What I’m working with

I really thought in Paris, that I had a small kitchen.  I mean, it was the smallest I’ve ever cooked/baked/washed dishes in!  But then I came to Hong Kong…

It was requested that I show my actual kitchen so you can see the long and short of it.   Well, just the short of it!

To say this kitchen is an “efficiency” kitchen would be putting it mildly.  Without an oven (or any pans) I most likely won’t be baking anything.  Although I could look up some of those mug-in-the-microwave recipes.  …hmmm…

But at least I have two “burners” so I can cook some stuff.  And since I’m in Asia, that stuff should be Asian, right?   I’ve just started to scratch the surface of Chinese veggies and how to prepare them.  So far I’ve done two soups.  One is an all-time favorite of mine:  egg-drop soup.  To this I added some chicken, portobello mushrooms, choi sum and ginger.  The second soup was just a catch-all.  Potato, mushroom, choi sum, ginger, shrimp and some noodles (I don’t know what they’re made of, but they looked interesting).  Not to toot my own horn, but these were yummy!!   I could get used to this.   🙂

Repulse Bay; quite attractive!

There’s nothing replusive about Repulse Bay! Apparently some Brits named it that after “repulsing” a pirate encampment there…or something equally obscure.

Today was my first day with no colleague interaction.   That’s right, the training wheels have come off, all Paris colleagues have gone home, and I’m on my own in Hong Kong.  So what better thing to do than head to the beach!!  It was 32°C / 90°F with a “feels like” temp of 41/106!  I took the metro to the “Exchange Square Bus Terminal”.  Let me explain that “Exchange Square” is not so much a square, as a hard to locate and quite confusing to navigate around parking lot located on the ground floor of a building in the very busy Central area.  After a walk around a couple of blocks, an elevated walkway, self lost guided tour of a random parking lot, I managed to find my bus (only because the bus was sitting there.  I never would have seen the sign!)  The  bus went through the city, over the mountaintops and down through the forest to the beach.  Beautiful panoramic views on this bus route, I must say!  I also must say that this is the bus to “Stanley Prison”…which I found a bit strange, but whatever.  I got off long before the prison!

This beach is the most well-known, apparently most-frequented beach in HK.  But in mid-September, it’s not crowded at all, and really very lovely.  There was a tour bus of Chinese Mainland tourists a few meters down the beach, all wearing tennis shoes, matching shirts and hats, carrying umbrellas, taking pictures, but not really doing the whole “beach”-thing.  As I looked at them I literally said out loud “you’re doing it wrong”.  No one was close enough to hear me, but even if they were, they were probably thinking the same thing.

The beach and the water were both very clean, (cleaner than Barcelona is!) and once there was even an announcement that littering and smoking were illegal, and please don’t do things that would annoy or disturb other beach-goers.  I shit you not, this was on a loudspeaker in Cantonese, Mandarin and English!  Let me take this opportunity to say that I love the anti-smoking laws in this country 😉  As I mentioned above, it was hot.  But actually not as hot as in the city.  There was a pleasant breeze…for a bit…then I felt like I was melting.  Time to take a dip.  Wow.  PERFECT water temp.  I spent 45 minutes just floating there.  I had read that the water on this side of the island was-not surprisingly-much cleaner than on the harbor side.  But I was surprised that it was clearer than in the south of France, or in Lake Erie.  Standing up to my chin, I could still see my feet, there was no seaweed, no floating detritus, no nothing.  Just warm water and gentle waves.  A girl could get used to life in Hong Kong…

Get me outta here!

Well, I’ve been in Hong Kong for a whole 4 days. So let’s escacpe! I had the opportunity to go to Macau with some colleagues who are here for a short time, so I jumped at the chance.  Glad I did.  I’ll be honest, there were some highlights and some lowlights.

There were 5 of us who went: A German colleague and her German friend, and two colleagues from the Paris office, and me.  It became apparent that we had different views on what would be the “must-see” places in Macau.  The German friend thought hiking/walking/seeing gardens and parks would be the best idea.   My French colleague and I thought differently.  CASINOS BABY!!  …well.  One Casino, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

From Hong Kong we took a ferry at 9am.  So we arrived in Macau, through customs, potty breaks, etc. around 10:30 and took a city bus to…the end of the line.  Woops.  Missed our stop.  So we took it back to where we wanted to start. We saw a nice Buddhist temple, but along the bus route I was quite shocked at how dirty and run-down the apartment buildings were. I now further appreciate Paris and its ever-cycling cleaning of the buildings!

Noon, time for lunch, right?  No.  Apparently our self-appointed tourguide decided she wasn’t hungry (from the looks of her she has forgotten what food is, so “lunch” is a foreign concept for her).  So we would instead go to the large park in the center of Macau.  At this point it became apparent who was not so good at map reading (tourguide), and who was much better at map reading (me!).  Well, we found the garden and took a gondola up to the top of the mount, and then further climbed and climbed up to the old lighthouse built by the Portuguese.   Quick note:  Just as Hong Kong was a colony of England until 1997 leading English to be an official language, Macau was a colony of Portugal until 1999, leading Portuguese to be the second official language of Macau.  And this of course also led to many buildings with Portuguese style architecture, and an influence in the cuisine and local delicacies too!  There is a small church (of course what lighthouse wouldn’t be complete without a church…right?) and the view from there is incredible.  You could probably see Hong Kong from there!  …except, you know, pollution.  Anyway, it was very cool to see, and it would have been a really nice hike…if I wasn’t sweating my ass off.  Then our trailguide led us back down the hill to another garden.  It was 2pm at this point.  Did I mention lunch?  So my friend and I decided this was completely uncivilized, and we must nourish ourselves, and besides, there’s Portuguese pastry to be found!!  Time to split the group.

After lunch with my friend we took a bus to the island off the south of Macau, called Taipa.  Bet ya didn’t know there was a separate island, huh?  😉  Neither did I.  The best description for Taipa that I can give is “Little Vegas”.  Casino after Casino, and huge newly constructed, beautiful hotels.  The most advertised of these is the Venetian.  Just like in Vegas, they have a “Grand Canal” lined with shops, and you can take a gondola ride, under the painted sky.  What they also have is Portuguese “Pastel de nata”–> egg tarts!  Mission accomplished!  We walked along the “canal” and did some window shopping (we’ll call it market research), and took a stroll through the casino.  No gambling though.  Minimum bets of 300HKD?  Too rich for my blood!  Another quick note: Hong Kong and Macau each have their own currency, separate from mainland China.  Luckily when you go to Macau with your HKD, you can pretty much use them interchangeably with the Macau Patacas.  Convenient! 😉

The nice thing about the Venetian is that they provide a free shuttle to each of the ferry terminals (Taipa island has their own ferry terminal, but it’s much smaller than Macau).  How convenient, they bus their gamblers straight from the boat docks to the bacarat tables!  On the way out of the Venetian we happened to run into another place selling egg tarts.  Well, you can’t just pass it up!  It was a sign.  We needed another 😉  We took the shuttle to the Taipa ferry terminal.  No seats on the ferries until 9pm.  woops….  So take a taxi back to Macau?  Nah, we took the free shuttle back to the Venetian, then another freebee to Macau terminal.  We’re smart.  And we almost had another egg tart…almost.

So all in all, a cool day trip!  I’ll call it recon for a later more organized trip to Macau, hopefully in the near future!

Landed in Hong Kong

Well, between sometime Monday evening and what is now apparently Wednesday morning, I managed to take my flight, get the transport to my hotel and check in…then crash.  It was difficult to keep my eyes open in the taxi from the airport.  But what I remember seeing is lots of beautiful mountainous islands, green with vegetation, juxtaposed with cranes and skyscrappers everywhere.  The latter becoming more and more condensed before passing over a large bridge onto Hong Kong Island proper.  There it was all tall buildings with fast roads weaving in and out of them.  It reminded me a lot of New York mixed with Dubai, and then throw in the heat and humidity of Savannah.

Welcome to Hong Kong.