Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Lost in Transition

So needless to say, I was reunited with the group, but our trip to Macau, a Chinese territory formerly under Portuguese rule, started off with a little more confusion/excitement than I had anticipated. 

When I didn’t find the group at our morning meeting spot outside of the bun shop, I traced the possible scenarios in my mind and decided that maybe the group had moved onto the subway station.  I made my way to the subway station, but to no avail…no Larry, no Jen, no Tim, no Karen, no Paul. 

So I forged ahead, navigating three different subway stations before discovering that there were two different terminals with ferries leaving for Macau and my hopes of finding the group diminished a little further. 

I found myself at the downtown ferry terminal and soon on the way to Macau by myself, front row seat on the ferry with my cappuccino, playing out in my mind how the day might go…tour of Macau by myself? internet cafĂ© to send an email and hope that the Blackberries are on and have service?  join a random German tour group?

Well, so there I was, in the public library of Macau with a few other tourists (possibly separated from their groups as well?) and then the obvious regulars who were  browsing the profiles on DateInAsia.com, talk about taking advantage of free internet, nice. 


Pretty cool building, with free internet.

So, I thought this post would have been much more authentic if written from the Macau public library terminal, but luckily banking on the group packing Blackberries was a good call and we were able to coordinate my return to the group…but just in time, before I was kicked off my terminal for some guy to use it, presumably to check his DateInAsia inbox.

Japanese, Russian and German

And no trip to Hong Kong would be complete without the international cuisine tour.  Much like San Francisco, the restaurant scene spans the global spectrum from Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese to German, Russian, Spanish and American. 

We hit the crowded Hong Konger sushi spot, leaving behind the tourists after the nightly harbor side lightshow (think Hong Kong skyline meets Disneyland night parade), for edamame, tempura, noodles and green tea ice cream.

Before heading to the rooftop bar at Hotel Azure, we sampled Hong Kong’s Russian fare, made to feel all the more internationally cheesy (which we loved) by the live Russian music and vodka freezer.  We slipped on the ankle length fur coats and into the minus 20 degree Celsius ice room for chilled vodka shots.

And to finish out the tour, we made the trek across the island on the public double decker bus to Stanley beach for a hardy German meal. Sitting in the first row of the second floor of the bus offers a clear view of the twisting, turning two lane road, which the driver handles with scary precision (we only had to hold on and close our eyes a few times) but we arrived safely at the dark, woody beer hall-esque eatery for rich beers, pretzels, sausage and potatoes.  And after dinner, home in the taxi, not on the bus.  

Big Buddha Day

Overcame my fear of heights on the gondola ride up to Lantau peak (on the island of Lantau), gorgeous view and home of the Tian Tan Buddha.


World’s tallest, outdoor, seated, bronze Buddha (there’s always a catch, but we’ll just call it really big).


Post Buddha pilgrimage, we bussed it down to the beachside town, think Catalina Island with a Chinese flair, for afternoon beer and snacks.  Larry ordered the calamari and fried eggplant for us, because as he put it, the menu wasn’t very “whitey friendly.”


Thursday, August 14, 2008

New Obsession

Starting off the day at the Bao Shop.


Bao - pillowy white buns filled with everything savory and sweet, from pork and vegetables to red bean paste, sweet pumpkin, taro and lotus seed...


73 Stairs to Health

Q: Where is the one and only uncrowded place in Hong Kong?

A: The stairs in the subway at rush hour.


Apparently I was the only one who decided to forgo the 15 person queue on both of the up escalators in the subway and take the 73 “stairs to health”, as the campaign lining the stairwell suggested. By the time I had reached the top of the stairs and turned to take my photo, I really expected to see at least one in-a-big-hurry Hong Konger who had wisely opted for the steps, but no. Not even one. 

Chandeliers in McDonalds???

...and an etched glass, color changing light wall, grape soda float and mango passion fruit sundae 

...and a Mc Cafe with an espresso bar

...and Crayola hue coordinated uniforms

Such a classy establishment in other countries.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Chickens and Deer Parts

Surprising, well at least to me, was a bit of group hesitancy after visiting several of the Hong Kong street markets.  We strolled the streets lined with locals peddling exotic fruits and vegetables and displaying their fresh fruits of the sea, but when it came time to visit the indoor meat and poultry market, the vegetarian in the group was the only one heading for the entrance.

I guess I have an acceptably morbid curiosity for the hanging carcasses and live chickens, knowing that I don't actually eat any of the end products.  And entering the market would surely only confirm my status as a vegetarian.  Cindy's fear of chickens however, apparently called alektorophobia, overshadowed any natural curiostiy and she had to wait outside.  

First photo opp: walls of meat hanging on hooks, illuminated by pinkish incandescent lightbulbs to enhance, we hope not feign, the look of freshness.


Second photo opp: a live chicken, selected by one of the shoppers, being shoved into a guillotine-esque metal funnel.  


We all turned our heads in horror, imagining what was about to happen, but Larry reassured us that the contraption was simply a scale and that all of the unmentionables of how the chicken goes from screeching, feathered creature to dinner, all goes on in the back of the market.  Tim however, still a little hesitant, warns me as I reassure him,  "If that chicken's head falls off right now, I am going to kill you." 

Probably a good call Cindy.  

Safely out of the meat and poultry market, we stop to browse the medicinally beneficial dried goods at the herbalist.  


We discover that a medicinal benefit of dried deer penis is its aphrodisiac effect.  Mmmm, deer penis soup, couldn't think of anything more romantic.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

First Stop: Hong Kong

Four episodes of Ali G, two vegetarian meals, a cup of noodles, two screaming babies (and I have a pretty high tolerance), three hot flight attendants, Natalie Portman in The Other Boleyn Girl and a six hour nap later, we made it to Hong Kong. Leaving Friday night and arriving Sunday morning leaves for a pretty long day but things were off to a good start.

On the way from the airport we saw a sidewalk fish market, for pets not eating. And as we watched the shoppers carefully surveying plastic bags full of water and little fish, I realized that maybe the giant fish tanks in all of the Chinese restaurants
are indicative of a larger cultural phenomenon.

And from fish you don’t eat to fish you do, we headed to Sunday dim sum with the family. Good thing that Larry's family are regulars because it was packed with Sunday dim sum goers and we got the vip treatment from our servers, Pinky and Queenie. Not sure that I would give my kids the same for their English names, but what do I know?

Among the delicacies in which I did not indulge, while quite tasty I’m sure, were the roasted chicken’s feet, fried chicken cartilage and herbal gelatin with turtle shell shavings; however, I do now have a new favorite in the pumpkin-tapioca dessert soup.

And if nothing else, I knew that culinary adventure would weave a common thread throughout the trip.