Friday, September 4, 2015

Hong Kong ~ a trip of food, of learning, and of enlightenment

Hong Kong & Macau in four short days
~ truly unforgettable!
4-7 September 2015

The Peak on a cloudy afternoon
6 Sep 2015

"We are going to Hong Kong for a short break.  Why don't you both come along? Just relax, eat and shop lah." asked Kai Sing.  And the deal was sealed.  Just like that.

5:30am at Terminal 3 on Friday, 4th Sep 2015

"Aiyah.. how? They want to upgrade both of us ladies to Premium Economy Class free. But we can't leave you
guys alone.  So we said no!"
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The Frequent Flyers
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Serene and I were thrilled to be taking an A380 for the very first time, and on SQ some more!  And we managed to book the seats on the upper deck.  But oh it was a pity they did not open the staircase at the back of the plane that would allow us to go down to the lower deck.

... while on the upper deck of the A380...
 Serene's mind and her whole being has been stuffed full of everything about bread-baking.  Even the in flight crumbles did not go un-scrutinised by this young baker...

Arriving in Chek Lap Kok...

It was our first time travelling with this tour company.
"Welcome to Kaan-Cheong Travels," said Kai Sing. "...where the bosses and guides are super full of energy and can walk from morning till night non-stop."
A fact that was obvious right from the word go as we hit the ground running... almost literally.  It kind of reminded me of all our SgTrekker trips.  What?  Don't frighten me lah wei.. I didn't sign up for an SgTrekker trip, did I?

Serene suddenly realised that she had been training at the wrong cadence.
'Super efficient' described Mr Kaan's rate of getting things done.   In faster than a blink of my eyes, he has led us to first a Telcom counter at the airport, to a 7-Eleven shop, and finally to another telcom called 1010 in the quest for the SIM cards for our Huawei Mobile wifis.  A credit-card discounted price of HK$178 (S$32) bought us a 5GB data plan SIM card each for 8 days.  Good deal.

All smiles after the successful acquisition of the SIM cards.

"Life without the internet is really unbearable," I said, really glad to have access right away upon touch down.   I finally understood that when you travel with Kaan-Cheong Travels, you never need to worry about wifi, because Mr and Mrs Kaan-Cheong are more kan cheong about internet access than you. Wahahahaha!!

Hot or Rainy weather?
"My weather forecast said that it's going to be rainy all these days while in Hong Kong," announced Mrs Kaan-Cheong the Lao-ban-niang. 
Yes, September should be still a hot and humid month.  I wasn't sure about tyhpoon, but I guess that would be more unpredictable.  Indeed the weather forecast did indicate some rainy days ahead.  Still, whatever it was, bermudas, T-shirts and recovery slippers were prepared.

Royal Pacific Hotel 皇家太平洋酒店

Mrs Ng had her very good kang-tao for Royal Pacific Hotel, a very good business hotel at 中港城 China Hong Kong City, the huge mega shopping mall cum office cum ferry terminal.  Never in my dream could I imagine how convenient this hotel was.  It was just one escalator ride away from the ferry counter.

"Whenever I came to Hong Kong, I always stayed in the Sino group of hotels," explained Joanne, Royal Pacific being her most preferred hotel.

Looking across to Hong Kong island from The Gateway, the shopping mall at 中港城.

"Hungry ah!" complained Serene.
"OK, now we will have our local tour guide bring us to a good local stall for Ngau-Lam-Meen and Shui-Gao-Meen," said Alex, obviously relieved to have someone take over the lead for a while.
"OK, let's go.  I bring you to this one." Joanne was really eh-sai. "I spent all my time in Tsim Sha Tsui just exploring this parts."
Lovely meal.  No joke.  For the longest time, I hadn't had an authentic Hong Kong 牛腩面 Ngau-Lam-Mee.  And this meal, simple yet flavourful, brought back memories.

What photographic equipment to bring for such a leisure trip?

Kai Sing was all relaxed and bruden-less for the trip, with his iPhone as camera.
Taken at The Gateway.

"I'm bring my M9P with the 35 Lux," I declared before the trip. "Kai Sing, bring you Leica.  Bring lah, bring lah!"
"No lah.  I'll just bring my iPhone.  I will use the Slow Shutter App in the phone for the shot at The Peak," Kai Sing said.  And he really did just that.
Alex?  He was well equipped with the A7R plus the 16-35 and the 35mm.  It was really put into full use throughout the trip,  with his ISO at 3200 at certain instances.

Gai-Gai... and a learning experience for me.

So we went gai-gai-ing in the mega-mall.  And we walked and ate Japanese chocolates and we shopped in Uniqlo, where Serene was thrilled to find two pieces of Arism sweaters, the colours of which were not available in Singapore.

It was mind-blowing to me, in a sort of big way.  I was never one who went shopping, neither had I the time.  And strolling along, I found names of the boutiques that were alien to me.  Alex started talking to me and showing me watches in each watch boutique that we past by, pointing out to me which favourite Audemars Piguet he was attracted to, and how beautiful a classic Patek Philippe was, and finally why he would one day acquire a Vacheron Constantin, in that order.  I started to see this man in a very different light.  Accidentally, we saw a Hublot complication time piece on display with a price tag of S$400,000.  And Serene declared she loved that watch.  I ran away.

Next, Kai Sing walked with me and showed me some brands of fashion wear, how to tell a Bogetta Veneta by its design, and how the ribbon was the classic design of a Ferragamo.  And during the trip, he explained how the design of Louis Vuitton was.  I started to see him in a very different light too.

And of course, I could not forget how Lai Peng sashayed into the LV boutique and had a hard time deciding between different designs of colourful shawls, each of which cost more than a 5DMkIII.  And how she trotted into Stella McCartney, and with ease, plucked some of her familiar blouses from the racks. Stella McCartney was one of Lai Peng's favourite day-to-day casual wear, said Alex.  I dare not look at her in the eyes after that.

While in the LV boutique, Joanne pointed towards a leather belt.  That was Kai Sing's favourite.  I dare not look at the beautiful strip of leather, neither dare I even ask the price.  Joanne and Kai Sing really were very discerning shoppers, and I observed how they spent a long time looking at each pair of shoes and deciding why one design was nicer than the others.  I stole a glance at one of the dangling price tags - wah lau, the price of a Leica.  On this trip, I remembered distinctly how this couple finally decided on a pair of Hogan each.  Truly discerning.

Walking out of the maze of boutiques at the end of the evening, I had learned so much more about fashion and names than I had ever in my life time.  And I also finally understood wallet-wise, why until today I was still wearing a pair of BATA shoes bought at a discounted price of $39.90 from Parkway Parade, and my time piece was still my Casio of more than 8 years.  In PAP's own words, I was totally humbled by these very capable friends.

Dessert at Hui Lau San 许留山
"I'm thirsty," said Kai Sing. "Let's have some dessert."
We were at the end of The Gateway, right at Star Ferry Terminal.  I still didn't know what I ordered.  But it was a combination of mango, coconut, aloe vera and didn't know what else.  It was simply oozing with aroma.  I didn't believe I had ever tasted anything like that back home in Singapore.

... at Star Ferry Terminal Tsim Sha Tsui...

All happy after the long walk through The Gateway, and eagerly waiting for dinner.
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"You are NOT the bokeh," I told Serene.

Almost... almost buying an Apple Watch along Canton Road...

At the ground floor of The Toy House, we came across a newly opened Apple Shop where scores of people were looking at the Apple Watches.  Serene had been bugging me for the longest time for an Apple Watch.  And I just hazarded a question to the very friendly sales girl, about the price.

These boys and girls are crazy!
She brought out one, with Hermes-like brown strap and golden rim.
"HK$135,000." she announced.
It didn't strike me how much that was.  Until I did a conversion and realised that it was only S$24,770.  "Can you show me the most basic model?" with cold sweat, I pleaded her.  And the basic model was not bad.  $30 cheaper than in Singapore.   But the most lucky thing that evening was, Serene had already gotten out of the Apple Watch craze and she no longer wanted an Apple Watch.  Like what our Manpower Minister would say, "HENG AH!".

Korean Barbecue Dinner at Wa-En 和宴 Restaurant (yes, a Japanese restaurant)
Located at 12th floor of The Toy House along Canton Road, this was one of Joanne's regular dinner destinations.  The beef and pork barbecue was famous.

It wasn't easy to take selfie.  But we managed.
[Click to enlarge]
"We are having Korean barbecue in a Japanese restaurant?" I asked.
"Yes," replied Joanne. "They are good for their barbecue.  Just eat!"

Luckily I listened to her, because it turned out to be one hell of a great dinner.
And our local tour guide was the expert when it came to sake, giving specific instruction to the waiter to bring forth the sake and let her see before she decided.
And these good boys and girls cheered to, importantly, my enlightenment.  But unknown to them, it was an enlightenment of an order that was beyond attainment for myself. Haha..

Cheers! [Click to Enlarge without speech bubbles]
And a trip without wagyu would be a crime.  I was impressed when the waiter brought a few plates of wagyu of different texture, different levels of marbling and different shapes, some in slices, some in strips.  And of course the pork slices.
The wagyu was succulent and juicy.  But I wasn't good in barbecueing them.  After that evening, I was deeply convinced that Kai Sing and Alex would make much better cooks than myself.

Men At Work. [Click to Enlarge without speech bubbles]

Some time towards the end of the dinner, we found to our shock that we still had a little bit of appetite for the pork, and Alex had to spin a nice story about how delicious the pork was and asked the waiter for the plate that we returned earlier.  That was really hilarious, thinking back!

By the end of dinner, we were all full to the brim.  But there was always space for a piece of chewing gum - Doublemint, it said.  I hadn't seen this chewing gum for years, ever since the Singapore government took it out of the import menu.

Triple Bubble Gums. [Click to Enlarge without texts]
"Ok, tomorrow morning breakfast at 6:30am and we need to be at the ferry ticket counter latest by 7:45am," announced the tour leader Alex.
Joanne looked at him, her eye balls almost popping out.
"Sorry lah.  I just checked the time schedule for the ferry to Macau," smiled Alex. "We have to board the 8am ferry.  If we miss that one, the next ferry will be 11am leh."
With a deep sigh, we resigned ourselves to this fate.  No late morning the next day.  Haha..

Day Two - A visit to our Macau ATM
to draw our deserved monies back.  
But in case gentle persuasion fails, a battle plan was our backup...

This Alex was really meticulous in the way he planned the itinerary.  At every juncture he would whip out his neatly printed piece of plan and read out the next destination and what we would be doing.  I remembered some time back, Kai Sing ever said that Alex was a leader.  And I'd experienced his leadership on one fateful dark night somewhere in Surabaya (that was another story).  On this trip, his plan was to accomplish everything.

And on this day, the assault was very simple.  To go to Macau and draw an obscene amount of money from the ATM so that we can splurge on shopping and eating in the next few days.  Sounded like a roaringly-magnificent plan.

7:45am saw us Chi-running towards boarding gate number 5 at the China Hong Kong ferry terminal.  Serene and I struggled behind all these four Chi runners who were doing good pace.

Here was a video of these good boys and girls Chi-running towards the boarding gate...

"This hydrofoil is very fast and very steady one," explained Kai Sing to me, as the vessel flew towards Macau.
"Don't know what's the speed it is travelling at," wondered Alex. "Our Fenix 3 and your Forerunner 920 cannot obtain GPS leh.."
"Don't worry.  Our SIM cards can roam to Macau one." I turned on Strava App on my iPhone and it read a speed of 71km/h.
The Engineers were delighted.  I could imagine how frustrating it would be to an Engineer if he didn't know the information that he needed.  In return, for the one hour ride the two Engineers shared with me their life stories, from their first job to their current positions, and I marvelled at their careers, and their know-how in all things Civil-engineering-related.

The Hotel Venetian

First stop.  The Venetian.
There was free shuttle bus serving the ferry terminal and every single of the major Hotels and Casinos.  And the interval was a short 10-15 minutes.  Really efficient and courteous service.   And there were free wifi on the bus even!
It was Saturday, and the whole Venetian was inundated with visitors from up north.

Kai Sing at his best with his Pro Camera.
The Army General split his forces two ways - one platoon was to do a direct assult towards the ATM, while the other flanked the side, allowing some time for relaxation in between.

The Casino in The Venetian was as nice as ever.  And they were so relaxed in terms of security.  Any one with a handphone or a camera could literally take photographs.

Four of us found a nice Roulette table with a nice young man as the croupier with a minimum bet of HK$50, and we spent a wonderful 1 hour playing a game of tug-o-war with him, during which Alex and Lai Peng taught me the importance of starting off correctly by plonking the chips right on the numbers 10 and 22, because these were important birthday numbers, and how to show-hands to the croupier in an all out bid for survival; and how to give yourself a life-line when everything seems to be going the other way.

Alex and Lai Peng taught me the Art of Showing Hands.  They were really the sifu!
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We saw how a China man had his high stack of red chips returned many times by simply betting on the thirds, and how an Ang Moh man boasted to his Chinese girl friend that he would 'leave once he wins this hand' which he indeed was successful, converting his HK$3500 cash chip to a return of a win of HK$7000. That was really eye-opening.  Unfortunately, our ATM kind of ran out of money at that point in time, and all four of us had to make a decision to come back another day to draw our deserved amount.

For a while, the General seemed lost.  And he was simply firing at all the enemies underneath,  alternating between his 16-35mm cannon and the 35mm Howitzer.  The recconnaissance officer kept watch at the side, making sure that the soldiers below fell one by one as he fired.

... until she was tired.

But General Alex continued fighting the war on his own, refusing to give up.

Alex right there still shooting.
I also shot a few rounds.  But I wasn't so brave as Alex and Lai Peng.  I shot until I ran out of Lingams and I started shooting the roof.

lovely murals on the ceiling.
Mission not exactly accomplished, we had to beat a retreat.

Kai Sing and Joanne were having Portugese Egg Tarts and enjoying themselves now.
So finally, a fierce battle of the chips gently retraced its steps back to the nice, leisurely pace of a holiday.  And we were back on vacation-mode once again.

Serene and her classic Venetian pose.
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Retreating to the Ruins of Saint Paul...

By then the scorching sun was beating unrelentingly at the retreating soldiers.  Alex cleverly asked and discovered the bus that would take us to Galaxy Hotel from which we would grab another free bus to San Ma Lo 新马路 which was at the old city centre where we could walk to the Ruins of Saint Paul.
Row 13 was the queue to Galaxy Hotel.  And we were shocked to see people mountain people sea all lining up to take the buses.  As though by lightning, the reason hit all of us - a few moments ago we literally just paid for the bus fares for almost all these good people, inside the Casino.  Now we understood why buses in Macau were almost always free.

Alex kao beh kao bu... so funny!   I couldn't stop laughing...
At Galaxy Hotel, the wait was a little longer...

Kai Sing and Joanne were very smart.  They had themselves nutritionally replenished.  And they wre ready for the next part of the trip.

Arriving at the old city - Rue de Sao Paolo...

The cobblestone square was burning hot by the time we got off the bus and walked our way to the square, let by our human GPS.  This place hadn't changed much since Serene and I were last here three years back.  The only addition was perhaps the canopy of green vine dangling above that conveyed a (false) sense of shade.

Alex and Lai Peng brought us to this very very popular restaurant called Wong Chi Kei 黄枝记 where the food was the rage.  It was so crowded outside that one had to squeeze in to grab a queue number and wait one's turn.  We gotten a number 79, a table for 6 and we had to wait.  Cleverly, Alex led us to a cafe a few shops down the row and we walked up to the third floor and found respite in the air con and the cold drinks.

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The don't-know-what lime-lemon juice that they ordered was really refreshing. Refreshingly sour. But I kinda liked it.

CLICK on the image above to see how Mrs Ng reacted to the refreshing drink...
Yupe, it was sour alright.

It was also here that I realised my wifi didn't work any more.  And soon after that Alex's wifi also stopped working.  Funny.  We reboot and re-set and did all sorts of funny things to no avail.  Later on Alex solved the mystery - it was because we finished using the 100Mb allowed for data roaming out of Hong Kong.

We walked into the highly-packed restaurant.  It was not much different from any of the usual local restaurants in the city, in layout, in ambience.  Our table was on the second floor.

I scanned the walls and found the name of some of their signature dishes pasted.  I decided to try out this one called 招牌虾仔干捞面 Har-Zai-Gon-Lou-Meen.  I didn't know what it was, but it was a blind leap.   But wow, was that a leap!  This Har-zai-meen was dried noodle sprinkled generously with shrimp roe and the fragrance of the roe, enhanced by their crunchiness took us by surprise.
It was so delicious that I almost had to lick every single roe off the plate.
CLICK on the image above to see a Wefie of all of us taken by Kai Sing

This lunch was really exceptionally delicious.  I could understand then why so many people were crowding for a table at Wong Chi Kei.  I would come again the next round we ever were here just to taste the 虾仔面.  I loved it.

Braving the heat to the Ruins of Saint Paul...

Our watches showed 3pm.  It was post midday but yet in this part of the globe the sun was unforgiving. Even more unforgiving was the throng of people with heavy northern accents hoarding the steps, the buildings, the ruins, and every possible opening and space in Macau.  Bewildered, I looked around.

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Kai Sing and Joanne were quivering in one corner, in the shade but still suffering from the heat.  Alex and Lai Peng had dashed forward and immersed themselves in the crowd of northerners.  The best strategy at that moment was to despatch Serene into the Koi Kee 钜记手信 shop to enjoy the aircon as well as to spend some money.

I finally managed to get the Kaan-Cheong-sters back to the steps for a shot.
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This was one of the few occasions when the 6-stop ND filter was handy.
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Somewhere in the 16th branch of Koi Kei...

In the sea of north, some of us managed to find some of the famous snacks.
I was drenched from head to toe in my own sweat.

Walking and sitting and eating, followed by walking and standing and walking could really be tiring.  And we WERE tired.  By the time we walked from Wong Chi Kei up the curvy wurvy cobblestone pavement to the steps up to the Ruins, Kai Sing, Joanne, Serene and I were too tired to go any nearer.  And we merely just enjoyed the view of the facade of the burnt-down cathedral from a few hundred metres away.  Of course, the presence of the horde did make it any more attractive to attempt the approach.

Macau General Post Office at Senado Square

The cold air con of the old post office building was another welcomed relief.  And we all simply plonked ourselves against the wall, the cabinets, and whatever we could find as Mr Kaan queue up to buy his first day cover/stamp commemorating the 70th anniversary of China's liberty from world war II.  Just that some of the office staffs were less amenable to us sitting down then in other government offices...

Really nice aircon, but slightly less nice office staff here..
CLICK on the image above to see WHAT these ladies REALLY say...!
Mrs Ng's facial muscles were really revealing her fatigue.  And this fatigue is shared by Serene and I too.  My feet were aching, my ankle tendons were aching, my legs were sore.  I was telling Serene that walking like this the whole day is more siong than doing the Half-Ironman. Wah.. I really wanted to go back to the hotel and sleep.

"Wah, Carol messaged me saying that there is a Fireworks competition tonight in Macau at 9pm," said Alex. 
"Huh? 9pm? No no no... I want to go back and sleep." I said.

The old Casino Lisboa!

"Ok, let's just walk to the old Casino Lisboa to check out the old style casino.  Really old style like those you see in the old Hong Kong drama series one," excitedly encouraged Alex and Lai Peng.
Serene almost falling asleep at the bus stop.

Ok! That sounded exciting. Especially the thought that we could possibly spy on the famous (notorious) Lisboa Hotel fish bowl walking display with all the fish walking to and fro inside. I shared with the boys and girls about that, and with renewed energy we walked down the street.

The Casino Lisboa was really nice. Old fashioned in ambience, and old in patrons. Among the customers there we should be the youngest.

We walked one big round the small casino, but the fish bowl remained elusive despite me exploring every nook and cranny. With disappointment, I came to realise that Hotel Lisboa and Casino Lisboa were close but maybe not so close.

The queue for the free shuttle bus to the ferry terminal was miles-long. For a couple of Macau dollars each we took a public bus which interestingly took us through the thoroughfare of the old Macau city, across the bridge and to the ferry. It took us about 20-25 minutes.

By the time we set foot on the China Hong Kong ferry terminal, the last drop of glucose was squeezed out of our capillaries liao.   7:20pm was the time.  I did a mental sum and concluded that we were out for more than 12 hours.  It was like doing a Full Ironman,  maybe even more siong.

Tired faces coming out of the Turbojet hydrofoil.
We touched down at Tsim Sha Tsui and we headed for a shower and change in the hotel.
Our dinner appointment was booked.  But before dinner, we popped next door to the hotel and rampaged the Geox shop that was having sales - 50% discount and for three pairs or more, there was an additional 10% discount.  I was cheapskate kind.  Only when there was sales like these then I would dare to open up my wallet.

CLICK on the above image to see the ladies deciding on their Hermes shoes...

Anyway shoes were something that required connection, and feelings.  And wandering aimlessly in the Geox shop I suddenly laid eyes upon a pair of red moccasins that gave me a lot of feelings.  And I bought this pair because of the colour.  Alex also ended up buying this pair.  But he bought it because of the size.  Funny how men's mind worked.
Shabu Shabu Dinner at Zenpachi Japanese Cusine & Shabu-Shabu 禪八日本料理
6 floor Toy House along Canton Road.

Shabu shabu dinner was the order of the evening.  And on this evening we landed at this very high class Japanese restaurant.  My only impression of shabu shabu was Sukiya shabu shabu back home in Singapore.  But wow, Zenpachi was in a calibre of its own.. My, I didn't know this was turning out to be one of the best dinners ever!

The wagyu and sashimi set came with one of the tastiest Japanese cold crabs and one of the coldest and juiciest prawn heads with all the slimiest innards one could suck from the head.  And the wagyu was beyond words, but Kai Sing had the foresight to order a special ala carte premium wagyu which topped the charts.  The black pork was superb, and we were all so taken by the noodle that we were very sad we couldn't finish them all.  It was a meal in which every single one of us tucked in until he/she maxed out the stomach.

Very very good choice, Joanne, Kai Sing! 

CLICK on the above image to see what JACKPOT we hit after dinner...

The memory of this wonderful dinner would forever be ingrained in my grey matter, together with memory of the pretty Korean lady at the far end of the table who talked and laughed non-stop the whole night while her poor Korean boyfriend looked down at his food and simply listened, and memory of the soft-spoken Japanese couple with the baby on the other side of the table, a dramatic contrast on each end.

Day Three ~ A day of Blessings.

Waking up for a late and nice breakfast.
CLICK on the above image for a SEXY VIEW!

9:50am.  Hoiphong Road.
A lazy breakfast followed by a lazy stroll.  And we were walking along the periphery of Kowloon Park towards Tsim Sha Tsui MTR Station.
A shot of me by Kai Sing.  I decided that red
was the order of this auspicious day.

"This morning, we are going to Wong Tai Sin temple," declared Alex.  Now that was exciting, even though Serene and I had been to Wong Tai Sin previously, because Wong Tai Sin had always been the go-to temple for those asking for blessings and for directions.  And I think I needed some desperately, though I kept to myself.

It was a bright, sunny Sunday morning with clear, blue sky.
Along Hoiphong Road 海坊道.

Serene and I loved travelling with Kaan-Cheong Travels.  Because the navigation, and the decision was always made for us.  Both of us were born with brains that would episodically fall back into a state of hibernation.  Thus on this trip, we simply switched our minds off and followed.  You would never be wrong when Mr and Mrs Kaan were actively searching for directions.

Alex's GPS was even faster than Kai Sing's iPhone.
[Click to enlarge without speech bubble]

Oops! Soreeeeee!

Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple 嗇色園黄大仙庙
Settled amidst a surrounding of burgeoning new modern buildings, this almost a century old temple boasted patronage from all over Hong Kong and worldwide.

The Horses - Successful Go-getters.

The Dragons - Those who have arrived. The one on the left arrived to become a maid-at-home. While the other one was destined to be a Tai-tai in time to come.

And the one and only Ang-gong-gong Gok-Gok-Gai ~ the one who was still struggling.

Serene never missed any chance to get into some mischief.

Kai Sing was laughing himself crazy for he was spending most of his time shooting photos and videos of Joanne.  And at one juncture, I remembered Joanne kao-beh-kao-bu-ing...
"This is the most unglam picture of me you have ever taken!" referring laughingly to an unglam picture [Don't say I say one. Click here to see Kai Sing's shot] of her behind shot by Kai Sing while she was praying to the Tai Sin.  That was so funny.

The unmistakable green of Underarmour. [Click to enlarge]

Joanne was kind of happy to be here. She needed to untie some knots.  And today, the number 82 did just the job.
The lucky number 82. [Click to enlarge]


Serene had always had a fascination with this incense lighter, even on the last visit. And this time, she stood for a long time just in front of it to find her best angles.

CLICK on the image above to see what I saw in front of Serene.

"Hey no throwing of coins allowed!" shouted a security guard to some visitors who were throwing coins into a pond.   Alex and I took a look at all the money and he laughed aloud wondering why people actually threw notes into it.  The notes simply became wet and wrinkled...

Wet money - Got water ah!
解签看掌算命 - A read of fortunes

Some of the shops in the inner rows.
CLICK on the image above to see a picture of us by Kai Sing.

Located at one corner of the compound of Wong Tai Sin Temple was a couple of rows of air-conditioned shop houses.  These housed independent fortune tellers, palm and face readers all ready to decipher your Qian, and tell your life.
Qian number 82 was deciphered twice - once at a shop on the outer row, and then for good measures, a second opinion in one of the shop on the inside row.  This Jacky Lam Tai-si we literally tikam-tikam picked him because he had many photos of him taken with celebrities posted on his glass panel.

Wah! So many stars took pictures with Jacky Lam Tai-si, he MUST be good!

The man and his name card.

I had my Qian and fortunes told time and again back home in Singapore at the 四马路 Kwan Yin Temple.  But having it done here at Wong Tai Sin was something new and fresh.  Coming here, Serene and I didn't have any intention of having any divination.  We just came to ask for blessings for family and children.

But these boys and girls were really something.  After the successful indication for number 82, the Big Boss himself decisively walked into Master Jacky Lam and spent almost half an hour inside to have the periphery of his anatomy deciphered.

Yah, man. He was inside for soooo long.  Some more half way through the boss open the sliding door a little bit.
Maybe he wanted the conversation to filter out through the slit so that the Lady Boss could hear a little bit of what was going on inside...

We waited and waited.  And waited.  And I was personally impressed by how long and how detailed the Master must have explained to The Boss.
... came the answer when I asked why she didn't want to go in together.  Wow, the man is very independent one ah!

Finally, Kai Sing saw some movements inside the room through the glass.  The Boss was almost done.  We readied ourselves for his exit.  And one of the first things he said upon coming out, smiling from ear to ear, was...

"So how was it?" I asked.

"Wah, he is good!" he said a little afterwards. "I really held back, and didn't reveal anything to him.  But he just looked at my palms and told me everything and he was 80% correct!"
Wah lau eh..  after The Boss said until like that, I also sum-see-see already. I kept telling the guys 'no lah no lah, I don't want to know', but I was not being honest to myself.  I did want to know.  And had it not been for all these good boys and girls, I honestly wouldn't have even stepped foot along this corridor of shophouses.

"Aiyah! Just do it lah," said Lai Peng. She knew me well lah.  Jiaklat... I also was hesitant.  On one hand I wanted, but on the other, I was damn scared to know. Any way, I got half pulled half pushed and found myself seated in front of Master Jacky Lam.
"Can I asked my wife to come in together?" I asked the Tai-Si.
"Of course, wife definitely can come in and listen," smilingly he replied.
With trepidation I looked at Lam Tai-Si and managed a smile.  Remembering what The Boss said, I held back and didn't say anything.

An Experience of a Lifetime...

And the Master began.... and my life fell apart as he strummed on his guitar... and words tumbled out of his lips.  And I learned that my life was going to be stable but boring all the way.   And that I had to work every step of the way on my own until I grow old. 
"比我睇睇你嘅左右手掌," gently he instructed me to open up both palms.
In pitch perfect Cantonese he gave it to me: "够食,够用,但是你唔会话会好有钱嘅啦。只有正财,横财乜嘢都无。就系你绝对唔会发达嘅啦。你明唔明啊?" [Enough money to eat, enough to use, but you won't be rich. You'll only have money obtained through hard work, but no fortune from gambling. Meaning you will never strike it rich. Understand?]
With a wink of his wise eyes, he made sure I understood him that there would be no retirement for me.
 Then he started talking about my relationship with Serene. "你呢个老婆呢,真系无得顶嘅。距爱你真系爱到赴汤蹈火嘅啦。" [Your this wife, she really Mo-Tak-Ting.  She loves you until she can jump into the boiling water and walk on fire for you.] He continued to peer closely at my palm. Then he looked at Serene and gave her the most important reassurance I was hoping for: "你地两个人会一生一世嘅了。你唔使担心。" [You two will be together for life. You don't need to worry.]
From the corner of my eyes, I could see tears welling in Serene's eyes and she was holding a tissue paper to her nose which was already red from trying to control herself from crying.  Jiaklat.. This Serene she Chuen-po already lah. Somehow it was still with some degree of skepticism that I sat there and listened.  And I believed Si-fus like him knew it.  And he probably knew that he would need to hit me with something before I could be convinced.  He took a good look at my palm lines and said:
"你嘅命系有四个子女。但是如果超过四个,就会有其中一个比你好大的担忧。"[You life is meant to have 4 children. If you have more than four, one of them will give you plenty of worries.]
 "你地宜家有五个孩子- 四个女儿,一个儿子。有一个比较麻烦。" [Right now you have five children - four girls and one boy. One of them is giving you some problem.]

SHIT.  That was IT.  Unprompted, he correctly said everything.
Serene and I looked at him shocked and I could only open my mouth.
From that point onward, our reservations crumbled.  And every single word that he uttered was right to the spot.  Almost every word.  We had never had any experience like this.  This was turning out to be rather surreal.
"So what did he tell you that you didn't already know?" Kai Sing asked later on, a very logical question that could only have come from an Engineer.
Well, before I could believe what he were to say, he had to tell me accurate what I already knew.  And he did it with flying colours.  And he continued to tell me how long I could expect myself to live until, how my children would be moving forward, how my business would be in the next few years.  Good enough.  I have gotten what I asked for.   Serene and I came out of his shop and I looked at The Boss and shook my head.
"Nope.  He is not 80% correct,"  I was adamant. "He is 90% correct!"
"OK, I tell you what," The Boss suggested. "We all must come back one year later and let him read our palms again.  And we will see how accurate he continues to be, if he tells us the same thing he told us today.  Because by then he would have forgotten what he told us this time."

I certainly ditto that.  So that was it.  The very first time in my life I had my palms read.  And what a positive experience it was!

Lunch at IFC Building

There was a Tim Hoe Wan at IFC building and that was our lunch destination on this fateful day.

Looking for Tin Hoe Wan at IFC Building, Hong Kong Island.

A lunch at Tim Hoe Wan became a lunch at Lei Garden, much to Serene's delight.  She kept saying that last time she used to eat at Lei Garden back in Singapore.  Ok lah, Ok lah, so the boys and girls accommodated to that request.  These guys were really good people.

Now Serene is happy liao, as seen in this shot by Kai Sing.

Honestly when it came to food ordering, the Kaans and the Ngs were way more experienced than me.  They knew the difference between Hor-Yip-Fan and Hor-Yip-Fan.  And those Hor-Yip from Hong Kong were definitely a different breed from those in Singapore.

But whatever the style of the Hor-Yip, I enjoyed this dim sum lunch a lot.  Lei Garden was REALLY not called Lei Garden for nothing.
It was very interesting.  We ended up walking and shopping in IFC, and we really didn't know how time past so quickly.  While Mrs Kaan and Mrs Ng were shopping inside, some of us were shooting outside.

The fateful cafe where Alex and I got poisoned
by Kai Sing to buy the iPhone App Pro Camera

Serene and her favourite pose

The Peak?... or the Tram?

Alex looked at the time.  Wah lau.  It was almost 5pm already.  It was really no-three no-four.  Want to go take the traditional old Tram along the Central also scared too dark and too late already.  Want to go up the Peak also kinda late.  I thought probably The Boss was going to declare go for dinner and sleep liao.
Right at that moment, Lai Peng and Joanne walked right out of IFC, and the late afternoon sun shone right through two tall buildings in front of us and the two ladies caught sight of the peak right behind.

"Wow, what's that?!" Lai Peng exclaimed.
"Er, that's the Peak lah," explained Kai Sing.
"Wah, so nice!"
"Shall we go?"
"Ok let's go let's go!"
"Wah lau eh..." laughed Towkay Kaan. "Jiaklat.  Like that ok. Let's go to The Peak.  But we got to find our way to the Peak.  Let's take a bus from downstairs."

We walked down, past a whole row of cupboard paper laid along the walkway, the aftermath of some Pinay gathering on that morning, and caught a Bus number 15 at the Central Bus Terminus.

"The Peak" it said on the sign. This must be the right bus lah..

So we all happily trod up and excitedly plonked ourselves on the seats.   I confidently told them just take the bus to the Peak Tram Station at the foot of the Peak and take a Tram all the way up.  I would be really fun.

As we sat and smiled, the bus ride became longer and longer.  Eh?  No reason ah... How come we hadn't reached the Peak Tram Station yet...?  Funny, right?

I a little panicked liao...

"Huh? 咩啊?无啊,呢部巴系直上山顶嘅㗘"[Huh? What? No ah, this bus goes straight up to the top of the mountain bo.] Replied the bus driver.
Wah lau! Jiaklat.  I really made a boo boo this time.  I was the one suggesting to take Bus number 15.  But The Boss seemed very happy.
"Wah, that's even better!" Alex said. "Ok, in that case, let's all go up to the upper deck to enjoy the scene as we drive up to the Peak lah!"

So along the steep gradient the bus roared upwards.  And it was fun because I'd been up the Peak four times previously but never had I taken a bus up.  Going up this route showed us scenery that we would otherwise have missed.

Some of the turns were really steep and acute, and the bus had to stop to allow taxis and car to overtake it before continuing.  We saw to our shock, an Ang Moh cyclist on a road bike coming down the mountain.  This guys was really crazy.  Such narrow road with such heavy traffic and he was cycling up and down the mountain?!


Finally, we were there.
Going up to the roof top.
CLICK on the image above to see the jubilation.
CLICK on the image above for a change of scene...

CLICK on the image above to see the other group photo taken for us by a young China man.

It was rather crowded up at the roof top at 5:50pm.  We only had a short window of light  before a huge fluff of dense dark cloud and mist flew in and blocked the sun.  What a shame.  Really wasted.

Kai Sing's Pro Camera really came in useful, both Alex and I having just bought the App a couple of hours ago in the restaurant.  We found this App's HDR function much better than iPhone's intrinsic HDR.  And I was able to capture plenty of details with it despite the high contrast.

Pro Camera App on my iPhone.
By then, everybody dumped their camera and just banged on their trusty handphones.  And everyone chut- all kinds of their own patterns liao.

Kai Sing was the clever one - iPhone all the way.

Even Alex also ditched his camera for the iPhone. Lai Peng's way of holding
must be Gorillapod-inspired.
Serene's pattern always like this one.

Pity it was a little bit of rush up there at the Peak, as we had a reservation for a roast goose dinner at Yung Kee on Wellington Street that evening.  At 6pm we bid bye bye to the highest point and started our descent on the downward Peak Tram.  After braving the toilet with two non-hetero-sexual men queuing behind Kai Sing and myself, we were glad to be on our way in the fast-moving line for the tram down.

Happily awaiting the tram, shot taken by Alex.

This Peak Tram was interesting.  I kept asking the Engineers 'Is this 45 degrees?' at various points along the track because I had always wondered to myself whether the inclination was 45 degrees, as some of the stations felt quite steep.
Kai Sing gave an affirmative at some parts of the track.  Ok, I was happy.  At least I finally had my answer.

Wefie by Kai Sing.
CLICK on the above image to see another wefie by Alex.
We all enjoyed the ride, and finally understood why we had to sit facing the back as the Tram descended, for otherwise we would have fallen off our seats.

Kyeopta.  I thought this Sarang-hae gesture was popular only with Koreans?
[Kai Sing very aptly caught us on his phone here! Haha...]

Number 32, Wellington Street.  One bus stop ride away from the Peak Tram station on bus number 15C, and a short walk up the slope.   And the brightly-lit restaurant warmly welcomed all.

CLICK on the image above to see the hanging goose

These good people are all so cute one. They so generously branja this meal and branja that meal,
and then after that don't let other people branja! LOL...

Wise move.  These past couple of days we have been stuffing our mouths full every meal!

It had been a long day...

... and our muscles are trembling from walking and standing aplenty.  But funnily, Alex felt the building shaking while the ladies were shopping for some Addidas - Stella McCartneys.

He suddenly sopped and asked me...

Wah lau.. was it my muscles shaking? Or the floor really moving?
Maybe I psycho-ed by Alex already lah!
Now I was confused liao! One Engineer says shaking, the other Engineer says no.

Shaking or not shaking, we made it out of the building in one piece.  Joanne and Lai Peng were thrilled for they managed to have their photo taken with the soon-to-be terminated old tram along Queen Street.
Thrilled! [Photo: Alex]
CLICK on the above to see a small alley both Alex & I saw just next to the Addidas shop

Was that the end of the story? Well, no.  There was more to go.  The night was still young.  The original plan for cheonging at Lan Kwai Fong took a backseat.  Instead the plan was to give the ferry a go for its money, to maximise the number of transport modalities for this trip, and then we would make a beeline for Tong-Chew, the dessert restaurant in Kowloon.

Star ferry.  At 8:46pm.  These boys and girls were damn good travellers.
CLICK on the above image to see a shot by Alex of me & Serene walking to Star Ferry Terminal

Tong Chew 唐朝!

Serene's dessert. CLICK on the image to see mine.

I simply cannot understand how many stomach these good men and women each had.  I knew I had only one, and it was protesting from being too full by the time the ferry berthed at Kowloon.  But our next destination was the dessert restaurant, and this had a significant meaning.  It was a must go!

Joanne was talking about the Tao-fu-fa or the Fa-sang-wu ah?

The highly-coveted Tao-fu-fa 豆腐花.  The one and only of its kind in Hong Kong!
The Chef serving everyone his/her tao-fu-fa with the steam from the barrel! [Photo: Alex]
CLICK on the above image to see Kai Sing relaxing while waiting for his Tao-fu-fa!

And like the previous night, the fatigue took its toll on four out of the six members of the troupe and we knocked ourselves out.

One last shot across to Hong Kong Island from the roof top of the ferry terminal
next to our hotel, before we retire for the night.

Day Four - I could not believe these boys and girls!

Me on the Elliptical machine...
CLICK on the above image to see my shagged look after the Elliptical

Yes.  I could not.  Because 7am saw them at the lobby getting ready for a run around the hotel and a gym workout session.  Kaan-Cheong Travels was really unique.  I believed no one single travelling group had ever itinerary of such nature planned.  One word - TOK GONG!

We had been blessed with lovely sunny weather the past three days.  But on this morning, the sky began to exhibit some signs of heaviness and threatened to precipitate.

CLICK on the above to see the view from the end of the pier to which we ran.

After the indulgence over the past three days, it was time to burn off some of those excssive adipose deposits.  And leading the way was the bosses.
Here Mr Boss and Mrs Boss showing the correct way to Chi Run with that slight forward lean and cadence at 180.

Don't mess around with this Tour Leader. He makes sure everyone runs on his trips one.
And Mr and Mrs Ng showing how cadence 165 looks like.

Mrs Ng chasing after Mr Ng with her Prada bag. [Photo: Alex]
CLICK on the image above to see Mr Ng speeding towards the end of the pier,
with nice rain clouds looming...
Round and round we ran, out to the sea and back to the courtyard, Mrs Ng guai-guai carried her Prada bag with her all the while as she ran.  Call it dedication!

Running back to the hotel gym.
CLICK on the above to see yours truly struggling to keep pace with the ladies.

It was the last day in Hong Kong and we were all in a very relaxed mood.  Alex looked through his list and proudly announced that we have accomplished almost all that we have set out to (and more). The only food that four of us missed while Kai Sing and Joanne cleverly gotten, was the Portugese Egg tart.  But that could easily be left to the next visit.
The sky finally broke and for the first time on this trip we had a respite from the heat.  The Hong Kongers on the street seemed indifferent to the rain.  Many well-dressed ladies and men were still walking under the drizzle without umbrellas.

CLICK on the above image to see a shot of Serene waiting in the small lobby away from the rain.
"Aiyah.. ok lah, we will just walk without umbrella lah," we decided.
And we foxtrotted one block away to the entrance of Gateway (again) and soaked ourselves in the air-con.

CLICK on the image above to see Alex working hard on his Pro Camera

And Kai Sing and Joanne got themselves new acquisitions, their stylish Hogans.

This day's activities were mainly targeted at around Tsim Sha Tsui, and we braved the rain and made our way to Nathan Road in search of that elusive K11 building.  Photographers had to do what photographers had to do, and that meant making that pilgrimage to Tin Cheong 天祥 to check out on the photographic stuffs.  I didn't expect it but I ended up buying two Lowepro camera pouches for Serene and myself in preparation for our next trek in Nepal.  I'd always wanted to get these for our rangefinders.  And Ok lah, I was just glad I found them.  And Kai Sing bought his tripod stand for his iPhone, to be used with his Gorillapod when he would be next in Nepal (haha!)

What was even more important was, Joanne and Lai Peng were happy to find Hang Heung Lo Po Bang 恒香老婆饼 along Carnavon Road just next to K11.  And we managed to grab our souvenirs for the trip in this small little branch.

Empire City Roasted Duck 大都烤鴨

"So how? What shall we have for lunch?"
"Joanne and I checked the next door stall but we must say they don't have Pei-Dan-Chok 皮蛋粥 hor," said Lai Peng.
"The other place we can eat is that duck restaurant at K11," suggested Joanne and Lai Peng, pointing up to a sign on the second floor wall of K11.  It said Empire City Roasted Duck.
It was another superb find.  It was truly amazing how one can stumble upon really good food anywhere in Hong Kong.  We really did not expect ourselves to have roasted duck for lunch, but we did, and we really enjoyed the food in here in this restaurant.

A shot of us by Kai Sing
 CLICK on the image above to see another shot of Serene and I
The crispy duck skin was aromatic and rolled with the crunchy cucumber, onion and don't know what, it was addictive.  The corn porridge was also delicious.

Alex took a shot

The parting shot from Hong Kong...
Shit.  It had to happen...

The trip was coming to an end.  And a trip of such calibre would always promise to spring surprises at every corner when one least expected it.  And on this day, the last highlight, which proved to leave a lingering repercussion of astronomic proportion both in duration and in monetary impact appeared in the middle of Carnavon Road.
I could not recall what happened.  All I knew was Alex got mesmerised by something he saw in the window.  And his sight lingered for a long time.  Kai Sing too.  Only that Kai Sing must have been so taken that he banged his forehead loudly twice against the glass.  I'd never seen Kai Sing do that.  Must have been something magical on display.  The store-keepers inside didn't even bat an eye lid. This must have been a common phenomenon to them.

So far, till that moment, there was not a single wrist adornment that attracted me.  Certainly not in the way the Red Geox moccasin did to me the night before.  I scanned every single black dial face time piece being proudly exhibited and could not understand what the big deal was with them.
Fate had it on this time this day that my sight was finally drawn to a black dial, black matt frame, brown leather strap piece right on the top.  I could vaguely make out the word Ceramica.  But that was probably all I needed.  The tug on my heart string was tremendous.  I thought the red moccasin was feelingful.  This piece of ceramic and leather was actually even more feelingful.
"HK$87,000 and he kind of said he could give another 15% discount," Alex emerged, talking about another watch he was acutely interested in and for which he spent some time in the shop asking about.  If I recalled correctly, it was some 590 something that he was talking about.
I didn't dare to ask how much the Ceramica was.  Neither did I know anything about time pieces of this make, except that they were of immense value.
Funny how some things would drown in the abyss of your mind and lay quietly at the floor of the seabed but never one moment stop tick-tock-ing at the background.  The silent echo from the battery reserve indicator kept resonating off my subconscious awareness.  The more I wanted to leave that piece of complications permanently buried in the mud, the more the image surfaced.
I found it interesting that so many profound experiences occurred during this short and supposedly innocently simple trip.  Many of these experiences were new and highly feeling-provoking gastronomically, spiritually, fashion-wise, podiatrically, and many more.  I didn't believe I ever had any trip that packed so much emotional punch so densely.

This protected-crown was the last straw, a lasting memory of Hong Kong, a parting reminder to a simple kampong Singaporean boy that his friends are men and women of a vastly different level, in the form of this exquisite watch of which both Alex and Kai Sing were already proud owners .  Thankfully it remained merely a memory, and not a reality.  At least not at this moment in time.

Great Company, Great Trip

Yes, it is true.
The company maketh the trip.
And the Ngs and the Kaans were one heck of a great company.
Serene and I would never fail to be amazed and surprised by these lovely people.

Endless Love - Jump into Boiling Soup, Walk on fire

And what more.  After this trip, I fell in love even more with my lovely wife.  She is the pillar of my life.  And Master Jacky Lam had rightly reaffirmed that, and reminded me, a fact that I would never forget.  One day, when I grow up and when I become more able, I will adorn her wrist with a 441. One day lah.