Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wanna Get Away?

In the midst of studying for finals, writing papers and preparing presentations, some friends and I found a little time to visit Cheung Chau Island for a morning.  Having been stuck in the city for so many months, it's a much needed study break.

We first boarded a ship and sailed with produce and meet...

...definitely not a usual traveling companion.  But rocking by the dock and catching the Hong Kong skyline from a distance was a welcomed sight.

Once we arrived, we borrowed some bikes (only 20HKD for an entire afternoon!) and explored the little fishing village/island.

The vibe of Cheung Chau is definitely a lot more different than Hong Kong island.  Since it is mostly a fishing village, seafood filled the streets...

...finally ending up on our plates

We ordered twelve mostly seafood dishes and 12 bowls of rice for only $538HKD. (that's less than $5USD per person)  Food in America will never taste the same again.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Thank God in Facebook.

This little cyber-wonder has been such an integral part of my college career. It's been my procrastinator, my story-teller, my ad machine, my stalker device, my keeper-in-toucher, my network.  There's been times where I'd hate the thing and just want to deactivate and live a completely Facebook-free life.  But then I think about how bored I'd be, how many events, news, gossip I would miss and I get sucked right back in.  It's not a bad thing as long as it's taken in moderate doses.  And once I graduate, I'll eventually wean off of it, right? (So why do my cousins still check it first thing in the morning??!)

One of the best things about Facebook is that it is the ultimate invitation.  Got a party?  Notify everyone on your friends list and viola, you got yourself a party.  Events, meetings, even brainstorming sessions have been done via Facebook.

Which was how we got to ice-skating.

I sent a Facebook message out asking people to... watch a movie.  Somehow, we college students with A.D.D. changed the subject which eventually led to ice skating.  So off we went on Friday night to Elements to ice skate!

Elements is one of the newest fabulous shopping malls that caters to Hong Kong's rich and famous.  But one of their food courts and their skating rink fit within our budgets and made for a delightful Friday evening of burgers and skating on ice.

Now, if only I actually knew how to ice skate.  Or to even roller skate for that matter.  For some reason, in my happy childhood, somehow anything on skates or wheels skidded blissfully by.  I do know how to ride a mean bike so that's some consolation but hobbling around on ice skates when you're 21 and there's 8 year olds whizzing by you in the rink, it can be somewhat of a stressful thing.

I had fun though.  With my delightful teachers Alice and Xixi and Luis and Jesse and Janice and whomever else that had the courage to hold my hand, I was able to stand by myself on the ice, walk a little on the ice and even skate alittle .  I feel accomplished!

I love the holidays.  I love the chunky scarves and long coats. I love the lights and the Christmas cheer. I love the families, the smiles and the long-standing traditions.  We had also intended to have a little holiday photo-taking session that day but when you're traveling with 20 people, it gets kinda hard to move around.  But trust that we'll be saving that for next time!

The next morning, I awoke with my whole body sore from tensing up on the ice but this little pain was worth it for all the fun and love I had that night.  All the more reason I'll miss Hong Kong!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ocean Park

My dream date is to spend a day at Disneyland.

Yet, in my twenty one years of life, I have yet to do that. There was the boy that was planning on asking me to be his girlfriend at Disneyland underneath the fireworks but I broke up with him a week before he could do it. There was the boy who promised to take me to Disneyland but broke up with me before he would do it. There was the boy who was too sick to even ride passenger seat in a car, let alone handle Disneyland's Spinning Tea-cups.

So, I did the next best thing.

I went to Ocean Park with a significant other (but not The significant other) and had a beautifully swell Sunday afternoon.

With Annie's student pass and my cousin's maid's SmartPass (I had a dark enough complexion to look like Lynn from the Philippines), we were able to get in free of charge. Kind of like being treated on a date, if you think about it!

We rode the two big kid rides first, a roller coaster and a water rafting one. After being sufficiently pumped and running into my cousin, who just stopped by to...grab a bite to eat with her daughter and then drive back...we headed off to the Headlands rides. This portion of Ocean Park resembles Santa Monica Pier, complete with ferris wheel and everything.

We jived there the rest of the afternoon, conversing about boys and musing about how romantic this date would have been if we were both lesbians. Sigh...if only.

Wouldn't we make such an attractive couple? Her with her New York sophistication and me with my...Californian tourism?

I really shouldn't joke about my sexual orientation. As much as I am for gay rights, (Down with Prop 8!) I get mistaken enough for a lesbian as it is. Wouldn't want to put off potential suitors now, would we?

I know one of these days, my Disneyland fantasy will be fulfilled.  Prince Charming, I'm waiting for you!

Ok, so moving on, Christmas is coming up! I may possibly be spending the holidays with my family (ma, pa, sis and all) so I'm really, really excited! Plus, Hong Kong really gets into the Christmas spirit and I've already been asked to sing carols for my halls. Yippy! I've always wanted to sing carols!

*Edit: I did end up going to Disneyland with someone who, at the time, was considered special. It was aitte.

Animal Cruelty

I was just informed by a concerned citizen for the welfare of wild animals that the tiger temple we visited in Kanchanaburi is under heavy scrutiny for their poor treatment of tigers.  The temple claims to have rescued orphan tigers but investigation have revealed that these animals may have been illegally bred and traded with the owner of a tiger farm in Laos.  New tigers would come into the temple and old ones would be traded out.  

In addition to this disturbing news, it is claimed that the tigers are also being heavily mistreated at the temple.  They are often beaten into compliance and though the temple claims that the cats are not drugged, investigations have uncovered that they are sprayed with tiger urine to obey.  In the wild, tiger urine is a territorial and aggressive signal so the staff is demonstrating extreme aggression when conducting this.  

Though I did not see any of this while I was at the temple, I would believe it. How else can you get the king of the jungle to lounge around like a helpless pussy and have strange hands touching it all day long?  I am very sad that Thailand is condoning this kind of behavior and tricking tourists into believing that the tigers are being kept in a safe and healthy environment. Though I did get an awfully cool picture out of it, I am urging that any of you who are planning on going to Thailand in the future to not take part in this.  Save your 300 baht and go to a ping pong show or something. (I'm just kidding, don't. Those shows degrade human beings.)

Here are a few more links for more information on yet another THAILAND SCAM:

Thanks for the heads up, Jane!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


It's funny how things work out sometime. 

With only one and a half months left in Hong Kong, I had been planning a last AWESOME trip to Korea to end my half year of travels.  This was going to be the creme de la crop.  All my closest friends know I have not-so-secret ambitions of becoming a korean pop-star and this trip was going to help me make it. (Or at least give me some eye candy for a couple of days).

But then Thailand happened. I became wary of traveling and I was/am really disappointed in myself for being so naive and gullible.  I became scared of parting with hard-earned dollars.  I became guilty for playing so much and not being productive enough.

So though my friends tried their darned hardest to convince me to go, using lines like, "we'll never hang out like this back in LA" and "money you can always earn back but memories are priceless" (and it worked, I swear I was swayed for a good long time!), in the end, I decided not to purchase my plane ticket.

I was still debating over this up until about an hour ago when I received a phone call from my mama.  She sounded tired.  We exchanged the usual pleasantries and then she casually dropped in the fact that she was going to have surgery a couple of weeks from now.  

Um..say what?

Ok, so the surgery is not that serious but surgery is surgery. (unless if it is, say, bunion surgery or eyelid surgery then maybe it's not that serious but even then, you'd have my utmost support.) So when I heard that she'll have to stick around Shanghai for at least another couple of weeks, I immediately told her I can fly to Shanghai and visit her for a couple of days.  Normally, my mom would decline saying she'll see me in just a month but this time, she immediately said yes.  So it is definitely the right thing to do.  AND I GET TO SEE MY MOMMY BEFORE JANUARY!

The irony in all this is definitely not lost on me.  For the Korea trip, even though my friends were using all these convincing and appealing points to tell me why I should go and even though I really really do want to go, something in my gut held me back.  I know everything happens for a reason and now, I think I see what that reason was for.  

Oh God, you are so wise.  I thank you for your endless guidance and aide in times of hardship and unhappiness.  You have only shown me once again that everything has a purpose and only time will reveal what that purpose is.  I know I am impatient in so many ways but once again,  you have taught me that immediate gratification will never fill the longing in my soul. I need so much more.  I need You.

I Lost Weight from Thailand...

...and I didn't like it.  

Ok, sure I like how the top looks a little better on me now or that I don't have that muffin top popping out of my jeans but I went to Bangkok expecting, at best, to get fat and happy!  Or at worst, to get sick from gorging on good (but sanitarily-wary) grub!  Though neither happened, I did enjoy a couple of Thai delectables.  Some still don't beat the homely comforts of Banana Bay in Rowland Heights, California, (I mean, I grew up on the "Bay" for chrissakes.  It's where we spent after-dances and birthday parties, late night snacks or group meetings.  As they say, an important aspect of food is the memories they conjure up.) but they'll do.

Tom Yum Vermicelli noodles.  I wanted the red soup-based one and I even pointed to the picture but the lady at the airport employee's food court didn't understand and provided me with this instead.  OOh how it hit the spot! Spicy but tangy and vibrant with flavor.  This was a good start to our food adventures.

Shaved ice must be an Asian thing because there are variations of this in at least four different countries.  

But I think it may be only in Thailand where you can select from such colorful toppings as potatoes or corn.

This is a famous Thai dessert: sweet purple rice with coconut gelatin on top wrapped in banana leaves.  I engulfed it for breakfast one morning.

Fried bananas! Don't let my delectable picture fool you. The actual snack was placed on an open grill in the middle of the day, where tons of flies were gnawing away on it.  I was really fearful of ordering it but I thought, "heck, what's the worst that can happen to me? I live in the bathroom for a couple of days? Bring it on!"  I didn't have to live in the bathroom but the thought that flies got to my food before I did kind of affect my liking for the snack.

Seafood Tom Yum noodle soup.  This was ordered at a very touristy restaurant in Khao Sun area but it nonetheless was a delicious meal.  The soup really hits the spot with all its spiciness and flavoring!  I can see why it is the most craved Thai dish of all. It truly deserves that title!

What's Thailand without a little Thai iced tea?  Ordered at the Platinum mall, I suspect Thai iced tea may just be a concoction to lure tourists but it's still cold and refreshing nonetheless.

Fried everything!  I love my grease and crunchy chip-munching as much as the next girl so it was quite a delight to be able to taste a bunch of more innovative ways to make chips.  My favorite was the fried taro slices though I went home with a bag of fried bananas.  I'm sorry, I didn't know where my loyalty lies.

In what I didn't know would be my last Thai meal on the trip, (the next day, we woke up late and had to rush to the airport so no yummy Thai lunch for us) I ordered a supremely spicy papaya sliced shrimp salad.  It was really really good but I couldn't get halfway into it because I was dying!  I went through two glasses of water and two glasses of iced coffee but I still couldn't take on the chili-monster.  I've failed but there will be a next time. I'll practice my spicy-resistance and come back for you!

I suppose I really should be glad that my waistline didn't expand on this trip.  I have a goal to lose a couple of pounds by the end of this year and this trip was supposed to have been a setback (a setback I gladly would have taken, mind you). But this is good because now I can continue on my healthy streak and hopefully, have a slimmer, svelter body to look at by the new year!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Kanchanaburi: The Wild Wild East

FINALLY, after the whole thai mafia gem scandal fiasco, we had one last day to do things right.  Sick of Bangkok (literally, we were getting sick. Val had a fever), we decided to go on a tour sold to us by our friend Urth to Kanchanaburi, a little place two hours away from the city.  

First stop on the tour was a little morose.

The next stop didn't get any better.  This is the the Bridge on the River Kwai.  Thousands of WW2 soldiers were help captive here and died building this bridge.  

I always wondered how one should pose when standing in front of a tragic monument or historical site.  It seems kind of strange to me that thousands of tourists smile at places (like this bridge) when historically, this was a place of deaths and sorrows.  But what can I say, I'm a tourist.  Until I can find a better expression for grim historical locations, cheese!

Below are some bikes that Japanese troops rode on while in Kanchanaburi.  I can't help but think that they're so cute!  They're super retro and easy on the eyes.  Now that I'm counting down to the days when I get home, I can't wait to start looking for a bike of my own. =)

Gruesome right?  I don't think this is a very family-friendly tour.

The bridge.

Next, we went elephant riding!  I was feeling bad for the elephants because they have to carry heavy ol' us on their backs all day long but then figured that we're kind of their livelihood. If tourists like us don't ride them, they probably won't get fed as well.  And we're not THAT heavy, are we?  I really wanted to get lifted by the trunk of the elephant but this was a place that didn't do that. Darn. Maybe next time.

After elephant riding came elephant feeding!  Poor Sara looks a little fearful of the hungry elephant.

In the afternoon, we frequented a very pretty waterfall.  Tons of Thais were vacationing, taking a dip in the pool and having picnics.  I miss picnics-haven't had one since Paris-picnic HK-style, anyone?

Haha, this baby sure knows how to live huh? She was knocked out in a crowded, hot, food vendor area.  

We also ventured into a tiger temple and petted some tigers!  

I don't know if pet is the correct word since the poor kittens were all drugged up and I was too scared that I merely stiffly placed my hand as far away from the tigers' mouths as I can.  The lady who was leading me to get my pictures taken took me to so many tigers!  I guess they don't want anyone complaining about any of the shots so they try to get you to take as many pictures as you can with as many tigers.  Which is good, but sometimes leads to photos like this...

and this...
I was so weirded out by the drugged up tigers!  

The trip ended with a train ride back to civilization.  

Thailand's beauty is abundant but sometimes you have to search a little harder to find it.