Wednesday, February 25, 2009

We all fall down, oops a daisy!

I had a conversation with a colleague this afternoon. I asked Sue who's a 6-foot tall British lady, "Why are people your height called as daddy long legs?"

Sue candidly replied, "I've no idea actually. I would instead question why are spiders called daddy long legs in the first place."

I told Sue it is probably the same as someone exclaiming "oops a daisy!" when falling - no explanation.

We were giggling at "oops a daisy". Sue thought it was quite unusual for a foreigner to know about the phrase. She said it was for old people.

Sue immediately understood when I said, "Notting Hill." It was in the movie.

George, an elderly colleague, joined in and explained that it was the time when English people started with the "ring a ring of roses".

I drew a blank look. George asked if I've heard of that one before. I said no.

Sue exclaimed, "Oh I know that one!"

In unison they both recited, "Ring a ring of roses a pocketful of posies, atishoo atishoo, we all fall down!"

Even though none of them answered my earlier question, I asked them to repeat the rendition. I took out a piece of paper and wrote down the rhyme.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Trip to Hong Kong

The accent sounded familiar. The city skyline and the food looked exactly like the ones I've grown up watching in the TV. I have stepped into Hong Kong.

Night scene of HK island from Victoria Harbour

A trip for three ended up with just the two of us. The third person decided to decimate the remaining years of his passport by destroying it in a washing machine. The rest you can imagine.

As soon as I stepped into the airport arrival hall, I could immediately spot a roast duck shop right in front. The strong smell permeated the hall. Roast duck is synonymous to HK cuisine, just as durian and sambal belacan are to Malaysia. Still I was surprised such a shop was allowed to operate in the confines of an airport. It's like a warung being allowed to sell sambal belacan in KLIA.

As usual, I did not plan my trip until the final hours before I had to go to the airport.

Half true. I have contacted Kiki who's obliged to meet up. She was very kind to be our tour guide. She knew I do things last minute but she needed to plan for a day off work to be with us. So I did have a plan for this trip, but it was not until she asked for an itinerary that we decided to cook one up quickly. Irene did most of the planning as she has been to HK and was more familiar with the places.

I have forgotten to bring my jacket. Winter in HK was not what I expected. It was cold. It's the wind factor rather than the temperature. So I had to buy a pair of jumper because of my forgetfulness. Apart from the evenings, I didn't have to wear it. The local jumper was the most appropriate. With so much walking, the wool jacket from the UK, had I brought along, would have been superfluous! Every cloud has a silver lining.

HK was all about eating and unplanned visits, at least for me. The itinerary was never followed. It was just wasted effort. If anything, it has helped Kiki to plan for her leave.

Our first stop was Ngong Ping, where the Giant Buddha was. It was a 20-minute bus ride from the airport. So we decided impromptu that we should make our way there, with our luggage. We took the cable car. It was a pleasant journey and the weather was good. The statue was huge. We were recommended vegetarian at the Po Lin Monastery. So we had our lunch there.
Giant Buddha, Ngong Ping

We then went Tai O, which was a self-contained fishing village. The village reminded me of the fishing villages in Malaysia. The people were friendly. Yes, the accent was still very familiar to the ones I've heard in HK movies. Had I not seen postcard photos of HK, Ngong Ping and Tai O would have made the first impressions of HK for me.

Tai O Village

We stayed in Jordan, which was just a stop north of Tsim Sha Tsui on the MTR.

HK is certainly more modern than a fishing village. It is a world class city. Vibrant and packed with lots of energy! High class infrastructure and very efficient public transportation system. People do not just come here to eat but also make money, lots of money. It's one of Asia's investment hubs, like Tokyo and Shanghai.

Tsing Ma Bridge

Unlike London, HK has a skyline that it can proudly boast. Looking south from Victoria Harbour is the picturesque postcard view of the city. It was more beautiful seeing it there than in the postcards and TV. It's all in the experience of being there -one of the sticking points to discussing carbon footprint.

I have underestimated on the number of things to do in HK. I had planned to hop over to Macao on the second day. The plan to Macao was dropped last minute when I realised I had many places to explore and myriads of food to try in HK. Macao will be for another time.

With the "added" day in HK, we decided to go to Lamma Island, which was another fishing village. It was also the place that nearly freaked us out as we nearly got lost in the thick of the jungle island at night. And there were no street lights!

Seafood street, Sai Kung

We have intended to skip Disneyland all the while even before I returned from the UK. This is because the HK Disneyland is not fully developed yet. My Disneyland experience from Tokyo and Paris would suffice for now. Perhaps next time.

Even though HK was known for shopping, I didn't get much bargain. The depreciation of £ made shopping in London cheaper than in HK. It was also Chinese New Year and sales must have just passed.
CNY at Times Square, Causeway Bay

I liked the island hopping trips. The ferry rides gave me the best views of HK's city skyline and its surrounding islands.
Boat ride to Aberdeen

Jumbo the floating restaurant, Aberdeen

Kiki met up with us on the third day. She looked different. A lot happier being where she is at the moment I guess. She was our local guide. She brought us to Sai Kung which would otherwise be difficult for us to go on our own.
Kiki and us in Sai Kung

Traveling by bus is not as straight forward as I expected but was fun. Having Kiki to bring us to the buses was certainly a great help. Thank you so much!!

We went to Wong Tai Sin, Lam Tsuen, Diamond Hill and Sai Kung.

Wishing tree, Lam Tsuen

Looking at this tree gave me a whole new meaning to "sustainability" - a tree that is able to meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations to meet their own needs.

The wishing tree was being propped up because too many people threw their wishing kits up the branches that it could no longer support the weight of the "wishes". It was slowly toppling.

So the management decided to provide a surrogate tree for people throw their wishes. Saving the tree is essential so that present generation can continue putting up their wishes without compromising future generations to do the same!

Wong Tai Sin

HK has a wide variety of food. Somehow I found there was little opportunity for vegetarians and Muslims to have a place in HK. Maybe I haven't observed carefully but as long as I was there, there were only two joints that I spotted catered to these groups.

For me, HK is a food haven! I could live here forever if I can!

An interesting observation was finding out that HK people like all things Japanese; Japanese restaurants, snacks and souvenir shops were located at almost every nook and cranny on the high streets.
Japanese lunch with Horace, an ex-colleague who so kindly took his lunch time to meet up with us. Coincidentally Kiki's old university mate too!

Another observation was that jewellery business must be good in HK. Chow Tai Fook, the jewellery shop seems to be everywhere. Its advert appeared on most of the public buses!

Of course the real deal for me to going to HK was the food. Instead of writing about what I ate, I will just show the stuff that I have dumped into my body in the four days:

Vegetarian at Po Lin Monastery

Suckling pig rice

Dim sum

Mango pudding

Seafood dinner at Lamma Island

Roast duck

"Dirty noodles" or "Push cart noodles"

Two-roasted meat rice

Fish porridge and cheong fun

Hui Lau Shan mango crush with coconut milk

More roasted meat

Some interesting things:

So red it pains your eyes!

A very steep ride down from Victoria Peak

A very discreet way to say "Brothel. Welcome in!" Who else pays hourly rate for a hotel stay??

The airport itself is an engineering and architectural splendour

Friday, February 13, 2009

Broken Society

Photo from The Sun

At a glance, this is a lovely photo of a cute young boy feeding his baby sister.

The truth is, he is the father of the baby girl!

Today this news shocked Britain when it was reported that a 13 year-old boy, who's only 1.2m tall and still hasn't broken his voice, has fathered a child with a 15 year-old girl.

The nation is shocked at how broken the society has become. Children giving birth to children. Many are just disgusted at the thought of it.

Some couldn't help laughing looking at the photo and thinking to themselves what they were doing at the age of 13. It became funnier when the boy said that he "will become a great dad".

I found it disturbing and amusing at the same time. How can someone that age be a good dad when he's still playing with his own toys and soon be competing for pocket money with his own daughter??!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

CNY in Malaysia 2

I came back yesterday after holidaying two weeks in Malaysia for CNY. I planned the trip all the way until Chap Goh Mei, the last day of CNY.

The trip home this time went quickly like I haven’t left the UK at all!

Two weeks were certainly too little to catch up with 1.5 years’ worth of stories with everyone. I didn’t even get to meet the friends whom I have promised to meet and go places which I have planned months before I returned. Then again, I have also met friends whom I haven’t met for decades, by accident. Malaysia is still too small.

I noticed it’s been a long time since I blogged too. Nevertheless I am still happy that I get to celebrate CNY and meet my family, relatives and friends.

My trip back has not all been jolly social too. I came back to work as well. The Institution of Civil Engineers in the UK requires me to submit an experience and project reports for the professional review to become a Chartered Engineer. And to do that, I have to gather information of my previous work experience in Malaysia. So I was busy going from office to office of my previous employer to sort out the stuff I have done in the past 6 years.

One thing I would always be proud of is that there are still bridges for me to use and I am glad none of us from either side has burnt them.

My previous bosses were also kind enough to allow me retrieve information of my previous works for the report. As a former colleague bluntly put it, “you would have had the door slammed on your face had you not been his blue-eye boy previously!” So I guess there was this mutual respect between us. Besides, I didn’t leave for another company but for studies.

Helpful former colleagues

Two common feedback that I received were:

1. "Why have you become so fair?!"
2. "Why have you lost so much weight?!"

These two comments came as a surprise as I have never thought myself as fair. Working with white people made me think lesser of that. As a runner, I have never gone beyond the threshold of being labeled as fair. So to be called fair this time, came as a surprise.

As for losing weight, I have noticed this since I was in Cambridge. I have always thought the cold weather and too much walking in this country made me lose all the excesses. But that's something healthy, so I'm okay with it.

Some of the highlights of my trip include:

The Sweet

Reunion with family members including my cousins whom I haven't met for more than two years.
Lou sang with family members

Grandmother and cousins

The Friends

Triathlon Team Hyper Gila

Extended version of Team Hyper Gila

Chevening alumni

Former colleagues of Gamuda and SPRINT

Former colleagues of SPRINT

Running buddies from Pacesetters

Former Samadian (not the dog).

Another group of ex-Samadians. Getting angpao is the best thing in this trip.

The Food

Korean with Ann

Hawker stalls

Japanese buffet

The Freedom

To drive around whenever and wherever

The Funny
Noris demonstrated the correct way of choosing the right fruit is by worshipping it first

The Crazy
8 hours wait to renew my passport. System crashed when too many people renewed their passports on the CNY long break.

With such a long queue for the overly-hyped Japanese buffet in town, I didn't bother queuing. So I left for Korean.