Fresh baked “Fong Bao” from the oven – 方包出爐

Random musings & meditations straight from the oven. Hopefully some food for thought as well…

Archive for Excursion – 方包走天崖

Going Through Hong Kong Withdrawal

It’s been almost a month since coming back from Hong Kong yet a part of me is still going through some sort of withdrawal. Interestingly, many people I know who went and came back as well shared the same sentiment.

If I were to summarize my trip it is one of “surprise”. Without the need to catch up on 18 years of progress and memories I was able to enjoy Hong Kong on my own terms and was struck by an unexpected appreciation for certain aspects of life there (relative to Vancouver): the efficiency of the transit system; the variety of dining and shopping options; the quality of museums (!); the cheaper prices, to name a few.

That being said, they are noticeable from a non-resident’s perspective. It is one thing to visit Hong Kong for pleasure, quite another when you have to live and work in the city. Let’s face it. I don’t think I can survive the hot, humid summers anymore, let alone the pace and demands of the work culture. So I’m very content to stay as a visitor.

There weren’t as many takeaways from this trip compared to the previous one but we were able to re-connect with our roots, something that’s becoming more important as we age. And in Pie Pie Lo’s case, some long lost friends. The re-connection and the reconciliation which followed were very encouraging and heartfelt and I’m very glad that it happened.

I also came to realize, in some ways, Hong Kongis like the old, forgotten cassette/CD/DVD/book/comics/whatever collection in my house. It’s there. Has been for a long time but is packed away in boxes somewhere in the garage/attic, neglected. At times, the thought of digging it out would cross my mind but rarely carry out. Yet when I do, I’m always surprised by what I find and the emotions that go along with it:  The joy of seeing old favorites; Giddiness over discovering the new or the never-knew-existed; Appreciation for the irreplaceable; Resignation over the loss of certain things and conditions; and disappointment of putting everything away once again. Hong Kong will always be full of these wonderful nuggets.

And if I have my way, it’d be nice to dig into them more frequently

This is what we live for

* = Lingo alert

Cheering and keeping up with your favorite sports team(s) while away on vacation is a neat experience. Last April, Pie Pie Lo* & I made a sojourn – with Little Drumstick* & family – toDisneylandduring the first round playoff series between the Canucks and the L.A. Kings. We couldn’t fit a game at theStaplesCenterinto our schedule but was quite happy the Canucks prevailed before we headed home. Interestingly, the decision was made to travel once again – this time toHong Kong– before the start of this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. With a +15-hour time difference, watching Canuck games live was not an option as there were things to do in the morning.

Thank goodness for technology – iPhone and Twitter in particular – as Pie Pie Lo and I kept up with all the joy back home after Vancouver took a 3-0 series lead against Chicago. It also became a topic of conversation when I met up with friends – who used to live inVancouver- as they were all excited about the prospects of a post season break thru. I wore my Kesler tee inHong Kongwith pride whenever the team played thus I didn’t feel as out of touch as I first thought. Like many, I honestly expected the series to be over long before the end of our vacation.

Of course, we now know what happened in games 4 and 5. While waiting to board our flight home, I could only think of two things: 1, It’s going to be hard switching back into work mode after a wonderful vacation, and 2, I actually get to watch game 6 upon my return. The flight touched down shortly after12pmand by the time Pie Pie Lo and I got out of YVR, our taxi had the Canucks “pre pre-game show” on the radio. It was fascinating to hear how ecstasy has turned into angst in the span of six days.

Game 6 was a very good game to watch but I found it hard to stay awake as jet lag was setting in. Funny enough, the Canucks scored every time I doused off. How I wished I had slept during overtime after the Blackhawks potted the winning goal to force a game 7. At that point, the frustration, negativity and self loathing Canuck fans have come to expect all surfaced: Our boys are on the verge of blowing a 3-0 series lead – after the greatest regular season (EVER) in team history, no less – against their playoff nemesis.

Inconceivable at first.

Yet a distinct possibility.

An unbearable thought, for sure.

My first day back at work was the day of game 7 and the tension in the city was palpable. You can hear it from the callers of sports-talk radio and you can see it on the faces of pedestrians – a lot of them in Canuck attire – walking the streets. Expectations of my work colleagues all varied but one thing was certain: No one has any idea how the game will turn out. It’s a massive contest that will either electrify or ripe the heart out of this town.

As much as I tried to relax and simply enjoy the thrills of a game 7, it was easier said than done. It’s foolish, I know, to think certain “gestures” have an effect on the outcome yet I found myself sitting a certain way and laying out the remote controls towards a certain direction, like I always do when my favorite teams play important games. As the night went on – with the Canucks clinging onto their slim 1-0 lead – I was practically frozen on my couch, fearing that any sudden movement would trigger something negative.

Despite the jet lag I was glued to the telly* as this game was eerily similar to the Olympic gold medal final in terms of intensity and drama. So when Alex Burrows scored the winner, I was finally able to exhale with a loud “YEAH” and a fist pump/wave. It felt great knowing: 1, The Canucks exorcised their playoff demons; 2, It was a much needed wake up call for the team; 3, The quest for 16 wins is alive & well and 4, No riot on Robson street.

But the best part?

I was so exhausted emotionally and physically that I slept through the night.

Isn’t that what we live for? A good night sleep after a Canuck victory?

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During my recent trip to Hong Kong I found this street in Wan Chai. Sadly there’s no 14 Burrows Street. After that OT winner, maybe the city should name a street after him.

Airline Food Memories

Airline food, for some reason, holds a strange appeal to me ever since I was a kid. Back in my youth in Hong Kong, our family would travel twice a year – usually long haul to Vancouver and the U.S.– and during those flights I always look forward to meal times with anticipation. Some of you may wonder: “Who in their right mind would eat, let alone clear a tray full of saucy, high sodium, overcooked of…whatever???”

That’s a valid question.

Back then it was a case of eating something I usually don’t get at home and without a point of reference I simply ate up what was offered.  It didn’t help that I liked my sauces so the beef tenderloin gravy often vanish without a trace. A flight attendant once marvelled at how clean my dish was.

The presentation – if I may call it that – also captured my imagination.

I liked how food of different shapes – cubed meat, potatoes in little spheres and various veggies in their unique likeness – are packed neatly inside a little ceramic dish. A principle I took heart when packing my pencil case for school.

That was my response then.

But as I stared into this latest tray of un-loved protein, carbs, etc, I came to realize that airline food was a reminder of those precious times when my family traveled, ate, spent extended time together. People often talked about how certain things invoke memories of their childhood. Who knew that airline food would be one of those for me.

The summer that was

Today was the second day of fall and in typical Vancouver fashion, it rained. Hard to believe the driest summer to date has slipped by rather quickly and quietly. Even though it wasn’t an eventful one, the summer of 2010 was sprinkled with some noteworthy happenings.

The start of July marked another season of the AIBC walking tours. Having enjoyed four of the six tours last year, Cdn Gooner and I were looking forward to the conclusion of the series. There is something to be said about being a tourist in your own city and thru these tours I’ve managed to learn and discover so much new facts and information about Vancouver even though I’ve spent 2/3 of my life here. Now the search begins for some new walking tours for next year.

From the world of food, I was fortunate to have sampled the offerings from the likes of Grub, Havana, La Taqueria, Bon Chaz, Deer Garden, Gyudonya, Kiriri and Dougie Dog. Not exactly household names but certainly little gems I would recommend to anyone looking for some new food options.

I did manage to squeeze in a few sessions of footy during and right after the World Cup. Conclusion: There is a reason why most athletes retired in their thirties. As well, I should count myself lucky that, knock on wood, I have yet to hurt myself playing sports of any kind.

Suffice to say I understand and appreciate the affinity a lot of Vancouverites have with Empire stadium even though it was before my time. That being said, I’m certainly not in a position to make any comparisons between the old Empire and the new (and temporary) Empire Field. Billed as a better, more intimate venue I was quite impressed with closeness to the field of play and the sight lines even though I sat in the end zone on two occasions.  Had the weather co-operated, I would have enjoyed the experience more but there was little to complain about.

This summer was also about reconnecting. Whether it was Anime A, an old high school buddy of mine who was in town for a short visit or Rubber Ducky, who moved back from Edmonton, we had a great time catching up and reminiscing about the good old days. I wished we had more time but was grateful for the time we had.

Lastly, some recent events have tested my faith in unexpected ways. It was a lesson on humbleness and patience as well as a reminder that I do need to let go and allow God to take control. Things happen for a reason and things happen in His time.

Black Friday – 黑色星期五

Over the summer I read a report that suggested this year’s Black Friday could be quite interesting due to the slow recovery of the U.S. retail sector. With that in mind, I decided a trip was in order. At first, Pie Pie Lo was not convinced but soon warmed up to the idea of crossing the border. That being said we were not crazy enough to be part of the midnight madness crowd.

So instead we left the house around 6:30am thinking there would be a long wait across the border. To our surprise, 20 minutes was all it took, with the help of the duty free store at the Truck crossing. The drive down south was a cautious one as the Washington state troopers were out in full force, taking advantage of all the bargain hunters speeding towards their destinations. At one point, we thought we got caught but to our relief the trooper decided to stop the car in front of us. Whew!

Once we arrived at our first stop, Pie Pie Lo and I methodically went to the stores on our list and looked for the things we wanted to get along with bargains that were too good to pass up. In all, we spent time at 4 places – Seattle Premium, Alderwood mall, Nordstrom Rack and Bellis Fair – and managed to achieve our objectives with a few pleasant surprises. Not bad for 14 hours of “work”.

*******

A few observations from this trip:

– Nordstrom Rack is AWESOME! (Even though I didn’t really buy anything there this time.)

– As much as I complain about the declining quality of Vancouver drivers, at least they still demonstrate a sense of courtesy, in most cases, toward other drivers. American drivers are a different breed. At one point while waiting to get out of the Nordstrom Rack parking lot, Pie Pie Lo and I were both shocked and amused to see how selfish some of our American friends were. Suffice to say that everyone could have gone out of the parking lot a little bit sooner if a little common sense was applied.

– What is it about Chinese food at the shopping malls and outlets? Every food court we went to, the longest queue is always the one for the Panda Expresses and the Man Chu Woks of the world. And it’s not just Caucasians. I saw African Americans, South Americans, East Indians, Filipinos, Koreans and CHINESES all lining up for sweet & sour pork and “chicken fried lice”. If Chinese food is not the most popular food in the world, I don’t know what is.

– For some reason Asians like to ask a lot of questions…….at the check out counter?!

– Make sure you have room in your vehicle before you purchase a big ticket item like a, ahem…., 56” TV?!

– Expect the unexpected.

– If you buy something at home, ask about and take advantage of the refund and exchange policy. It could come in handy in the future as well as saving you some money when you’re abroad.

– Oh, did I mention Nordstrom Rack is AWESOME?

Item du jour

A November walk-around in Vancity

Lest We ForgetFirst of all, a very belated salute to all the men and women who gave their lives to preserve our freedom and way of life. Without their sacrifices, a lot of us wouldn’t be here to show our appreciation. And I sincerely hope that young people today, those who never had a chance to talk to a relative who experienced the war first hand, will not overlook the importance of Remembrance Day.

*******

Very thankful that my manager has made an exception to accommodate my Olympic volunteer schedule. Originally I was entitled to only 3 days off during the month of February and one of them was already booked to attend a few hockey games on Feb 18. With 6 weekday shifts and only 2 day-offs left, I was given the go ahead to use 4 of my regular vacation days to fulfill my volunteer duties. That helps a lot when I don’t have to juggle my work commute and work hours with my volunteer schedule.

One of many flocks @ Minoru ParkSince I had this week off and mother nature was so kind to stop raining for a day, I thought it would be a good idea to figure out my commute to the Richmond Olympic Oval since a lot of streets in the area will be closed 24 hours with very little parking to speak off. Walking suddenly becomes an option since I don’t live that far away from the Oval. As it turned out, it took about 40 minutes to get there from my home, cutting through Minoru Park on the way. That’s not too bad. The other option would be to take the special shuttle bus between the Oval and the Brighouse Canada Line station, which is a 15 minute walk from my home. But with 4 shifts that start around 6 – 6:30am, walking might be the only option during those hours.

*******

All aboard

After the trip to the Oval, I walked another 15 minutes to Lansdowne, took the Canada Line to Waterfront station and hopped on the Seabus to have brunch at Lonsdale Quay in North Van. Star Ferry it is not but given it’s been so long since I crossed the Burrard Inlet this way, it all seemed novel again.

Lonsdale QuayFresh halibut chowder

It was still mostly cloudy late morning when I arrived at Lonsdale but by the time I finished my beaver tail and halibut chowder, the sun has broken through for the rest of the afternoon. A brief stroll around the Olympic store and Granville mall, it was time to head back south. Not to home but YVR instead.

The Olympic Store

The airport has done a lot of renovations in anticipation for the Olympics and I, for one, thought they’ve done a fabulous job. It definitely has the look of a proper international airport, something that cannot be said about the dump that is LAX. And with the Canada Line in place, YVR has been promoting itself as a place you can eat, shop and hang out. So I did the latter, if only for a brief time.

YVRDirections

The new observation deck – located in the domestic terminal that looks nothing like the one I spent time in just a year and a bit ago – was, surprisingly, a nice place to relax and enjoy some quite contemplation. Not a bad way to end my afternoon.

View from the observation deck

Item du jour

Here are the rest of my pics

Canada Line. It’s about time.

Canada LineSince the Canada Line opened 5 days ago, I’ve already ridden on it 3 times and will likely do so again in the next 7 days. Am I obsessed? I’ll leave it up for you to decide. I just think it’s about time we have rapid transit linking Richmond, Vancouver and the airport.

Opening day Monday was, understandably, a bit crazy. The mood was festive and most people, especially kids, were genuinely excited about riding the new train. The 3 hour excursion was all about excitement. Like many, I brought my camera with me and took a few shots. Here are some highlights.

(*=Lingo alert)

Opening Day PassportWhat prompted me to ride on Wednesday were the Opening Day Passport stamps. 11 of the 16 Canada Line stations offered a stamp for riders to collect. It was never my intention to acquire the full set even though I had my passport stamped at three of the stations back on opening day. But I had to run an errand around the Oakridge area and with 4 stations along the route back to the bakery*, I made the decision to get the passport stamped. Suddenly I was only 4 away from completing the collection. So that evening I made stops at Yaletown, Vancouver Centre, Bridgeport & YVR. Two hours and $2.50 later, it was mission accomplished. Even though the trip had a purpose, it was relaxing and I did get to enjoy the scenery a bit more with fewer people on the train.

Then on Friday, out of curiosity, I rode the Canada Line to work. Normally it takes about 40 to 45 minutes for me to drive. This trip was slightly over an hour with a train transfer and about 20 minutes of walking time factored in. It was an interesting ride but I’m not sure whether it was the fact that I baked* part of this loaf* while riding or the group of half naked yahoos, guys AND gals, who were standing and making noise a section behind me. (Seriously)

Old MTR TrainAt the end, it was about recapturing a feeling I haven’t experienced since commuting across Victoria harbour, between home and school, on the MTR in Hong Kong back in the mid 80’s: That I was part of the fabric of everyday life in the city as suppose to someone venturing out from suburbia to the city simply to get to work. It’s amazing how much you can miss while driving because you have to focus on the road. It is equally amazing how much you get to observe and to be able to feel the pulse of city while riding the train.

One Canada Line. Three distinct experiences. I think I’m liking this. A lot.

Item du jour