Friday, July 31, 2015

Summer Holidays: Macau

Macau, here I come!

The last time I was in Macau was three years ago.  It was in the spring.  It rained almost daily, but it didn't matter because there's something so romantic about Macau on a rainy day.  This is one of my favorite cities to visit, though it is rare and far between. 

We'll be in Macau for a little over a week.  And, hopefully, there will be a nice little bit of Macau to blog about when I get back!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Castle Peak Road

The MAINEST of the main roads in Yuen Long is Castle Peak Road.  Castle Peak Road is the longest road in all of Hong Kong and it stretches from Sham Shui Po, through Tsuen Wan, through Yuen Long and up to Tuen Mun.  

In Yuen Long, if you are looking for something, it's a good bet that you'll be able to find it along Castle Peak Road (FINGER'S CROSSED!).  Walking down from the Yuen Long Plaza, Castle Peak Road is lined with clothing shops (nothing fancy like H&M or Gucci, but your basic Balenos, Timberland, Crocs, Maples, etc), bakeries, electronic shops, appliance shops, restaurants, jewelry shops, cosmetic shops and the like.

***Walk with me along Castle Peak Road***

During the day, you can find little vendors that sell fruits, vegetables, knick-knacks, electric fans (which everyone seems to have hanging around their necks these hot days), towels, t-shirts, nail clippers (who'd of thunk!), and even dried fruit.

There is also a kid zone (a.k.a. The Playhouse) up above the Pizza Hut at the Yuen Long Landmark, which might be a great place to take your kids when you need something for them to do this summer.  Inside the Yuen Long Landmark are a few restaurants (Pizza Hut, e.g.) and also DSC (the furniture and appliance center).

A handful of shops open up quite early, before 10 am, as there are a lot of mainland tourists who stop by Yuen Long.

There are also all the main banks that are found along Castle Peak Road:  Hang Seng, Bank of China, Fubon, Citic Bank, HSBC, Dah Sing Bank, Standard Charter...

Fun Fact:  Back in the day, Yuen Long was know for their "Wife Cakes."  The original shop (or the shop that made them famous) is right on Castle Peak road, as well.  These guys open mondo early, so, if you don't like the crowds, stop by in the mornings!

All the buses also run through Castle Peak Road.  If you need to catch the 968 into Central, you can find the stop along Castle Peak Road.  If you are heading into Mong Kok, catch the 68x along Castle Peak Road.  If you are heading over to Tai Po, you can catch the 64K off of Castle Peak Road.  You can also catch the B1 to Lok Ma Chau (where you can walk the border over to Shenzhen.

The Yuen Long section of Castle Peak Road ends at the Sun Yuen Long Centre.  This side of Castle Peak Road has some pretty awesome side streets where you can find some pretty awesome eats (i.e., Yau San Street!).

This side of Castle Peak Road also has a mini network of sky bridges that you can walk over to cross to the other side of the street and over the Light Rail tracks.

Above and below are a view of Castle Peak Road from the sky bridge.  You can see the Light Rail track that runs straight through the middle of Castle Peak Road.

 If not for shopping, walking along this main street is a great way to just view the town.  

Monday, July 27, 2015

Cantonese Lessons at the YMCA

Still on my quest for learning Cantonese, I've enrolled myself into the Cantonese classes at the YMCA. I'm only about a quarter of the way through Level 2 of the course and am feeling a lot more confident speaking, which I MOSTLY attribute to attending these lessons.

The courses can be found online.

Basically, if there are enough students (7 roughly), then the classes can go ahead and be held.  I was lucky to get into the Level 1 class, which started back in June.

The YMCA Cantonese classes are held at their Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) Campus from 7 - 9 pm.  Level 1 was held twice a week.  Due to scheduling and attendance of the students, the classes for Level 2 are mostly just held once a week (summer holidays are in full force!).

TST YMCA Cantonese Class Info:

YMCA College of Continuing Education
6/F 41 Salisbury Road
Tsim Sha Tsui

2268 - 7733

Course Cost
Level 1 was $1290 HKD for 10 classes
Level 2 was $1560 HKD for 12 classes

***Hopefully, there will be at least 7 of us who want to continue onto Level 3 and then onto Level 4***

The textbook we're using is pretty awesome and our teacher (a native Cantonese speaker born and raised in Hong Kong) utilizes the material really well.  She goes as a really nice pace and keeps every lesson quite challenging.

A Cantonese Book
by Chan Kwok Kin and Betty Hung
$268 HKD

NOTE:  If you enroll in the class, you can get the book with a little discount from the YMCA bookstore on the Ground Floor of the YMCA complex.

For anyone out there who really wants to try out some Cantonese classes, I would highly recommend the YMCA courses.  The classes are small enough and the teacher really works on getting us to communicate with Cantonese.  Level 1 was mostly about vocabulary building and simple sentences.  Level 2 is all about dialogues and being able to get out there in the community and start shopping/ordering food!!!

I've been really enjoying the lessons and totally love being a student again.  

Best decision I've made this summer?  Totally!

On a side note, who knew that the YMCA was such a huge complex (the TST YMCA)?  There is a hotel there, event space, indoor pool/gym facilities, a College annex, a hair salon, and gift shop/book shop, and also a restaurant all in the same building.

The other night, a few of my friends and I tried the summer special at the YMCA Mall Cafe, which was all about burgers and fries!  I'd been eyeing up the ad for a few weeks as I had been riding the elevator up to class.

I'd never really been into the Mall Cafe, but was greatly surprised at how posh it was.

I got the fish burger (Crispy Barramundi Burger) with fries and a side of coleslaw.  It was so mouthwateringly delicious that I made it my mission to try the other five burgers before the summer special ends.

 Cantonese lessons, building confidence in speaking Cantonese with people around Yuen Long and Hong Kong, and eating some delicious burgers….what a great summer it has been!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Green Eats: Ovo Cafe

We're down in Wan Chai today for a late lunch, early afternoon tea.  Our friend suggested checking out the Ovo Cafe, which is one of Hong Kong's vegetarian/green eateries.  Turns out that it was a pretty great choice! 

Ovo Cafe Information:

G/F, 1 Wan Chai Road
Wan Chai


Monday - Friday from 11:30 am - 10 pm
Saturday, Sundays, Public Holidays from 10 am - 10 pm

Not only is the ambiance pretty chic and trendy, but the menu had a good mix of soups, salads, snacks, and mains.  At the register, there was also a nice little variety pastries.

And because drinks are EVER so IMPORTANT these days to combat the heat, I was so impressed at the drinks available:  teas, fruit juices, smoothies, hot chocolates, coffees and even two options of wine.

The wait was also not that bad~ about 10 minutes.  

I really liked the cafeteria style dining.  Basically, we ordered at the register, took our seats, and waited for our food and drinks to come.

We got one poached egg, cheese and saffron risotto, which was pretty nice.

And we got a quinoa salad stacked with fig and hazelnut, which was also pretty nice.

I actually never had a fig before and that was probably the best part of the quinoa salad.

The new love of my life:  figs
We also ordered an orange passionfruit smoothie, which was so refreshing.

Overall, I really liked the Ovo Cafe.  It was so filling.  It felt like a great healthy option for our late lunch/early afternoon tea.  It was also such a lovely environment to eat in.  I absolutely loved the big wooden tables and the foliage climbing up the walls.  They really thought about their eater's experience!

If I was in the area again, I would definitely try one of the other salads.

AFTERTHOUGHT:  Though I really enjoyed the quinoa salad, I do wish there were more drenching of dressing for my salad!!!!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Donut Hunt

The K11 Mall, in Tsim Sha Tsui (TST), is quite unique because it melds the shopping experience with an art gallery viewing experience...

…there are the staple center pieces, such as "The Root" (pictured below), as well as the current exhibition of the summer:  Obsession… 

…but, we weren't here for the art or the shopping…we were here just looking for a bit of afternoon tea…

…which is where we found some donuts (I've been thinking about them recently!)…

…At La Creation de Gute, we picked a little assortment of pastries to tide our tummies over until dinner…

The newly promoted fruit infused raspberry bun, a mochi puff with cream filling, a mini cake, and a flower donut with chocolate glaze and sprinkles 
 …There was also, CONVENIENTLY, coffee available at the till, though we opted out as coffee isn't much of a necessity in the summer months as it is during the fall...

 Though I haven't really aggressively been out hunting for the BEST DONUTS in Hong Kong, I was surprised to find them so casually stocked at La Creation de Gute.  It sort of reinvigorated my desire to search and destroy some donuts this summer.

Who knew that a passive look here and there could lead to so much more!?

By the way, the donut was all right.  It did wean my empty stomach's grumbling, but it wasn't anything spectacular.  It was, as I would rate the TSA, satisfactory.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Lai Yuen Amusement Park

I would say that the best thing that Hong Kong has this summer is the Lai Yuen (Temporary) Amusement Park down in the Central Harbourfront Event Space.  The park is said to be open until early September 2015.  

The admission is FREE.

The only thing you pay for is EVERYTHING INSIDE:  Tokens for the games, tokens for the rides, and the food is just like normal (pay as you eat)!!!

One token is worth 10 HKD.

Most games are 2 - 3 tokens.

Most of the rides 3 - 8 tokens.

The awesome thing about the Lai Yuen Amusement Park is that there are free shows in the evenings that seem quite fun to view.

One of the main draws, for me, were the games.  I'd been to the AIA Great European Carnival and the games were also my highlight.  I just love winning stuff!

The games were also quite an attraction for me because they were taken from the original Lai Yuen Amusement Park, which was opened in Lai Chi Kok back in 1949.  It's always cool to relive history.  The Lai Yuen Amusement Park definitely felt like walking back into the past.

NOTE:  The local Hong Kong games were A LOT MORE CHALLENGING than the ones at the AIA Great European Festival.  Good thing?  Perhaps!!  Bad thing…sort of because I really did want to win myself a giant grey Tino elephant plush.

NOTE:  If you are hot and bothered by the Hong Kong heat, like myself, don't worry too much about spending the afternoon at the Lai Yuen (Temporary) Amusement Park.  The game booths had lots of fans around them.  Some booths even had water that spritzed down on us during the midday heat.

Because we went around lunch time, there seemed to be early bird prices at the attractions.  We got ONE TOKEN off for our entry into the balloon zoo, which was lovely and air conditioned!

The rides also had absolutely no lines.  Most rides were for the kiddos.  But one of the coolest (literally) "rides" or attractions was the haunted house.  The SPOOKY SCHOOL totally reminded me of the SCARY ASYLUM of the AIA Great European Carnival.  I LOVE these types of attractions for sure.  I'm not so much a roller coaster person, though there weren't any roller coasters at this amusement park…but, it was nice to have other activities besides the games to add to the day!

NOTE:  The Merry-Go-Round is fast!  If you are prone to motion sickness…like that queasy feeling you might get when riding a Hong Kong minibus, this ride might leave you with a similar dizzy feeling.

The last stop of the Lai Yuen Amusement Park is the food stalls!

There weren't a lot of options, but they did have a good variety of local Hong Kong snacks and also the usual burger/fries/pizza mix.

With a good few hours spent at the Lai Yuen Amusement Park, we ended the afternoon with a quick bite of a hot dog and burger mix.  Nothing fills my belly like a good burger.  We also got a durian shake, which is something I love about Hong Kong smoothie shops…UNIQUENESS.  I WILL TOTALLY drop by again when I'm in the area and in the mood to have some good ole fashion fun.  

I totally recommend visiting the Lai Yuen Amusement Park while it is here!!!!!