Monday, August 29, 2011

Dinners with Friends

The title of this blog does not have a typo. Last week was a banner week for eating. May Lene arrived Sunday in Hong Kong from her trip to GR and we decided to go Malaysian her first night in since she had been eating Western food while in the US. The following day she & Ken went with a group to Dungguan. That night I ate at home. Little did I know it was in preparation for a feasting orgie for the remainder of the week.

The group arrived back in Hong Kong Tuesday evening and we were joined by Rommel for dinner. We decided to do American "dim sum" at one of out favorite places, Bourbon Street. In the U.S. we call it grazing, here it becomes dim sum. We had ribs, onion rings, a nacho and a twist on the traditional corn dog - shrimp corn dogs. And of course there were fries, beer and cider. It was a thoroughly unhealthy but yummy meal shared by friends - the best kind.

After that meal I was thinking of perhaps a nice salad the following night. Ken left for Shanghai and things would be pretty quiet. Not so fast on those plans. On Wednesday evening I was invited to join a Rommel, May Lene and a group from Dungguan who were in for meetings in Hong Kong. I apologize for not remembering all of their names, but two were new fathers (one has six month old twin boys and the other a four month old girl and a six year old son). The other two were young mothers so some of the conversation revolved around parenthood. It is the same everywhere when you have a baby. A fun conversation.

We went to the Regal Hotel for their dinner buffet and it was fabulous. I especially like the Alaskan king crab legs and the desserts. The choice were too numerous to mention and everything was delicious. We had a long leisurely meal with lively conversation. Between the food and the company it was an exceptional experience.

So you might think my week of great dining had wound down. Not so, Grasshopper! The following night brought new visitors, Raj & Sya Rifah from Kuala Lumpur and Sim from Shanghai. Once again I was invited to join in. This time we went to a Chinese restaurant that featured several hard to find delicacies. With Rommel and Barbara choosing the menu, I just grabbed my chopsticks and enjoyed.

Barbara has been telling Ken how impressed she was with my willingness to try anything and everything. Among the new treats that night were jellyfish (an appetizer) and bird's nest soup. Rom didn't tell me how the birds nest is incorporated until after I ate it. Suffice it to say it is considered vegetarian and very good for your lungs. You don't want to know the rest. We also had warm almond milk with egg white for dessert. The milk has a delicate flavor and along with the mango and pomelo custard made for a great finish to the meal. Raj and Sya Rifah are vegetarians so their menu differed from ours but looked tasty none the less.

Following dinner we decided to wander for a bit and found ourselves in the toy department of Sogo (a large Japanese department store in Causeway Bay). They had a demo set up for the X-box Kinect and Rom decided to give it a try. It looks like loads of fun.

As we went our separate ways to home/hotel for the night, Rom, May Lene and I found ourselves in a Haagen Dazs shop. Wonder how that happened? After a "nightcap" of sorts we headed home full and happy. I am grateful to all of our Steelcase friends who are so gracious and include me even when I am "single" for the night. It has been fun and interesting and I love the time I spend getting to know everyone.

(I also think my night doorman is raising his eyebrows. Arriving home by myself at 11 P.M. and midnight two nights in a row with Ken out of town is not my usual M.O. Let him wonder!)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hidden Surprises

I am continually amazed by the "hidden surprises" of Hong Kong. No matter where you go, there will be something unexpected. Sometimes these surprises are small like a tiny shrine tucked into a store front. Sometimes they are bigger like an entire park hidden between office buildings.

I went to Hong Kong Park to pick up some things at the Tea Ware Museum gift shop. Although I have been to the park several times there is always something new to find. This time I found the best view of one of my favorite pairs of buildings in Admiralty. They are the Lippo Buildings and they remind me of children's building blocks.

No photo can ever show the amazing reflections that make these buildings catch the eye.

Once in the park I discovered a statue outside the Tea Ware Museum (which is a former garrison building for the British forces). It is dedicated to the troops of every nation who defended Hong Kong in 1941. There is also a marker in Chinese. I have not yet found out what it says, but it is lovely none the less.

After leaving Hong Kong Park, I decided to try a different way to walk home hoping for more shade on a very hot day. As I was crossing walkways between office buildings, I came upon on of the bigger hidden treasures. Cheung Kong Park. This gem is literally located between several office and government buildings on a level at about the third floor of the buildings on the street below. It has beautiful paths through lush foliage along a small stream and waterfall.

The city sounds fade away and in just a few steps you are surrounded by nature. The park is small yet it is a great place to escape the city that surrounds it. 

At the end of the garden path sits St. John Anglican Cathedral. It is a very old church in Hong Kong. Another building is the Court of Final Instance (I think that is the appeals court).

After arriving at this spot, I wasn't sure how to leave the area. There were gates to government buildings above and of course the way I entered, but finally I saw the entrance to the Battery Path. This park land had been a British battery used to defend Hong Kong. The path was tree lined and sloped downward. At the end I found myself on Queen street which is one of the busy, high end shopping streets in Central.

But my surprises were not over yet. Recently someone had told me about the gas lamps. Hong Kong was the first Asian city to convert to gas lamps from kerosene in the mid 1800's. The city used these lamps until the advent of electricity for street lighting. Although now they are on timers, for the entire time the lamps were in use they were lit and extinguished by a lamplighter and his pole.

The remain lamps (there are four) are on Dudell Street. Many streets in this part of Hong Kong are both streets and stairs. You can drive to a certain point then the street becomes a stairway to go up the steep grades. Dudell Street is one of these. Once the roadway ends, there is a steep stairway with one of the original gas lamps on each corner. I do want to return and see them after dark. They are lit each night at 6 P.M. and extinguish at 6 A.M.

As I continually find these hidden surprises, I can't help but wonder what is around the next corner.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tsing Yi

On a lazy Sunday we decided to go outlet shopping in Tsing Yi. Tsing Yi is a very small island between the Kowloon peninsula and the island of Lantau. Prior to our exploration we only knew it as a stop of the airport train. The mall was like most outlets, a few good stores and a lot of average ones. The only unique display was the one promoting an upcoming movie...

... The Smurfs!

We wandered around looking for bargains and didn't really find any we were interested in. We did have a very nice lunch at the Spaghetti House on the lower level. The best part of this was discovering that the lower level leads out to a beautiful walkway by the harbor.

Across the harbor is a very old cemetery. The Chinese believe that it is good for the deceased and the generations to follow if you are buried with your back to the land and your face to the water. It is good fung shue. Thus most cemeteries are built on hillsides often with cliffs separating the levels. It is an awesome sight to see hundreds of graves, very close together hanging from the hillside. It is somehow hauntingly beautiful.

Walking along the waterfront provided beautiful views of Kowloon and the bridges connecting it to Tsing Yi.

This area is right near the major port for shipping. The size of the container ships is very impressive and smaller vessels ply the waters as well. From this walkway there is even some good fishing.

A little further along the path widened and became part of the huge Tsing Yi athletic complex. There is even a cushioned jogging path and unlike where we live - it is flat.

What started out to be a rather boring trip to the mall turned into a beautiful walk by the harbor. That is one of the beauties of Hong Kong. There is always a surprise if you just keep your eyes open.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Tale of Two Dinners

While Ken was enjoying his dinner at Clark Quay, I went out for Korean Barbecue with my friend Vesper. The restaurant is located in Causeway Bay and is on the third floor of an office building. The food is served buffet style and each table has a grill in the center to cook on. There are some pre-prepared foods like soups, salads and veggies, but all of the meats and seafood selections are cooked at the table. There is also sushi!

After making our selections, we began putting our dinner together.

We had a lovely selection of beef, chicken, pork, fish, squid and vegetables. It really is a very relaxing way to eat. There is a slower pace to the meal with plenty of time to enjoy each other's company. 

When we finished our meal it was off to Haagen Dazs for a little dessert. Both Vesper and I were surprised at the Haagen Dazs shop. There is a young man who leads you to a booth, presents you with the menus and takes your order. The booths were plush and it was fun having your ice cream in a very elegant setting. There were some summer smoothies that we could not resist.

And what was Ken doing while we were having such a wholesome evening?

He was at a Persian restaurant with three beautiful women, enjoying the entertainment.

Apparently belly dancing is a must when eating Persian food. 

Clark Quay

Last week Ken went to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore and I stayed in Hong Kong. One of the areas he visited in Singapore he had not seen before. It is called Clark Quay. 

It is a beautiful riverfront area covered with a light and airy roof held up by pillars that circulate cooled air so that even near the equator you can shop and dine in comfort. 

One very interesting display featured a hologram of a Range Rover.

The area is anchored on each end with a mall and filled with restaurants and shops. Another haven for the Asian passions of eating and shopping. One restaurant they did not dine at, but which caught their eye, is called Clinic. In this establishment the seating might be hospital beds or wheelchairs. I am not sure that would be the atmosphere I would want to dine in, but to each his own. It certainly is creative.

And as for where he ate? You'll see that a bit later.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Happy Birthday, Ken

What to do to celebrate a birthday half way around the world from all of your family and friends? Well, I tried my best and I think Ken had a fun birthday. His big day was on Saturday so he took Friday off work. (Makes sense to me.) We were trying to figure out what to do on a very hot day and, of course, we decided to do something that would keep us in the sun for a long stretch. In our defense, it was partly cloudy when we started out, but by the time we rode the ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui on Kowloon all the clouds were gone.

Ken had not yet seen Hong Kong's "Avenue of the Stars" so we decided to take a stroll. At the start is the statue that represents their film awards like Oscar does for us. Only they have a naked lady wrapped in film - where did we go wrong.

And of course there is the obligatory pose with that world renown star Mickey Mouse.

We even had an opportunity to help in the filming.

Ken has always wanted to direct!

He had a brief moment with Bruce Lee...

And then it was off to do a little birthday shopping. We stopped on the way home for a bit of Happy Hour. Yes, he had a beer. We chatted with our friend Anna who manages Cochran's and then headed home for a quiet dinner.

On Saturday we took a tram to Causeway Bay to check out the Adidas store. Ken was watching a tennis tournament and saw an outfit he liked. This is his favorite way to choose tennis wear. He went on line but could only find the shirt and not the shorts. When we got to the store, the first thing he found? The shorts. Of course they didn't have the shirt in the color combo he wanted. So, we got the shorts and the on-line store will provide the shirt. There is always a solution when it comes to his sports gear.

Saturday night we were hosted by our friend Rommel for a Filipino dinner. Friends of Rom were in visiting from China. Rafael and Grace are delightful and Grace's birthday was Sunday so it was a double celebration.

As is our custom, we let Rom and Rafael order since they know what they are doing. We had authentic Filipino food that included a soup that was fantastic, egg rolls, beef in peanut sauce, the accountant's special (chicken, pork & adobo - CPA, get it? Rom's joke, not mine) veggies, noodles, and more. 

One of the dishes was called Sasa (might be spelled wrong). It's the one in the top photo with the orchid on the plate. It looked like a chopped salad and had a vinegary topping but was crunchier that I expected. After two helpings, Rom told us the secret ingredient - pig's ears! If you don't know, it makes it easier to be adventurous. Very little goes to waste in any type of Asian cooking and pig's ears are proof positive. Another dish which we knew we were eating was fried pork knuckles.

It is actually hunks of the leg and joints that are deep fried and served with several toppings. The meat is tasty and I actually liked it plain. It would make great bar food. 

Our dinning enjoyment was enhanced by a pair of singers who had beautiful voices and sang everything from The Eagles to Bruno Mars to The Captain and Tennile.

We went back to Rom's apartment in Wan Chai for a bit and admired the view from his balcony. Then it was back to Central and up through Lan Kwai Fong. 

It is always a happening place and especially on a Saturday night.

And what would a birthday be without a few little presents. So what did Ken get?
From me two shirts he has been coveting for quite some time.

They are the real deal (I found a great sale) and he is quite pleased with them.

From Shayne he got another gadget that will help him when he has those long conference calls.

It is an old fashioned hand set that works with your mobile phone. We tried it out and he said he can hear better with it than with either his phone or the blue tooth. He loves it.

And of course there is Kyle's gift.

Despite the tease, we are already trying to figure out how to get all of our stuff home so it makes sense not to send one more thing that we would have to ship back. He knows he will love it no matter what.

And of course, what would a birthday be without a birthday cake?

So Happy Birthday, my dear. We are once again the same age!