The Week of Netball & Chocolate

Time to have a quick round up of what I’ve been doing with myself the past few weeks.  Firstly, I have been playing a lot of netball.  A LOT!  So much so that my injuries are starting to hurt again which is not cool, but what is cool is that we are top of the league huzzah.  Mighty Eagles (yes that is our name!) have soared to the top of Division 4!  We’ve one game left to go before we reach the play offs and figure out if we’re going up a league.  Truth be told, I’d be scared of moving up, I’d worry we’d lose every match whereas this season (sorry to brag) we’ve won practically everyone…

I’ve really enjoyed joining a club and making new friends in Hong Kong.  As you all know, I’ve tried joining other things and never really stuck at it, the gym, yoga, crossfit (more out of cost concerns), learning mandarin and dragon boating to name just a few (!).  But what is great about this netball club is that I’m not forced to practice every week and play a match.  It is all pretty casual, and the team is made up of a mixed bunch of ladies of different ages, background etc. I say casual, but lets face it, the team is pretty competitive on and off court!  We lost last week, and although I said I didn’t care at the time, I really bloody do and if we play that team again there is going to 110% effort going in.  They’ll get what they dished out back, ha.  No hard feelings post match, honest!

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The full team minus Tara!

I just hope my injuries don’t return so I can continue playing – last season’s calf tear and sprained ankle combo was, to put it mildly, a bit of bitch.  So here’s celebrating something in my social life that wasn’t just a fad, ha, and I really hope the team are all on board for next year.  Particularly looking forward to getting some new uniforms potentially, because lets just say after two years of hardcore playing, mine has seen better days!

Second highlight of the week was visiting the Hello Kitty cafe in Austin.  Ah, Kitty, how much I do love thee, especially, when you are serving chocolate custard buns in the shape of you dressed up as a monkey.  Delicious.  To be fair, there wasn’t an awful lot I could eat now I’ve given up meat but those buns, and some fried silky tofu were top notch.  I also ate the shrimp dumplings too, which were very pretty although a little bland.  Nothing a bit of chilli couldn’t fix though!  The decor is all Hello Kitty-tastic too – chairs, tables, cutlery everything has her face on it.  At the end of the meal you earn ‘stamps’ which you can then go and shop with in the souvenir shop next door.  Five ladies of a certain age who were eating there that night (ahem) rather enjoyed purchasing Hello Kitty shot glasses and magnets!  Basically, whoever happens to be visiting me and the ‘Kong next, you will be taken here for date night whether you like it or not.  An unmissable local attraction I would say, and why the hell hadn’t I been there before (well I do know why the crazy queues when it first opened)?  I’m expecting to get a few more of these themed cafe kicks when we head to Japan for Easter.

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One final item of note for the week was date night last Saturday.  There’s a new dessert place that has opened literally across the road from us in Shek Tong Tsui called COBO HOUSE.  Not like the l0cal sweet shops, this is an upmarket Italian joint.

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When we moved into the area I never expected to associate the word upmarket with any of our local shops but here we are two years down the line.  Since the MTR opening things have been changing in the ‘hood.  I was actually surprised at the prices, a fancy dessert dish costs around HKD100, and a glass of wine around HKD70.  I was even more surprised to find out that this place is owned by a renowned award winning pastry chef in Singapore, Janice Wong, and that it is her first restaurant in HK.  Highly recommend going to visit, there is an outdoor seating area which in the evening is perfect for watching the world go buy, with chocolate and other sweet delights on hand of course.

Looks like it was a good job I played all that netball this week hey?!

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Back Home?

Been off the map again for a couple weeks having a really wonderful and overdue trip back ‘home’ to the UK.  I really enjoyed being in blighty, relaxing with family, catching up with friends and all the usual shenanigans.  It’s true what a lot of expats say though, it’s difficult to figure out where you really feel at home after your time away.  And anyway, what really is home?  And if you lived in what feels like your home again would it even be the same?  Probably not.  Well yes, but in a different way.

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The Malatesta Posse

Whilst I was back in the UK I was in love with the idea of finishing up our time in HK asap.  When we spent a long weekend in London I thought about what it would be like to return to our flat in Islington.  Beautiful was the first thought – I marveled at the variety of architecture, the different crowds of people on the streets and yearned to be cycling around it all once again. Expensive was the second thought.  I still have no idea how much I spent, but it was certainly a pretty penny.  How do people get by?  Well they don’t always I know…

I was also surprised at just how on edge I was wandering around.  I take for it for granted in Hong Kong how safe I feel.  I don’t have to clutch my bag tight against me whilst wandering around in HK, I don’t fear the walk from the tube station back to my house in the dark and I hardly ever witness any aggressive behaviour that can put you on red alert during a night out.   London is without a doubt, a really fun place to be, but I’m not sure how quickly I would be able to settle back in there and would it feel like going backwards in time, not having moved forward?  Would we miss the excitement of living abroad?  Where would all our old friends be – still around, or moving onto different stages of their lives?  Questions that you can’t really answer until you make the move.

So then we started thinking, what about returning to the UK but not living in London.  Remaining close to family and friends in Coventry, but within commuting distance to he bright lights of the Big Smoke?  I guess as you get older and think about the future it’s nice to have your original home comforts close at hand.  I did really enjoy going back to Coventry (honestly its not as bad as people make out!), the city has had quite a lot of investment over the past few years owing to the growing popularity of the universities there.  But I was only there for just over a week, in holiday mode, beaming with the joy of being back in my old stomping ground and the simplicity of everything.  The great thing about being in my home town was the people, and being so close to London and other places we enjoy spending time in.  Could I live in Cov, or close by long-term?  I think I could for awhile but, we would at some point, inevitably get itchy feet and feel like trying something new and different once again.

Then to Hong Kong.  Why did I feel such dread about returning?  Our life here is so good in many respects – we get to go on amazing holidays, have good jobs, lots of good friends and an excellent social life.  Within about 48 hours of being back I remembered the value of all that, and was actually quite glad we hadn’t made some romantic hasty decision to stay before boarding our flight home. I am really happy here, I just wish that the UK wasn’t an expensive and long 12 hours plus flight away.  But then, if it was it probably wouldn’t be the same.

And what I think I’ve learned, or what I’m trying to say is (in some sort of rambling way), that my home isn’t about the place, but the people.  So I don’t think I will ever see HK as my actual ‘home’, because some of my nearest and dearest are just so far away.  But Hong Kong has a very special place in my heart, and is for now, my adopted home for the foreseeable future.  And who knows where we’ll be in five years time?  I like not knowing, it makes life a bit more unexpected 🙂

 

 

The Obligatory New Year’s Post – in books!

It would be weird to somehow ignore the fact that it is January and everyone is talking about New Year’s resolutions.  As per usual I have the classic resolutions down pat – visit the gym more, eat healthily and generally be less of a drunken lazy ass and be more motivated to do things (notice the blog posts popping up?!).

But I’d also really like to read some good books this year.  So here’s a list of the books I’m hoping to get round to devouring in 2016.

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My humble bookcase – in my defense I left most my books in the UK and i give a lot of them away!

The Pillow Book, by Sei Shonagon – I’m starting a bit heavy here!  This is a reflection of Japanese court life.  Why is it on the list?  Because it was quoted a lot in a book I read this year that I adored.  Will let you know if it’s a bit too heavy!

The Island, by Victoria Hislop – I read The Thread some years back which was a bit nostalgic for me as it was set in Thessaloniki where I spent a year at uni.  I’ve heard Victoria’s first novel is just as wonderful, and I’m hoping it’ll get me with a bit of Greek nostalgia once again.

The Year of the Runaways, by Sunjeev Sahota – Thought this might be a rather relevant read following the mass forced emigration of Syrian citizens.

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, by Salman Rushdie – Having read and adored Midnight’s Children and Shalimar the Clown I thought I’d best give Salman’s new novel a shot.

The Seed Collectors, by Scarlett Thomas – Not sure exactly what I’m attracted to in this – perhaps the lure of celebrity and a nice story?  Or that’s what I’m hoping!

The Green Road, by Anne Enright – A reflection of childhood memories the story sees siblings return for a last Christmas at their childhood home which their mother is selling.  This year we have made the decision to sell the family flats in Athens which is why this might be poignant.

The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion – This one has been recommended by my lovely mum as an easy can’t put down read.  Nuff said.

Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe – It’s letters, from the 80s.  Two of my things I am rather fond of, high hopes for this little gem.

Traveller’s Year, by Travis Elborough – Okay another letters book but I’m finishing on this one now i promise.  Seeing as these past few years are all about travels it might be good to see where some started.  It also got me thinking, I wonder if I should collate all the postcards I’ve sent to mum and nan?!

And there’s a few on the new releases list that are catching my roving eye – in particular Half a Lifelong Romance by Eileen Chan and Blackass by A. Igoni Barett.

The Best of 2015

If you’re looking for reading inspo, my three favourites from 2015 were:

My Year of Meats, by Ruth Ozeki – One of my favourite authors who has inspired by to read The Pillow Book (above).  This was the book that first got me thinking about not eating meat, but I promise this isn’t a veggie ranting cause book!  It documents a TV producer’s year working on a series about meat and recipes in the US.

Survival in the Killing Fields, by Haing Ngor with Roger Warner A tough but very important read.  I was inspired to read this after visiting Cambodia, and it is truly harrowing.  I cannot even begin to comprehend what Ngor and so many others went through.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skoot – A book that talks sciences, yes science, that I loved!  This is the story of the lady whose cells have been used to make numerous medical breakthroughs.

What are you going to be reading in 2016 and do you have any recommendations to add to my list?

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.

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.

I’m on a (junk) boat!

So yesterday we went on our first junk boat party, and it couldn’t have been a more beautiful sunny day.  This is definitely my new favourite treat and fun thing to do in Hong Kong.  NOTE TO ANYONE COMING TO VISIT:  You will be doing this with us at some point not just because you’ll have fun but because I can use you as my excuse to indulge.  Admittedly it was rather drunken, but not too crazy that I didn’t have time to also drink in the beautiful landscapes and deep blue sea.

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All in all there were around twenty of us aboard the boat.  We’d each paid around $600 which is just over forty five quid, and considering everything included in the day trip, was a pretty good price – a manned boat for seven hours, a free flow of drinks (not just beer and soft drink people – GIN!!) and a delicious seafood lunch.  Perfect.

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We set off from the pier in Aberdeen (yes Aberdeen – I haven’t absconded to Scotland) at around 10:30am.  This had been quite an effort to get up in time and get there, truth be told.  I was still recovering from this horrific virus I had, as was Joe, and waking up at 8am-ish on Saturday didn’t at the time seem like the most fun way to start the weekend.  But it was worth it.  The boat sailed out of the port past this huge and very famous floating restaurant called Jumbo.  The sheer size of this place floating on the water!  Take the most grotesque house boats in say Chelsea Embankment and times the size by like twenty and maybe add a harsh dose of shabby chic (well maybe not chic – shabby rustic?!) and you have the Jumbo.  I’m told that the food there is really great and that it should be on our “to at list”.  So one day I’ll return – from the front.  We sailed out and past HK Island south side –Repulse Bay and Stanley in the distance. 

We headed straight to Po Toi, a cluster of islands of the same name.  They are also the most southerly point of Hong Kong.  We stopped in the cove just outside the main public pier and the high jinx began…  Anchor down, music playing, sipping ice cold beers and soaking up the sun on the deck, a little taster of what was to be the most perfect day. 

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Lunch was early and we ended up evacuating the boat at around about midday.  We walked on a small trail to the most gorgeous seafood restaurant called Ming Kee.  A collection of old buildings at the back of a very modest beach, huge round tables of delicacies waited for us.  We ate fresh prawns, fried squid, clams, scallops and beautifully steamed white fish.  I couldn’t get enough, in fact when everyone was heading back to the boat I was racing myself to eat as much as I could before the boat sailed off again!  Delicious.  Guys, you know I could eat for England and Greece.

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Once we were back on the boat, actually I haven’t mentioned the name of our boat have I?  It was called Colonsay, which is a bit of a strange name.  Obviously I just think of colons, which doesn’t quite go with the paradise and beauty I was seeing!!  But since having a quick google I’ve found out it is the name of a Scottish Island near Mull, off the west coast.  The name derives from Norse and apparently means Columba’s Island.  So there you go.  Nothing to do with poo.  At all.  And there was no poo to be seen.

I digress!  We headed to the other side on the island and anchored the boat in another beautiful little cove.  I was surprised that we were only one of two junk boats that had docked there – seeing as we’d spotted plenty more on our travels, especially when at the seafood restaurant.  We spent the rest of the day lounging on the boat, drinking chatting and having a lot of fun. 

Lots of people were diving off the top deck into the sea, which I did kind of want to do but I’m too much of a wuss.  Also since I’ve been here, after my initial weight loss there has been a slight weight gain, which means that the only bikinis I brought with me are a tad too small.  It was bad enough I was wearing a bikini in front of a bunch of new people I hardly knew, I was not about to lose part of it in the sea in front of them!!  Can I just take a moment to say how much I was freaking out about getting my pasty wobbly bits out?  All week I kept thinking that I’d have time to buy a one piece that fit but I just didn’t have the time and in the end braved the whole, I’m wearing a bikini that’s too small and could potentially go see through because it is old in front of new people.

So I opted for the delicate dive off the back of the boat instead (note I still had to ‘readjust’ under the cover of the sea!).  Sea was delish, it was cold but not as devastatingly cold as the other times we’ve have sauntered to the beach.  I decided to swim ashore to the secluded beach we could see from the boat, I was just thinking about how I could’ve done with taking some drink along with me when Natalie and Sarah parked on the shore alongside me in a kayak, with a few beverages to enjoy!  Get in.

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And that my dears, is how most of the day played out.  Apparently there are lots of walks you can take on the island, and that there are a lot of strangely names rock formations along to way, Bhudda Hand Rock being one example.  So maybe next time we’ll go for a bit of a walk instead of just drinking, sunning and partying.  Oh and a bit of swimming – don’t want it to sound like I was totally lazy.

I had such a great time.  Sometimes I struggle with everyday life here in Hong Kong, not because it is hard but it isn’t easy just fitting in and having the same things around that you’ve been used to your whole life.  Having good company is so important, and being able to socialise with a fun bunch of like-minded people raises my mood so much.  It makes the other things I worry about not seem as important somehow and cancels it out.  I guess it comes down to me being quite a sociable person and generally not being very good on my own!  But on Saturday I was really grateful not just for the trip and the opportunity to see some more of Hong Kong but also to just be, and hang out with new friends.  If there can always be an element of this I can definitely continue to be pretty happy here!