Saturday, January 21, 2012

Kung Hei Fat Choi

This is the traditional greeting for the start of the new lunar year here in Hong Kong. Roughly translated it means, "Wishing you prosperity". All the shops are heaving today, people are really stocking up, particularly with nuts, dried fruits, snacks, fancy sweets, biscuits, etc. It is believed that to eat these sweet things at this time of year will give you and your friends and family a sweet nature in the year to come. Les is now on holiday as most factories close for a week or even two. Most shops and offices will be closed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.Some places are closed for longer as people travel back to their hometowns for the holiday period, often taking all their annual leave on top of the public holidays. We will join in the celebrations. Tomorrow, Sunday, we will go over to Victoria Park on the island to see the huge traditional market that is on there. As well as foodstuffs and street foodstalls, there will be flowers, lanterns and fruit trees for sale. On Monday, we will join the crowds in the local streets to watch the big parade and on Tuesday, we are having 3 couples over for drinks and supper to watch the firework display from our newly-cleaned windows. The display lasts for 23 minutes, that's a lot of squibs!
The window cleaning took place yesterday, it was quite exciting as the gondola arrived outside the window with 2 men on board, leaning right out to wash our big front window 46 floors up. Rather them than me! I went out to look up and what had seemed a big structure when outside our living room, looked absolutely tiny when viewed from the street.
On Wednesday, we'll be packing for our journey back to Bonnie Scotland. This is the correct thing to do, as on the third day of CNY it is the tradition to visit family. It's just that ours lives thousands of miles away, so we can't pop round with a bowl of dried fruit!

As for this week, well, I hardly had a minute! Monday, my weekly morning meeting introduced a new (to me) form of excercise; NIA, which incorporates elements of aerobics, zumba, jazzercise and yoga. It looked fun and we hope to start up our own class soon. I met three friends for lunch afterwards, it was good to catch up with everyone's various Christmas and New Year travels. Between us, since we last met in December, we had visited 5 different countries!
Tuesday it was Book Group in the morning and a Cantonese lesson in the afternoon. On Wednesday, my friend Sue and I went up to China for the day. She bought a painting and I bought a handbag and two enormous silk cherry blossom branches. It was fun and games on the train home, I almost had several peoples' eye out! I went to poetry club in the evening, again good to catch up as I hadn't been for ages. Thursday, just a quiet day doing housework then a Cantonese lesson. Les had a couple of conference calls in the evenings this week, so we didn't go out for dinner on Thursday, just making it in time for a quick drink before happy hour ended in our local! We went to Temple St market to eat on Friday night and in the afternoon I met Elaine and Hannah for a quick coffee and catch up before I head off to see her new wee niece in Scotland next week.
Today we went to the cinema in the afternoon to see "Flowers of War" a violent film about the Rape of Nanking during the Sino-Japanese war in the 1930's. It certainly explains why some Chinese people to this day cannot forgive the Japanese brutality of that time. I wouldn't say it was exactly enjoyable, but it was thought provoking and interesting to see a film about a period of history about which I know little.
Next post will include some pictures of CNY decorations, which are absolutely stunning!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

More Shanghai sights


At Yu Yuan Gardens

Les was going to Shanghai for some meetings, so I tagged along too. It was very cold, as you can see from the wool coat I almost had to have surgically removed on my return to balmy Hong Kong! Shanghai is 760 miles North East of Hong Kong,a two and a half hour flight. We stayed at the Ritz Carlton, very nice indeed. As Les was at meetings each day and on one evening, I explored this massive city using taxis and walking...a lot! I visited People's Square, a huge open park with fountains, sitting areas and beautiful floral displays, even in winter. They had fabulous displays using purple and white ornamental cabbages and also a lot of small begonia type flowers in the beds.The square also houses the Shanghai museum, where I spent a fascinating three hours. Next stop, the Urban Planning building which housed a history of Shanghai housing and infrastructure, including a full size 1930's Shanghai street with little shops and bars, just where James Cagney would have found his Shanghai Lil! I had lunch in one of the tiny cafes and the coffee came in beautiful old fashioned floral china. I walked all the way back to the hotel, using a fancy office skyscraper as my marker. You know how it is when you start to walk across a field to what you thought was a nearby hill and it takes forever? Well the same is true of the urban landscape! An hour later, I was at last on the correct street... just another half hour walk to go! The last stretchwas the international stretch; H&M, Zara, Gap and good old Marks and Spencer.I was still full from lunch and so very very tired that I had a bath and was tucked up in bed with a picnic; salad,crisps and fruit from the supermarket across the road from the hotel, when Les got in at 900pm!
Next morning, I headed for Old Shanghai and was astounded at the displays for Chinese New Year; dragons, firecrackers, lions, monkeys, gold fish, made of every imagineable material. I saw silk, cotton, polyester, metal, wood and even recycled cardboard dragons! I had a wonderful day. I went to the Yu Yuan Gardens, where my camera's memory card claimed it was full, so a friendly stall holder sold me a new one and took my picture (with me sprting winter coat!) to prove it worked. The gardens were built for an emperor in the 16th century and are quite magnificent.As it was winter, there was not much colour, but the rockeries and pavilions were beautiful.
This is a city I would like to visit again if I am lucky enough to get the chance! I still didn't get to the art museums, of which there are two, not did I go to The Bund, the iconic riverside walkway with a range of architectural styles featuring Shanghai's past as an international finance centre.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Getting ready for Chinese New Year

On Friday my computer conked out. I remembered always to start with the simple things first: power on, check. Change the fuse, check. Take two trains and a walk to a shop I remembered our agent showing me last February. She said, "If you ever have computer problems, go there". I was amazed I even found it almost a year later, but there it was and 20 minutes later I was on my way back home...$480 dollars lighter, with a new power cable. The transformer had gone. Whew! No lasting damage, no photos lost, what a relief! So the havers can continue. We had a quiet week, Les had a conference call Thursday evening, so we didn't eat out as we usually do on a Thursday. On Friday he thought he'd have another one, so we didn't go out then either. I decided to make pizza dough. For some reason it didn't work out. It was too wet and also I think it was too cold for it to rise properly, so I cooked up the toppings and poured them over steak. Pizzaiola sauce!Saturday we did the usual weekly shopping then had a lazy day, reading and later on went for a walk round the local area. All signs of Christmas are now gone and are starting to be replaced with decorations for Chinese New Year which is early this year, on 23 January. Look out for pictures later. Pink cherry blossom and red firecrackers are the popular themes, with lanterns, lions, dragons everywhere. This will be the Year of the Dragon and is an auspicious year for weddings and for babies.
Next week we are heading to Shanghai as Les has some meetings, so I'm going too and will check out the museums and galleries during the day whilst he is at work. I've never been to Shanghai, so I'm looking forward to exploring.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tierney tours Hong Kong

Wednesday, 4 th. January. Somewhere, in a galaxy near you, a wee woman is cleaning her own flat :( ready to welcome some Scottish visitors. Crew Tierney is in town! We all met for coffee then came back up to see the views from the flat. I think they liked it! Unfortunately,despite leaving my camera prominently displayed, I forgot to take a wee photie to mark the occasion, but it was good to meet them; all six of them. The window area was so crowded I feared a collapse and envisaged us plummeting to the ground 46 storeys below. So not much else to report at the moment, but watch this space for future havers!

New Year

So we arrived back in Hong Kong late on Friday 30th, and at the airport I met friend returning from her holidays .Quick cuppa and bed. Saturday shopping, then a wee kip so we could stay up for midnight. We went out for a late dinner, fantastic!We had kangaroo with wattle seed dressing, I had lamb fillet and Les chose grouper with Sydney cockles then we had 2 kinds of ice cream and peanut brittle crisps. Were we back in Oz? No, up Knutsford Steps where you can eat any kind of cuisine under the sun. Or moon.We joined the throngs as they headed for the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront for the countdown. Everyone was happy, no drunks, no fighting. The nearest was when we saw 2 boys tossing around plastic bottles of green tea. We came back to the flat for champagne and watched the spectacular fireworks show from our living room. On NYD, we watched a wonderful lion and dragon street parade, had home made steak pie for dinner (what else would one expect? It was New Years Day after all) and an early night. Monday was still a holiday for Les, so we headed for the Museum of Coastal defence which was extremely interesting. On the way back, I met a friend on the MTR then we walked to a really old pub for a pint and guess what, I met another friend! Les is well jealous as he usually meets people in airports the world over! Mind you, as he said, if he spent most days in coffee shops and restaurants, he'd know a fair few folks as well.
On Tuesday, Les was still on holiday,much to my surprise, I'd had him off to China on the Monday! We took a ferry to Peng Chau and wandered about in the sunshine, saw some temples, had a picnic lunch and returned home for a pint at our local, Lulus, to "hing the fair" as they say. Somewhere.

Aussie Christmas

We had a great time in Melbourne with Martin and Renee. This was our first time at their new apartment; it is MASSIVE! A former factory building converted to flats, they have a huge open plan living/dining/kitchen area, a big balcony, two bedrooms and the coolest mezzanine area above the living space. Great space altogether. We had a couple of days on our own as Martin and Renee were working until 23rd but we know our way around Melbourne now as this was my 3rd trip, Les' 2nd. We went to the beach as it was very hot, so many people starting their Christmas holidays early in style, sunbeds and beer coolers galore! All 6 of us went for lovely meal on the Thursday night at a good steak restaurant and we had a BBQ on the Friday. It's a must-do in Oz at Christmas. Saturday, Christmas Eve, we got up at 5.00 am to go to the fresh food market, quite a strange experience. Everyone was in holiday spirit, many wore Santa hats, the smells and sights were amazing! Turkey, ham, prawns, salmon all procured. We even bought big bags of ice on the way home.We were home and back in bed by 6.30 am. Martin cooked a huge ham for Christmas Eve dinner then on the day itself, after Santa had been, we went to a family friend's garden party at 10.30am for champagne, canapes and Christmas cake. By 1.30, we were all gathered on the balcony, Renee's parents too, drinking champagne with those fab hibiscus flowers in it,when there was an almighty thunderclap and the heavens opened to shower the streets with giant hailstones. So we had a white Christmas after all! We had the most fantastic Christmas lunch; pics on fb as it is a pain to add them here! Turns out Martin is a great cook, but of course he had a good teacher we he was at home, didn't he!
Boxing Day dawned sunny once more,so we headed with Renee's Dad to the opening day of the India V Australia test cricket match at the world famous MCG. That was a terrific experience; not just the sport, but the friendly banter amongst the crowds, the traditional turkey sandwiches, the Mexican wave, the tea breaks (beer breaks for Martin!) the "rain stops play" for 30 minutes (another beer break for Martin!). We got there at 10.00 am and left at 6.00pm. Of course we had the leftovers for dinner! On Tuesday, we had a lazy morning then went for a drive and a walk in the sunshine to some strange lava formations called the Organ Pipes, because, well, they look like organ pipes! On Wednesday, we all went in 2 cars on a trip down to the Mornington Peninsula. What a lovely spot! We stopped for coffee en route at what is now my fave future holiday destination, better than Knysna, Carmel and Eyemouth all rolled in. Well maybe not better than Eyemouth! Mornington is described as "a cosmopolitan seaside village with cafes,galleries, shops and bathing boxes" Yes, Charlaine, beach huts! Fab! The drive from there up to the wineries let us see spectacular views back down to the sea. Our lunch starter comprised a taster plate at a local cheesery then we drove on to the Port Phillip winery for a very posh (and very expensive) lunch, courtesy of Renee's Mum and Dad. On the way home, we stopped off at Point Leo beach and it was deserted, just beautiful. Martin went in for a swim, a bit warmer than Edinburgh's loony dook, I think! I had a modest paddle. Very pleasant. Thursday saw Martin and Renee back to work, so we went into the city and strolled in the sunshine listening to the buskers as we looked at the Christmas window displays in the big department stores.Thursday 's dinner was at Hellenic Republic, a Greek restuarant owned by George Columbaris who is the John Torode or Greg Wallace of Australian Masterchef. On Friday we had to leave for Hong Kong, so sad, but hey, only 12 weeks till they are here with us!