Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Penang food photo-essay!

As long-time readers of this blog know, I've long maintained that my home state of Penang is the food capital of Malaysia as well as a general food(ie) paradise. Until now, however, I've not thought to put up a photo-essay devoted entirely to showcasing some of what Penang has to offer in terms of culinary delights.

One reason for this is that, often times, my natural inclination upon seeing the food in front of me is to start tucking into it ASAP -- and I have to admit that among the dishes that disappeared before I even thought to take photos of them on this most recent visit back to Penang was a very nicely crispy-skinned suckling pig that I ate on my first night back home and plates of shrimp that were coated with salt, then baked whole, that were part of last night's seafood feast at a wonderful family-run restaurant called Crab Village!

Somehow, however, I managed to control myself every so often. So I hope you'll thank rather than curse me for taking, and then presenting to you, the following photos:-

There's an eatery in Perak Lane that may be more famous
for its fish head beehoon (rice noodle) soup
but my preference is to have the noodle soup with
pork balls
(not what you might think!) and kidneys
(whose magic
looks to stem from their being sliced very thin)

Spicy Hokkien (prawn) mee (egg noodle) soup: One of
a trio of dishes
-- along with the above beehoon soup and
the Malay assam laksa cooked up by a grandma
over at Penang's very own Miami Beach! --
that I absolutely
must have each time I return home

Cheap mee -- what it's called as well as is
(The above combo of fried egg noodles and rice noodles
garnished with hard tofu strips, bean sprouts,
green chili peppers and a spoonful of red chili sauce
cost less than M$2 or 57 US cents!)

Penang curry mee -- quite distinct from
other Malaysian versions of curry mee,
with a soup made with coconut milk
ingredients that include cubes of solidified pig's blood!

This plate of rice topped with goat curry,
fried chicken kidneys and boiled lady's fingers (AKA okra)
that's an example of
Hameediyah's nasi kandar
may not look like much but believe you me
when I tell you
that it's absolutely delicious!

So much so that I had polished it all off by the time my friend's
mutton (goat-meat in Malaysia rather than lamb)
arrived at the table for her to eat!

Not an alien but, rather, a delicacy --
think, we told
a sceptical English friend, of it
as a spikey
aquatic version of escargot!

Crab Village's piece de resistance:
baked she-crab (complete with delicious roe!)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Squeaky (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

I'm not sure if tnchick was aware of it when she assembled this year's Photo Hunt theme list but we're currently in the zodiac year of the rat (or mouse -- there is no difference between these squeaky creatures in the Chinese language) according to the Chinese calendar. So, early this year, all around places like Hong Kong could be seen decorative versions of the squeaky creatures like the large as well as smiley representative in the photo above!

Incidentally, although I'm not putting up any pictures of him, it's hard to think of smiley rodents without also thinking of Mickey Mouse. But while Hong Kong does have a Disneyland, I absolutely don't have any plans to visit it any time soon -- not because I'm anti-Disney per se but, rather, in view of my having already been to the sprawling Walt Disney World in Florida and original Disneyland in Anaheim, I can't see how I'd get much out of visiting what is the world's smallest as well as youngest Disneyland along with, from pretty much all accounts, the most over-crowded and badly managed too... :S

Friday, December 26, 2008

Holiday activities

On the path up the hill near my family home

A view from the hill that stretches all the way
to the Peninsula Malaysian mainland

I officially went on vacation three days ago and left Hong Kong to return home to Penang for the holidays two days ago. But I'm still dreaming about work at night and waking up in time to go to work; this even though I've been 'working' pretty hard to convince my subconscious along with rest of me that it currently is time to relax rather than worry, etc.!

As might be expected, I already have been taking full advantage of my home state being "a food paradise of epic proportion". To help compensate for all the exercise my stomach has been getting, went on a short hike up a hill near the family home yesterday afternoon.

Doing so brought back memories of the Christmas day hikes I used to go on back in my last few years in the USA; a holiday activity that sort of became a ritual whenever I went and stayed with my friend, the webmaster (webmistress?) of the Michelle Yeoh Web Theatre, and her family. One difference, of course, was that this time around, I was hiking with some members of my family (e.g., my father, sister and her significant other).

Additionally, Penang on December 25 is a darn sight greener than California in December (or maybe any time of the year?). And this especially in view of a hike that my friends and I went on one year being in the Mojave Desert and another having taken us up into snow-covered parts of the mountains near Los Angeles! ;b

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Seasons greetings

A suitably festive picture
for this time of the year

Seasons greetings to visitors of this blog! And no, I'm not a Christian and yes, I do hail from a country where Islam is officially the religion. But since I'm currently on vacation, am one of those people who is feeling in a suitably festive and holiday-ish frame of mind at this time of the year! ;)

Additionally, growing up, I was made very familiar with Christmas -- and, in fact, used to send out festive cards at this time of the year to my friends, regardless of religion and creed (only to stop doing so after getting to the US where I found certain Jewish friends not being as okay with receiving these cards as, funnily enough, my Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, etc. friends had been in Malaysia!). Also, for the record, Christmas is a public holiday in my home country (along with such as Prophet Muhammad's Birthday, Buddha's Birthday and Deepavali -- the Hindu Festival of Lights).

This time last year, however, I actually was in a part of the world (Taipei, Taiwan) where Christmas is not a public holiday and there are way fewer Christmas decorations to be seen then in other places (including Malaysia and Hong Kong, never mind Christian countries). Still, it wasn't as though one could get away entirely from Christmas there.

To wit: While visiting the very interesting Miniatures Museum of Taiwan, I came across the scene in the photo above. (More than incidentally, although it may be hard to tell from my photo, yes, everything in that photograph really is on the tiny side -- something which makes every detail about them all the more amazing!)

And although I'm not sure whether the old fella in the scene is meant to be Santa Claus or "just" an elderly toymaker, I must say that I really like the sense of well-being -- and "job well done, so it's time to rest for a bit" -- that it gives out. Hence my thinking it'd be good to share... and, while doing so, going about and taking the opportunity to wish everyone a merry end to 2008 and happy new year ahead! :)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Hong Kong movie-centric photo-essay

Up until the last couple of months or so, I was thinking that 2008 truly was shaping up to be the worst year in memory for Hong Kong cinema. But then came -- in rapid succession -- Ballistic, Beast Stalker, True Women for Sale and Ip Man. All films that have quite a bit to recommend, I have to admit that in the case of the first three, quite a bit of pleasure additionally was derived from spotting locations (and events) that feature in the movies that I've become familiar with over the course of the more than one and half years that I've been a resident in Hong Kong.

To this end, here's providing those who check out this photo-essay with a few places to notice in advance of your viewings of at least one of these Hong Kong movies... and also photos of yet other places people might recognize -- or have film associations with -- from watching still other Hong Kong cinematic offerings... (And to emphasize how surreal a movie fan's life can be in Hong Kong, here's confirming that the majority of these photos were taken prior to my watching the movies with which they now have associations to me...)

...but first, one example of
Hong Kong
movie advertising with the help of a bus! ;)

Also, here's Lawrence Lau (AKA Lawrence Ah Mon)
and, in the background, a passing bus
Ballistic -- the third film he directed this year!

That overhead bridge might not look like much
but, in the future, some Hong Kong movie buffs might
pilgrimages to walk on it in emulation of
Nicholas Tse and Nick Cheung doing so in
Beast Stalker! ;)

Another recognizable North Point location
that has a part to play in Beast Stalker

This building is currently home, in real life,
Hong Kong's Dr Sun Yat-Sen Museum

But, as can be seen in a scene where its leading female
stands on this balcony and at least one other,
it's supposed to house lawyers' offices in
Beast Stalker

Remember the eaterie that Simon Yam and co would
regularly go and eat in
Sparrow? If so, doesn't
this modest
Electric Road establishment look familiar? ;)

Alternatively, sorry, Glenn, but the likelihood of spotting
Simon Yam bicycling around Hong Kong is slim ...
instead, the cyclists I see around (who invariably are on
food delivery errands) are more likely to bring to mind
Leon Lai in
Comrades, Almost a Love Story
and Anjo Leung in
Magic Boy for this filmophile ;)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Wide (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

Although I may not write too much about doing so these days, I do (like doing) my share of reading. Not too long ago, I read the very affecting My Losing Season by Pat Conroy. Which may be why when I saw the theme for this week's Photo Hunt, I just couldn't get the phrase (and title of one of Conroy's best-selling books) The Water is Wide out of my mind!

Still, rather than plum emotional depths in the way he -- and a traditional folk song with that title -- does with, and behind, that phrase, I've taken it more as face value. Which is why my photos of choice -- both taken with my trusty Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ2 (which comes complete with wide-angle lens (recommended by a friend as being ideal for taking landscape shots) as well as a wide zoom range) -- literally show wide expanses of water, with the added bonus of having wide swathes of blue (along with bits of brown and green) within... ;)

(And for the record: Yes, these are photos of Hong Kong! More specifically, of Clear Water Bay and High Island Reservoir respectively. :b)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Brigitte Lin in the news once more

Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia
(Photo credit: Christopher Doyle)

Two Saturday ago, the 45th edition of the Golden Horse Awards (sometimes described as the Chinese equivalent of the Oscars) took place in Taipei, Taiwan. Among the highlights of that star-studded evening was a surprise appearance by Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia to co-present a couple of awards with director Ang Lee. In fact, a report from Malaysia's The Star newspaper (sourced from Singapore's Straits Times) summed it up when it noted how "The former film superstar enlivened the night simply by showing up."

For all this, however, I did not expect that a few days later, the official media arms of the People's Republic of China -- i.e., Xinhua and CCTV -- would decide to carry very favorable coverage of my favorite actress in the whole, wide world in the wake of appearance at the event. But they really have (and yes, I absolutely do recommend that those who are fans of The Great One -- and/or those others who want to get some idea what the fuss about her is all about -- check out this link to the video clip of the (English language) CCTV Culture Express broadcast!).

Additionally, for those who can't get enough of Wondrous Beauty (as she was dubbed by the Chinese language press decades ago now), here's a video clip posted of YouTube of the now 50-something's Golden Horse Awards ceremony appearance and a blog entry with still photos from her 10 minutes on stage that evening... :)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hello Kitty strikes again in Hong Kong!

On the left: Carina Lau advertising a weight-loss program;
on the right: a Hello Kitty MTR promotional poster
-- sorry, Carina, but I really do think the cute cat
is, well, cuter! ;b

On Valentine's Day of last year, a Hello Kitty (and Dear Daniel)-themed wedding took place in an MTR station. Later that year, the MTR (i.e., Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway) made available a Hello Kitty MTR Heroes figurine collection; then, to commemorate the merging of the MTR and KCR, came out with two more Hello Kitty collectibles dressed in the new uniforms of the merged organization.

Thus far this year, however, it's been McDonalds -- at least in Hong Kong, if not elsewhere in the world -- which has been leading the way in the Hello Kitty collectibles race with its Hello Kitty Messengers.* But as of December 21, the MTR's coming out with more Hello Kitty collectibles of its own; advertisements for which already are in place in MTR stations... ;b

*Addendum: sbk's query about how many Hello Kitty promotional items I now own got me realizing that there's also been the Hello Kitty on Stage series/campaign by 7-11 this year!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Favorite (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

Too much choice may not be the best of things. That's what I got to thinking when pondering what to do for this week's Photo Hunt theme as it may well be one of the most 'open' that we've had! So do please excuse me if my reasoning for this particular blog entry comes across as too simple -- that is, I've gone ahead and 'just' put up a trio of favorite (but hitherto unfeatured on this blog) shots of my favorite part of the world; one where I so wanted to be in that I specifically looked for a job that would allow me to come over here (rather, than has been my more usual pattern up to now, decide on a place of work and/or study and go there regardless of whether I liked or had much prior knowledge of that part of the world).

And for those who like to get details re what's in the photos, the three (which, BTW, is one of my favorite numbers -- not least, in some of my favorite Hong Kong movies like Peking Opera Blues, The Heroic Trio and The Soong Sisters, good things seem to come in threes!) photos above are of (from top to bottom):-
* View from the 'scary' Ocean Park cable car of Hong Kong Island's Deep Water Bay and Repulse Bay;
* Coils of incense inside the Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road; and
* The sky over Fung Ying Seen Koon in Fanling. :)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lung Mun Country Trail redux (photo-essay)

At the beginning of the month, I posted a photo-essay showing how wet the Lung Mun (which translates into "Dragon Gate") Country Trail was when two friends and I hiked along it back in June. To be fair (and help balance things out a bit), here's going ahead and showing some beautiful and/or interesting scenic and close-up sights I saw in between -- and, in a couple of cases, after -- fording all those streams along the way... ;)

Can you get a good sense from this picture
as to how quiet as well as green it was

out there in this part of Hong Kong?

View that includes the Yuen Yuen Institute
which sbk and I visited a few years back

They may be shaped like flowers
but they're actually fungi!

Definitely flowers -- and pretty too
(but, alas, I don't know their names)! ;(

The power lines and towers and highway
can't spoil the view as far as I'm concerned

A view of Lion Rock
from a different angle then it's usually seen
-- i.e., from west of it

Our hike ended in the Shing Mun Reservoir area
which is beautiful but is not a place I
want to visit all that often

Here are a few of my reasons for feeling that way
-- yep, believe it or not, Shing Mun has
a monkey infestation problem! :S

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Free art in Hong Kong

Close up of a couple of roses frozen in lumps of ice
that were part of conceptual artist
Janice Lee's Still Remember (AKA Dripping Time)

The artist known as MINE working on his
noticeably Chinese landscape painting-influenced
Ink Graffiti

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the free Arts in the Park at Victoria Park one weekend. Although it was a smaller scale affair, I also enjoyed the equally free and still more quirky art event called The Table that took place in Chater Garden this past Saturday and -- true to its name -- did have several tables on exhibit, others on which art works and related items were placed (and local indie musicians like Gloria Tang and AniDa sat and sang).

However, what more strongly caught my attention in that Central District public space as I wandered around it were the likes of an anti-smoking demonstration (complete with the singing of a song that had both English and Cantonese lyrics) by university students that looked to have been timed to coincide with The Table's timetable and the surprisingly large number of members of the Hong Kong police there to observe and make sure that an acceptable degree of peace was maintained. And, also, the very popular spray painting demonstration by the artist known as MINE (to judge by the number of onlookers he was surrounded by) and deliberately ephemeral installation art piece by Janice Lee (to judge by the number of photographers attracted to it, almost like bees to nectar!).

Later that day, I partook of some more Culture; this time on the other side of Victoria Harbour. More precisely, I was at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre to listen to the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra movingly play Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 9. And although it's true enough that people generally have to pay to attend such as a Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra concert, what can I say other than it really is one of the perks of my job (and, to be fair, the one I had before my current one too!) that I do regularly get complimentary tickets to performing arts and related events... and consequently, the concert that evening was a case of more free art in Hong Kong that day for me! ;b

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Taking Back the Nights

No lie -- the 12 o'clock that the clock in the MTR station
is showing is not 12 noon but, rather, 12 midnight

A few weeks after I moved to Hong Kong, I had dinner one night with a friend in the Tin Hau section of the territory. Afterwards, she nonchalantly told me that she planned to walk through nearby Victoria Park on her way home. With this small act, she provided me with significant notice that the Big Lychee is a big city like few others in the world -- in that it's so safe (for women and men, young and old alike) both in the wee hours of the night and during the day that the powers that be have no qualms about allowing a public park like Victoria Park to be open 24 hours a day.

Put another way: Although locally-made movies with titles like City on Fire, One Nite in Mongkok and To Live and Die in Tsimshatsui might get one thinking otherwise, I've come to realize that Hong Kong is the kind of place where I often feel quite happy and confident to be out and about at -- and even past -- midnight as well as exploring nooks and crannies on my own. And so much so that I really think nothing these days of watching a late night movie and emerging out into the streets of Yau Ma Tei during the so-called witching hour.

In contrast, I think of the many evenings I spent in many other places holed up in a living space turned refuge from the evils of the world come night. And should you think I exaggerate: In college in the USA, I was introduced to the Take Back the Night march and campaign that has grown to more generally embody a violence against women movement but was originally conceived as a way to protest the violence (and fear of it) that woman too often experience while walking in public at night in places like Philadelphia (where, more than incidentally, both the friend I mentioned in the first paragraph and I have lived -- hence our being able to regale one another with horror tales regarding certain sections of the City of Brotherly Shove).

Many reasons have been furnished for Hong Kong's low crime rate. I'm no expert but two that I'd like to give are evident in the picture at the top of this blog entry: the fact that many parts of Hong Kong are very well-lit (so much so, in fact, that some people complain about light pollution and studies have been set up to look in depth into it!); and it also equally being the case that there's a lot of foot traffic (including on the part of the police force).

And for those of you who say: There aren't too many people in the picture -- remember, it's midnight. And yeah, you're forgiven for forgetting that... seeing that the MTR station's so brightly lit even during that hour! ;b

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Breakfast (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

I'm one of those people who believes that one should have breakfast to start off your day. At the same time though, on week days, my breakfast tends to be on the simple or spartan side -- e.g., on warmer days, I regularly opt for fruit and a cup of coffee; on cooler days, oatmeal and a cup of coffee -- while on weekends, I tend to forego that meal and move straight to brunch instead. So, I decided, it wouldn't be interesting at all to photograph what my breakfast(s).

Rather, what I've got in this Photo Hunt entry are a photo with advertisements at the top for a major dim sum dish -- and since dim sum is something that people (with plenty of leisure time) like to have for breakfast as well as lunch and afternoon tea -- and a breakfast drink imported all the way from the USA and another photo I'm actually quite proud of because I think it makes a simple fried egg, ham and cheese on toast look quite beautiful... ;)

Re that second photo: I took it when I was over in Macau on a food article assignment. And while I love food, have to say that I found that assignment really grueling as I had limited time to walk around Macau, check out food places *and* eat at more than a few of them. So much so that while the four-page magazine article that ensued was one that actually got praise from people, it was the last food article I was willing to write for the magazine I then was working for! ;S

Monday, December 1, 2008

Lung Mun Country Trail one wet day (Photo-essay)

As I write this, we're deep into autumn here in Hong Kong, with temperatures this week being due to go down to as low as 13 degrees Celsius at times and the air being so dry that I have had to slather mosturizer on my skin once again. Back in June when two friends and I hiked the Lung Mun Country Trail however, it was hot and very humid.

Indeed, it had rained so much the day before that the mountain streams were swollen (and in a few cases, overflowing -- as will be seen in a few photos below) and there had been a few landslides in the area! And to add to the sense of danger, this was the second hike I've gone on in Hong Kong in which I happened to catch sight of at least one snake; albeit ones that slithered out of sight too quickly for me to photograph -- something I have to say I'm not all that unhappy about!! ;S

This stream in the village of Chuen Lung
near the beginning
of the hiking trail
gave little inkling of what the other streams would be like

I think it'd be fair to state that
this mountain stream
was on the swollen side

Also, that this other mountain stream was in full flow
(And was I glad that there was a bridge over it!)

This other stream, however, didn't have a bridge
over it
-- and normally wouldn't need to but
when it overflows onto the hiking trail
surely aren't all that normal!

Very fortunately, although the skies looked threatening,
the heavens never opened during our hike!

Seems pretty clear, right?

As it so happened, however, we elected
to cross this overflowing stream as the other alternative

would have been to spend more hours than we wanted
back-trekking along the trail... ;(

So why do I hike? Among other things:
for exercise, to be closer with nature and for fresher air
but, also, to be able to behold grand views like these! ;b