Thursday, November 26, 2015

Why do I travel?

Hey everyone!

Happy Thanksgiving and happy holidays!

I am finally restarting this blog because my new job allows me sufficient vacation days to travel and see the world. But not only will I talk about my excursions out, I will begin to discuss a variety of travel topics ranging from finding deals on airplanes and hotels, to doing "locals" activities in other countries, and more!

Today's topic: Why do I travel?

I think that a lot of cultural, religious and idealistic clashes throughout the world have everything to do with a lack of understanding of the "opposing side". One example off the top off my head is Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine who were attacked for depicting pictures of the Prophet Mohammed. If Charlie Hebdo completely understood the degree of blasphemy that these comics would become, they may have reconsidered their actions. The point I am trying to make with this example is that with a better degree of understanding for different races, cultures and ethnicity, we can be more sensitive, empathetic, and accepting of others leading to improved interactions between differing viewpoints.

I'm the type of person who loves to learn. The best way for me to learn about different cultures is by immersing myself in the local customs and interacting with many different people in the course of their day-to-day lives. I want to be able to generate a conversation with people of many different ethnicities and values by bringing in ideas from differing viewpoints and understandings.
With my travels, I want to explore the different cultures of the world, live a day in the shoes of the local people, and truly begin to understand the values and principles that drive people to continue to live their life every single day.

Why do you travel? Feel free to comment below or drop me an email

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Russian Restaurants and Ocean Park

I have been super busy as usual, so today is a *break* day and here I am writing in this blog. Firstly, I want to talk about crane games/ claw machines. Here in Hong Kong, most of them are two-pronged and not three-pronged claws so there is a lot more skill involved in these games. I like to challenge myself with them and I have gotten a few big prizes as rewards. However, there was one I just could not beat. Even though it is three-pronged, the ice cream was just too slippery!
Darn that slippery ice cream! =(

So after partying it up in LKF (Lan Kwai Fong) which is basically like the white "clubbing/drinking" district in Central, my cousin, two friends and I came back in the afternoon for some Russian eats.

My first groupon in Hong Kong!

The set menu consisted of a twelve course meal for four people, valued at over $1700 HKD. I ended up buying it for $599 and it was very much worth it!
Appetizers were:
Smoked duck with cranberry
Smoked Salmon with red caviar and sour cream
Pork jelly aspic
Grilled Aspargus

I forgot to take a picture of the ox-tail borscht but it was yummy!

Siberian Pork and beef Pelmenis (tasted more like dry wontons!)
Main entree:
US Sirloin Steak
Herb Marinated Spring Chicken
Baby Pork spare Ribs
Fish Fillet with green herb butter

All the meat was very good, moist and tender. The green herb butter saue was delicious but made me feel so fat for putting it on everything!

And the dessert platter came with some chocolate cake, a blueberry mousse and a graham cracker crumble! I can be so full but I always have room for dessert!

After we had our fill, we also made a visit to the Ice Bar located inside the restaurant.
My cousin sitting on a ice bench!
Supposedly the temeprature inside was -20 degrees Farenheit but I was ok from standing in there for a few minutes with just a t-shirt, shorts and flip flops!
So the Russian restaurant was a good experience but I want to try more ethnic food!

I ended up visiting Ocean Park with my friend. I have not been there since I was a little kid and I wanted to see all the attractions and animals! One of the sad things about the trip was that the cable cars (not like san francisco cable cars but like the airborne variety) were closed for yearly maintenance so no pictures of the aerial variety =(

Ocean park is very spread out so there was a LOT of walking involved and many tall escalators to boot. We ended up riding a few rides, all of the roller coasters and watching a dolphin and sea lion show! It was actually somewhat annoying to hear the stories three times (once in English, Cantonese and Mandarin) but necessary, nontheless.

But what I wanted to see most was the PANDAS!
That is definitely a REAL panda... a REALly big, fake panda! =)

But this one is real!
Yay for Pandas =)

And finally, I wanted to ttalk about these two foods that I tried and were very delicious.

Top: Durian!
Bottom: Mango

If you don't know what durian is, the outside looks like a vey spiky dark green watermelon! The inside is this soft and tasty fruit. However, to some people, the meat smells and tastes DISGUSTING, but to others, it is amazing, especially to me! =)

And this is how shaved ice looks like in Hong Kong:
Green Tea Ice Snowflake with chcolate syrup, red beans and lychee jelly.
Doesn't it look so much more appetizing! Yummy!

With all the food I have been stuffing down my throat, it is no wonder I feel fatter than usual.
Until next time =)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Update Update: More Hong Kong Fun

Sorry for the long time period in between posts: I have been out a lot these days, mostly visiting family and going out to Lan Kwai Fong and drinking. Haha!

So I went wakeboarding! If you don't know what that is, it is like water skiing but using a surfboard like thing. 

Wakeboarding is not as easy as it looks. I thought it would be very easy but in fact, I fell over four times before I could even stand up! And twice after I was able to stand up, I fell over just because I was nervous and/or didn't know what to do next. But by the end of the 30 minute session, I was able to ride for about one minute. And the feeling was amazing. Wind in my face, riding along the waves. You can see me wakeboarding HERE!!

Also, did I mention that it made my arms so sore!! It almost felt like when I went rock climbing for Pakpoom's birthday, except my fingers didn't hurt.
After the wakeboarding, my cousin realized that he had lost his keys, probably dropped them in the ocean! So when reinforcements came with spare keys, we decided to go explore a little bit. We wandered into a little Japanese store with a restaurant at the top. 

This was what we started the meal with: Kumquat Sake! It was actually pretty good, a little more sour than I would prefer, but manageable.

Next came the main course
Sashimi!! Om nom nom
The Sashimi was very fresh, at just the right temperature. The lemon added just the right amount of tart/flavor. I never had sashimi with lemon before but it was delightful.

And finally for dessert
It was basically like flan but sweeter and more "Asian"!! It was very good and we all had a good time.

My friend is fixing my ipod touch so I will make another blog entry soon with the pictures from there! Until then.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Let's go back to Hong Kong!!

Hong Kong at nighttime from MEGABOX
Sorry for the long delay. I've been very busy seeing many people I haven't seen in a while, and also visiting many family members.

So I have been on many adventures in the past few days after Macau. Let's start off with my day in Mongkok.

I decided to have a little ME time and wandered the streets of "ladies' market" in Mongkok. I picked up a few trinkets and card games (monopoly deal and cranium) on the cheap. I ended up striking a conversation in English with a person from Germany over price gauging. He was suspecting the people of raising the prices when they saw white people and I told them that this was truly possible. In the end, we worked out an arrangement where he basically *hired* me for an hour to help bargain for him and his family. So we wandered for about an hour, buying things from electronics to shirts. It was fun for me to haggle with the vendors while being able to speak English to someone! In the end, he treated me to some delicious street food and drinks, and gave me $100 HKD!

Fried pork "large intestine" OM-NOM-NOM

After this encounter, I found a place called "shopping mall" (how creative) and I walked up, surprised to find... AN ALL GUY'S SHOPPING CENTER! This was amazing to me, how every shop was dedicated to clothing for MEN. W0W unbelievable! Anyways, I spent a good two to three horus there and ended up buying two pairs of jeans, a few belts and a few shirts. I did see some other cool things in the store. There was this shop that sold 3-D t-shirts (shirts with 3-D images of Mario and other characters) but that store wasn't open and the pictures didn't show any 3D whatsoever. I did also see a shop that exclusively sold...

Figurines... made of folded paper!!
I watched the lady make them for a few minutes and it looked tedious! I did not envy her but the figures were gorgeous!

The next day was somewhat uneventful, but I did end up going with my friend to a video arcade that also had crane games! Including this one...
Ice cream crane machine!
I tried it like five times, not because I wanted any ice cream but I wanted to look PRO. But it wasn't meant to be, that ice cream was much too slippery! =(

The next day was a day full of new and interesting foods. For breakfast/lunch, my mom and I went to the "cooked food center" connected to the market to try some dumplings.
These may look like simple, regular dumplings to you but these were actually crack filled addiction dumplings... OK... maybe they were made of regular LAMB meat. But there was nothing regular about them. They were delicious! The wrap was just right, not too thick or pasty and they were cooked just right. The lamb meat was made with very little additional sauce added in, so that it preserved a lot of original lamb taste. The dumplins were so juicy and was packed with so much flavor! They were so good, my mom bought four dozen home for family! Did I mention it only cost $3.50 USD per dozen? =)

Later that night, my mom and I went to visit my aunt and cousin in Kwun Tong. We went to a mall called MEGABOX (the view from the top of the post is from there) and wandered around the shops. We walked up to the food court and tried a few items from each of the shops there.
Burgers! But not just any burgers, these burgers had buns made of rice! The first one was with "asian" pork and was very good, and we also tried the seafood one but it was only ok. But it was interesting to see how Asian people adapt and still put rice in every meal!
Secondly, we all had some
RAMEN! Living in Southern California for four years randomly gives me cravings for ramen so I went to grab some at the nearest store. It was actually very good, the soup base was very tasty, just the right amount of salt, with seafood and tempura rice on the side. I regret not telling them not to put bean sprouts in it but that is my own fault, not remembering bean sprouts come in these kinds of dishes in Asia.

My fingers are tired from all this typing so I am going to take a break and write about my wakeboarding adventures tomorrow! Until then! =)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Macau: The Vegas of Asia (Part 2)

After the meal, we stopped by the hotel to drop off our belongings. The view from the taxi was very scenic. Crossing one of the three bridges connecting either side of Macau led to this grand picture.

 Getting to the hotel, we decided on a quick swim at the pool before the nighttime show of a majestic performance of the House of Dancing Water. What can I say except refer to the picture below.

Just WOW!
The pool looked like something out of Hawaii or some kind of paradise. It had a beautiful waterfall, tall palm trees, abundant lawn chairs on which to sunbathe, and even its own water slide!

We spent two hours at the pool before getting ready to go to the show. We had VIP tickets in row 2, and when we sat down, were given towels to wipe ourselves off if and when we got wet during the performance!

Shazam, money tickets!

The show was very interesting but there was this weird part where they sort of time traveled and a dragon and motorcycles got involved, which was very...intriguing. After the grand performance, we went to an authentic Portuguese "diner" to grub out at 10:30 pm.

Words cannot begin to describe the food at this place. Judging from the outside, it did not look like anything special. The outer decorations were average at best, but sometimes the hole in the wall places are the ones that are indeed the best.

My mom's friend ordered for us and as I looked around, all the menu items on the walls had very distinct "names". It is hard to describe in English what I am referring to but the owner used very creative names for each and every one of his dishes. My favorite dish was this.

Curry chicken served in a bread bowl.

Unlike the soggy old bread bowls they serve at Boudin's in San Francisco, this crispy and scrumptuous bread bowl was filled with some of the best tasting curry I have ever had. I burned my mouth with every bite, ripping handfuls of bread that was still dripping with savory stew before it was all gone. My gosh, I would go back just for this place, just for this bread bowl.

Other notables:
Deep fried pork ribs: simply amazing, fried just crisp but not burnt, with just a light salt and pepper seasoning that was just right.
Cheese baked shrimp: the name in Chinese was very cute but I am unable to translate it properly into English.

The experience was just amazing and I will go there again anytime I visit Macau.

The next day, I went to more tourist-y attractions, stopping by this famous landmark.

The story of this church goes like this. There was a fire in the back of the church, where supposedly a candle had lit a curtain. The fire spread throughout the building and as people were rushing out of the building, parts of the church started to collapse. Eventually, the whole building collapsed...except for this. The whole front of the church stayed up, including the five statues of the five saints that the church was built for, and the cross that did not burn and stood erect on the roof. This was seen to be a miracle and tourists come here often hoping to have "miracles answered".

My last stop in Macau was to buy souviniers to bring back home, and what could possibly be better than...
Sweets! Almond cookies, sesame candy, "grandma" cakes, and so many more things to choose from. We ended up buying almsot twenty boxes of goods to bring back to Hong Kong and some back to San Francisco.

So the Macau trip was a total success (besides the fact that I lost money gambling, but it happens to the best of us =P ). I wouldn't mind visiting again but for now, I ahave a lot more exploring to do in Hong Kong. Until next episode =)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Macau: The Vegas of Asia (Part 1)

     Macau is a fascinating place. On the ride to the airport, the taxi driver explained to us that Macau was the last stop for most people vacationing in Asia. Why? Because people who go to Macau leave for home with ridiculously bulging pockets, or leave with absolutely nothing.
     A short history of Macau. It was taken from China by the Portuguese and only just recently was it given back to China in 1999. It has a unique population mix of Portuguese, Cantonese and Mandarin speaking, as well as some Spanish influences.

    The ferry ride to Macau was smooth and quick. Supposedly it was a 75 minute ride but between doing magic tricks for everyone and talking about good eats, the time flew by. Our first stop: the Kitchen.

   My mom's friend owns the place so we decided to stop by. The food was pretty darn good but it wasn't really the type to fill you up. I would compare it to appetizers or sample sized plates, especially for the eleven people that we brought into the restaurant! But most everything that we ordered was very good, with a strong fusion of Chinese and Portuguese cuisine.

                                  Salmon Skin Salad w/ Garlic Bread and "Homemade" Thousand Island

This was one of my favorite dishes and one of the best pictures that turned out!

Other notable dishes:
Portuguese bun --> light and crisp bread, baked only six at a time to ensure all the bread is cooked properly.
Salt and Pepper fish skin --> fried just the right amount with just enough kick
Parmesean Eggplant --> the light tomato sauce gave the juicy eggplant a great amount of flavor.

                                  Lychee "Wonderland" (Fresh Lychee, milk, Sprite and Lemon juice)

     It sounded too interesting to pass up and I'm glad I ordered it! The bill came out to over $1000 HKD (divide by 8 to convert to USD) but the kind sir gave us free drinks and dessert!

So I am out of time at the hotel wi-fi so I will make part 2 tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Breaking Down the Central American Nationals

So the first WCQ has been finished, and the top 32 results are less than surprising.

16 Tengu Variants
4 six Samurai
2 gravekeeper's
2 x-sabers
2 gladiator beast
2 scraps
1 t.g.
1 fabled
1 light gemini
1 worms

As I have already talked about this trend before, tengu variants are trending very high, while gravekeeper's and x-sabers are also trending very low. What is surprising to me is that I feel like six samurai was underrepresented in this top 32, with spots being stolen with decks like gladiator beasts. Of course a few "rogue" decks will make it into top 32 and in this case only 8 "rogue decks"  (2 GB, 2 scrap, 1 t.g., 1 fabled, 1 light gemini and 1 worm). As we get further into hyper librarian's legality date, more and more players will be running plants and samurai and that should be what we are expecting at nationals in three weeks.