Sunday, 11 October 2009

Tai chi, dim sum, the beach – where did it all go wrong?

So my Hong Kong plan was to become a tai chi master and a dim sum mistress who would potter off to the beach everyday to write. Well, that hasn’t quite happened. I haven’t been to a single tai chi session yet – mainly because it involves getting up at 6.30am and y’all know how I feel about early morning starts (despite, for the record, holding down three different jobs that required 6am starts). Of course, the theory is that once I go, I will be able to then line-up some private tuition at a more civilised time.

Then there’s the issue of dim sum. Well it’s a sociable meal, isn’t it? And it’s a lunch thing. And all of my friends here have these funny little daily pastimes they call jobs, so they’re always engaged during the week. And my last visitor was a vegetarian, so there was no point taking him. So in short, I haven’t been yet. However, I have discovered microwaveable cheung fun which isn’t too bad. But yes, I am craving the real thing. Maybe I should set up a restaurant that offers dim sum for one? Or maybe just set up a layabouts club so I could meet other dossers to dine with (that’s dossers with a “d”, y’hear? Not a “t”).

So that leaves the beach. Why have I not gone everyday? Well initially I was looking for a flat (settled on Hong Kong Island in the end). Then came the typhoon (despite my hatches being battened, the water still poured into my flat, resulting in me sleeping in the living room and setting my alarm for 4am so I could empty the rapidly filling pots and pans). Then I had an intensive writing project so I didn’t leave the house for a week. Then Wayne came to visit and it rained for most of his stay. I have however, made it to the beach on three occasions.

The first time was on the hottest day in September (well it must have been the hottest day because everyone’s clothes were sopping with sweat at 10am while standing in the shade), when I went on a junk boat trip to Tai Long Wan near Sai Kung. I swam from the boat to the beach and then back again (see picture). With an inflatable “noodle” admittedly, but those who have previously witnessed me thrashing in the water will know that it was no mean feat for me.

The next time was on Wayne’s second last day when the sun decided to finally show its face. We went to Shek O to meet a friend at the beach. Even though it took 90 minutes to get there (which is the same as going from my London flat to Brighton), it was spectacular. And hot! It felt a bit like being an extra on Lost with the lush green hills sweeping heavenward behind the beach.

Then on Saturday I took the plunge and went to the beach on my own. Took the bus to Repulse Bay, enjoying the hairpin bends along roads with sheer drops to one side. Felt pretty relaxed about the whole trip – somehow you don’t feel like such a loner/loser in the same way that you would were you doing this solo in your own country. Got to the beach and unrolled my beach mat. Whipped off my top to reveal my bikini underneath, then paused to watch some guy line up his friend almost in front of me and take a picture. That’s weird, I thought, it’s almost like he was trying to take a picture of me getting undressed. So instead of removing my shorts, I decide to walk a little to the left so I’m out of shot and therefore not “spoiling his picture”. Only then he stops taking pictures. Hmm. So I get out my camera and take a picture of these two fully clothed men on the beach and then, unsurprisingly, they walk off. So that was a bit creepy. (Although not as bad as when some guy photographed Nathalie and I on the beach in France. I was topless, but it was Cannes for crissakes – everyone goes topless!)

Anyway, decided to ignore all that and do some writing instead. Then it was so hot that I had to go for a paddle to cool down, and on my way back to my beach mat, some guy started filming me. Now y’all know what I look like (namely, not a fit model) and I swear I’m not some sort of delusional fantasist, but this definitely happened. Because when I angrily ripped off my (pause) sunglasses and glared at the guy, he closed his video camera and turned in a different direction. And he definitely wasn’t filming anyone else. Oh well, maybe it’s just that I look like some sort of Gweilo Godzilla (GG). Good thing I wasn’t wearing my heels then, eh?!

Am off to Shanghai, Osaka and Kyoto for two weeks on Monday, so when I get back, I shall definitely get down to some tai chi/dim sum business. Promise. Love from GG xx

Footnote: Relayed the photography story to a BBC (British-born Chinese) friend on Saturday night, who just rolled his eyes and declared that they were probably “mainlanders” – i.e. those from mainland China. And my friend Marc heard me bemoaning my lack of dim sum and took me to City Hall on Sunday to experience old-skool trolley dim sum where the ladies push round carts of dumpling goodness for you pick the ones you want. Wo hoo! Oh and the shark warning picture – that’s for Miss Watkins! She loves a good shark infested beach.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Fatter, thinner, or the same? (part 2)

Another reason I thought I might be able to drop a couple of pounds was due to my dire cooking facilities. In my flat I have a microwave and a single electric hob. Not particularly conducive to cooking anything. Of course I get round this by always eating out. And because it’s so cheap and the food is so good, then there is always the temptation to over-order. Which I do. Quite a bit…

Hong Kong is renowned for its hiking trails, so maybe I’ll ditch some pounds on a hike. Well, when they say trails, what they actually mean is nice paved paths, which is just peachy with me. When Wino (otherwise known as the artist Wayne Chisnall) came to visit, we decided to take on the trail by the Peak that winds down to Pokfulam Road. It was an enjoyable walk with some amazing views but it had two really bad elements to it:
1. I got absolutely savaged by mosquitoes and due to the fact that I’m allergic to mozzie bites, I now have welts on my legs (see pic) that match my newly dyed purple hair (see other pic). Of course, hopefully this will cease when the temperature drops and I can wear trousers and long sleeved tops.
2. The other major no-no was the spiders. In my life, I have never seen such monsters. (See pic, but you’ll have to look closely to spot it!) God knows how many more were lurking out of sight. I can only hope that they keep their webs off the main paths to prevent hikers from tearing through them. But still…it’s a worry. Do constant adrenalin surges help keep ones weight down? Or do they just mean that you’re more likely to have a heart attach at a younger age?!

Of course, I do live two-thirds of the way up a very steep hill (see pic, although you can’t actually see the top of the hill in the photo). So maybe I will achieve “buns of steel” trekking up and down the 45 degree slope every day on my way to…ahem…buy more food. Oh well, I haven’t invested in any bathroom scales for my flat, so we’ll just have to see when I get back to the UK. Place your bets now…

Monday, 5 October 2009

Fatter, thinner, or the same? (part 1)

So the big debate before I moved to Hong Kong was whether I was going to be fatter, thinner, or the same weight when I returned to the UK. At this point in time, I reckon it’s still too early to tell. For example, today I walked from my house to the IFC in Central, which is a 30 minute walk each way. I thought I should enjoy the good weather and do some writing for my blog alfresco, while checking out the great views of the harbour (see photo). Unfortunately, I was quite hot by the time I got there and felt compelled to pop to McDonald’s for a chocolate milkshake – well they are only 40p. So there you go – a classic example of my good work being outweighed by my greed.

Similarly, I’ve now tried a number of Chinese desserts and can safely conclude that they’re all revolting. I had imagined that this would be the outcome based on past experiences, so I reckoned I would be saving thousands of calories by not eating the sweet stuff. However, it turns out that Western desserts aren’t actually that hard to come by, so it’s not like it’s gonna be four months until my next slice of chocolate cake (although it may be that long until I make a tiramisu – my local Italian deli sells mascarpone for £8 – four times the UK price!). And the local bakeries sell excellent old-skool ring doughnuts for about 30p – literally tipping the scales for a fatter me.

I also thought that I might have to give up bread (crackers – my favourite food/meal as many of you know – have already fallen by the wayside – they’re outrageously expensive and the selection is poor here). Bread is generally pretty shit here. As Vietnam Al had forewarned me, most of the bread here is sweet. Which is fine some of the time, but I have started to crave wholemeal bread or regular brown bread or anything that’s not a synthetic-looking white sliced pan with the crusts cut off (why do they do that?!). But today I found the most amazing bread at my Italian deli. Yes, it’s white, but it’s fresh and flakey with sprinklings of rosemary on the inside. It’s not sweet, yet it’s been made in a similar way to puff pastry. And they have loads of other lovely looking breads on sale that I plan to work my way though during my time here. If you’re reading this in HK, then check out Il Bel Paese on 68 Bonham Road.