Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chinese Hot Pot

Chinese Hot Pot was one of my favorite ways to eat Chinese food. I was never 100% sure what I was eating, but friends always would assure me that I would like it when trying something new or unrecognizable, and most of the time they were right.

Many of the Chinese people value the the freshness of their food being brought to them when they go to a restaurant. The Chinese Hot Pot allows the patrons of the restaurant to cook their own food at the table, so it is as fresh as it could possibly be. The Hot Pot restaurants had large round tables with seating for about 8-10 per table with a hot plate in the middle of the table. A large pot of water was placed on the hot plate and was brought to a boil. You could then order your uncooked food and have it delivered to the table. Most of the food choices were cuts of meat, vegetables and many various dumplings. The very best meat was the unfrozen meat, because it would have been the freshest available. You would place the uncooked food in the water and let it come to a boil until it was finally cooked. As more various different types of food were placed in the water it made an interesting type broth which made the food taste even better.

As always, I tried to perform the proper table etiquette whenever I was eating with friends. I liked learning the new etiquette that should be observed with chopsticks, but one of the new things I learned about Hot Pots wasn't an etiquette ideal, it was more or less of a health concern. I had to always remember to place my chopsticks in the hot boiling water after I had put raw meat in the water because the ends of my chopsticks must then be sterilized after touching the raw meat. I know I forgot to do this a few times and fortunately never got sick, but it was a new eating style habit I had to learn.

Just like all the other eating places in Hong Kong, this restaurant was very noisy, full of the sounds of hot boiling water, plates clinking and loud chatter from all the guests. I really enjoyed the couple of times I had a Hot Pot. It was a lot of fun to choose and cook my own food while trying new and interesting things and I always met new friends while out with my own friends.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Dim Sum - Get Some!

Dim Sum is a very unusual type of food, well at least it was unusual to me. The Chinese people sometimes referred to Dim Sum as "going to tea" which made sense as tea was served with the meal. I really enjoyed the tea, but I can't say the same for all the food though.

My first experience with Dim Sum was one weekend morning when my neighbor asked me if I wanted to go out to eat with them. I agreed and we got on a bus and went downtown to a pretty large restaurant. The restaurant was two stories tall and decorated very elaborately inside. What struck me the most at first was the number of people in the seating area. It was packed full and very noisy, but as I continued to visit other restaurants around, I realized that it was not so uncommon to have very little personal space in a restaurant.

As normal, I had to let my neighbor order because the entire menu was in Chinese, but he did a very good job at ordering a vast variety of food so I could try different kinds and potentially find one that I really liked. After the order was placed, we sat and enjoyed some hot tea. I believe it was Jasmine tea and I really liked it. After a very short while our food was brought out and served in these small bamboo dishes. The portions were very small, usually only about 4 pieces per serving of each type of food that we ordered. Most of the food was a mix of some sort of meat, vegetables and spices rolled into a ball and wrapped in a dough to make a dumpling. There were also a few gelatin type deserts too that we tried.

I don't consider myself a very picky eater and if I had to say what food I don't like I could easily say salmon and tomato soup. When it came to eating Dim Sum though, I think what turned me off was the texture of the food. It was very unlike anything I had had before and it was a huge change from what I was used to. Some of the food had a very good taste but such a strange, unusual texture that it made it hard for me to enjoy.

Dim Sum was a great tasting adventure for me and I don't believe you should visit Hong Kong and not try Dim Sum. I'm really glad I had a local person to take me there and order for me as it was quite an experience to try all the different flavors and textures. I do like trying new things, and I also have to know that I might not necessarily like everything that I try. At least it was a new experience for me, and another local tradition that I was able to take part in.

For some more information about Dim Sum, click here or simply Google in "Dim Sum" and there are many other sources out there with great information about it.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

One Month!

Well, it has been one month since I came back to the States and it has been quite a change. Once again, I had to deal with not sleeping through the night and it took me almost two weeks to get over the jet lag. I couldn't sleep very late (normally I would get up around 3:30-4) and I was needing a nap around noon. Since I was home for the Holidays, I thought it was completely acceptable to take a nap in the middle of the day.

When I first came home, I liked going back to the big department stores. It was great to find almost anything I needed, all in one place. However, I did find myself rushing around as I normally did in HK, but there weren't any huge crowds to beat or anything. Just yesterday I was in Jordan Creek Mall with my family and they mentioned how busy it was. I just chuckled to myself. I didn't find it too busy. I think it is busy when you are completely shoulder to shoulder with the person next to you and you have to fight your way through a mall. That is how I remember malls in HK, and that was just on a normal mall in HK on a weekend afternoon!

I thought maybe I would have a hard time driving again since I hadn't driven a vehicle that went faster than 12 mph in over six months, but the day after I came home, I got in my truck, fired it up and drove it to town without a problem. I guess it is like riding a bike, it is just something you don't forget. I have enjoyed driving around and having the privilege to drive wherever I want, whenever I want. In a couple weeks I will be moving to Florida and will drive all the way down. It will make for a nice three day road trip.

My mom is a great cook, and has enjoyed having me back home for a short while so I have been able to over indulge in all the great holiday food that has been cooked in our house. I like eating the home cooked meals again. I have probably also eaten a fair share of American junk food like Nutty Bars, Nerds, Pringles, and all sorts of homemade cookies. I have also been eating some great homemade breads and meals so don't think I just live off junk food!

When I came back from HK, I decided to take a month off of writing any articles and cut back on a lot on many of the e-mails I would write daily. Since my one month vacation is up, I now will need to get back to my writing so my goal is to write at least two blogs per week. Writing the blogs will help jog my memory of many of the things I did in the final few months of HK and it will finally force me to sort out the hundreds of pictures I took. Stay tuned for some new, fresh posts!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am sorry I have not written in my blog recently, but don't worry, there is still much more to come. I have been quite busy recently, and have not had the time to write. However, I did want to wish everybody a happy Thanksgiving and to give an update as to what I have been up to.

As my internship here in Hong Kong comes to an end today (it is Friday here as I write this, but still Thursday back in the States) I have been busy getting paperwork finalized to legally leave Hong Kong. It feels weird having this be my last day at work, my desk is cleaned out, and I have returned many borrowed things to people.

This afternoon after I finish work, I will head up to China for one last trip to visit a golf course and maybe a local market. I will write about that later. I will then come back tonight and begin packing tomorrow. I know my mom would be giving me an ear full if she knew I had waited until 2 days before my departure to begin packing, but I am sure I will have no problems getting it all squared away before then.

I will be back in the States on Monday, but that does not mean that my blog about my Hong Kong Adventure is over. I still have a few topics left to write on, and I also want to write about my transition back in to the US. I know many things will feel strange and I may look at things back home in a much different light. I also know the weather will be a huge change too. Currently it is 66 here and it feels pretty cold, and back home it is about 26, ugh! I have asked my family to come to the airport with my heavy Carhart, but I am sure I will still be quite cold!

I know that as I move back and get back in to the swing of things, life will be different and I will share some of that on here too. I know I will have to get used to driving again, and on the right hand side of the road instead of the left. I will have to get used to speaking American English again instead of British English. Soon a flashlight will once again be a flashlight instead of a torch, chips will mean Dorritos instead of fries and I will fill up my truck with gas instead of petrol. I will have to relearn the value of a US dollar instead of thinking in terms of Hong Kong Dollars. Yesterday I bought a shirt that was on sale for $195 HK dollars, and I know I would never pay for a shirt that cost $195 US dollars. ($195 HKD = $25 USD)

Again, I want to wish everybody a Happy Thanksgiving and I will be seeing all my friends and family soon!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Just Back From China Pt. 3

In my third and final part of this series I am going to talk about some differences between Hong Kong and Hainan Island China, and talk about a few of the things I did there while not on a Golf Course.

I said earlier that I found it weird and comfortable at the same time that they drove on the same side of the road as in the States. However, their driving was much worse than people in the States. There was absolutely no need for the government to paint lines on the roads to indicate lanes, because any lane marking is just purely decoration in China. It was way more common to be driving down two lanes than actually staying in the lane we were supposed to. Everybody honked as they were passing each other, but not out of anger, just more as: "Hey, stay away from me for two seconds while I drive on the shoulder to pass you." When it was night time, they would flash their lights as they were passing also, to indicate the same thing. Normally back home when somebody honks of flashes their lights at you it is for two reasons: 1) They are your close friend and are just saying hi, or 2) You have cut them off or something and they are trying to show anger to you. The type of driving in China with all the horn honking and light flashing was not good for me. I would loose my mind if I had to drive in that type of traffic all the time!

The vehicles in China were also very...unique? They sure wouldn't pass the safety standards of the US by any means. There were lots of motorcycles with many people riding on the same motorcycle. There were also these weird three wheeled trucks that were always seen puttering up the road hauling some sort of cargo. The motorcycles were always weaving in and out of traffic and how we didn't hit one is a mystery to me. I didn't see the really nice expensive vehicles like I do here in Hong Kong, but I sure saw lots of strange new companies that I had never heard of before and also saw some vehicles from companies like Chevrolet and Ford that you can't buy in the US.

Sanya, the town I stayed in, was incredibly beautiful. It really reminded me of when I lived along the coast in Florida with all the palm trees and white sandy beaches. At the end of the day we would go and meet up with friends at The Wave Bar, which was just a small little outside patio right on the beach. It was beautiful to watch the sun go down, hear the waves crashing on the shore, and just the coastal feel of the whole place. The only thing that made me feel like I was really in China were the lanterns hung throughout the bar that really gave it the Chinese feel as shown in the picture below.
My first day there I had lunch at Crown Plaza which was a very upscale hotel and eating and shopping area. The whole Plaza area was very unique in the fact that it blended all sorts of architectural styles together in a way that seemed very unusual. However, it had good food and it was a great day to have lunch to sit out side. There was also a huge billboard inside that was advertising the Miss World Event that was taking place that night just down the road. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see any of the contestants who were supposedly staying at the Crown Plaza that day.
On one afternoon, we decided to take a tour through the Marriott and Ritz Carleton hotels and check out the beach front views that each hotel had. Both hotels had great fancy outdoor dining areas and swimming pools and the beaches were very nice and clean. Maybe because of the time of day or the time of the week or year, but I was surprised to see hardly anybody around. There was only a handful of people using the pools and beeches and almost nobody in the dining areas around lunch.
For my last meal in Sanya, I went to a newly built property that was a blend of nice apartments and hotels. It was still under construction, but parts were open. It was really magnificent to see all the water features and pools and the private outdoor relaxing areas right on the pools. All the pools seemed to run together and were laid out to create a big pool and connected with many small private outdoor areas. Another friend I know in Sanya (and who I stayed a night with) has a condo in one of the high rises in the picture below. He pointed out to me that this area has very good Feng Shui because of the huge hill in the back, the wide open valley, and then the ocean just behind me in this picture.
Overall my trip to Hainan Island was very enjoyable and it was neat to see how the culture there is different than where I am currently living. I'll be making another trip to China in two weekends, but won't be going nearly as far. I'm sure I will still get to see some new things which I will try to share on here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Just Back From China Pt. 2

In my previous post I talked about my terrible game of golf on one of the most beautiful courses in Sanya on Hainan Island, China. I wonder if I would actually play better golf if I played on a worse course? I still don't think so.

However, the other course that I visited was not nearly as impressive as Yalong Bay. It was a newly constructed course that didn't even have a paved entrance road to it yet. Thankfully my driver had a truck which gave us enough clearance to get through some of the huge potholes, but I don't know if I can say the V12 Jaguar in the parking lot had as much luck.

Dragon Valley Golf Course is a very new course which is stuck up in between two large ridges. The area is very great and I was told it had great Feng Shui because there was a large hill behind the club house, then a great valley which held the course, and then water visible as well. Feng Shui is very important around here and the site and course layout were probably based upon Feng Shui principles.

The course was in OK condition, but it lacked character. Yes, there were things here that I had not seen before, like the giant rock in the picture below, but the course was very unorrigional. The cart path was very rough and was not too pleasant to ride on. There was also a huge lack of definition by having a rough that was cut too close to fairway height. If the rough was cut longer, but still at a reasonable height, it would have created a huge, dramatic visual effect.The clubhouse was still very unfinished and had some strange features to it. Many parts of it seemed very gaudy, and distracted from the views the clubhouse offered. I guess I don't have much of an idea about interior design, but I didn't find the 12 foot tall front doors filled with gold golf balls appealing at all. To some, they may find that very appealing, but to me, it just looked tacky...along with the giant thing hanging in the foyer that looked like a huge hot chili pepper.It was very interesting to see this course and to notice some of these things that I didn't quite like. I heard they were selling memberships at a reasonable price (>1,000USD) but I still don't think I would spent that much money to become a member of the club. If I looked at the course from an agronomic standpoint and had to comment on the quality of the turf, I would say it was reasonable, but because of the choice of turf, I believe the amount of disease pressure will be great.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Just Back From China Pt. 1

My friends always ask me, "Hows China?" I always reply with saying that I don't know, because I haven't been there and then try to tell them about how Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of China, blah de blah blah blah.....

Anyways, I purchased a Visa a while back and finally got around to organizing a trip to Hainan Island, China. I'll write about my trip in three parts: 1) Golf Courses 2) Golf Courses 3) Culture and places I visited.

I flew out of Shenzhen Airport which is closer, and much cheaper, for me than to fly out of Hong Kong Airport. It was not too far over the border when I realized it was a much different place than Hong Kong. I had no trouble crossing the border and it actually went quite smoothly. The first big thing I noticed though was when I got in a taxi from the border to the airport. It felt odd, and familiar and it wasn't for a few miles until I fully realized what it was: China drives on the right hand side of the road, in vehicles with steering wheels on the left side of the vehicle, just like in the States. It was strange being in this vehicle as it did really feel wrong to be driving on the right hand side of the road, but the car felt comfortable to be in.

My flight was a red eye flight departing Shenzhen around 8PM and landed some time around 10PM I believe. I slept some on the flight which was nice. A driver was arranged to pick me up at the airport and he was easy to find. He was a 6'0" Chinese man named "Tiger." He was pretty easy to spot in the crowd. He took me to a friends house where I was staying for the night. His driving was much different than in HK, but I'll explain that more in my next post.

For the first part of my stay, I was staying with the superintendent of the Yalong Bay Golf Club. I knew him through friends I had at my current place of employment and had met him many times before. His course was truly amazing! I love courses with lots of water and palm trees and coconut trees and these were all very present at Yalong Bay.
The entrance to the Clubhouse (below) was extraordinarily beautiful. It was huge, full of the sound of flowing water, and with the visual effect, and the landscaping was great. I love the style of buildings in tropical climates as you can't tell whether you are inside, or outside, or in some type of alley, and it creates this illusion of openness. This was exactly how the anteroom to the foyer was. I could not recall if this was a completely closed in room, or if it was just a very open one with large open windows and doors that allowed breezes to come in. As you crossed in to the main lobby there were fountains running on the floor that gave the impression of the real floor being bordered by liquid floors. A few Koi swam in these great fountains. Behind the main counter (and in the anteroom) there were huge saltwater fish tanks, with the one behind the main counter reaching heights of 8-10 feet and possibly twice as wide. The dining facilities were decorated in traditional Chinese decor and were a very warm, welcoming place. There was a huge outside patio that also allowed for dining as well.

The course was in great condition, considering the 36" of rain they had not too long ago in about an eight day time period. The course was nicely laid out and was exceptionally clean and tight and also hosts many major events.

Every good golf course has to have a dog, and Yalong Bay is where "Zeek" calls home. Zeek is a young black lab (I believe) who has lived at the course for a short period of time. He is very well trained, but like all dogs, he loves to run and have fun. His favorite past time is chasing a frisbee on the fairways.
One thing I found interesting and fun was the superintendent's golf cart. Recently, the course hosted a major ladies tournament and in preparation for the tournament, they painted a set of coconut tee markers pink. There was some left over pink paint, and the super decided he needed a new color of golf cart, so he now is the proud owner of a bright pink golf cart. It really matches his fun, outgoing, personality and he is quite proud of it.

The second day I was at the course I had the opportunity to play in a small golf tournament and I was paired with the Super, the GM of the local Ritz Carleton, and the GM of the local Renaissance hotel. I am not a good golfer, and was not prepared to do well. I haven't golfed in almost 6 months, so my first tee shot was not great. Actually, my first tee shot when right in to the tall hazard height grass, and the GM from the Ritz turns to look at me and asks, "You play much?" The obvious answer was no! At the end of the painful 18 holes, the Super jokingly says to me, "Boy, you took a lot of swings today." I'm not going to share what my score was, but it was in the triple digits. I would place money on the fact that my caddy was much better at golf than I was.