Sunday, June 30, 2013

Why We Love Hanoi

We had 507,000 dong (US$23.95) left over from our previous trip to Hanoi, which I brought on this trip.

The following is an account of our expenses in dong.  We did not stop at an ATM to pick up any more money and we did not restrict ourselves from buying anything that we wanted.

Day 1:
2 direct airport shuttle tickets: 80,000
2 banh mi sandwiches and a sugar cane juice (dinner): 57,000
2 beers: 30,000
tip to concierge: 20,000
tip for turn down service: 15,000

Day 2:
1 bowl of noodles (breakfast): 40,000
2 coffees: 40,000
1 beer: 10,000
1 red bull: 15,000
1 sugar cane juice: 10,000
2 doner kebabs (lunch): 60,000
1 iced coffee and mojitea at the pool: complimentary*
2 single malt whiskeys and assorted juices, cheeses, salads, bread, snacks, fruit: complimentary*
2 sandwiches and sugar cane juice (dinner): 52,000
4 beers: 40,000

Day 3:
We still have 38,000 dong left!  We'll keep you posted.

*Because we are repeat visitors to this hotel.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

More Seedlings!

I just got four more seedlings.  The two on the left are another variety of eggplant, and the two on the right are the chili peppers, which I hope I have more luck with this time around.  I will wait to plant them after we return from Hanoi.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Hanoi, A Repeat Visit

You might know that I really try not to do repeat visits to vacation spots if it can be helped (the reasoning being, There are so many vacation spots!  There are too many places to see!  Variety is the spice of life!  etc. etc.)

But Hanoi was so enjoyable and different, and we loved it so much last fall, that we're going to brave it again this year, for the long weekend coming up (it's HKSAR Establishment Day on July 1).

Not much to say this time as we're staying at the Sofitel, and plan to hit up practically the same dining spots we hit last time, but that doesn't diminish my excitement!

Of course, Hanoi is currently 97 to 98 degrees, with 83% humidity... so let's hope we don't melt before we make it back to good ole' Hong Kong.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Pepper Fixation

So...I've been eating a lot of bell peppers.

I especially like the green ones for sautéing with olive oil, garlic, soy sauce and a lot of vinegar.  I keep them going on high heat for a while, until they're completely subdued and saggy and their outer skins start to wrinkle and pucker.   I don't like crispy peppers (in fact, I usually stay far away from them when they're raw).
I know Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, but how many can he eat?
My mom says they're even better after a day or two, when they've marinated a bit.

But I've never managed to make them last that long.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sightseeing Taiwan

On my second day in Taiwan, my mom and I strolled the 228 Peace Memorial Park. 

"Two twenty eight" refers to February 28, 1947, when the Kuomintang Army brutally suppressed an anti-government uprising. It marked the beginning of the "white terror" movement in Taiwan.

Basically, a lot of local Taiwanese were killed or imprisoned by the Nationalist Chinese over differences about how to run the country in the transition from Japanese rule. This is the origin of Taiwan's movement for independence. It is also the heart of why a lot of local Taiwanese hold a grudge against the individuals originally from the mainland, or the "outer province" people.

We then went to a pipa concert at the National Recital Hall. The pipa is a traditional Chinese instrument that is pear shaped and apparently has been played forever (like two thousand years give or take).  The concert hall and national theater are beautiful buildings.
National Theater

Chiang Kai Shek memorial
Freedom Plaza

We then embarked on a really fun little food tour that took us through the streets of Taipei. Everything was so tasty that I didn't even mind the pouring rain and my soggy wet shoes.

famous "mian xian", with basil and

Famous beef "old shop"

"Golden" beef and tendon noodle soup

wet market!

 We went to the Raohe Street nightmarket, which is not as famous or as sprawling as the Shilin night market.  But I'd never been before and found it quite fun nonetheless.

curried-and-salted corn on the cob

medicinal herbs and pork soup

sidewalk hot pot bar
stinky tofu with sweet preserved cabbage

Farewell, Taiwan!  Until next time.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Family Time in Taiwan

Mangoes brought by my uncle and aunt - these were freshly plucked from their relative's yard! 
I am so grateful that I had the chance to go to Taiwan this past weekend to see my relatives and also see my mom before she headed back to the US.   I left late Friday night after work and returned Monday morning before work.

The nice thing about traveling to Taiwan is its proximity to Hong Kong - my plane took off at 7:50 AM, I landed at 9:20 AM, and I was at my desk by 10:20 AM.

I stayed with my aunt and mom in Tianmu, a more residential neighborhood in Taipei, and for two days basically just relaxed, shopped, and ate a lot of Taiwanese specialties and fresh fruit.

My aunt and mom walking the streets of Tianmu
Lessons learned from the trip?  When you think you're full, you usually can eat a little more (yikes). And, just like with beets, if you eat too much purple dragonfruit, your pee turns red (yikes again).

On Saturday morning, I spent some time with my mom at a spa getting a facial and massage. 

Then we went to eat individualized hotpot at a hotpot bar. 

I guess my mom knows my food preferences...
This cost NT198, which is US$6.50.  And I didn't even take a picture of the meat platter.

After hotpot, we relaxed at home for a bit, then proceeded to eat an epic family-style meal with my aunt and two uncles.  This is literally the first time I can remember, ever(!), that I shared a meal with all of my mom's siblings.  And almost all of my cousins were there too (although we were missing two).  It was such a rare occasion, I couldn't stop marveling at it throughout dinner.  We went to a Taiwanese restaurant.

Here is what we ate:
Watercress sautéed with shredded wood ear mushrooms
Sweet potato leaves sautéed with garlic
Tender chicken with chili soy dip
Fish vermicelli soup
Breaded pork ribs
Steamed fish, eyeballs included
Marinated fish skin
Tofu, slightly spicy

Monday, June 24, 2013

Chinese Food: A Conversation

From: Michael
Sent: Saturday, June 22, 2013 08:10 PM

What are you having for dinner?

On Jun 22, 2013, at 9:06 PM, Allison wrote:

I had a huuuge dinner. Just finished and might pass out. There was taro. But there was also marinated fish skin...

From: Michael
Sent: Saturday, June 22, 2013 09:14 PM

Me tooooo.
Marinated fish skin footlong on bing with oyster sauce.


... Don't worry, Subway doesn't really have this option in Asia...

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Rooftop and Vegetable Garden

For the first day of summer, thought it'd be fitting to post about the roof deck and my new vegetable garden.  They are quickly becoming our pride and joy.
Stairwell and entrance to roof deck and the sink / storage area
We've also finally gotten the chairs and tables and various plants and flowers sorted out.  I really love it up there right now.
I'm a sucker for white flowers, and this plant can bloom.

I just worked with a local farm and company here in Hong Kong, Time to Grow, to plant some vegetable seedlings on the roof deck.  It is really nice for the vegetables and plants that Hong Kong has been super sunny since the beginning of the week.

I hope my vegetables continue to flourish and eventually bear fruit.  There is something so exciting and so rewarding about little vegetable seedlings!

Already I think my eggplant has grown two new leaves and half an inch.  My chocolate pepper has probably grown an inch since I've gotten it.  My pumpkin seedlings, which were barely two inches tall, are now about five or six inches tall!  And this is just progress over one week.  The only one that perished in the transplanting was my chili pepper (you can see its carcass next to the chocolate pepper in the last picture), which I'm hoping will soon be replaced. 

The black beauty eggplant

The sweet bell peppers - what color will they be?

Thai basil

Japanese pumpkin

Chocolate pepper (spicy)
The views from the roof deck are decidedly urban:

But there is a sweet little park and playground directly adjacent to us: