The Rugby Sevens are a Hong Kong institution. People from all over flocked here for it last weekend, filling up every single hotel room in the city. Our friend Nate hopped the pond from SF to be a part of it. I had never really seen rugby so it was really something.
On Saturday we all dressed up as a box of crayons (there were close to 40 of us) and joined the revelry in the South Stands. Everyone was dressed up–from co-eds to old people–it’s the equivalent of San Francisco’s Bay to Breakers, only as it turns out Aussies can drink Castroites under the table any day. My favorite crayons were our friends Maddy and Justin because their names were so Hong Kong.
And boy has it been hazy in Hong Kong lately. I’m so ready for our fog, I mean pollution, to go away! And Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong’s airline, is by far and away the nicest airline you will ever fly. They actually come out from behind the counter to welcome you on board and to thank you for flying Cathay–and that is when you are flying coach. I know, it’s hard to believe a bit of luxury and customer service still exist in airlines today.
Our friend K.C. (above in Boracay blue) got the costumes custom made in Shenzen for a great price. I thought they turned out super cute! Kate Middletons and Black Swans (male and female versions) were the most popular costumes.
You know when you have that moment where you are like, I knew I wasn’t getting the whole story? It’s kind of a combination between an ‘ah hah’ moment and a ‘told you so!’ Well I had one of those when we took a cooking class at the Metropole in Hanoi, Vietnam and it was over ingredients.
I have been trying to re-create that ‘je ne sais qua’ that all Vietnamese salads in Vietnam have… but I’ve been doing it with Western recipes à la Martha, Gwyneth, and Nigella–who has never been to Vietnam by the way, as much as I do love her. And while they’ve been good, they haven’t tasted like what I’ve had in Vietnam. So I had one of these moments when they told us that aromatic herbs are a building block of Vietnamese cuisine… and they include: saw-leaf herb, hot mint, spearmint, anise basil, purple perilla, wild betel leaf, lemongrass, and thai basil. Throughout the class we also used ram, bananna flower (above, lower center), sour star fruit (above, lower right) and pumpkin greens… things that I’ve never seen in the States, nor in any of the recipes by aforementioned kitchen goddesses. And understandably as they’re impossible to come by in most places.
We made a bunch of fun things, the most exotic being this banana flower salad above. Grilled chicken skewers wrapped in lemon leaves was a favorite, below upper left. We also marinated pork and cooked it wrapped in a banana leaf in a bamboo shaft (below, lower right). All of the recipes are available for download here and although some ingredients you won’t be able to find, most of the recipes feature things that most everyone can find easily.
I would highly recomend this class. Undoubtedly, the highlight was our super petite instructor Thanh who looked to be about 14, but was probably closer to 30. She was so sweet and demure, but wow could she thwack her knife! I’ve noticed that all Asian chefs love square knives… and they like to use the side of the knife just as much as the blade… to do things like mince garlic with one heavy-handed blow.
I am in LOVE with these embroidered Penguin classic book covers by Jillian Tamaki. So much so that I am thinking of taking up embroidery. Anyone tried it?
The South China Morning Post reported today just how much ground China has gained in scientific research in just the last few years. It’s really quite impressive; they just leapfrogged to the no. 2 spot and may overtake the US as early as 2013.
However they still lag in citations, which you can see above, but I think that is also just a matter of time. I only wish America would take education half as seriously as the Chinese!
The HSBC (Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation) headquarters are actually in London, but I feel like they should be based in their Queens Road local headquarters (above) because their branches literally blanket Hong Kong. Local lore has is that it was constructed with an external steel skeleton in case things went south when China took back over in 1997 and they needed to disassemble the building and put it back together in a more secure locale. It is really quite a building to behold… here it is from the inside. (Image by Chikitosam)
The Mr. works three doors down from this building so we both go by it all the time and there are almost always people protesting on weekends… but maybe they will soon stop. (Reuters.)
In addition to showing the protest banners, this photo shows you how the botton of the building is totally open to thorough traffic and that you take escalators up to the first floor of the bank. It’s pretty crazy in person. A lot of people I’ve talked to didn’t really know what the locals have been protesting, but apparently private banking in Hong Kong is completely nuts and HSBC and several other banks sold a lot of Lehman mini-bonds to lower-middle class folks who put their whole life savings in them. When the bank folded, they were left with nothing… but it looks like this new settlement would give them almost all of their money bank.
“Sixteen Hong Kong banks have agreed on a joint proposal that could see investors in Lehman Brothers minibonds recover most of their original investments. As a final settlement, the banks yesterday offered to pay back up to 96.5 per cent of the defunct investments – up from 60 per cent in 2009.” –South China Morning Post
It would be wonderful if this iconic building could go back to being just a crazy building with an epic light show that is also a haven for maids on Sundays. I will leave for another post a rant on how insanely uptight HSBC’s security measures are and how comparatively smoothly American banking now seems to run..