Friday, December 21, 2012

Ski Equipment and Street Eats

Random blog title, I know, but that was what I spent today in Mongkok doing: searching for cold weather clothing and accessories, and eating whenever I saw street food that looked intriguing/appetizing.

Now that our departure to sub-zero arctic zones is imminent, I have been wandering all over Hong Kong checking things off my list: Ski pants, check.  Long underwear, check.  Fleeces, check.  Synthetic shirts, check.  You get the idea.

As for the forecast for our trip... let's put it this way: St. Petersburg looks like the warmest of all the cities we are hitting up, and it will have a high of 32 degrees Fahrenheit.  in contrast, Ruka is a cool -20 degrees at night.  I'm a little bit nervous.

But I did get myself a (very colorful) ski jacket today:

Inner jacket, which zips into the shell
I also got an egg waffle (made from a sugar and flour batter that smells so darn good when it's cooking), and tried a coconut wrap for the first time.  Verdict on both items: tasty!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mmmm Montezuma's Chocolate

A colleague from the London office that I'd been working with has been traveling around the world with his girlfriend, and just passed through Hong Kong, his last stop.  We met up today at Zuma, a fancy Japanese restaurant close to work, along with two other local counsels that worked with us on the recent deal that consumed my life (was that only a week ago? Amazing).

The lunch was a nice mix of backgrounds, consisting of a Cayman qualified lawyer and British Virgin Islands qualified lawyer who had each lived and worked in London and Hong Kong, a British qualified lawyer who had lived and worked in London and New York, and me, rounding out the mix nicely (if i say so myself) as the American qualified lawyer who had lived and worked in New York and Hong Kong.

Anyway, the food was pretty good, but the service was sloppy (food brought out very unevenly, in the wrong order and at odd times) and I just didn't think the food was as tasty as I remembered.  Plus I was still hungry after we finished eating (a major no-no in my book when the food is so expensive and there are three courses!) but I was also too embarrassed to be the only person to ask for a dessert menu.

Well, to round out the hunger pains, thankfully, my very thoughtful colleague had brought me some chocolate!  Montezuma's chocolate.  I'd never heard of it but apparently it is quite famous in Britain.   I am sampling the geranium and orange flavored dark chocolate bar as I type.  Quite lovely.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sui Kee

I went to Sui Kee, a dai pai dong, for lunch today.  They are very famous for their marinated meats (and assorted animal parts).  I like their noodles and beef brisket.  At HK$23 a pop, it's a nice little slurp-y pick me up.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Nothing is Certain Except...

Ahhh, just received my tax forms from the Hong Kong Inland Revenue Department.  Yuk.  If there is anything more depressing than paying taxes, it's paying taxes twice.

This time will be particularly painful for me because I will be paying for two years' worth of taxes (2012 AND 2013) all in one go. It works this way because I moved here in the middle of the previous tax assessment.  In Hong Kong,  you pay all of your prospective taxes for the upcoming year in one lump sum (and then there is a true-up later that year to make sure the previous estimate was correct).

This is a system that makes you really FEEL the money you are forking over to the government.  Coming from the U.S., where taxes are pulled out per paycheck before one even receives the net amount, I knew I paid a ton in taxes but the psychological effect was not so bad.  Now, I am bracing myself for tens upon tens of thousands of dollars to fly out of my account in one fell stroke.

Here, citizens know that they have to save the better part of 15% of their total income each year to make the prospective payment.  For those who have not set aside enough to make their payment, banks provide "tax payment" loans specifically for this purpose.  ...Needless to say, those rates are not all that attractive. 

In a perverse way, I like this system because it makes you more aware of your civic obligations.  Observing the low rates of savings in the U.S., however, I can see why the U.S. federal government has not yet adopted this system!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Holiday Parties and Dinners

I had meant to take all kinds of pictures to capture the work holiday party that I attended on Monday last week, but was kind of busy getting lost trying to find the place, and then kind of engrossed with eating, and then really glued to my blackberry (including taking a conference call in the desolate warehouse hallway between two sets of swinging doors) and so forgot to take any pictures at all.

It was an interesting space, located inside a huge warehouse that smelled of grease and weird chemicals.  We ascended in a huge metal elevator to the 21st floor, then walked through some empty, fluorescent lit hallways to reach the event space. Once inside the swinging doors, I felt like I'd been transported somewhere else entirely.  Called "Culinart," it was one of those beautifully decorated open loft spaces where they had a chef kitchen demonstration table hooked up to live feed video, and participants could go up and learn to make things while in the spotlight.  We then all sat around eating as the chef and his staff bustled about, cooking.  I opted for the lamb main course, paired with brussels sprouts and medallions of mashed potatoes (my favorite part).  The whole thing was more form over function, but at least I got to see an up-and-coming event space in Aberdeen. 

Then on Thursday evening, after my deal fiiiinally closed at 5:45 in the morning (Hallelujah!) Michael and I joined two other couples for dinner at Chili Fagara, a Sichuan restaurant located on Graham Street in Soho.  The place is perpetually packed (the space is very small and fits about 25 diners max at any time) and the restaurant is very jealous of its space.  The tables are nailed down to the floor and the chairs against the wall leave those unfortunate diners with very little wiggle room.  The food at the restaurant was quite tasty.  However, the portion sizes were very meager (the rice came in tiny mounds that looked like they had been carefully doled out by an ice cream scoop) and the prices were quite high. Personally, I'd rather go to a private kitchen out in Wanchai where I have plenty of room and the portions are much bigger. 

On Saturday evening, Michael and I went to dinner with another couple at Sura, a Korean restaurant in TST, to eat stir fried rice in a stone pot (bibimbap), cold noodles (japchae), tofu stew (jiggae), rice noodles and seafood/kimchee pancakes.  The food was decent/mixed (the japchae was outstanding, the pancake was very good, the bibimbap and jiggae were unimpressive) but again the portions were small.  I could only think of my favorite spots in New York with longing: oh, Gahm Mi Oak and Book Chang Dong, how I miss thee!
After finishing up our Korean food, we went to Ned Kelly's Last Stand, a bar with a live band, beer on tap and lots of greasy finger food.  We opted for the basket of onion rings.

Other than that, all that remains of our days is wrapping Christmas presents, scrounging for cold weather apparel, and packing!  I can't believe Christmas is in a week.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

When Do I Get Too Old

to pull all nighters at work?

It's 1:28 am, my day started at 6:42 am, my back hurts, I'm seeing spots, I likely have developed carpal tunnel syndrome, the sum of my food ingested today is an apple, a Sprite, a drumstick ice cream cone, half of a cup of coffee, some water (not enough), some Pellegrino, and half of a thin crust pepperoni pizza scarfed down at 11 pm.  If mom and dad are reading this, I'm just kidding.  I ate really well today.

I only have 28 unread emails in my inbox. Oh yeah... we didn't close today.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Dreary, Gray, Wet, Damp and Cold

Hong Kong is in the midst of a really impressive wet streak.  I think I haven't seen the sun in two or three weeks.  Michael hasn't been able to play soccer in a long time.  Every day has been overcast and wet.  And because Hong Kong is naturally pretty humid, I feel like I have been swimming in a dank, soupy mist.  It is so depressing.  It's not COLD, per se.  I mean, it's not 30 or 40 degrees -- the weather is hovering in a mid-60s range.  But with no heat in our apartment, and with the air-conditioner still blasting at work (why?), I feel like the cold has seeped into my bones.

Despite the incessant rain, the fancy shopping malls are doing their part to bring the festive cheer.  Below, some snaps I took on my way to a meeting with deal counsel:

the most impressive indoor mall display I've ever seen - a really cute moving ski lift!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Busy Monday

So begins the week of 7 AM calls and working until midnight.  This week is gonna suck.  I keep telling myself that it's ok and it will be worth it because we might close on Friday.  And then I will have my reward and I can go on holiday and enjoy Christmas.  But I am feeling it tonight from 10+ hours of hunching over a keyboard and frantically trying to get everything done.  And it's only Monday.

You'd think that a compulsive list maker like myself (I currently have three lists going) would like checklists for closings.  And I do like them - there is nothing as satisfying as shading out a whole bunch of rows of completion deliverables (oh yes, my life is awesome).

Howeverrrrr, I hate closing checklists because closings make me so anxious.  What if I forget something or make a fatal mistake on something irreversible that is due that day and cannot be remedied, for example the original signature pages to the deed of transfer that has to be stamped by a special agent or else the millions upon millions of dollars cannot be wired, and then I. am. screwed.

Plus my allergies in this city are acting up something fierce.  I can't seem to do anything without  wanting desperately to sneeze.  My throat and ears itch.  It's like a fuzzy caterpillar is crawling around in my sinuses.  Nice visual, right?

One happy thought: I got a travel Scrabble set this weekend.  I opted for the pocket sized magnetic version even though a lot of people have said that it is flimsy.  I'm hoping we get to use it on the long plane and train rides on our vacation.  Thinking happy thoughts.

The picture doesn't reflect just how tiny this Scrabble set is.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Lingerie Party and Christmas Market

On Friday, my friend threw a one year anniversary party for Sheer, a really lovely lingerie boutique that she owns in Hong Kong.  There was champagne, along with popcorn, sandwiches and cupcakes and, my personal favorite, a free Hanky Panky underwear bedazzled at your request.   Oh yeah, there were also really lovely models flitting around in - you guessed it - skimpy lingerie.  I marveled at how many men were at the party, but I guess I shouldn't have been surprised.  The party was packed and really fun.

On Saturday, I moseyed over to TST to check out the Christmas Market at Hullet House. 

Unfortunately,  the market was oh so disappointing.   It was very crowded and they didn't really have handicrafts.  It was almost all overpriced chocolate, wine, mulled cider, and some food odds and ends.  I was hoping for something like the Christmas markets that pop up around Union Square and Madison Square Park in NYC around this time.  Nada.

I did see the luxury Christmas shopping market in full swing though.  Here, a line of people waiting to get into Tiffany's.

TST was crooooowded.  Another reason this place was packed: Toys R Us is located in Ocean Terminal.  Oh, tis' definitely holiday season.