Year away

A year ago I packed my stuff in boxes and showed them to my dad’s tiny attic, piled all that I thought necessary in my old backpack, and left for a trip that was intended to be 2 months of yoga in Bali, then a bit of Vietnam and back home. A year later I did not do yoga but instead started surfing, ended up going to Cambodia too, and have been living and working in melbourne for 8 months, and a myriad of unexpected things have happened.

New skills learned: Surfing, driving a scooter, scuba diving, selecting cacao beans for chocolate production, letting go of things, proper headstands, knife skills, how to survive alone in tight situations (ie you’re not allowed to enter a foreign country and you find that out at the airport, or how to escape a motor vehicle accident situation in another…or how to change the scuba diving BCD vest in pitch black darkness in the middle of the sea)

Gili Trawangan, Christmas with friends.
Gili Trawangan, Christmas with friends.

Appreciation for things: Sunshine and warmth, fresh fruit pretty much straight from the trees, sea and marine life, nature, bicycles, people’s help, good company, trial periods at yoga studios and gyms, exercising, work, having the opportunity to do basically whatever, learning new and growing. New friends!

Bali style breakfast by the pool.
Bali style breakfast by the pool.

Best foods: Crate cafe breakfasts, Gado Gado and fresh mangos in Bali, tuna steak at Christmas dinner in Gili, rice paper rolls in Vietnam, the delicious meals at Hariharalaya in Cambodia. Smashed avo and poached eggs at Organica cafe in melbourne, Hummus from South melbourne market. Drinkwise: Fresh coconut water and coffee coffee coffee.

All the (vegan) rolls.
All the (vegan) rolls.

Accommodation: 3 Bungalows in Bali, one private villa. One month in the same hostel in Canggu. Hostel in Vietnam, one night in a “family stay” in the mekong Delta, and another one in a border town hotel. 4 hostels in Cambodia, one night in a bus, 10 nights on a retreat. (Luckily) I’ve only spent time in 1 hostel in Australia, and times of homelessness I was able to rely on the help of 5 friends.

Pretty much deserted island in Cambodia
Pretty much deserted island in Cambodia.

Love life: I learned that the Finnish word for love, rakkaus, apparently sounds like “crack house”. Fair enough. I’ve had more action this past year than ever before, mostly because I’ve been open-minded and just gone out. I have definitely learnt more than I thought I would have, and even though I got sick of dating and lost my faith in finding “the one” (or even someone I could imagine spending a whole weekend with), I am now closer than ever to realizing my feelings and where I stand in life. Winning!

I made someone popcorn for their flight.
I made someone popcorn for their flight.

Dealing with health: Eating probiotics, eating local. 2 Doctor visits, one dentist. In Cambodia I got bitten by a mosquito in the eyelid on the day I was supposed to go on a scuba diving trip to a remote island. Early trip and waking up the only doctor of the hospital to get cream I didn’t end up using, luckily that was nothing more serious. In melbourne I went to a GP to see if I have sinus infection (I didn’t), and had my wisdom tooth pulled.

Holidaying in Byron Bay.
Holidaying in Byron Bay.

Public holidays: I have pretty much skipped every holiday; Christmas I spent on a beach having a barbecue, New Years I was at another beach, Easter I only hid eggs for my housemates but that was it…I have enjoyed the Queen’s Birthday, and I understand why Anzac day exists, but having a public holiday for football and horse races is a bit strange to me. Nevertheless, I’ll take any reason to have a special day!

Halloween pumpkin at work.
Halloween pumpkin at work.

In the last year I have had more experiences I would never have had if I had stayed home, and going out of my comfort zone has proven worth it and beyond. I can’t wait to see what the next 12 months will bring along! And in the sad poor pictures front, by the end of the month things will look brighter and I will be able to write my hometown with a capital letter again! YAY!

I love love love that animal suit.
I love love love that animal suit.
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Week END?

Constantly building something, view of Admiralty
Constantly building something, view of Admiralty

My last weekend in Hong Kong couldn’t have been better, even if it had been sunny instead of raining! On Friday we had a delicious, (almost vegan) dinner in one of the best Thai restaurants in Hong Kong (Cafe Siam).
The following day, I ventured to more art and explored an area I hadn’t been before; the industrial, artsy Chai Wan hosted Chai Wan Mei, a satellite event to the megalomane Art Basel.

Master chef at home
Master chef at home

Part of Chai Wan Mei included Bread Elements, a new – you guessed it – bakery. This company’s bread is not the pillows and other “breads” you find in the supermarkets; it is real, rustic artisan bread, hand-made from premium ingredients. I was lucky to visit the open days of the old factory premises, and talk to the master chef and cookbook authorGregoire Michaud, who previously worked for for example The Four Seasons hotel for several years!

Gluten-free raisin loaf, made with rice -, and tapioca flour
Gluten-free raisin loaf, made with rice -, and tapioca flour

It was truly inspiring to exchange ideas and opinions about the essence and quality, or the lack of quality bread, and the methods of making bread. We discussed the current gluten free trend and the reasons for the increase of gluten sensitivities (low quality, processed wheat was the chef’s suggestion). What comes to bread – it’s my Achilles heel. I think that bread should always be highest-possible quality, made without any additives or enhancers. At Bread Elements, I got to see the Mother of the breads, the sourdough starter, which makes yeast unnecessary. And I got to say, that oh man these French know how to bake a baguette!

Now Bread Elements only supplies to high end hotel chains and restaurants, but maybe soon Hong Kongers get to enjoy real bread from normal stores, too! Oh, yeah, there was other stuff than food in Chai Wan, too. Like 3,000 red-covered diaries from the Revolution era.

The Governor?
The Almighty Governor?

Saturday was topped off with some more art, wine, tapas, cocktails and dancing the night away in some of the fanciest clubs in the city with some rather interesting new friends.

Chilling at the gym
Chilling at the gym. Notice the mosquito-eaten legs!

Sunday dawned too cloudy to go to a beach, so I opted for a gym and rooftop pool instead. The sun even peaked out to say hello!

I could do this more than once!
I could do this more than once!

Summa summarum: the weekend definitely left a positive feeling and good memories about Hong Kong. Who knows, maybe this won’t be the end for me.

Whole lotta food love

No idea where the name comes from
No idea where the name comes from!

Lucky to be working in the food industry, I was able to visit Asia’s largest Food & drink, hotel, restaurant & food service exhibition HOFEX, held in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition center this week. During the first 3 days, the expo had 38,297 buyers – not quite the same caliber as any expo in Finland!
If Natural Expo West/East in the States (or any other natural/organic expo for that matter) would be my Heaven, HOFEX probably is something right outside Heaven’s gates. Exhibitors in 3 floors, from so many different cultures, presenting what they perceive as the best from their country. (Scandinavia was not represented at all, though at least I saw one oven door manufactured in Sweden!) Unfortunately for me, European Fine Meats were well presented. On the other hand, the only producer of quinoa products was from Holland – Go Europe!

Scottish lard
Premium Scottish lard

Besides the culinary presentations, panels and other cookings, there was barista championships and the more visually intriguing flairtending competition as well as some rather fancy culinary competitions. And of course some the cool kitchen equipment was tested on-site – I saw some pretty cool sushi making machines as well as veggie spiralers, among others.

Food is art and I was definitely taking picture of the cupcakes
Food is art and I was definitely taking picture of the cupcakes

The thing I like most about this kind of events (besides all the nibbles), is to talk to interesting people who possibly share same interests and have passion about their work (hopefully). In general, I was maybe a bit surprised how many pig legs there was, and so much ice cream! It seemed like pretty much all of the European countries were focusing on meat, alcohol and possibly some cheese. Food traditions rather than trends…

Not your regular cuppa joe
Not your regular cuppa joe

Speaking of trends, the extensive coffee and tea sections were rather seducing. I got to try my first ice drip coffee, which was surprisingly soft – I tried the same Vietnamese beans as hot dripper coffee, and the flavor was much more intense. The coffee had been dripping for 2 days until ready to drink. In Hong Kong, single origin beans and more love-requiring brewing methods are definitely a hit – when Hong Kongers don’t drink bubble tea or milk tea, they at least value their coffee! About beans…the only single origin bean is not coffee, anymore.

Pure, single origin chocolates from Vietnam, from 72% to 82% cacao
Pure, single origin chocolates from Vietnam, from 72% to 82% cacao

I admit being a “bit” of a snob when it comes to certain things. Chocolate just happens to be one of those things that I will rather not put in my body, if it’s low quality. Some chocolove-talk in HOFEX got me an invitation to taste these amazing single-origin chocolates from different villages in Vietnam. Though I do prefer raw chocolate to processed ones, these sweeties were pretty impressive: the only ingredients used are the specific cacao beans and sugar.

Simplicity at its' best
Simplicity at its’ best

When it comes to processed chocolate, these ones were top notch. From cool packaging design to the origins of the bean, Marou has got it figured out. Lucky me, I still have their event invitation which was a chocolate bar. Plus I got a goodie bag with their special golden chocolate, which cannot be bought anywhere. What a dilemma – I don’t want to eat it, but how can one resist the temptation?

Oh, expos, how I love you. If I ever get to go to Fancy Food Show or Expo West, I’ll be happy for months in advance! I hope the next time won’t be too far away from now.

Weekly activities

I definitely prefer action-filled weeks to those when I have nothing to do but to look at the falling rain (after a month, the rain gets rather boring) – and if it isn’t raining, I definitely want to be on the go. Luckily, last week was full of reasons for me to defy the weather and leave my bed (and by bed I mean my room, which is pretty much the same thing).

MONDAY
Indian “private restaurant” dinner – or how would you call a windowless room where you are the only people dining? Followed by pudding dessert (like being a kid again with the chocolate pudding!) close-by.

Spot the restaurant. Hint: it's not the one with the "cafe"
Spot the restaurant. Hint: it’s not the allay cafe

 

TUESDAY
Vintage furniture store opening, and organic cocktails (4 different kinds, tried them all and then some) and “fancy” canapés in Pure Bar&Restaurant.

Mojito, strawberry orange vodka, cucumber martini, grapefruit gin - mojito and martini were the stars
Mojito, strawberry orange vodka, cucumber martini, grapefruit gin – mojito and martini were the stars

 

WEDNESDAY
Zumba and yoga in my safe haven in Causeway Bay, mYoga.

 

THURSDAY
Karen Millen cocktail event in Central with a “healthy” theme (funny that they hire male candy to serve stuff which they have no clue -nor intrest on- what it is)

Cleanse shots - served as "spinach" or "celery" or "cinnamon". Yum!
Cleanse shots – served as “spinach” or “celery” or “cinnamon”. Yum!

 

FRIDAY
French Look My Baboush shoe launch in Common Ground, followed by dessert in Tin Hau (had 3 different kinds, I’m eating my way through China!)

Kinda like Tom's but "completely different!"
Kinda like Tom’s but “completely different!”
Shoe customization by le French "la mangue"
Shoe customization by le French “la mangue”

 

SATURDAY
Met my lovely friend Nick, who came to visit from Tokyo. We had a fantastic day in Lamma island, and it was raining only for about 15 minutes!

Without the junk boats Nick would'v gone skinny dipping
Without the junk boats Nick would’v gone skinny dipping

 

SUNDAY
Quick visit to the Hong Kong Cheese Festival (small, smelly and, well, cheesy – all in all a bit of a disappointment), followed by East Island Market and a stroll trough different neighborhoods with Nick.

First bite of street food (better response than with durian ice cream)!
First bite of street food (better response than with durian ice cream)!

Nick went back to Japan, and I started to prepare myself for yet another week of rain…maybe the junk boat summer sunny season will start soon and hopefully the rest of my weeks here would be at least almost as active as this one”

Luxe life

The reason for not posting for a while is not that I did not have anything to write about; quite the contrary. Last week’s Friday I got to see my mother for the first since leaving to Japan! The last week I left Paul Yee Mansion and moved to The Luxe Manor in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon island.

Beautiful decor in Luxe Manor
Beautiful interior in Luxe Manor

 

Even the toilet in the hotel room was bigger than the room I live in! Besides the luxurious room, there was a rather satisfying gym, and very fulfilling breakfast with a lot of things I didn’t expect! And since my mother came from Finland, I got some souvenirs…

Finnish twist to Hong Kong breakfast
Finnish twist to Hong Kong breakfast

I didn’t think I missed something from Finland, but oh man, the rye bread was something divine! And let’s just say that the souvenir salmiakki I brought to work didn’t last more than 15 mins. I was not the only one enjoying it, though.

 

Dada bar with dada drinks and decor
Dada bar with dada drinks and decor

 

This week I did, saw, experienced and ate a lot of things I haven’t done, seen or tried before. Just to mention a few:

Hong Kong from the Peak
Hong Kong from the Peak

 

Viru beer in a triangle bottle in the highest bar in Asia: Ozone, 118th floor
Viru beer in a triangle bottle in the highest bar in Asia: Ozone, 118th floor of Ritz Carlton

 

 

Lamma Island, almost deserted with beautiful nature
Lamma Island, almost deserted with beautiful nature

 

 

Horse races. To be honest: horses were not the main point in Happy Valley that night
Horse races. To be honest: horses were not the main point in Happy Valley that night

 

 

Tai O: fishermen's village with a lot of character (and gooey, smelly, purple shrimp paste)
Tai O: fishermen’s village with a lot of character (and gooey, smelly, purple shrimp paste)

 

 

Vegetarian sushi. I know
Vegetarian sushi. I know

 

 

Oh yes, these past 10 days have been exquisite – I even got to be a pincushion, aka try Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture. I will not do that 3 times a week as advised. This evening mom left back home to freezing Finland, I came back to my home to sweating hot Wan Chai, and started munching on the salmiakki I hid for this kind of situations. Homesickness? Nah. But there is quite nothing like being with family. And we were home, or at least I was. I think mom was happy to go back to the peace and quiet.

 

Oh, I will miss these pillows and everything that came with them
Oh, I will miss these pillows and everything that came with them