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.

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All About Art

Contemporary art at its' best
Contemporary art at its’ best

It seems like art events, such as gallery openings, exhibitions etc. come in groups of several concurrent happenings, at least here in Hong Kong. This week there is for example the first-ever Art Basel, among other bigger events. On Thursday I visited the luxurious J.W Marriott, which is hosting the Asia Contemporary Art Show. It was quite interesting to wander around 4 floors of a top class hotel, go to all the different rooms and see paintings in the toilets.

Creativity in the bathroom
Creativity in the bathroom

I may not be an expert, but to me this contemporary art exhibition was innovative and filled with inspiring pieces of art. The exhibition consists of over 2000 artworks from 300 artists around the world. It was great to be able to speak to a few of them! The exhibition runs for 4 days, and with my ticket I can still go back to wander – or just go sit in the lounge of the 30th floor and watch outside to the bustling city.

Art with a view
Art with a view

Like I mentioned, there’s always more than one thing happening. Besides the Contemporary Art, this Tuesday I ventured 3 different gallery openings, one of which was completely by an accident. Quite many people seem to enjoy watching paintings and sculptures while sipping on free wine; wonder why…

Taking pictures of artsy Ronald McDonald
Taking pictures of Ronald McDonalds

Since we are in Asia, everyone is usually snapping photos like it’s the end of the world. What comes to the wine, I am not sure if that’s the main attraction for the expats to show up. Besides the actual art, I always enjoy watching what kind of crowd the different openings attract.

Potraits of Chinese children in different colors
Potraits of Chinese children in different colors

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This will not be all of the art for me this week; on Saturday there is Chai Wan Mei, art and design open studios in Chai Wan area. Culture-overdose in sight!

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

Kurisumasu Japanese way

My New year’s celebrations resembled the Finnish Christmas since I spent days indoors, surrounded with family and eating heaps of special foods almost non-stop. The real Christmas in Tokyo was rather unlike what I am used to, but it was definitely interesting, too!

The essence of Christmas: Fried chicken (combini style) and a santa suit, only thing missing is the strawberry cake!
The essence of Christmas: Fried chicken (combini style) and a santa suit, only thing missing is the strawberry cake!

 

The Japanese have adapted some parts of Christmas that suit their taste: the holiday is just like any other day, except for the fact that Christmas cakes are aplenty, restaurants are filled with couples or groups of friends, and the Christmas jingles are everywhere.

Jolly Santa with no presents
Jolly Santa with no presents

It was a bit last-minute, but I ended up spending my Christmas eating the most fabulous and abundant buffet possible (thank you Intercontinental Hotel), with live music and the most wonderful company possible: my father. I was sleeping in a nice hotel, in a Western bed with a real pillow for the first time in months. What a better way to spend the most important holiday of the year! On Christmas Day we went for a walk in Yoyogi koen, watched the crowds sitting in the sunshine in Harajuku, got lost trying to find our way to Roppongi Hills, and had a terrific dinner in an izakaya (6 days for dad in Japan without eating sushi, it was about time to have some on the last night!).

Since there has been enough food porn on the blog lately(and surely there will be plenty more to come), I will not post pictures about the Christmas feasts. I am not sure if your imagination will do justice to the delicacies, but oh well. I do have pictures of other things than food, too!

Blending in with the locals
Blending in with the locals

My dad traveled from Thailand to meet me, so his presents from Finland  had suffered a bit on the road and in the heat and moist climate. I can say that before I could have never imagined eating this, not to say enjoy it, but different sorts of salmiakki candy mushed and melted together, blended with scrapes of the paper bag they were packed in, served from a shower cap was rather enjoyable. I finished the whole kilo, and licked my fingers afterwards. This is what I call patriotism!

My goodie bag for Christmas, with an unconventional presentation
My goodie bag for Christmas, with an unconventional presentation

 

Detouring and re-routing

I left home in Tampere on Sunday noon, my plan was to arrive in the university on early Monday evening. Ha! This is what we in Finland would call “a Chinese tale”.

Finnair flying over Finland, everything was just fine

My planned itinerary was Helsinki-Beijing, then after 2 hours layover, to Fukuoka, and from there a 2 hours bus ride to APU. Everything started out fine; even though my special meal request had not gone through to Air China for some reason, the co-operating Finnair flight attendant was kind enough to get me some fruit, bread and nuts from the first class. We arrived in Beijing on time, and I went through few customs and immigrations checks before finding out that the flight to Fukuoka had been delayed due to a typhoon. I was bounced back and forth in Beijing airport, since the staff had different opinions about whether I needed to check my bag or not, and God knows what else. The flight was from domestic terminal, though Fukuoka is in Japan, which was kind of odd to me.

Takeoff to Fukuoka was finally at 12:30, almost 4 hours late of schedule. After few hours in the air, I was surprised to be landing in a Chinese city called Dalian. Apparently it was a pit stop on the way, no one just had mentioned about it. We were sitting on the plane for few hours, not going anywhere, not knowing what was going on. No one bothered to explain anything, either. Eventually, we were told that all flights were cancelled due to the typhoon – we were then taken to a hotel in the city, where they gave us rooms for a few hours. After a Chinese dinner, we had to go back to the airport, to be flown to – drumroll – Beijing! Few people were rather upset, myself included, since to me going back to Beijing was taking a step backwards. We had no idea how and when to get to Fukuoka, since in the Air China staff in Dalian was just rather reluctant to answer, or understand, any questions that were asked.

We arrived back in Beijing around 9pm, after which it was a race to the service counter to sort out the flights. No way of getting straight to Fukuoka the following day, the best option seemed to be through Tokyo. The plane was scheduled to leave 8:30 am, which would allow 2 hours layover before the flight to Fukuoka. Had this plan worked (sorry for the spoiler, of course there had to be additional twists!), I would have only missed the mandatory orientation, but made it to the complimentary dinner party in Tuesday evening. Around 1 am, when everyone from the flight had sorted out their itineraries, everyone non-Japanese was transported to a hotel to enjoy a nice 4 hours before coming back to the airport in the morning. (The Japanese people had to stay at the airport, racist!)

In the morning, we found out that the flight to Tokyo was delayed, giving us barely an hour window to get to the Fukuoka flight. Ha! Of course, our flight was late, and we landed approximately at the same time the Fukuoka flight took off. Thank God at this point we were already in Japan, which was clearly visible: everyone going to Fukuoka was greeted and assisted to the right direction when getting off the plane, we (me and few other students) were taken to the immigration office to get our alien cards, and we were smoothly re-scheduled to the next possible flight, which a) was ANA in stead of Air China, and b) was the biggest and neatest plane of all the ones I sat on.

Cuteness attack in the baggage claim in Fukuoka

In Fukuoka, I was happy and tired to finally be at the home stretch of the trip. There was someone waiting for me and another girl going to study in the same school, so getting on the right bus after an hours’ wait was fairly easy. I was very lucky to have Kristina with me on the same flight, with the same direction, since I would probably have lost my marbles if I had been in this situation by myself. There was also other people helping us, which made everything more endurable.

In stead of arriving to APU on Monday evening, it was late Tuesday night (no dinner no more), before I finally got to open the door to my very own home for the next five months. (Pictures of that later on!)