Friday 16 October 2009

Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance

The evening that we got back from Hanoi, after signing the lease for our new flat (YAY!) we went to see the Tai Hang Fire Dragon. It was super-crowded in Tai Hang, as you'd expect, so we didn't get great pictures, but Fili's World has such a good description and pics that i suggest you take a look there.

Syling explains :

Over a century ago, Tai Hang was a village whose inhabitants lived off of farming and fishing. A few days before the Mid-Autumn Festival a typhoon and then a plague wreaked havoc on the village. While the villagers were repairing the damage, a python entered the village and ate their livestock. According to some villagers, the python was the son of the Dragon King. The only way to stop the havoc which had beset their village was to dance a fire dance for three days and nights during the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival. The villagers made a big fire dragon of straw and stuck incense into the dragon. They lit firecrackers. They danced for three days and three nights and the plague disappeared.


So, Hanoi was great. It is a very noisy, busy, energetic place, and somehow the trillions of scooters make it all the more overwhelming.

We left HK late on Wednesday before National Day on 1st October (which marked the 60th anniversary of the founding of the PRC) We flew Hong Kong Express, which I thought had gone bankrupt, but still seems to be in operation. Met the guy from Hotel Elegance 3 (catchy name) at the airport, and after about a 40 min drive, arrived at the hotel, relieved to see a big comfy bed.

What did we do on Thursday? It was kind of drizzly, the tail end of Ketsana I think, but generally we were really lucky. We went for a wander around the Hoan Kiem Lake, whose name means "Lake of the Returned Sword". Legend has it that 15th century hero Le Loi was given a magic sword by a giant golden turtle in the lake (a bit far-fetched, but stay with me)He then became emperor, AND defeated the Chinese, then gave the sword back to the turtle. Not sure how he located the turtle. That detail is lost in the mists of time. In the middle of the lake is the Thap Rua tower, a monument to the turtle.

We went to the Ngoc Son Temple, which is on a little islet thingy in the lake. It was quite like temples we've seen in Indonesia, HK, Macau, Beijing....but none of them had a giant taxidermied turtle in them. He was found (boshed over the head?) in 1968, and is 2.1 metres long. Quite a sight to behold.

Also in the temple was the best Terrifying Horse I have seen since Yogyakarta:

In the afternoon, we had yummy Vietnamese coffee at the Hapro coffee kiosk next to the lake. The secret to Vietnamese coffee seems to be vast quantities of condensed milk - a staple of the HK diet. I think there's another secret, to do with the way it's brewed, I don't know.

A bit of wandering around the old quarter (aka traffic dodging) in the afternoon, appreciating the contrasts of life in HK and Hanoi. People eat on the pavements! can you believe it?! and, dearest Legco, they DO obstruct the pavement, but get this - nobody minds! Who would have guessed that people enjoy eating outside? You know that European lifestyle that everyone aspires to here (if property ads are to be believed) well an integral part of that lifestyle is eating outside. Get with the programme, as they say. (I am currently listening to the genius of white boy rap, Vanilla Ice, so I hope my temporary decade-slip can be forgiven).

OK, rant over.

We continued our game of Frogger visiting a few galleries =, which are all over the place. It became clear pretty quickly that 90% of them are essentially identical, and while they may not exhibit the same artists, you couldn't guess that. We did eventually find two that were more interesting, the Dong Phong Art Gallery, and the Life Photo Gallery.

By this time, decadence called - so we had Metropole Hanoi's Chocolate Buffet. YUM. It was pretty good, although I think Ross was a bit surprised that it wasn't more adventurous - just hot choc, lots of little chocolates, brownies, stuff like that. No chilli chocolates, or lavender and chocolate, or chocolate-dipped anchovies or anything. While we're on the subject of hugely-expensive hotels, it's interesting to note that there is actually a Hanoi Hilton - well, my point is that there are two. There's an actual hotel which is part of the international chain, and there is also the Hoa Lo prison, aka Hanoi Hilton which is where Senator John McCain among others involuntarily spent some time.

The next day we made a beeline for Lenin Park - yes, that's right, Lenin Park. It is super-strange, as you might expect. It's appropriate in many ways: soulless, enormous, criss-crossed by unexplained train tracks, not as advertised and essentially pointless. The promised placid Bay Mau Lake is no more. Nor are the paddle boats that resemble giant geese. I was looking forward to those. Here's what it looks liek now.

The Temple of Literature was founded in 1070, and it's a beautiful complex of traditional buildings and calm fishponds. Never mind Lenin Park, this was the real peaceful oasis (despite the tour groups sporting matching caps from, yes, you guessed it, mainland China)

Finally, we went to the water puppets - unmissable on a visit to Hanoi, so they say. It was great, charming I guess. Very low tech but sweet. There's a shallow pool of water at the front of the theatre, and the puppeteers operate the puppets from behind the curtain. They portray various little scenes from Vietnamese life (back in the day) like fishing for frogs, gathering the harvest, lions fighting, kids playing, stuff like that. Bits of it reminded me of Punch and Judy actually.

87 Pho Ma May is a tube house which has been restored to its former 19th century splendour. Being a tube house, it is long and narrow - this was a way of cheating an ancient system that calculated property taxes according to a property's width. When we went, the house was full of children, making lanterns and carving patterns into melons in preparation for Mid-Autumn festival. The idea is that the lanterns are lit up at night, and the light catches the moon's attention - he will then grant the wishes of the child holding the lantern.

I'm sure Ross will remind me of all the bits that I have forgotten to include, but how's that for a whirlwind tour?

Here's a video of what it's like trying to cross the road. Admittedly it was Mid-Autumn Festival Eve, but this is not an unusual quantity of traffic. And the pedestrian crossing light was green.

Monday 28 September 2009

The good news and the bad news

The good news is that we're going to Hanoi this weekend - which should be really exciting. I'm looking forward to eating tonnes of vietnamese food (lots of steak pho please!) and checking out the chocolate buffet at the Sofitel. Not quite decided yet whether we'll go to the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum...Looking forward to a bit more open space and just being out of HK.

The bad news is that Typhoon Ketsana (the one that just demolished Manila) is also heading to Vietnam. Hopefully it will stay a bit further south than Hanoi, but if the weather here is anything to go by, it'll still be very rainy. The typhoon is about 800k from HK now, and the weather all day has been atrocious.

The other bit of bad news is that we'll be missing the National Day celebrations on Thursday 1st Oct. This is a bit gutting because it's the 60th anniversary of the founding of the PRC (as you'll know if you watch BBC World!) so the fireworks and general hoo haa are likely to be spectacular. Oh well, there's always YouTube...

Also in inimitable HK style, there's another public holiday on the Saturday for the mid-Autumn festival. Yes, it's mooncake time again! you'll e pleased to know that my ever-generous employer has kindly provided some Minnie and Mickey themed mooncakes - I'm planning to give them to our lovely doorman, in the hope that he likes mooncakes, or at least knows someone who does.

As if to Nothing

We went to see As If To Nothing at the Kwai Tsing Auditorium last Friday, with Sanae. We booked ages ago, and I was really looking forward to it, but I came away a bit disappointed. I felt a bit like I had been repeatedly bashed over the head wiuth a blunt instrument for an hour and a half. The sound was SUPER loud, too loud for old grannies like me, and it was all a bit directional. Well, I'm sure that those in the know would dispute that. I just didn't really get it. We have seen quite a lot of dance here, and it can be a bit hit and miss admittedly, although this is choreographed by such an acclaimed guy, Sang Jijia, that I thought it would be good. And I have enjoyed performances by the CCDC before too. I guess it didn't help that I had had one of the worse weeks I have had since starting work here - all a bit sad-making really.

Oh well, you can't win them all.

Ross update: Actually I quite enjoyed most of the dance. The music was loud, but full of energy and very urgent - quite industrial though (we're talking experimental Prodigy crossed with... something less pop-y). And the dancing and video effects were odd and I don't pretend to have understood 10% of it, but it kept me engaged for 60 of 90 minutes after a long day at work!

Sunday 13 September 2009

The cat's out of the bag. Well, the cats are out they're not. Never mind. The secret's out.

Monday November 2nd 2009

So I think I have broken the news to everyone who ever reads this blog (all three of you!) so here are a couple of posts I wrote a while ago but didn't publish. I am 13 and a half weeks now, and very definitely showing! Looking forward to Christmas, and coming home to see everyone, and trying to buy some non-tent-like maternity wear. Not looking forward quite so much to spending £700 on a tandem buggy...

Monday September 28th 2009

Having spent the last few weeks alternately panicking, napping and muching crackers to stave off the nausea, I think I am getting the hang of this at last. My Amazon order is in the post, I have been finding out more about how to exercise safely (although that's not stopped me from gaining weight!) and I have not had to fend off too many enquiries about my sudden tee-totalism and new-found "aversion" to sushi.

Things are still very difficult because we are trying to make a decision about a new flat, and that's kind of hard when neither of us can really truly imagine what it'll be like to have a little squawking bundle around. How much space do we need? where will the buggy go? Would we get by ok without a bath? I'm just glad that we found out in time to veto all those lovely 4th floor walk-ups we saw! Also Oliver is coming to stay - by the time he comes, he will kow that sometime in May he'll be Uncle Ol, but part of me wants to tell him to wait until next year, since there'll be more to see then! But if he comes in Nov, it's cheaper as , and I'll still be able to leave the house (wherever that house may be). Heck I might even have a day off! I do have to bear in mind though that I only get 10 weeks' maternity leave (yes that's right, WEEKS not MONTHS) and Ross gets the princely sum of 2 days paternity leave, or something like that. Crapola.

Sunday September 13th 2009

So, I had my first scan on Friday. Which sounds crazy since I am only 4-6 weeks pregnant. The cynic in me would say that since scan cost $600, they offer them to anyone.

Looks like having a baby in this town is going to cost a lot of money – not least because I've been to the HK Sanatorium so far (mostly because it's so close to our flat) which is a private hospital. Hospital visits here always seem to involve at least 6 procedures before you see the doctor – which might be why we didn't get to see Dr Lam until an hour after my appointment time. First you fill in some forms and hand over your ID card. Sit in the waiting rom for a bit. Then you get your temperature taken (plus optional face mask if you look a bit hot). Sit in the waiting room for a bit. Get weighed. Sit in the waiting room for a bit. Answer a questionnaire about your recent travel history and contact with poultry (no questions about your contact with pigs ha ha) Sit in the waiting room for a bit. Take a pee test. Sit in the waiting room for a bit. Finally, see the doctor!

She correctly diagnosed me as very nervous, but I had Ross with me to stop me from passing out (again – I did a fainting special a couple of weeks ago at a very swanky rooftop bar in Wan Chai. Again, my hero was on duty and laid me – very gracefully apparently – on the expensive teak decking while someone got some iced water)She asked some questions, I asked some questions, then I had my scan. It was a pretty scary feeling getting up on that horrible bed thing with (shudder) stirrups. Eugh. Anyway, here's a little pic. The observant amongst you will notice that there are two the moment it seems like only one of them is developing, but there is a chance that sometime around the middle of May 2010, the size of our family will double. Gulp. The blob is only 2mm long at the mo, so Dr Lam thinks it's 4 weeks old.

It feels like a rather lonely time at the moment – we can't tell anyone until our next appointment (9th October) at the earliest. So between now and then I have to come up with some excuses for fainting, not drinking any alcohol or eating sushi, and nearly falling asleep by 5pm. I'm a very bad liar, so there's going to be some unconvincing mumbling for the next month. I have spent a lot of time recently crying, yelling at Ross and taking naps at the moment, It's really not as romantic as it sounded. But that's just now, things will get better :-)

I need to equip myself with a couple of books I think. Amazon will be my saviour!

Wednesday 19 August 2009

Fame at last

So I was on the telly the other day for a whole two seconds. We did a charity screening of the DisneyPixar movie Up, and there was a TV crew there from ATV news to cover the event.

The UA cinema is over at Whampoa Plaza in Hung Hom, right opposite the shopping centre shaped like a boat.

The movie was shown to 330 kids and their grandparents, I don't know which was cuter, the 2-year olds balancing the 3D glasses on the end of their noses, or the 92-year olds balancing the 3D glasses on the end of their noses.

Here are the sacrifices I made:
  • Getting up at 7.30 on a Saturday morning

  • Missing Pilates

  • Wearing a t shirt that says "VoluntEARS" (witty pun no?)

  • Having breakfast at Maccy D's in order to gulp down my antibiotics (yes, dear readers, I've had flu, tonsillitis and an eye infection)

  • Suffering many severe (but inexplicable) tiny cuts on my fingers as a result of playing an integral role in the "Blowing up 330 balloons team"

  • Taking part in a marathon photo-taking session which became more creative and elaborate (not to mention obligatory) as time went on.

On the plus side, I learnt how to say "Would you like to have a photo taken?" in Cantonese - "Ying seung". I also met lots of lovely people from other departments at work, including Kactus, which I think you'll agree is an interesting name. Anyway, I assume the participants enjoyed the film (as well as the complimentary popcorn and water I served with my own fair hands) but the day's proceedings were very much in Canto, so I can't be sure.

The bonus of this video is that you get to see the opening credits of the news, which I love. They remind me so much of The Day Today. Or Drop the Dead Donkey. Or something like that.

After the screening I got the ferry back from Hung Hom to Wan Chai. A month or so ago, we noticed that the roofs of the ferries were all very white - I think they had their annual repaint - but the one I got on Saturday was liberally sprinkled with black dust. I don't know what the Star Ferry runs on, but it ain't unleaded. In fact, I can only assume that they have a big furnacey thing on board (like in old movies) into which they shovel some fossil fuels. Big chunks of coal, most likely. Anyway, the ferry pier at Hung Hom's nice, much more spacious than the others, and Hung Hom itself is cool too. Actually we considered living there, but that tiny (and ever-shrinking) harbour is just too much of a mental block.

Mr Moore has booked his tickets for Blighty in October, while yours truly will have to stay here, slaving away over a hot Lenovo Thinkpad X200. Boo for local annual leave!

Monday 3 August 2009

Very strange path for this tropical depression to's currently heading this way (HK is the little red asterisk) but that could change at any time.


We have booked our flights home for Christmas, which has helped to ease my pangs of homesickness. So we'll be back for a short while in 5 months' time - I'm sure it'll fly by.

We went out to celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary on Saturday with friends. We went to Vivo for a couple of drinks, then to Cicada for supper (it's the sister restaurant to Erotica, as the Old bean likes to call it). Moved on to Gecko later, which is always dangerous and pretty much guarantess that the next day will be a write-off. And it was.

So a year and a bit in, we're pretty well settled. We still manage to motivate ourselves to do interesting stuff and discover new things, but it's hard not to be lazy when it's soooo hot. Last week I went to see a production of Antigone at the Cultural Centre, by a company called Theatre du Pif which I enojoyed very much. In fact, it was so good that I went again the next night with Ross. It was very simply but attractively staged, and after months of TV and films, it reminded me of the power that a live performance can have. Such a treat to see English-language theatre here that is good, strong and thought-provoking.

Still waiting for our next visitors - with any luck, Oliver will be next (you'd better sleep well on the plane cos I have lots and lots of plans!) followed by the Parental Moores. I just hope that the weather has cooled down by the time you all arrive because it's pretty horrendous right now. Next time we move we're going somewhere with a pool...

Wednesday 29 July 2009

Rain rain go away

Here are a couple of videos of my walk to work on Monday, 27th July '09. The fountain in the middle of the crossing is usually a manhole cover. There was no rainstorm warning on this day, even though 70-100mm of rain fell in about 2 hours. 100mm is about twice the average monthly rainfall in the UK.

The more observant among you might notice that cars have stopped taking any notice of the traffic lights!

Monday 20 July 2009

Typhoon Molave arrived this weekend - it was the 3rd typhoon in as many weekends, but this time it actually had a bit of an impact! This was not filmed by me, but some storm-chaser dude. Apparently over 400 trees fell during the storm, but only 3 people were injured. It really hit HK in the middle of the night, so I guess that limited its effects.

Monday 13 July 2009


Bet you're all dying to hear about Langkawi, OK, maybe that's a slight exaggeration. But I feel I should record it for posterity anyway.

Flew to Langkawi via KL, all very smooth. Slightly surprised to be offered beer at 9am, but not complaining.

Got a taxi from the airport to the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club, just half an hour or so. Much of the journey was through settlements very reminiscent of Indonesia and Cebu - maybe that's what they mean by Malaysia Truly Asia - Malaysia Same As Everywhere Else in Asia. Bit of a generalisation maybe. Sunsail guy, Andy, was super chilled, really nice and helpful. We took our bags across to Princess Anna, our floating home for the next week, and then Andy gave us a lift to the supermarket so we could stock up. Ross actually bought Corned Beef in a tin - obviously we didn't eat that.

We spent the first night in the marina, getting used to sleeping in a 35' sauna without air conditioning.

First day's sailing - let me just mention now that if you're chartering a yacht, you might want to check that it has above deck GPS - we had this in the BVI, and it makes navigating a whole shed load easier. And lazier.

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Friday 26 June 2009

Out of the frying pan, into the fire

AKA, leaving the T3 in Hong Kong, and flying to the severe heat warning in Beijing.

So there's a T1 right now, anticipated to be upgraded to a T3 this afternoon (no days off work till we reach T8). We're flying to Beijing tonight, where the heat will be quite extreme.

It's been quite a quiet week, unpacking and repacking. New photos on Flickr of Langkawi, which should also be showing on the slide show at the top of the blog.

Friday 12 June 2009

Going going gone.

Welcome to our 100th blog post. Takeaway from CPK has just arrived, we've packed and we fly to Langkawi (via KL) tomorrow for a week sailing. Fingers crossed that they let us back in a week from now...

ps, HK visas renewed, and China visas collected, yay!

Thursday 11 June 2009

Breaking News

All primary schools, kindergartens closed for two weeks

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has announced that all primary and
lower-level schools will close for a fortnight.

The decision for the two-week closure, effective from tomorrow, was made
after a cluster of influenza-like cases at St Paul's Convent School was found to
be swine flu infections.

The school is about 1/2 km away from the office.

Wednesday 10 June 2009

Friday 5 June 2009

Snot Frappuccino

Went to Starb's with Jacqui at lunchtime, to check out the new summer menu. Today's Specials - snot in your coffee. Actually, jelly in your coffee, but it's pretty snot-like! It's much nicer than it sounds. Combining textures is a big thing here, so sago balls in your tea, snot jelly in your coffee and gristle in your noodle soup are all local faves.

Also, here's a classic food picture, just for Jo. Aubergine bake.

And another one to sum up our Dragon Boating experience the other day. The weather was a little inclement.

Thursday 4 June 2009

June 4th

There's a 64 hour hunger strike going on downstairs at Times Square - doesn't take a genius to figure out that this is to do with Tianenmen. When I came past everyone was feasting on big bowls of noodle soup - preparing I guess. More later.

Tuesday 2 June 2009


It's been a long time since I posted any photos - the blog's looking a little text-heavy to be honest. So here's a few from Romain's visit to keep you amused.

Photos are always on Flickr - hope the link works.

Monday 1 June 2009

Everlasting Love

Bit of culture for the weekend – I dragged Ross to an HK Dance Company performance called “Everlasting Love” – a reimagining of tradition Chinese folklore love stories. The theme revolves around a central character, of indeterminate era, who is struck by how these traditional stories are still relevant and have continued to evolve – after all, love stories are pretty universal. I think Ross was right to be skeptical about it. The dance was immaculately performed (or at least looked it, to my untrained eye), the costumes were by turns beautiful or ragged, and the music was, well, Chinese. Somehow the “story” felt rather incoherent. Each love story, with a theme such as “Encounter” was presented in a series of vignettes, some of which were faaaar too long. Towards the end the music, costumes and the number of dancers on stage at once conspired to make it all a bit “Les Miserables”. I don’t think that was what they were aiming for.

The really astonishing thing is the late comers. It’s no secret that everyone is always late in HK (sweeping generalizations, moi?!) but this takes the biscuit. 5 minutes into the performance, at what they call an appropriate break, the house lights come up, and another 30 or 40 people come in. They chat a bit, rustle some stuff and settle in, before the performance starts again. I’d say this has happened at about 60% of the dance performances I’ve been to. It’s a tad distracting.

We’ve seen a few performances here now – of the contemporary ones, the two that I’ve enjoyed most are The White Body by Ea Sola, and an Outdoor Dance Gala by Helen Lai, performed by the City Contemporary Dance Company.

The White Body was very moving, and affecting, because somehow the message was clear enough for me to see and understand, but not patronizingly obvious. It was also extremely well performed, with music which perfectly reflected what was happening. The combination of high energy dance and music is pretty hard to resist!

I enjoyed The Outdoor Dance Gala partly because there’s not a lot of outdoor art here, so it was good to see that it is possible, and partly because it was hard to watch. The dancers were performing on the piazza outside the Cultural Centre in TST; it’s just a paved area near the harbor front. It was a very physical performance, with lots of flying bodies, hard impacts and noise. The risks and potential injuries kind of challenge what you expect from dance. In fact, the actual injuries do too. Being so close to the performers, you can see the grazes and scrapes gathered along the way.

Monday 25 May 2009


Today I literally cannot see the other side of the harbour from the office. It's less than 2km away but all that lies beyond the HK-side waterfront is a big white wall of rain.


It is essentially dark now, at 11.44am. The palm trees across the way do not look happy. And even though I'm nowhere near a window, on the 19th floor of a 36 floor tower, I can hear the rain. It's pretty miderable. At times like this, I really crave a good old Engligh pub with a roaring log fire. To be fair, it hasn't really rained since the last typhoon (October?) so I shouldn't complain about the weather, but I will because ngoh hai ying gwok yan.

Should've guessed it'd be like this, as this Thursday is a public holiday here, and will be time for the annual dragon boating extravaganza.

On the other hand, today is a Bank Hol in the UK, and the temp was the same there as here yesterday....

The day that the rain came down

Actually, it started a few days ago, and hasn’t stopped since. So after weeks of moaning that weekends were too busy, and we never got a chance to relax, I had relaxation thrust upon me this weekend. And man was I bored. Ross still sailed, despite the downpour, and came home with the usual quota of bumps and bruises. Meanwhile, I had braved Causeway Bay, for a spot of shopping. Now, it’s usually quite frustrating to walk around in HK for many reasons 1) it is often uncomfortably warm to walk any distance 2) the pavements are very narrow, and most importantly 3) people walk veeeeerrrryyyy sloooooowly. And they don’t look where they are going, stop dead in the middle of the street, generally weave about and make life difficult. Which is why we often walk on the road not the pavement (don’t tell the police). Now imagine that scenario when it’s still 25 degrees (nice and sticky!), it is absolutely pissing with rain, there are about 500,000 people walking around Causeway Bay, and every one of them has a big fat umbrella just waiting to poke your eye out. Then try to get those people to move through a bottleneck-y bit of the street in an orderly fashion. Not gonna happen. It’s like that situation where the traffic lights go out of order at a roundabout and utter chaos ensues, even though everyone patently knows how to tackle a roundabout with no traffic lights.

Anyway… I went to the Football Club for lunch yesterday, very nice. We sat outside under the covered bit and watched the rain slant ever closer to horizontal. Also Brunch Club and Supper (odd name huh?) has opened on Leighton Road, and it is very lovely. The food is ok in the evenings, and more importantly they do great brunch – lots of egg options and stuff as well as healthy muesli + fruit. It’s also a really nice venue, much better than the pokey little one in CWB. It has loads of magazines, a piano, an OK view, and a kind of (fake) industrial loft feel. Recommended!

Monday 11 May 2009

Les vacances de M Eymard

Salut tous! Hong Kong is all Frenchified at the moment - it is of course "Le French May", but more importantly Romain is here to check up on us.

After an eventful Friday night at FINDS (at least one evening in LKF is obligatory for all visitors) I managed to stumble out of bed for early morning Pilates. By late morning, we were all packed and ready. Ross headed off to Hebe Haven for an afternoon's racing on Struan, and Romain and I caught the TurboJet to Macau.

I'm thinking of starting a new guide book series, for rookie tourists - it's based on the I Spy books of old. Your little book would list all the things you need to do and see there in order to justifiably say that you've "done" Macau. Think that we covered just about everything in our 30ish hours:
  1. Eat an egg tart. Preferably a custard-y one rather than an omelette-y one.
  2. Eat bakkwa (strange-looking but seriously yummy pork jerky type stuff)
  3. Visit one of Stanley Ho's establishments with the sole purpose of losing some hard-earned cash. How handy that they readily accept HK$ as well as Macanese patacas. And despite what you might believe after watching Casino Royale, you can actually go into the Grand Lisboa in jeans and flip flops.
  4. Visit something "cultural" - we chose the Guia fortress and lighthouse, atop the hill just behind our hotel.
  5. Make a ruckus in the hotel pool by talking (gasp!) while elderly ladies and gents warm up, then do a slo-mo front crawl in matching swimming caps.
  6. Guys only - try to look up girls' skirts when you go to the ruins of Sao Paolo cathedral. The elevated walkway is mesh.
  7. Pay your respects to the saints whose reliquaries rest in the Museum of Sacred Art. Oh, and remember, if you are suddenly outside again, you've missed it. Maybe you blinked at an inopportune moment.
  8. Spend as long as humanly possible at Fernando's. IMHO, this lovely Portuguese restaurant alone is worth a trip to Macau. Pick your bottle of wine, tuck into a beautifully fresh salad and a succulent grilled chicken, and relax.
  9. (see item 9) Order an unknown drink ("spirits") from the waiter in the yellow t shirt, and try not to laugh as four waitresses smell your empty glass to try and guess what it was so they can tot up your bill.
  10. Dip your toes in the sea - let's hope it's that colour because the sand is black (hence Hac Sa beach)
  11. Make sure that you come up with a new pose for each photo taken of you - if you run out of poses, just jump in the air. You'll look energetic.
  12. Avoid the crowd of paparazzi with their giant cameras who are following a mysteriously un-model like Chinese girl.

Wednesday 18 March 2009

Hiking again. I mean, yay, more hiking!

Loyal readers (Katharine) will notice that I haven't posted much recently - that's because nothing interesting happened. Believe me, I'm doing you a favour. The weather's been crap, we've been ill lots (which just goes to show that those surgical masks are a waste of gauze) and we haven't done much.

Stage 2 of the Lantau trail this weekend, which reminded me of just how very much I hate steps and or steep slopes, when you have no choice but to climb them for over an hour. We got the ferry to Mui Wo ("Plum Nest" in Chinese - aka Silvermine Bay) and then a bus for a couple of stops to a random middle-of-nowhere place called Nam Shan, which gave me an opportunity to practice my fledgling Cantonese on the bus driver. Of course there was the requisite toilet block, rain shelter and map board at Nam Shan, it being the start of a Lantau Trail stage. Also a large, empty rubbish bin surrounded by trash, which we very conscientiously picked up. Under the wooden arch, and onto the trail proper.

(I should point out that Stage 1 of the trail involves walking up the road from Mui Wo - if you are familiar with the standard of driving on Lantau, you'll understand why we won't be doing that one.)

The climb starts here. And goes on for the rest of your life. I didn't moan much, preferring instead to let my asthmatic wheezing do the talking. Let's just skip over this part.

So eventually you reach something worth seeing - a cool open plateau between the twin heights of Sunset Peak. Scattered across the plateau are about two dozen little huts. They are made of stone and concrete, and I'd be lying if I said they were visually appealling. They were built between the wars as a retreat for missionaries working in China. I'm sure at one time they had a lovely view over the little fishing island of Chek Lap Kok - as I've mentioned before, thanks to the world's most aggressive land reclamation, the island is now 10 times the size it was then, and home to considerably more aeroplanes. The huts are kind of sweet in a way - each one is different, and many have a little verandah, or steps down to what might be thought of as a garden (if you have particularly active imagination). There's even a little swimming pool, made by damming a stream.

We skirted around Sunset Peak, which at 869m is the second highest peak on Lantau. Ross was annoyed when we got home that we didn't actually go to the peak, but we were very close! On the descent we saw some beautiful views across Lantau to the typhoon shelter of Peng Chau, and the rather exclusive-looking beach and village of Pui O. We'll be heading there next time it's a beachable day. By the way, the descent was also extraordinarily steep - our legs were jittering uncontrollably by the time we reached the bus stop. And I do Pilates.

Back to Mui Wo on the bus, where we explored the beach (nothing special) and laughed at the little dogs pulling along a man on his trike. Obligatory lime soda at China Bear, and the ferry back to Central so that I could embark on another supermarket crawl in search of ciabatta.

We got the 6 o'clock ferry from Lantau, so arrived back in Central about 6.45. This is my favouritest time in HK, as the sky turns lilac, then darkens to purple as the yellowy lights start to burn out of the windows of the city. Soon the sky is inky blue, and in the contrast the lights flash a brighter white. A rare thing these days, as we've been immersed in cloud for weeks. But the temperature is on the up, and spring is coming.

Wednesday 25 February 2009

And the "No Shit, Sherlock" prize goes to..., which tells us that "Sea gypsies live nomadic, sea-based life".

Sunday 15 February 2009

The Run

On Friday last week we decided to go see some comedy with some Aussie friends. There aren't many comedy clubs in HK, but TakeOut Comedy seems to be one of the better ones - and, even better, they had a comic coming over from New York. Al Ducharme and his wife Bernadette Pauley were pretty good, although I think it was all old material - whatever, it was lots better than the local comics...

Anyway, at dinner beforehand we learnt that one of the Aussie friends, Jo, had a spare ticket for the Standard Chartered 10k run. There is a full marathon, a half marathon (both of which actually go through a road tunnel under the harbour for a mile or so!) and a 10km run which goes along half the north side of the island and back again. So, being a little crazy, Sarah decided to take up the challenege.

Sarah did a great time of under an hour. That's a pretty good time, and is fantastic given the crowds, and that Sarah had to stop a number of times while people in front stopped to have their photo taken, chat with friends, get out their mobiles etc... You can see it's still dark - the race started at 6am because it goes down the main island highway so they need to get it back open again before everyone wakes up and goes shopping.

Thursday 12 February 2009

Nei hou

Ross and I went to our first Cantonese lesson last night (after several false starts courtesy of the YWCA) so now I can say good morning, hello, my name is Sarah, and I am British. The good news is that the way to say UK (ying gwok) is very positive - ying has heroic overtones, while gwok means country. When you use the correct tones of course. America, (mei gwok) means beautiful country, and Australia (ou jau) means round-ish continent. New Zealand is a complex, almost transliterated one, which I won't even attempt to replicate.

I think (hope) we'll get the hang of the tones over time, they sort of make sense until you start trying to say something!

Saturday 31 January 2009

Kung Hei Fat Choi (again)

The Chinese New Year fireworks were, as you might expect, quite spectacular. Or at least, the first five minutes were, so I assume the rest were - it got somewhat smoky fairly quickly, so we couldn't see it all even though we had a stunning view of the harbour, kindly provided by Sisyphus and Bauble (and Benny). This video really doesn't capture the massive booms echoing up the hillside, but should give you a sense of the scale of the operation. For a longer (and frankly better) video, try this one on YouTube. It's pretty long...the last 2 mins are good!

Paying respects

Chinese New Year is a time to visit the graves of relatives, so we went over to the cemetary this morning, armed with a large bunch of yellow chrysanths (very festive, very bright, very Chinese) to cheer up Ross's great-gradfather's grave.

Thursday 22 January 2009

cough cough

This story is something of a worry, particularly today - the air pollution index is 112, or "very high". Here's what we can expect:

People with existing heart or respiratory illnesses may notice mild aggravation of their health conditions. Generally healthy individuals may also notice some discomfort.

Kowloon is hardly visible from HK island through the haze.

Year of the Golden Ox

Here's a personality summary of everyone who will be born between Monday 26th January 2009 and 14 February 2010:

Positive Traits
Responsible, dependable, honest, caring, honourable, intelligent, industrious, practical
Negative Traits
Petty, inflexible, possessive, dogmatic, gullible, stubborn, critical, intolerant, materialistic

Just realised that means that CNY will be on Valentine's Day next year. The year that has just passed was the year of the Rat; this means that Romilly and Astrid will be big fans of pork, peas and cabbage!

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Well, that' s a bit early actually. Lunar New Year approaches, bringing with it the cultural minefield that is lai see. These innocuous-looking red packets are destined to be my downfall in the world of Chinese etiquette. However, I have extensively consulted both gweilo and Chinese colleagues, and come to a few conclusions. I'll give you the vague outline; if you want to read an amusing take on the whole situation, I suggest you mosey on over to Batgung, an awesome site kept up to date by two expats, Mr Tall and Mr Balding.

1. Married people are expected to give to unmarried people. Fair? I'll let you be the judge.
2. You are expected to give to any "subordinates" at work - I don't have any, so that bit's easy for me.
3. You have 15 days after CNY (which is Monday 26th Jan this year) to present the red packets.
4. Here’s the hard part – the packets have to be stuffed with money. How much to give? How to distinguish the red packets you’ve filled with $50 notes from the ones you’ve filled with $10 notes? New notes (the done thing) or used notes (the environmentally-friendly thing)? As I said, minefield.
5. Another issue is the recipient list – lots of people at the office, which really requires you to know whether all your colleagues are married. Not only colleagues, but other staff at the office. So that’s the super-friendly bin dude, the desk-cleaning lady, the aggressively smily loo-cleaning lady, and the surly vacuuming lady. And not only them, but also colleagues’ children, who will pay a lovely visit at some point. I’m ok with this bit, because people quite often bring their kids into the office, and everyone knows them already. Also lots of non-office service people – the (3) doormen at our building, our cleaner, the building cleaner, lift repair men, post man….

It’s tricky. Everyone’s getting reeeeally friendly this time of year, the doormen leap up to snatch the door open for you, and the bin dude has learnt to say “You’re welcome” in English. Actually, he almost certainly knew that before, just didn’t try it out on me.

It’s also a pretty austere time. While I’m not pretending that HK is as gloomy as the UK sounds, people are still tightening belts, or whatever the phrase is. So, it could turn out to be an expensive fortnight. Oh, and Ross and I both have to give packets to all the service people individually, we can’t give as a couple. Having said that, the service here makes life pretty luxurious so I am perfectly happy to hand over a few packets in return for the (almost universally) courteous and excellent service we get all over the place.

Sunday 18 January 2009


All our HK photos are on Flickr, here....

China Town given answers

Have a look at this BBC story about a public well-being survey. Cheating huh?!

Saturday 17 January 2009

Great Grandaddy

Between Christmas and New Year I had a few days where I was still on holiday but Sarah wasn't. I therefore took the opportunity to pop round to the other side of the valley and try one last time to find Granny's father's grave. I bumped into a historian there who was documenting people in the graveyard who came from Devon - quite a task! He was very helpful though, explained where I could look people up to find graves.

Suddenly everything was a lot more simple - a 10 minute wait while Norman Pope was looked up, and then I was armed with a map detailing the location to within 10 metres or so.

And so here it is, a very handsome grave stone of a fallen cross. The stone is quite difficult to read after 90 years of lichen, but here's proof it's the right one:
It's a lovely spot, although there is the noise of a road nearby (a Hong Kong hazard it's pretty hard to avoid on the island).

Monday 12 January 2009

Chi Lin Nunnery and Kowloon Walled City

We headed over to Kowloon-side the other day to visit Chi Lin Nunnery, near Diamond Hill MTR. It's an incredibly peaceful place - as you step inside the huge wooden walls of the first courtyard, the traffic sounds start to fall away. Once you move further into the complex, you could almost forget you're in Kowloon. There's also a very peaceful garden on the other side of the road (just don't try to go in the out gate, or proceed in the wrong direction)