Thursday, July 26, 2007
(They welcomed us to Asia--sorry this was the only picture I could find of you guys!)
I've posted lots of pictures, but I'm missing some key people. You know who you are! (Lack of pictures doesn't equal lack of missing you.) Keep in touch!
Monday, July 23, 2007
Piles of wonderful ribbon!
Sham Shui Po is by far my most favorite district in the whole city. It’s a crafters paradise. Many of the factories in
I was very excited to discover that my friend Michelle had the same love for SSP that I did. A couple of weeks ago we hit the shops together and it was great fun!
I love places that bring out the craft monster inside of me. As I exit the MTR and begin to walk around the SSP district, I get the most unbelievable creative surge and immediately want to buy everything, go into hiding, and make stuff! Lots of stuff! So, I made sure to stock up on all my favorite bits and bobbins before packing up and leaving town. And I can guarantee upon my next trip to Hong Kong, I'll be bringing an extra suitcase to fill with lovely goodies!
Saturday, July 21, 2007
I love to shop. I love a bargain. And I do a special little dance when those two loves collide. HK certainly offers the best of both worlds! This city is rampant with street markets, each with it's own unique bargains calling out my name. The one nearest (to my house) and dearest (to my wallet) is Temple Street Night market, just a few blocks down the street. It's a tourist-magnet, but I don't really mind. Sometimes it a real pleasure to mingle with other foreigners and I always get a kick out of watching them bargain for whatever small treasure they have their heart set on buying.
The Ladies' Market in Mong Kok is another favorite tourist spot, selling lots of designer knock-off purses, over-priced Rolex wanna-bes, and tons of other useless trinkets. The "shop keepers" in each stall are especially zealous and are very talented at over-charging for their cheaply made goods. If you're feeling brave, the best knock-off stalls will have someone designated to lead you down a dark alley and up several flights of dingy staircases to a purse paradise--usually an apartment off the beaten path lined with shelves and tables full of more genuine looking knock-offs. You're almost always worth much more to them alive and eager to buy purses than mugged and drawing attention to their secret purse-lair, so there's not much danger in it. Oh, except for those Communist police patrolling the area. You need to keep a keen eye out for them. It's taken me awhile to really hone my bargaining technique, but I think I've gotten to the point that I can haggle with the best of them. It felt a bit awkward at first, especially when I would find myself negotiating the price difference of only a dollar or two, but once I came to understand that's its just a game (and to not take part makes you a party-pooper or a complete sucker), I learned to enjoy it.
Friday, July 20, 2007
And if you even show the slightest interest, they will hold on to you for dear life until you give in to their pleas and agree to get a massage. It's always worth it. There is a dodgy, little foot massage joint just across the street from our apartment that I've been to a few times. There are about 6-8 faux leather recliners in a U-shape, each with it's own doily and matching pillow. If you learn to block out the Chinese soap operas playing on the TVs across the room, it can be a really relaxing experience. For only $11, you can get an hour foot/leg massage. It's such a bargain.
Today I went to my favorite Thai massage center, and decided to treat myself to a 90 minute massage. I even opted for the essential oil massage, rather than the usual traditional Thai massage. I knew it would be my last cheap, HK massage for a long time, so I decided it was worth splurging on. (At $40 for 1 1/2 hours, it's still a great deal!) It was also monumental because this was my first nearly-nude massage, the prospect of which left me feeling a little nervous and apprehensive. The lady showed me to a massage booth and then told me to get undressed, left for a moment, but then came right back and handed me tightly wrapped tube of gauze and told me to put it on. "What?", I thought to myself. "You want me to wear that tampon-looking piece of fabric?" I was completely lost for words and getting more and more unsure about going through with the nearly-nude massage, but then she sort-of yanked at my skirt, saw that I was wearing underwear (of course!) and said, "Oh, nevermind, you are already wearing underwear." Um, yeah. Apparently that little piece of gauze was some sort of substitute for underwear, on the off chance that you had left yours at home or misplaced them on the way there.
My thoughts were momentarily flooded with the memory of when I was visiting a new gynecologist shortly after starting college. The nurse had left a robe for me on the chair and told me to get undressed and that the doctor would be in shortly. As any female can understand, those sterile rooms are never a pleasant experience and you want to whole process to be over as soon as earthly possible. So I quickly undressed, picked up the robe, and immediately panicked. Whatever it was that the nurse had left for me to wear, it was most definitely NOT a robe. I stood there momentarily, knowing full well that at any moment the male-gynecologist would knock on the door and discover me ferociously wrangling with this would-be robe. It turned out it was actually a pillowcase the nurse had mistaken for a robe. (Which I discovered only after putting my clothes back on, sneaking out of the examination room, and sheepishly asking the first nurse I could find for instructions on how to put on a pillowcase.) All in all a very unpleasant experience. I guess they say whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. (Whoever "they" is should learn to keep their mouth shut.)
Anyway, once I actually figured out how to properly undress, the rest of the massage was fine. Actually, it was great. It's a shame I've gotten so addicted to cheap massages, since they cost an arm and a leg in the US. (Hmm...maybe if I'm missing an arm and a leg the massage would be half-price. Sorry, the pun just slipped out before I could stop typing.)
If you meet me on the streets of San Diego someday and I seem particularly crabby, you can assume it's because I haven't had a good, cheap massage in awhile.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Here are some of the highlights:
Mid Autum Festival
Chinese New Year
Dragon Boat Festival
10th Anniversary of the Handover of HK to China
Many people use the public holidays as a great time to vacate the city and seek calmer abodes, but Matt and I thoroughly enjoyed each holiday and were excited to stay in Hong Kong and enjoy each one as it came along. We sure are gonna miss all these fun holidays!
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
With just a single swipe of this little card, Hong Kong opens itself up you in the most magical of ways. Most people use it as a rechargeable subway token, but the Octopus card can be used for lots of different purposes. You can pay your gas and water bills (at 7-11, no less), hop aboard any bus, train, tram, cable car, or ferry and catch an easy ride, order a McDonald's value meal, buy your groceries, feed a parking meter, indulge in instant noodles from a vending machine, donate money to various charities, and the list goes on and on. And all with just one little swipe. It's such an efficient system! You can even have a chip implanted in your watch or cell phone and rid yourself of needing to carry the card at all.
More than 95% of people in HK have an Octopus card. Heck, Matt and I have 5 of them. (We stocked up to share with friends and family who were in town, as you get a discount on transportation if you use the card.)
It's pure brilliance. The best part is that if you rig the card in your purse properly, you can just haul your purse over the sensor and never need to take out your card at all. I love it! Can't wait 'til the idea/technology hops the pond and finds its way to San Diego.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Cantonese food is the main staple in this part of China. As much as Matt and I have tried, we give Cantonese food a failing grade. Thai food I love. Inidan food I adore. Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese food I could happily survive on for the remainder of my days. Mandarin, Szechuan, and Taiwanese food---all good. But, when it comes to the food distinct to the region of Asia we plopped ourselves down in, we just can't stomach it.
EXCEPT FOR DIM SUM!
Dim Sum stands out far above the sticky, saucy mess that is Cantonese food. It's Cantonese perfection, erasing all the gastronomic sins of it's Cantonese food compatriots. In fact, I have a theory that because dim sum is so wonderful, the lovely people of this region stopped working towards perfection of all other dishes, thereby allowing food mediocrity. It's just a theory.
Oh, the magical delights that grace the chopsticks of the lucky dim summer. The meal is served mostly as a brunch or early lunch (no, those are not the same things). It's a rare treat to find it available after 1pm. My favorite dish is "char sui ba" (which I've both misspelled and mispronounced, I'm sure)--a light steamed bun filled with yummy bbq pork. The egg custard balls are fantastic, too. Turnip cakes, Shanghai dumplings, sticky Chicken rice wrapped in lotus leaves, garlicky bok choi cabbage, all washed down with numerous pots of Jasmine tea....YUM!! Oh, and the eggrolls! Marvelous. It's all so good.
If you happen to be passing through HK in the near future, I highly recommend stopping by Maxim's restaurant in the old city hall on the Island--famous for it's old-school dim sum carts, pushed around by slightly disgruntled, older women in marvelous yellow rompers, who lift up the lid of each dim sum steamer for you to choose from as they pass by.
That's it...I'm having it for breakfast!
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Now if only they could figure out how to tackle their nasty little pollution problem...
Saturday, July 14, 2007
I just can't get enough of those tasty waffles the street vendors sell. You can choose from the classic rounded bubble-shaped waffle or the super-gooey flat waffle smothered with peanut butter, margarine, sweetened condensed milk, and extra sugar drizzled on top for good measure. Our favorite stall always has a line, but it's definitely worth the wait. And for a mere $1.25, it's the cheapest heart-attack a cholesterol-enthusiast like me could ask for. Oh, so tasty!
Friday, July 13, 2007
There is no question that HK is a big city comprised of lots and lots and lots of tiny spaces. As a tiny-space dweller myself, I've come to appreciate the continuous creativity and compromise one learns to live with on a daily basis when faced with the task of shoving all of your worldly possessions into a space the size of the average American's bathtub. I think it's a good exercise in materialistic constraint. Actually, I often wonder how a city full of some many people, living in such tiny little boxes could find itself to be one of the world's major shopping meccas. Where people put all their stuff is beyond me. Even though we know we've got a basement full of stuff waiting for us in my mom's house upon our return, our year in HK has been a great lesson on only buying what you need.
The 275 sq ft we call home has served us well, although I do admit I'm looking forward to having a slightly roomier closet in our next home. (The closet Matt and I share now is only 3'x2.5'x4'.) Perhaps the biggest bonus is that when we start to look for an apartment in the notoriously expensive state of California, we'll think paying $1100/month for an 800 sq ft apartment is a true bargain.
But tiny spaces aren't just found at home. Everywhere we go we rub elbows (quite literally) with all sorts of people. The trains are glorified sardine cans. Seats on buses are itty-bitty. And when we go out to eat, Matt and I are often seated next to another couple at a 4-person table. When we first moved here it felt so strange to sit in such close quarters with complete strangers at dinner, but now it seems perfectly natural. And we're seldom speaking the same language as the people next to us, so we're not even distracted by their conversation. The restaurants are small, and they squeeze in the patrons anywhere they can. It's just the way it goes.
I hope I don't too quickly forget what a tiny-space lifestyle feels like and go out and buy lots and lots of stuff I don't need and sit really far away from people in restaurants. I've become accustomed to "rubbing elbows" with strangers.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
For all my HP fan friends out there, get yourself psyched up for the movie with a few tunes from the ever popular music ensemble "Harry and the Potters"---oh, I can't help but love the silliness.
Sunday, July 08, 2007
Man: So where are you from?
Us: The US
Man: Where in the US?
Us: Kansas, it's in the middle.
[Elevator door opens at our floor]
Man: Oh, Kansas...where all the good shoes come from.
[Elevator door closes, and we are left alone to ponder his last statement.]
What could he have possibly meant? Cowboy Boots? Payless Shoes (since it originated in Topeka, KS)? Huh? Anybody have a clue what our little Brit/Aussie friend could have meant by this? Maybe it was a tactic he uses to appear aloof and elusive. I think the next time I meet someone from New Jersey, I'm going to say "Ah, New Jersey. That's where all the best neckties come from..." And then run away.
Perhaps you just had to be there.
Regardless, I dragged you, my lovely readers, through this story just to say that when I got home and hopped online to see if myface.com really exists, it does. And it looks like it's a site for vampires. Socially-networking vampires. Check out this picture from the homepage:
Clearly those people are vampires. Perhaps they sprinkle in a few normal people in the photo as a way to lure unsuspecting victims, but they two in front are most certainly vampires. Ok, enough shenanigans.