Happy Lunar New Year!

It’s 5am and I’m up again because I can’t fall back asleep. This has been happening a lot lately, and usually when it happens it is because I have a lot on my mind. I have been thinking a lot about the things I want to do over the next couple months and on the top of the list is writing. I don’t mean writing like this kind of writing; this is blogging. I mean writing as in getting back to what I started 4 years ago, writing Her Story. I believe writing is a significant part of my personal growth, which came to a halt when I stopped writing about a year and a half ago. I will explain why this stall even occurred in my next post, but for now let’s move on.

We are in the midst of new year celebrations here in Hong Kong, so it’s a holiday for a lot of people. Even though it is my first time celebrating Chinese New Year in Asia, I prefer to stay in and avoid the crowds everywhere, rather than going out and immersing myself in all the festivities. In fact, I have spent the majority of the time at home since moving here, and I can probably count the number of times I’ve left Tung Chung (the district we live in). It might seem a bit strange to others, but I am the kind of person who feels very comfortable staying at home, and if I didn’t have to go out to buy food I could literally stay in the apartment for weeks.

I realized that not everyone is a homebody when my boyfriend started worrying about me being bored. The truth is I never feel bored because there is always something to do at home. If I’m not cleaning, I’m organizing. If I’m not blogging, I’m reading. I still haven’t had the chance to start practicing my Chinese writing, which might have to wait because I have a secret project to start working on from home. [It’s not really a big secret. It just sounds more exciting that way.] The list doesn’t stop there. Besides all the physical things on the to-do list, a big part of why I am such a homebody is because I am a thinker. When I am not physically doing things my mind is still constantly active, thinking about things to do, evaluating situations, making mental plans, finding understanding in various aspects of life. I don’t ever have the chance to feel bored. This is why the home is a very important place to me; it provides the environment for me to thrive in whatever it is that I’m doing while in it. That is also why a lot of thought was put into every detail of the renovation. I keep wanting to talk about that and share pictures of our home, but there are hundreds of photos that still need to be organized and compiled properly. I will get to it as soon as I can. I promise!

Rest assured you’re almost at the fun stuff… the pictures! Some pictures, anyway.

Like I said before, I don’t often go out and explore Hong Kong. I was here twice on vacation so I’ve already done the sightseeing. However, I do enjoy going out every now and then just to take a break from the norm. Last Thursday was one of those rare times. Eric and I went out and enjoyed half the day in Central, the business district in HK. It is also home to some of the most renowned restaurants in the city. We decided to have afternoon tea at Mo Bar, which I guess is short for Mandarin Oriental, the hotel it is situated in. Afternoon tea is popular in HK due to its British influence and is offered pretty much everywhere. We picked Mo Bar simply because it was close to where we were and we liked the menu, so we gave it a try. Since we didn’t have a reservation, we were seated at the bar. That turned out to be a good thing because the bartender was very observant and he kept refilling our teapot. I was impressed by his pleasant service. The savouries were great and pretty much my favourite out of everything. The pastries were hit & miss for me. I sacrificed the lemon tart and the mini cupcake because they were too sour for my liking. The scones were good but crumbly. Overall, it was good enough to tie us over until dinner, which was going to be the big event of the day.

We walked around IFC Mall, which connects the two IFC towers. [For my Toronto friends who aren’t familiar with HK, IFC is short for International Finance Centre. Tower 2 is the second tallest building in Hong Kong and one of the iconic buildings seen in the HK skyline.] Eric and I aren’t luxury brand shoppers, so most of the shops at the mall weren’t of interest to us. However, it was a nice mall to walk around in because it wasn’t very crowded. We also took a walk in the “Bamboo Forest of Happiness” that was specially set up at the mall for Chinese New Year. (You can learn more about it here.)

IFC is also home to Hong Kong’s first Apple store. The flagship store consists of two storeys, and its big windows provide a nice view of the city. As I passed by customers, I heard most of them speaking in Mandarin, so it’s safe to assume that most of the customers are from China. But I guess that’s pretty much the norm at any mall in HK nowadays. Before dinner, we took a quick stroll to enjoy the night lights of the city.

Finally, we’re at dinner. My boyfriend and I had been craving Peking duck, so after doing some research online the night before we made reservations at one of the highly rated restaurants, Peking Garden. Let me just say…it did not disappoint.

Upon arriving at the restaurant, my first impression of it was it had a nice, traditional Chinese interior. After being seated, I started to notice the little details: the fine tableware, the embroidered napkins and tablecloth with the restaurant name, the menu printed and bound like a photo book, and the garment-bag covers to protect jackets and coats from getting dirty for those who were seated in the aisle. The restaurant’s attention to detail impressed me, but we hadn’t eaten yet at that point so I still had reservations about the restaurant.

Now for the Peking duck. A wait staff brought the duck over to us to show us the duck’s whole form, which was surprisingly bigger than expected, before asking how we wanted it cut. We like eating our Peking duck with skin and meat together, rather than the skin alone and meat separately, so we asked for that and for the rest of the duck to be brought to the table chopped up. It was nice that they gave us the option. When the duck was finally served, we had two plates of carved duck slices and a steamer with the pancakes used to wrap the duck. The thickness of the pancakes were perfect, in my opinion. The cucumber slices, however, where in bigger chunks than I wanted it to be. As for the duck, it was the best Peking duck I’ve had, and that includes the Peking duck I had in its hometown of Beijing. The skin’s crispiness was perfect, while the meat was nice and tender. It was absolutely delicious.

Since we considered this our special early Chinese New Year dinner / early Valentine’s Day dinner, we splurged a little and ordered 3 extra dishes. It was obviously way too much food for two people, but since having extra food and being plentiful is a good thing for CNY, we thought we’d take advantage of it. Eric suggested the deep-fried prawns in salted egg yoke. I had never had that dish before and deeply regret not trying it sooner. They were so good! The prawns were quite big in size too. Our second dish was the braised bean curd with assorted seafood. Just something a bit lighter and a bit healthier. It wasn’t anything special. Last but not least we got Peking noodles with minced pork & shredded cucumber. It was actually done quite well, but the star of the night was definitely the duck, with the prawns following right behind.

You’re probably wondering how the two of us ate that much food. To be honest, I don’t even know. We did bring home the remainder of the duck and 3 out of the 5 prawns. Saturday ended up being another feast day because we had Chinese New Year Eve dinner at home. It was actually a day before CNY eve, but Eric had a flight to Sydney late that night and wasn’t going to be home for the most important family dinner of the year, so we had our reunion dinner a night early. [It is tradition to unite with family to have a feast on the eve of CNY, and the dishes served usually have some sort of meaning behind them.] Our dinner was part traditional and part whatever-worked-for-us. We bought roasted pork and chicken, Eric made salmon, and we steamed some lettuce to symbolize good fortune. Paired with rice and soup, that was our dinner. Nothing too fancy. Leftovers were boxed up to carry forward into the new year as a symbol of starting the new year being plentiful and having more than enough.

On that note, I need to stop typing because you are probably tired of reading by now. Until next time…

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