically despite this misfortune natural danger, most people who live in Hong Kong welcome T8 with a big smile! Once T8 is issued, employers and schools are obliged to let everyone off and go home early! Damage to the economy but something that must be done. However it doesn’t stop opportunists to continue their business, especially eateries. And it also doesn’t stop adventurous people from staying outdoor to test the speed of wind! Now is that necessary?

I can proudly tell you here that you don’t need to be outdoor to test the wind. In fact when you are at high altitude (20th floor) and at an open area (no other buildings adjacent to your building), you are pretty much testing the wind.
When I rented the apartment located at Wan Chai, it was advertised as “building with mountain and sea view”. In Chinese it would be “背山面海”. Good feng shui! Feng (風) is wind in chinese and shui (水) is water in chinese. Now how ironic could it be when that night of T10 typhoon, the wind (feng) was howling scarily. The feng was so strong that I could feel the building swayed! No kidding. The shui (rain in this case) was so heavy that I could hear every rain dropped! Splashing loudly on the windows that I was really afraid that the windows will be broken. We haven’t sealed the windows with any wood planks nor tapes. Well that’s what happened in those TV series. The wind is strong that it will break the windows.
That wasn’t my only worry for that night. I was also worried that the strong wind will blew those noisy and bulky air conditioners away, which have two third of its body exposed to the outside world. But most of all, I was afraid that the strong wind will collapse the building! Yes I am paranoia but if you were in that kind of situation, you will fear for the worst! The building swayed as if there was an earthquake tremor.

And I have heard about Hong Kong buildings that may have undergone refurbishment or structurally changed without proper authority approval. So where do I based my sense of trust and security then? However despite the swaying building, I finally managed to sleep. I suspect that the swaying must have the bed rocking effect for me. Next I knew when I opened my eyes was everything was calm and signal warning has gone back to 8. But no more wind howling and no more raindrops.
So the picture above was the aftermath, the very next morning around Wan Chai. Unfortunately we didn’t take the devatasting view, but this was a rare sight, as HK is always full of people. Now, the day after makes HK looks like a deserted city.

Great experience and story to be told generations to generations but thank you, once is more than enough!

Categories: Hong Kong, Life, Travel | Leave a comment

Tofulogy – An experiment to make tofu fa at home!

I am an avid fan of tofu, be it eaten as dessert or savoury dishes.  It is not hard to make your own tofu fa. The hardest would be how to make it silky smooth, soft but not too watery. But aside from that, my main dillema is the magic ingredient to turn the soya bean milk to bean curd, which is addressed as coagulation process.

All tofu starts from soya beans to my best knowledge. Back in the olden days, soya beans are grinded with millstones to obtain the soyamilk. This is still in practice nowadays and delightfully, we managed to find a few dessert shops in Hong Kong that are still using this method (which I have forgotten the name of the dessert shop we went and validated that they use stone mill to grind soya beans and others such as sesame, hazelnuts, etc). We also went to 石磨坊 (Shek Mo Fong), which literally means “stone mill”, which I hope they really are using this method to grind the soya beans in Kowloon.

It is a hard labour to use the stone mill or can be substituted with grain grinder. In the absence of these tools, blender has come to my rescue. I used the normal blender to blend the soya beans, with added water.

To start with, the soya beans needed to be soaked overnight preferrably, in hot water, in order to remove the skins. Once that is done, put the soya beans into the blender and water. Unless you have those blenders that separate the residuals and water, otherwise, use cheese cloth to separate them. How?? Just pour whatever in the blender onto the cloth, with a big bowl as the catchment of the soyamilk. The residuals or pulps should be on top of the cloth and wrap it up, and press the pulps to the last drop of soya milk that you could get. Put the pulps in another big bowl and continue with the rest of what you have in the blender.

Once that is all done, pour some water over the bowl which contains the residuals and repeat the steps again to squeeze the added water to the soya milk. Don’t waste!

Now that you have soya milk, next is to make the tofu! Pour the soya milk into a big pot and simmer it till boiling. While simmering it, a layer of curd will formed, and that is officially a beancurd sheet made!

The “magic” ingredient to turn the soy milk to bean curd or known as coagulation  is gypsum, which is claimed to have calcium, and apparently have been approvced by US Food & Drug Administration. As a Chinese descendant, I always knew that gypsum is used to make tofu. But only recently I found out that there are other coagulation ingredients. There are some parts of Korea and Japan use seawater/ sea salt to solidify tofu.

Now, the main question is, wouldn’t the seawater makes the tofu salty? It’ll be fine if tofu is prepared as a savoury dish, but how about if we want to make tofu pudding, which is a kind of dessert? I need to put this into a test.

As an alternative, similar concept to making ginger milk curd, can I use ginger juice to make tofu as well? Again, my main challenge is how to reduce the gingery and hotness? As this is a dessert that I want to make, therefore I can still add sugar to the soyamilk before curdling to tofu. This should solved the problem. I don’t even use ginger sugar syrup!

This will be something I’ll explore next weekend!

Update: 

Since this posting, I did make tofu at home, but more of soya milk curd using ginger sugar syrup. It works, for sure as I have tried many times. But the biggest revelation I found was gypsum was not a bad thing afterall. In fact, it has some medicinal effect in accordance to Traditional Chinese Medicine. I haven’t managed to find gypsum in the UK yet so I haven’t managed to try to make tofu using gypsum. Nor the sea water or sea salt from Japanese or Korean stores. I’m still curious whether the Japanese sea salt will make the tofu salty. Or is it other type of sea salt and not the natural one.

Categories: Chinese, Food, Recipe | 2 Comments

Hong Kong Trip! – A Tribute to Food

In my previous posting “ Hong Kong trip – The Prelude“, food have been the guidance to my virgin trip to Hong Kong. However knowing what type of food to savour is inadequate as Hong Kong is well known for thousands of eateries and I will definitely lost in this concrete jungle.  There is a chinese phrase “路在口邊” or literally translated as “ask your way around”. Well not quite lost yet, but better to ask around first for recommendations before I really get drowned with the eateries. Obviously my biggest worries would be my quota will be wasted on disappointing or average food in HK. There will be no room for errors in this food hunting mission!

And nothing beats the locals and those who have been to the country. Apart from that, there are tons of TVB variety shows which introduce the latest fads/ craze of places to go for food. (Yes can’t quite run away from TVB!). And so, a list was compiled before I left to Hong Kong.  Not forget to mention the one single important site, which contains the details of the eateries including address, phone number, signature or popular or must-try dishes, and reviews. It is by far the most uninamously recommended site by all friends http://www.openrice.com/restaurant/index.htm.

Unfortunately I didn’t manage to try all of them as the list is rather long and I had to divide them by regions, i.e. New Territories, Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and of course the outlying island. I will only share those that I have tried and only those that I think I will go back again. However if you’d like the list, please do not hesitate to let me know, I shall “pm” you! 🙂

Wan Ton Noodles (wan ton is somewhat similar to ravioli)

 The texture of the wanton noodle I like must be al dente, chewy, and not too soft (over-cooked).  For those of you who are familiar with how wanton noodles should be cooked, it must first be spread over a strainer and cooked in boiling hot water, for only a minute or so (well this is not quite a standard guideline, but how I like to do it). After that it should be quickly put in cold water, which is commonly known as “過冷荷”.  Obviously good wanton noodle is not only down to the way how it is cooked, but also the ingredients and the way how the noodles are made. I used to make wanton noodles with my mom when I was young. Her wise advice is to use duck eggs, and good strength to “punch” the dough! Well, knead the dough. That’s what Hong Kong is famous for, using a bamboo stick to knead.  Cooking is an art but there is also scientific approach to it.  Hah, this is the secret for the good texture, so I was told by my mom, which is kind of proven! How?? The difference was notable when my dad kneads the dough as compared to when my mom or me knead it.

As for the wanton, nothing can go wrong with fresh prawns with mixture of minced pork. The broth itself should not be too overpowering with a hint of good quality sesame oil and MSG free so that I can have the last drop of it .

Hong Kong is not only famous with its wanton noodles prepared using a bamboo stick, but also the size of the bowl is another signature. “細蓉” , as shown in the picture above is served in a small bowl. History has it that 細蓉 is luxurious and only those who can afford can have 細蓉, back in the ancient days. The labourers will go for the big bowl sometimes just the noodles without wanton. Till today, 細蓉 is expensive compared to the normal size. We had this at Mak’s Noodles at Kowloon, twice. We found this place accidentally, but loved the first bite of it. I don’t mind the size, as this carried the tradition and story. Another 細蓉 characteristic is the way how the noodle is being assembled. The spoon must be put in the bowl first, followed by the wonton and the noodle on the surface. The broth will be poured to cover everything but only surface the noodle. This is to ensure the chewiness of the noodle remains, until the one who savour it start to mix everything. I don’t normally take wanton noodle in soup because the soup will soften the noodle. But with this way, the noodle texture is maintained at its best and as the serving is small, it won’t have time to soak in the noodle and get soft. 細蓉 may not be economical, but this is one of the things that you wouldn’t mind to pay extra for the long lasting flavour, and texture in your mouth and memory.

Tofu fa (beancurd jelly)

This is perhaps the one thing that I had most in Hong Kong! I have tried at various locations.  The first place I went was in Sham Shui Po, 公和荳品廠 or Kung Wo Dou Bun Chong, thanks to a friend, Pei San, who took me there. Then David found another shop in Shau Kei Wan wet market. The tofu is really smooth with gingery sugar syrup. Hong Kong people like to eat tofu fa with brown sugar. We tried it but still prefer with ginger sugar syrup. The trip won’t be complete without trying 山水豆腐花, which is literally translated as tofu fa made with water from the mountain. I am not too sure if that is still the case, but the tofu fa is silky smooth. We also had it at Lantau Island, Tak Kee Tofu fa (德記山水豆腐花) which the stall is just before the staircase to the Big Buddha. 益昌小食店 at Tai O, which not only the tofu jelly is good, the black sesame paste dessert, is also smooth and aromatic. We couldn’t help ourself but to order another bowl of the sesame paste. Tai-O is also famous for its har cheong (shrimp paste). At Lamma Island, we started our hiking from Yung Shue Wan to Sok Kwu Wan. There is a tofu fa stall, Kin Hing Tofu Dessert,  in the middle of the hiking trail. I remember I have seen this stall featured in the TV, therefore we stopped by to have a bowl. However, I wouldn’t quite recommend to go to this stall, as the tofu is quite hard and couldn’t really taste the ginger in the syrup. The winner to me is none other than the picture shown, which we bought from a vegetarian shop, located across the apartment we stayed in Wan Chai. Unfortunately I have forgotten the name of the shop. It is located at around 222, Wan Chai Road, HK.

After a some sweaty search, I managed to find the restaurant 珍豆漿豆腐花專門店 and the address is G/F, 181A Wan Chai Road, Wan Chai.

At the very same vegetarian shop, we also bought the sticky rice roll.  Sticky rice roll is made with glutinous rice with filling such as fried dough, meat floss and pickled/ preserved turnip. However as we bought it from a vegetarian shop, therefore there’s no meat floss, but replaced with something similar.

These are my top 3 favourite food I had in Hong Kong.  There will be more write-ups on other food, such as the street snack, teochew noodles, sampan porridge, roast pigeon, infamous HK style crabs (chili crabs) and many more!

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Hong Kong trip! – The Prelude

“♫Hong Kong, I love Hong Kong!♫” .

I “grew up” with Hong Kong… drama series.  Specifically, TVB drama series. Yes, I am a TVB Buff!

There was no Astro and Astro On Demand back then, and the local TV channels only aired (and still are)  TVB drama a year or 2 later. I always had the heads up of the drama series as my family rented newly released series every day from the TVB shop across my house. Well that was our family night activities, gathered around the TV to watch our favourite series. All series literally! But that didn’t stop me from gluing myself to the TV everyday at 6 pm to watch them again. For those that I liked, i.e. my idols were in there, I would record it and watch again and again. Yes, you could guess that I was neither a top student nor active in extra curricular activities in school.

So it was a surprise to a lot of people that I have never been to Hong Kong, until July 2012!! Not quite on the anniversary of the “return” of Hong Kong to China, but it was the same month. Before I left Malaysia, holidays outside of the country was still a luxury and Air Asia only spread its wings to Hong Kong after I left to London. To fly all the way from London to Hong Kong is out of the question, as had I travelled half the globe, I might as well go home! Well then again, that wasn’t my theory, that’s David’s theory. I wouldn’t mind to do that.

I guess it is not too exaggerating for me to even say that I chose my current job because of Hong Kong. I am dead sure that I will be sent to Hong Kong by my company as I am a Chinese and I speak the language albeit the locals speak fluent English.

I supposed when you grew up travelling the world through the idiot box, know the places by heart as if you have been there before, speak like a local (so long I don’t get complacent and chat with them for too long, otherwise my Malaysian Chinese slang would betrays me), it left you no other desire than to match the reality to the imagination. Obviously the ultimate motive would be to explore the culinaries, as Hong Kong seems like a gateway of the different type of delicacies that I have salivated for.

I am fortunate that the business trip was 2 weeks, although due to unforeseen reasons, I arrived half a week later than my colleagues, and with an additional week of my own holiday, I think that should gave me ample of time to indulge in this food heaven.

And this was the only trip that I proudly told David that he didn’t need to plan anything (initially), as I could tell him where we could go, or rather I want to go.  I was also arrogant enough to think that our itinerary would be places that most of my friends wouldn’t go. I shall not do any shopping, and I shall not hang around much in Kowloon side. In fact, I strongly believe that the authentic food is no longer available in the big city, but in the suburb. Commoners’ food, such as “山水豆腐花” (literally translated as mountain water tofu flower – or rather simply “tofu pudding”), “秶飯” (sticky rice roll) and soya bean milk, dim sum, typhoon shelter crabs, roast pigeon, roast goose flat rice noodle, 盆菜, street snacks such as curry fish balls, 砵仔糕, 雞蛋仔, and many more!  

So my guidance was food, and broadly (VERY BROAD indeed) to the outlying islands! To be specific these are the islands I wish to visit

a) Cheung Chau and Peng Chau

b) Lantau Island

c) Lamma Island

I told him that we shall also go to villages/ suburb such as Yuen Long, “Walled Village”, and Tsuen Wan.

And so I started to compile a list of restaurants and cafes to go after shooting a few emails to my family and friends who have been and is residing in Hong Kong.

Does Hong Kong match to my imagination?

Categories: Hong Kong, Life, Travel | Leave a comment

My New Obsession with Barges and Locks! (Another recycled, why waste!)

Last year, I randomly borrowed a travel book from a local library for a vineyard road trip in France. I don’t quite recall the name of the book, but it was written by a married couple. The husband was a high-paid advertisement director in one of the big players in the media and advertising company in London. He gave up his job to travel with his family on a boat. It started from England (Dover) canal to France such as Nord, St Quentin, Marne-Saone, Bourgogne, Saone, Nivernais, etc.

 

I am not attracted to the idea of the canals, but was more amazed and intrigued by the different way of life skills required when floating days and nights. It is not just about knowing how to operate the boat and make it move, but our day-to-day basic requirements, such as toilets, baths, food and drink and place to sleep will be deprived as the facilities, which we may have taken for granted will be all minimised and to certain extent be sacrified. For eg, the writers do not have a proper toilet flushing system but back to the olden days of accumulating faeces and urines in a big container, which the husband had to empty it every time the dock at a marine. Well, it is a big squarish container, so the husband had to balance the container from spilling and dirtied himself, he did initially. Skill was acquired as he made more stops at the marine.

Another life skill that we take for granted is how much water shall we use for drinking, cooking, washing, bathing and toilets. Again, the water had to be stored in a container and they can only use so much so of the water. Another example would be electricity as they have to depend on the generator.

Beds are simple planks and cushions which have to be folded away once they are awake. Space is precious and therefore, there won’t be privacy time between the occupants in the boat.

There are new things that I learnt from this book about cruising through canals, i.e. locks for canals, which are doors that give or lose height for boats. 

We went to this place on this sunny Sunday at Grand Canal, Harefield in Hillingdon. It was sunny and there were few barges moored at the banks.  I didn’t expect that there’ll be a boat needed to pass through the locks today, but it did. Like a “frog under a coconut shell”, I stood patiently for the water to rise and for the owner of the barge to unlock the gate. 

               

Yes, now this has become my dream some day to be able to travel to different places in a barge. Well it is not a cheap dream but hopefully would be something I can, at least once. (To be honest, I want to rent one to experience it and see if this is really something I can live with).

Categories: Life | Leave a comment

6th Jul 2012 (A recycled post)

5 years ago, David and I accompanied by our family to Thean Hou temple to sign a contract. THE marriage contract. We didn’t do the usual Chinese customary, which my family is still nagging me about. The fact is I really dislike a big crowd of people, whom I barely know and keep in touch. There are arguments that these kind of events are the only times that we could get together with our long lost or even lost of touch relatives, and friends. However I prefer to celebrate with close family and friends. 

 Anyway, 5 years later, that is 2012, David and I wanted to make another milestone in our life. Not having a baby but to change our residence status in the UK. A month after our marriage registration, David left to London whilst I left to Sarawak. In accordance to the UK immigration rule, we are eligible to apply for the permanent residence status, which they address as Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), after having resided in the country for 5 years alongside other criteria. We have fulfilled that, and so we made an appointment to process our application as earliest as possibly we could. Well the rule said, 28 days prior to the date of entry 5 years ago. We managed to secure a slot on the 6th Jul coincidentally. I thought this would be great! Anniversary!! 

 Who knows, it wasn’t quite an anniversary celebration for us! To begin with, I have to leave the UK the very next day to HK for a business trip followed by a week of leisure. The day that we return to the UK would be 2 days after the expiry of our 5 years visa. Therefore it is very crucial that we have to get everything done on Fri. It was my fault for not thinking through thoroughly when I did the planning for HK trip. I should have thought about that, but I didn’t. I guess my excitement for HK trip was immense that I have completely forgotten or even put aside our visa application. 

 Right, back to 6th Jul. We arrived early. First, we went to make our payment for premium service on the first floor, i.e. we should get the application processed on the same day, although no guarantee that we’ll get our ILR on the same day. After payment, we went to a counter, which now I could barely remember what the lady behind the counter did directed us to go 2nd floor. 

 Okie, so we proceeded to the 2nd floor, which we were told to wait for announcement. The biometric system was having some technical issue. Brilliant! So we waited patiently and until after 2 hours later, the announcement finally came. The first number was called out!! It was already 1 pm or so, I think. But I was hopeful that the queue was moving. However after some hustling and bustling, we overheard people saying that they were asked to leave their application papers and reschedule their appointment!! My heart sunk! This couldn’t be true!! The numbers continued to move, but not ours. Our number was 129!! 

 Finally our number was called and we submitted our documents, but we still had to wait for the rescheduling. I again overheard some people of getting their appointment next week or some even week after next. I started to panic, as I thought if I could get an early week appointment, at least I still have a glimmer of hope to go to HK. However if it is not until week after next, I’ll be doomed! I have already paid for the apartment for the week of my holiday and David had paid extremely high air fare due to the last minute booking and peak season. And on the other side of the world, my parents had also purchased flight tickets to join us in HK. So worst come to worst, I’ll have to pay another exorbitant air fare. 

 We managed to get our appointment rescheduled to the following Tues. I was aiming to leave on Tues night and arriving HK on Wed evening. At least I could get some proper rest on Wed night before starting work on Thurs.

 Tues came and we made our way to the Home Office again. Things were moving initially when we arrived the home office, we got our biometric done. Great. Then we moved on back to the waiting room for our number, 231. However throughout the 4 hours of waiting, the numbers called were between 60s and 100s, and once or twice of 200s. By 4 pm, I again had another panic attack. I was afraid, that we couldn’t get it done again, or if we could, I won’t be able to catch the flight. But I was more afraid of not getting it done. As there were things that weren’t done last Fri when we were there. We submitted our application form and the supporting documents. There were no questions about our supporting documents whatsoever. But in that waiting room, I could see and listen to the type of questions that the officer asked the applicants. So I was beginning to worry that they only do such questioning when it was our turn. So my hope was disminishing. 

 Again at araound 4 something, there was another announcement, which we have heard before. To my aghast, they announced that they have technical issues (again!!) and they have to send some applicants home!  Luckily they prioritise us from last Fri and proceed with the processing. And soon after that, the number of counters reduced and half of the staff left. Now barely 5 counters left to continue with the remaining crowds. After waited for another hour, finally a lady officer came to ask if we’ve been seen. We told her that we were from last Fri appointment. And another half an hour, our number was called. After apologising for the long wait, the lady officer just proceeded to telling us that we are granted the ILR. At this point of time, we should be smiling. But we weren’t when she told us that the Biometric Residence Permit (somewhat like an ID) will be couriered to us, in 5 working days. That’ll be next Tues, which is also the day David is going to leave to HK!! 

 We are now going to take a risk. If the cards do not arrive before David leaving the country, we’ll have to wrestle with the Immigration security officer when we return to London. They are very stringent nowadays due to Olympics! (Bloody Olympics. Already causing havoc in the Central London when I go to work, now it is also affecting the immigration!!). 

 Well, instead another milestone on the 6th July, it is now another date to remember, 10th Jul! Which coincides with the birthday a friend from Form 6 and UUM. 

Categories: Life | 2 Comments

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