Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wish you a Merry Christmas!

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
-- Isaiah 9:6

I felt like I kind of missed over the "Christmas feeling" this year... for the most part, the Christmas feeling in Hong Kong means being overwhelmed by huge Christmas lights that are displayed on the sides of buildings on both sides of Victoria Harbour, as well as getting the feeling from the huge Christmas displays inside all of Hong Kong's malls. IFC Mall topped their amazing hanging Christmas tree last year with the first indoor ferris wheel:

Anyway, the main reason why I missed the Christmas feeling is because my office moved from Central to beside my house in Quarry Bay. :p Not a huge complaint from me. :p

But all in all, that is probably a good thing (missing the Christmas feeling) because that is pretty much all that it's about here in Hong Kong. However, despite the huge emphasis on shopping, Hong Kong, being a much more open place to Christianity, has thousands of groups of carollers in every MTR station, mall corner, street behind a mall, parks within residential estates, inside office buildings turned malls... HK has 1400 churches... they're everywhere. :p But it adds to the more meaningful side of Christmas, and carolling is quite an integral part of the Christmas culture here.

I missed the ramp-up to Christmas because I was in Taiwan, as it happened, there was a huge (Waterloo) reunion there this year. It was a great time to catch up a bit, enjoy 'normal Taiwanese life' there (morning markets, night markets), and go to Ali Shan (Ali Mountain), where Teresa and I experienced our age and the gasping of thin air 2200m high. :P

We also woke up early to catch the dawn of a new day -- which reminded me of the old grade 10 band song of that name with a decent trumpet part and solos, which I often screwed up. :p Teresa and I concluded that we preferred sunsets to sunrises, not only because of the timing.

So, Christmas was not too eventful for me here, though that is nice to just slow down and hang out with loved ones. [We didn't have Christmas Eve or Christmas service either... which peeved me.] But nevertheless... Merry Christmas! This end of December rounds up an eventful year on all fronts; hopefully 2009 will turn up from this one. :p

Until next time, this is Gladys Yam.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Journey to the West -- Silk Road October 2008 - Xinjiang province

First, I am thankful that the timing worked out for this trip... I was thinking of not going and then booked my flights the day before departing. What bugged me was that there was no way to arrange flights from Hong Kong to Urumqi (stopping over in Xian) in a day! I had to stay in Xian for one night. Also, this was the first vacation in a long time where I did not take my computer!! :p

Well I have touched Xinjiang province, but I can only say that I have touched it. We began our 'Silk Road' journey from Urumqi, the major transportation hub in this area and then went 'backwards' towards Xian. As a major transportation hub, Urumqi is a major city that is a weird clash between the local Uyghur culture (Muslim mosques and markets) with many (very tacky) storefronts of typical Chinese stores (you know, the solid colour background with another colour large print square font). Xinjiang is an autonomous region in China, but of course is still significantly under PRC state control -- especially with the Olympics this year, there would be no way we could have gone to Kashgar, which is the western-most city of China. But Urumqi does have a title of the "world's most inland city", being 2500km away from the nearest sea.

From Urumqi we went to "Heavenly Lake" (天池), a beautiful lake surrounded by the "Heavenly Mountains". It's kind of like Banff but the mountains are nowhere near as high and therefore not as snowcapped. The lake was very peaceful until loud music started being played all of a sudden from speakers deliberately placed within a "tree stump" designed enclosure, just slightly ruining the mood.

Other than Urumqi, we went to Turpan, which is only about 150km southeast of Urumqi. However, the climate is way different because Urumqi is about 800m above sea level, while Turpan is about 30m above sea level. It lies in a valley and has extreme summers and extreme winters. Urumqi was bordering upon snowfall, and Turpan was SOO extremely hot and sunny that I had a headache all day (I so should have wore sunglasses that day). This hot temperature makes its geography optimal for much fruit, especially grapes -- we visited the "Grape Pagoda" which is a huge vineyard. There we had the BEST GRAPES that I have ever tasted before.. the grape peel/skin was almost nonexistent. The heat of Turpan also promotes the "Flaming Mountain" because the sun's beating rays provides an orange colour to the hills. Lastly we went to the Karez Well which was a spectacular underground canal that brought water from the Heavenly Mountains to Turpan.

Since my last vacation was England, it was amusing to see the Chinese mountains goats in comparison to the English sheep. :p

Video of Tian Chi.. with the peace-destroying music from the tree stump!

Grilled lamb shishkebabs... mm...

Urumqi night market... questionable sanitary conditions... but good food!

The "Big Bazaar" which is a mosque / market.

In our hired car from point to point around Turpan. The sun really bothered me that day. However, thankfully, I have the ability to sleep no matter what position. :p

Entrance to the Flaming Mountains -- also famous because of the "Journey to the West", one of the Hong Kong versions which was filmed here.

Chinese mountain goats!

English sheep!

We departed from Urumqi train station (below) aboard a train to Dunhuang. This was our first train ride of the trip, and departing from a major transportation hub, the scene was a little scary, to say the least. We waited for our train in this huge hall (of a number of halls). The picture doesn't capture the volume of people and the rush towards the trains. There were few tourists; passengers were mainly locals, many with huge bundles strapped to their backs, probably representing their entire owned property and life savings, possibly anxious and nervous to start a new life in a place anew? Meanwhile, we boarded into our sleeper car, the rest of the car was empty except for the cabin beside us.

And on towards Dunhuang. Sleeping on the train was actually quite comfortable, except for the dry air of the heat.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Would you like some whine with that?

I usually just buy a short drip coffee in the morning, so it's not like I buy specialty drinks all the time. But a little complaint:

The Starbucks red Christmas cups are here but there is no Peppermint Mocha!! Is this just in Hong Kong or elsewhere too? (I have yet to try the Dark Cherry Mocha.. sounds good though.)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Journey to the West -- Silk Road October 2008

I'm back in Hong Kong from the Amazing Race-esque trip to various stops on the Silk Road, replete with many experiences of nature (mountains, desert, rivers, sand..), culture (Uyghur and Tibetan Islam), food (grilled lamb shishkebabs, beef 'pulled' noodles), much, much history, and other local experiences (fighting on the overnight trains). Here is the map of our journey out from Hong Kong. Pics and stories to come!

Until next time, this is Gladys Yam.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The new feminism?

Ever since Sarah Palin came into the presidential race, the media has touted a new milestone in the evolving definition of "feminism". While McCain may not have exercised much professionism or wisdom in looking to credentials for his selection, he intuitively knew that Palin as his running mate would provide a kick to his race, this race of "assocation with the leaders' stereotypes".

Indeed, the Economist's Lexington columnist pronounced her coming onto the scene as "the triumph of feminism." I think Lexington is likely male. He made inevitable comparisons to Hilary Clinton, who, together with Sarah Palin, have achieved to crack the glass ceiling 18 million times. But the responses from many women were quite furious. The Economist article does provide the opposing opinion. Glorian Steinem, "American feminism icon", said that Palin shares but a chromosome with Hilary Clinton. Yet, Camille Paglia, who developed the power of feminist sexuality, "hails her as the biggest step forward for feminism since Madonna."

To be sure, Sarah Palin has hit some nerve amongst a previously unrepresented group of people being 'successful' working mothers. Sarah Palin is like the epitome of their ideal, balancing a successful and important role as Governor of an entire state, now candidate for Vice-President of the nation (mayor of a town is not good enough), while taking care of her five children (two wouldn't be enough), maintaining values true to her evangelical beliefs (pro-life for her teenage daughter), such as living out an perfect marriage ("We met in high school, and two decades and five children later he's still my guy.") Plus, she's good looking. :p Many wonders whether she would solicit such a response if she didn't look the way she does, or have less children, or could show her pro-life support other than internally through her teenage daughter (of course, there is no comment why she is pregnant in the first place), or brought her kids to piano lessons and math class instead of hockey practice. Plus, her candidacy as vice-president is more consistent and comfortable with creation order rather than a woman candidate as president. :p And, as if Hilary Clinton were neither a wife nor a mother.

I find all of these viewpoints quite amusing. I personally find the topic of feminism only mildly interesting, and to be sure, there are many relative definitions of the term. While women still face various societal barriers (inequal pay is the most oft-quoted example), I think the goal of "equity = equal opportunity" has more or less been achieved, and the 'equal pay' does not disprove the 'opportunity' that is hailed as goal. In other words, I'm not really sure what feminists are really rooting for. I don't associate with the Gloria Steinem way, (or the Hilary Clinton backers way). On the surface of it, I do admire Sarah Palin in some ways. Likely, it is some emotional association with her motherliness 'balanced' with some sort of professionalism.

Other than Hilary Clinton, the last time that I recall a huge media frenzy over feminism was (already!) ten years ago when none other than Ally McBeal appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in the article, "Is feminism dead?" [Crazy... 10 years ago -- June 28, 1998]

The article isn't very good... especially since Ally McBeal was a fictional character who couldn't truly be thought to have developed America's feminist thinking. Plus, the author evidently does not fit into the group who relates to Ally McBeal and therefore became a fan of the show (of course, I am quite clear of what that is!)

It reminds me of one of Ally's famous quotes: “If women really wanted to change society, they could do it. I plan to change it. I just want to get married first.” In that case, without going into any extreme psychoanalysis of a fictional character, I think Ally McBeal would support Sarah Palin. :p Similar to myself, there is a regard in someone who can balance family with career (though I'm not saying Sarah Palin truly can -- her husband stays at home, right?)

And on the other extreme... I received a complimentary copy of Fortune magazine in my mailbox the other day. The cover article was The new Valley Girls" -- about the successful women in silicon valley. The tech world has a new inner circle. They're young, they're global, they have power marriages and little kids. And unlike their predecessors, they're relying on a unique social network to get ahead.

The article again isn't very interesting -- it talks about their social networking skills, and how they all know each other (Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook has 1114 friends on Facebook!) It presents a way in which they have found to balance their careers with family (outsource everything in their "power marriages"), where both spouses are high in the ladder and still climbing. What I found funny, actually, is that the Vanity Fair-esque cover photo shows these executives all with deliberately sprawled hands... only to emphasize that they are all happily and successfully married (with huge rocks, of course), and not the power feminists of the old generation? Perhaps. I wonder if they associate with Sarah Palin or Hilary Clinton? I don't associate with the women in this article... in fact, I can't imagine such a lifestyle anymore. But it's also because I'm too comfortable. :p

Anyway, while American culture can continue to debate as to whether Sarah Palin or Hilary Clinton better embodies the success of feminism over the past decade, let's just hope that the U.S. Presidential election (and all the other elections, for that matter) can look past the celebration of cultural milestones and look to merit for their selection.

And then on an unrelated note, Tina Fey's portrayal of Sarah Palin is hilarious!

Until next time, this is Gladys Yam.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


(Wow) October 1/2 marked the two year anniversary of my 'sojourn' in Hong Kong (left on the 1st, arrived on the 2nd.) And now, the sojourn will be extended, though I can't necessarily use the words "indefinitely" or "permanent" in any continuous sense... but I look forward to seeing what Year 3 brings.

I like the time period of 3 years. It takes a year to start building relationships and familiarize oneself with surroundings, it takes another year to build up trust and work on those relationships, and then by year 3, it's time to take more initiative. In particular, at work, this year coincides with a promotion so as to have greater influence. Not that things necessarily work in any particular pattern, but my last "Year 3" in E&Y Toronto was an extraordinarily fruitful one. The circumstances here are a lot more challenging (and a lot less friendly), but that just means I need to spend more time in prayer to see how God will provide opportunity for Him. Plus, living beside the office is a huge benefit. :p

With the financial downturn, my workload, being a pipeline of IPOs, has lightened considerably (noting, that the workload wasn't too heavy to begin with :p) The emptiness just means that I need to better motivate myself to spend time on important
things like reading up on IFRS... something that takes quite a bit of motivation! :P

Meanwhile, I've been happy to be disciplined enough to work out twice a week and then work on my queue of personal tasks in the evening (writing devotions, Sunday school preparation, reading, talking to David -- no particular order :p) It has been very enjoyable to find a certain balance in my daily routine and I am very thankful for that. Still seeking to improve discipline with sleeping, but at least it hasn't gone past 2am in a while. :p

The start of year 3 is pretty good so far... Very thankful. :)

Until next time, this is Gladys Yam.

Friday, September 05, 2008

English Roadtrip - July 2008 - Closing

This post is mainly for completeness, though it feels nice to FINALLY close off this series of (12!) blogs. All in all, it was a great trip -- to admire His wonderful creation, to enjoy the joyous fellowship of friends and family, to appreciate mankind's history, culture, and gastronomy, to work through our spiritual deficiencies and to re-find His Grace -- and for all that, I am thankful.

Two more funny points to share:

1. Disconnected -- I was extremely disconnected throughout the trip, since I had no patience for the wireless connection at Rhinefield House, and our B&Bs also did not have internet connection. Granted, I did check email at various times on my phone, but only occasionally due to the slow speed (ok, I'm spoiled in Hong Kong.) In the end, it was likely a good thing for me.

In contrast, my mom checked email and internet at least five times as frequently as me, and it seemed like she almost checked every night at Rhinefield House (I checked only twice, out of necessity for communication with our Bath tour guide and the horseriding place.) Here, we are enjoying our wonderful dinner after the windy hike at Hadrian's Wall, while my mom was very much enjoying the free internet access. I didn't even do that...she is so into it! It's great!

2. Text messaging -- Incidentally, it also involves my mom, and I was greatly surprised at her text messaging savviness. My dad followed in another car behind me, and while we had walkie-talkies to communicate, it was easy to lose each other through city traffic or roundabouts. There were two times when we lost each other in a major way and both times, we were able to rejoin at various landmarks due to my mom's text messaging skills. Way to go!

That pretty much sums it up for this trip; it was a great one!
Until next time, this is Gladys Yam.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

English Roadtrip - July 2008 - The Spiritual Renewal Tour II

Well, after coming back to the right spiritual centre, we continued on the rest of our journey until I departed from my parents in Manchester (they continued to 'play' in England, while Alison and I took the train to London). Unfortunately, it wasn't without difference of opinion, since my family had an idea of how they wanted to spend the rest of their vacation and I provided different practical suggestions, but in the end, they worked it out.

In London, Alison and I saw Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which... was not the greatest musical. Did I emphasize already that it was really cheesy? Nonetheless, despite the cheesy music and costumes, to me, there was an effect like a sung sermon on the Joseph story. Since I had never heard the music before, the lyrics of "Close Every Door" touched me.. in fact, I found myself very much in tears at the reprise of this song at the closing. [Probably the only one in the theatre, I think! :p]

"If my life were important I
Would ask will I live or die
But I know the answers lie
Far from this world"

Why? The Joseph story is about his obedience to God in all circumstances -- after having been sold as a slave to Egypt, after being falsely accused for a crime -- but despite his circumstances, through his obedience, God used him in a great way to serve his family (especially his brothers who betrayed his life) and his people (the Israelites). And, it reminds me of myself (actually, everyone), because I believe God has similar requirements of obedience for each of us. I have been thinking about that lately for myself, since I believe God brought me to Hong Kong... but what next? Surely, Ernst & Young is not the world and my entire life. ;) As part of the search for direction, I think the Joseph story reminded me of simple obedience. Daily.

I guess I have quite settled into my many years at Ernst & Young. I know it is a lot more comfortable than I think is healthy. I think I was crying because the thought of leaving this huge comfort zone is scary... even paralyzing. It is so uncertain that leads to the feeling of being lost...

What I felt was a reminder of the need for daily prayer and continued searching. Through it, I believe God will show me his way for me to find it. So who knows where my life will lead, but I trust it will be used, if I allow it. And in this daily obedience, we may find joy and peace. :)

A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? -- Ecclesiastes 2:24-25

Saturday, August 30, 2008

English Roadtrip - July 2008 - The Pride & Prejudice and Spiritual Renewal Tour I

After such a disastrous day, that night, I was quite upset, disappointed, frustrated, angry... but after coming down from all of that, I was humbled. I felt like I had to be broken down... through my pride (of *my* vacation and schedule and ways), through my prejudices (of my family or other things that can be "blamed")... and be brought back to my bareness and depravity, coming back into the hand of God, which does not happen unless I relinquish my life. I am thankful that Alison was there for prayer, so that we could come back to such spiritual matters that are of utmost importance. Nothing else compares.

The next morning, we departed from York and rerouted our journey. Though it was a day late, we came to Fountains Abbey. This is/was Britain's largest abbey. Through the ruins, the visitor may imagine how great this abbey may have been in its heyday in the 13th to 14th centuries. Ironically, it is despite its "greatness"; its spirituality is what undergirded the institution.

After coming to this point, spiritually, I was truly looking forward to enjoying the open air, sitting around the ruins, and reading and meditating through the Bible. It is only when I recognize my place before God that everything starts to make sense again. And in his Word, I find joy in praising Him and peace in contemplating his design. The monks during that time would have read through the book of Psalms in under a week. And so, I thoroughly enjoyed the day of spiritual renewal in the Word. [Plus, ruins are like a "playground for adults", it was fun to explore the area!]

O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
above the heavens.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?

-- Psalms 8:1,3,4

As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it
-- Isaiah 55:10-11

You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Isaiah 55:12

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

-- Psalm 121:1-4

How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
-- Psalm 84:1,2,10

Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
For the LORD is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;

-- Psalm 95:1-6

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever present help in time of trouble.
Therefore, we will not fear,
though the mountains be moved into the herat of the sea,
though the waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
-- Psalm 46:1-3

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.
-- Psalm 136:1-3

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

English Roadtrip - July 2008 - The Everything-Go-Wrong Tour

All right, it would never be possible for such a lovely vacation to have gone off perfectly without a hitch, would it now? So here we have the "Everything Go Wrong Tour (Day)". Thankfully, it was just one day that went perfectly wrong.

We stayed the night in Keyworth (my parents were with my mom's friend in Bingham), and because of transportation issues, I had to go and pick up my parents to bring them back to their car in Keyworth. i wasn't happy because that arrangement would cause us to be at least an hour late from our original plan.

I just add this picture here because I was wearing pink and black... the same colours that Alison wore that morning. To her credulity, I actually felt 'bothered' enough to change T-shirts so that we wouldn't wear the same colours. [Looking back, she was wearing a shade of purple anyway.] She teased that my sister didn't do her job to wean me from feeling uncomfortable about such a silly thing. I attribute this discomfort from a deeper seated psychological need to assert my uniqueness. So in the end, I changed to yellow. :p

When I left Keyworth, I noticed that my car temperature shot up to maximum after five minutes; in fact, the car was pretty hot for the previous day as well. So, when we get to Bingham, I popped the hood for my dad to check (since he knows these things). Well, the problem was simple... we have been overheating for the past two days. We proceeded to pour water into the tank, at the beginning it just guzzled it up because it was basically just converting to steam... evidently there was nothing in there, and it ate up a LOT of water.

We went on our way back to Keyworth (to pick up my aunts too) and they were not ready! In fact, their clothes were still being hung out to dry! They took some time to get ready and by then, I was rather upset at being about two hours late.

Along the way to York, the Indicator light came on. Since Alison expressed her (rightful) disappointment at me not being open about the temperature going up for the past two days, I told her this time about the Indicator light, and she checked the car manual as to what it meant. It said something like, "If the indicator warning light comes on, do not drive the car." Well OK then! I walkie-talkied my dad and my parents said something about electrical problems. We stop the car, my dad checks under the hood, and clearly at that time, the fan wasn't working, since the car was starting to heat up again. GREAT! I call Enterprise Rent-a-car, and they tell me to call AA (like the CAA). Clearly, I was not very happy at this point!! However, the rest of my family took it well and enjoyed the stop at McDonald's. :p

Thankfully, the AA guy came within 20 minutes, ran some tests, and confirmed that the car couldn't be driven. He rigged it to his van so we would be towed to the nearest Enterprise at Mansfield, where we would have a new car. Sigh. By now, all hopes to getting to Fountains Abbey (which would close at 5pm) AFTER going through York were shot. The black car below is our new car (MUCH better, actually), and we were finally on our way to York, 4 hours late!

At York - We arrived at 3:30pm, basically kind of in time to see the cathedral and nothing else, since many things close at 6pm. But I figure, since there was nowhere else to go until Durham, we may as well stay a little longer, enjoy the city and have dinner here. We parked in a car park and split up to spend the day, aiming to go back to the car park at 8pm. I was not happy, since Fountains Abbey was probably the main thing I wanted to see on this entire trip. So, instead of walking around, Alison and I went for a late lunch with a high tea set, and I cooled down a bit. Afterwards, we enjoyed the quaint town and part of evensong at York Minster, which was soothing prayer time that I very much needed.

We all kind of forgot where the carpark was located, since it was a little way off from York Minster and the old town centre. When we got there, the gate was completely shut and LOCKED! I was in total dismay... because I knew there would be absolutely no way of getting the car out (it was a National Car Park... run by a government agency). Sigh, so easily can we blame this as "typical UK", where car parks don't operate past 7:30pm.

Thankfully, my family took things really well and we set off to look for a place to stay in York. And also thankfully, Janey and Nabeel in London helped me with some online bookings, and we found a place to rest for the night.

What a disastrous day!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

English Roadtrip - July 2008 - The Chinese Food Tour

Well, after all, I am Chinese, and this is my tour, so inevitably, there would be some element of Chinese-ness in it. My auntT has a good friend who lives in Swindon, and my mom has a good friend who lives in Bingham, near Nottingham. Naturally, our trip was to encompass visiting them (sorry Alison) so that they could show their hospitality.

To start off though, before Alison, auntHK and I arrived, the rest of the party had spent a day and a half in England, and for one day, they took the train into London Chinatown!! Here is my mom, auntM and auntT. I imagine this was before they bought roasted duck(s?) on the train back to Rhinefield House to prepare dinner that night as well as lunch the next day. For, when Alison, auntHK and I arrived around noon, we were awaited with instant noodles and roasted duck! A "homey" lunch before the trek out to Stonehenge, I suppose. :)

Swindon is not really known for anything in particular, other than having an outlet mall, it seemed. Of course, as a "Chinese tour", we would definitely hit it. Both Alison and I purchased some stuff from here, as well as auntHK, who is not known for buying things!! This is the UK-style outlet mall. :p Second picture is the friends of auntT, the husband who is a pastor of a Chinese church in Swindon. For dinner that night, they treated us to a BIG dinner of UK-style Chinese food (the owner of the restaurant who goes to his church, I think).

Later on the trip, we visited my mom's friend in Keyworth. Well, my mom's friends actually lives in the town of Bingham, but owns a Chinese take-out restaurant(!) in Keyworth. Both towns surround the larger city of Nottingham. My relatives stayed above the restaurant in Keyworth, and Alison and I found a very nice bed & breakfast down the street. Keyworth is a tiny, modern village (population under 10,000??), so we didn't expect to find any B&Bs there. However, Keyworth is also "Home of the BGS" -- the British Geological Survey -- and amusingly, the BGS website had a good listing of B&Bs catering to international geologists who need to go to the BGS. The funny thing was that every B&B on the list would state the walking time to the BGS -- obviously, the main 'attraction' of this tiny village.

As this is where my mom's friend has lived for many years. I had to do my 'daughterly duties' and talk to the auntie, and I dragged Alison there to eat the Chinese take-out food. Alison wasn't really looking forward to that (after all, we were in England, not known for its Chinese food??) but once we sat down, we both started to eat really fast because the sweet & sour stuff hit the spot! In particular, they had a super-crispy version of sweet & sour pork that was really good (imagine sweet & sour pork but cut into half centimetre shreds, and each individually dipped and fried). In the end, Alison actually ate a lot of her rice too -- apparently, a rare feat! Hahaha... it was a very funny meal.

And finally, in London, since Janey is always deprived of Chinese food in London, the four of us (Janey, Ina, Alison and me) went out for Chinese food twice to satisfy her cravings. Not that it was great, but to be fair, English food is not that great either. :p No pictures of HK Diner or the other place, but here we are in front of St. Martin's by Trafalgar Square before we went to dinner. Fun times. :)

Until next time, this is Gladys Yam.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

English Roadtrip - July 2008 - The Cute Cities and High Tea Tour

The quaintness of the cities below, married with the habit of enjoying afternoon high tea made for a vacation that was quintessentially English... scones with clotted cream (both not too buttery, of course) and jam... yum... while we didn't exactly have the full set at *every* location listed below, I did have 4 scones over the vacation. I had it once coming back to Hong Kong (not the same), and so I'm good for six months, I think!

Bath - The Pump Room is well-known for its high tea accompanied by live music. The room is a "neo-classical salon" that is beautiful in its simple and elegant decor. Here are my parents at the table! The Pump Room is adjacent to the Roman Baths, and as an educational service to the people who visited the Roman Baths, they serve the mineral-packed spa water for you to taste. As I said, it's mineral-packed (or, rather, it seemed like it was just packed with sulphur)... it tasted.. disgusting. However, my mom, being able to move paste these superficialities to the nutritional value, downed three glasses!!

Cotswolds - area denotes the rolling hills area in mid-southern England. As I mentioned before, it is best on horseback, and so we went! About horseback riding, it is tiring and uses some muscles that never seemed to exist! Therefore, there is a need to "stretch out" after the exercise. :p

While I am not a "typical girl" to appreciate the full satisfaction of horseback riding through the English countryside, the ride was peaceful, beautiful and enjoyable nonetheless -- it was peaceful as long as I could control my horse from eating all the high grass, shrubs, or trees that it came across. The funniest thing was that Janey's horse ate EVERYTHING in its path. :p In the other picture below, the plains were full of sheep happily eating away! What a simple, yet full life!

Bourton-on-the-Water is one of the towns in the Cotswolds area. Though much of the buildings retain their original forms, the Lonely Planet says, "this town has sold its soul to the tourism industry"... and indeed, it was packed with tourists who came admire the quaint little stream with quaint little bridges, lined with quaint little rose bushes and stately shrubs. Haha, we enjoyed great weather, so it was a great day walking around outside.

The Lakes District is not as historic as Cotswolds, but is quaint in a more modern 'small town' way. The numerous swans also made for amusing episodes since they are no longer afraid of anything in their path! Walking around the lakesides made for very peaceful walks around these gentle waters.

York has a local chain of tea cafes called Betty's, and Alison and I enjoyed a late lunch and tea here. Yum... the pastries and food were all prepared SO very beautifully! This was a long day (to be explained later), so sitting down for a quiet tea time was much needed and very appreciated.

London - by All Souls Church at Langham Place is Langham Hotel, where we enjoyed high tea tea at The Landau. The environment, service, and food were all exquisite... nor did they regard us as a bunch of silly Chinese girls! Of course, the most important thing about spending time eating is the company, and we were lucky to catch Ina and another of Alison's friend in London that weekend!

What a simple joy it is to eat and drink amongst good company!

Until next time, this is Gladys Yam.