Tuesday, December 13, 2011

More trees

We're not finished with the trees yet, not by a long chalk! This is the tree in the local YMCA which as well as a cafe, swimming pool and hotel has an excellent shop where I bought some cards and paper.

Small but perfect...oor ain wee tree with our gifts below. I'm like a small child, I want to open them NOW ,but Les is adamant. Although he agrees it would be mad to take them all the way to Australia, he insists we wait until at least the weekend...and it's only Wednesday! Bah Humbug!

Jiao Festival

The hapless chicken, who later escaped, bringing the whole proceedings to a halt!

A deity

The Lion head ready for the dance

Deity guarding the main altar

The duck leads the parade, with a red cloth ried to it's legs. Next comes the dragon and the chicken brings up the rear.

I had a great day out at the Jiao Festival in Sai Kung. It's a Daoist ritual called "Pacifying the dragon" and it takes place only once every thirty years. It's very much a local event for the Hakka families in the village, so it was a great privilege for our group of 20 women to be able to witness it first hand. There are lots of excellent photos on my facebook page, taken by my friend, who is a much better photographer than I am! Anyway I'll add a few of my own here too. We were also the subject of many photographs as locals wanted to capture the event. Few if any white Westerners get to witness such an ancient and rare ritual.
Our day started with a visit to the temple, still covered in red paper shreds from the night before's firecrackers. Then we watched as the various components of the parade were assembled; a duck to lead, a lion, a chicken at the end, a "Man of fortune" bearing a clay urn containing grain, which is buried on the hillside to pacify the dragon. We all followed the parade up the steep hill behind the village. After some 20 minutes of steady climbing, the parade stopped. We were told it was because the leaders had reached the burial ground and women were not allowed there. True enough, but why then so many men still in the queue? Next followed fantic calling down the hillside, phone calls back down to the village and my limited Cantonese picked up the word "gai" which means chicken. A local lass explained that to everyone's consternation, the chicken had escaped into the undergrowth and frantic efforts were underway to procure another live chicken for the ritual to continue.We all decided at this point we should descend, as we wouldn't be permitted to progress much further anyway. Also, we were concerned for the welfare of the duck, suspecting it was about to meet a messy end as part of the ritual. As we neared the village, there were more frantic shouts and we had to stand aside to make way for a young man ascending at speed...clutching another chicken! We spent the rest of the day wandering round the village with our very knowdgeable guides, then we went out to the main road to await the parade's descent. Their approach was heralded by loud drums and gongs, then much to our relief, the duck,still alive but looking somewhat subdued, the lion and bringing up the rear, not one but two chickens! The original one had been captured! After more photocalls, we headed home. What a terrific experience!

Friday, December 9, 2011

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

Our "Hostess with the mostest"

Every month, a group of Laydeez get together at Laurie's house for coffee and a chat. On Thursday, she had a few surprises in store! We had champagne (at 10.30am), a Christmas prize draw, mince pies and fabulous old Christmas music; Bing Crosby et al. What a great morning!
I have been doing a little bit of Christmas shopping, just a few house gifts to take to Australia, so that was fun.I've taken more Christmas tree pics, uploading shortly, and some friends have now got caught up in it and are taking pics of trees in their local area and sending on to me!
The weekend in Macao was a laugh; Les had a go with the Chinese fortune sticks in the afternoon and his said "If you gamble tonight you will be lucky". So he had a go on the slot machines and won $300! We spent a whole day wandering round the old Portuguese influenced part of Macao, not a camera between us. The weather was sunny but there was a snell wind. We ate Portuguese on the first night and Mexican (via Portugal) on the second. We did not go to the famous Cotai Strip, which is a new landfill area full of Casinos. We caught an early ferry home on Sunday as we felt we'd seen enough of casinos to last us a while. Unfortunately the crossing was quite rough and the man behind us was spectacularly, noisily, sick for almost the whole hour. Every time I looked at Les he had his eyes shut and his hands over his ears; he said every time he looked at me I was enveloped in a Pashmina with my fingers in my ears!(The Pashmina was over my nose because the sme...) Ok, enough, you get the idea!
Anyhoo, what else is new? Well, I passed my listening and speaking Cantonese with 69% but there is a long way to go before I could say I can actually speak sentences. However, I can (sort of) make myself understood in shops, restaurants etc, although mainly they just laugh and say "Well done". I think they find it amusing that I even try, as they all speak such great English it hardly seems worth my bother.
Both Les and I have had a bit of a cold this week, so I have been out less than usual. I dropped out of my study group lecture on Chinese cemeteries and also reneged on a lecture on Chinese opera. I did go to my Book Group on Tuesday where we had a great discussion about Kazuro Ishiguro's Never let me go. Even though it has turned a little chilly here, we were still able to sit on the balcony for our lunch and discussion. There were about 20 of us and the balcony could have held another 20 easily. It had a wonderful beach view.
Last night, Les had the first of his office Christmas parties. Because he works part of the week in China and part here in Hong Kong, he gets to go to two parties!So anyway as usual at these dos there was a raffle...and as usual, Les won something! An envelope containing $1200. Not bad, eh?And I noticed our local supermarket has a good deal on champagne.....
Our weekend so far looks as if it will be quiet. We'll probably go and buy some kind of heater, or maybe even a rug,it's getting to be quite chilly sitting in this big airy room in the evenings now. The weekly trip downstairs to the supermarket with the shopping trolley also needs to be done; there is not much food storage space here, so I tend just to buy daily and then stock up with tins, bottles, etc. at the weekend. Les loves to collect the stamps they give for purchases. He saved the last lot and we got a frying pan and a wee saucepan. Now the deal is for white porcelain. He's just been counting his stamps (what fun we have here! Never a dull moment, eh) and announced we already have enough for two espresso cups and saucers or four coffee mugs. But I'm aiming big!I like the look of the big serving platters! We need to buy loads more groceries before the deal ends in April. I hope to have the platters by the time the family gets here in March.See, already I can feel that you, too, are getting caught up in the excitement of our lives out here!
We don't as yet have our usual tourist trip planned for Sunday, depends how we feel. Les is still quite choked up with the cold, although I feel a lot better. The sun is shining but I expect it will be cold out. But it's all relative, as I know Scotland is shivering and would think our 17 degrees is warm. My friend Sue is currently in Tokyo and is excited by the big fat flakes of snow that are falling there, as she is from Perth, Australia and they don't get snow.
I have quite a few outings planned for next week. On Monday I have my art lovers group,we're going to a museum, not a gallery this time.Tuesday, there is a trip to an outlying village to witness a ritual ceremony, called "pacifying the dragon",which only takes place once every 30 years. On Wednesday, some girls might go to the cinema, I'm organising it so need to see what is on. I quite fancied Rum diaries with Johnny Depp but it ends Sunday, bummer.I'm meeting Elaine and Hannah on Thursday and on Friday I really need to get my hair cut. I look like a wild wummin in all this wind.I also have two Cantonese lessons, Stanley is making sure I don't miss out due to our forthcoming trip to Melbourne. So there's another busy week!
Only ten days to go till we fly to Melbourne!

Monday, December 5, 2011

A poem lovely as a tree...

Okay, not a tree, but still gorgeous!

The finishing touches....

Looks delicious...but they are not real. How do I know? The man putting the last few on, gave me one! It's a polystyrene ping pong ball.Here it is, on our dining room table.

Santa's cabin

Monday, November 28, 2011

Oh, Christmas Tree!

I've never seen so many spectacular Christmas trees! Hotels, Shopping Malls and open spaces are FILLED with the most amazing trees!Watch this space; more to follow!

Christmas is coming!

Our smart waiters at the Corona Ladies Christmas Lunch, Monday noon.

The menu; turkey and all the trimmings, with a cool fresh starter and dessert on account of the heat!

We had welcome drinks on the terrace with Hong Kong island across the harbour behind

A day at the opera

This week's free Sunday afternoon cultural show was Cantonese Opera. The costumes and make up were stunning! Susanne and Jean will recognise the venue as the same one where we saw the
Gurkha dancers and Susanne and Les waited to see the changing face show. We watched for about an hour but had to leave to get into the shade as it was absolutely scorching out there!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I used to hear people saying, when they retired, "I don't know how I found time to work!" Now I agree! It is a rollercoaster life out here. There is such a range of activities and I am constantly meeting people who do something that I think I might be interested in, if only I had the time.
Last week we spent two days in the greater Shenzhen area, looking at apartments, visiting cinics, shopping malls and meeting school principals to get an overview of what the expat life there would be like. I must admit, having visited Shenzen several times before,I was not looking forward to trying to make the experience sound positive. The reality was that I would certainly consider going to live there now. The apartments were in the main spacious, with more rooms and bigger kitchens than any we saw here in Hong Kong.We also saw several huge town houses, too big for us but ideal for families. Almost all had two balconies, at front and back, giving a lovely through breeze and thus cutting down on the air conditioning bills. Towards the coastal area, the air quality was much improved and the pace of life seems less frenetic than in the city centre. There were street cafes, Mediterranean-style squares with fountains, promenade walkways and everything to make for a pleasant lifestyle. A most enjoyable two days, even if I now have to write a report! No such thing as a free lunch right enough!
We returned to Hong Kong by ferry which was pleasant but took a little longer than the train, so we had a quick turnaround before going out to meet Les' new colleague and his wife for dinner. They were a lovely young couple in their late twenties, keen to experience all that this opportunity in Hong Kong will offer. Turned out they had only been married two weeks; what an exciting honeymoon for them, house hunting in a new country!

Saturday saw us at a booksigning in the morning, followed by a look round a shopping mall on the first day of it's Festive Event, which meant fabulous decorations and loadsa free stuff...ice cream, cup cakes, sweets, popcorn, wine. We didn't need much lunch!
We were saving our appetites for our first ever Thanksgiving dinner invitation on Saturday evening. We had a fantastic time, ate turkey, sweet potatoes and pecan pie and walked home in balmy heat at midnight.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

All alone in Hong Kong: not the same as lonely!

So, what have we been up to since departure of our intrepid travellers?
On Saturday, we joined a tour of Cathay Pacific City, a behind the scenes look at how the airline operates. They had a wee museum charting the company from it's origins as an import/export freight company after the Second World War. We got to sit in the business and first class sections of the mock-ups they use to train cabin crew but much to Les disappointment, we didn't get a go in a flight simulator.We did get to look into the operations centre where flight crew were logging on for duty, pilots and second officers were checking flight plans,maps and weather charts and putting them all into those pilot cases you see them carrying at airports. I've always wondered what goes in there, now I know it's not sandwiches! After an enjoyable lunch in the staff hotel, the coach brought us back over to Hong Kong island whereupon we had to take a train back to Kowloon! Sunday was a very quiet day, we had a walk to scope out Les' Monday route to work via a hotel to pick up a new associate, then a fancy coffee. All the coffee shops are bringing out "Winter warmer specials", we tried black sugar ginger latte from Pacific Coffee Company. I guess the Starbucks ones are international? I've had the toffee nut latte and the gingerbread latte, both yum, but I dont think I'd like the white chocolate cranberry mocha, may be just a tad too sweet.
Monday's talk was on pearl jewellery and was more interesting than I'd thought it would be because it focussed on the pearls rather than the jewellery. Fascinating stuff! Tuesday morning saw me over on the island to hear two presentations on Asian Personalities. We had a wonderful talk on a Welshman, Jack Edwards, who lived here and campaigned tirelessly on behalf of Hong Kong resident war widows' rights to British passports after the handover in 1997. Then we heard about a Canadian, Norman Bethune, who after a spell as a bit of a "lad" became a Communist and was a great medical innovator during the Chinese Japanese War, inventing mobile blood transfusion units and mobile hospital units in the field of battle.Of course I had my Cantonese lesson too, I am preparing for an assessment next week, yikes!
Wednesday and Thursday, Les and I will be up in Shenzhen looking at possible locations for future company expats to live. That should be interesting, but tiring, remembering our "look-see" visit here last February. Friday will be quiet, I think (I hope!)then on Saturday I've been invited to a book-signing in the morning and we are both invited to a Thanksgiving Dinner at the home of an American (doh! obviously!)friend in the evening.
Another busy week in the life of a trailing spouse!

Friday, November 18, 2011

They came, they saw, they conquered!

Susanne and Jean went back to Scotland this morning after a two week tour of Hong Kong. We had a blast! I tried to give them a tourist experience by including days at the most famous attractions; The Peak, Lamma Island, Stanley Market, the Big Buddha. I also included some of my favourite spots such as the Chi Lin Nunnery, Nan Lian Gardens , Tin Hau temple and in Shenzhen, China (yes, we even managed a 2 day stay up in mainland China) the Splendid China cultural park and Dafen artists village.
We had a really strange encounter in Shenzen. As we walked around the area near our hotel, I explained that in June I met a couple from Falkirk, which is near their hometown. Just as I said it, I saw them again! What are the chances of that happening,in a city of seven million people? But wait...it gets stranger still. We got talking and it turns out that they know both my friends' husbands!
As well as all that, they accompanied me to some of my usual events, so that they could experience a little taster of my expat life. We went to the American Women's Association annual charity bazaar at Happy Valley Racecourse and we spent an afternoon in a school conducting mock interviews with teenagers about to go to university or into the job market.
They even did my ironing, bless, as you all know how I loathe that task.
We took in every possible mode of public transport; train (both under and overground), taxi, tram, bus, mini bus, ferry (2 kinds), cable car, funicular, escalators and travelators. We also walked for miles. Whew!
We ate all sorts of foodstuffs: Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, western and we squeezed in a Subway and a McDonalds too, though not all on the same day! They are both champions of the chopsticks now.
Shopping featured heavily on our agenda.We shopped in Stanley, along Nathan Road, on Lamma, in Lo Wu and even on the roof of a ferry terminal. But despite all that, their luggage was under the allowance when we dragged it onto the airport check in scales. Susanne was confident hers was OK..she'd already had it down at the apartment clubhouse gym scales five, yes five, times and had it weighed by another guest, herself and for good measure one of the door staff too.
I wish them a safe journey homeward and now I have caught up with the laundry and emails, I need to lie down in a dark room for a while!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Reunion preparations

We spent some time this week preparing for our guests. Here's Les nonchalantly washing windows....46 floors up! Next job...the outsides? Haha!
Susanne and Jean are due to arrive on Saturday 5 November, whoopee! One snag...Air France called a strike this week! Hopefully it will be settled and the planes in their correct slots by Friday morning UK time.

I've found a great wee laundry just round the corner so sheets and towels go there now, washed and dried in 2 hours! I'm still a martyr to the ironing but I will ring the contact I've been given and sort something out soon.

You know I love a bargain? We bought a casserole and some serving bowls and collected stamps which we could exchange for towels at 70% off. We needed 16 stamps for 2 towels....we had 15....much counting, re-counting and a hangdog look....the assistant took pity and let me have the second towel even though we were one short! This is a major breach of the rules; mostly over here "rules is rules " and they are seldom broken. An example of this is that they actually issued the stamps and handed them to us, whereupon we handed them back for the towels. A bit of a palaver and unneccessary since the offer was valid on date of purchase only!

A visit to IKEA was necessary ths week, to stock up on napkins and buy another duvet cover . I also bought one of these "over the door" hook rack things, which I thought would be useful in the bathroom Sus and Jean will be using, until Les pointed out the doors in here are 7' 4" high,the rack sits 7' 2" up, I am 5' 4" and Sus and Jean shorter still. I couldn't even lasso a towel onto it! So it has been installed in the store room on a clothes rack and serves as a handbag holder instead!

Halloween is a huge event here, all the shops and restaurants are decorated with pumpkins, ghosts and ghouls and our clubhouse is no exception, with the front desk covered in black crepe paper and wispy spider webs, pumpkin fairy lights and skulls galore.Here is a scene from a street near us. note these have been up now for about 10 days and no theft or vandalism has occurred.

On the social front, I've been to a talk on Sun Yat Sen followed by a visit to his museum then lunch. I've also attended a free open air lunchtime jazz concert, been to the cinema and also heard a talk on the "power of the subconscious mind" . I skipped poetry as I had been to the dentist and felt fragile! But the broken tooth is whole again, although I think nuts are off the menu permanently. On Friday I met a girl who lent me the book I need to read for Book Club on Tuesday, then met Elaine and wee Hannah for lunch. On Saturday, my own copy of the book finally arrived. There's been a lot of reading to do this weekend so our usual Sunday by the pool was very necessary.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Out and about in style!

I just realised I didn't fill you in on details of my weekday shenanigans. Wednesday, I had the dentist then went to tea at the home of the British Consul-General, cucumber sandwiches, scones with jam and cream, proper china cups, silver spoons with the Royal crest on, the whole works. Then three of us visited Tiffany&Co in the Peninsula Hotel to pick up my friend's daughter's wedding ring. The hotel is beautiful, my first time in there despite it being only a hundred metres away. We passed through the great central room where at 5.30 people were still working their way through afternoon tea, some with champagne on the side! The ceilings are very ornate, gilded plaster cherubs and so on. There was a little minstrels gallery where sometimes a trio plays, but not that day. Walking through with a Tiffany bag really made us feel like we were truly ladies of leisure in Hong Kong!
On Thursday four of us had a day out at a brass factory away up in the New Territories, so an adventure getting there and back. Friday I joined a small group for a private conducted tour of a Frank Gehry exhibition. I knew a little of his work before due to his Scottish connections ( he designed the Dundee Maggie's Centre in memory of his fellow Architect Charles Jencks' wife, Maggie Jencks). He has designed a residential block on The Peak which we can see from our window. It's not very tall, 12 storeys, but each storey is just 1 flat with 360 views. The building is like a column twisted in opposite directions, if you imagine holding a tube in both hands and twisting,that would be about right. The use of glass in the building is amazing, glass clad columns, etc, lots of light and space. Then it was onto lunch with an old friend, to meet three new friends. Our transport was very special; one lady has a car and driver, so we arrived in style! Friday rounded off with a gathering of 12 friends, husbands included, at a rooftop bar where Singapore slings, Key lime martinis and Death by Chocolate cocktails were downed amid great hilarity.The friend who organised it called it a Sundowner, I thought she meant a cocktail but it's her Australian term for pre dinner drinks. I told her we don't get enough sun in Scotland to have a name for that.

Day out in Sai Kung continued!

Some Sai Kung sights: sign for a geat wee bookshop which runs storytelling sessions for kids and teenagers as well as an adult bookgroup. Wonderful!

"Paper" boats and a brass duck!

We followed the very loud drum beats to a school playground where these young men were having a drumming session.

A shrine outside a restaurant
Men in traditional hats coming in to harbour

Day out in Sai Kung

Today our weekly tourist jaunt took us to Sai Kung, about an hour away via 2 trains and a wee green minibus. Sai Kung is often called the "green lung" of Kowloon and it was soon obvious why; en route, lots of garden centres and once by the seaside, a pleasant fresh breeze coming in from the east. We walked along the prom for about 2 hours, spotting lots of interesting sights along the way. Hopefully my computer will let me load more, it seems to have stopped the loading process!

One of the many quayside fishermen selling their fish and shellfish directly from the boat. Customers called down their order, he dispatched the live fish with a single chop then descaled and gutted it. Then it was put in a net on a long handled pole and passed up to the customer, who put the payment in the net.

This was one of three fab 2 metre tall sculptures of "ballerinas" in Choi Hung MTR station where we changed to a minibus for the 20 minute journey to Sai Kung. Sorry it's side ways!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Quick update

I'm waiting in a lot this week, more deliveries plus a re-arranged Cantonese lesson at 5pm-7pm, not fun. I'll still cram in a few outings, for example, a talk on looking after your health and beauty in Hong Kong, a trip to a charity project making cool handbags (of course I bought one, its for a good cause!), a trip to a brass factory and an invitation to afternoon tea with the British Consul-General's wife. It's a group invite, she didn't ring me up personally ! Dentist visit also looms large, wince wince. I'll give the pics another go tomorrow, it's such a chore though!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Map in the South Vietnamese War Cabinet rooms clearly showing the Ho Chi Minh trail, used to bring supplies from the Communist north to help the VietCong guerillas in their fight against the US invaders

The room where hand over details were worked out

This table was originally square; it had to be redseigned as the North would not sit at a table with "sides"

Rattan...would you ever imagine a patio chair or table would come from this?

1st October fireworks over the harbour

It's proving to be difficult and slow to add pics here, so why don't you hop over to facebook, where I've already posted a Vietnam folder!!! Ta much!

A busy week in Hong Kong

I'm writing this at 7.30 am on the most glorious morning; the sky is clear and The Peak is so visible it's like a 3D movie scene. Being up so high, we seem to be above the path of the early morning sun which cuts across from left to right giving the familiar buildings a new and strange aspect; edges highlighted from a different angle, grey columns now sparkling white. It is quite beautiful, even though it's really just a view of what are basically tenements, sky scrapers and "high flats".

The cocktail reception on Wednesday was fascinating, it was lovely to hear so many South African accents and the slides and photographic exhibition made me want to go back. During the evening I met a very interesting American woman who has lived here for eight yeas. She is very involved with the Friends of the Art Museum, one of my favourite haunts. She has invited me as her guest to a lecture and tour looking at the influence of Sun Yat-sen, a revolutionary who was a prime mover in the overthrow of the Quing Dynasty. He is revered here in HK and has a museum which we'll visit before going on for lunch.

The bedroom furniture arrived on schedule and was quickly assembled by 2 men and a boy, very efficient service. That left me Thurday evening free to go out shopping for bits and pieces and sort out the wardrobes and clear space for our forthcoming guests. Les was staying up in Mainland until Friday when we met up with a old colleague for dinner. We've known him, man and boy, for about 15 years. We once exchanged homes with him and on their trip to Scotland she bought her wedding dress, which had to be altered, so Les took it out to the US on his next trip. Just as he closed the case, he said, "Hope I don't get stopped at customs!" Now they have a little boy aged 4, so it was great to catch up. We also gave im a tour of the clubhouse, the first time we've been to the pool in the dark and it looked very inviting, all illuminated..... and empty!

Saturday, we did our routine shopping then went to make dental and check up appointments as we have changed to a new medical insurer.Then we bought 2 electric dehumidifiers as our wee plastic ones filled up rapidly and we don't want to lose any clothes to mould. Especially as my wardrobe now sports the spoils of many a foray to the end of summer sales in Scotland! In the evening we went to friends for dinner, a fabulous Thai meal for which I want all the recipes!Today, Sunday is always our "play at being a tourist" day and Les wants to go up The Peak.

Next week I have Cantonese and Poetry, an invite for English aternoon tea and one for lunch and an enforced stay at home for the delivery of the dehumidifiers.I'm away now to get my camera to load some pictues . Watch this space!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Back in the HKSAR

I'm back in Hong Kong (SAR is special administrative region if you didn't know) after a wonderful 5 weeks away. It's nice to be back in the heat, although I miss the fresh air of Scotland. We have had a lot of rain here since my return but it hasn't affected my gallivanting, of which more later. First, a quick recap of 4 weeks in Scotland (and an hour or two in England). The first week was a whirl of family; meeting wee Jamie, seeing all the other family members old and young. Then we had a round of friend catch ups which was wonderful. Managed two two day trips down to Eyemouth, one with Les and Martin another with The Sisterhood, great time had by all. All too soon it was time to return to Hong Kong, but only for 36 hours !
My return to Hong Kong started with a spectacular fireworks display over Victoria Harbour, right outside our window! Four huge barges of fireworks were moored in the harbour and 230,000 people gathered on the Avenue of the Stars below. The main roads were closed to traffic and there were signs everywhere on the way home from the airport warning of road closures and diversions. The display was nothing less than one would expect from the nation that invented pyrotechnics. It was to celebrate China National Day on 1 October, 62 years of Communism.

36 hours later, we headed once more to Chek Lap Kok airport to begin our Vietnam Adventure.
That really was a wonderful trip, we both enjoyed seeing and experiencing brand new scenes, foodstuffs and customs. The traffic was horrendous in Ho Chi Minh City and crossing the road was not for the faint hearted. The advice I got was to keep going at a steady pace, don't change the route, don't stop and never ever go back. The motorists, cyclos (rickshaws), motorbikes and scooters weave an intricate pattern, often at high speed, but they are concentrating and are experienced, so they are good at avoiding hapless tourists. The motorbikes and scooters are incredible, I actually thought we were in a rally as there were so many of them on the road from the airport! Vietnam is a country shaped by war; they seem to have fought just abouteveryone over a long period of history to maintain their identity and independence. Relics of the past are everywhere, in the French architecture, American music and truly international feel, especially in the restaurants, where Spanish meant real Spaniards and Italian meant real Italians, both eating and cooking there. We also ate several wonderful Vietnamese meals and are now pho connoisseurs. Pho is the typical soup with noodles and shredded chicken or beef, served with fresh herbs, limes and chillis. Delicious at any time of day or night.
As I find it awkward adding pictures with text, I'll create a little gallery next blog.

After our luxurious week in Vietnam , with private exclusive transport (including our luxury sampan on the Mekong Delta), we continued to sail in style as we joined our friends aboard the Mandarin Oriental Hotel's executive yacht for a trip round Lamma island to celebrate Hannah's birthday.The weather was perfect for cruising, hot and sunny, blue skies and sea and on the upper sun deck, a cooling breeze. Add into the mix meeting new, interesting young people, catching up with older friends, a Rainbow Restaurant lunch, fabby cakes and the result was a wonderful and unique birthday party.

This week's events have included 2 coffee mornings, a talk on a project aimed at helping poor ethnic communities sell their goods to a wider market, a visit to the cinema to see The Help, invitations for dinner on both Friday and Saturday and a cocktail reception prior to a talk and photographic exhibition on African wildlife. My usual activities also continue; my 2hr Cantonese lesson and the poetry group. We've also ordered all the new bedroom furniture for our forthcoming guests and my enforced stay at home for its delivery on Thursday will let me catch up on the ironing. Well, someone has to do it! I have now had a couple of contacts for a shirt ironing service, so I'll be calling them as soon as I run out of enthusiasm, probably around shirt number three ( you all know and hate it, that really thick, pure cotton one with the double cuffs)
My Cantonese tutor will be here in 45 minutes, just time enough for me to revise the colours and the complicated names of family members ( brother on mother's side, elder sister's husband, etc etc) Even though I don't actually have all of these relatives living or dead, I still have to tell him who they are /were. The Chinese respect the ancestors!
Back soon with photographs!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

All about Jamie

This blog is not really about Hong Kong; let me introduce our brand new grandson, Jamie Lewis Barnes born Monday 29th August at 14.59pm weighing 7lbs 8.50z.
We are looking forward to our trip home on Thursday so we can give him a cuddle...and a cuddle for big brother Callum too!
On Tuesday evening my lovely friends Sue, Pat and Lesley met me for cocktails to wet the baby's head. It was a happy hour event, 5pm till 7pm so our menfolks joined us as soon as they escaped from work. The 8 of us had a great time drinking cosmopolitans, champagne, Long Island ice teas and chocatinis ( a potent chocolate alcoholic drink so thick the straw stood up in it!) The venue serves complimentary filet mignon mini baguettes so it was dinner for free! Well not quite, for being gluttons for punishment, Les and I passed a pizza shop on the way home. Actually, we didn't pass it at all, we went in as we are indeed gluttons. Before I knew where I was, I had pizza and salad in front of me, and a glass of wine in my hand! Happy Days!
Today insead of housework and packing, I met Elaine with Hannah and we went baby shopping.
Now I'm home and I really must finish packing!
No more havers for a while as I'll be back in Scotland, then in Vietnam. Hong Kong Havers will resume mid October.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

My week in words (no pics this post)

On Monday, Les took a holiday, his first day off work since Easter, so much needed. We went to Tai O, the village on stilts and had a leisurely time there, strolling around and having lunch. No pictures this time as you've all already seen it!
Tuesday was my Cantonese lesson and this time Stanley brought me a cup of "yuen yueng" which is a strange and potent mixture of iced coffee and iced milk tea. It's a typical local drink. It wasn't unleasant, but I think it had a lot of caffeine in it! He says people drink it to wake up. Maybe he hoped to increase my capacity to learn, but anway whether due to the lesson or the drink, I had a pounding headache for the rest of the day.
On Wednesday I met a friend for coffee and some shopping...then lunch. She took me to a Vietnamese retaurant so I could try pho, a typical dish which she says we should try when we go to Saigon next month. It was delicious; very hot chicken broth poured over sliced veg and shredded chicken with noodles to make a light yet filling soup. Apparently it is eaten, with variations, for breakfast lunch and dinner. Poetry as usual on Wednesday evening, whilst Les and Lola toiled over his Mandarin lesson.
Thursday I had ...er....another coffee morning and met some new ladies. In the afternoon I received the most wonderful news...2 of my bestest, closest friends, Jean and Susanne, have booked flights to come over here in November! Woo! So exciting! I'll need to warn the locals of this development as I'm sure we three will get into some scrapes or get lost or lose something during the two weeks.Actually I should probably warn the British Consulate too, just so they are ready when we need them! I'll be able to try out my tour guide skills, as they've said they want to see things rather than buy things.I've told them to pack comfortable shoes as we will be walking a lot, not to mention all the steep hills and stairs on the island!
Les had a couple of evening conference calls this week, so I caught up with some emails to the UK to set things in motion, alerting people to the imminent invasion of the Scots from Hong Kong and Australia.
So now the weekend approaches and today's agenda includes housework :( and deciding on a dinner venue :).
On Saturday evening, we are going to Lamma with some friends for dinner in the famous Rainbow Resaurant where I had lunch with Doreen, Elaine and Hannah in June.
Sunday as usual will be our day of rest, we'll probably stay around the local neighbourhood and then sit by the pool. We had heavy rain yesterday and it is a bit overcast this morning (it's Friday, no matter what the post date says at the top here!). However the weekend forecast looks to be sunny. Whatever the precipitation, one thing is for sure, it will be hot, hot, hot; and humid. Squelch.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Kung Fu and Lion Dance

Two older ladies performing a Tai Chi type dance exercise using fans

The Lion ready to dance

Today we were in Kowloon Park watching the weekly display of martial arts, traditional dance manoeuvres and a spectacular lion dance, all for free! It lasted two hours but as it was very hot we moved on after an hour. The park was very busy; groups of people dancing, maids having a picnic on their day off,multi-generational families enjoying ice cream. A great place with a great atmosphere!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Eating out and eating in

Chan dan mien
Dong naaih chah
Temple street cafe

We eat dinner out at least once a week; because we also love to buy food and cook, this is less that most of our friends, some of whom eat out five or six times a week. On Thursdays, we eat somewhere "local" which means a pavement place with plastic stools, a roll of toilet paper in lieu of napkins and excellent food. Our favourites are clams in black bean sauce , spicy prawns, green veg with chilli or with garlic and spicy noodles. The custom here is to share all the dishes and eat them as they arrive. They usually bring the clams first, then the prawns and veg tend to arrive together, then the noodles last of all.This is washed down with a big bottle of beer. There is no lingering; eat and go is the rule. If it is a Friday or Saturday, we often look for somewhere serving lamb or fish, because we eat a lot of chicken and pork in the house.Squid is a popular starter and something I wouldn't attempt yet at home, because I'm not sure how to remove the clear "plastic" bone in the middle. I once watched fishermen doing it in Africa but haven't done it myself yet. Anyway, these tend to be Westernised places and we usually order a dinner each, as is the Western custom. However, we need to get in the habit of sharing as we always have way too much food and last time brought enough lamb home to serve next day! Desserts, we don't do other than ice cream at home. As for home cooking, I like to use my traditional wok and bamboo steamer most nights. However, Les eats rice every day in the canteen, so I only serve it once a week. I like to try buying things from the street markets as they are so cheap and fresh compared to supermarkets. On Saturday, we bought 50p worth of lettuce....she shoved 4 enormous heads into a bag. What to do with 4 lettuces? Make lettuce soup, of course. It was green. Very green. But tasty!
Ice cream flavours have included the usual vanilla, almond fudge and also the more exotic purple yam or tropical fruit with mango, guava and watermelon.
On Tuesday, my Cantonese tutor took me out for a typical Hong Kong Breakfast which I had to order in cantonese. I practised the menu all morning then we got there and he said, "Oh, no, I don't want pork today, get me beef instead, you do remember the word for beef, don't you?" Uh oh. So I gamely ordered " yat won chan dan mien, yat won dan nghou mien, yat bui dong naaih cha, yat bui dong gafee syu tim" She read it back to him....AND IT WAS RIGHT!!! Yesss. If you are interested, I had a bowl of noodle soup with a fried egg and some kind of pork luncheon meat floating in it. He had the same kind of thing, only with beef. He had iced sweet milk tea and I had iced coffee with a little sugar. At 10.00. am. Yes, for breakfast. Hmm. But I tell you what, I only ate a banana for the rest of the day. Until the lettuce soup at dinner, of course.