Mmmmm Macau!

Mmmmmmm….Macau. More about the country/Special Economic Region aka Casino later. First, on to the food!

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As a former colony of Portugal , the European influences are obvious. Egg Tart meet Mouth.

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Going with the colonial theme we can sneak some Brazilian cuisine in there. Meat anyone?

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This simple pork on bread with Siracha is simple but great. These things along with Egg Tarts are ubiquitous in Macau.

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There exists a Thai-town in Macau , this restaurant had inexpensive , amazing , eats , prepared by a crew of authentic Thais. Sa-wat-dee! We were exhausted from wandering around town by this point . It was amazing to simply sit in air-conditioning, eat spicy food , and drink Beer Chang with Thai condensed milk coffee.

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There are also ample opportunities for grabbing fresh veggies. Also , check out that behemoth winter squash!

Yummy!

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Super Slick Hong Kong Video

Wow , I wish I could claim credit for this but lo and behold right after I return from Hong Kong Shanghaiist posts a link to this masterpiece.

What I love about this video ( in addition to its awesomeness) is that it shows several of the places I just mentioned in my highlights list

We see the Star Ferry ride with Central in the background , the Wan Chai neighborhood I walked through to get back to my hotel , Tin Hau temple , the temple street night market , and the Happy Valley racecourse. I feel so cool recognizing these places. Oh yea , been there , right , uh-huh. 🙂

Gregory Kane, you are awesome for making this video.

How To Win Big In Happy Valley

Like I said before , I first learned about Hong Kong through the stellar James Clavell novel Noble House. Many key scenes took place over big dollar betting at the Happy Valley Racecourse. Alas, I was left without a private VIP room (and millions to bet with) but I had a damn good time at Happy Valley.

I could see the racetrack from my hotel window so my cousin and I rambled over after dinner one night. Lucky for us it was Oktoberfest! ( In November but I’m not complaining!)

How to Win

Step 1.

Buy large pitchers of beer. Consume said beer. ( Alcohol is a key factor in the enjoyment of the races.)

Step 2.

When you’re starting to feel pretty fine pour an indiscriminate amount of brew into a cup. Chug that beer to the best of your ability. The number of seconds it takes = your lucky horse number.

Step 3.

Bet.
I bet the minimum of 20HKD on win .

The winning ticket.

Step 4.

Profit and bask in the glory!

I discovered this foolproof technique on my first ever attempt at betting on anything.
I placed the bet and did the worst possible thing you can do on the first time you ever bet. Win.
Winning the very first time , who could just walk away?

AFter waiting in line in between hardcore gamblers wearing sunglasses at night , clenching their horse-betting newspaper with vice-like grips , we fought our way through the crowds thick with the young , beautiful , and business-suited.

Straining to see , up on our very tiptoes, the gates open and the horses are off! I can’t see anything! Dang , being on ground level at a circular track leaves at least 50% of the race to the video screens!

My beloved horse #2 (2 second chug!) was quickly behind. Nooooo! We felt dejected , let-down , cheated. Until #2 had a surge of power in the last quarter and overtook the pack to win by a body length! All those previous negative energies disappeared and we were left ecstatic , amazed by what just happened , and slighty drunk.

Waiting in line to cash in the ticket, I was saying there is no way we can win anything big ( totally not understanding the system that lets you know exactly what you win) . My 20HKD turned into 146 HKD , that’s $2.58 USD to $18.83 for those who don’t have the conversions memorized. 7 to 1 payoff on win!

AFter winning, we committed a grave error. We switched to the mathematical principles of addition , multiplication , and parity ( that’s odd or evens . Don’t feel bad , I had to look the word up.) We foolishly dismissed our winning strategy as luck or chance. It’s not. Trust the beer. Fear the math.

By the end of it we were down to our initial cash levels minus the beer but plus a Gangnam Style dance competition, so I’d say we left ahead.

Unfortunately the place in Shanghai named Happy Valley is a mere amusement park. The original horse racing track was at People’s Square prior to 1949. Communists don’t like betting or fun so they tore it down. I really wish they hadn’t. It would great to be able to go once or twice a month. Instead I’ll have to wait till the next time I’m in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Foods – Round Two!

Man , Cantonese fair won my heart over while in Hong Kong!
Be jealous everyone!

Hong Kong Round Two

Wow! Sorry everyone. I’ve been back from my trip for 5 days now but uploading problems on wordpress/facebook have been plaguing me. Perhaps this has something to do with the Communist Party power change that was going on earlier this week. Coincidence? Most likely not.

Last month, I had the opportunity to meet Hong Kong via a dual overnight layover on the way to/from Vietnam. This month I had a chance to get to know her glorious self a little bit better while simultaneously getting caught up with my mountain trekking Uncle and Cousin. Score!
I just took the better part of last week off and spent some time in Hong Kong with a day side trip to Macau! This trip was also on the Uncle’s (significantly more impressive than mine) budget. Bye bye Chungking Mansions and 30HKD breakfasts. Hello gourmet food , taxis, and a nice hotel. YES!

This trip gave me more time to see the places I learned about in the fantastic novel , Noble House, by James Clavell. If you haven’t checked this author out before , proceed to do so. Noble House is a massive , more than 1000 page epic tome that takes place in 1960’s Hong Kong. It has multiple storylines intertwining , dozens of characters, and features some of the Taipans 大班 (bosses) of massive trading companies warring it out with each other all while dealing with spies , movie stars, and pirates. It’s some heavy sh*t.

As I was taking the windy road up to Hong Kong’s highest point (Victoria Peak) I could just imagine Ian Dunross (Main character from Noble House) gunning his high-powered sports car up the dangerously curving roads, I could envision the battle between developers to build the tallest buildings with the best views of Central consequently sparking up feuds with new apartments blocking the view from the older multimillionaire dollar apartments , I could see the fishing junks moored in Aberdeen waiting out the latest typhoon. I was transported to the real life settings of the book only 50 years later and 50 years more advanced. Hong Kong of now is a whole new beast. Even though Shanghai has three times the population , it feels small in comparison with Hong Kong. Hong Kong is packed into a small area resulting in a craze to build everything taller and closer together. I’ve never been in an environment that felt so urban.

This trip I revisited some of the biggies that I went to during my quick layovers . I had to show the Uncle and Cousin the classic Victoria Peak , Hong Kong skyline at night , and the Star Ferry trip across the harbor. I also got to use the extended time to check out new places in the city and make a trip over charming Macau.

Some of the highlights include :

a fortune-telling in the crowded Temple Street Night Market

betting on the horse races in Happy Valley

matching an insane Gangnam style dance competition in between betting on horses

learning Obama won the U.S presidency by reading the traditional characters on a newspaper in the morning

checking out the beautiful Wong Tai Sin temple and Hau Tin temple

seeing the touristy but slick night city skyline dance of the stars

and the food , oh my the God the food!
(but this is for a totally separate post)

and most importantly , catching up with my relatives!

I’m definitely not done with Hong Kong . I’ve fallen quite hard for the city and look forward to return visits in order to see more of it. I really want to head out to the out-of-the-way places : the little fishing villages on separate islands , the working class neighborhoods of Kowloon , and the functional monasteries all come to mind. The big Buddha on Lantau island has also been eluding me! I’ll be back Hong Kong!

Dear Shanghai

Babe,

I’m sorry to have to tell you this , but something’s wrong. Something’s changed. It’s not me. It’s you. Remember those days we used to lounge in Fuxing park , and those nights we passed sitting outside Shanghai Brewery? What happened to us? We’d always be down to meet up. These days we haven’t been seeing each other much. You’ve turned rather frigid towards me. All you want me to do is watch DVDs. Gone are the days of carefree strolling . All we have now is frightening lack of enthuastism for being seen in public together. I miss the nights of laying , sweating like a pig in the bed, drained from what you did to me all day! We’d do our thing , sweat , shower , and repeat like a washing machine on an endless cycle. I just wanna be with you , but you’re turning me away! Why , why , are you doing this to me?

Well, enough is enough. I’m leaving. I’ve found a new girl. She’s fun and hotter than you. 11 degrees Celsius hotter than you to be exact.
Her name is Hong Kong , and I’m out. Call me in the spring. Peace.

It’s time to head off to Hong Kong once again! This time longer than just a layover. Also a brutal re-tease of the weather I’m missing. October 22 was great in Shanghai. I had shorts , sandals , and the sun was nice on my skin. Perfect weather. I thought perhaps this was the year that the cold doesn’t come. Like always , I’m fooled. Since then it’s turned to blanket , hoodie, and pants weather. I fear the next months when it’s nearly impossible to feel truly warm. Shanghai’s is a humid cold. A dampness that chills down to the bone. Lack of good heating in homes and work is a killer. Try as hard as you like , but even after the 5th cup of scalding tea you can’t quite get rid of that lingering cold in the marrow of your bones. I’m only delaying the inevitable with my trip to Hong Kong , but oh well.

Tomorrow I’m off for the mini-family reunion with my mountain climbing (just got into HK from Nepal) Uncle and Cousin! Whoo hooo!

Instant Jealousy – Foods of Vietnam

Ahh Vietnamese cuisine. So good and so much I didn’t get to try. Cold region foods can seem so bland , lacking in spices , and rich , colorful tastes. Vietnamese cuisine is loaded with the tropical tastes : curries , lime , lemongrass , mint , basil , and that extra zing from fermented fish sauce.

Hanoi is a world-class destination for dining. It’s got it all. From fancy pants former colonial mansions turned gourmet restaurants to the Asian classic plastic blue chairs and coals on the street.

And home of the best Pho I’ve ever had in my life. A steal at a $1.50 a bowl in a hole-in-the-wall place with three things on the menu: Chicken Pho , Beef Pho , and Veggie Pho.

Yummy , let’s dive in!

Highly recommended places in Hanoi

Quan An Ngon

18 Phan Boi Chau Street.

A super bustling restaurant with outdoor seating under tarpaulin roofing. A guidebook hotspot but also popular with the locals , which is a good thing. The jumbo shrimp with lemon , and the fried frog legs are absolutely amazing.

Madame Hien

15 Chan Cam

Gorgeous setting in a former French colonial mansion. Pineapple duck alakazam! I spent $20 for two people with two beers but was going on the cheap side with veggie dishes. Still , compared to the $20 Bob Evans meal you’d get back in the States , it was amazing.

Now enjoy the photos!