Thursday, 28 February 2019

Artistic Passion for Trams

The specially-designed tram that celebrates its 115th anniversary this year

I spotted this special tram over the weekend and love the story behind it.

Up close the tram is covered in hundreds of pictures (about 350) -- of other trams in and around Hong Kong to celebrate 115 years in the city.

They are the work of Japanese artist Koichi Matsuda, who has taken as many as 10,000 photographs of trams in the past five years.

Koichi Matsuda has taken 10,000 pictures of trams in 5 years
He found not only this type of transport but also the advertising on them very eye-catching.

"Hong Kong trams are special. In Japan, there are no double-decker [trams]," Matsuda, 65, said.

"The constant change of tram advertisements is the most suitable subject to showcase the vigorous economic growth of Hong Kong."

In the past five years, Matsuda has visited Hong Kong 20 times and used the same camera and lens to take pictures of the trams, usually at the Shau Kei Wan terminus. He took so many pictures that from 2016 to last year, he held six exhibition in Japan and Taipei.

After seeing his pictures, some Japanese were inspired to visit Hong Kong. "Many of my friends became more interested in Hong Kong and trams after seeing my work," he said.

But Matsuda hoped to use his photos to decorate a tram and the opportunity came after Hong Kong Tramways "liked" one of his photos on social media, and he contacted the company about his idea.

He is thrilled his proposal became a reality. This tram will be running along Hong Kong Island for two or three months. It's one of 164 trams running along the 30km system that carries 200,000 passengers daily.

Ding ding!

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Lin Heung Update

Lin Heung Tea House was very full for dinner on Monday evening
After we finished what we thought was our last meal at Lin Heung Tea House in Central, our waiter casually let us know that the place would reopen on March 1 as Lin Heung Cha Sutt or Lin Heung Tea Room.

I was very annoyed to hear this as we all thought this was the end of an era, but no -- somehow there was a last-minute reprieve from the landlord, developer CSI Properties.

The place is re-opening on March 1 under new management
Hong Kong Economic Journal reported that some of the staff had bought the franchise from the restaurant owners and managed to get a three-year lease from CSI Properties with rent at HK$400,000 a month.

The staff said they would continue to run Lin Heung like before...

Can they really make the rent, pay staff salaries, electricity, gas, food and so on to make a profit?

First of all, last year CSI Properties seemed reluctant to renew Lin Heung's lease because it owns 90 percent of the building, so many believe it was the end of the restaurant. Why did the landlord have a change of heart?

Second, where did the staff get the money to buy the franchise? They don't seem to be earning super high wages to afford not only the franchise but to take on that kind of a financial risk.

Can the staff keep Lin Heung going another three years?
Third, do they think they can turn the place around just by continuing doing what they did before?

We'll have to see what happens come March 1, but I can tell you I felt cheated that I didn't know the place was going to stay open. So many of us went to Lin Heung to say good bye when in fact there was no reason to say arrivederci in the end.

But why the restaurant is staying open is a mystery to me and time will only tell.

Monday, 25 February 2019

Last Supper at Lin Heung

The line outside at 7pm this evening at Lin Heung

Lin Heung Tea House on Wellington Street in Central is considered an institution -- and its history goes back 101 years in Guangdong.

Braised goose webs with mushrooms and cabbage
However it will close in a few days and so my relatives and I made one last pilgrimage here for dinner tonight.

It is typically chaotic in the mornings for dim sum, where not only do you have to fight for a table, or rather a seat where you share the table, but you also have to act like a hunter-gatherer and flock to the trolleys carrying bamboo baskets of steamed dim sum otherwise you'll go hungry.

For dinner it's usually more civilized, but this evening there was a line out the door of people waiting to eat. On Sunday evening we heard the line went all the way down to Stanley Street! Luckily some of my relatives got to Lin Heung early just to grab a table and pre-order some dishes.

Eight treasure duck was very flavourful
However, by the time we were ready to eat, one of the dishes, translated as "gold coin chicken" was already sold out. It's definitely first come, first served here. We could only order what was available so trying to order from the menu was kind of useless.

We managed to snag the eight treasure duck dish that was fantastic -- inside the duck are ingredients like chopped pork, lotus seeds, barley, and salted egg yolk marinated in a thick gravy. Another winner was the steamed minced pork with salted fish garnished with finely chopped ginger strips.

Fantastic deep-fried chicken, a pity only a half portion left
The half portion of deep-fried chicken we were able to get was also excellent with shrimp chips, and scrambled egg with white bait was good too, along with braised goose webs with mushrooms and cabbage.

Other dishes like the stir-fried fish strips were overcooked, while the vegetable dishes like stir-fried pea shoots and vegetables in a broth with vermicelli were lacklustre.

By the time we finished around 8.30pm, we asked about dessert and the waiter said there was only water left, no ingredients like red bean or sweet potato. They really were cleaning out the kitchen larder.

Excellent steamed minced pork with salted fish and ginger
My relatives who had arrived earlier bought some of the restaurant's cookies that are sold on the ground floor so we ate those for dessert. The staff didn't mind that we stayed so long -- the customers were clearing out and even gave us fresh pots of tea.

Everyone else like us were taking pictures of the place, from the menus to the tea pots, the dishes and the dining area. It's not much to look at, but it's a piece of Hong Kong's culinary history.

Apparently from March 1 it will become an iteration of itself with a modified name that will include the words Lin Heung.

But as we all know, that new version could be drastically different.

A station with bowls, plates and tea leaves in the boxes
This past year I've been to a few restaurant closings and it's sad to eat at these places one last time because they are being forced out by the landlords. At the same time there aren't any young people willing to take on such laborious work either. It's our fault for not nurturing the next generation to keep traditional cuisine alive because we don't value it, and instead are always chasing the next new thing.

Sunday, 24 February 2019

A Year Marking Lots of Anniversaries

Students gathering to mourn reformer Hu Yaobang's death in 1989

 This year, 2019, is full of anniversaries for China, many of them are ones the government would like to avoid. That means spiriting away dissidents on "forced trips" and cleaning streets to get rid of homeless people, and those lovely security checks in subway stations will be stepped up even more.

The Dalai Lama fled to India 60 years ago
Coming up on March 10 is the 60th anniversary of the failed uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet. Since this month, the government has banned foreign visitors from traveling to Tibet so that they don't even have a chance to cause trouble during this "sensitive time"; they may be allowed back in from April 1.

March 17 is also the 60th anniversary of when the Dalai Lama fled Tibet for India. Will His Holiness come out to say something about what a travesty it is to be exiled from his homeland for six decades?

This year is the 100th anniversary of the May 4 Movement
Then April 15 will be another sensitive anniversary -- 30 years since the death of ousted reformer Hu Yaobang, that sparked students to gather at Tiananmen Square, and then we all know what happened less than two months later.

However, the government will be happy to mark the May 4 Movement -- the 100th anniversary. There will probably be pomp and circumstance to celebrate this event where students led the call for anti-imperialism because at the time China could not or did not stand up to foreign powers. It led to the surge of nationalism and to the founding of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921.

Sad remembrance: It is three decades since June 4, 1989
Hard to believe the June 4 anniversary is 30 years on... the candlelight vigil in Hong Kong's Victoria Park will probably be the same, but the significance is greater. The Chinese government doesn't even want to talk about what happened during the Cultural Revolution, so how can it even begin to touch the subject of 1989? The silence is deafening.

Ten years ago I was in Xian when the Urumqi riots broke out. Suddenly state media turned into overdrive, writing tons of articles of how the Han Chinese in Xinjiang were attacked, how horrible it was, and how those attackers should be punished severely. It was a very tense time. Given the current situation in Xinjiang, the Chinese government may use the anniversary as further justification for putting Uighurs into "education camps"...

Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the PRC 70 years ago
But to cap the year off will be the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on October 1. There will definitely be a lot of fanfare (and cleaning the streets) for that celebration. The government will probably spare no expense to have a stunning fireworks display while enforcing lots of road blocks and security checks...

There won't be a dull moment in China this year!

Saturday, 23 February 2019

New Public Space in Admiralty

An intriguing green sculpture standing tall in Admiralty
Last night on my way to the jazz concert at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, I had extra time to get there and decided to walk, as it's closer to Admiralty than Wan Chai.

I am where? Facing Harcourt Road in Admiralty
When I got to Admiralty, I walked north towards Admiralty Centre and then took a right to an elevated footpath going east. That took me to the new MTR station that who knows when will open, connecting to Sha Tin, and next to that is a newly-developed public space.

Unfortunately all public spaces are heavily programmed -- this one was no exception -- and users are forced to walk down a specific path though there are spindly trees along the path. Then it hit a giant steep stairway and down below looked like giant blocks on the ground.

On closer inspection they were indeed giant slabs of granite? But it wasn't explained where they were reclaimed from, and it would have been nice to know. They sat on top of a map of the area, but the blocks didn't have much meaning except randomly placed around.

A long stairwell to get to the Admiralty MTR station
This area was then joined to the walkway that I was looking for to get to the HKAPA in minutes. It's an interesting path, though I wouldn't want to climb back up those stairs again in the summer heat!

Friday, 22 February 2019

Jazz that Riffs off Ravel

(left to right) Marco Mezquida, Martin Melendez and Aleix Tobias

Last night was all about classical music, and tonight it was jazz riffing off of the music of Maurice Ravel.

As part of the Hong Kong Arts Festival, I attended a concert by the Marco Mezquida Trio entitled Ravel's Dreams, held at the Drama Theatre in the Hong Kong for Performing Arts in Wan Chai.

Last year when I watched a jazz performance at the nearby Arts Centre, the place was barely filled, but this time it was almost full, with ushers encouraging people to sit closer to the stage.

Mezquida is a very talented Spanish pianist -- he is technically as brilliant as someone like Lang Lang and takes his musicality to another level with improvisation on the spot depending on the venue, the audience and how he feels.

Only 31 years old, he is very comfortable experimenting with all aspects of the piano -- even reaching over and playing with the strings inside the instrument. His fellow musicians are very accomplished as well.

Cellist Martin Melendez who was born in Moscow of Cuban parents and lives in Barcelona, playing jazz, Cuban, funk and flamenco. Melendez was soaking in the music, mostly eyes closed and moving to the music as he played, plucked and even strummed his cello.

Aleix Tobias on drums is very deft on percussion and has a range from adding beats to creating new textures with the music and complementing the two other players very well.

At first the audience was timid and didn't know when to clap -- many were Chinese -- but after a while they got the hang of it and enthusiastically clapped after each piece. 

Towards the end, Mezquida performed the Adagio assai from Ravel's Piano Concerto in G major all on his own and we were all mesmerized watching his fingers literally flying all over the keyboard, doing very fast chords and melody all on his own -- the cellist and percussionist took a break, and it wasn't until the very end did they join him.

The last piece they played was their riff of Ravel's Bolero -- so full of energy and the piano and percussion taking turns keeping the signature beat of the piece. The cellist held his instrument like a giant guitar and was strumming it!

By now the audience was so excited they clapped enthusiastically and got an encore. We don't know what it was, but Tobias held a tambourine, Melendez hit/tapped different parts of the cello and Mezquida strummed or plucked the piano strings -- it was completely unconventional music, and it was fun.

The audience clapped loudly again, but alas, the trio only came out to wave goodbye and that their CDs were available outside the venue!

Marco Mezquida Trio - Ravel's Dreams (arranged by Mezquida)
String Quartet in F major
Pavane pour une infante defunte
Le Tombeau de Couperin
Adagio assai from Piano Concerto in G major

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Stellar Classical Music Performance

The audience thoroughly enjoyed tonight's concert in the Cultural Centre

The 47th HK Arts Festival kicked off this evening with a concert by the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marin Alsop.

Alsop is known as one of Leonard Bernstein's best students, and last year was busy performing for his 100th anniversary global celebrations.

Conductor Marin Alsop was a protege of Leonard Bernstein
Not only is she music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, but also principal conductor and music director of the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra. Later this year she will become chief conductor of the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra too.

This evening the opening concert was held at the Concert Hall in the Hong Kong Cultural Centre and it was shockingly not full -- part of the reason was when booking tickets, there was no way to know where you would be sitting except have a general idea due to the price of your ticket.

My friend YTSL bought the tickets -- HK$720 (US$92) each and that landed us in the nosebleed section! We can only imagine how much it cost to sit closer to the stage. But in terms of acoustics we were happy, though it was disappointing to see large patches of areas where no one was sitting. The organizers will have to think twice about how they have overcharged for this event.

Nevertheless the real reason why YTSL bought these tickets was to see violinist Ning Feng! He seems to have lost some weight which is a good thing.

Ning Feng did not disappoint with Paganini
He definitely did not disappoint, playing Niccolo Paganini's Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 6. His fingers were so deft on the violin neck that it hardly looked like it was a difficult task for him. The audience was completely rapt with his performance that we could only stare and appreciate his technical and artistic flair that was so precise.

Each movement was quite long, but designed to showcase the soloist's violin skills. Needless to say we were blown away.

He played an encore, but I couldn't hear clearly what he was going to play, though it was still spellbinding!

After the intermission we settled into more of Alsop leading the orchestra in Camargo Guanieri's Suite Vila Rica that in part IX Humoristico had a nice latin beat to it, and part X Baiao - Gingando also had a nice rhythm to it.

Alsop leads the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra
This was followed by a long-winded Richard Strauss piece, Der Rosenkavalier Suite. It took a long time to build up to the end that featured a lot of percussion from the triangle to giant drums and snare drums to French horns, flutes, a harp and even keyboard.

Alsop was so thrilled by our response (we made up for the small audience numbers with big claps and shouts of approval) that she got the orchestra to play two encores, both not classical and got us all excitedly clapping at the end.

We hope the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra enjoyed playing here -- they do have another concert tomorrow -- and thank you Ning Feng for the amazing performance!

Marin Alsop with the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra
February 21, Concert Hall, Hong Kong Cultural Centre

Sergei Prokofiev, Symphony No. 1 in D major, Op 25
Intermezzo - Larghetto
Gavotte - Non troppo Allegro
Finale - Molto vivace

Niccolo Paganini, Violin Concerto No 1 in D major, Op 6 (performed with Ning Feng)
Allegro maestoso
Adagio espressivo
Rondo - Allegro spiritoso

Camargo Guarnieri, Suite Vila Rica (exerpts)
I. Entrada - Maestoso
IV. Scherzando
VII. Valsa (Waltz)
VIII. Saudoso (Homesick)
IX. Humoristico (Humorous)
X. Baiao - Gindando (Bahian dance - Swaying)

Richard Strauss, Der Rosenkavalier Suite
Presentation of the Silver Rose
Baron Ochs's Waltz
"lst ein Traum"

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Enough with the Self-Obsession

Everywhere you look in Hong Kong, people are taking selfies
Recently some colleagues and acquaintances and I have been talking about how people have become so obsessed with social media that it's become completely absurd.

Do we need to know what you're drinking?
There's a new hipster coffee shop that opened in my neighbourhood, and now every weekend there are throngs of people there -- just to take pictures -- to show that they are at the latest hot spot. Once they get their cups of coffee, they take selfies with the waterfront in the background, or the shop behind them.

The shop is located on the corner and there's heavy traffic right in front -- with so many people around the store, there's bound to be a car accident because people are too busy concentrating on taking pictures of themselves.

My colleague sarcastically joked that these people were proving that they had ticked another item off their bucket list, or that their social media posts would include hashtags like #lifegoals or #nocoffenolife or #goalaccomplished.

So getting a cup of coffee is an accomplishment?

Another acquaintance told of visiting a Japanese pancake shop, where the pancakes have egg whites folded into them to make them thick and jiggly, the latest dessert trend in Hong Kong. She reported that the customers who arrived just before her were a young couple.

Why not eat the pancakes instead of taking pictures of them?
She was there for about 45 minutes to make a video at the shop, take some footage of the signature pancakes, and eat them. When she was leaving, she noticed the couple was still sitting there, the man looking very bored and hungry while his female partner was still taking pictures of the pancakes from every conceivable angle.

Surely the pancakes were stone cold by then?

And then yet another acquaintance who was in a restaurant in Taiwan recently, and he saw the group of people next to them get up and go, and left behind a dish that was completely untouched. They had only come to photograph the food.

What a waste.

She wants to show everyone she had a bubble tea here
He also said he was in a cafe and a woman sat in a corner and was taking non-stop selfies of herself -- for an hour.

When will this self-absorbed obsession for likes and followers end?

How about putting the phone down and instead of focusing on taking the perfect picture, how about focusing on the moment?

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Memories of Kaiser Karl

Karl Lagerfeld at one of his Chanel shows recreating a French bistro
Towards the end of dinner this evening, my friend looked at her phone and saw a news alert that designer Karl Lagerfeld had died at the age of 85.

It was a shock to hear the news -- I remember watching him on Fashion Television in the late 80s and early 90s talking a mile a minute about how he made fashion relevant or how women wanted strong-looking clothes in the office or how they wanted to be feminine looking or how women wanted clothes to make them feel comfortable.

Back in the early 1990s with supermodels wearing Chanel
These sound bites rattled off his tongue and fashion correspondents lapped it up because he was considered the genius to reinvented Chanel from 1983 into the power fashion house it is today, while keeping Fendi still relevant despite the trend of moving away from wearing fur.

When I first started watching him on TV he already had greying hair -- and yet he kept working 30 years later, averaging a staggering 14 collections a year. How do you come up with so many ideas for so many collections?

That didn't seem to be a problem for him when it came to Chanel, as he continually riffed off the boucle fabric, the interlinking "Cs" and the multiple strands of pearls. He made the iconic boxy jackets into biker ones, or harked back to Coco Chanel's days or paired them with tulle skirts or leather minis.

I was just in awe of the myriad of combinations he would think of and yet each piece would have some kind of Chanel DNA in them.

Lagerfeld recreated a beach for his spring/summer collection
In the last several years he came up with more grandiose ideas of how to present his collections. One time he recreated a bistro in Paris, a supermarket even with Chanel-branded food products on the shelves, or what about trucking in tons of sand to recreate a beach...

Meanwhile Fendi is a brand I am not so familiar with, but he has had a long association with it since 1965! He would experiment with fur, shaving it, dyeing them, creating new textures and colours with them. Customers lapped it up, along with the baguette bag, which has made a comeback in different sizes.

Fashion never really changes, but just enough that you're lusting for the latest one...

He even made a Chanel-themed supermarket for a catwalk
Lagerfeld introduced me to the world of fashion -- it seemed glamorous and beautiful to a young person -- and how the clothes, particularly haute couture were made. He gave me a new appreciation for this art form and that it was important to keep couture alive.

While the German had a quirky personality, he anchored fashion for decades and has left behind a giant hole of creativity. Lagerfeld will be missed.

Monday, 18 February 2019

Freckles Challenge Chinese Beauty

Model Li Jingwen with a natural freckled face showing off Zara's makeup
The Chinese can be a sensitive lot, especially when it comes to their perception of beauty.

The latest fashion label to be on the hot seat following Dolce and Gabbana is Spanish fast-fashion brand Zara. It released a post on its Weibo account, showing model Li Jingwen wearing a new lipstick and lip glaze, though her freckles were very visible which sparked immediate controversy.

Some Chinese netizens took it to mean Zara was being racist towards Chinese people, saying the brand was "uglifying China" as they don't see freckles as a sign of beauty.

"Does it mean that us Asian women all have dull eyes and have faces full covered by freckles?" asked one netizen.

"Sorry that we Asian women don't have freckles -- or only a small proportion of us have," said another. "You spent such an effort finding a model with freckles, just like searching for a needle in the sea. How hard you've been working on this!"

A third netizen remarked, "Selling products in China had better respect Chinese people's aesthetic taste. I don't understand why Zara showed this face with a lot of freckles?"

Zara clarified the photos didn't make Li look ugly
Others felt the photos were realistic and one news platform called The Paper said: "It's common for international fashion brands to use freckled models, and some freckles are even welcomed by the public from foreign countries."

The fact that this needs to be spelled out in this day and age is a sad commentary on some Chinese people's tunnel vision definition of beauty.

Nevertheless, some appraised the photos as authentic and felt the public should be more open to different aesthetics and tolerant of imperfect facial features instead of just accepting edited pictures.

Zara had to clarify that the new makeup line was not solely targeting the Chinese market, and that the appointment of Li the model was determined by the headquarters in Spain, showing her in a natural state without any final touch-ups.

"Spanish people have different beauty standards and they did not intend to make this model look ugly," a Zara spokeswoman said. "They usually don't modify the photos of models. That's what the model looks like."

Does this mean the Chinese are going to hate on Li for her freckles? Or will they begin boycotting Zara?

Maybe they have to learn to accept that beauty is not one with a completely made-up face that looks impossibly perfect -- natural beauty is real beauty, and that includes freckles.

Sunday, 17 February 2019

10K Race Report

At the far end in front is the starting line! It was overcast and light rain

This morning I woke up at 4.15am to be out the door by 5.30am to get to the start of the Standard Chartered Marathon 10K run for a 6.45am start. Mentally I was prepared to not run all the way, but run as much as I could as I hadn't trained as much as I wanted.

The weather conditions were good -- it was humid though not too hot at 19 degrees and I kept warm by wearing a plastic raincoat. Near the starting area I hung back and stayed near the furthest porta-potties to avoid waiting in line to pee a few times before the race (I drink a lot of water when I wake up!).

Walking towards the starting point just after 6am
In the lane opposite us were the first batch of runners on their way to Victoria Park for the finish. I watched them go by and standing next to me was a middle-aged local man who looked like he was responsible for first aid. He asked me the distance these runners had already done at this point and I said it was around 8K.

Seeing me now in just a T-shirt and shorts he asked if I was cold and I said no, it was fine. He was worried I would catch a cold. But it was perfect conditions, overcast. However, as I approached the starting line -- though way at the back, light rain started falling and the winds were picking up.

At 6.45am the bullhorn sounded for us to run, but it took me at least six minutes just to walk to the start! I started at a slow pace and somehow just kept going. Perhaps it was me being completely focused on the road ahead and not putting pressure on myself to beat my time which led me running at a comfortable pace.

Pic of the giant Central-Wan Chai air purifier by the highway
When I hit the 1km mark, I was surprised as others were to see some runners already waiting in line for the porta-potty! "Did they have a stomachache or something?" asked one guy to his friend. This is why I go a few times before the race...

I saw at least two people injured along the race route, as well as three pairs of visually-impaired runners holding a giant rubber band with their volunteer guide runners. Very cool. One woman from the heat before us was in a giant white chicken costume and had to walk the whole thing. She got lots of photos with runners though.

The light rain came and went periodically and when we turned around from Shau Kei Wan to go back to Causeway Bay, we were in lanes that were further from the water so it wasn't as windy. I had to be careful not to run along the dividing line markers as there were periodic raised bumps and saw one person trip on one of them and fell.

Watching the first batch of runners going to Victoria Park
Pretty soon I passed 6K, 7K, 8K.... the end was already near and I felt OK, no cramps and just kept going. At the 9K mark near the end is a really steep hill. I started to climb it slowly but then decided to take a quick breather and walked up, and when the road went downhill, I began running again towards the finish.

In the end my time was around 1:10, slower than my previous times of 1:07, but I was just happy to finish the race and felt good about it. Perhaps I could have gone faster, but I was thrilled that it was a comfortable run overall.

So perhaps I was more fit than I thought! Or conditions were just right for me and kept a conservative pace.

I'm glad my colleague encouraged me to do the race because she knew I would feel regrets if I didn't do it.

She's already told me to tell her when to sign up for it so we can do it together next year!

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Chicken Broth from Scratch

Just before turning the heat on, the local chicken is nestled with vegetables
These days I'm cooking more; even though our office is in Causeway Bay where there is a plethora of dining options, they aren't easy on the wallet, nor are they satisfying.

In the past year I have resorted to cooking my own lunches, usually large batches of soups that I scoop into boxes and put in the freezer before re-heating one in the morning and putting the hot soup in a thermos that will keep it warm for lunchtime. Then I splurge on bread at Eric Kayser to accompany my lunch.

Earlier this week I was given a local chicken from Tai On farm in the New Territories, and since my toaster oven is too small to roast it, I decided to make chicken broth from it last night.

Through research online I discovered chicken broth is different from stock -- the former is making a soup with the meat and bones, while the latter is only the bones; I thought the two words were interchangeable!

In any event I placed the chicken (minus the head and organs) into the large wok I have, together with onions, leeks, garlic, celery, carrots, bay leaves, black peppercorns and salt. I did add a sprig of coriander that turned the broth slightly green. Also forget using dried oregano -- stick to fresh parsley, and fill the pot up with water and turn on the heat.

I should have chopped up the chicken, and ended up having to cut the feet off as the broth was already steaming hot... not smart, but oh well. The broth simmered for about an hour and a half, when the meat was falling off the bone. I took the chicken out of the pot and let the broth simmer a bit longer.

The chicken meat was delicious -- what I tried without devouring the whole thing. It had a chicken taste that's not found in North American birds. It's also much smaller in size too.

After the broth was taken off the heat and cooled down, I first poured the broth into a colander and then a fine sieve strainer that didn't let oil molecules through -- there was a lot of oil. Then the broth went into the refrigerator overnight as well as the chicken meat that I pulled off the carcass and placed in another container in the fridge.

This morning I made chicken vegetable soup with onions, garlic, leeks, carrots and celery, barley and corn. When I put the broth in, it was gelatinous from the carcass, bones and skin. Amazing! When it was heated up again it became a broth again. I managed to make four servings' worth of soup and included some of the chicken meat too.

Lunch this week is going to be delish!

Friday, 15 February 2019

Kids' Rights Over CNY Money

Chinese New Year means children receiving a lot of red envelopes
This is an interesting case -- a 10-year-old boy successfully sued his father to give him back the money he received from Chinese New Year from his parents' friends and family.

Usually parents keep the lai see or hong bao for their children and deposit it into the bank for safe keeping. In this case, the father, surnamed Su, deposited 3,000 yuan (US$443) in the child's bank account from February 2014 to March 2015.

Children in China can receive lots of money from hong bao
In March 2016, Su withdrew the entire amount plus interest without his son's permission. He may have done this because his son began living with his mother until she applied for custody of him in December 2015, which was granted the following April.

During the case, which was heard in Baiyun District Court in Guangdong province, Su claimed the money was given to the child by his friends and relatives who were unrelated to the mother. He also said he had promised his son to return the money, together with interest, when he grew up.

In the end the judge ruled the child had the rights over his savings account and ordered the father to give him back 3,045 yuan.

No touching my hong bao! The court says so!
It's intriguing the court decided to hear this case. Perhaps it had received several of these requests and wanted to lay down the law on parents taking their kids' Chinese New Year money without their knowledge.

So parents -- don't even think twice about taking your kids' lai see money -- it's theirs!

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Race Day Countdown

Getting runners excited about the upcoming race on Sunday
The Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon is in its 23rd year and the race will be held this Sunday.

Having been sick for the past month, I'm not exactly in tip top shape for the 10K, but I have decided to do my best. These last few days I have managed to do some decent training and pleased that I've done OK.

There is one giant loop to get T-shirts...
This year there have been some changes in how participants pick up their T-shirts and running bib and after this event is over, there's going to be a barrage of complaints.

While participants are able to pick up the T-shirt and bib number on any of the four days starting yesterday until Saturday, there's been chaos in figuring out what is going on.

It turns out runners pick up the bib number along with their coloured bag depending on their race and time in one place, and then their T-shirt on the grass pitch in Victoria Park.

I was confused and got into a line and then soon realized it was for the T-shirts when I hadn't even gotten my bib number yet. Luckily the line wasn't too bad, but like everyone else, was wondering why couldn't we get the T-shirt in the same place too like we used to?

After I got my running bib, then I had to join the line I had mistakenly gone to in order to get onto the grass pitch to pick up my T-shirt. There was a massive backlog and at one point the entire walkway was covered in several lines weaving back and forth.

Eventually I finally made it to the grass pitch and then it was separated between men and women and from there I got the T-shirt in minutes. Why did it take so long? It just seemed so strange to have to line up twice.

... and there was a mass of people closer to the grass pitch
Also this year there was no paper notice mailed to us to pick up the running kit -- it was all done online in the hopes of wasting less paper, but I saw many people print out the email with a giant QR code... kind of defeating the purpose of trying to reduce paper usage.

Another feature for 2019 is that the bibs have our names on them. Whoohoo... organizers thought this would help people on the sidelines to cheer for us. But for the 10K run, hardly any spectators are allowed except towards the finish at Victoria Park... oh well.

Now that I've gone through the effort (and frustration) of getting my bib number and T-shirt, I guess I will be running on Sunday!

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Sucking Up the Bubble Tea Hype

These Heytea drinks look messy but they taste oh so good!
I finally succumbed and tried one of many bubble tea brands that have sprouted in Hong Kong in the past year.

My colleague and I went to Heytea, which opened a store in the basement of Times Square two months ago so we went to check it out.

We came just before lunchtime so there wasn't much of a lineup thank goodness.

Many Heytea outlets look like this when they are busy
The shop doesn't have any seating -- everyone stood outside to wait for their number to be called on a digital board with a ding dong sound.

I was surprised to find the prices were very reasonable too. We chose to share an Oreo-flavoured boba tea (boba meaning the large tapioca balls), in a milk tea flavour that cost HK$28; for a matcha flavoured one it would be HK$36.

The wait was about 10 minutes or so which wasn't too bad and when our order was finally called we got a small plastic cup with the black pearls at the bottom, the milk tea and crushed Oreo cookies on top.

I haven't had bubble tea in decades -- it's not a drink I would normally choose because the black pearls are hardly nutritious, and I never finish eating them either.

But that first sip -- I sucked up those tapioca balls and they had a caramelized sugar flavour that complemented the milk tea drink (more milky than tea). And on top of that the crushed cookies -- with a tinge of salt -- made the drink sweet, salty, chewy and crunchy all in one.

Oreo-flavoured bubble tea with the black pearls looked like this
Thank goodness we shared that drink -- I wouldn't have finished one on my own -- or maybe I would have drunk all the milk tea and left most of the tapioca pearls behind. In the end we did just that... a waste, but we didn't need to add more inches to our waists.

Heytea is one of the hottest bubble tea brands at the moment, and has had a meteoric rise since it started in 2012 in Jiangmen, Guangdong province. It now has its headquarters in Shenzhen, and is best known for its cheese topping on the drink... which didn't quite seem appetizing to us.

Will we try Heytea again? Probably, but not anytime soon... but that caramelized sugar taste was so good....! Like drinking a liquid form of milk tea creme brulee...!

B216, B2, Times Square
1 Matheson Street
Causeway Bay
3106 2996

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Performance Etiquette in Macau

Car enthusiasts enjoyed Elekron, but many were late stragglers
In Macau I was there on assignment to cover two shows, one is the well known House of Dancing Water that has been around for 10 years at City of Dreams, and a new show that debuted last month in Studio City called Elekron, featuring stunts done by electric vehicles in an indoor arena.

The latter show started on time, but the seats were just half full. To get the audience settled in, two clowns entertained the crowd for about 10 to 15 minutes, though people are still streaming in.

And even when the actual show has started with cars and motorbikes zooming around, there are still lots of people going to their seats. These latecomers are all mainlanders.

I was told these late stragglers is a very common occurrence for these shows in Macau.

And then there is the perennial problem of people whipping out their smartphones and trying to record the show. Ushers are constantly racing up and down the stairs telling people they are not allowed to take videos of the performance, let alone take pictures with flash.

And then three-quarters through the show, a group of men got up en masse and walked out. They chose a point in the show where the two clowns showed up on stage again and one of them waved goodbye to one of the last men who were walking out. Like seriously? You're just going to leave like that?

But then again in Beijing I have seen people walk out as classical musicians are performing a solo section in a concert.

House of Dancing Water was a very similar situation, though not as many people coming in late. However, before the show started, a mother with her two year old son and grandmother sat two rows down from us and the child was wailing uncontrollably.

He kept saying "我不要! Wo bu yao!" I don't want [it]! I don't want [it]! but I didn't know what "it" was. His mother would threaten to hit him and he would cry even harder. His grandmother cradled him for a while and then his mother would grab him back forcefully and then his grandmother would hold him, passed around like a hot potato.

It got to the point where an usher came down to suggest perhaps they should take the child out to calm him down first, but the mother refused to budge. Eventually she did and after a while returned with the child. But as soon as they sat down, he started wailing again. Luckily we didn't hear from him again after the show started...

What do you do when the main audience base is from China? Do you tell them they're not allowed in after the show starts? Or do you just let them be and hope they will learn next time? And what about parents who can't control their children?

It's an uphill battle trying to educate mainland audiences about basic performance etiquette...

Monday, 11 February 2019