Monday, June 27, 2011

A Small Box and a Lot of Love

 This is just a little itty bitty baby post to say thank you SO much to my friends and family back at home. Your kind messages and comments always put a smile on my face, reminding me just how lucky I am to have the BEST support system I could ever ask for. I'm having the time of my life over here, but it's always nice to know you're thinking of me. Because the truth is, I do get home sick every once in a while. I mean, how could I not with YOU all back at home?!! I really do miss you all so much.

And the fact that you read my blog makes me so so happy! Hopefully I don't bore you too much... ;)

To my family: THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH FOR MY SURPRISE DELIVERY! Mom, Dad, Devin, and McRoberts, you're the best! I miss our family bbqs and movie nights on the daily! Don't have tooooo much fun on the Fourth of July without me...

A surprise delivery of goodies from my amazing family!

The sweetest letter from my mom, Devin's senior headshot, and a note from brother Beau!
I was so happy. :)

I LOVE AND MISS YOU GUYS! Thanks for making me smile! xoxo

Food Glorious Food

Somehow my fourth week in Hong Kong ended up revolving around food. (not that I'm complaining!!) So I’ve decided to dedicate an entire post to the delicious, and often “different” as I like to say when I try something I don’t like, delicacies of Hong Kong.

Delicious = Sea food, Dim sum, Sushi, Dumplings, Shrimp, Mutton, and of course, Egg tarts!! I could go on forever...

"Different" = Fish balls, Ostrich, Ox tongue, Sweet potato jello, Chicken head, Fish skins…

Since day one of this adventure I vowed to keep an open mind about the food of my new home. I made a promise to myself that 1. I would try everything and 2. I would not resort to fast food…aka McDonald’s!! Luckily that hasn’t been an issue so far since I seem to be able to eat almost anything. Hmm…I have to put on a bathing suit in 2 weeks. Maybe I’m not so lucky.

Last week my two lovely coworkers, Connie and Catherine, took me to a special Japanese restaurant called Morihachi Yakiniku. We got to cook our food right on the table! They laughed at me when I double-checked each piece of meat to make sure it was no longer raw. How does that saying go again? You can take the girl out of California but...I think you know how it goes. :)

Enjoying an "egg cup" at Morihachi Yakiniku!
Cat and Connie, the two GREATEST coworkers I could ever ask for! <3
My lunch...raw beef, pork, and wild mushrooms with garlic butter!
On the grill!
Dessert - black sesame ice cream...yum!

On Tuesday after work, Margaux and I ventured over to our favorite Ladies’ Night spot in Soho (Remember the lychee martinis?). Once again their “Ladies” cocktail of the night did not disappoint! Mango Daiquiris with chocolate on the rim, accompanied by almonds and strawberries. Double yum! After one delicious drink, we left in a rush to meet the rest of the group for dinner. Too bad the food wasn’t free as well…

These were free. It's good to be a girl!

On Wednesday I was honored to get an invitation to the Harilela family annual staff party. I stayed late at work and giggled with my coworkers while we shared a tiny mirror to fix our hair and make-up. You might be wondering why I’ve mentioned a staff party in my post about eating. Well let me explain. This party was ALL ABOUT FOOD. Let me repeat: ALL ABOUT FOOD.

Grand buffet tables lined the walls of the elegant ballroom, and each tray contained a completely different type of food. There were flavors ranging from traditional Chinese dim sum all the way to an Italian pasta bar, with everything in between. I’d say it was enough food to feed an army! I’m sure this won’t surprise you, but of course I had to try it all.

My coworkers laughed as I sat down with a glass of white wine, vowing to stay until I had tasted absolutely every single dish. For some reason my enthusiasm always makes them giggle. So I couldn’t let them down!

Luckily I had a partner in crime. Cat decided to take the challenge with me! It took us eight plates to reach every station. EIGHT PLATES!!!! But it was so fun, and a night I will cherish forever. I only allowed myself one teeny tiny bite of each dish (excluding one extraordinarily good piece of chocolate cheesecake…shhh don't tell!). I was completely stuffed at the end to say the least.

Course #1: Soup, bread, and wine!
Course #2: Chinese
Course #3: Indian
Course #4: American & Thai

Course #5: Italian
Course #6: Fruit 
Course #7: My Favorite!!! Dessert :)
Course #8: Egg Tarts
When I went to get dessert, they were all out. One of the servers noticed that I was trying to taste
everything and actually delivered 2 fresh egg tarts to my table as soon as they were ready! Everyone laughed. 
Cat teaching me how to "properly" eat an egg tart. You have to eat the whole thing all at once!
Course #9: Ice Cream Bar

Course #10: Coffee (I actually couldn't drink more than one sip...)

The food was to die for, but my favorite part of the evening came from spending time with my amazing coworkers outside of the office. They are all incredibly kind and generous and I couldn’t have asked for a more welcoming group of people to work with everyday. It was a beautiful night of friends and food…I’m a lucky girl!

Connie <3

Aida, the darling woman who makes the coffee and tea!
All the ladies at the end of the night! <3
Then on Friday I had another delicious (and fun!) meal. I went to a Chinese “Hot Pot” restaurant, pronounced something along the lines of “Da Bean Low” in Cantonese. I met Margaux and Meiling in East TST after work to try Meiling’s favorite Hot Pot restaurant. I’d describe it as Asia’s version of The Melting Pot. It was just as entertaining and yummy too! We spent two and a half hours cooking everything from spinach and mushrooms to lamb and fish dumplings. Margaux and I didn’t end up going to LKF until midnight because we were so unbelievably full! It was such a fun night.

Our appetizer, fish skins. They were..."different."
Hot pot before food!
Hot pot after food!
See that plate of pink goo?! We turned those into fish balls.
I loved these little mushrooms!!
Such a fun dinner! Thanks Meiling!

All in all it was a week of wonderful food! Don’t worry I did more than just eat this past week, but for some reason I only felt like describing my meals? And I guess I can’t publish this post without mentioning the multiple early morning gym sessions I forced myself to have after going to bed on a VERY full stomach, multiple nights in a row. This morning left me feeling…still full. Sigh.

I think you’ll all understand why I’m trying not to eat as much this week…

Coming soon – a post about this weekend’s trip to Lantau Island to see the big Buddha!! Also, in only four days I leave for Beijing to see the great wall! I’m so excited!

Still missing everyone at home… XO

Monday, June 20, 2011

Viva Macau!

This weekend, my little Hong Kong group took a side trip to a nearby island called Macau. Like Hong Kong, Macau is a special administrative region of China with its own government and currency. We were told that Macau was the “Las Vegas of China,” and we were so excited to find out if the rumors were true! I packed up my most “Vegasy” outfit and a pair of black heels, and hit the road with nothing more than my means of transportation to the island planned out.

Bad news first. Macao didn’t even compare to Vegas. NOT EVEN CLOSE. I’ve decided that there really is no place like the strip. But that’s ok…thanks to USC frat life I get to live it up in Vegas multiple times a year!! Who could complain?!

Good news. Aside from the fact that Macao was not what we had expected, I had an INCREDIBLE weekend of food, friends, and much needed relaxation. This weekend provided some of my favorite memories so far, and I can't wait to go back!!

Saturday morning, Margaux and I woke up early to catch the 9 am ferry in Kowloon. We grabbed a quick coffee and we were on our way! Thank goodness for Margaux’s coworker Meiling, who met us at the dock that morning. Meiling and her friend Emily decided to take a day trip to Macau to celebrate Meiling’s birthday, and we were so lucky to be in the company of the two girls! Meiling knew exactly where to take us for lunch and the best ways to get around the city. 

On the ferry to Macau!
I learned that Macau used to be a Portuguese colony. Most of the locals spoke Portuguese even better than Cantonese, which was a bit of a surprise. I found that I could understand a few words here and there with my small knowledge of Spanish. It was so fun!

We tasted all the traditional Macao dishes and had a great time walking through the streets of Taipa! Then we ventured to the other side of the island to see the ruins of St. Paul and the old cannons. We walked and walked and walked but there was so much to see!

Here’s a taste of the incredible things I got to see in Macau:

The Venetian in Macau!

It looked exactly the same!! Copy cats...

A traditional Macanese desert. It tasted like frozen cool whip and graham cracker crumbs...yum!

Having fun in the gardens of Taipa!

The line to get a pork chop sandwhich...they were popular!

After waiting for nearly 30minutes, I present to you....The Famous Macanese Sandwhich.
Walking the streets.
The beautiful Ruins of St. Paul's.

I LOVED looking at the ruins! So much history...

At the Fortaleza do Monte.

"Why would they point the cannons at the hotels?!"- Margaux suffering from heat craze
(It happens to us a lot...)

The historical Museum of Macau.

Exploring the museum!

The beginning of the "strip" of Macau!

Fight on!
 Side note: So everyone knows I'm obsessed with weddings. Surprise, surprise...nothing's changed over here in Asia!! And it just so happens that I happened to see FOUR different brides on Saturday!! So of course I had to take photos. I thought they were pretty funny...I think you'll like them. :)

Bride #1
Say yes to the dress right?! (My futile attempt at sarcasm...)
Bride #2
Bride #3
And Bride #4!!

Around 7:00 Margaux and I returned to the City of Dreams. Back in the hotel room (or should I say suite?!) we finally met up with the rest of the group to get ready to go out for Jamie’s 21st birthday!

I love suites.
The living room!
The night was perfect. We had such a wonderful dinner at a Portuguese restaurant called Fernando’s. I WAS SO FULL. But it was so worth it.

All the girls before dinner <3
Jamie's Birthday cake!
The Portuguese version of the egg tart. Flakey and delicious. YUM!

Finallyyyy we got to experience a little bit of that Vegas feel people had warned us about. But just a little. Macao is a cleaner, quieter version of Sin City, complete with grand casinos and elaborate architecture. We had a great time walking through all the hotels and taking photos with all the rest of the tourists. Unfortunately there was no M&M factory…

Macau at night!
After dinner we continued celebrating in the Venetian before calling it a night and heading back to the hotel. We were all exhausted from our very long day of exploration and fun!

Drinks at the Venetian.

Happy Birthday Jamie!!!
The end of the night...pure exhaustion!

Sunday was absolutely unreal. I know that every day of my summer is like a vacation, but this was a REAL vacation, and I loved every minute. We woke up and immediately went to the pool to soak up some sun and relax. After 3 solid weeks of working and adventure, it felt so good. We ordered smoothies and salads (YUM!) and stayed by the pool until it was time to get on the ferry back to HK. The breeze was beautiful and the sun was shining; I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect morning! I was very sad when I had to leave.

The best day ever.

BUT…my fun wasn’t over yet!! As soon as I returned to HK, I had to get ready to go to a dinner at my boss’s house in Kowloon Tong. He invited me to his family dinner on Father’s Day Sunday! It was so sweet! His “house” was just a tad bigger than I expected…

This is only HALF of his house.

I was spoiled with a delicious Indian dinner in a beautiful home of caring and generous people. What more could I ask for?

All in all, this weekend was amazing, and I must say, returning to work this morning was a little difficult. Good thing I still have 5 more weekends of fun to look forward to!!

Only bitter note in my mess of happy comments and exclamation points (sorry, I know I tend to overdo it a little!!) – this week my baby sister graduates from High School. I’m so so so so sad that I can’t be there, and so far that is the only negative thing I can think of regarding my time in HK. Devin – I love you so much and you make me so proud! I think about you all the time and I know you’re going to have a wonderful week filled with lots of laughter and great memories. I miss you Devi! CONGRATS ON GRADUATING LIL SIS!

Now that I’ve written another novel (I doubt anyone even makes it down this far), I guess I should get some sleep... Until next time! xo