Category: Celebrate Life!

Countdown to Hong Kong : – 3 Days

By Darren, July 20, 2010 11:46 pm

THE ITINERARY

There are two kinds of travellers – the type who wants to see everything, and the kind who just want to relax and take it slow. I’m the third kind. I want to see it all and chill out to the max at the same time. 

Call me greedy. I call it ‘punishing money’. Since I work so hard for it, it must work hard in return to ‘buy’ me these life experiences. My tourist dollar is hard to earn.

What about a free trip like this HKTB sponsored tour of Hong Kong? Air-ticket and accommodation are free so surely I can stop sodomising my wallet. Well, there’re still the expenses on transportation, attractions’ entrance fees and food.

So when taken in the totality of a travelling budget, I’m still paying. And I shall continue to slave drive my finances during this trip. If you would like to know what I mean, please click HK Itinerary (23-26 Jul 10) to have a look at my  4D3N itinerary. (After I completed the itinerary, I think it’s a little too ambitious. Well, let’s just see how many of them I can accomplish.)

HKTB has some activities arranged for us and released the itinerary to us today. Apart from the Bath Tub race which Aussie Pete and I have been going on and on about, I’m scheduled for a Chinese Sauce Making class with a celebrity chef! Wow! Experiencing Hong Kong doesn’t get more exquisitely unusual than that. I’ll definitely share the recipes here. But that is provided I learnt well and didn’t turn sweet-plum sauce into sour-grape mousse.

In my itinerary, I plan to visit some of the must-see sights (aerial view of Hong Kong at The Peak, Symphony of Lights show), get into a little culture (Cultural Plaza, Nan Lian Garden), embrace nature (Wetland Park), sample the cuisine (The Bounty, Yin Yang Restaurant) and nightlife (Lan Kwai Fong), and just chill at our ultra posh hotel, The Mira Hong Kong.

When I visited the hotel’s website, the ambience, gym and swimming pool seemed almost too good to be true! Especially the pool. Well, photos have a way of distorting reality so I shall see when I get there.

I’ve kinda planned myself into a frenzy now. Uber excited about the upcoming trip. If only tomorrow is Friday. But well, three more days to go and all I have is to fine-tune my itinerary and salivate over photos of the places I’m going to visit. My itinerary contains some additional info about the places I’m going to visit and I hope they could be of use to you.

Meanwhile, please get a bucket and drool with me…

Hong Kong to-be-Seen 1

Hong Kong to-be-Seen 2

Countdown to Hong Kong : – 4 Days

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By Darren, July 19, 2010 11:46 pm

THE GADGETS

I’m a techno idiot. Chimpanzees would’ve built a rocket before I could figure out where the ‘ON’ button is on an electronic devise. Especially a new one.

So I’ve delayed opening the box to my new ASUS Eee PC T101MT until today. The netbook is one of the prizes from the Singapore Blog Awards 2010 and it’s been almost 10 days since I had it.

Touch me, baby!Contrary to most who would probably tear through the packaging, eager to explore the computing power within, having a new gadget is sort of an inconvenience to me because while I’m in the matrix generation, I still don’t speak binary.

That’s needless to say that when I own a piece of teckie thingamajig, I hold on to it till the National Heritage Board knock on my doors.

Hence, you can understand my dread when I touched the netbook for the first time and it struck me straightaway how light it is. Okay, that’s a good start. Since it’s so light, it would be great to travel with and I can use it to blog about the Hong Kong trip while there.

However, the small screen does take a bit of getting used to. Other than that, it is pretty nifty and comes with an adequate ecosystem for creating and utilising web content.

For a digitally-challenged user like me, so long as it can do what my current laptop does without fussing a whole lot about settings, updates and upgrades, I’m happy. And it’s touchscreen! Woohoo!

Other than test-driving the netbook today, I thought about the other teckie gadgets I want to bring on the trip in order to get all angles covered. I was wondering whether or not to bring my tripod along coz that thing alone weighs about 2.2kg. But I’ve decided to bring it along. I’m planning to try taking some sunset and night shots. That is if I can resist the lure of shopping at the night markets. Heh.

Well, hopefully all the investment in dollar and strength will be worth it to bring home some lasting memories of Hong Kong. Just pray I don’t forget how to use those high-tech dials when I’m there!

In focus : Hong Kong

Countdown to Hong Kong : – 5 Days

By Darren, July 18, 2010 5:00 pm

THE RESEARCH

Friends who’d travelled with me know I’m a super kiasu (‘afraid to lose’) traveller who’s also a control freak. I will always try to cover as many places as possible and plan my itinerary with a time schedule stating what time for morning call, activity allocation, and what time to sleep. Is this a holiday or some tourist bootcamp they ask me. My answer is : “Let’s work hard at relaxing!”

Be your own Hong Kong travel guideAlthough I’ve been to Hong Kong previously, I hadn’t really researched nor find out more about the place.

To me, Hong Kong is always about shopping, Ocean Park, Lantau Island, and exercising dietary indiscretion. So I was really surprised to find so many things to see and do while preparing for this upcoming trip.

The thoughtful folks at the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) assembled a very comprehensive info kit for us so it was real easy to find places of interest, what to expect, and how to get there.

I believe these brochures, flyers and maps are available at the Hong Kong airport so do pick up a copy. They are REALLY very helpful. I also supplemented my research with HKTB’s website at discoverhongkong.com.

My favourite is the blue coloured Hong Kong – A Traveller’s Guide. It acts like a quick tourist reference bible and very handy.

From the booklet, I got a quick history lesson about how Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle. Hence, the proper name to refer to the island destination is actually Hong Kong SAR.

  • Pre-1842 – Hong Kong was a ‘barren rock’ with a collection of fishing villages
  • 1842 – Britain claimed Hong Kong Island after the First Opium War with China under the Treaty of Nanking
  • 1860 – Britain claimed Kowloon Peninsula and Stonecutters Island
  • 1898 – Britain granted a 99-year lease of the New Territories and 235 outlying islands
  • 1997 – Hong Kong was returned to China

So with 150 years of colonial influence embroidered into China’s 5,000 years of rich traditions, the resulting tapestry is a fabric I’m tailoring to fit my vacation whims and fancy! I’ve formed a rough idea of the places I want to visit and will be planning a full itinerary soon… with what time to wake up, play, eat, and sleep!

Meanwhile, here’s a map I find really useful as it clearly puts into geographical perspective the places to go in Hong Kong, Kowloon, Lantau Island and New Territories. I’m visiting some of these places next week. Don’t be jealous… :D

07-HK-Map

Countdown to Hong Kong : – 6 Days

By Darren, July 17, 2010 10:26 pm

THE TRAINING

I read Aussie Pete’s post about his ‘secret training’ with much admiration. More than the post being hilarious, he is really taking the bathtub race seriously! So I better not slack and spend the 6 days that’s left till the race to do some training.

I don’t expect to get back in top physical form in just 7 days, but at least to start getting the body used to sweat again and don’t turn blue at the 100m finishing mark. I used to be a dragon boater and had taken part in 500m and 800m races so 100m should be sup sup sui (Cantonese. Direct translation as ‘wet wet water’, meaning no sweat!). But that’s years ago. Now I just hope I don’t lose face for my country!

The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival 2010 has 191 dragon boat teams from 12 countries and regions competing. Considering that a small boat has 10 paddlers, a drummer and coxswain (12 people) and a big boat has 20 paddlers, a drummer and coxswain (22 people), there would be a lot of people for laughing at a Singaporean buffoon.

Dragon boating has a long tradition as a celebratory folk ritual, but it is in Hong Kong that the sport has evolved into what it is today. So Hong Kong can be considered the birthplace of modern dragon boating. I wonder where is the birthplace for bathtub boating?

Dragon Boat Daze

I took up dragon boating in 2005 but stopped in 2008 after my lasik surgery. My wooden paddle is chucked somewhere in the storeroom and I haven’t touched it in more than 2 years. It must feel like Woody in Toy Story. May be it is plotting its escape with all the other forgotten things in the store now. Should I bring it to Hong Kong for some play time?

Before I think about that, I shall try to rehash the exercise routine from my former boating days. So I’ll be practically be living in the gym for the next few days with cardio workouts, weight training, and yoga.

Yes yoga. Dragon boating is not a brute sport. It requires technique and true rowing power comes from the trunk, not arms and shoulders. Hence, flexibility and core muscle strength would be very helpful during a race and can delay the onset of lactic acid build-up and muscle fatigue. Even though this is a just-for-fun 100m bathtub race, I’ll do my best!

And the best tune to accompany any gym time at the moment is…


Pete is thinking of wearing something outrageous for the event. I wonder what my other fellow bathtub racers – VioletGeck Geck and Alvin would wear. Should we have a boomz team outfit with leopard preens and khaki green (including a rad bigini for the ladies)? That would be Uniquely Singapore! :)

Countdown to Hong Kong : – 7 Days

By Darren, July 16, 2010 11:18 pm

THE DIETING

To take part in the Media Bathtub Race during the Dragon Boat Carnival, we had to sign a form declaring that we can swim at least 100m with light clothing. Safety is paramount. So I guess that’s why I was asked to participate. My waist has a natural float. It is the size of a bicycle tyre now with the potential of growing into a Michelin.

And going to Hong Kong isn’t going to help since there are as many restaurants there as there are shopping districts. So I guess that sort of cancels each other out, right? You eat, and then get trim shopping. No wonder so many Hong Kongers are so slim despite their penchant for siu ngaap (roast duck), char siew (roast pork) and dim sum.

Saving for later

For me, chow dao fu (smelly beancurd) with a steaming hot bowl of cow’s heart and pig intestine is a must when in Hong Kong. I know they don’t sound very appetizing, and the stinky tofu smells like the sewage, but once you get past the stench, they’re really tasty.

Never judge a book by its cover. Never judge a food by its odour.

But of course, those street foods are gonna jam up the bad cholesterol level. So I’m taking the save-now-spend-later approach. I’m watching what I eat for every meal at the moment so as to calm the body before the storm.

Breakfast is a delicious and nutritious meal of oatmeal and raisins with soya milk, lunch is an appetising and mouthwatering bowl of fish soup (with no rice or noodles), and dinner… Well, it’s the last meal of the day so I spoil myself. I do housework with my tongue. I eat dust.

That, of course, is a fast diet to lose the float in a week. But who am I kidding? No matter how much I psyche myself up, when mealtime comes, my mind says eat fit food, my legs say go to the gym, while my hands pays the char kway teow hawker.

“Today is the day I’m starting and sticking to my diet.” Problem is, I say this every day. So I shall put it in words now, and the world as my witness, that for the next 8 days, I’m going to eat healthily. This morning I had the oatmeal breakfast, lunch I had seafood soup with noodles, and dinner I cooked brown rice and this…

Easy Recipe

Hong Kong-style Steamed Fish is my favouritest way of cooking fish because it is relatively fuss-free and it’s very appetizing with rice. Here’s my recipe for this simple yet looks-like-it-took-a-lot-of-effort dish.

Ingredients :

Serves 2 – 3 people

Fish – 300g (I used White Threadfin here but you can also use Garoupa or Sea Bass)

Light Soya Sauce – 2 tablespoons

Water – 6 tablespoons (3:1 ratio between soya sauce and water)

Olive Oil – 1 tablespoon

Sugar – 1 teaspoon

Chinese Cooking Wine (Hua Diao Jiu) – 3 tablespoon

Spring Onions, Chinese Parsley, Young Ginger (amounts according to preference)

Cooking Method :

  1. Have the fishmonger gut the fish and ask for a ‘butterfly cut’ (slices both sides of the fish so that the flesh opens up like wings). Asked for it to be lightly scored too.
  2. Wash the fish thoroughly with water, then rinse it with the Chinese Cooking Wine to coat it. The idea is not to soak or marinate it in the wine.
  3. Slice ginger into fine strips and stuff them into the scores of the fish.
  4. Finely slice Spring Onions and break Parsley into segments. Leave aside.
  5. Heat up the wok and when the water is boiling, put the fish in to steam at high heat. A fish this size takes about 10 mins.
  6. At the meantime, pour Soya Sauce, Water, Olive Oil, and Sugar and bring to boil. This is the sauce.
  7. Remove the cooked fish and put it on a flat plate. Pour sauce over the fish and garnish with Spring Onions and Parsley.

Tip for steaming

Here’s a tip for steaming fish so that you get the nice butterfly form. If you just steam it on a flat plate, sometimes the fish meat gets stuck to the plate and disintegrates when you attempt to move it.

Now enjoy your Hong Kong-style Steamed Fish… while I look forward to the dinner aboard a traditional Chinese Junk in Hong Kong next week! Ha. :)

Countdown to Hong Kong : – 8 Days

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By Darren, July 15, 2010 8:06 pm
THE MEMORIES

Eight more days to go before the Hong Kong trip and I began thinking about where to go and what to do. So I went in search of photos of my previous trips there and I have one conclusion… some photos are better left forgotten!

My very first visit to Hong Kong was in 1988 with my family. When I was 14. When I thought it was cool to wear a cap with a stuffed tiger (I’m born in the year of the Tiger)! OMG… it’s super duper obiang! I threw the photo out after I scanned it.

Travel while ableThe canary that looks like Lei Heong Kum (a famous veteran Hong Kong actress) is my maternal grandmother. I am very close to her as she is the one who brought me up with lots of leng tong (directly translated as ‘beautiful soup’), love, and hand-holding.

But she suffered a stroke that left her paralysed more than 10 years ago. Subsequently, she suffered another stroke of the throat and she could no longer eat. She loves to eat. But now, she gets her fill from a tube through her nose and directly to her stomach. Life has lost its taste.

Unable to care for her constantly, she now lives in a nursing home and I’m so guilty for not visiting her often enough. Maybe because it rips my heart to see her lying there, waiting for ‘that’ time to come. It must be such a terrible feeling to have all your senses, but you can’t move and just lie there and watch the world go by. Day after day. Year after year. It’s like being entombed alive.

I teared slightly when I saw the pic. It was taken atop Victoria Peak, overlooking the urban skyline of Hong Kong. Hong Kong is probably the place she loved to go most because I don’t remember any other place that she talked about. When she could still talk.

So this trip, I would like to go to Victoria Peak again. To take a photo and show it to po po (grandmother). While she could still see. I don’t know if I can identify the exact spot (and I sure won’t do that exact pose!), but I’ll bring her back images of the place she loves.

Where 2 Next

Oh well, enough of all that emo stuff. I’m sure po po would be happy to know that I’m getting a FREE trip to Hong Kong! From previous trips there, I’ve been to Ocean Park, cruise past the iconic Jumbo Seafood Restaurant, and in 2008, to Lantau Island to see the huge Buddha statue. If you’re there, don’t miss the trail called the Path of Wisdom by the side of the temple. It is very scenic, expecially in the late afternoon as the sun begins to set.

I wonder where I should go this time round, but wherever that could be, I sure don’t want to bump into a tai tai like this…


That’s Lei Heong Kum by the way… :)

 

Countdown to Hong Kong : – 9 Days

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By Darren, July 14, 2010 11:45 pm

Hello! I’m Darren. Winner of Best Lifestyle Blog (Celebrate Life!) at the Singapore Blog Awards 2010.

As one of the prizes from the awards, all winners get to go on a 4D3N trip to Hong Kong and share our experiences on this very specially created blog site. To start sharing with you my encounters of the trip, I’m starting with a countdown to our departure on 23 Jul 2010.

In this series of ‘countdown posts’, I will share with you how I’m preparing myself for this exciting trip. So please join me on my exploration and ’see’ Hong Kong with me! Thank you… :D

And our journey begins with…

THE BRIEFING

Today, the 10 of us attended a briefing by representatives from the Hong Kong Tourism Board at SPH. This is the first time all of us met but somehow, they didn’t feel like strangers to me.

I guess that’s the side effect of having a blog. We sort of know each other before we know each other. I have a feeling this is going to be a trip like no other!

We’ve yet to receive the full itinerary but sounds like there’s going to be some serious fun getting to feel a side of Hong Kong by doing what the locals do. For me, that’s taking part in the International Media Race at the HK Dragon Boat Carnival on 24 Jul 10.

Dragon Boat Carnival 23-25 Jul 2010

Yup, I will be racing… In a bathtub! I can’t imagine what that would be like but I smell a Charlie Chaplin act coming. Hmm… Shall I bring my shampoo and sap boon along? I wonder who’s my partner in the tub. The future of Singapore’s bath culture is in our hands. Hope we will do Singapore proud!

There’re other special programmes being planned but they’re pending confirmation so I will share more once they’re confirmed. But I am starting to get quite excited because for one, I would like to see if this trip can change my perception of Hong Kong as a tourism spot.

I’ve been there 3 times in the past – as a teenager, in my 20s, and in November 2008. My first trip there, a huge misunderstanding happened between me and one of the girls. Our parents had to ’sit down’ and talk to settle it. The visit during my 20s wasn’t amusing and my last trip there, I lost my passport and wallet and was stuck there for 2 days before I could come home.

So you know how I feel about Hong Kong right? Will this 4th visit be jinxed, or will the Fragrant Harbour henceforth leave a lingering sweetness in my memory… ?

Team SBA2010

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