A Travellerspoint blog

Foodcation

overcast 82 °F

The title is a term Elysia and I came up with to embody our weekend adventures in Singapore. It's a pretty self-explanatory portmanteau, but I'll describe the weekend in detail to help clear things up.

So I fly into the Singapore airport on Friday, and upon meeting Elysia and exchanging hugs, a box of Martabak (pronunciation: Mar-ta-bak) is thrust into my hands with the loving command, "Here." I couldn't have been happier. For those of you uneducated in the cuisines of Southeast Asia, Martabak is a sweet Indonesian snack that is basically two pancakes with chocolate and cheese in the middle. And by George, is it delicious! Apparently pounds of butter are used on the pancakes and gobs of cheese and chocolate are sprinkled in the center, then baked. According to Elysia, it is better warm, but I had no problem topping off a layer of the supposedly inferior room-temperature Martabak. We were off to a great start.

After dropping our things off at her house, we make our way to Orchard Road, which is the beating heart of Sinapore. It is a string of mall after mall after mall that in some instances, does not require you to see the light of day, if you choose. We zeroed in on the food courts and devoured some Asparagus-filled Pork washed down by some Teck Kee Pau (pronunciation: Teck-Kee-Pau), which is basically a barbecue pork-filled bun. Still not quite full yet. From there we made a beeline for a supposedly delicious tiramisu at the Hyatt Hotel. Alas, I was never to know the wonder of this famed tiramisu as it was not available. We had to settle for Strawberry Cheese Cake and Chocolate Cake. I will accept your pity for us at this juncture.

Later that day, we met up with Elysia's mom and went to a Northern Chinese cuisine restaurant, where we ordered Jia Jiang Mian (noodles), Jiaozi (dumplings), Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings) and Baicai (vegetables). It was like going to a gym for your stomach. My digestive tract has never faced such a challenge nor had this intense of workout since I've been in Hong Kong, though I fortunately warmed-up well enough that I didn't cramp. I did, however, hit a wall after finishing my noodles, veggies, and my 23rd dumpling. That being said, dinner had satiated (what is with these big words?) my food appetite, but my sweet tooth was roaring for some action. We made our way back to Orchard Road, (walking, so as to be able to fit into our clothes the next day) and helped ourselves...ok, ok, ok helped MYself to Frozen Yogurt and a heaping pile of Mango Snow Ice. This would be my final spectacle of the day.

After making it back in a coherent state of mind and lasting long enough to make it to the bed before entering my food coma, we started off the day early (9am) with a classic Singapore breakfast of Toast covered in Peanut Butter, Coffee, two Soft-Boiled Eggs and a slice of Banana Cake. We then proceeded to purchase tropical fruits that are hard to come by in America like Dukus (pronunciation: Du-kus), Passion Fruit (pronunciation: Pa-ssion-Fruit), and Mangosteens (pronunciation: Man-go-steen-s). As it turns out, all 3 have either a high staining capacity or high in sap quantity, but by some stroke of Providence I was able to pass by unscathed. Ben vs. Spilling on Self--1:236. Baby steps, baby steps. We later had the famed Singaporean Chicken Rice with cool Soymilk, and after meeting up with Elysia's sister, began the most excruciating and most pleasing leg of my Singaporean Foodcation.

We got Cream Puffs, Mochi, Rice Burgers, Popcorn, Thai Food, Carrot Cake (not the kind you're thinking of), and other foods that I know we had but am currently forgetting. It was a most glorious and concurrently exhausting afternoon. I've never been that full, happy, and tired at the same time for such a prolonged period of time. It certainly was a unique experience, and a type of vacation that I'm going to have to look into seeking out while I'm in America. Gone are the days of vacations or stay-cations, trips in order to sight-see or just straight-up travel. No, for me, I will only vacation on vacations centered around food. Yes--the Foodcation. Events planned will be according to breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with any side outings revolving around snacks. Midnight munching is required and the less amount of physical mobility the better. While not necessarily healthy or smart--oh who am I kidding?! It's practically the best thing you can do for yourself. Therapy by food. Or is it food by therapy? Does it really matter? As long as there is food, and vast amounts of it, it can't get any better than that.

Quite literally still processing the weekend,
Ben

Posted by bengully 00:54 Archived in China Tagged food Comments (3)

The Importance of Being Frugal

sunny 87 °F

I've spent almost every single day in China being the most frugal spend-a-tron you could imagine, talking myself out of things that I probably need in order to keep to my bottom line, which usually tends to be around 0. Well, things changed drastically last Friday while chatting with my friend Elysia online, discovering she was going to be in Singapore for the weekend, and impulse-buying a ticket to meet up with her there. I've never purchased something as concrete as a plane ticket with such speed and aplomb. The regret that has been built up after years of denied ice cream cones and cool (and useful) gadgets almost caused me to cancel the ticket, but fortunately for strict airline policies and a struggling economy, I had managed to purchase a non-refundable, unchangeable ticket. Lucky me.

It actually might turn out to be one of the smartest buys I've made in a long time, as I've forgotten what humans look like. Unbeknownst to most Westerners, Asian robots are so life-like that they can often be mistaken for humans. Apart from the human Asians that inhabit take-out restaurants in outcroppings of San Fransisco, Washington, D.C. and New York City, all Asians in China are robots. I feel like Rick Deckard amongst a sea of artificially made life forms.
[i]Side note: I have no idea where I was going with the above paragraph and got distracted and lost my train of thought. I will now proceed to establish some coherency in this post. Please also forgive my subsequent failure.

This weekend was quite relaxing as I was able to catch up on some sleep, do a bit of swimming, a bit of eating...I finally got to see 'Inception' this weekend, and let me tell you, it was worth the wait. It was such an enjoyable experience for both my eyes and my brain, while the seats were an enjoyable experience for my posterior. Win-win-win. Afterwards I filled up on dumplings and other Chinese goodies before dousing it in frozen yogurt and fresh fruit. It was as if there was a culinary battle zone in my stomach with lopped off strawberries and chunks of meat strewn across the stomach lining. Saved only by the necessity to walk back and catch a ferry back to my apartment, my food coma didn't hit until I made it back to my couch, and boy, did it hit HARD.

So that's it for my past week's "adventures" in Hong Kong. I like how my updates are now relegated to what happens on the weekends with the main topic usually centered around food. I mean, with subject materiel like that, how could this blog not be the most fascinating work of literature put to a web page? I mean, really?! It's chock full of alliteration and hyperboles and metaphorificationess. You want a study in the wonders of what the English language can create? Look know further then hear.

Eagerly awaiting reporting my next food-centric weekend experiences...........FROM SINGAPORE,
Ben

Posted by bengully 01:16 Archived in China Tagged shopping Comments (0)

Computer Troubles Pt. 17

semi-overcast 88 °F

Ok, so once again I've stumbled upon computer troubles while in China. I still fail to see the irony that whenever I bring my computer back to its place of origin, it refuses to work properly. This time I am under the impression that it is a failure of the motherboard (of course), which means that the part must be ordered from the factory across the border (of course), thus meaning that I will have to wait two weeks until my computer is usable again (of course!). I really don't know what I did or which Communist leader I offended to have this happen so frequently, but I know that the next time I come here, no computer will be broughten.

This being the case that no computer=no work, I spent the better part of my day on Sunday hunting for the cheapest possible computer I could find, and came across one that was merely HKD 3,000. Oh, did I mention that it's the size of a breadbox? This makes it quite difficult for my Frankenstein-esque hands to type, and in the morning, when they haven't quite reached the signal from my brain to resume normal functions, I resort to typing with my knuckles. After thousands of years of evolution, I find that the best way to deal with technology (early in the morning) is with not your fingers nor your opposable thumbs, but with your knuckles. I will take a moment to let you bask in my brilliance...Ok times up!

This weekend turned out to be quite nice in spite of the 'black thunderstorm' that hit earlier on in the week allowing me to leave work a whopping 15 minutes early. They call them black thunderstorms because, by golly, wouldn't you know it, it's black outside! AND, it's a thunderstorm!! I'm actually falling in love with the blissfully obvious naming process Hong Kong goes through with places and events. It's almost too simple. Anyways, I spent the evening watching TV guessing what the dialogue was because the rain crashing down on the window-unit air conditioners amounted to that of a miniature battle scene in my bedroom. Turns out any Vin Diesel movie is much more entertaining without the dialogue. Who knew?

On Saturday, I took a ferry out to one of the outlying islands called Lamma island. This island is awesome because there are NO cars on the island, and the only way to get from one of the two inhabited tourist traps to the other is by walking or biking along a narrow foot-path. It was extremely relaxing and the perfect day for a little island adventure. Did some swimming, reading, napping, staring at awkward Chinese beach-goers, nothing really out of the ordinary. After finishing a spate of Kazuo Ishiguro books I've finally moved on after finding another "90% Off Sale" at one of the local bookstores. Either no one here likes to read, or the turnover rate for these bookstores is unheard of.

In all honesty, I can't think of much more to report. That's why I didn't write anything last week cause nothing really stood out, and I can't really remember what happened. Work has been chugging along, but it looks like my boss has one big project in store for me before I leave. Something about assassination and Communism and secret mission or something or other, I can't really be to sure. It was about Noon and I still wasn't quite awake.

Well, that's pretty much all I can type on this Munchkin computer before my fingers start to cramp. I'm hoping that I get my computer back before I leave, but I'm sure it'll time out so that I have to run and get my computer on the day of my departure, screaming into the gate as the plane gets ready to leave. Wouldn't have it any other way.

Still chewing over what the hell happened in the last 20 minutes of '2001: A Space Odyssey',
Ben

Posted by bengully 03:05 Archived in China Tagged books Comments (1)

Take a Hike

sunny 94 °F

Another week has gone by here in Hong Kong, and again, not much to report from work. Still doing some projects for my boss, still in the same cubicle, still rotating through my finite supply of 4 shirts and 4 pairs of socks for a 5-day work week. If I had any semblance of motivation, I would go out and round out my supplies for the week, but what's life like without a little adventure? A little lame adventure? A little hint of laziness? I think that last one hit it.
So on Saturday I actually managed to be unproductive on purpose, and I did so quite successfully. I willed myself to sleep in, forced myself to go only as far as the supermarket downstairs for essential supplies (food, duh), and made myself stay in and watch some movies. Pirated movies. On my computer. Overall, it was very relaxing, and after catching up with some friends, turned in exhausted.
Sunday started of well with me calling my Dad and Conrad (aka The Family Pet) to wish them a happy birthday. Conrad was actually surprisingly open to conversation despite the fact that I had managed to call right as they were sitting down to watch "The A-Team". Despite my impeccable timing, I was able to pass on my love and let them actually enjoy their day. From there I packed my tiny backpack with a water bottle, apples, an orange, breakfast pastries and my wallet, heading out to do something incredibly stupid.
Somehow or another I came across this hiking trail that runs along the mountain ridge that separates Hong Kong Island into its northern and southern parts called the Hong Kong Trail. This imaginatively named trail is 50km long with an estimated completion time of 15 hours. I thought this was a great way to spend my Sunday. I headed over to the Peak Tram to start my journey, and after a 10 minute trip up the tram that was ambushed by a small herd of Japanese tourists as I was getting aboard, arrived at the peak of Victoria Peak, commonly referred to as...The Peak. I'm finding them great with naming things here. Anyways, I of course forgot my phone, so I had no idea what time I actually got there, but let's just say it was around 9:30am that I started on my way.
It was really quite a beautiful day and apart from a brief morning drizzle in the morning (in reference to the rain!), the weather cleared up and the temperature started climbing. Due to the fact that my mother was a nurse, I was never exposed to the importance of putting on sunscreen, but fortunately I have watched enough TV shows to stop and think, "What would Mr. Rogers do?", so I made sure to put some on before I left. I was thankful I did because as the day went on, the sun got hotter and the path got less tree-y.
I had such a great time on the first leg of the trail, a luscious portion that wound up and down and around shrubberies, past rivers and streams and winding around multiple reservoirs. Having finished my water around kilometer 18, I was beginning to wonder if I could have been anymore of an idiot. Fortunately, at the half-way point, the trail broke up into a section of the city and I was able to go into a gas station and buy a 2L bottle of water. After that was empty, I bought another way for the last 25k. I then noticed the clock on the wall and realized the time read 1:30pm. I had finished the first 25k in 4 hours. 4 hours of hiking at an extreme speed, apparently. I was feeling so happy because I figured it would take me another 4 hours to finish the second leg of the trail, and I'd have some time to even go for a swim at my destination. Ha. Ha. Ha.
Apparently you have to know where the next section of the trail begins because it isn't marked for you. Me and 4 different gas station attendants found this out the long way. I spent a good hour in an area that was maybe 1 square kilometer desperately trying to find the next section, only to find it after inadvertently looking for a bathroom. That did wonders for my ego. Already slightly dehydrated and beginning to feel the effects of the first 25k, I started on my way on my very own "Moron's Journey", evocative of the classic "Hero's Journey" but with an endless set of challenges and obstacles, and the inability to ever leave the Abyss.
The next section of the trail involved climbing up and down two mountains both over 500m tall. Coming down the first mountain was when the cramping of the lower half of my body began. And when I say lower half, I mean everything from the hips to the toes. Going up the second mountain was when the dehydration kicked in. Finally, coming down the second mountain was when ugly reared it's head. At this point, I was just a mess; I had sweated so much and so hard that my fingers were starting to prune. Walking was done in such a way as to allow only minimal cramping. And it was still really hot. Of course, I still had another 4.5k to the nearest bus stop, but fortunately it was on a leisurely path with limited people to see me sucking wind and walking like Frankenstein's monster.
Catching the bus at the end of the trail, I managed to take it all the way past the stop I wanted to get off of. Fortunately I was still stubborn enough to refuse taking a taxi, and after finally getting back to my apartment in one coherent piece, spent the rest of the evening trying to find the one magical position I could rest comfortably in that wouldn't set off a series of cramping body parts.
While I was disappointed to only make it about 70% of the way there, the one good thing to come out of this dichotomous weekend is that I have never had a more muscular lower body. For example, my butt is now approaching the realm of Serena Williams Butt. I'm talking massive here. Own area code big. All thanks to a wonderfully misguided attempt at adventure. Only a couple of more hikes like this and maybe I can win Wimbledon too. Or at the very least jump more than a foot off the ground. Baby steps, baby steps.

Still afraid to bend over and tie my shoes,
Ben

Posted by bengully 01:35 Archived in China Tagged hitchhiking Comments (2)

National Holidays

sunny 89 °F

For those of you unfamiliar with the history of Hong Kong, July 1st marked the 13 year anniversary of the handover of HK back to China. This meant that many of the business would close that day. This also meant that I didn't find this out until I was leaving work the day before. I'm glad people tell me important stuff like this...
Anyways, so I had a free day to do what I pleased, which eventually involved me getting caught up with people back in America and reading. And eating. And falling asleep while doing both. Overall, it was a very, how do I put this, spiritually productive day. I like the sound of that; it sounds so much better than 'lazy'.
So, after going to work on Friday, I found the evening was open for me. Luckily, the World Cup was on that night, but after going from bar to bar and finding every one occupied by some sort of private party, I was ready to turn in and resort to catching the results the next day. Fortunately, on the corner of the block before my apartment I saw this little restaurant that happened to be showing the WC, so I decided to give it a shot. Unfortunately, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Walking in, the first thing I notice is that all of the tables are large round ones that seat 8-10 people, meaning there is no place for me to sit by myself. Second, I notice that not only am I the only white person in there (of course), but I'm also the youngest by a good 30 years. Everyone else is a card-carrying member of the CARP (like AARP, but Asian) and already well on their way to a good evening. So, the waiters set me up at a table with a couple of older gentleman and we exchanged awkward nods while I was waiting for my food to arrive. During the course of the match, another fellow who was sitting at the table in front of me approached me, put his hand on my shoulder as we had the following exchange:
Man: "Where you from?"
Me: "I'm from America"
Man: "You're from America? You're American."
Me: "Yes, I'm American."
Man: "Hahaha, you American. Where you from?"
Me: "Washington State."
Man: "Ahh, Washington. America have two Washington."
Me: "Right. I'm from Washington state, on the west coast."
Man: "Oh, so you not from Washington on right side, you from Washington on left side. Seattle. You from Seattle?"
Me: (simply for the sake of ending this train-wreck of a conversation) "Yes, exactly, I'm from Seattle."
Man: "Ah, Seattle. Seattle, Washington. Left-side Washington." (Pours me a drink). "Here, bottoms up."
Me: (confused and taking a small drink) "Bottoms up."
Man: (after downing his drink) "No, no, no, Bottoms Up."
Me: (getting out-dranken by a Chinese grandfather) "Right, bottoms up."
Man: (refilling my drink) "Good good good. Once more. Bottoms up."
Me: (clinking glasses) "Ok then, bottoms up."
Man: (staring at me with a huge smile on his face) "Hahahaha. So, where you from?"
Me: (Good god in heaven...)
Eventually he would go on to terrorize his other friends, but that was my start to a night of fun and enjoyment with my 50-year old Hong Kong friends. Pretty soon me and the other gentleman and the table were clinking glasses to goals and missed opportunities and corner kicks, and it turned out to be quite the fun evening enjoying the game with the people at my table, people at the other tables, and the restaurant staff.
The next day I decided to head to the south side of the island where all the beaches are and try to cool off. I brought my towel, a book, some snacks, AND SUNSCREEN, and trekked on over. It was a scorcher , but the water was nice, and it really was a relaxing day. The 4th of July was truly uneventful here, and unfortunately I do not get Monday off from work to celebrate our nation's holiday. Guess I should have worked for an American company...
Well, that's all to report this week. It should be a more productive week at the office, but then again, what do I know, I almost came to work on a national holiday in Hong Kong. Maybe one day they'll actually start to tell me things.

Until that time, still a blissfully ignorant American,
Ben

Posted by bengully 19:15 Archived in China Tagged seniors Comments (1)

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