Ladies what lunch

I had such a divine Sunday that I just had to tell you all about.  We had tea at The Pen dah-lings.  What, you say?  Well, we took high tea at The Peninsula Hotel, a traditional colonial staple.

I was pretty excited about going because it is pretty infamous over here.  In the book I recently read, Gweilo – a memoir from a young ex-pat in Hong Kong , it was frequently mentioned and I had no idea it still existed until we looked into going for afternoon tea.  We did have to queue for an hour but you know it was worth it, the food and tea were divine.  It was so quintessentially English and it was so romantic taking tea in such a grand old building – I haven’t had anything quite so reminiscent of old England since our arrival four months ago.

We followed up our classy activity with ice-skating.  I have to admit, I am a pretty piss-poor skater at the best of times, and this rink was riddled with pot holes which did not help my plight in the slightest!  Nonetheless, a lot of fun was had, and we all went home pretty worn out.

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Last day as a tai tai

So I guess the reason I have been writing less frequently is because I have been busying my days with internships part time jobs etc.  Last Friday was actually my last official day as a tai tai (I’d handed in my notice at Time Out and part time job for corporate world job – eeek – more on that in the coming weeks) and so I thought I’d best make the most of my last day of freedom.  So despite weather warnings I thought i’d head to Tai O, a small fishing village on Lantau Island I’d been desperate to visit since our arrival.

It was actually a much longer journey than I anticipated.  Firstly, I had to get a bus into central HK, followed by a picturesque boat ride from the island over to Mui Wo, Lantau which took around an hour.  Maybe picturesque isn’t quite right because of all the shipping vessels you see (and get very scared of when it appears like you are almost about to crash into them), but the views of the skyline on the Island are something else.  Anyway, from Mui Wo I took the bus to Tai O which again was probably about another hour. So you can imagine I was pretty pleased to arrive when what should happen?  But the heavens opened big time and I spent twenty minutes sheltering under a make shift tarpaulin from the storm until it was safe enough to wander with an umbrella.

(you can’t really see the extent of the storm in this pic – dammit)

It doesn’t take very long to explore this little village at all.  An old fishing village, there used to be a much larger community in comparison to those that remain today.  This quaint place used to house 20,000 people and was the most prosperous port of the River Delta.  Salt production was also a major source of industry right up until the 50s.  Despite the depopulation and increase in tourism, it still has a rustic charm and very much feels like the original ‘real deal’.  Dried seafood markets line the roads, villagers sit out in the square – catching up on the daily gossip and local food dominates the streets.

A great way to have an explore is to take a water tour around the coastline at just $25.  The ‘tour’ (really just a boat ride) takes you along the coastline – a great way to see the stilt homes and if you are lucky you can catch a glimpse of Hong Kong’s Chinese White Dolphins.  That day I wasn’t so lucky, but I’m told you can pay a bit more and head further out to sea on special dolphin watching trips.  Might do that next time!

I had a wander around the markets and snuck a peak at the local temple.  Lots of restaurants were shut, and I would imagine that they only open at the weekend when there are more visitors.  I did manage to find a cute little teahouse called Solo, where I treated myself to an iced ginger tea, whilst reading my book.

I think if the weather had been a bit better I could have combined the trip with a bit of seaside action – I noticed a lot of beaches on the way over to Tai O which on a brighter day I’d certainly be stopping at.  I’d love to come back with Joe and generally spend a bit more time in the area, maybe even do an overnight and some hiking up to the monastery.

Finally, I thought i’d leave you with a couple of comical scenes I spotted on my travels…

A little catch up.

As usual I have continued to be pretty slack writing things up.  I’ve just been really busy the past few weeks.  Alongside my part time job I’m also doing I guess what you’d call an unpaid internship (god I feel 18 again) at Time Out Hong Kong.  It’s pretty good actually, minus the no pay situation.  The people are nice and I’ve been writing articles on things I possibly wouldn’t have had a go at – reviewing music for one.  Yes, I reviewed something and it wasn’t the usual 80s cheese that I blast out in the house.
This all means that I’ve been working a FIVE DAY week again.  What is that about?  How do people do a full week, I know I used to but I’ve completely forgotten how to function and do the little things outside work and partying (don’t worry guys I’m still getting my twice weekly minimum sessions in).  When did I have time to clean for example?  Or cook?  There have been many a takeaway going on and no time to work them off!

(irrelevant but a photo I wanted to share)

Also, I do feel as though a lot of my most recent extra-curricular activities are mainly drunken and so do not really require much reportage.  Girl goes out with new friends, drinks a lot in a variety of nice bars (I hasten to add that nice bars are normally the case apart from the few cheeky outings to Wan Chai or LKF), goes home late, wakes up next day in agony and vowing to not drink that much again.  Not hugely exciting.

Or if it isn’t drinking there is always food involved and I don’t really know how interesting that is for you to read about really – I mean there are enough food blogs/photos about without me adding my two pence worth too.

(Awesome chicken yakitori restaurant om nom)

But one thing I will tell you about is a cool night market I’ve visited.  It is happening over the weekends at a new shopping centre called PMQ.  In Hong Kong PMQ stands for the Police Married Quarters, not Prime Ministers Questions), and you guessed it, used to house the families of those working in the force.  The building has been renovated and it is going to house a variety of boutique shops (thanking whoever I need to here that it isn’t yet more luxury designer goods – there’s enough of that in HK as is), artist studios and restaurants.  Not everything is open yet but in the meantime they’ve organised a weekend night market in the courtyard area which is brilliant.   There’s live music, food, drink and pop up stalls selling lovely trinkets, clothing and great design pieces.

Gallery

A few pictures from our visit to the 101 building.  This place used to be the tallest building in the world until 2010 when the Burj Khalida building in Dubai was opened.   Sadly the it wasn’t a very clear day so we didn’t get the best view, I guess that’s what happens sometimes, you win some you lose some.  

Oh by the way.  The damper baby character is based on the tuned mass damper in the building.  The bit of the building that sways to offset movement in the building when there is particularly bad weather.  It is the biggest in the world and weights 660 tons!  Pretty huge, and you can even take a peak at it.

Easter in Taipei – all about the food!

Another overdue post, and one that is going to be pretty long…  So maybe I’d suggest grabbing a cuppa before sitting down to it.  I’ve got four days in Taipei to write up for Pete’s sake!  So because there is generally so much to talk about I though I’d put up some posts in different chapters I guess?  So this one is all about the eats.  I thought I’d start with the grub seeing as it is one of biggest loves, and because I’m sitting here feeling a tad peckish.  It might spur me to leave the sofa in search of dinner…

So we did the whole air bnb thing and managed to bag ourselves a cute little studio for a very small amount of money.  We stayed in the Da’an District, and right where we were was really close to the university.  Which meant there was an array of cool coffee shops, places to eat and shop. 

The food on offer here was amazing, and so cheap if you are going for street eats.  I’m going to give you a run down of some of the places we went to because they were out of this world!

One of the best places we ate at was this little shop called Lantern Soy Sauce Braised Food at the end of Shida Night Market.  You basically pick up a plastic basket and choose lots of different veg, meat and fish that you want with you noodles and they cook there and then right in front of you.  They basically boiled it in a really tasty stock and then when its done they whack it in a bag and you just eat out of it right there and then with your chop sticks – delicious! 

It would be rude not to mention Din Tai Fung, basically the most infamous restaurant in Taipei.  There are branches in HK that we haven’t visited, but I plan on returning there after the culinary delights that were on offer!  The queues outside were crazy, everyone gets given a ticket and told the time they have to return.  Reason for the popularity –  this place has a Michelin Star and creates the most delicate and beautiful dumplings I have ever eaten.  There is a special way of eating the soup dumplings.  You take them out the bamboo steamer they arrive in and drop them onto your spoon.  Prior to this you will have put together almost like a dressing sauce into the spoon – two parts vinegar and one part soy with some shredded bits of ginger.  Now then there is debate what to do next, the shop recommends that you poke a hole into the soup dumpling to let the liquid surrounding the meat out, slurp the soup up in the spoon and then eat the dumpling.  However I have heard via the Fresh Off the boat vice series that “only hooligans poke a hole” and that you should just let the dumpling cool down in the mixture and then eat it.  Either way, it’s like eating little parcels of heaven!

Third on the list has to be the lovely meal we had at James Kitchen.  Despite the very western sounding name, we ate lots of beautiful local dishes.  It wasn’t dim sum but the way we ordered things on the menu it ended up a bit like tapas!  The best dish by far though was the bamboo shoots, which I have never eaten in this form before.  I think prior to this tasting the only bamboo shoots I’d eaten was the yellow rectangles in Chinese takeaway!

Breakfast each morning was supplied by the local bao hatch on the way to the MRT (MTR/tube whatever you want).  some of you might not know what a bao is.  Basically it is a Chinese steamed bun made with yeast and normally inside there is a filling of some sort, most typical is that of pork and herbs.  They are pretty big and filling, but somehow it doesn’t sit heavy in your tummy like normal takeaways!  So think like the local, lighter version of a Cornish Pasty!  I ate a spring onion bao which was just the dough wrapped up without a filling, instead the spring onion was kind of dotted into the dough, like a speciality bread roll!  Joe was loving the red bean paste bun which is actually sweet and not at all like a kidney bean, honest.  Maybe that would be like the pain au chocolate…

Finally, the best place to taste the tastiest local foods are any of the array of night markets in the city.  We ended up heading to the Raohe location as we’d read this had the best food stalls on offer!  I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t go to Shilin to buy penis waffles (yes really), but as Joe rightly pointed out we should head to the places that are about quality over gimmicks!!  My eyes were seriously bigger than my belly when we got here – I wanted to eat everything.  There was so much more on offer than we could physically eat so in the end we opted for freshly fried squid, Taiwanese style fried chicken and this gorgeous vegetarian huge dumpling.  It doesn’t sound like a lot I guess but it was really filling!  I was glad we arrived when we did though because the place soon got rammed, which meant that the only way to get around was in a conga like queue that shuffled through the little lanes.  No dancing though. 

One thing that was rather unpleasant was the smell of stinky tofu.  Have you ever smelt smelly tofu?  Oh my god it is the most horrible smell, well to me.  I can’t even describe it but it smells almost like vegetable death.  I honestly had to hold my breath when we were going past it because it did make me gag!!  To be fair, I didn’t try it so it could be really delicious.  Maybe if we return I’ll be brave enough to give it a go.