Friday, March 29, 2013

Easter Holidays

Hello all, wishing you and your loved ones a very happy easter holidays!

I am off to Thailand again on Saturday, to meet up with my beloved family!  My parents, sister and I reunite in Bangkok, then we are off to Ubon, then to Chiang Mai, back to Bangkok.  I really miss my family.  It's a lot of fun to be out here in Asia, able to jet off at opportune moments, but I can't help but think about my relatives all clustered together at "home".

It's not terribly convenient or easy to get back to the States, so a pattern seem to be emerging where my parents come out in the first half of the year, and I try to find a way back in the latter half of the year.

A lot of people have asked me what my thoughts/plans/goals are regarding Hong Kong.  I've always answered that I don't know.  I guess it's really fun to be living out here, in a city that is so fast-paced and filled with such exciting opportunities.  Yet I don't want to take my family for granted, assuming that they will always be around.  And I just don't get to see them much if I'm living so far away.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Construction Scene, Another

I couldn't resist:

 Bamboo scaffolding is everywhere in this city, and the speed with which they are tied up and pulled down is incredible.  However, don't you think the construction workers should wear helmets at least?!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Fitting, Part 1

I'm sure you've all been waiting with bated breath for the results of the first fitting of Michael's suit. I'm happy to report that he is thrilled with the drape and feel of the fabric.  His exact words were, "I look tremendous!" which, immodesty aside, was not too far off the mark.  Guess there is some magic to this bespoke thing after all!

At this stage, everything is a bit baggier and longer because the cutter and tailor err on the side of caution - the idea being, it's always easier to reduce than to increase.  His pants are held together by a paper waistband, his vest (or waistcoat, if you wish) is two front panels stitched onto a mint green striped canvas backing, and his jacket, with only one full sleeve, is marked precisely with a zig-zagging white thread.  There is nary a zipper, pocket, button or buttonhole in sight. 
Fitting the pants - too baggy right now
Getting the waistband just right
Rocking the one sleeve suit jacket

This time, important details like gorge height, jacket length, pants length, button placement, and tightness of the jacket were discussed and decided (marked by little chalk notations and straight pins).  Stay tuned for the next fitting, when there will be many more pictures and something that better resembles the end product.

Some pictures of the store.  It is small but it holds a lot of stuff...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Construction Scene

Construction is omnipresent in this city.  Here is a typical sight: construction workers jackhammering at full blast with barely any safety equipment as pedestrians scurry by hoping to avoid being pelted by any flyaway concrete. Sigh.  This city, sometimes.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Maxin' and Relaxin' in Batu Ferringhi

View of the pool from our balcony
For the last two nights of our trip in Malaysia, we decided to switch it up and head to the beach to chill out before heading back to our respective homes.  We chose to stay at the Shangri-la in Batu Ferringhi, on the north coast of Penang.  It was about a 20 minute drive north of Georgetown.
The beach!  Practically deserted...
 I think because it was too hot.  Oh, and there was jellyfish.
Lounging poolside
Large, old trees (ringed in moss and smaller trees) surrounded us
View from our room

Para-sailers at sunset

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Culinary Exploits Around Penang

Some lively chickens outside Chowrasta market
Food, specifically street food, or hawker food as it's called in Malaysia, was one of the top (top!) reasons we came to Penang.  I think we did a pretty good job sampling the flavors of this food-obsessed city.  Malaysian cuisine mirrors the diversity of the city, consisting of mainly Indian, Malaysian, and Chinese cuisines, but also Arabian, Thai and Javanese cuisines.   Over the years, all of the flavors mixed and married, culminating in an unabashed celebration of multi-ethnic fusion.

On our first night, we ate at Tek Sen, a very famous institution.  We figured, in a city of culinary heavyweights, a restaurant that has flourished for over 45 years has to have done something right. 

Fish curry, potato loves with sambal sauce, double cooked pork
The above picture doesn't show the pièce de résistance, the smoky sticky tamarind (asam) shrimp.  We ate it too quickly!
View from our hotel room in the morning - locals getting breakfast
Tandoori chicken, garlic cheese naan, sides
Biryani chicken
extensive Indian menu at Kapitan
Hawkers preparing various fried noodles
Famous (very packed) stand selling chendul (or cendol), an icy peanut green bean noodle dessert
Shrimp mee (very very shrimpy!)
Asam laksa
 We checked out the very famous Nasi Kandar at Line Clear on Penang Road:
Scary fish heads.  Can you see the flies?
Lots and lots of choices - a bit intimidating!
Our Nasi Kandar plate

We checked out a bunch of hawker stalls on Lebuh Chulia:

Char Keoy Teow cart
stir fried in a very hot wok!
end result: char keoy teow with shrimp and baby clams
Lok lok - buy a stick and dip in your sauce of choice
Roti canai = awesome
All the varieties of roti you can imagine
We drank fresh coconuts at every opportunity, and sampled baby bananas, jackfruit, wax apple and green mangos.  And I discovered a variation of dragonfruit that I really, really like - the magenta colored variety!   It tastes SO much better than the white fleshed dragon fruit.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Georgetown Attractions

There are a lot of different temples and houses around Georgetown, the historic area of Penang, that have been lovingly and carefully restored.  On our second day in Penang, we braved the withering heat and toured Cheong Fatt Tze's mansion, the Pinang Peranakan mansion and Khoo Khongsi.

Our first stop was the Tze mansion, painted a vivid, show-stopping blue:
Present day entrance to Cheong Fatt Tze's mansion
The houses across the street, which used to be part of his massive compound

Colorful lintel designs, cut and pasted from porcelain bowls

Entrance screen, made out of wood and covered in 24k gold

Then we proceeded to the Pinang Penarakan mansion, passing a few beautiful temples along the way:

At the Pinang Penarakan mansion, we saw classic items used in the houses of the wealthy Chinese merchant families:

intricately carved fold-up mahjong table
colorful artwork 
Brilliant gold jewelry
Paper lanterns and cast iron filigree balconies
Our last (but not least!) stop was at Khoo Khongsi: 
opera stage
back view
front view
beautifully painted supports under the roof