A Multi-Flavoured Memory of Hong Kong

“And the winner for the best Hong Kong blog goes to… Darren Ng of Celebrate Life Lah!” Loud applause all around, bright flashes stunned my irises, congratulatory pats on the back and handshakes started pouring in…  

Darren, wake up… wake up…  

Huh? Oh, I was daydreaming! I didn’t win the best Hong Kong blog. Catherine did. With Jerome winning 1st Runner-up and Sze Peng taking home the honours for 2nd Runner-up. Congratulations to them! They will be receiving a basket of sour grapes from me soon.  

I’m kidding. They really did very well in the Hong Kong blog contest. I learnt a lot about this multi-faceted city and about blogging through them and all my fellow travelers – Peter, Priscilla, Violet, Lawrence, Elaine and Gin. In the last 3 months from the time we won the Singapore Blog Awards to the Hong Kong trip, I think I represent all 10 of us when I say the whole experience is what dreams are made of.  

Bloggers + HKTB + Omy.sg  

With the dinner gathering held a few nights ago and the announcement of the blog and lucky draw winners, the Hong Kong Summer Spectacular came to a wrap for us. But things don’t end there for the 10 of us have left behind a ‘legacy’ of our HK trip… a combined blog where our experiences were meticulously documented through photos, videos, cartoons and words.  

It is a light-hearted collection of 10 first-person accounts and intimate thoughts about what Hong Kong has to offer. So do drop by My Hong Kong Travel Blog (我的香港之旅) as your first stop to this amazing city.  

My Hong Kong Adventures!  

When I started posting at My Hong Kong Travel Blog, I began with a countdown series that recorded my thoughts and preparations for the trip. Why did I do it? Frankly, I’ve been to Hong Kong before and I’m not impressed by my previous visits. So I wanted to see if this trip will change my mind.  

Really, I do!And frankly again, the blog contest has ended so there’s no need for me to continue posting about Hong Kong (my last entry was Day 3 of our 4-days tour on 26 Aug 10). So there are no other objectives other than to record what I really felt because I had a change of mind about Hong Kong being boring. I guess I was merely looking at the oyster shell previously and didn’t open it, or tasted it.  

No doubt that this trip was hosted by the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) and they took great care of us. But for the most part, they left us pretty much on our own to explore Hong Kong. Yes, they put us up at the uber cool The Mira Hotel (which totally blew my mind away), and brought us to great places to eat but to me, it is not so that we will write only nice reviews (well, at least not for me), but it really showed me the full potential of Hong Kong as a great holiday destination.  

For this trip, I got down to do some pretty serious research. That’s when I realized there’s more to Hong Kong. There’s Kowloon and New Territories. Especially the lesser explored New Territories, which is home to many beautiful natural landscapes and the very photogenicHong Kong Wetland Park.  

If you’re like me and like to research every destination and attraction before visiting and to get as local as possible, the HKTB website is a really great resource. What I really love about it is the clear, clean-cut directions it gives to get to the places of interest. And their pocket-sized brochures are really good too (copies of them can be obtained at the airport). I never leave my hotel room with them.  

HK Culinary Encounters  

But enough about the sights of Hong Kong here for details can be found in my earlier posts. With this concluding blog, I would like to share about the food. A topic I’ve not touched on in previous posts.  

During this trip, we were brought to restaurants that span the range from casual eats, boutique gems, and fine-dine menus. Very often a time, after I took a bite of the food, I was afraid to open my mouth again because I didn’t want the flavours to escape. Plus I ran out of words to describe delicious. The above 4 dishes are what I found interesting and super yumz (although the pork knuckles took some getting used to).  

Yin Yang so yum!  

However, my most memorable taste of Hong Kong was at the quaint, delicately retro ambience of Yin Yang Restaurant on Ship Street. I shan’t go into details about the culinary feats of its founder, celebrity chef Margaret Xu, because my fellow bloggers have done an excellent job, but I’ll talk about the inspiration she gave me… that of daring to experiment in the kitchen.  

As part of our dining experience at Yin Yang, which is famous for its healthy fusion fare, we were given a behind-the-scene demonstration of how to make one of its many specialty sauces. For our sauce-making lesson, Margaret shared with us the recipe for a dipping sauce which she later christened as ‘Green Dream’ in honour of us.  

A chance to work in a celebrity kitchen!  

I didn’t get a chance to note down the specific measurements of the ingredients, but it is basically equal weight green chili, ginger and spring onion. I think we used about 1kg each during our session. If you like it spicier, you can always increase the ratio of chili.  

In a wok of oil, deep-fry the ginger for about 3 mins then add in the chili. Deep-fry the chili till it is cooked but not to the point where it loses its green colour and fold in the spring onion. Again, deep-fry the spring onion till soft but not soggy. Drain the oil and transfer the mixture to a blender and add in a generous amount of salt (about 2 heaping soup spoons). This is meant as a dipping sauce so it has to be a bit salty. You can vary the salt content to your liking.  

We were each given a bottle of Green Dream and told it can keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge. I kept it for over a month! It still tasted fresh and I didn’t end up in ER. But instead of using it as a dip, I decided to experiment and used it as a base sauce to create 2 new dishes. Here’re the recipes…  

Yin Yang Lady’s Fingers 

Hmm… With such a name, I think this dish will be a hit with transvestites! And no one will break any nails trying to cook this dish which draws inspiration from the delicious Peranakan-styled steamed ocra with sambal. But instead of sambal, Green Dream is used.  

Yin Yang Ocra  

Ingredients :  

400g Lady’s Fingers (a.k.a. ocra)  
20g Dried Shrimp (soak in water before using)  
1 Onion (diced)  
3 Cloves Garlic (diced)  
2 Heaping Tablespoons of Green Dream  

Method : 

  1. Deep-fry the dried shrimps till brown and crispy. Drain the oil and put it aside.
  2. Cut ocra into halves and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of sesame oil. Steam for about 8-10 mins. Remove from steamer and transfer ocra to a new plate to leave behind excess water.
  3. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium fire and stir-fry onion and garlic. Add in Green Dream and 2 tablespoons of water.
  4. Scoop sauce into a bowl and pour in the crispy shrimps. Mix the condiments and spread atop steamed ocra.

Green Dream Shrimp 

This dish is adapted from the Sweet & Sour Prawns recipe with Green Dream replacing the use of ketchup and vinegar. So instead of the fruity sweet taste, this dish has a mild spicy bite. 

Green Dream Shrimp 

Ingredients : 

600g Prawns (de-shell the body leaving the head and tail)
1 Medium-size Tomato (sliced into quarters)
1 Medium-size Onion (sliced into quarters)
2 Cloves Garlic
1 Bunch Spring Onion & Chinese Parsley
2 Heaping Tablespoons of Green Dream
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 Teaspoon Fish Sauce
2 Tablespoons Sesame Oil
3 Tablespoons Whiskey (or Chinese Cooking Wine) 

Method :

  1. Slice the spine of the prawns to remove the black entrails. In a bowl, marinate with sesame oil and whiskey. Leave in the fridge for about 2 hours.
  2. Heat a table of olive oil over high fire and stir-fry onion and garlic. Add in tomato and 2 tablespoons of water. Cooked till tomato is slightly soft and add in Green Dream and sugar.
  3. Add in prawns and be sure to pour in the marinate sauce as well. Stir-fry and add in fish sauce. Serve on a bed of spring onion and parsley.

Now, I’m no Martin Yan or Fang Tai and I’d cook up many disasters that even my dogs won’t eat so you by trying out the above recipes, you’re doing it at your own risk! But I did put the dishes to a taste-test by my parents. My mum is a foodie and my dad used to be a cook.

So, did Yin Yang Lady’s Fingers and Green Dream Shrimp pass my parents’ taste test? Were they a dream or a nightmare?

Well, I couldn’t get a word out of them because like me, they were too afraid to open their mouths when food is good. Success! 

With the 2 dishes, I’ve brought home more than just postcard memories of Hong Kong, but the spirit of experimentation that made Hong Kong so resilient in creating a holiday destination bursting with contrasts and flavours.

Till my future visits to Hong Kong again, the fragrance of this recent trip lingers on…

HK Day 3 : The Model Behaviour For Going Down Under

One of the top highlights during the Hong Kong trip was the Media Bathtub Race at the Summer Spectacular’s Dragon Boat Carnival. Even though I had previous dragon boating experience and took part in a couple of races, the Bathtub Race rendered years of training null. 

Prior to the race, I gey kiang (smart alec) and shared with Aussie Pete, Priscilla, and Violet dragon boat rowing techniques and tips. “Dip the paddle in the water, and pull by rotating your trunk. Dip, pull, dip, pull… one, two, one, two… that’s the rhythm…” I said. And that was the advice that sank the boat of Aussie Pete and model, Priscilla.

This is serious. Don't play play!

According to Pete, Priscilla followed my advice with strict determination and persisted with the one-two routine. But we’ve neglected one crucial factor that led to their Titanic exit from the race – their very apparent disparity in size and weight. One Pete is equivalent to at least two Priscillas.

With the Aussie sitting at the back and the model in front, the ‘bathtub’ tilted like a speedboat, hence displacing their centre of balance to the back. Poor Priscilla’s paddle couldn’t even reach the water! Any slight bodily manifestation of gan cheong-ness (anxiety) would be enough to topple the boat.

They're safe!

Then it happened. Their tub capsized. Both of them got a real taste of Victoria Harbour. “Very salty,” was Pete’s verdict.

The bathtub was really just a rectangular plastic box with two seats. More like a soap dish to me. And the first thing I realized when Violet and I got on was that it was extremely buoyant. Forget about rowing technique, balancing the tub was top priority.

On top of that, the tub was really sensitive to every stroke of the paddle so steering required utmost concentration. Thankfully, Violet and I managed to stay afloat and came in 2nd out of 5 teams (2 from Singapore, 1 from Malaysia, 1 from India, 1 from Philippines). The Filipino team won the race.

The Dream Team

What really amazes me about the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival was that it is such an important event with celebrities and stars taking part in the races. There were TVB actors and actresses, and members from the South Korean boyband, U-KISS. I have no idea who they are but judging from the number of screaming fans present, they must be pretty popular. Here’s a song by them :

After the Dragon Boat Carnival experience in Hong Kong, I kinda miss my dragon boating days… the camaraderie, the rush during a race, the rigourous workouts, the perpetually tanned look, the improved level of fitness… I wonder if I’ll ever get back into the game again.

But thanks to this special arrangement by omy.sg and the Hong Kong Tourism Board, I got a chance to rekindle that not-so-long-ago past and get a hard-to-come-by feel (but not the taste) of paddling down Victoria Harbour.

Let's triumph over cancer!

For more photos, please visit my album A Lingering Fragrance.

HK Day 2 : Where the Street Calls You Names

It was 10:30 pm on Saturday, 24 July 2010… The night I met the rose of shopping districts in Hong Kong. And realized what sharp thorns it has.

After the sensory buffet onboard The Bounty, Sze Ping, Lawrence and I headed down to Mong Kok for some shopping. I wanted to go to this particular complex which houses a beehive of novelty shops selling apparels, accessories, bags and knick-knacks of all kinds.

I chanced upon it in my last visit to Hong Kong two years ago so I had only a sketchy idea of its location. I remembered it was along Fa Yuen Street (花园街), which is near to the famous Ladies’ Market. But with so many shops and buildings packed together like carpet grass, it was hard to spot the damselfly amongst the dragonflies.

We couldn’t find the complex and ended up at the Ladies’ Market instead. Running the section of Tung Choi Street (通菜街) that is between Argyle Street and Dundas Street, the open-air market is a well-known hunting ground for bargains. It is also a great place to shop for insults.

Prices are not the only things that get slashed

Open daily from noon till around 11:00 pm, Ladies’ Market is notorious for having stallholders with some of the most acidic tongues! I’ve learnt about these street vendors from hell through online sources and accounts by friends, but nothing beats experiencing it firsthand.

Here’re some incidences of what I witnessed in my less than half an hour walk there…

(Scenario 1: In the midst of price haggling)

Tourist : HK$100 and I’ll buy from you.

Vendor : Go away, go away! If you can find HK$100, you buy from there! Zhan hai suey, yu dou dee ko-ong gwai (Such bad luck to meet this poor demon).

(Scenario 2 : After some haggling, non-Chinese tourists decided not to take up the vendor’s price counter-offer and started to walk away. Vendor called them back.)

Vendor : Okay, okay, that price okay. Ji-in yarn (Cheapskates).

Tourists : Good. Thank you.

Have you learnt those Cantonese names for “poor demon” and “cheapskate” yet? I bet if I stayed there longer, I could pick up more phrases to share with you!

I had a personal encounter of these rude behaviours too. I walked past a stall and saw those bendy toys where you can twist to form certain shapes. In my early teens, I used to keep one of those on hand and always try to think of different shapes to form with it. Yet no matter what shaped I formed, I was twist it back to my favourite shape… that of a cross.

Having met that ‘old friend’, I couldn’t help but took out my camera to snap a photo before asking the price. The photo didn’t turn out well so I aimed my camera again. The stall-owner promptly came over, told me to stop taking photos and waved his hand in front of my cam to spoil the shot. Felt like I was a fly being shoo-ed off. Well, that’s good in a way, helped me save the money I was going to spend. Heh heh…

Yet, the name-calling and photo disturbances were mild compared to what one tourist experienced. The vendor physically blocked the way to stop that person from leaving the stall. I find that both shocking and amusing.

Bullying should not be tolerated. I’m appalled by that act of intimidation, but at the same time, I’m amused to find that such plain disregard of mutual respect existed. In a developed place like Hong Kong.

For the most part, my encounters with Hong Kongers during the trip have been very pleasant ones. So those bad eggs presented themselves as an anomaly and became a stark contrast for me.

So here’re some observations for shopping at Ladies’ Market… Just smile and walk away if things are getting venomous because you can always find a friendlier stall that sells almost the same things. It is best not to take the rudeness personally.

If you bargain, do so only if you really want to buy that item and you can slash the price by as much as 50% and let the negotiating start. If the price isn’t right, walk away and sometimes, the vendors will relent. If they don’t, then just be prepared to learn some ‘colourful’ use of the Cantonese language! 😀

For more photos, please visit my album A Lingering Fragrance.

HK Day 2 : Listen with Thy Eyes

香港… its name translates directly into Fragrant Harbour. That goes to say that if one hasn’t toured its famed harbour, one cannot rightfully be considered to have been to Hong Kong. It’s like going to Disneyland without seeing Mickey, or having hamburgers without ham.

While the Star Ferry provides an opportunity to experience the bustling energy of the harbour, nothing beats the cruise experience we had onboard The Bounty. With the gentle wind as our constant hairstylist, a sumptuous buffet spread, booze, and a spectacular 360° view of Victoria Harbour, we watched the buildings come alive in a neon technicoat as dusk faded to night. And at 8:00 pm, we watched the largest permanent multimedia light show, A Symphony of Lights, right at the heart of the action!

Bounty Rock!

The Bounty is a full-scale replica of the European H.M.A.V. Bounty where the most famous mutiny in British naval history took place. Here’s a quick historical timeline of legend and facts about this ancient maritime marvel :

• 1784 – The original Bounty was built for the purpose of trading.

• 1787 – Renamed “His Majesty’s Armed Vessel” Bounty and used to ship breadfruit plants. Captain William Bligh appointed as Commander of the ship and left for expedition to Tahiti.

• 1789 – Departed from Tahiti but a mutiny ensued. Captain Bligh was cast adrift and Acting Lieutenant Fletcher Christian took over The Bounty. Captain Bligh survived and became Governor of New South Wales while Christian settled on Norfolk Islands.

• 1978 – Replica of The Bounty was built for the film “The Bounty” starring Mel Gibson and Sir Anthony Hopkins.

With so much history, standing on the deck of the ship gave me a somewhat surreal feeling. I thought to myself, “So this is how a time machine looks.” And it stirred a sense of romanticism, a somewhat poetic experience of being at the crossroad where old world charm meets a modern voyage of the senses.

The muntiny of bloggers

Ahoy, Ahoy!

The 18th century beast awaketh for fresh deploy
As the stars envied of Poseidon’s magnificent toy
That replicated Bounty lusts for mortal joy

Onboard, all Aboard!

Its polished ancient skin glistens smooth and taut
Where on whence Captain Bligh a mutiny fought
But once again its sail-wings pregnant with the blowing knots

Aye, Aye!

What is this sight before our eyes?
These dancing lights and laser beams by our isles
‘Tis like songless sirens enchanting the sky

Heave-ho! Heave-ho!

Expanding bellies the pants no longer could hold
Filled not just by harvests but candour by the watering hole
And ten bloggers sailed this friend-ship far and bold

Seamless blend of old & new

For more photos, please visit my album A Lingering Fragrance.

HK Day 2 : Wetland Park – Hong Kong’s Manicured Green Thumb

An electronic ringing tone resounded persistently in the distance. It got closer and closer, I opened my eyes. It’s 7:00 am and the morning call was right on time. It was Day 2 in Hong Kong, and I’m going to the Wetland Park. I pulled the curtains open and bright sunlight immediately saturated the room. It was a glorious day to be embraced by Mother Nature!

Directions

Getting There : From Tin Shui Wai MTR Station, use Exit E and board the Light Rail nos. 705 or 706 and alight at Wetland Park Station.

I made my way there from Tsim Sha Tsui MTR Station, transited at Mei Foo Station to reach Tin Shui Wai Station. The whole journey to Wetland Park took me approximately 1 hr 20 mins and costs HK$22.50.

A glorious sight

Located at New Territories, the Hong Kong Wetland Park was created to preserve and study the diversity of Hong Kong’s wetlands as such natural landscapes are rapidly lost to urban developments.

The park sprawls over 60-hectres of natural swamps and indigenous vegetation and is home to many species of birds, insects and aquatic animals. It is also affiliated with Singapore’s Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and London’s Wetland Centre. They are kind of like hotels for migratory birds. And I reckon the Hong Kong one would be the equivalent of staying at The Mira.

Remaining patches of nature

Opening Hours : The park is closed every Tuesday (except Public Holidays). For all other days, it is open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Entrance Fee : HK$30 (Adult), HK$15 (Child)

The Hong Kong Wetland park is very well-kept and encompasses a Visitor Centre, interactive exhibitions, themed galleries, a theatre, a souvenir shop, an children’s playground that even I want to play in, a fastfood restaurant (大家乐) and of course the main attraction, the wetland reserve.

Hong Kong's green lungs

There are various zones at the reserve such as the Stream Walk, Succession Walk, Mangrove Boardwalk and three Bird Hides, situated next to a fish pond, mudflat and riverside. This allows visitors to see different species of birds in their habitats. The whole morning I was there, I only saw a white heron.

Clear sign-posts points the way to the various attractions and there’re park guides (in yellow uniform) within the wetland reserve area whom you can approach for a guided tour. They come equipped with binoculars so you can get a magnified view of dragonflies, birds, lotuses, etc.

The guide who approached me was very enthusiastic in sharing information despite a basic command of the English language. The staff at Wetland Park were all very friendly and welcoming. Even when I ‘accidently’ went on the prohibited balcony area at the Visitor Centre to snap photos of the scenery, I was asked to leave politely.

Battling the sun

Hot Tips :

• If you don’t want handbag makers to lust after your skin, be sure to cover up, protect your skin with sunblock, bring umbrella, wear a hat, neck towels, etc.

• There’re no drinking fountains in the wetland reserve so be sure to fill up your water-bottle at the water cooler in the fastfood restaurant.

• Always stay on the designated paths and walkways as there may be snakes or other hidden defenses of nature. A salt water crocodile was found in at the nearby Shan Pui River in 2003. It now lives in an enclosure within the park and given the name, Pui Pui. The park is safe, but do take precautions to avoid ending up as something’s lunch.

Wetland in the heartland

For me, the most striking thing about the park is its close proximity to residential developments. Views from the park looked as if it is located at some ulu faraway boondocks, but it’s closer to home than you think. Well, at least to the homes of people living there. The view up in those flats must be breathtaking.

Choose your path

As I’ve just started learning nature macro photography, one of my main purpose was to photograph wildlife species not found in Singapore. During my time at the Wetland Park, I didn’t see any animals, didn’t see many birds, and the insects were just too active to photograph.

Usually I would go really early in the morning between 7 am to 8 am to shoot the bugs because that’s when they’re just waking up and not too active yet. But Wetland Park opens at 10 am. By then, my skill and equipments are inadequate to capture them well.

My only macro shot

But what the place had no lack of was dragonflies. Lots of them around in a wide variety of colours and designs. Woohoo! Belonging to the insect order known as Odonata (which means ‘toothed jaws’ in Greek), dragonflies undergo incomplete metamorphosis as their life stages all revolve around bodies of water and are carnivorous from young to adulthood.

Dragonfly Facts :

• They can fly forward, backward, upward, downward or sideways and preys on mosquitoes, flies, and aphids.

• Male dragonflies frequently perch on eye-catching points to show-off their bright bodies to attract females.

• Tropical dragonflies can live a few months up to a year, while those living in temperate climates have a lifespan averaging only one to six weeks.

Jewels of nature

Other than dragonflies, there’re also a few lotus and waterlily ponds. I saw some yellow and pink variegated lotuses for the first time and they were beautiful!

Shy lotus

Having baked under the hot sun for half a day, the air-con at the Visitor Centre was more than comforting. There, I browsed through the “Fantastic World of Insects” exhibition and visited a gallery that showcased life at the different types of wetlands – mangrove swamps, tropical rivers, and continental marshes.

The exhibits were pretty interesting with lots of info about the secret life of insects and wetland dwellers. My favourite was this very colourful tortoise. I’ve not seen anything like it ‘live’ before!

Groovy!

It was a good thing I got back to the Visitor Centre because the earlier sunny weather was replaced by a rainstorm. Since I was stuck there, I went into the theatre for a performance about insects thinking I just want to sit and rest.

But I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the stage performance! It was funny, creative and highly educational. I really learnt a lot about the insects in a fun and easy to digest manner. The only grouse was that the show was in Cantonese and I couldn’t understand some of the phrases.

Overall, I find the Wetland Park a very enjoyable and educational experience. My plan was to stay there till 1:00 pm but by the time I left, it was almost 4:00 pm, being stuck in the rain notwithstanding. If I go Hong Kong again, I will definitely come back again and hopefully the next time, I’ll get more photos of bugs!

For more photos, please visit my album A Lingering Fragrance.

HK Day 1 : ‘Scuse Me While I Kiss The Stars

After delighting my eyes with the sparkling skyline of Hong Kong at night, I headed three floors down from the Sky Terrace to Madame Tussauds (MT). I got the 3-in-1 Combo which included a 2-way Peak Tram ride and entrances to the Sky Terrace and MT for HK$200.

Scenes at MT

Here’s the adult price if you buy them separately : Return Tram ticket – HK$36; Sky Terrance – HK$25; MT – HK$160. Total price – HK$221. You save about S$4.00, which is not much, but you save on the queue time to get the tickets separately.

Hot Tip :

• Buy the Combo ticket from the MT ticketing booth at the Peak Tram Terminus. This booth is across from the Peak Tram ticketing booth which sells Tram ride tickets or Tram ride with entry to Sky Terrace only. I was queuing at the Peak Tram line for a long time before I realized the 3-in1 MT Combo was not sold there! *gua gua gua…*

If you have not heard of Madame Tussauds, it is an exhibition where you can get really up-close and personal with wax figures of celebrities, sport stars, politicians, and historical personalities.

The stars are made with an almost 100% likeness so it is as good as seeing them for real. Even though there are so many ‘people’ there, I’d never felt more alone. I was there by myself so there’s no one to take photos of me with the stars! Even if I did ask someone to help take a photo for me, I was too embarrassed to do wacky poses. If a friend was taking the photos, they would’ve been very different.

It’s so much fun watching people posing with the famous personalities. Some of the poses were, well, let’s just say I’d seen obasans come out of menopause, young girls misplacing their chastity, and guys exploring every part of the female figures as if they’re curators making sure the wax statues were not damaged.

Out of curiosity, I did a little checking of my own and confirmed that the wax dudes have no ‘wicks’, and except for the raisins on Aaron Kwok’s exposed chest, there’re no chocolate coins on the chests of other male and female figurines. I didn’t check every one but from those that I can see, I generalized.

Lest you think I’m a pervert, I did it to see how far the replicas would go because more than 200 measurements (including the crotch and breasts area) are taken to make each figurine. And it takes more than 800 hours to complete each one. The bulk of the time is spent on inserting hair, strand by strand onto the wax scalps.

So, let’s test your knowledge of the Asian stars… how many can you recognise and name?

Asian Stars

What about the following Hollywood movers and shakers?

Hollywood Stars

Or these famous politicians and cultural icons?

Famous one way or another

For personalities who are still alive, they’ll be invited for a Sitting where their measurements are taken. But for the long-deceased such as William Shakespeare, the figures are constructed based on paintings and photos.

Of all the wax celebrities, I thought the one that looked most ‘fake’ and unlike the star it should resemble was that of Cecilia Cheung (张伯芝). I thought it was a younger Maggie Cheung (张曼玉). Well, maybe I didn’t recognise Cecilia because she wasn’t wearing a policewoman uniform. Oops!

But my main target at Madame Tussauds was to take a photo with Anita Mui (梅艳芳). Among all the Hong Kong celebrities, she’s one of my favourite because she’s a great performer and actress. I grew up listening to her during her 妖女 (vixen) days and loved her comic performance in the movie 钟无艳. So I was pretty saddened when she passed on due to cancer in 2003. But thankfully for Madame Tussauds, the likeness of her is preserved and made immortal…

Tribute to Anita Mui

Here’s my favouritest song from her. It is a duet with Jacky Cheung called 相爱很难 (Love is Difficult). Enjoy… 🙂

For more photos, please visit my album A Lingering Fragrance.

Hong Kong Day 1 : Peak Peeks

Upon arriving in Hong Kong, the first thing on my mind was taking a photo of Hong Kong’s aerial skyline from Victoria Peak. It is the view of Hong Kong that must not be missed. No wonder there’re throngs of people going up and down the hilltop at any given time.

Getting There : From Central MTR Station, take Exit J2, and turn right once you come out of the exit. Walk in the direction of the iconic Bank of China building. Along the way, there’re many signposts to point you to the Peak Tram Terminus on Garden Road. It is pretty straightforward.

Three peaks before The Peak

There’re a few ticketing options available such as a single trip or return trip on the Tram. And you can choose to include the entrance fee to The Peak’s Sky Terrace as a package as well. I bought the 3-in-1 combo from the Madame Tussauds ticketing counter by the side. That includes a 2-way Tram transfer + entrance fee to The Peak Sky Terrace + entrance to Madame Tussauds (HK$200). MT is located inside The Peak Tower.

Well-connected & sign-posted

Hot Tips :

• Sit on the right-hand side when going up and left when coming down. That way, you can see the skyline of HK unfold by the window. The slope is rather steep and at some points, the angle of elevation is about 45 degrees so it’s kinda bizarre to see the surrounding residential blocks slanting at that angle. The effect is more dramatic when coming down as it looks as if the buildings are ‘falling’ towards you.

• When planning a visit, do allocate extra waiting time for the Tram. I waited about 30 mins to board on the way up (about 5 pm), and almost an hour on the way down at 9 pm.

• Frequency and duration of Tram ride : 10 – 15 mins

There’re two shopping complexes at the top – The Peak Tower and The Peak Galleria. Both offer lookout points on their roofs. The Peak Galleria is free but since it’s behind The Peak Tower, the view is slightly blocked. But it offers a great view of the surrounding islands.

Around the summit

The Peak Tower’s Sky Terrace offers an unobstructed view of the skyline for a fee of HK$25 (adult) and HK$12 (child and senior). A short walk in the downhill direction will bring you to a lookout point called the Lions View Point Pavilion which is also free. My photo of the skyline taken during the day was at Lions while the night view was taken at the Sky Terrace.

Day view of HK skyline

Hot Tips :

• In summer, the sky starts getting dark around 7 pm. That’s when the lights on the buildings start coming on too. I was there at about 6.30 pm to stake out a front row spot for the view.

• At 7.30 pm, there’s a photo service that charges HK$120 to have your photo taken with the night skyline. Choose a spot just out of the camera range so as not to be chased away.

Apart from taking in the aerial view, you can also shop at the two Peak complexes and visit Madame Tussauds. It was really magical watching the Hong Kong skyline transit from day to night… almost as if it took off its business suit and donned on a Technicolour coat to party!

Night view of HK skyline

For more photos, please visit my album A Lingering Fragrance.

Hong Kong Day 1 : Not a MIRAge

For the trip, we are put up at The Mira Hong Kong. Other than the destination, I think the hotel is the next most important factor that makes or breaks a vacation. I think many of us put a lot of time into finding the best hotel that’ll meet our budget, needs and be at an easily accessible location.

Price-wise, The Mira commands a premium with rates starting from HK$1,600 (approx. S$280) a night. But after checking into it, I would say it’s worth every penny! Located at a prime area along Nathan Road, the hotel’s visage doesn’t seem like much. But it beguiles the avant-garde design and luxury within. Ok, I’m easily satisfied and impress.

Well, here’re some pics for you to decide…

When I entered the room, I was jumping literally jumping up and down in joy! First or all, the room isn’t a sardine jacket that most hotels are in Hong Kong. Secondly, it comes equipped with a full range of hi-tech gadgets – web surfing with the TV and a wireless keyboard, iPod dock with speakers, and a multimedia player (DVD, USB, memory stick, etc). There’s even a handphone provided in the room although I have no idea what it is for.

Next, there is quite some cool designer stuff in the room… silver packed sundries, specially designed water bottles, and we’re using Salavatore Ferragamo toiletries! My hair and skin feels expensive already.

Room interior

On top of that, the service was impeccable and the staff are really courteous and friendly, Walk out the doors of The Mira and it’s a different world out there. I would only say that the services I’ve experienced so far from places I visited today is that the Hong Kongers treat you like family. So it’s a ‘get the job done’ kind of attitude.

But the thing that delighted me the most was the welcome treats they left in our rooms. Designer sweets, black truffles chocolate and fresh, juicy strawberries and lychees. I almost didn’t want to go sightseeing. Such a waste to leave the room empty.

Before coming here, I checked out the hotel from its website and the photos made the place looked really good. Now that I’m here, the photos weren’t a smokescreen or a mirage. The place does look as good as the pics make it out to be.

And I’ve yet to visit the gym and swimming pool, which are supposed to be another ‘wow’ in the waiting…

For more photos, please visit my album A Lingering Fragrance.

Countdown to Hong Kong : 0 Day

THE ARRIVAL

We’ve arrived in Hong Kong! Follow us as we explore the island and bring to you different perspectives and experiences!

The journey begins...

For more photos, please visit my album A Lingering Fragrance.

Countdown to Hong Kong : – 1 Day

THE ANTICIPATION

Finally it is the night before the trip! Less than 12 hours to lift-off! I wonder what adventures I will have.

My luggage is all packed and sitting in a corner of my room… passport checked, wallet filled, NSman overseas trip notified, travel insurance incepted… now all there is to do is hope I can fall asleep amidst all the excitement. Our flight is departing at 8:00 am and by noon, we can blow a kiss to Hong Kong’s bay area lips!

However, one thing unsettles me. It is the weather. Looks like the island is not spared the wrath of Typhoon Chanthu.

Hopefully, good weather will be restored soon. Think I better make wet weather plans and have an alternative indoor itinerary. Instead of all that outdoor sightseeing, I should plan one that visits the museums, temples and malls just in case. The good thing with a destination like Hong Kong is that there is no lack of things to do.

Well, I better get to making plans for a rainy day and pack an umbrella into my luggage before I forget…

Wait a minute. Where’s my luggage?! It’s not at the corner where I left it?

All set to go!

I found it in the living room, staring longingly at the open door. Not yet, my eager friend. Not yet. We still have the night to pull through. There, there… be patient and come back to the room. (Gosh… I’m starting to talk to my luggage. I better be in Hong Kong soon before I go completely bonkers!)

Countdown to Hong Kong : – 2 Days

THE WARDROBE

Two more days to the trip and it’s time to play Ken doll. Or in my case, Chucky needs a few clothing changes while in Hong Kong.

Usually, I don’t start packing my luggage until the night before and normally, I bring only half of what I’m bringing on this trip. I brought more this time round because the Omy camera crew will be following us on some of our activities. I better make sure I don’t look shaggy and my armpits smell like a flowering valley in spring.

Well, it’s summer now in Hong Kong. It’ll probably be burning but according to the Hong Kong Observatory 7-day weather forecast, this weekend is going to be rather wet. I hope the forecast is wrong. Maybe we should get Paul the psychic octopus to predict the weather.

Weather forecast 22-28 Jul 10

I really hope it will be bright sunshine on Saturday as I’m going to the Wetland Park. I’ve even prepared my nature photography outfit :

White T-shirt – To keep cool and reflect light onto the insects’ eyes to create catchlight. Catchlight is the reflective highlights in a subject’s eyes that adds life and makes the photo more interesting.

Long Pants – To protect from insect and snake bites.

Half Sleeves – To deflect UV rays and protect arms from sunburn.

Neckerchief – To keep back of neck from getting sunburnt.

Fisherman’s Hat – To protect face from sunburn and cut out sun flare.

Sounds like I’m a wuss when it comes to shooting nature. Well, I used to be all macho-dory and don’t bother with sunblock and covering up during shoots. But after getting terribly burnt from shoots each time, I finally surrendered to Mother Nature and let her dictate what I should wear.

And I pray she’ll let me have a chance to model my outfit this weekend.

Countdown to Hong Kong : – 3 Days

THE ITINERARYThere are two kinds of travellers – the type who wants to see everything, and the kind who just want to relax and take it slow. I’m the third kind. I want to see it all and chill out to the max at the same time.

Call me greedy. I call it ‘punishing money’. Since I work so hard for it, it must work hard in return to ‘buy’ me these life experiences. My tourist dollar is hard to earn.

What about a free trip like this HKTB sponsored tour of Hong Kong? Air-ticket and accommodation are free so surely I can stop sodomising my wallet. Well, there’re still the expenses on transportation, attractions’ entrance fees and food.

So when taken in the totality of a travelling budget, I’m still paying. And I shall continue to slave drive my finances during this trip.

HKTB has some activities arranged for us and released the itinerary to us today. Apart from the Bath Tub race which Aussie Pete and I have been going on and on about, I’m scheduled for a Chinese Sauce Making class with a celebrity chef! Wow! Experiencing Hong Kong doesn’t get more exquisitely unusual than that. I’ll definitely share the recipes here. But that is provided I learnt well and didn’t turn sweet-plum sauce into sour-grape mousse.

In my itinerary, I plan to visit some of the must-see sights (aerial view of Hong Kong at The Peak, Symphony of Lights show), get into a little culture (Cultural Plaza, Nan Lian Garden), embrace nature (Wetland Park), sample the cuisine (The Bounty, Yin Yang Restaurant) and nightlife (Lan Kwai Fong), and just chill at our ultra posh hotel, The Mira Hong Kong.

When I visited the hotel’s website, the ambience, gym and swimming pool seemed almost too good to be true! Especially the pool. Well, photos have a way of distorting reality so I shall see when I get there.

I’ve kinda planned myself into a frenzy now. Uber excited about the upcoming trip. If only tomorrow is Friday. But well, three more days to go and all I have is to fine-tune my itinerary and salivate over photos of the places I’m going to visit. My itinerary contains some additional info about the places I’m going to visit and I hope they could be of use to you.

Meanwhile, please get a bucket and drool with me…


Countdown to Hong Kong : – 4 Days

THE GADGETS

I’m a techno idiot. Chimpanzees would’ve built a rocket before I could figure out where the ‘ON’ button is on an electronic devise. Especially a new one.

So I’ve delayed opening the box to my new ASUS Eee PC T101MT until today. The netbook is one of the prizes from the Singapore Blog Awards 2010 and it’s been almost 10 days since I had it.

Touch me, baby!Contrary to most who would probably tear through the packaging, eager to explore the computing power within, having a new gadget is sort of an inconvenience to me because while I’m in the matrix generation, I still don’t speak binary.

That’s needless to say that when I own a piece of teckie thingamajig, I hold on to it till the National Heritage Board knock on my doors.

Hence, you can understand my dread when I touched the netbook for the first time and it struck me straightaway how light it is. Okay, that’s a good start. Since it’s so light, it would be great to travel with and I can use it to blog about the Hong Kong trip while there.

However, the small screen does take a bit of getting used to. Other than that, it is pretty nifty and comes with an adequate ecosystem for creating and utilising web content.

For a digitally-challenged user like me, so long as it can do what my current laptop does without fussing a whole lot about settings, updates and upgrades, I’m happy. And it’s touchscreen! Woohoo!

Other than test-driving the netbook today, I thought about the other teckie gadgets I want to bring on the trip in order to get all angles covered. I was wondering whether or not to bring my tripod along coz that thing alone weighs about 2.2kg. But I’ve decided to bring it along. I’m planning to try taking some sunset and night shots. That is if I can resist the lure of shopping at the night markets. Heh.

Well, hopefully all the investment in dollar and strength will be worth it to bring home some lasting memories of Hong Kong. Just pray I don’t forget how to use those high-tech dials when I’m there!

In focus : Hong Kong

Countdown to Hong Kong : – 5 Days

THE RESEARCH

Friends who’d travelled with me know I’m a super kiasu (‘afraid to lose’) traveller who’s also a control freak. I will always try to cover as many places as possible and plan my itinerary with a time schedule stating what time for morning call, activity allocation, and what time to sleep. Is this a holiday or some tourist bootcamp they ask me. My answer is : “Let’s work hard at relaxing!”

Be your own Hong Kong travel guide.Although I’ve been to Hong Kong previously, I hadn’t really researched nor find out more about the place.

To me, Hong Kong is always about shopping, Ocean Park, Lantau Island, and exercising dietary indiscretion. So I was really surprised to find so many things to see and do while preparing for this upcoming trip.

The thoughtful folks at the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) assembled a very comprehensive info kit for us so it was real easy to find places of interest, what to expect, and how to get there.

I believe these brochures, flyers and maps are available at the Hong Kong airport so do pick up a copy. They are REALLY very helpful. I also supplemented my research with HKTB’s website at discoverhongkong.com.

My favourite is the blue coloured Hong Kong – A Traveller’s Guide. It acts like a quick tourist reference bible and very handy.

From the booklet, I got a quick history lesson about how Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle. Hence, the proper name to refer to the island destination is actually Hong Kong SAR.

• Pre-1842 – Hong Kong was a ‘barren rock’ with a collection of fishing villages

• 1842 – Britain claimed Hong Kong Island after the First Opium War with China under the Treaty of Nanking

• 1860 – Britain claimed Kowloon Peninsula and Stonecutters Island

• 1898 – Britain granted a 99-year lease of the New Territories and 235 outlying islands

• 1997 – Hong Kong was returned to China

So with 150 years of colonial influence embroidered into China’s 5,000 years of rich traditions, the resulting tapestry is a fabric I’m tailoring to fit my vacation whims and fancy! I’ve formed a rough idea of the places I want to visit and will be planning a full itinerary soon… with what time to wake up, play, eat, and sleep!

Meanwhile, here’s a map I find really useful as it clearly puts into geographical perspective the places to go in Hong Kong, Kowloon, Lantau Island and New Territories. I’m visiting some of these places next week. Don’t be jealous… 😀

Overview of attractions in HK

Countdown to Hong Kong : – 6 Days

THE TRAINING

I read Aussie Pete’s post about his ‘secret training’ with much admiration. More than the post being hilarious, he is really taking the bathtub race seriously! So I better not slack and spend the 6 days that’s left till the race to do some training.

I don’t expect to get back in top physical form in just 7 days, but at least to start getting the body used to sweat again and don’t turn blue at the 100m finishing mark. I used to be a dragon boater and had taken part in 500m and 800m races so 100m should be sup sup sui (Cantonese. Direct translation as ‘wet wet water’, meaning no sweat!). But that’s years ago. Now I just hope I don’t lose face for my country!

The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival 2010 has 191 dragon boat teams from 12 countries and regions competing. Considering that a small boat has 10 paddlers, a drummer and coxswain (12 people) and a big boat has 20 paddlers, a drummer and coxswain (22 people), there would be a lot of people for laughing at a Singaporean buffoon.

Dragon boating has a long tradition as a celebratory folk ritual, but it is in Hong Kong that the sport has evolved into what it is today. So Hong Kong can be considered the birthplace of modern dragon boating. I wonder where is the birthplace for bathtub boating?

I took up dragon boating in 2005 but stopped in 2008 after my lasik surgery. My wooden paddle is chucked somewhere in the storeroom and I haven’t touched it in more than 2 years. It must feel like Woody in Toy Story. May be it is plotting its escape with all the other forgotten things in the store now. Should I bring it to Hong Kong for some play time?

Before I think about that, I shall try to rehash the exercise routine from my former boating days. So I’ll be practically be living in the gym for the next few days with cardio workouts, weight training, and yoga.

Yes yoga. Dragon boating is not a brute sport. It requires technique and true rowing power comes from the trunk, not arms and shoulders. Hence, flexibility and core muscle strength would be very helpful during a race and can delay the onset of lactic acid build-up and muscle fatigue. Even though this is a just-for-fun 100m bathtub race, I’ll do my best!

And the best tune to accompany any gym time at the moment is…

Pete is thinking of wearing something outrageous for the event. I wonder what my other fellow bathtub racers – Violet, Geck Geck and Alvin would wear. Should we have a boomz team outfit with leopard preens and khaki green (including a rad bigini for the ladies)? That would be Uniquely Singapore! 😀

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