i arrived in hong kong on chinese new year eve, also known as "年三十晚." traditionally, you're supposed to have dinner with your family to end off the year. nowadays, it means shop till you drop. the shops all have sales happening because for the next couple of days not many people are going to be on the streets shopping. the reason is they'd be visiting family and friends during the couple of days, mainly to collect red packets (lai see) and to eat their food, spoil their carpets. the shops all open late as its going to be the last business they're doing for the next couple of days. some smaller shops don't even bother opening late because their bosses have to rush home for the traditional dinner. i was practically pushed out of a store while buying trinkets and stuff from a cheapo store.
more after the read more link.
i've never really been so glad to be in hong kong. in fact, most of the time i can't stand it. but this time, i was very glad to be alone. i really needed a break, not quite sure if hong kong and sydney was really the right place, but it'll do. actually made me quite fond of life in hong kong again, being able to eat any time, drink any time, shop any time. there's actually stuff here i want to spend money on!
anyway, i got around to do alot of shopping, mainly for my family. i got a shopping list from them, including video cameras, calculators, clothes, etc. i managed to get a pair of new shoes (grr .. actually wanted to buy two but there were heaps of ppl in the shoes shop, plus apparently it is traditional for people to wear new shoes on chinese new year, so many people were out buying new shoes for chinese new year) and also the olympus mju-mini camera that i've been drooling over for the last 6 months. i can finally take it off my amazon wishlist now ;)
apart from that, all i got were snacks and a mug. i wasn't really in the mood to shop at all. funny thing though, its around 24C in hong kong, but people are complaining that its too cold. i was walking around with a t-shirt, and people were asking me whether i was cold. i guess thats what happens after you've lived in cambridge for too long.
walking around hong kong and knowing chinese is quite an experience. i contend that chinese people (esp hong kong people) swear the most in the world. i don't know in what country that exists where people will insert expletives into nearly every second word when they talk about the most mundane things like getting a seat at a restaurant or the quality of fish balls that they just bought. being a foreigner an not knowing cantonese in hk is probably quite calming.
in the morning i raided mong kok, and in the evening i had my first sashimi in around 5 months. i think the last time i had it was in vancouver with francis. we had it at a pretty stylish place in the new century plaza in mong kok. i've forgotten the name of the place, but the decor is really nice. however, their service is close to non-existant. after we sat down, i think we struggled for around 10 minutes to get our order thru, and then we had trouble getting to give us more tea. i think they were seriously understaffed for chinese new year, but i was told by my relatives that its always like that there! the food was cheap tho!
after dinner, i did some more shopping for family, and then i mentioned that i wanted to go to a nice variety store called "log-on" in a plaza a little further away from mong kok called festival walk (又一成). the shop sells all sorts of cool japanese cheap gadgets, dolls, household items, gifts, etc. basically a place to suck all your hard earned cash out of your wallet. i bought a nice mug there which represented my mood >_< to my surprise i found a nice place called double-take that sold some trendy skateboarding style shirts, which is what i'm into these days. although, all i ended up getting was a beanie, coz they were out of sizes for most stuff.
i took the KCR there and back. basically thats the train, as opposed to the MTR which is the subway. yes, there's a subtle difference, but if you've been to tokyo or osaka you'd prob understand. the KCR has improved a whole bunch since i took it last (maybe like 7 years ago!) they have nice neon lights to tell you where the train is going to stop, to make sure you can't fall thru the 3cm gap between the train and the platform. the interior is much nicer now as well.
i was quite satisfied with my haul for the first day there, my second day in hong kong consisted of collecting lai see from relatives and having lunch and dinner with them. i managed to visit an old friend from sydney as well, having a very traditional hk style afternoon tea in a restaurant that had a tv playing brazil vs hong kong in a soccer exhibition match. by the time we tuned out, brazil was winning 3-0, no surprise there. i wonder how much they eventually lost by!
had dinner at my grandma's place. it was wonderful, because she makes this dish with deep-fried cashews. celery and beef. its really really nice, because it takes real skill to deep fry cashews, if the oil is too hot, it becomes burnt, if it is too cold, it becomes oily. apparently, on the whole table of 7, i was the only one who liked cashews. i haven't had those for years! and as usual, being the most loud mouth, i was the last to actually finish my dinner >_<
after dinner, i went back to my auntie's place to pick up my luggage and rush to the airport express train station. i found out, to my surprise, that you can check in there up to 90 minutes before the departure of your flight. i got there like 3 hours beforehand, so that was cool because it meant i didn't have to haul my luggage all the way to the airport.
after that, i was seriously contemplating of going back to town to continue shopping, but i decided that maybe i've had enough. got to the airport at around 10pm, and tried to find an internet cafe, or at least some wireless access.
so here's a tip if you are going to end up in hong kong airport -- if you want free internet access, bring your own mouse (or get proficient with keyboard shortcuts.) because at two sides of the airport is a coffee shop called pacific coffee. they have free internet access but without a mouse. you can borrow a mouse with a $100HK deposit, but you can avoid that step if you just be smart about it.
they also claim to have wireless hotspot there, but i couldn't find a single place where they had decent reception, and even when i got some reception, the speed was close to 9600bps. but the price is really cheap, only $4HK/day for wireless. thats an awesome deal compared to what you pay for in heathrow or sydney airport. hope that next time i'm there it'd work.
so i got my caffeine and internet fix there and actually nearly missed my flight. i was about the last person to go thru the gates. practically ran thru customs and to the gate. anyway, i ended up sitting next to some weird and opinionated australian who teaches at the university of macau (they have a university?) teaching some sort of literature course. didn't really understand what he was saying though.
so there we have it, nearly a full summary of what i've been up to for the last 48 hours. will post some quick snaps of hk later when i get my phone working. i hope that doesn't mean i have to call vodafone from australia just to get roaming enabled.
just arrived in hong kong. my phone can't connect to the mobile networks. maybe i forgot to enable roaming >_<!
anyway, i got an alleged window seat when i checked-in in heathrow. turns out that they should change the name to non-window seat because i didn't have a bloody window next to my seat >_<!!! don't ever sit in 34K on a 747 for cathay!
anyway, didn't get much sleep, didn't watch any movie. just slept a bit and did some writing on my powerbook. too much to stress about to sleep properly. arrived in hong kong at 2pm, so that means i only have a couple hours to shop till i drop. right now i'm just waiting for my phone to sync with my address book on my powerbook. once that finishes, i'll pass immigration and then find my auntie. if i can't find her, then i'll have to walk around hong kong with my luggage. that isn't too bad since i only have one 6kg bag ;)
[UPDATE: note that the rant there is comparing search.msn.co.uk instead of search.msn.com, mainly because that is the search engine that msn.com thinks i should be using if i come from the .cam.ac.uk domain]
everyone including bbc has been talking about MSN's new search engine. now, here's what i think of the engine:
1. searching "alastair tse" and "liquidx" doesn't really return the relevant results for me. "alastair tse" in google ends up with the whole page of relevant links, whereas with MSN, it only gives the first relevant links (then the others is anil!)
2. searching names of people who are in my photo album curiously makes them top of the results under msn. err... if you read this, you should search for your name under both MSN and google and check if i've polluted your name ;) google doesn't rank my photo album very high, so they obviously use very different metrics. i wonder what is better, whether you want to search of photos of yourself half-drunk on my photo album, or not at all?
3. searching for non-people terms, i searched for "IBM thinkpad" under MSN's search engine, and the first hit was about installing Linux on an IBM thinkpad, whereas on google, the first result is the actual IBM web site for thinkpads.
up to you to decide which engine is better.
this was what i bought for xmas gift exchange last year, but the lucky contestant actually didn't bother to bring it home. so it's been hanging around our house. i only just realised how badly made it is. either that or henry has really taken to task to using it to beat me up.
if you come to our place, remember don't sit on this chair.
so some ppl were graduating on saturday, so for those (un)lucky ones who are not living in cambridge, this is what happens:
they stand in a line and then get knocked over by bicycles, last one standing gets to go into the senate house and graduate, then the rest stand up again and repeat.
of course, it always baffled me why m&m's didn't sell whole bags of a single colour? i'm pretty sure they don't have a multicolour vat of paint that they dunk them in and they randomly become a different colour. is it because too many maths books use them as examples for probability questions?
but worry no more! someone has built an m&m sorter .. i hope it accepts peanut m&ms!
this last weekend of january turned out to be an odd weekend for me. eventful, yet peaceful. happy, yet frustrating. lazy, yet productive.
the week started off being an endurance test for my ability to stay awake, rejection of caffeine from my body and general turbulence in my concentration levels. by thursday, i was pretty drained of any useful output. when friday came around, i was pretty much on my knees begging for a drink to relax.
so after work, a bunch of us had some dinner at kam ling (btw, the proper english name for that chinese restaurant jinling) and then to the granta bar for some comfy sofas and drinks. actually, i was mightly tempted by the cambridge (winter) beer festival that was happening in the hall right opposite dojos. but there were a huge amount of ppl inside, and looked quite inferior to the comfy seats of granta bar. after a couple of cheap beers, i felt much better about the week! got home at around 12 or 1, but ended up sleeping at 6. this is where the oddness started.
firstly, i didn't need much sleep. managed to get by the whole day with 4 hours of sleep. incredible given how lazy i am. what is even more incredible is that i managed to go into town, do some attempted formal hall bookings (friday formal halls were cancelled so that destroyed the idea), deposited a check using the stable and secure windows xp powered depositing machines in HSBC (spot the sarcasm) and grocery shopping at sainsbury. finally, ended up in the lab where i attempted to do some work. concentration wasn't quite there, but at least the determination was.
later that evening, some friends came over for dinner. took like 2 hours to prepare, but of course i didn't do much preparing, leaving to my super flatmate who once cooked for 23 people! we then watched "the shining", which i haven't watched before, but my other 3 friends did. i've never seen any stanley kubrick movies, not even 2001 space odyssey (apparently, you must see this before claiming to be a geek). so actually, it was quite an interesting movie. basically, it was an over zealous use of the soundtrack to create tension and suspense when there really wasn't. in fact, it was nearly like "the boy who cried wolf!" there was so much over-use of suspense music. one thing tho, the characters actually did what i would of done if i was under attack, which is something i can't say about most other thriller/suspense movies.
the best bit was where my friends were saying that this particular character was going to die, and when he appeared near the end of the movie, and predictably was axed, they all jumped up in shock, whereas i had the difficult choice of watching their reaction, or the screen, because both were so funny! problem was, they were most scared than me even though i'd never watched the movie. at the end of the DVD was the making of "the shining", which is basically a very boring home video made by kubrick's daughter. what is even more desperate on this DVD is the commentary, not of the actual movie, but the making of "the shining" !!! and the trailer, that was another classic. finally, they really don't make trailers like they used to, you've got to see the trailer for the shining. in fact, i believe i could make that sort of trailer in 5 minutes on iMovie. we rounded the night off alcohol free, but with a couple episodes of south park.
on sunday, i got a respectable 7 hours of sleep and some website hacking in before going to the lab. i took over the meeting room and rearranged the furniture to do some measurements. was going to analyse the results tonight, but i ended up drinking, eating and watching "shaolin soccer". a really funny hong kong movie about applying kung fu to playing soccer with over the top scenes such as those seen in the japanese soccer cartoon captain tsubasa!
so tonight, i've ended up writing a blog entry, mainly because i can't sleep for some reason. hopefully, proof reading this would have bored me to sleep, and i hope you will doze off while reading this too!