Monday, December 6, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

Shopping Guide to HK - Part 1: Kowloon

Itinerary personalized for dearest Jo. Wish I could be there with you. Your requests are the ones which have stars. I threw in some other ones just in case and grouped them according to the MTR stops. In general, shopping areas do not open until after 11am, some even 1pm.


Prince (太子)

Allied Plaza/聯合廣場 consists of several floors of shopping that are somewhere between stalls and boutiques. Do not be too hasty in snapping things up as the exact same items could probably be found as well in the retail stores lining Fa Yuen Street at a cheaper price.

There are three exceptions though: scarves, tights, and BB cream. The scarves are super cheap and come in a every style imaginable. My favourite was this purple mohair loose cable knit scarf for only $20 HKD. Tights, especially opaque black, are a basic closet staple for me and was in heaven when I found this stall that sold tights with 400 thread count for cheapest price around.

The stalls that sell the scarves and black tights are on the floor that you arrive at after going up the first escalator. Turn right and always keep to your right. Continue along and keep your eyes open as the stalls do not have any signs. The stall selling tights will appear first and will be at the crossroad where the corridor splits into two. Keep to your right and if you continue along you will see the stall selling scarves on your left. It faces a wall lined with mirrors.

Fa Yuen Street (花園街) needs no introduction. It is the famous street with stalls selling everything imaginable. However, I go there for the stores that line the sides of the street where you may find the same clothing and accessories that caught your eye at Allied Plaza for a cheaper price. Actually, to be honest, I go there for the 菠蘿包 and the 咖哩魚蛋.

金華冰廳 is a Hong Kong-style cafe famous for their baked goods. You can buy their baked goods (which are often hot from the oven due to nonstop demand) to go or head inside for a seat. My favourite is their pineapple bun (菠蘿包). If you sit down to eat, try it with a slice of butter inside (菠蘿油).

旦王 offers local snacks, with their specialty being curry. I always go for their curry fish balls (咖哩魚蛋) and if I feel the need to kick up my cholesterol, curry squid (咖哩鱿鱼).

Mongkok (旺角)

**Argyle Centre/旺角中心** is similar to Allied Plaza but think trendier, younger (like teens), and crazier. Avoid when school is out or else be prepared to suffocate and be stepped on. You will find a lot of cheap knock-offs of whatever is popular in Japan and Korea, be it clothes, bags, shoes or accessories. I recommend that if there is something you really want, buy it then and there because you probably will not be able to locate that stall again.
Address: 688 Nathan Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong

Jordan (佐敦)

Australia Dairy Company/澳洲牛奶公司 is a Hong Kong style cafe which features a cheap meal sets and yummy steamed milk pudding. Expect everything to be fast. You sit (probably with a bunch of strangers), you order, they serve, you eat, they serve, you drink, you pay and leave. All often within 20 minutes. Redeeming point: they make the best scrambled eggs.

髮品店 sells hair and selective beauty products at wholesale prices. This is the store that all the salons and hair stylists go to when they need to stock up. Do no hesitate to ask for help; their staff is very knowledgeable about their products and hair in general.

Tsim Sha Tsui (尖沙咀)

**龍城大藥房** is an old drugstore that carries everything at a cheaper price. Skincare, hair, makeup, medicine, body products, etc. Cash only.
Address: 九龍尖沙咀加連威老道28號

The places mentioned above have all been marked on the google map below.

View Shopping - Kowloon, HK in a larger map

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It's about time - the girls' night out is BACK‏

(I just really really loved the subject of the email you sent out Sherry.)

So last Saturday, we had another (not so) crazy potluck gathering at Sally G's hot apartment. When I say hot, I mean temperature-wise, not cool and stylish. (One mini fan cannot supply enough wind for a two bedroom apartment) Please note that all the shininess in the following pictures is actually sweat from cooking in a kitchen on a thirty something degree day.

Technically it was not a girls' night out as Jessica's bf, Jerry, joined us (to our greatest delight). He is SUCH a great cook, we are now trying to find a way for him to be a permanent part of our gatherings. Sherry had brought a fresh sockeye salmon (caught by her cousin-in-law) which had us super excited until we realized none of us knew and wanted to deal with it. Then we remembered Jerry was coming ...

(The girls are actually surrounding Jerry who is dealing with the salmon. Yes, it is THAT fascinating)

(Clockwise from left: best stewed pig's feet - Jerry, sushi - Sherry, potato croquettes - Daisy, stir-fried veggies - Sally, pumpkin green bean mushroom soup - Muzi)

(Leftover sushi fillings made into a salad)

(Best dish of the night: stewed pork 东波肉 - Jerry)*

(Saltiest dish of the night: scrambled eggs with salted turnip - Sally)**

(Salmon cooked in a cointreau marinade - Jerry)

(Jerry feeding the poor. It was funnier in action; he was knocking the spoon against the side of the pot)

(The elegant Sally G as always. That is a piece of stewed pig's feet in her mouth by the way.)

*I have been craving it everyday now after last Saturday.

**It is so salty that you feel your organs crying out. Sally not only did not wash the turnip, she added salt to the eggs. For those who do now know: you need to wash and soak the turnip and do not need to add salt. I woke up on Sunday with a face so swollen my mother almost did not recognize me.

Best quote ever from Sally after we asked her if she made the dish often: "No, it's just my second time. It was really salty the first time too."

(I was on Main St. in the morning and caught a parade that was going by.)


Last Friday (August 13th), before I knew it, I had done two hours of manual labour in the sun. My parents had previously gone blueberry picking a couple of weeks ago with great results that I enjoyed everyday for a week. When my supply ran out, I began badgering my parents to go again.

Friday afternoon, my mom calls me and tells me we are going that night. My original plan was to stay in the car while they picked and then head out for dinner together. Its a well known fact that I hate manual labour. HATE. I would probably avoid exercise except that I need it.

Yeah ... somehow after my scheduled run to Starbucks for a free smoothie, things just took a detour. I blame it on competitiveness that I ended up being in the burning sun and walking around in knee high weeds with hands covered in blueberry stains and dirt for two hours.

I never understood why people liked to go pick fruit so much. Now I understand.


You sweat the entire time. Squat for more than half. Arms are working too. And after all that exercise? You get blueberries the size of cherries.

Best Birthday Ever! (Randoms)

(From Sally G)

(Pictures from Muzi)

Best Birthday Ever! (Part 3)

The Sunday after my birthday, my family and I went down to the States for my birthday meal. My family has a tradition where the person whose birthday it is gets to choose what they want for a meal, whether it is at home or at a restaurant, in addition to a cake. This year I got a side bonus where my parents made me abalone congee. :) (I love love love abalone) Last year I chose a Japanese restaurant on Main St. and this year I picked the Cheesecake Factory due to an incessant craving for an excess of cream and fat.

Why? I have no idea. My actual birthday was already full of chocolatey-creamy goodness. In addition to the chocolate mouse I had already eaten for dessert at Les Faux Bourgeois, I also had another slice of the chocolate cake that was waiting for me at home.

(Fried macaroni and cheese balls)

(Fettucine with Chicken and Sun-dried Tomatoes)

(Dulce de leche Cheesecake)

I actually did not like what I had at the Cheesecake Factory. It was waaay too heavy and creamy. And not in the "YUUUMMM, can't wait to eat more" way, more like "Omg, I want to throw up way". The fried mac'n'cheese was made with mozzarella and served in cream sauce. The pasta actually tasted better the next day when I added more tomatoes and some white wine.

We also dropped by the Seattle Premium Outlet but like the mall at Bellevue, there was nothing to buy. The only thing I spent money on was a pretzel from Auntie Anne's. In the end, it was still Walmart and Target that made it all worth while.

(My sister at Walmart)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


I had a very interesting conversation with my dad yesterday that went as follows. (Originally in Cantonese which is why it may not translate directly across)

Me: Daddy, did I resemble a doll when I was young?
Dad: Which doll? Barbie? Hello Kitty?
Me: ...
Dad: Well, actually when you had your hair in buns, you really looked like Hello Kitty.
Me: ... (WTF?)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Europe: Stuff you should know (part six)


Get vaccinated. It is no fun traveling when you are sick.

Bring your money in mostly cash and only some traveler's cheques. Some banks will charge you a transaction fee for cashing in traveler's cheques and the cheques are also not accepted everywhere. Keep your money in several piles and break the larger bills at more reputable places (such as train stations, retain chains).

This might be a sensitive topic but avoid large groups of women and children. They will be dressed differently than other passerby. Usually one or two children will approach you first and then more and more, including the women, and they will mumble on and on. If they willingly go away, you better check all of your belongings because most likely you will have been pick-pocketed already. Best thing to do is just avoid them, even if the kids are really cute.

One thing that my best friend and I liked to do while traveling in France was to go to the tourism office in town to get free maps and event calendars. We always asked them which were places that were a must, which were optional but interesting and most importantly, what was their favourite restaurant. (Actually, that last question we would ask anybody that we spoke to) Ten times out of ten, this resulted in gastronomy heaven. Some might be hesitant to answer so you might want to try asking them which is the restaurant they eat out at most.

Once you are seated at a restaurant, check out what everybody else is eating. You can also ask your server for recommendations but do not just ask them what is good. (French waiters do not appreciate this) Ask them what is their specialty, the most popular or what is fresh today.

Do not snap your fingers or wave at your waiter (especially in France). This is très très rude. Just raise your hand and try to catch his or her eye.

Put some large environmentally-friendly or plastic bags in your suitcases. Good for backup in case your suitcase is damaged.

Hope that covers the basics of traveling in Europe. Let me know if you have any other questions. I will try and do some specific posts about some of the major cities later.

Europe: Stuff you should know (part cinq)

Packing and Stuff:

Try to pack as light as possible. Taxis are very expensive and elevators/escalators are not always available in stations and buildings. You will most likely have to lug it around yourself. Some people might volunteer their services but be careful of who you say thank you to. Always be on alert and keep your eyes and ears open.

Keep a change of clothing and toiletries in your carry on when possible. It is better to have something on hand than to have to dig through your luggage when you all you want to do is sleep not to mention if your check-in luggage is not in the same country you are (oh the horror!).

If you are bringing two pieces of luggage, try and spread the contents evenly among them. I.e. if you are bringing two pairs of pants, put one in each luggage. That way if anything happens to one of the luggages, you will not be left with no pants to wear.

I also like to put my clothes in vacuum bags. (Available at most dollar stores) Not only does that save space, it also saves my stuff from getting wet. All electronics/chargers are also given the same treatment. An acquaintance was once stuck at an airport due to heavy winds and rains. While she waited inside, her luggage was outside in the rain waiting to be transported to the plane. The contents of her luggage were soaking wet and smelled when they finally reached their destination.

Keep a copy of your itinerary, travel documents, contacts, etc., hidden in each piece of luggage you have. Also keep additional photos for travel documents in case you need any of them replaced. Leave copies with your family at home and give your itinerary to your neighbour or somebody else you trust in the foreign country. Basically, somebody should know where you are at any time and if you do not show up when expected, they will know to alert police.

Bring wet wipes or anti-bacterial gel. Soap is not always available in washrooms.

Buy or make a money belt that can be worn under your clothes. Keep your important travel documents and money in there.

If you take medications regularly, you should take an adequate supply, provided they are not perishable. Keep your medications in containers that clearly show your name, the prescribing doctor's name, and the prescription number. Doing this means easier clearance of customs and being able to refill prescriptions by mail. Do not mix different pills in one container. Another method is to ask your doctor to provide you with a note of the diagnosis and the recommended medication so that an overseas physician can fill your prescription properly.

Same deal with glasses or contact lenses. Bring an extra pair and extra contact lens solution.

Kind of personal matter but bring pads or tampons. You may not always be able to find the brand or type that you usually use and even if you do, it is probably expensive.

Mentioned the sheets and pillowcases previously but you should also bring your own towels. I would suggest bringing something old that you could throw away when you leave.

Some safety items: whistle, flashlight, kiddie alarm (noise goes off when you pull it). Keep these on you when possible and have the whistle or alarm and your cell phone in your hands at night.

Bring adapters and voltage converters. If you have space, bring an extension cord. Buildings in Europe may not have enough outlets for your needs.

Depending on what brands you use, it would probably benefit you to bring your own skincare products. You never know what you might have an allergic reaction to and being in Europe is the worst possible time to have an allergy breakout. That being said, there are a lot of great skincare lines over there, especially in France. Vichy, Caudalie, Avene, etc. are cheap there. There is a reason why French women have such great skin. (Well, there's several but that is for another day)

This is important enough to have its own paragraph. Make sure you have SUNSCREEN! For your face, body, eyes and lips. Does not matter what season it is, you need to be wearing it every day. Do forget about your eyes and lips because the skin there is the thinnest on your body. If you leave it alone, you will soon discover your lips getting darker and the wrinkles beginning to appear.

For makeup, keep it simple. Do you seriously need thirty different eye shadows? Stick with a basic that compliments your features. Brown is a great choice. Bring a pencil eyeliner that you can also smudge to create a smokey eye perfect for a night on the town. If your eyes are oily like mine, you will also need to bring a liquid eyeliner for quick application in the morning and to endure the long days. You can also make do with a good lash curler and mascara.

Even if you have a hardy constitution, you should bring a couple bottles of water to help you slowly adjust. Begin the first day with just bottled water and then gradually add in local water until you are drinking only local water.

Bring some stationary and hangers. Save the time and money. Hostels do not provide anything. If you have the room, take an umbrella with you.

Some general tips:
- put socks in your shoes to save space
- if you are bringing any suit jackets or shirts, pack everything else first and then lay on top to prevent them from being crushed and wrinkled
- put heavier items in the bottom (as in when the suitcase is in standing position) so that it will not tip over when you finish packing

*realized how long this post is getting. Will put "stuff" in next post.

Europe: Stuff you should know (part quatre)


Within a city, they will most likely have some type of fast track train similar to Vancouver's Skytrain. In London that would be the tube, in Paris, the Metro. Do your research and ask the ticket sellers (inside the station) if there are any discounts if you are a student, under 25, or a traveler. Sometimes they have day passes or it may be cheaper to buy in bulk. Pay attention to signs or posters within the station. When I was in Lyon with my best friend, they had a big sign on the wall describing the ticket options and then you bought the tickets from a machine. Luckily we noticed that there was an additional option listed on the computer screen which offered a day pass for cheap. It saved us at least 10 euros each and a lot less walking. You should also ask the ticket seller for a map of the routes. This should be free if the map is available.

Buses are harder to figure out but provide a great way to see the city if you have the time and patience. Some cities, like London and Rome, have tour routes that go along major attractions. You will probably have to buy the bus guide though as most will not offer it for free.

Outside of a city, it is pretty much the same options with the addition of planes. How you decide between the three depends on what your priorities are and what your travel plans are. For ease of analysis, I have listed the pros and cons.

- on time and dependable (if not on strike)
- good views (especially on scenic routes)
- more time options available (such as night train which saves you a night at a hotel)

- longer travel time
- need to move your own luggage on and off the train as well as finding your own storage area

- shorter actual travel time
- cheaper cost

- not very time efficient (need to check in, go through customs, waiting at the gate, delays)
- fewer time options

*Train is the better option over bus 99% of the time unless the bus route is more scenic, you do not care that it takes a longer time and it is much cheaper or just that the train does not go to your destination.

Eurail passes can be quite useful but it goes back to what your itinerary is like. There are many different types of passes, so spend time on the website and buy them before you leave. It is much better to have it with you before you leave.

Europe: Stuff you should know (part trois)


Most buildings start with a ground floor and then move up with numbers. Basically, 1st floor actually should be second floor, 2nd floor should be third floor, etc.

While the old buildings are beautiful and fantastic, their age means that more often than not, there are no elevators. And often to get from one floor to the next, it means climbing 2 sets of stairs thanks to the high ceilings.

If staying at a hotel, try to get a room on the third floor. Why? It would be easy for people to climb up and break into the first and second floors. If you go any higher, you will die from exhaustion or have a problem in an emergency where you need to evacuate quickly. Rooms in the middle of the hallway are best. If beside the elevator, it will be noisy. Not the end of the hall for safety reasons.

When doing research on accommodations, pay attention to the reviews. I always avoid places where hygiene could be a problem (e.g. mentions of bedbugs, dirty sheets). Hot water is also a must (I have read reviews of places where hot water often stops running). Keep your luggage locked as much as possible, especially if you are staying at a hostel. It would be way too tempting for people to take something if your luggage is left wide open.

Make room in your luggage for a set of bed sheets and pillowcases. I am known as a germaphobe but I do believe this should be a practice for everybody. I use my own pillowcases even in five star hotels because you seriously never know and I would rather be safe than sorry. Having an acne breakout from the dirt and bacteria, being bitten by bed bugs, I could go on for a while. If you have room in your luggage, bring a double/queen size flat sheet so that you can fold it in half and use it like a sleeping bag between the blankets and the mattress.

Once you get your room, do a once-through of everything. If anything is damaged or missing, let the front desk know right away so that you will not be charged for it.

Europe: Stuff you should know (part deux)


Is very expensive in Europe (well, not as bad now that the Euro and pound is cheaper). Either way, if you are going to stay in a place for more than a month, I would seriously recommend bringing a mini rice cooker. You can probably get one for $20.00 CAD or so at any store that sells appliances. I think all of them come with a non-stick pot so it is easy to clean. My rice cooker helped me pass many a cold winter Parisian evening at low cost. Not only can it cook rice, other functions include: boiling water; cooking congee, noodles, soups; reheating leftovers; make cakes/custards/other desserts; act as a humidifier/heater, etc. The only thing I've not been able to do is deep fry but it's not a big problem. You can probably save a good 10 euros or 4 pounds each meal by eating at home during the week and then splurging the savings on a good meal on the weekend.

Also bring some utensils and condiments. Yes, you can easily buy them in Europe but when it is readily available and free from home, would you not rather save the money to spend elsewhere? Even if you do not bring anything else, at least bring a swiss army knife. Great in many situations.

No matter in what condition your body is in, I recommend that you bring vitamins. It's hard to get all of your daily nutrition when you are traveling in an unfamiliar country on a budget. The best would be to bring a multi-vitamin that contains at least vit A, B, C, D, E as well as calcium, zinc and magnesium. These will keep you happy, healthy and energetic.

Bring a couple of cup noodles or instant noodles to tide you over while you get settled in and get to know the city. Having something to eat within 3 minutes will seem like heaven when you are jet-lagged, nothing is unpacked and it is 2 in the morning.

Make a budget for yourself, especially for your meals when you are on the go. The cost of food and accommodation will be the biggest costs of your trip. I would recommend eating bakery goods during the day and then saving the money for a sit-down dinner. Carry some dried fruits or juice with you to keep up your energy and prevent you from getting too hungry.

If you can stomach it, ask for a jug of water (i.e. tap water) when waiters ask if you would like a bottle of water. The jug will be free while the price of that bottle could have bought you an appetizer.

Europe: Stuff you should know

This is for you, Rita. There's a lot to cover so to make it easier I've split it into the sections according to the old Chinese way with an addition: 衣食住行 (clothing, food, accommodations, transportation) + packing and stuff.


Bring clothes that can be easily layered and washed. More likely than not you will not have a washing machine or dryer and the cost will add up if you are having to do coin laundry. Look for fabrics with natural fibres (such as silk, merino, cashmere, viscose). Quality fabrics will fare better after many washes. Don't worry about the dry clean only tag, 90% of the time hand washing with a delicate detergent in cold water works just as fine. Example: for a 100% cashmere sweater; rinse, squeeze out water (do not wring), lay on top of a dry towel and roll up. Leave for 15 minutes or so and then unroll. It should be almost dry so all that is left is to lay it out on another dry towel to dry overnight.

If you will be traveling through different seasonal temperatures, look for pieces that are flexible. E.g. a nice floral dress that you can wear with sandals in warm temperatures and then pair with a t-shirt, tights and boots for cold weather.

Bring neutral accessories which can be used with more than half of the clothes you bring. Do not bring your sparkly chandelier earrings (even if you think it is the best of all your jewelery) if it only goes well with one thing.

Scarves are also great for accessorizing and keeping warm.

Bring shoes that you can walk in for hours. They should have at least 1/4" sole to save your feet from the damn cobblestones. Unless you really really need heels, I say keep them at home and save the luggage space. Flats will work fine in 99% of the situations that you will incur. The remaining 1% is if you get a hot date or have an opportunity to walk the red carpet.

The above being said, keep your pieces stylish, ie. should not be ugly or else you will come to regret it in the years to follow whenever you see your Europe pictures. People in Europe are probably still talking about my neon pink bomber jacket.

Good safe colors that will carry you all over Europe (especially France): black, navy, khaki green, beige, red.

Recommended items:

a good, warm black coat
waterproof trench or pretty raincoat
warm sweater
plain t's with long sleeves and short sleeves
pair of solid color jeans (no stone washed)
ribbed tank tops
straight or skinny dress pants
a nice top (silk, chiffon, jersey)

pair of sturdy black boots
classic ballet flats
flip flops

Currently Loving

(via Mila's Daydreams)

This is so much better than naked pictures in the tub. Wonder how her birthday parties will be like?