Finally, Yellow Food

So far:

Shanghai food at 小南國 was decent. It didn't live up to the hype though. The 黃花魚 was deep friend and the meat came off the bone real easy. Unfortunately, that was the only highlight. But hey, I got my Chinese food fix. That was important.

Regular dim sum. Just want to say that I had the best dim sum all year.

Spicy Crab... 橋底辣蟹 at 喜記. I went there with RM because she was in town for business. She likes crabs. It was expensive ($50 per!) but extremely yummy. The crabs were stir-fried with a secret spicy sauce that definitely consisted of garlic, chinese soy sauce (not just regular soy sauce), some sort of pepper, and other stuff. The spicy calamari was also very good - just enough spicy to keep eating it.

Lan Fong Yuen (蘭芳園) is a famous Hong Kong style tea restaurant. In my opinion, they make the best milk tea in Hong Kong, though some complain it is too sweet. They make ice with milk tea too, so when the ice melts, the flavor doesn't become diluted. I had a pork bun which is infinitely better than the burgers at In&Out. Okay, maybe not infinitely better. But still better. Their dessert French toast is also to die for, with lotus paste inside instead of butter or honey. And the best part: $4 for all of the above.

Long Wah (龍華) has the best BBQ pork rice (叉燒飯) in town. I asked for half fatty half lean meat - the fatty ones were of course better. But you have to have both to get a true taste of the dish. The place is a bit noisy... but at $3, you can't ask for more.

I also had cold sesame paste (芝麻糊) with hot sesame paste wrapped in dough (芝麻湯圓) at a dessert place. I forgot the name. But that was a good fix too, at $2. I should go back there, since the walnut paste smelled very good as well.

Yum yum. My only regret is that I haven't brought my camera out at all.


Do you know where you were conceived?

My first day in Hong Kong: passport, visa, new account, close old account, credit card, foreign exchange, phone, dim sum, comics, questions on computers, cables, eye glasses, foot massage, spicy fried crabs... love the efficiency (not of me, but of the institutions).

This is a true conversation in the US embassy.

Embassy: where were your children born?
Filipino lady: Hong Kong
Embassy: and where were they conceived?
*Filipino lady: I told you they were born in HK...
*Embassy: no... I'm asking you... where were they conceived?
Repeat * four to five times
Embassy: I mean... er... how to say... where did... er... you and your husband... er... you know... er... how to say... er...
FL: OH. Um. (In deep thought) Hong Kong too.
Embassy: Okay.

That was the humorous part. (By the way, this Ali G interview of Becks and Posh gets to the conception of their child) Anyway, now comes the offensive one. The conversation proceeded...

**Embassy: I need to see your husband's passport and the stamp that proves that he is in Hong Kong during that time. I also need to see your passport and the stamp that proves you are in Hong Kong during that time.

(If I may interject with my thoughts: the kids are 5 and 7 respectively. You are asking for someone to remember WHERE they were conceived?? And what if they were born pre-mature? And what if the passport has expired? And why isn't this lady exploding mad - are you doubting that these are not his children? I am! Yet I digress.)

FL: I didn't bring my passport. It wasn't required by the embassy rules.
Embassy: Oh. Wait. (goes to manager)
Manager: Ma'm. Repeat **.
FL: I already told you I don't have the passport.
Manager: Are those your children (pointing)?
FL: Yes (calmly - I would say fuck you).
M: Can you bring them over?
FL: Sure (makes hand signal).
M: Hello, what is your name?
Son: Adam.
M: Is this your sister?
Son: Yes.
M: Is this your mother?
Son: Yes.
M: Hello, what is your name?
Daughter: Rose.
M: Is this your brother?
Daughter: Yes.
M: Is this your mother?
Daughter: Yes.
M: Thank you. Ma'm... (conversation continues)

Let the record show that the above conversation did NOT achieve the intended results, which I presume to be 1. US citizen father is real father and 2. Filipino lady isn't getting other kids and converting them to US citizenship. Homeland Security has resorted to using a child's innocence to help them screen out terrorists.

Man, was I angry. Where were YOU conceived... that's what I would have said to the embassy staff.


The End is Here

I need to vent: a ride on the London Tube is FOUR POUNDS. That's how much I spent on public transportation in Budapest for A WEEK. FOUR POUNDS! I'm still in disbelief.

Back to the post. Today is the end of many things:
  • My MBA... in a way, the summer is a continuation of the MBA
  • My European odyssey (France updated, by the way...)
  • My summer, which also included South America
  • And... My 12 years in the US; wow, I can't believe I just said that
Perhaps it is fitting that the following conversation took place at the business class counter for Oasis, yet another low cost airline:

Backpacker: Hi, I'm checking in for the flight to Hong Kong?
Counter lady: Are you flying business class?
Backpacker: This is the line for business class, and I am lining up here... why are you asking me that? Just because I have a big pack on my back and a small pack in my front doesn't mean I can't fly business class, right? Your airline is dirt cheap even for business class. In fact, I want to ask you something... do you have flight attendants? What about food? Are they paying you enough to be courteous?

Okay... I just said "yes" and bit the tongue. Actually, Oasis is quite decent. Aside from the all-male flight attendant in business class (!!??), everything was acceptable.

Oasis at Gatwick

It's good to be back in Hong Kong... 33 degrees (98 for my American friends). And a Shanghai restaurant satisfied my 3 month crave for Chinese food.

Now I need to get my life back to normal.


Habitat for Humanities

Here are some pictures on the work progress... we are working on a house in Csurgo (4 hours from Budapest, 12 km from Croatia on the southwest of Hungary) for two families.

Before we started, none of the walls or ceilings had insulation. It was basically a house with barebones.

So we filled it with insulation material... in about a day.

After insulation, it was putting the sheet rocks on the ceiling and also around the columns for fire protection and also keeping the insulation in place. This process took considerably longer:

On the last day, the families all got together to thank us. While I would like to think that I have impacted others positively before, it doesn't get any more touching than two families of four actually telling you that you have helped them to a better life. I've never felt my actions so impactful.

Today is my last day of true travels. I spent the day roaming Budapest by myself and ended it fittingly: nutella crepes and night photography. I think I have some great shots to share. Stay tuned. Tomorrow, I will fly from Budapest to Hong Kong via an 8 hour layover over two airports in London, where I will also meet up with an old friend FW for tea. I can't wait for Asian food.


Back to work, sort of...

Picture from my Habitat for Humanities labor camp. I'm on the far right, obviously. The three people standing to my right and the lady crouching to my right are the future homeowners of the building.

It's great to have a routine again, getting up at 7 and starting work at 8. There's something about helping people build their home that is extremely satisfying. Today, I taught one of the homeowners, who has to put in sweat equity, to spit in his glasses to avoid fogging them. He was very pleased with the results and started to tell his Hungarian colleagues. They soon were all spitting in their goggles.

Anyway, we've removed scaffolding around the house, added insulation to the ceiling and the walls, and sealing the ceiling. Good stuff so far.


The End of My Travels... almost

I consider Budapest the last stop in my travels, although technically I am still running around Hungary exploring the place. Habitat for Humanties will start and I will be required to get up at a certain time to do certain things (other than catching a bus or a train). That doesn't sound like a vacation any more, does it?

Nonetheless, HfH will still provide activities (including a day off) for us to explore the nearby attractions. So it's almost The End. My travel log says day 47... even I'm amazed. That's 47 days without Chinese food, without Asian food. Wow. I've already did some laboring today. Will report on the gradual end of my vacation soon enough.

Here are some pictures from Budapest, which is quite an amazing city. It's quite romantic, as you can see from the Chained Bridge at night:

There are also Hungarian Baths which are very good in relaxing the body...

They use a lot of chili to spice their food up... which means you will always be having spicy meat. Veggies are unheard of in Hungary, besides cucumbers and cabbage...

And finally, I had the luck to see the air show practice... where the crowd was manageable and the show is just like the real thing. Just hearing the jet noise gives you a thrill. Seeing it zoom UNDER the Chained Bridge was a natural high.


More pictures

Before I do my thing, let me point you to Shmoo's pictures from St. Petersburg and also the Baltic capitals. You'll see some repeats, but you'll also see a whole lot of me. You can also see Sloop's pictures from Scandinavia, St. Petersburg, the Baltic Capitals, the Teutonic tour, and the Hedonist trail. I imagine some of you need to slack off from work, so this collection should do just fine.

After not doing computer in Barcelona to prove that I am not addicted, I'm back using free Internet at hostels in Budapest! God bless free Wifi and please damn the western world for charging for it.

Barcelona is a wonderful city with lots of weird architecture. Too bad many stores and one of the museums were closed for August - some Spaniards need an extended siesta. We had horrible experiences getting food, so let me stick with architecture, by far the highlight of the trip. Here are a few to get you started. Which one is not Gaudi?


From France to Spain

France was all food and art... and Spain is food and architecture. We are currently outside Park Guell, one of Gaudi´s many master pieces around Barcelona - by the way, Sagrada Familia has progressed since the end of 2003. They might actually finish!

Meanwhile, I´ve updated Peru (finally, with real pictures!) from my travels in June. I am not ready to do the logs for France and Spain yet since PNGF has been complaining about my addiction to the computer. No pictures either cus I´ve decided to shut down the laptop for a few days to cure my addiction (it will only prove that I don´t have an addiction... I don´t have to do it... I just enjoy it when I can, like now).

Anyway, more updates on the home page, including Ibiza, Amsterdam, and a bit of Brussels (still needs work). All have corresponding Picasa photo albums. Enjoy!


Loire Valley

After a few days in Paris, the Loire Valley is a welcoming break. It's nothing against the city o Paris; rather, it's a reflection of how relaxing the French country side can be (I will be in Avignon tomorrow, which I am sorely looking forward to). As I mentioned before, HdN's chateau is ridiculously large. The building dates back to the French Revolution (1789) when it was attacked and burnt down by peasants seeking to overthrow anything that looked aristocratic. So, yes, I slept on a bed that was older - 220 years! - than the USA and Hong Kong.

The weekend was just ultra relaxing with all us GSBers waking up whenever we wanted, had breakfast at 11, afternoon leisure activities, lunch at 5, "afternoon" naps and other leisurely activities, dinner at 11, bullshiting till 1, and then going to sleep.

Although pictures don't do justice, here's HdN's chateau:

Picnics are always nice - with a lot of champaign, wine, and food:

The aftermath of a midnight outdoor dinner, accompanied by stars:

Sunset in Loire Valley:


Pictures from Paris

Ops, sorry, I forgot to pay my server in time, so the website might be down. Hopefully it will be up soon enough.

Here are some well known Paris landmarks... we visited HDN near Angers and stayed in his ridiculous chateau for a very very very relaxing weekend. Anyway, you know these sites, and I shall not bore you with the details.


European Vice

As usual, my website has been updated with more travel logs and more pictures! Back to the trip.

Salzberg (or most European countries, for that matter) to Ibiza is like Washington DC to Cancun. Except that Ibiza is even more than Cancun, if that’s possible. Yours truly has never been to Cancun, but Cozumel x 10 might be a good estimator. Ibiza beats them all. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to show a more cultural side of Europe before we move on: this is from Salzberg, the imposing fountain next to the Cathedral.

After three days in Ibiza, my recommendation for future travelers is such:

Don’t get a hotel room, you won’t need it… on to the schedule:
12pm to 8pm: Beach time. Bring a towel so you can sleep.
8pm to 10pm: Clean up. You can shower at many hotels even if you are not staying there.
10pm to 2am: Bar. Drink up before you head to the clubs. Bars also sell cheaper tickets to clubs, which is useful since cover charge can go as high as 50 euros.
2am to 8am: The first club is where all the fun starts. Doors open at 2am, so don’t be early.
8am to 12pm: The second club starts promptly at 8am. I recommend breakfast in between.

Yup, the beach is your hotel. Here's a shot of our hotel and beach area from a nearby castle, a UNESCO building (like many in Europe).

And if there’s one city that could rival Ibiza in vice, it has to be Amsterdam (logs coming)! BSLW and I have long labeled this part of the trip the truly hedonistic. Here's how the Dutch have fun with the misplaced reputation of Amsterdam being all about the red light district and pot.

Amsterdam is a cool city. There's more than just the red light district and pot. Really, there is. The canals are a very nice way to see what the city has to offer. Biking is another, which I did on my last full day. While it is no cultural center like Paris (where I am now), Amsterdam does have many areas that are friendly to tourists: numerous museums that spread within the city, intimate canals filled with floating homes, bike paths that rule the road, all sorts of bridges for boats to go through, and Anne Frank's House (didn't go due to wait, unfortunately). Also, nearby Haarlem offers a great deal of sightseeing without the Amsterdam craziness. I was there visiting a Dutch couple I met in Galapagos Island. Well worth a day trip from Amsterdam if you feel the city is too busy.

Anyhow, here's a picture of Rijks Museum.

Apparently I'm going to meet one of the good friends I said goodbye to as she decided to extend her trip (great decision!) in Paris! Speaking of Paris, I'm having a lot of fun here. The Louvre at night, Arc de Triumph, Versailles, Museum d'Orsay (Impressionism), etc etc. Will update when done. I'm trying very hard to keep up with my travels!