More Things I Love

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Travel is easy from Hong Kong

Oyster pancakes at the outdoor restaurant at Temple Street night market

Mahjong

Macau

Almond cookies from the great little bakery by Red Market in Macau

Red doors and window shutters

Laundry hanging outside

Wokking on Wednesdays

I can now give accurate directions to foreigners traveling in Hong Kong!

Never running out of things to do or explore

Kung Hei Fat Choi! Happy New Year from Hong Kong! Part II

The Year of the Snake

The Year of the Snake

“In a splendid carriage you emarked on your journey. Today, you came home barefoot. Is it that you failed the imperial exam? Or did you lose all your gold in business?” This was the fortune for Hong Kong drawn by Heung Yee Kuk chairman Lau Wong-fat, a member of the legislative council for Hong Kong. Fortune on stick #95, which is one of the unluckiest fortunes, has fortune tellers warning Hong Kongers that they will be faced with “wicked people” in the year of the snake. This was the story reported in the South China Morning Post.

It is the year of the snake and many consider it to be a dark year. But the snake does have many virtuous qualities. It is said that a if you have a snake in your house, you will never starve. A snake is keen and cunning and intelligent and wise.

We set out to visit the temples in Hong Kong on the third day of the new year. This is the day that is slotted for families to visit the temples. One Hong Konger told us that it is prescribed that you go to the temple on the third day because you have spent two days with the family already and that you might begin to fight. You should go to the temple and talk to the gods to avoid fighting. The photo don’t even begin to show you how busy the Wong Tai Sin temple was. There were thousands visiting that day and incense billowing into the sky.

We also visited Chi Lin Nunnery that was very peaceful and has lovely gardens. Striking contrast to the Wong Tai Sin Temple.

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Touch the Dragon for good luck upon entering the gates to the temple

Touch the Dragon for good luck upon entering the gates to the temple

Walking along with the masses. Burning incense everywhere. Being tall, had to watch out that my hair was not lit on fire from the burning sticks.

Walking along with the masses. Burning incense everywhere. Being tall, had to watch out that my hair was not lit on fire from the burning sticks.

Lighting incense in one of many lanterns

Lighting incense in one of many lanterns

All kinds of hawkers with many types or religious items.

All kinds of hawkers with many types or religious items.

Just like the smoke from the rising incense, the pin wheels blow good wishes out into the world.

Just like the smoke from the rising incense, the pin wheels blow good wishes out into the world.

Peaceful waters in fountain at Chi Lin Nunnery

Peaceful waters in fountain at Chi Lin Nunnery

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Inside the temple courtyard. No photos allowed up close to the altars.

Inside the temple courtyard. No photos allowed up close to the altars.

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Kung Hei Fat Choi – Happy New Year from Hong Kong! Part I

Our first Chinese New Year in Hong Kong. Amazing how quiet a city can become. But prior to February 9, everything was scrubbed clean and decorated. Markets were bursting with tangerines, pomelo and all things red and gold encrusted with fish and snakes. Temples were busy and busier now that the new year is under way. One can smell and see the smoke from the incense burning in the temples from blocks away.

On the eve of the new year, we went to the flower market along with about half of the population of Honk Kong. It was an unbelievable sight with every kind of flower you could think of available. I was particularly awed by the gladiolas. They were easily over four feet tall.

Near the bird park. The bird park is a post unto itself. Lots of people and a pretty location at the end of the market where the street turns.

Near the bird park. The bird park is a post unto itself. Lots of people and a pretty location at the end of the market where the street turns.

Asian lilies are everywhere. They are as common as daisies in the US and cost just pennies. The scent is overpowering.

 

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Gladiolas easily close to five feet tall. The gentleman in the back is a very tall man. Probably over six feet himself.

 

Gladiolas Galore

Gladiolas Galore

Glad arriving at the Mong Kok market

Glads arriving at the Mong Kok market

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This is the corner of the market. Kumquat trees are popular for the new year.

Crowded flower market in Mong Kok

Crowded flower market in Mong Kok

 

US Import

At the Anglo-Chinese florist, trees are imported from Bellevue, WA

It was a happy surprise to see fresh Christmas trees.  Trees were in remarkably good condition and smelling just like Christmas. Each tree was tagged with import info showing that they arrived from Bellevue, WA.

On the other side or Hong Kong in the flower market, more trees arrived from the US.

Hong Kong Santa

Hong Kong Santa

Christmas is all around. It sprung to life in full force around Dec 8. It looks and sounds just a little bit different here. Christmas music played in restaurants and shops has just a little bit of a twang to it. Often times we recognize the song, but not the artist or the version.. Enjoy the Hong Kong Santa!

Christmas Peace and Better Luck

Snowy wonderland at the IFC Mall in Hong Kong.

We have been making a tour around Hong Kong of all the shopping malls and outdoor spaces that decorate for Christmas. Having no decorations in our flat this year as we are winging it home to Oregon for Christmas celebrations, it is a nice way to get in the spirit and experience a little bit of Hong Kong Christmas.

On Sunday, we ventured to the IFC mall to see it snow. Yes, twice a day and four times on weekends, shoppers are treated to a snowfall in a wooded forest of knitted trees with a gigantic pair of reindeer lifting off into flight from a snowy hill. It is my favorite of all the displays in Hong Kong. Very peaceful with warm lights and soothing instrumental music playing softly. An occasional chorale group performs holiday favorites too. It captures a feeling of reverence even in the middle of a shopping mall.

But Sunday it was bittersweet because, everywhere there were families enjoying the day and the snowfall and doing what families do this time of year in every country that celebrates Christmas.  Meanwhile, families in Connecticut mourn unthinkable losses. I couldn’t get the feeling of sadness out of me, and I wept. They should be out on this last full weekend before Christmas; shopping, seeing holiday lights, practicing for winter pageants, caroling, making cookies, being together and wishing for a white Christmas.

In the Chinese culture the idea of “luck” permeates everything. It pops in to all kinds of conversations. Day-to-day activities can be guided by how lucky of a day it is for an individual or for the general cosmic make up of the day. I purchased a date book for 2013 that actually gives a daily forecast, or maybe a general prescription for the day in terms of luck. I imagine the the 2012 version for Friday, December 14 was not a lucky day especially for that elementary school in Newtown, CN.  It occurs to me, that there was not one thing that those families or school administrators could have done to change what happened.  It was going to be what it was, and whatever caused this young adult man to commit this act happened long ago. Maybe it was a bad experience. Maybe no luck with diagnosing mental illness.  Maybe help was out of the hands of the parents once the child turns 18 and families have no ability to detour or manage an adult child. There was no luck that day.

I think we can change the future luck and have fewer of these kind of senseless acts. I hope that the people of America find the courage to say that enough is enough.  We all need to work to stop these tragedies.  Change the luck early on. We need to try to do a better job of assisting families that have challenging individuals deal with mental illness and other difficult living situations. We need to be kind everyday and stop bullying the young and the old. And, we need to figure out how we are going to live safely with guns, because America’s attachment to guns is not going to go away.

As we visit more holiday scenes around Hong Kong, I am thinking of the suffering families and the town in Connecticut. Although this holiday is changed forever for them, I wish and hope that they can find some comfort and peace in the beauty of this season.

 

A Little Bit of Rain

the view from the #40 bus to Wan Chai. A very rainy day.

It has been raining quite a bit here in Hong Kong. The last two days have been beautiful, but before that we had rain almost daily. Everyone uses umbrellas here. Not that many hoods on coats. Young, old, businessmen and women, domestic helpers all use the umbrellas. Being extremely tall compared to the general population, the umbrellas hit me right about the height of my neck, so walking along on the narrow sidewalks is difficult and sometimes dangerous.

Wokk’n on the Wild Side

I bought a wok today. I bought it from a very nice man at Kam Lee Steel Product and Engineering Ltd. on Cleverly Street in Sheung Wan.  It is a traditional round bottom carbon steel wok.

Me and my brand new wok!

I am more excited to cook with this wok than I can express. One of the best things about our flat is that we have a great gas cook top with four burners and a fifth burner in the middle with a ring for a wok!I was given very specific instructions for preparing this wok for cooking. First, heat the wok until it turns blue or very dark. Then take a half an onion, soaked in water, and rub the inside of the wok with the onion.

Moving fast. This wok is hot!

You don’t want the onion to burn, so when you smell the onion burning you stop and re-soak the onion. You continue to rub the wok with the onion until you no longer smell any metal. Your nose plays a big part in this whole thing. Lucky for me. When you achieve the goal of no metal smell, you then reheat the wok and rub the inside with pork fat or pork skin, which is plentiful in the markets here. It will probably even be free. However, I did see Crisco in a specialty store and that could be used. I am committing to using this wok at least two times per week. My goal is for it to turn that great dark black and be non stick before I venture back to the US.

Sunchoke and Cashew Stir Fry with Egg, Basil and Asparagus. I am very happy with the results. Not greasy or oily at all.

Oh by the way, this was not an outrageous financial commitment. The whole deal set us back about $9 US.

There is another dark side of wok cooking. And that is the endless wok puns that Steve comes up with.  Here are just a few:

  • Always wok on the bright side of life
  • Just keep on Wokin.’
  • Wok like you mean it
  • Wok, wok, wok til you can’t wok no more
  • Wok baby, don’t run
  • Wok til you drop
  • Just wok away
  • I’m wokin’ here!  #@!!!