Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Weekend in Taipei!

I'm very excited!  I made a super last minute decision to go to Taipei again this weekend. 

I still have a ticket left over from May which I didn't get to use and has already expired but for my loud complaining to the ticket agent, and last time we didn't even have a chance to actually show Michael around Taipei (not that that was a bad thing, because we had a very good reason) but I have been having itchy feet all year and now it's like all I want to do is go on trips.  And write really really long run on sentences.

Anyway.  We will stay at the Landis Hotel in Taipei and hopefully just chill in the pool during the hot days and roam the markets at night.  And gorge ourselves on food and fruit, but that will be at all hours.

We depart in just over 24 hours and will only be in Taiwan for 48 hours, but I hope it helps cure some of my cabin fever.

Weather forecast shows highs of 92 and 94, yowza!  Hope we don't come back with heatstroke...

I recently read that having vacation plans is the best anticipation and actually leads to MORE happiness than the trip itself (oftentimes).  I am not certain that that is true, but about to test out the theory with the remaining upcoming trips this year:

To that end, I have a five-day girls trip to Koh Samui coming up in August where we will eat a lot of coconut ice cream, do yoga nearly every day, get Thai massages and manicure pedicures in our private villa, the Baan Grand View.  I have not been to the islands of Thailand yet and am super excited to see this slice of paradise.

And I just booked a trip to Siem Reap to run a 10-K in Angkor Wat in early December.  That trip will be decidedly less fun because I have to run... but I think it will be awesome to run in a UNESCO World Heritage Site of such grandeur, beauty and history! Plus the run is for just one morning.  Then I will be able to indulge in eating and sightseeing to my heart's content. 


OLQE - Bar Prep Materials and a Brief Follow Up

Ya'll recall my post about taking the OLQE this year, right?  Well, the first class starts in one week and I am feeling less than thrilled about it.  Here are my books and study materials.  This is just for one head (subject)!!

I thought it might be a bit useful for the Hong Kong readers out there to understand how I obtained my waiver from the other heads.  I was lucky in that I had good templates to work from at the firm, so I obtained my waiver letter fairly quickly.

I think the key is to set out about two pages' worth of descriptions of deals you have done or cases you have run in the past.  For the most part, you can just rely on your transcript, but for the professional conduct section, it's best if you set forth examples of how you have practical experience, since this is not exactly something the law school teaches.  Examples that I used were preparing in and participating in client pitches, drafting engagement letters, running and reviewing conflicts checks, negotiating client bills and fees, and reviewing time sheets and pro formas.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Day of Contentment at Mavericks in Lantau

One of my very good friends in Hong Kong is leaving soon.  She is my running/dog walking/and (probably most importantly) my spicy-food-addiction-hotpot-eating buddy.  I am really sad to see her go... but I also know that she will be back in Hong Kong to visit and I will be back in the US so we will keep in touch.

This weekend, as part of the celebrations around her departure, we hit up two bucket list items:  Mavericks in Lantau (as well as clamming but perhaps she did not know that that was a bucket list item) and eating at Sanxilou one more time.

Mavericks is a very very  laid back, popular spot to hang out on the south side of Lantau. The generous portions and ready supply of drinks (except for the fact that they were somehow out of lime soda and coffee - how is that possible??  Apparently they only stock up on alochol!) are also very lovely on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
The restaurant is decorated with old skateboards and surfboards.  The menus come on recycled, cut up skateboards.  The bar and seating area is open directly to the beach.  You immediately feel as thought you've been transported to Australia or Bali.  (I've never been to Australia, but I have it on good authority (tv, books, magazines, etc.) that this is what Australia feels like.)

Entrace to Pui O Beach - the tag line is "Good mountain, good water, good beach"

 The restaurant and bar opens directly to the beach and the water:

 The day we were there, we noticed a ton of locals clambering in the thick, dark sand with buckets, stools and little shovels.  We quickly realized they were clamming!  It is just so quintessentially Hong Kong that so many people would endure the sun and wind exposure at the beach on an incredibly hot day to ensure that they get their fresh seafood.  Of course, I'm not one to talk because I did this once before!  But my friends hadn't clammed before so we bought a bucket and some shovels and went to town.

It is so much harder than it looks...this is our effort after nearly an hour!  Kind of defeating.  We should have bought a smaller bucket.
Lantau really is a different world from the hubbub of Central.  On the way to the beach we saw a bunch of buffalo roaming around in the field, chewing grass.  Doesn't this seem more like a scene out of Thailand or Vietnam than Hong Kong?  This place, I tell ya, it's full of surprises.

 After properly digging up bivalve mollusks for the good part of an hour, tanning and eating and drinking while just chilling out to the music at Maverick's, we called it a day and hopped on the bus back to the Mui Wo ferry.  There, we abashedly handed over our bucket with the pitiful amount of our day's wares and asked them to clean and stir fry the clams. 
 Can you tell which ones are ours and which ones are the restaurant's?
The view from Mui Wo cooked food market. 
After we got back to Central, we did one last hurrah for old times' sake at San Xi Lou, which ya'll have to know by know is one of my favorite hot pot places in Hong Kong (though I am not picky).  All in all, it was a perfect way to spend a Sunday.

Getting there: take the ferry from Pier 6 in Central.  The fast ferry takes 25-30 minutes, the slow ferry takes 60-65 minutes.  Once you land at Mui Wo, head to bus number 3.  Get off at Pui O beach. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

It's Like Having a Flower on Your Finger

If you'll bear with me as I gush for one final post on the engagement (I don't want to turn into one of those girls), I thought I should post a picture of my new favorite piece of jewelry.  "It's like having a flower on your finger all the time" is what I said to Michael about engagement rings once back in the day and I think that statement really stayed with him.  At least, that's what I think prompted him to design the world's most beautiful ring (slightly subjective statement).

I love my ring and I can't get over how much time and care he took to design it.  I gave Michael some broad (and admittedly very confusing and probably quite contradictory) instructions and he went from there and created a masterpiece.  He gets major bonus points because the jeweler he worked with does not speak a lick of English(!!)

Michael carried the diamond loose from the US to Hong Kong (there is something thrillingly illicit about that to my mind) and amazingly did not lose it despite his multi-day stopover in Switzerland.  He then worked painstakingly with a jeweler here to create the delicate and incredibly detailed setting.  The center diamond is oval and set in four prongs.  The ring is set in rose gold, on a very thin band that consists of the infinity symbol (each strand goes over and then under the other).  This part of the band has milgrain edging (a detail I love love love).  Each "loop" of the infinity sign contains a trio of little diamonds nestled within, with the center diamond being slightly larger than the two flanking diamonds.  The setting has little flower petals underneath which is the crowning thoughtful touch.

I have to admit, this ring makes typing quite a bit of fun...

Monday, July 28, 2014

Chachawan - Yummy Isaan Food in Sheung Wan

I have been hoping to eat at Chachawan forever.  I heard all good things from friends.  They are perpetually packed.  All signs have been promising ever since they opened their doors.
But their no reservation policy is challenging at the best of times, which meant I had it on my Hong Kong bucket list, but never really managed to make it.  This weekend, however, we finally did it!  
A Thai restaurant specializing in Isaan food (very spicy!) on Hollywood Road next to 208 Duocento Otto (another beloved restaurant), Chachawan is quite unique in Hong Kong, both for its cuisine (Isaan is quite niche) and its quality.  

I admit I was also intrigued because my sister had spent a year in Ubon Ratchathani eating Isaan food.  I had visited her a couple of times there and loved everything we ate (see old posts here and here...).  So naturally I wanted to see if something closer to home would still be capable of bringing me some of that special Isaan spice!
I love how unabashedly they embrace tartness and spice in their preparation of food.  Everything sings and pops off of the tongue and leaves your mouth reeling from the ricochet of flavor.  If your taste buds are feeling drowsy or uninspired, bring them to Chachawan.
I knew I had some sexy spicy times ahead of me, so I opted for a cold mildly sweet longan drink.  I loved the swirly paper straw.
We started with plump, briny clams steamed with cilantro, basil, lemongrass and various other herbs, paired with a zesty and incredibly alluring green sauce.  The green sauce had a little heat to it.  Maybe some ground up jalapenos with a dash of some chili pepper seeds?  OH. my goodness.   Delicious.
Next we chose the smoky eggplant tossed with mint leaves and green onions and grilled tiger prawns (these tiger prawns were humongous), all paired with an egg.  This one was very, very spicy.  Do not let the innocent (non-red) color deceive you.  This dish made my entire tongue twinge and I believe at one point I physically waved my hand in front of my tongue hoping for some respite.  The shrimp was also very fresh and I vastly enjoyed pulling out all the shrimp brains and roe (too vivid of a picture?).  My only complaint is that the shrimp may have been grilled a touch too long.  The tail pieces were a bit too dry.
The next dish we got was the pork collar.  The dipping sauce was also addictive.  It was a massive portion (bonus points to Chachawan for that as well - their portion sizes are quite large by Hong Kong standards) but we had no trouble polishing this off right away.  The cucumber slices at the bottom were also really nice and provided a light, crispy counterpart to the heavier meat.

They give you two complimentary slices of green mango at the end of the meal, paired with a tamarind dipping powder (the orange) and a lemongrass dipping powder (the green).  I vastly preferred the tamarind (no surprise there as tamarind is one of my top flavors of all time) but I love green mango so much I could have eaten twenty slices of this plain.
 I could not resist getting the coconut ice cream with shaved slivers of fresh young coconut.  I am such a coconut purist/addict that I would have happily picked out all the peanuts and corn, but I managed to refrain from doing that this time around.
 Come here, you won't regret it! 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Perfect Present for My Dad

Guys, we all know about taking selfies.  But have you seen this, the newest accessory to the selfie phenomenon?  The mono pod.  

As the box says, "Taking self-portraits and videos has never been easier!"

My favorite instruction/tips are the ones on the box that tell you to "extend, aim, smile" and "make sure the lens is pointing at you and you will be in the picture."

Essentially, it is screw-on holder that holds your phone in place with a spring.  You screw that onto a retractable stick that extends out a couple of feet.  You can then set the timer on your camera phone or (accessory sold separately) use a little hand held button to snap the picture.

I've seen a few people on the streets of Hong Kong and in restaurants now using this.  When I saw a vendor selling these the other day, I immediately decided to buy one for my dad.  This is going to be the perfect present for him.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Proposal in Taiwan Part 3 (Exploring Butterfly Valley Resort with My Betrothed)

On Sunday, Michael and I began to explore the paths and trails of the beautiful Butterfly Valley Resort.

How gorgeous is this place??  Putting the money shot up front:
We hiked a very easy, smooth, paved path before lunch.  These are convenient walking sticks that also substitute as snake beating sticks (see the sign).  Sweet.
Michael immediately grabbed a stick.
There were a lot of suspension bridges.

We saw someone in the water at the end of our first hike and thought it would be brilliant to come back with our swimsuits.

We returned to the resort for lunch, changed into our swimsuits and then headed out on another hike heading the opposite direction, figuring we would reach the waterfall the other way.   This hike was tougher than we expected. Because I did not realize we would be doing any hiking on this trip, I only had sandals and dresses, which made the hiking a little more uncomfortable. But it was not bad, nonetheless.  And the reward at the end - waterfalls and the chance to scramble into the water - was too perfect to forego.
Michael on a very high suspension bridge with his walking/snake beating stick.  The bridges seemed straight out of the Jungle Book.
This was the view from the higher suspension bridge (looking down onto the lower suspension bridge).
I could not get over the color of the water here.  Doesn't it look fake?
This is a shot of the waterfall with the suspension bridge we just hiked over
More waterfalls
More waterfall and suspension bridge
This was where we were heading for a little swim.

Here, Michael gets ready to enter the thundering waterfall... 
 I captured this shot of him directly under the waterfall.  Doesn't he look like a hologram?
I, on the other hand, did not feel the need to go directly under the waterfall, although Michael made me try it eventually.

The next morning (Monday), we went to sit in the hot springs.  The resort had all kinds of different massages and jets and sprays, which were really fun to play with.  We eventually got brave and plunged between the hot and cold pools.  It was so relaxing and lovely.  I didn't really want to go home...