November 15, 2008

Making an Effort

As I've mentioned, I don't cook here in Hong Kong, and that's a bit of a shame. As a result, I also don't eat in a healthy way. It's hard. Hong Kong is not known for an abundance of either greens or fruits in the diet, and I have to make an effort. And these are foods I do, indeed, like to eat.

While there is Chinese broccoli available with Chinese food, and mushrooms, I wonder how many vitamins are actually left after it's been cooked. And the only salad I've seen in the stores is iceberg, and while that's a nice taste, it isn't terribly nutritious. It's true you can get fancier salad, but it runs about $6 a bag, so it's a bit of a splurge. Not many nutritious-type veggies in Thai or Indian food, either. And those three make up most of my diet.

And as for fruit ... surprisingly, a bit of a dead end. I eat a lot of bananas. A ton of bananas. To no one's surprise, I'm a bit picky about my bananas. They have a window of about two days before they're inedible, as far as I'm concerned. But since we always live within steps of a grocery, I can have perfect bananas all the time. And they're very good.

I would have guessed that Hong Kong, tropical as it is, would be rife with fruit. I was envisioning papayas and mangoes and exotic fruit like I had in Thailand -- rambutan and mangosteens. But not so much. Perhaps it's the fact this is an island. Or that the bulk of the affordable produce comes from China. I see a lot of apples and pears and neither is very interesting or very good, and I'm usually a big fan of apples. I keep waiting to see tangerines, but haven't. The peaches over the summer, in Beijing, were big and gorgeous and tasted awful. And we've now pretty much exhausted the choices of fruit.

To be fair, there are melons for sale, and occasionally I see halved papayas in the street stalls. But not often.

So I have turned to dragon fruit. This luscious, exotic fruit is, supposedly, very high in Vitamin C and dietary fiber. The perfect fruit. It is shocking pink on the outside, with soft spikes. Inside, it is white with kiwi-like seeds. To my mind, it also has the consistency of kiwi, a fruit I like very much but am allergic to.

It turns out they are easy to eat, too. One only has to slice it in half, and then scoop it out with a spoon. Like eating a kiwi. But in fact, it isn't at all related to kiwi, despite the similarities. The meat is slightly sweet, and not at all strong. It's very pleasant. I'm going to make a point of eating several a week.

But I'm not sure how to tell when one is ripe, or overripe. And I don't know how long they keep. So I'll have to do some research and keep experimenting.

Meanwhile, I worry if I should start to take vitamins?

November 12, 2008

It's Always an Adventure ...

It's hard not to have an interesting day here, at least when I leave the house. I imagine at some point, soon, the novelty will wear off, but it hasn't yet.

Today I had to make myself scarce for a few hours this afternoon so I decided to go to the movies. It is, in fact, fairly easy to get there and back, as I discovered on my way back.

I thought I'd take the bus down the hill and see where I landed. The schedule said the bus would stop at the Central MTR and I wanted to go to the IFC mall so that worked out nicely. But it's a bit difficult to gauge where you are in this city because everywhere, especially in the Central district, you are at the bottom of many very tall buildings.

Through a maze of skyways and walkways and mall-insides I found myself at the IFC mall, an expansive, expensive shopping center with luxury stores aplenty. I haven't experienced a movie here, but had been told by a colleague the experience was first-rate.

The theater isn't exactly your regular mall theater. There is a cafe adjacent to the ticket sellers (they aren't secluded by a booth, but are behind a counter) and the whole atmosphere feels like an art-house theater. There are books for sale, film books perhaps? and posters advertising the upcoming films and film festivals.

I decided to see Quantum of Solace, the new Bond movie. It was playing in more than one "house" as they are called here. The "house" I was in was quite small, perhaps 8o seats. Eighty leather, comfortable, wide, spacious first-class airplane-like seats. With cup holders. It was luxe.
Plus, when you buy your ticket you buy a specific seat. This is mostly good but a little bad. There is something to be said for walking into the theater, assessing it, and then choosing a seat. Especially if it's crowded and you don't want to sit next to someone.

But I digress.

The lights dimmed promptly at 3:25, the time that was listed. There was a preview and then the usual ads. What amused me about the ads was that there were the usual admonitions not to talk or use your cell phone, but they added one for no recording. As if, I started to think to myself. Then I remembered the pirated DVD we watched the other day and said, oh, yeah.

The experience was grand. The sound was too loud for my tastes, but it was a Bond movie. I had a perfect sight line, and even if the theater had been full, nobody would have been in my way. And if someone had wanted to walk past me with their popcorn, that would have been fine, too, because there was an enormous amount of leg room, and even some very large Westerner would have fit by easily.

There was no matinee price: Tickets were 75 Hong Kong, or about $10. There is a senior price for those over 60 and a discount for Tuesdays, at 50 Hong Kong. As it happens, the next few times I will have to clear out are, in fact, Tuesdays so it looks like more movies for me.

After the film I wended my way through the mall, stopping to look at this or that, and finding a very nice bakery in the fancy CitySuper grocery store. That shop is much like a Bon Marche, filled with very pricey imported goods. The bakery is Western and I had a just-out-of-the oven garlic bread.

I was a little concerned about getting back. It had gotten dark, and I was sure the commuters would be packing the streets and escalators. As it turns out, the IFC is exactly at the bottom of the escalators, so you only need to make your way across the main road by skyway, turn left and you're at the base of the escalator. Amazingly easy.

I can't wait to do it again next week.

November 10, 2008

Hard to Get to?! That's a Fact

So we're in the latest apartment: A lovely, three-room place in Mid-Levels. We are in one of the more desirable neighborhoods in Hong Kong. We are also in one of the most inconvenient neighborhoods in Hong Kong, as far as I can tell.

On Sunday I went to run a simple errand, and as easy as it was to do in Tin Hau it was as difficult in Mid-Levels.

Our neighborhood is largely residential. Sort of the 7th arrondissement of Hong Kong. There are few shops along the street, and they are limited, largely, to hair dressers, pet shops and real estate agencies.

So what's a girl gotta do to get a computer cable? Glad you asked. First, I walk about a kilometer to get to the Mid-Levels escalator, which is about 800 meters long with a vertical climb of 135 meters. The total travel time is twenty minutes, but some people walk while the system moves to shorten their trip. This is a bit misleading, though, because the escalator only goes up during the day. So actually, you have to make a vertical descent, via stairs and steep pavement.

Along the sides there are dozens of restaurants and bars; it's very cool.

At the bottom is the Central business district, and while this isn't necessarily the closest commercial district, as the crow flies, it's the only way to get somewhere that has a way back up that isn't hundreds of stairs.

Anyway, I went to the Fortress appliance and electronics store next to the Central MTR station looking for a WLAN cable. It took me about 30 minutes to get there. Easy, i thought.

Not so easy.

The guy at Fortress, which sells TVs and phones and computers and printers, says they don't have one. I ask where I might find one. He suggests the computer shop up one flight of stairs in the same shopping mall. I find the computer shop and it's one of the few shops closed on a Sunday. I start to contemplate my options. As I'm walking back to the street I see a sign for another computer shop in another mall. I go up to the second level to find that shop and it, too, is closed.

Now I have to figure this out. I don't know the area well and I'm not sure what sort of shop I need to find. I think perhaps the Fortress was just too small. Maybe the shop guy meant they didn't have them at his shop. So I get on the MTR and go to Times Square, in Causeway Bay. If you read Paul's blog a while back, he describes the madness that is Times Square, and we both vowed never to go back on a weekend. But I needed the cable to work Sunday night.

So I make my way through the gigantic MTR station and finally get to the Times Square mall and go up seven flights of elevators to get to the Fortress and another identical shop, Broadway. The guy at Broadway says nope, no cable. I ask him where I might find one. He suggests the computer mall in Wan Chai. Ack. I desperately don't want to do that. It's another metro ride (the easy part) but it will take me 15 minutes, at least, to get to the train and then I still have to find the Wan Chai computer mall.

So I go over to the Fortress, and ask the guy there if he has a cable. I know he doesn't, but I ask anyway. He tells me if I go down the street to the department store Sogo there is another computer mall nearby. The instructions are very vague.

Mind you it took me what, 10 minutes, the other day to hit the florist, the laundry and the key shop. I'm now into my second hour and I still can't even find a shop that sells what I want.

I go back down seven flights of escalators and realize I have no idea where Sogo is. I end up asking three more people before I find it. Meanwhile, I see a PCCW shop on the street. And since that is the company that provides the internet service and modem that I'm using, I think maybe they have a WLAN cable. Ha. That guy sends me to the same computer mall, and I'm still not clear where it is.

Wading through the hordes of people (see my flickr site) I find the shopping mall. It's called Windsor House. The computer mall is on the 10th floor, and they don't have escalators, so I find the elevators that are designated 5-16. And now this story is about as long and tedious as my search for the cable. Which I found, finally, two hours and four malls after I started looking.

The prospect of a three-stop metro ride and 20-minute escalator ride (did I mention that the previous night we walked up the stairs because we got there after the escalators were turned off?) and a 1K walk to get back was too daunting. I hopped in a cab.

So the point is, I won't be running many errands the next month. And we probably won't live in this neighborhood, as nice as it is, if we stay in Hong Kong.

But until then I'm going to enjoy the space and the killer views and errands be damned.