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October 31, 2004 05:27 AM Travel  |   Link
Halloween in Lan Kwai Fong

So last night we had dinner with Cousin Perran in Lan Kwai Fong's Reggatta, a really good New York based Italian restaurant. Following the dinner we decided to go check out the scene at Lan Kwai Fong which was already known as the place to see and be seen. Well before we ventured down the street we found a balcony to check out the crowd. Boy it was really a crowd. It was actually kind of overwhelming, like the mosh pit at a rave concert (yes, I know what it's like to be in a most pit). The street is closed off for pedestrian but the trick is that the direction is to walk through only ONE WAY. A few years ago drunk patrons of a bar started throwing beer bottles into the crowd. A stampede ensued and several people died. Police officers made their presence known but looking down from the balcony it really was quite overwhelming.

Lan Kwai Fong Halloween 2004

People were everywhere this weekend, the crowds were still out and about in CWB late on Friday night.

History of Halloween
Pretty good overview of the origins and intermingling of traditions.

October 27, 2004 09:26 PM Food & Wine  |   Link
Minimal Cooking

So you might not remember but our place is really small. I have no oven or dishwasher or even a microwave. Just a 2 burner stove. Here's a photo of the kitchen. After finding CitySuper we bought some groceries(some, since our fridge is just a little bigger than a dorm fridge) I started to really get into cooking. Yesterday I made an omellete and today for lunch I made our favorite lentils with rice. It was ok. I remember back in Napa in May I just had a hot plate, microwave, mini convection/toaster oven in a room the size of a small closet with a little sink. I was able to cook some elaborate dinner. I guess sometimes we get spoiled with all the gadgets that Williams Sonoma and other cookware stores sell you. We also have become dependent on modern appliances. But it comes back down to is what are you trying to make and what tools are really necessary to make it. Also with the dinky fridge I shop more often which means the ingredients are fresher. Which brings me back to kitchens and cooking technique.

Before I left for Napa in May I was really thinking of renovating the kitchen for more space. After Napa and especially after living here in HK, I don't think it's about space. It's about getting rid of junk. I probably have lots of things I only take out once a year and then it's really just for decorative reasons. But I remember watching tv shows about Galley kitchens on boats. Aesthetics are important as well to create a mood, but with simple dishware and stemware I think you can still pull off a nice dining experience.

What I noticed that with minimal space you can really cook up a storm. It's all about efficiency of tools and not wasting. I can imagine in Japan and other places with dense living space that's the case as well. Hopfully with more practice cooking here, I'll probably still remodel the kitchen back home but to modernize the space and increase the dining/socializing area. I'll have to read up on Galley kitchens as well.

October 25, 2004 08:43 PM Travel  |   Link
K700i photos

The photos are ok. I think our Canon is better (even if it is 3 years old) for more special outings. The photos come out ok indoors but better outdoors in natural light.

I've figured out the FM radio stations here and have preset them for my phone. I like the lightweight aspect and the nice clear screen. The buttons are a reasonable size and maneuvering the menu options is fine. I think if you are already a Sony owner then you should be fine. My favorite feature so far is the game that lets you mix your own mp3s.

I'm still trying to figure out the calendar/notes features. I also can't figure out the T9 shortcut writing which is critical here since more folks SMS here. The infrared/bluetooth are really cool too since it helps me download the files to my computer. For the price it's reasonable(close to $350USD). Since this is the first time I've ever bought a phone I'm pretty excited. Up until now I always got the free phone that came with service contracts. I like the idea of convergence but you can't expect all the features to perform 100% to your liking.

Travel  |   Link
Halloween in HK

Ok, it's one of those western imports again...Halloween. I think originally the expats celebrated halloween for their kids to be able to feel like their home. But of course it has become a commercial venture for retailers and restaurants/bars. Many of the high end places have all night parties for the low price of $666HK. And being expats we've fallen for it. We're headed out Saturday night for an all night party of champagne. I just hope I don't have to wear a costume. I'm really not into halloween. Yes the kids are cute and everything but it's not me.

October 21, 2004 06:39 AM Travel  |   Link
Not Too Far from Home

What do you get when you cross Draeger's, Andronico's, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods.

City Super!

We finally found a store that has all the same foods we ate back home: nice selection of greens(esp. prebagged salads), my favorite Health Valley soups(yes the 1pt a serving), snacks, a great variety of cheeses from all over the world, great wine selection(kind of pricey), our favorite soy milk(not that I didn't like the local brands), pastas, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I'll have to venture into the sweets area to locate meringue cookies and dried fruits. Of course with much of the goods imported there is a nice price tag on the items.

They also have a great take away deli, candy store, and bakery. Not too far from our gym and another one nearby our flat.

October 20, 2004 06:23 AM Travel  |   Link
Settling In

Lots of great adventures the last few days. The most memorable is dining at Club Fagaro. Fagaro is a special spice that literally makes your mouth numb. Jeff and I had an unfortunate experience of biting into a fagaro spice. It was a scarey and strange feeling. The funny thing is that the hostess at CF was totally excited and wide-eyed about the spice, as though it's some kind of drug. We both know we're not going back the food was Sichuan(sp is local) and definitely puts you into a state of awe of how anything could ever get that spicey. The other notable thing that happened at the restaurant was some kind of food critic was also there and giving some "constructive feedback" to the hostess. I wonder if she started to cry. The critic was pretty harsh about such detail...heck I wouldn't have mind to have a cold plate since all the dishes were so spicey hot. Quick someone pass me some milk or a firehose to cut the spiceyness!

Other news, traveled around Kwun Tong to visit the Nike and Adidas outlets. A great outing since I was determined to find some workout stuff. We just joined this gym called Pure Fitness. It's pretty nice but heck we're here only 5 months and we know we'll never get this kind of experience. They lend you clothes and socks to workout in, but I just feel too weird wearing someone else's clothes especially at a gym. I'm pretty sore after 3 straight days of working out both on weights and machines.

On top of that we get discounts at its sister establishments, Pure Spa & Red. We've dined at Red previously and had a wonderful time, I even took a photo with the dessert.

More photos...in restaurants, Happy Valley, Central, Lan Kwai Fong, Bond, Jim Family Get Together and stuff from the phone.

We were so bummed out at Bond. The tickets and website said no photography. When we arrived folks were toting around cameras and camera phones. During the encore everyone rushed to the front (we were front row) and even the 12 year olds had cameras. I was bummed since we were up front and had good distance to take some shots. Oh well next time I'll just bring my camera with me.

As to settling in...well we have found a church, The Vine. Which just celebrated the grand opening of their more permanent location in Central. It's a great church with a great delivery of the message and a wonderful worship team.

I also have language exchange sessions with a friend of a friend in Kowloon. It gets quite frustrating to get the tones. Sometimes Jeff and the group just laugh at the nonsensical things I say when I mess up the tones. Innocently I just grin until they translate what I just said.

One of Jeff's favorite adventures is getting a reflexology foot massage. Yes that's one hour of pure bliss. First they soak your feet in frangrant water while they massage your shoulders and neck for 15 minutes and then 45 minutes of ultimate feet massage. All for about $120HK(less than $20USD).

October 14, 2004 09:29 AM Food & Wine  |   Link
Random Outing

We did something that we're not accustomed to. We did a wine dinner at the JW Marriott's California with Chef John Sarich of Chateau Ste Michelle. Wonderful opportunity to schmooze with HK elite including the chef and Watson Cellar's Rob Temple. A great opportunity to sample wonderful wine and food from the Pacific Northwest. We thought it would be too forward to take photo of the food so we just took random photos coming home after the meal. We did however get a polaroid photo(shake it...shake it...shake it....) from the restaurant included in this evening's photo shoot.

October 11, 2004 11:48 PM Travel  |   Link
Sushi Shota

So in addition to hitting up Lonely Planet's Hong Kong guide, our family and friends here have been recommending restaurants in and around Causeway Bay. Today we had lunch at Sushi Shota. They have a nice and simple offering for lunch. For 120HKD(less than 20USD) you can get 8 pieces of sushi, 1 roll, miso, a hot egg custard appetizer, coffee, tea, and dessert. You get to choose your sushi and roll too. The fish was very fresh and the variety of choices was manageable.

The restaurant was well lit in a contemporary Japanese decor. The music(equivalent to elevator music of easy rock from the late 80s and early 90s) was appropirate considering the older age crowd. Fortunately we beat the lunch crowd that came in just after 12:30. People here in HK generally have their lunch break anwhere between 12:30 and 2pm.

Sushi Shota
8/F, Kyoto Plaza
491-499 Lockhart Rd,
Causeway Bay, HK

Call to make reservations for a table(Tel:28343031). We came in at 12:20 and it was empty but within 10 minutes the whole place was packed. When we were leaving a waiting crowd started to form.

Hours:11:45-15:00, 18:00-23:00

Travel  |   Link
It's Bond...

Not James Bond

Went to the Bond concert on Sunday night. Funny we were front row, and most of the concertgoers were not your typical rock concert type. I guess folks got confused when they see 4 beautiful women wielding classical instruments(violin, viola, cello) and they think a nice quiet evening.


Bond reinterprets favorite classical and pop pieces with funk, rock, and avant garde with their electrical and acousic instruments. I thought it was just really fun. For most of the concert folks sat in their seats just bobbing their heads or like me tapping my feet. The backup drums, keyboard, bass, guitar were just amazing in giving the quartet a nice funky rock beat. They even did some disco and hard rock music. Only during the last couple of songs and encore did they let folks in the back row come up front and you can really feel how excited everyone was to be able to see their favorite quartet play some fun rock music.

Of course Jeff appreciated the front row action, he admitted it was more fun than Mariah Carey.

Bond Website

On the same note of something different to classical roots, is the group, Amici Forever, who are opera singers. This is a group of 2 women and 3 men who are all equally attractive and classically trained in opera. Their innovation is not necessarily the music so much as being an "opera band" which happens to be the title of their first CD.

Amici Forever Website

Why does all this new, fresh, innovative talent come from the UK?

Travel  |   Link
Chinese Desserts

One of my favorite activities here is eating dessert. I'm not talking large mountains of chocolate or plates of almond cookies or oranges. It's been dessert after dessert of lots of tropical fruit(mangos/lychee/jackfruit/coconut), coconut milk, rice, beans. Desserts here are either hot souplike concoctions or nice icy delights.

Besides all the tropical flavored ice creams I have fallen for sesame flavored ice cream. Next to mango, taro and lychee, I think it's my favorite. Alongside Haagen Daz and XTC my favorite ice cream and gelato places, there are various dessert shops everywhere that have both the custard and pudding type desserts as well as the shaved ice with fruit.

It's not that expensive as well. An ice cream sundae at HD would cost around 60HKD and my sticky rice with mango and coconut milk is only 20HKD. To save on the 10% service charge if you sit, I just take mine home to enjoy at home while at the laptop. I'll take photos next time to share what it looks like. You'll have to come here to taste it yourself.

October 08, 2004 09:17 AM Information Architecture  |   Link
HK IA Cocktail Hours

Patrick of Yahoo(Sunnyvale) put together a nice get together at Red in Central as a nice way to end the weeklong Yahoo Design Conference and set an opportunity for folks in the area who focus UE/IA/ID/Usability to meet. Folks from UPA were there too! I can't wait to learn from them and perhaps share some of my own experiences.

Here are some photos that Jeff(the party crasher, my husband) took while we mingled over cocktails.

Hey Patrick can we have more of these?

October 06, 2004 07:31 PM Food & Wine  |   Link
Wine Librarians Association Meeting (FREE)

Could it be? Two of my favorite things in one association. Yes it is. Southern California has a sub-group of librarians with a professional interest in wine books. If you love books about wine and are a librarian, check this out!

We, the Wine Librarians Association, are putting on an event down there.
Danette Cooke-Adamson of Cal Poly has put on a great show coming up on
October 28. Now we need to fill the seats. The kicker is it's
professional development, intellectual and sensory stimulation, and wine
and food and it's all free. Are there listservs or blogs or places to
post this event. It's history, art, wine, food, librarianship,
forgotten geniuses and more, and, did I mention, it's all free.


Travel  |   Link
Lesson 1: How to Fit In

Today we've officially made the ranks of being a "local." It seems that we have been asked a few times now for directions on how to use the MTR or where some particular point of interest is...as well as which stops that the streetcar we were riding would make. Also while getting a foot massage today the therapist thought I looked familiar.

Here are some obvious tips to fit into the HK lifestyle:
1. Dress like everyone else from local stores and street vendors.
2. Get a local hairstyle.
3. Look at ease in taking the bus, streetcar, or MTR.
4. Don't carry a map and a camera.
5. Always be on your phone or listening to your latest mp3 player.

October 04, 2004 11:03 PM Travel  |   Link
Finally..flat photos

Here are some photos of in and around our flat/building in Causeway Bay.

Travel  |   Link
Trying to Fit In

I sort of look like someone who could fit in. Even the locals think I understand every word they tell me in Chinese. However I'm not Chinese and my native language is English...so heck why not try to fit in as soon as possible...nope not 8 hours of chinese lessons every day...I got a hair cut!

Went to "Headquarters" in Central for an updated hairstyle that is suitable to the local trends and light on the head...I think I lost 2 lbs in the process after looking down at the floor where more than half my hair was. To make the new locks "shine" out, I had highlights as well, nope not in purple or blue, went for red and copper.

Speaking of highlights, the swanky hair salon is frequented by HK celebrities. While I was sitting and and watching chunks of locks falling to the floor, there were a couple of minutes of rushing to another room. It turns out a local HK soap opera mega star just entered the room next door. Gosh too bad I didn't have my camera on me.

Now I guess I should really try to bust out the little chinese I know...

"How much is mango ice cream?"

"I'd like to bargain that price..."

"I don't eat meat."

"Where is the local club?"

PS: We have wifi/internet at home now. I'll catch up on the writing soon enough!

PPS: Guess what...I have a feeling we're slowly become Apple users. We just bought an Airport Express to facilitate the wifi and print server in our flat. I guess it all started with iTunes and our iPod...what a great switch tactic.

October 02, 2004 04:39 AM Travel  |   Link
Holidays = No Routine

Photos of our new flat will be posted shortly...since there have been many holidays, the housekeepers have not made their rounds to our flat...and it looks like Ikea exploded here with all the bits of cardboard and stuff everywhere. Some highlights, it's a 1 bed/1bath in the middle of Causeway Bay that overlooks a McDonalds and KFC(which has wireless access)and is next door to a bookstore. It was furnished really nicely and Jeff has a small area for an office that has a window.

Causeway Bay(CWB)is the shopping mecca for HK. Lots of name brands(Calvin Klein, Coach, Benneton) side by side with nice inexpensive trendy fashions. We're still acclimating to the weather and dense population. Most interesting ice cream so far is Lychee flavored Haagan Daz, most interesting sight is many old men walking around with their prized birds in cages similar to people at home walking their dogs. Birds here are prized for their singing and not necessarily their plumage. The food is amazing especially the fresh, inexpensive seafood. A really good organic vegetarian chinese restaurant around the block and all the wuntun mein soup every 20 ft from our bldg.

The Moon Festival(known locally here as the Mid-Autumn Fesitval) was really fun. During the festival kids have the opportunity of running around with their music playing mechanical lanterns and glow in the dark trinkets or be like Jeff and me running around with our old-style lanterns that were lit with real candles. Kind of dangerous either way since the high-tech ones may have loose wires and sharp corners that had adults yelling, "Be careful, you might poke out someone's eyes!" And of course running around with paper lanterns with lit candles which could turn into balls of fire with adults reminding children how to drop it and run!

The children stayed up late since the next day was a holiday. All the large parks were crowded with people attending the festivities(music/cantopop, moon/lantern gazing, and just plain socializing). What's a moon festival with out having moon cakes...the latest craze right now are frozen mooncakes made of moshi with sweet fillings like strawberry or nutty like chestnuts. Mooncakes are usually high cholesterol baked pastries filled with lotus paste and an egg. I wrote up about my Starbucks experience previously with their coffee flavored mooncakes.

Friday was National Day(similar to 4th of July) so there were fireworks and another day off for most people. EM came to visit and we sat at Excelsior's top floor bar/lounge to watch more fireworks(probably left over from last nights National Day fireworks) and admire the Kowloon skyline.

We haven't really gotten into a routine since the holidays are throwing us off...also we've been concentrating on visiting relatives and settling down into our new place that all other regular activites are on hold (i.e. Lisa hasn't been running).