Sunday, March 31, 2019

The Thought Provoking Questions Part II

Last weekend of travel for a month. Writing this quickly from my hotel room in Sydney. To say that I am happy to have a few weekends coming up at home is an understatement. I'm a bit sick of airports.

Questions, as always, from Bev at Sunday Stealing.

1. If you had to teach something, what would you teach?

I think I could teach writing. I've been thinking about taking on some tutoring undergraduates at college - thinking about it anyway. It's all about time - time I don't have at the moment.

2. What would you regret not fully doing, being or having in your life?

Friends. I'd be cactus without my friends.

3. Are you holding onto something that you need to let go of?

Excess weight. Feelings for somebody that doesn't deserve them. My flute. My skinny clothes.

4. When you are 80-years-old, what will matter to you the most?

That my mind is still active, my eyesight lets me read and I have my friends and my health.

5. When is it time to stop calculating risk and rewards and just do what you know is right?

Most of the time. As somebody who is good at taking calculated risks, I'm fully aware that your gut is rarely wrong.

6. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?

Late 30s, early 40s. I'd make some very different choices now, looking back.

7. Would you break the law to save a loved one?


8. What makes you smile?

Lots of things. Puppies, kittens, babies,  people doing nice things, when the Crows win, good food. good gin, my daft workmates... this is just the start. I like to smile

9. When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done?

I hope not. I like to do.

10. If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would your message be?

Be kind. Look after the planet. Stop staring at your own navels and start looking about you.

11. If the average human lifespan was 40 years, how would you live your life differently? 

I'd take a lot more risks, speak out more and have a lot more fun early on.

12. What do we all have in common besides our genes that makes us human?

We all need shelter, food and comfort. We all put on our trousers and pants one leg at a time. We are all going to die one day.

13. If you could choose one book as a mandatory read for all high school students, which book would you choose?

Probably Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. I would like to say Charlotte Wood's The Natural Way of Things, but that would go over most high school student's head I think. Angie Thomas' The Hate You Give, is also excellent with fantastic messages.

14. Would you rather have less work or more work you actually enjoy doing?

I'd probably say more work I enjoy. I like being busy.

15. What is important enough to go to war over?

I'm not sure there is any reason important enough to go to war. I'm a pacifist. It's certainly not oil.

16. Which is worse, failing or never trying?

Never trying. You never know if you never try.

17. When was the last time you listened to the sound of your own breathing?

Last night, as I was trying to go to sleep in this hotel room. I was asleep in minutes.

18. What’s something you know you do differently than most people?

I can only use scissors in my left hand. I can put on mascara without opening my mouth.

19. What does ‘The American Dream’ mean to you?

It's a bit of a pipe dream. I'm Australian - it means very little to me other than I see a lot of people chasing it and it often seems a bit unrealistic.

20. Would you rather be a worried genius or a joyful simpleton?

Not that I'm a genius, but being fairly intelligent, I worry all the time. It would be nice to see what it is like to not think. What do they say? Ignorance is bliss?

Today's song:

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Thought Provoking Questions Part 1

Just back from Adelaide. I'm a bit tired and it's getting late. So I best get on with these questions.

As always, Bev at Sunday Stealing provided the questions.

1. When was the last time you tried something new?

Last night. I hung out with some of my father's family and had a good time. This is a first.

2. Who do you sometimes compare yourself to?

I try not to compare myself to people. It's too depressing if I do that. It's also a pointless exercise.

3. What’s the most sensible thing you’ve ever heard someone say?

''Sometimes you just have to throw it in the fuck it bucket." Or in other words, pick your battles wisely.

4. What gets you excited about life?

Friends, travel, theatre, cinema, books, fun ideas, the sea, animals. good food, gin. Lots of things get me excited about life.

5. What life lesson did you learn the hard way?

Actions speak louder than words. I don't want to go into it, but if somebody is all mouth and no trousers, don't trust them.

6. What do you wish you spent more time doing five years ago?

Exercising and travelling - and writing.

7. Do you ask enough questions or do you settle for what you know?

I ask LOTS of questions. I rarely settle without asking lots of questions.

8. Who do you love and what are you doing about it?

I love Harvey Specter and Clive Owen - but I can't do anything about that, because they are silly loves.

9. What’s a belief that you hold with which many people disagree?

Oh this will be contentious. I don't believe in Jesus Christ. I do believe in God, but I really don't get the Jesus thing. I was raised a Christian, but I just don't get it. I reckon perceived Christianity has been fucking up the world (make that most organised religion ) for 2000 years. I handed back my Christian ticket 30 years ago, partly in disgust, but also because it made no sense to me, at all. And it still doesn't. I do respect that people think otherwise, but the Jesus think doesn't work for me at all.

10. What can you do today that you were not capable of a year ago?

Going without coffee / caffeine. I've been caffeine free for 11 months now.

11. Do you think crying is a sign of weakness or strength?

Mostly, it's a sign of strength. It can also be a sign of blackmail in some circumstances.

12. What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?

Eat more ice cream.

13. Do you celebrate the things you do have?

Yes I do. I have a lot to be thankful and I should celebrate this more. I'm healthy, reasonably happy and settled. I have friends. I am debt  free. I have a lot. I'm lucky.

14. What is the difference between living and existing?

Living has love and laughter and ways forward. Existing does not.

15. If not now, then when?

Yeah, I tell myself that often. I have a tendency to procrastinate. There is a power in doing things now.

16. Have you done anything lately worth remembering?

I was in Hong Kong ten days ago. That was a great trip.

17. What does your joy look like today?

A long sleep in withe either the boy or a cat. If one can't be there, the other would suffice. Today's egg and bacon roll and almond decaf latte at Aldinga with friends, after a swim at my very favourite beach was pretty joyful too.

18. Is it possible to lie without saying a word?

Yes, very easily. And there is always lying by omission.

19. If you had a friend who spoke to you in the same way that you sometimes speak to yourself, how long would you allow this person to be your friend?

For the most part, this person could stay in my life. I try to be brutally honest with myself - that is a bit hard.

20. Which activities make you lose track of time?

Reading, watching movies - and strangely driving and running.

Today's Song:

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Cookie Questions

Well, I'm back from Hong Kong. I'm supposed to be cleaning for a flat inspection,and I have a lot of small little jobs to do around the place. To be honest, it's nice to have some time at home.

Another thing, cookies. I'm Australian. We call them biscuits. On the food chain, Oreos are very low down on the cookie / biscuit food chain. They are bland and boring. Sorry Americans, we do biscuits much better over here. It has to be said.

Questions, as always, from Bev at Sunday Stealing.

1. Do you eat Oreos?

As a rule. No. There are much better biscuits out there on the market.

2.  If you eat Oreos, which are your favorite – original, double stuff, golden original, golden double stuff, Oreo brownies, Oreo ice cream?

The Golden ones are okay - but seriously, you want to compare the crapness of an Oreo with the majesty of a Tim Tam - in the words of a very famous Australian, "Tell 'em their dreaming.'

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3.  Do you twist your Oreos apart?


4.  Are you able to pass by a plate of cookies and not take one or are you a bit of a 'Cookie Monster'? 

I'm a bit half and half. I'm getting better at self-control. But I can demolish a packet of Tim Tams - all nine of them, in one sitting with ease.

5.  Tell us about your favorite cookie. Crunchy, soft, chewy, crumbly, other?

If I really need a biscuit, a white chocolate and macadamia one from Subway normally goes down very well. I like them a bit chewy.

6. Have your tastes changed since you were a kid?

Nope - I've always had a dreadful sweet tooth. Though I don't really eat chocolate chip cookies. Ate too many as a kid.

7.  Inquiring minds want to know if you are a dunker and, if so, do you dunk in milk, coffee, or tea?

I'm an inveterate dunker. Have biscuit, must dunk it - much to my mother's disgust. Dunk in milk, dunk in tea, dunk in coffee. Dunking in Baileys is really good if you have Tim Tams.

8.  It is that time of year and they are selling them on every corner and in front of every store!  Do you buy Girl Scout cookies and if you do, which is your favorite?  

As I'm Australian, we don't really have the concept of Girl Scout cookies. There were around in a limited fashion when I was a kid - haven't seen them in over 20 years. The scouts are far busier climbing trees.

9.  Raw cookie dough.  Yay or Nay?  

Absolutely - particularly in Ben and Jerry's ice cream.

10.  Do you like cookies with filling?

I'm rather fond of jammie dodgers.

11.  Do you prefer organic cookies?

The cleaner the ingredients the better. Biscuits are best when they are home made, anyway. If you're talking about the biscuits which you get at the health food shop - most of the time they are pretty bland. They are getting better however.

12.  Large cookies, or small cookies?

Medium sized ones, though I make great yo-yos and I make them small. (also known as melting moments - my grandmother's recipe).

13.  Do you like familiar flavours in cookies?

Anything with lemon or almond goes down a treat.

14.  Do you make your own cookies, or buy them?

I like to make biscuits, and I make great biscuits - I just rarely have the time to do it.

15.  Please tell us something random about your week!!

This time last week I was in Hong Kong. I have book group on Tuesday. I'm having my ovaries scanned on Thursday. I'm having a flat inspection on Tuesday, hence all the cleaning. Random enough for you?

Today's Song:

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Travelog 5: Vertigo

Yesterday was tourist day. The day I became a traditional tourist, rather than my normal hippy, dippy wandering traveler mode that I do so well. Yesterday was the day where I dutifully queued, waited, gawped and paid money to do it all.

After a few days of rain, finally, the weather Gods gave me a break and finally there were views of the Peak.

I'm not normally one of those tourists who has the need to see and do everything. I'd rather experience things on my own terms, however, everybody who's been here has said that a visit to Victoria Peak is a must. One mad friend suggested walking up the hill. Instead, I queued for an hour, paid my $20 and took the vertiginous Peak Tram to the top of the hill to have a look at the views.

It was worth every penny, even if I ended up with a bit of vertigo from the heights. It's worth the ticket price for the views and the tram ride up and down a near vertical hill. I loved it, despite the queues. It also gets you a great perspective of what this city is all about, which is height. Coming from a low, flat city, the number of tall buildings is mind blowing.

The other thing that grated on me about the Peak was the mass commercialism of the place. Inside the new complex are plethora of international shops, bars and restaurants. Part of me knows this is the way of tourism. A lot of me doesn't like it, but having paid my money, I took the escalators to the top, looked around (feeling a little queasy) and found some lunch, at Bubba Gump's Shrimp Co like the good little tourist I paid to be. I can see why they do all this. It just doesn't sit well.

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On the good side of things with Bubba Gumps, I found the two items on the menu that weren't fried, battered or crumbed and contained vegetables, all washed down with a beer.

Coming down the hill, it was time to find out about another part of town. Rather than take the MTR, I walked. And walked. And walked. As the crow flies, Central to Wan Chai is about three kilometres. It was a lovely day. Why not walk and discover the place?

The first stop was the Admiralty Shangri-La Hotel. A friend asked me to pick up a scented candle for her. It is a beautiful hotel. The money that was dripping out of the place was close to offensive. The concierge was lovely in the way she didn't make me feel judged for my scruffy appearance. There was something lovely about walking up to the business centre to purchase the said candle. There's a part of me that would love to stay here. Then again, I really like my four-star digs in the thick of Yau Ma Tei. It feels a bit more real. And half the price.

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I kept walking. Through the Hong Kong Gardens and down to Wan Chai, an area at the back of the waterfront, down to the Hong Kong Cemetery.

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I'm one of those strange people who enjoy cemeteries. They're good for a bit of peace and quiet in the middle of the day. This is a large cemetery. I only spent 15 minutes there, but I could spend hours here. I found this angel too. I really like her.

Walking back to Central took me through downtown Wan Chai, a colourful, eclectic area. You can see the British influence here, and some older influences. Behind the skyscrapers there are some houses with history. According to the guide book, Wan Chai was where the Japanese army located it's comfort women during the occupation.
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I've fallen in love with the juxtapositions of this city. The concrete and steel of the towers located next to the tenement blocks. The wealth next to the workaday. The opulence next to the ordinary. The Colonial sitting next to the traditional, sitting next to the new ways of being. And it all appears to work.

After a necessary stop for a coffee and a leg break in Wan Chai, I walked back to the Star Ferry pier. Back through the back packer dives of Admiral and the office towers, the colonial gardens, some of the last vestiges of Colonial rule.

I made it to the Star Ferry at dusk, taking the ferry over to Kowloon with the office workers and the tourists.
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Then a walk a long the Tsim Sha Tsui board walk to look at the lights.

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A final dinner at this dumpling place which I found had the best prawn dumplings I've ever had the pleasure of eating, then it was a quick ride on the subway back to the hotel.

My fitbit tells a sorry tale of tired, slightly sore, but happy legs. Four hours of walking will do that to you.
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So I have a few more hours left here. I've checked into my seven p.m. flight. There is a pass to the Qantas lounge waiting for me. I'll have a mooch around Mong Kok for a few hours before taking the train out to the airport.

I'm sorry to be going. I really like it here.

So what are my discoveries after five days in this marvelous city?

The things that come to mind:

  • It's safe.
  • Surprisingly, when you find them, the public toilets are okay
  • It's a city of contradictions
  • The public transport is amazing
  • The food is out of this world
  • Wilkinson's Grapefruit water - grapefruit infused mineral water - no sugar, no calories, stunning stuff.
  • You can find a friendly guy at the 7/11 in most places. I have my 7/11 guy who has a chat. 
  • Why can't we have Octopus cards in Australia. Great idea. Pay for your lunch and your public transport with one tap.
  • Strangely, though a gringo, I didn't feel judged for it. I love that. 
  • There is far more to be found out about this rather mystical, rather batty, rather contradictory place.
I've loved it here. 

I will be back. 

Monday, March 11, 2019

Travelog 4: New Territories

Yesterday saw me take myself out of the city and into the New Territories, heading North towards China, out to the suburbs to see a  temple which has had me intrigued for a while. For me, say New Territories and my mind goes all Hunger Games and dystopian ramblings.

The Sha Tin monastery is a known site, but its a bit out of the way, a trip in a different direction, about 25 minutes out of town. It's a place where you don't see that many tourists. It's not overrun, more a place to contemplate.

Just my sort of temple.

I knew three things about this temple. 1) It is a bit hard to find. 2) It's up a big hill and 3) There are lots of Buddhas lining the way.

The train out to Sha Tin only took 20 minutes. I couldn't see any other tourists on the train. Having found some instructions on the the web, it should be an easy find.  Take Exit B, down the ramp, past the traditional houses, left onto Pai Tau Street, right onto Sheung Wo Che Street and through the bamboo at the end of the road.

I'd never have found the place without the directions. I mean seriously, this big temple complex is really at the back of a home wares shopping centre complete with its own Ikea.


Such a welcoming entrance. Would you go here if you didn't know where you were going?

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(I started singing The Teddy Bear's Picnic going through these gates)

Another twist and turn and I found a group of Americans looking up the hill at the big trail of Buddhas wending their way upwards.

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Yep, these guys line the way  - all the way to the top of the hill. Every one of them is different.

As I'm carting around the last vestiges of a leg injury, and the drizzle turned into intermittent showers, it was a slow climb to the top, stopping along the way to contemplate the funny faces and the views on the side of the way.

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It was an entertaining two hours spent here, just looking around. The exercise was welcome and the spiritual nature of the place was not lost on me.

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At the top of the hill rests a monastery complex, a number of temples, none of which they let you photograph, some monkeys - which for me is a good reason to get the hell out of there - and some stunning views of the steep hills in the distance. Staying for a while, a steady drizzle about, I just wandered and contemplated. I'm pretty sure there was a funeral service being held in one of the temples. I let that one rest. I find it fascinating watching from a distance as people pray. Why are they praying? Why do they light incense and bow three times - some do more, some less. Who are the gods at the front of the temple? There are always a green one, a brown one and a red one - they look quite menacing. I have some reading to do.

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There was also a variation on a theme at the top. Replacing the Buddhas were Kuan Yins for a section. I like Kuan Yin - I often find myself talking to her on the way home from work at the Vietnamese temple just down the way at home.
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As the drizzle would not let up and the steps were slippery, I started the long, slow climb down the hill. As before, I took my time, contemplating the Buddhas, making sure I didn't fall. Again, with a recovering leg injury, best to take it carefully.

Making it back to the valley, behind the shopping complex and the bamboo grove, I noticed the rubbish piling up at the entrance of the place. It was pointed out by an expat local that this place had no money put into it. Nobody was going to clear the rubbish, except on the designated rubbish day. This wasn't a real attraction. Monks lived at the monastery. They were good enough to let visitors come and explore.

If and when I come back to Hong Kong, I'm coming back here. I just liked the peace of the place. It provided a challenge, some serenity and a lot of entertainment. I also wouldn't like to do it on a hot day. This walk is an effort. Not a huge one, but it reminded me of the 1000 steps at home - just with nicer steps and more Buddhas.

I love going off the beaten track, even if only for a morning.

Back in town a bit later, I found a decent dumpling place for a late lunch, finding the best prawn dumplings I've had in years. A visit to the Shangri-La for a friend left me feeling a bit strange - I'm not used to walking into five star hotels in runners looking like a wet cat. They were nice to me. I have to go back tomorrow to see if I can source something for a friend as the business centre was closed.

I wandered back home, via the Nathan Road, the Jade markets and the Kowloon Gardens. And that was my day. Getting back around seven, I crashed for the night. Didn't bother with dinner, still full from lunch.

Though not much got done, it was a great day.

So today, the plans are as follows, being my last full day here.

  • Victoria Peak seeing that it's not raining for a change. 
  • The Admiralty and Causeway Bay area
  • Maybe another ride on the Star Ferry and the Tram.
  • Maybe dinner at the local Tim Ho Wan in Kowloon (an American I met tipped me off that there were multiple locations and there is one about ten minutes walk away)
  • Maybe another spin around the Ladies Market.
I like it here. I want to come back. 

Today's song:

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Travelog 3: The Best Laid Plans

Yesterday, I had the day all planned out in my head. It looked like this:

  • Get up, get the ablutions out of the way, write the travelog. (Okay, this got done)
  • Go to the top of Victoria Peak
  • Have lunch at Tim Wan Ho. Yes, I know there is one in Melbourne. Don't care. 
  • Maybe get to a museum
  • Find some cool trinkets
  • Go to some stunning, local place for dinner.
The day looked nothing like that at all. Mostly, because it was raining.

There is not a lot of point going to the top of Victoria Peak when it is raining. You can't see a bloody thing, even if the tram ride is supposed to be pretty spectacular. We've left that for another day. 

I had a thought earlier in the week that I might take the boat out to Macau. Having lost a day of sorts, I don't think I'll be doing this. If anything, there is far more around here to explore. I'm quite happy puddling around, my Octopus card giving me the freedom of the city and just having a mooch. This is why I go on holidays. To mooch.

So, yesterday didn't go to plan. After a late start, partly due to a good book, partly because I couldn't be asked and partly because the stupid jet lag still has me on Melbourne time, I woke at four am and battled from then on. 

Despite the rain, I walked down the Jordan Road to Tsim Sha Tsui or TST as it is know. The people watching is stellar. Nearly getting poked in the eye with umbrellas is great fun. There isn't much room for that thing called personal space, but you get used to it.

The walk took me down the the Peninsular Hotel and the waterfront. It would have been lovely, but it was raining.

Next, onto the Star Ferry. This too would have been extra wonderful, if it wasn't raining. The trips takes about five minutes, but as with all things, it's great because a boat is concerned. I love travelling by boat. This will be done again before I go when I can see more out the window than drizzle. 

By this time, it was after one and I was getting peckish. The idea was to find Tim Wan Ho, a dumpling chain, probably queue, and find some chilli wantons. Now, I have a pretty good sense of direction. I can also read maps. No I don't have testicles - I'm just a capable person who can read a map and I'm just normally pretty sharp when it comes to directions. Maybe it's because I'm in the Northern Hemisphere and the sun is in the wrong place (I had this trouble when I moved to London - it took forever to work out that the South side was the sunny side) or maybe I was just a bit hangry and emotional because I was in need of chilli wantons. I couldn't find it. I asked three people. They all gave me different directions. After an hour looking about, getting caught in a packed out Filipino mall complex, passing by Tiffany, Burberry and all of these other high end places, along with a heap of street people, I gave up in despair and headed North in search of sustenance.  

I found this sign nearby too. Smirk. Snigger.

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This decision to go up the hill bore fruit. Stumbling across the Central - Mid level escalators, I took a ride up the hill. These escalators are as legendary as the steep hills which line the island. The escalators are there to assist people getting up from sea level to the hills. First thing in the morning, they take people down the hill, then from late morning, they reverse and send people up the hill.

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One thing about escalators here which I love. You stand on the right, let people pass on the left. It makes SOOOOO much more sense than the way we do it at home as most people have their bag over their left shoulder and it gets in the way (or maybe Melbournites hold their coffees in their right hand - dunno - I like this way better). They also ask you politely to hang on. Anybody who knows me well, knows that I loathe escalators, but I'm  getting better at them. 

Finding myself back on the Hollywood Road, I decided to try the place where I met the guy with the dogs the day before. What didn't twig was that this was a Melbourne style cafe, complete with Western staples - Sausages in Onion Gravy, Eggs Benedict, Toad in the Hole, you name it.

I was hoping not to go the Western food option on this trip, but it was close to three, I was fading and the thought of a decent Reuben Sandwich was just what was required, to be washed down with an apple julep and a sit down for a bit. I'd been walking for three hours, it was necessary.

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Oh, a note on food. So much for being dairy, gluten and sugar free - my body will be pleased when I get back home. It's hard to find a drink, other that water, not laced with sugar. They eat a lot of seafood, red meat and pork, but little chicken. I know there are vegetables somewhere - I just haven't seen many. 

After another spin around Man Po, which was still busy and smoky but thankfully minus the film crew, then a turn down Cat Street for some more antique browsing it was back home for a nana nap. 

Later in the evening, it was time to find some food once more. As my body clock is all out of sync, it was a bit later. Again, not wanting to battle or stray too far from the hotel, I went round the corner to a ramen place. I know it's a bit of a cop out, but I was tired - and it's a few steps up from going to McDonalds. The gyoza and ramen hit the spot before tackling the Ladies Market in the rain.

(Side note: I've been travelling alone for long enough that there are times when you are in foreign places when you get a bit sick of pointing and nodding for your dinner and you just give up. I'm nowhere near that point, but McDonalds is good when you've reached breaking point. I passed some Aussies around lunchtime yesterday walking into McDonalds. I wanted to throttle them. They're in the food capital of the world and they go there - seriously... then again, I had ramen for dinner last night - I should not judge)

One thing I never get is why people queue for food. There is this place just around the corner where there are always people hanging about, thirty or forty people at a time. I needed to investigate.

It appears, this place does souffle pancakes. By this time, it was close to ten pm. My fitbit said I'd walked 15 kilometres and over 20000 steps in the day. It would be rude not to try one of these things. 

Gotta say, it was all fluff and air and sugar, but it was worth the wait even if it was $8 a hit. 

I'm also still unsure how anybody around here isn't either diabetic or chronically constipated, but there you go. 

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So, armed with the Black Sugar Premium Souffle pancake, I walked the drizzly streets back to the hotel, pondering that for a day that didn't go to plan, it really didn't turn out all that badly at all. 

Today's Song:

The Popular Queen Songs Meme

Greetings from Hong Kong, where the day is once again overcast, but at least it is not raining for a change. I've been here three days and it's the first morning where I can see the peak on the island in the distance. It's great here. Completely bonkers, but wonderful. I've only got a couple more days, but I know I want to come back and see more. It's just too much fun.

Today's questions, as always, come from Bev at Sunday Stealing.

Bohemian Rhapsody - What matters to you more than anything in the world?

Being happy, striving to be happy. It's pretty constant and all encompassing.

Don’t Stop Me Now - What makes you feel unstoppable?

Strangely, when I run. Not that I have run for a long time, but running has thing effect of making me feel like I can do anything. I think it's something to do with the fact that I was told I could not do it as a kid. I want to get running again. Love it.

Another One Bites The Dust - What one thing would you wipe off the face of the earth?

There are a few things. Huntsman spiders. The Liberal/National party, at least at the next election. Plastic pollution. Domestic violence.

Under Pressure - How stressed are you currently?

Not at all. I'm on holiday.

We Will Rock You - What was the last concert you went to?

I went to see The Arctic Monkeys about a week ago. They were really good. I'm lucky - I've been seeing a bit of live music lately.

Somebody To Love - Are you looking for somebody to love?

Yes, but we're not going to into that. For the moment, I'm secretly dating Harvey Specter in my back brain.

We Are The Champions - What achievement are you most proud of?

Gaining my Masters Degree.

Radio GaGa - What do you think of today’s popular music?

I like some of it. I have eclectic tastes in music and still listen to far too much 80s, 90s and soul, but there is some good stuff out there. Amy Shark, Dean Lewis, Alt-J to name a few.

I Want To Break Free - If you could move to any part of the world, where would you want to live?

I would move to the following places tomorrow in a heartbeat. London, Boston, Ubud, Indonesia, Hong Kong (yeah, three days and I want to get into this place), Hobart, Tasmania, just for the weather, Wellington, New Zealand. Could happily live in any of these places.

Love Of My Life - Have you ever had your heart broken?

Of course. Right of passage, isn't it.

Killer Queen - What is your favourite thing about yourself?

My resilience and persistence. And the fact that I am kind.

The Show Must Go On - What is something you will never give up?

Being kind. Reading and writing.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love - Name some of your favourite musicians.

In no real order: The Pixies, Damien Rice, Paul Simon, Ludovico Enaudi, Miles Davis, David Byrne... eclectic enough for you?

Who Wants To Live Forever - If you could be immortal, would you?

No,  thank you. We're meant to expire. Besides, I don't know how much more of the cretinous politicians I could stand for. They're getting worse.

Fat Bottomed Girls - What are some traits you look for in a partner?

Kindness, a good sense of humour, good personal hygiene (sorry, has to be said). That's about it. If I could put in a detailed order, a hairy chest, a bit stringy, tight bum and good hands are on the list. Yes, I do think about this occasionally.

I Want It All - If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?

I would love a house with a garden where I could have a dog and a cat. One day, maybe.

Today's Song: (It's been in my head for a few days now).

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Travelog 2: Sheung Wan avec Lonely Planet

So call me Lucy Honeychurch. Give me my room with a view and let me go gallivanting around the place like a woman possessed.

What do you mean you haven't seen A Room with a View? I've been modelling myself on Lucy Honeychurch for ages. She's been my hero for decades. (If you haven't seen A Room with a View, hunt it out - it is British cinema it its quirky Maggie Smith and Judy Dench before they were aat their international megastars best).

Unlike Lucy, my room does not have sweeping views of the Arno in Florence, but a construction site next to the market lanes of Mong Kok. It is not the middle of summer, so I don't get to wear cotton and linen. It's a drizzly, overcast day and I'm glad I brought my denim jacket with me. There is no George waiting either  - which is both a pity and a blessing on so many levels. A blessing as I get to explore this remarkable city on my own terms. A pity, yeah, well we won't go into that.

So, it's just me and my trusty little Lonely Planet pocket guide, the equivalent of Lucy's Baedeker, which up until now, hasn't let me down.

The worst thing about discovering a city on your own is working out what to do and where to go first. This took a bit of courage, mostly due to not really knowing how to navigate the transport situation. I shouldn't have worried. Hong Kong does public transport very, very well. It's cheap, quick, reliable and people follow the rules - like no eating on the trains or trams. Like who knew?  The MTR is great. Once you have your Octopus card, the city is at your fingertips. HKD10 (a bit under $2) to ride the trains, HKD3 to ride the Ding Dings.

The Ding Dings - a small, quaint tram network that runs around the island. They're a bit dilapidated, a bit odd looking being both double decker trams which probably only hold 40 or so people, but they run up and down the island regularly. The sort of remind me of the Knight Bus in Harry Potter.  My first stop was to hop on a Ding Ding and take a ride out to Kennedy Town, along the waterfront. They're a great way to have a look at a city around. You climb on. Tap your Oyster card when you get off. Simples.

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(From the Ding Ding window)

After the Ding Ding adventure, it was time to get some bearings. And find some lunch. Eating with the locals is fun. You never quite know what you're going to get.

Going with my plan of things to do every day, I made my way to Man Po temple, by way of a chat with some friendly locals and a trio of three small dogs, Pretzel, Pudding and Popcorn. The dogs' owner had the most awesome plummy Oxbridge accent. Pudding the Pomeranian gave wonderful cuddles.

Solo travelling tip: If you're in need of a short conversation, find a dog owner walking their dog - nine times out of chat, they'll give you the time of day.

Man Po is a wonderfully atmospheric place, filled with incense and flames and offerings. I want to go back and have another look. There was a school group and a film set there when I was there and there is nothing that takes away from exploring a temple like a dolly grip having a hissy fit.

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A wander down Cat Alley to look at the antiques. Found some jade trinket sown the way, in particular, a small old jade Kuan Yin - a favourite goddess of mine which I can take travelling with me.

When I look back at yesterday I don't think I've done that much, but scaling the streets, wandering around, looking in shop windows, watching people go past. The people watching here is fantastic.

After returning to the hotel for a rest and a lie down, it was back out into the streets of Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok to find some dinner. The concierge recommended a noodle place  in the back alleys out near the Ladies Market. It was a sound recommendation. Lovely food, not too much of it and dirt cheap.

A roam around sneaker street and the market had me back at the hotel around 10 pm with a new pair of Converse runners in my possession.

This place never seems to sleep. It's great. I have no idea where all the people come from, but it's fabulous.

So now, after a lazy morning, where I made yet another rookie mistake - when you think you're buying milk for your tea and you end up getting yogurt - joys of not knowing any Chinese at all, I'm going to head out into the drizzle and explore Tsim Sha Tsui and take the ferry over the the island.

At least it's not hot. The only thing the drizzle is stopping me doing is going up to the top of Victoria Peak. There isn't much point in doing that if you can't see anything.

Onwards, I say.

(By the way, Plastic Mancunian - I see why you love it here)

Today's song - The Ting Tings - in recognition of the Ding Dings that roam the streets of the island.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Travelog 1: Lost in Translation

Kowloon: Friday Morning: Day Two

I love being a Gringo, a Xeni, a Gori,  a traveller. A passenger. Somebody who is deliberately out of place in a place they probably have no real right to be, but you are there anyway, and you're only there to find out about things before you move on.

Some of the places I've had the best time being a gringo include Mykonos (where I became a part time masseuse, part time club hostess, part time English teacher for a few weeks), Bangkok (where I would love to live for a few months because the place is just madness), The Hague (only for an afternoon, but that half hour with Vermeer's The Girl with the Pearl Earring all alone was sublime) and Philadelphia - where an afternoon with my uncle took me from the Neshaminy burbs, to gang territory to the Mutter Museum in the space of a few hours.

It's all experience.

I've done it before, this gringo thing. I'll do it again. It's something I live for. This feeling of wanting to find out about stuff. The feeling of being lost, and getting lost, only to find out more

So here I am in Hong Kong.

This Hong Kong trip is something I've planned but not planned. It's been six months in the offing, and I've really thought about is how do I get my sorry arse from the airport to the hotel. Literally, that is it. As I've done in many cities in the past, I've plonked myself down for a few days and finding out what happens from there.

The nine hour flight was both effortless and easy, thanks mostly to a box set of Riverdale, which was surprisingly nostalgic and fun. I used to love Archie comics as a kid. Nearly sent off for the sea monkeys and everything.

I was seated next to a Hong Kong grandma who's English was as fluent as my Cantonese. We smiled and nodded to each other. Meals were problematic for her. Our most prolific conversation went something like this:

Grandma: (Pointing at the snack box) ??
Pand: Sui Mai. (I know my Sui Mai from my Shao-long Bao)
Grandma: Sui Mai? (As if to say "What is this shit?")
Pand: (Nodding) Sui Mai (As if to say, it's not going to be Hu Tong Dumpling good, but it's better than nothing)
Grandma: (To the cabin crew) Sui Mai. (In resignation that this was airline food and there were still three hours of the flight left)
Pand: Sui Mai (Wishing that they would offer me another Bloody Mary - the one with lunch was wonderful - and yes, it was only eleven a.m. Melbourne time, but it was midday somewhere and tomato juice has lots of electrolytes in it - and they were serving doubles.)

She was a nice lady. She gave me her Weis Bar. She couldn't eat them. The cold got to her teeth. I never say no to an extra Weis Bar.

I've been here less than 24 hours, but I like it already. So far, it's been easy.

The trip from the airport to the hotel was seamless.

Buy a ticket. Get on a train. Get off the train and go to the well signposted courtesy hotel bus. Get dropped off at the door of the hotel. Simples. You don't get that with a transfer or a taxi. $20. Better than the Skybus - then again, anything is better than the Skybus... don't get me started on a Melbourne Airport Rail service...

The rail trip was great. Looking out of the window, a line from PJ O'Rourke came into my head. "Commies love concrete". There is a lot of concrete here. But it's concrete with character, so it is forgiven. Hong Kong has been back in the hands of the Chinese for over 20 years. I wish I'd seen Hong Kong before 1997. Just for the comparison.

The hotel is fine, good even. I've been upgraded. My deluxe room on the 16th floor looks over the Waterloo Road and a large, noisy construction site. Being up near the top shields me from most of the noise. To room is spotlessly clean, the decor tidy and functional and there is a kettle and a safe. The bed is not unpleasantly hard. The pillows thin but workable.  The English channels on the telly involve a generic BBC and ABC channel and that's it. The wifi is fast and reliable, so Netflix might be getting a bashing in the evenings after a day of exploring. I love that if I reach up and stand on my toes I can touch the ceiling.

Being tired from the flight, all that was in me was to source out some dinner and retreat for the night. The concierge gave me some directions to a local place across the Nathan Road.

I was the only gringo in the place. Thankfully the lady serving has good English. A feed of chilli wantons, Beef and flat rice noodles and an eponymous mint and lime slushy and Pand was left a very happy girl. Lime and mint slushies and chilli wonton are possibly some of my most favourite things.

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A trip to a local bakery on the way home secured me something for breakfast. The 7/11 found me some milk for my tea. I'm not even going to try find an almond decaf latte here. What's the point of that?

When in Rome. Or in this case, when in Hong Kong...

So, today's plan. Go across to the island. Make my way to Central. Maybe take the Star Ferry over. Life is always better when you're on a boat.

I've got an agenda for this trip. This includes:

  • Eat with the locals.
  • See a temple a day.
  • Find a museum to discover.
  • Learn how to say'thank you' in Cantonese in the next day or so. 
  • Write every day.
For I get to pretend to be a travel writer for a few days.

Yep, I'm as happy as a pig in muck.

Today's song:


Sunday, March 3, 2019

The Curious as a Cat Questions

It has been a big day. I've come back from a trip away, I'm heading overseas later in the week and I have just given the cats back to their parents - all stuff which has stopped me getting this blog done - so now it's late in the evening and I'm struggling to get this done on the Sunday.

Good questions this week, thanks to Bev at Sunday Stealing.

1. I wish I had enough money to ________.

Travel the world for extended periods of time and in great comfort.

2. If you had to enter a competition for the "Most Uselessly Unique Talent," what would your talent be?

I can do the following - all are useless:

  • I am a founding member of the Ministry for the Bleeding Obvious
  • I can recite Jabberwocky (and sing Khe Sahn) when really drunk - by rote. 
  • I am very good at finding The Young Ones and MOnty Python quotes for any occasion. 

3. When it might hurt their feelings, how do you feel about telling your friends the truth?

If it has to be done, it has to be done - but done gently, in private, and as kindly as it can be done.

4. Peanut or plain?

Both have their merits. Peanut just trumps plain.

5. Is there someone you would like to take your place in life for one day? Who and why?

Part of me would love my sister to step into my shoes for a day. I think she thinks I have it easy. We had the same opportunities growing up, but went on very different paths. She knows nothing of my life. I'd like to open her eyes to a few things.

6. Who was your favorite teacher and why?

My French teacher at high school in my final year was great. A mentor as well as a bloody good teacher. She helped instill what little confidence with which I left high school. I have a lot to thank her for. She also helped give me the love of the language I wish I could use more often. Nothing three months in France and some intensive classes wouldn't fix.

7. What do you think is the ugliest thing or event on Earth?

Do not get me started on what our Federal Government is doing to refugees on Nauru and Manus Island. This is the definition of ugly.

Huntsman spiders are up there too. (Americans - look them up... they are the size of the palm of your hand).

8. What is your least favorite of your personality traits or quirks?

I can be stubborn to my own detriment and I can cave in too easily at times. A bit of an oxymoron, me...)

9. I wish I could see ________ because _________.

What happened to all of the characters in the West Wing ten years on, because that was the BEST show and I loved them all.

10. Tell us your favorite children's story.


11. Explain how to play your favorite game.

It's called pool. You pot all the balls by hitting the white ball with a long thin stick, trying hard to put the eight-ball last. It helps if you had a bit of beer to drink before you play.

12. What do you keep in the trunk  boot of your car?

An umbrella, a few CDs, some plastic bags, the spare tyre and tyre changing accouterments.

13. Tell us about your favorite way to get lost in a simple activity — running, chopping vegetables, folding laundry, whatever. What’s it like when you’re in "the zone"?

I get in that spot when I'm reading and writing and going for long walks. I love the zone - most of me disappears.

Oh, and if you really want to see me in the zone, play me Jeff Beck's 'Brush with the Blues'. I really disappear then.

14. What’s your dream tourist destination — either a place you’ve been and loved, or a place you’d love to visit? What about it speaks to you?

I'd love to go back to Spain and Italy. Spain resonates with me on a cellular level. The little bit of Italy I've seen is beautiful - I want to see more.

15. What parts of nature do you like best?

All of it - but I particularly love the sea and the mountains.

16. What kind of program do you enjoy most on TV--detective shows, comedies, game shows--and why?

I'm a big fan of the dramedies - something with a bit of humour and a bit of angst. Shows that show a lot of humanity. Some favourites include Grey's Anatomy, Six Feet Under, Sex Eduation (it's English, on Netflix and wonderful), Suits, The West Wing and Harrow (Australian fare).

17. Do you know any professional athletes?


18. What will the next must-have technological innovation be? Jetpacks? Hoverboards? Wind-powered calculators?

Something that cleans up the oceans quickly and easily. That should have been invented decades ago.

19. Have you ever been the victim of a crime?

I've twice had my wallet stolen - both times on the tube in London. Both times, there was no bodily damage done, just had my wallet lifted from my handbag. The police got one of the offenders a week or so later. I've also had my credit card skimmed. Thankfully, that is it. Long may it remain.

20. What if you woke up tomorrow with the ability to understand animals. What do you think you’d hear from them?

I could see the cats I've just been sitting saying, 'Where the hell were you this weekend, and when is Mum and Dad coming back?'

21.What is something that makes you melancholy?

The thought of another four years of a conservative government here in Australia. Bring on the bloody election (It's due in May - and the current government are stalling).

Today's song: