Thursday, May 29, 2014

Maleficent 2D

I'm not much of a cinema goer, but I just had to see this movie on opening day.  In a few words, I would describe this movie as fighting against the Disney One Dimensional (1D) Curse.  

Even though Maleficent was given a name that assumes by nature she is inherently able (maybe willing) to do evil, as a child, she had no trace of this villainous nature.  The fact that she was orphaned sort of released her from a curse of a predetermined character.  And the fact that we got to glimpse into her past and saw what major events shaped her life really created a huge amount of empathy for Maleficent.  AND to see how, over the course of a lifetime, people have the will power to change was so inspiring.  

As much as this movie could give Maleficent the dimensions she should have, my friend and I saw this in 2D...I wonder if the 3D experience at the cinema would leave me with a more dazzling Maleficent experience...

I'm really loving the movies Disney has been putting out recently...

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

10,000 Buddhas

My sister originally found this place when she came to visit a few years ago.  And recently, one of my friends also suggested I check it out.  So, my little troupe and I trekked over to Shatin, followed the signs, and discovered an amazing gem of a a monastery hidden in the hills behind IKEA.  The monastery:  Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery.

How to get there:

1.  From Shatin MTR Station Exit B, walk in the direction of Home Square.  Home Square is also the home of IKEA.  Along the way, you should be passing a Mister Softee Ice Cream truck on the right, Pai Tau Village on the left, and a sports court on your left (5 - 8 minute walk).  Then you'll walk straight to the entrance of Home Square.

2.  Turn left onto Pai Tau Street.  You'll be walking along Home Square for a bit (which should be on your right) and into the Shatin Government Offices building, which is on (Google Maps says) Sheung Wo Che Road.

3.  On Sheung Wo Che Road, walk along it until it comes to a dead end (which is less than a minute of walking).

4.  You should see a sign that directs you to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery.

5.  Follow the signs!

This was such a beautiful place!  It wasn't crowded because it isn't the typical tourist attraction, which I loved.  I think, just exploring this monastery is a good morning adventure.

WARNING:  There are tens of thousands of mosquitos that will bite you.  Bring mosquito repellent!!!!!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Amazing Finds: Hong Kong

I've been living here for a few years now and have always found such wonderful and amazing things around every corner, but it wasn't until my folks came that I realized I have started to become jaded!  It isn't that big a deal, it was just a laughable moment to not realize some of the amazing things that were around me and I never thought were amazing.  I thought they were quite normal.  To share a few:

1.  Out in the villages of the New Territories, we came across this massive poster of a man's face.  

My father thought:  Woah, what's this doing out here!  Then he took a photo, which made me look back at what he was photographing.

At first, I thought:  What's this covering?  

Then my father said, "It's a huge advertisement."

My second thought:  How did it get out here?  I realized there was something really special about this massive poster/ad...and I thought it was great that so many things in this world can be reused.  

Then I realized, "He looks like Jesus!"

2.  Walking around Yuen Long:

My mother looked over to this bakery window and thought:  Oh look!  A family of pandas!

I looked over to where she was looking and said, "Would you like to get some pastries for breakfast tomorrow?"

My mother walked up to the window and started looking at everything, "Look at those!"

I then realize there were cute-ified bunches of breads in the window.  I probably walked by this place every week and not even noticed they had pandas or smiling bread men in the windows.  But, I took a photo to capture this amazing find.

3.  Walking around Hong Kong feels like a barren dessert's hot.  Seems like the entire city is sweating because of the heat.  So, we bought some packets of tissues at the supermarket.

My father said, "What's that on the packet?"

I open the pack and toss over the tissue packet and thought:  Tempo.  Like the temples of your head.  It's like a tissue to sop up the sweat dripping from your temples.

My father said, "Is that a water droplet?"

I look at the packet and realized there was a drop of water riding on a giraffe.  And there is a goldfish riding around in the belly of this drop of water.  Then I thought:  That's a bit odd...

Then we realized the were were more interesting things on the other packets:

It's nice to see the humor in things!

4.  This was actually taken on one of the first days my parents were here.  This is one of the domed ceilings of Harbour City.  I think this is in the Gateway Arcade.

My father was looking up, "Woah, I gotta take a photo of that."

I looked up and realized there was a beautiful stained glass mosaic on the ceiling.  It's so beautiful and I realized that I probably noticed it before, but never really thought it was anything special.  But, it made me take a second look at the architecture around the city more.  There is so much detail in some things; it is amazing!

5.  Out in one of the villages of Kam Tin:

I walked over to this pond and said, "Look a pond."

My mother said, "It has turtles in it."

I realized there were loads of turtles in the pond.  It was amazing to realize how at first sight they were camouflaged to my bare eyes!

The my father starts photographing these turtles.

I said, "Oh, they are like Jack and Rose."  I was amazed to find this Titanic reference out here in Kam Tim.

Looking at Hong Kong through someone else's eyes is so amazing!  They see things that you might miss.  They make you notice things that you haven't noticed before.  And they make you rediscover the wonders of your own city!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Traveling Tuesday: Streets and Markets of Mong Kok

Mong Kok is always buzzing with things to do.  Today, we did the touristy thing and checked out most of the street markets:

1.  Goldfish Market
A good starting point for checking out the markets of Mong Kok can be starting with Goldfish Market on Mong Kok Road and Tung Choi Street.  They open relatively earlier than the other markets, so if you are jet lagged and are itching to get out and around, it's a good place to start.

2.  Fa Yuen Street
From the Goldfish Market (which sort of ends around Nullah Road), take a right and you'll hit Fa Yuen Street.  The Fa Yuen Street Market runs from Nullah Road + Fa Yuen Street to Mong Kok Road + Fa Yuen Street.  So, it is parallel to the Goldfish Market.

Here you can find housewares, toys, souvenirs, and some of the latest street fashions at incredibly sensible prices.  Make sure to check out the shops along the sidewalks because you might miss them if you just walk along the main street market.

We started out around 10 am and some of the shops were already open!

Fa Yuen Street Market
Shops along the sidewalk
The Fa Yuen Market continues across Bute Street and ends at Mong Kok Road

This market is one of my favorites because, if you walk back up it, in the direction of Nullah Road, then you'll see a Pacific Coffee across the street (Prince Edward Road West).  It's a good place to stop for a coffee and pastry.  And it also takes you in the direction of the Flower Market.

3.  The Flower Market
If you are exiting Pacific Coffee, turn left and you'll see Sai Yee Street in front of you.  Around you, you'll start seeing a bunch of flower and plant shops.  You will also see the famous Brighten's Flower Shop at the corner.  This is where Christmas Trees can be ordered and Chinese New Year ornaments can be bought (in their respective seasons).  It's such a wonderful store to check out...all three levels!

The Flower Market is such a beautiful little area to walk around.  A lot of the plants are similar to those found in Hawaii.  So, my parents had a great time going through and identifying Bird of Paradise, hibiscus, anthuriums, and all the fruit trees.  A lot of the shops are beautifully decorated and allow you to wander to your heart's content.

The Flower Market runs a little bit along Sai Yee Street, but most of the shops run along Flower Market Road, which you'll see when you walk a little ways up Sai Yee Street.

4.  Ladies Market
If you make your way back to Sai Yee Street, you can walk South (in the direction of Victoria Harbour) past Prince Edward Road West and past Bute Street to Arglye Street.  In front of you, on the second floor, you should see Starbucks.  It's always a good landmark point for Sai Yee Street + Arglye Street.

Turn right and you'll see Ladies Market.

This market is always an adventure!  There are a lot of copied/pirated/designer things that can be found here:  handbags, watches, belts...boardgames (SERIOUSLY!!!!!) and UNDERWEAR (SERIOUSLY!!!!!). There are also a lot of fun things to see:  like THE MAGNETS OF BAD TRANSLATIONS,  MINIATURE DIM SUM KEY CHAINS, "ANCIENT" CHINESE SCROLLS, CUT OUT PAPER CARDS, BEDAZZLED JEWELRY BOXES, SWIMSUITS, I <3 HK TEES and some of my favorite secondhand clothing shops (Mee & Gee).

Like the Fa Yuen Market, make sure to check out the sidewalks because you'll find some of the coziest little restaurants in the Kowloon District here.  Ladies Market runs all the way to Dundas Street...where you'll bump into another Starbucks (in the Gala Centre)...which makes another good landmark.

5.  Sai Yueng Choi Street
A good way to end the afternoon is to join the herds of other tourists along Sia Yueng Choi Street!  It runs parallel to Ladies Market and Nathan Road.  It runs from Dundas all the way back up to Argyle Street.

There are a lot of great shops here if you are in that mood:  Camera shops, phone shops, Body shops (!), brand shops (Espirit, Sasa, Bonjour, Pricerite, Izzue, IT, Giordano, Broadway, Fortress, Suning and the Cinema).  At around 5pm, you'll also start seeing street entertainers come out and set up their little stages.  This makes this street really LIGHT UP in the evening hours.

Today was such an incredibly fun day...

I end this blog post with this lovely photo of a family of striped tee-shirts on Sai Yeung Choi Street.  I have seen this particular look in so many places, but was fortunate to capture it on film today!  Here you can see a grandmother, father, baby girl, and mother all dressed in B&W stripes!  Things like this make me smile!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Mémoire Monday: The Spiral

"Hong Kong is a shopping paradise!!!!"

That's something that I have heard a lot since moving here.  

The first mall in Hong Kong that I ever went to was Langham Place in Mong Kok.  The coolest thing about this mall is The Spiral, which is a bunch of trendy shops, restaurants, and a cinema that run in a kind of spiral in THE SPIRAL of Langham Place.  You have to actually see it to know what I mean...  

Escalator to The Spiral
When my friends and family visit, I always take them riding up the Central escalators.  Has anyone else done that?  It's a nice little thing to do to people watch, check out eateries and look at the different views of Hong Kong.  Like riding up the Central escalators, there is a sort of fun amusement to riding up this escalator.  I can't explain.

There are a lot of really great places to shop in Hong Kong...and if you are looking for a mall (especially since it is summer and it is the place to hang out when the weather advisory warning is on VERY HOT), here are some recommendations:

1.  Langham Place in Mong Kok
2.  Festival Walk in Kowloon Tong
3.  New Town Plaza in Shatin
4.  Elements right off of Kowloon MTR station
5.  Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui (TST)
6.  IFC Mall in Central
7.  Pacific Place in Admiralty
8.  Times Square in Causeway Bay

You know what...listing my favorite malls and all, I realized that these are the places I visit during the Christmas season to see the decorations.  These are only a few of the great malls to shop in...but it is a start into the great foray of Hong Kong shopping.

***WARNING:  There are RARELY any places to sit at the MALLS, so expect spending a few hours off your feet at a cafe or open restaurant!****

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Getting to Stanley

My mother visited Hong Kong in the 1970s and fell in love with Stanley Market!  So we went there to see how much it changed for her.

Stanley is a really great little area on the south of Hong Kong Island.  The area has quite a few areas to explore:  beaches, the market, historical buildings/temples, and a boardwalk of restaurants.  It is quite the tourist attraction.  It is also quite a far ways from Kowloon, where my parents are staying.  Being far is an ideal excuse for riding some of the awesome forms of transport that Hong Kong has to offer! 

Transportation "Itinerary"

1.  MTR Train Ride
---> To Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) Station

From TST Exit L6, you can follow the Star Ferry signs to get to to the TST Star Ferry Pier.  

2.  Star Ferry Ride
---> To Central Ferry Pier

There are only a few places where the TST ferries go, so it is easy to locate where the Central ferries are.  For over a decade, we've been living in Seattle, so my parents are pretty used to riding the Seattle ferries out to Bainbridge, the San Juan Islands, Victoria...  They quite enjoyed the Hong Kong ferry.  Heck, I still enjoy riding it when I can.

3.  Double-Decker Bus Ride
---> To Stanley

From the Central Ferry pier, it is about a 10 minute walk along the sky bridge to get to IFC Mall and Exchange Square II.  From Exchange Square II, catch any bus to Stanley (6, 6A, 6X, 66, 260).  It's a good opportunity to ride on the upper deck of the bus, for those of you who are only graced with one deck city buses.  BE WARNED:  The roads are windy and you will feel it more on the upper deck. 

We spent the morning wandering the Market, which opened up pretty early.  Though I was just here a few weeks ago, there always seems to be something interesting to find.  For one, I had never thought to actually check out the Murray House.  I knew there were restaurants there, but I found myself really amazed at the view from the upper decks, mesmerized by the architecture, and dazzled by the history.

Murray House
Prosciutto, cheese, olives
Beautiful pizza

We spent a few hours roaming the markets and walking around to see the beach area.  After lunch, we headed back into town.

4.  Mini Bus Ride
---> To Causeway Bay
From Stanley Beach, ask around and you can find the Mini Bus which takes you into Causeway Bay (Mini Bus 40).  The mini bus makes me feel like I am a doll riding in a toy bus, which is being "driven" by a toddler.  WARNING:  The ride may make some nauseous, but it is fun to experience...makes you stronger!

5.  Tram Ride
---> To Central
The terminal of Mini Bus 40 is on Tang Lung Street (in Causeway Bay).  From here, walk out onto Hennessey Road and you'll see the tram rails.  You can take a right or left to the nearest tram stations, then catch the tram heading Westbound (towards the Western Market, Shek Tong Tsui, or Kennedy Town). 

NEXT STOP ---> To Wherever Life Takes You Next

Other Hong Kong modes of transport to try:
1.  The Peak Tram
2.  The Cable Cars of Tung Chung 
3.  Jumbo's Floating Restaurant out in Aberdeen
4.  The Sampan around Victoria Harbour

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Day in TST

For the next couple of weeks, I challenged myself to show my parents something interesting and, HOPEFULLY, different about Hong Kong.  Since this was their first full day in this beautiful city, I thought it would be nice to spend a relaxing day in TST (Tsim Sha Tsui).

9:00-ish - 10:00-ish am
Leisurely Stroll
Starting from the Star Ferry, Hong Kong Island's skyline is a wonderful place to introduce someone to Hong Kong.  The old clock tower from the old TST train station is a great place to take snapshots of family and friends.  And the ferries are always fascinating to watch.  Conveniently, you can then hop into Harbour City (which has the much needed air conditioning to boost the stamina), do some window shopping, then exit and walk along Canton Road.  

We took a short cut  through Kowloon Park, which has many activities that can extend anyone's day (swimming, bird watching, museums, picnic areas, rose gardens, etc), to Nathan Road.

The road-side flowers of Harbour City along Canton Road

The flora of Kowloon Park

One of the fountains of Kowloon Park

11:00-ish - 12:00-ish pm
This is one of the canteens that I had on my list of THINGS I MUST SHOW MY FAMILY WHEN THEY COME TO VISIT.  It's a lovely Old Hong Kong Styled Canteen with images of famous Old Hong Kong celebrities on the walls, cozy small tables where you can share table space with other people (which my father enjoyed because he likes talking to everyone under the sun), and where you can get some Hong Kong CLASSIC canteen foods (English Menu available).

Lan Fong Yuen in Woodhouse on Nathan Road

Egg, "sausage" or hot dog, slice of ham, and iced lemon water

Toast with butter and condensed milk on top

12:00-ish - 2:00-ish pm
Kowloon Park's Heritage Discovery Centre
Kowloon Park houses one of Hong Kong's beautiful heritage buildings!  The Heritage Discovery Centre is a great place to learn about the history of the city (ancient culture, archeological findings, the changing city-scape, renovation of historical buildings, etc).

The courtyard 
Main exhibit

Artifacts room

Learning about plate designs

Postal exhibit

3-ish - whenever pm
Afternoon of shopping, afternoon tea, or what have you!
We decided to have a blissful-coffee-indulgent afternoon tea time at Starbucks.  We tried some of the Hong Kong Starbucks specialty coffees and then spent the afternoon shopping around Grandville, Carnarvon and Cameron Roads.