Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Toy Story at Harbour City

There is a new Toy Story themed section at the HK Disneyland. So of course, they need to advertise it all over the place. Disneyland/the Harbour City mall, has put up a massive Toy Story Christmas decorations outside the mall. They are very nicely done and I wanted to get more pictures. But so did everyone else:

This is the start, the mall is on the other end of this crowded craziness:

Standing on the steps of the entrance to the mall and looking back:

The entrance to the mall:

Overhead decorations: 

Tree inside the mall. Those are aliens!! So cute. 

Holiday decorations at IFC

Holiday decorations at the IFC Mall:

The 2-3 story main piece, very impressive:

Christmas Holiday weekend

Happy holidays!! I have so much stuff I want to write about. I guess I'll start with posting some pictures. I went mall hopping yesterday (Monday) in order to take pictures of Christmas decorations before they get taken down. I have to say, the ones at Festival Walk are still the best ones I've seen so far. 

Finishing a 4 day weekend that consisted of not working at all! Must be a record... I left a little bit after 5:30pm on Friday to take the bus back to Zhongshan. I slept the entire way from HK to Shenzhen border and then it started to get colder and colder. It was so much colder in Zhongshan than in HK! I did a lot of eating and not too much else. I wish I hadn't been fed enormous meals because there were a lot of really good looking street food that I wanted to try. Sigh... 

I came back to HK Sunday afternoon and went to the gym to use the sauna. There were so many people using the sauna. I don't really like it when people chat very loudly. Maybe it's just the one in Mongkok. The one in TST doesn't seem to be very crowded at all. I went to a bento takeout place that I walked by once and got my Christmas meal of sushi rice and chicken wings:

Woke up on Monday and skyped with family while they opened presents. I got passed around and was even in a family photo or two. Man, that picture must be weird... Anyway, it was fun. Glad we managed to get Skype working on both ends.

I went to get my hair straightened in the afternoon using a Groupon deal. Alas, they made me pay more because they claimed that my deal didn't cover straightening. And then the guy talked me into using better chemicals. The process took forever as usual. They only did the flat ironing once. I still managed to finish two books on my Kobo and started on a third book. I have to say, I think the end product is much better than last time. I don't see any fried or split ends so far. Hopefully the quality will still be the same after I wash my hair.

Then I went to redeem two more Groupon deals, one for a Vietnamese sandwich and another for pasta takeout. The Vietnamese sandwich was not bad. Still not like the ones back home but definitely better than the other place I found. Their coffee was pretty good as well. I think if I end up working at a site in Central, I'll be visiting this place a lot. 

Then I carried my pasta takeout around with me mall hopping. I went to the IFC and Ocean Terminal/Harbour City. These malls are very big so this is no small feat. Pictures in upcoming posts. Bought another pair of hiking boots at Timberlands in Harbour City.

Today (Tuesday) is still a public holiday. I decided to go museum hopping. I realized I haven't been to any of the museums around town and felt that I should go. The admission fee is pretty cheap, at least, reasonable compared to US prices. I went for the year-long pass, which gives me unlimited access to all the museums for the price of 100 HKD. The family deal is $200 for 4 people, which is even better. Some of these museums are made for kids and buying a year-long pass means you don't have to force yourself to go through the entire museum in one go. 

I started off at the Space Museum. I thought the exhibits were very old and not too interesting. There were some games and simulations for kids though, like a moon walk, glider simulation, etc. They were pretty interesting looking but I didn't bother to try. Didn't want to be fighting little kids over them. The Art Museum had pretty interesting exhibits. I think I would go back once they change their exhibits. The Science Museum was definitely for little kids. There were a lot of interactive stuff but they were not as involved as the ones at the Space museum. There is a huge Gutenberg contraption that circles around the inside of the museum. Really want to see that in action. 

I went to the History Museum last. That was the most interesting one! It starts off with the natural history of HK. They had a lot of displays of how the HK islands were formed, the geological processes, and also rock samples. This was very interesting for me because I've been learning a lot about HK geology at work and haven't had the chance to actually see these rocks. There are actually some geo-parks managed by the government with well marked trails that lets you see all the interesting rock formations in HK. These parks are out of the way to get to so they're definitely a whole day thing. Anyway, after the geology stuff, the exhibits then talk about ancient people, how they lived, artifacts recovered, etc. Then there are there is a section on more modern stuff about the different Chinese people and cultures. Upstairs has recent history stuff but I was too tired to keep going. 

I nearly forgot to go to the flower street to get more plants for the office. My basil plant has officially died so now I need to replace it with something. I got a small bamboo plant and a bulb for a water flower. Not sure how this water flower is supposed to work but I'll look it up. Hopefully they won't all die at the office again. I also got some seeds but I'll work on the living plants first.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Outdoor concert under a lunar eclipse

Apologies in advance for no pictures in this post. I want to finish this quickly so that I can go to sleep and then wake up to go to the gym tomorrow. I've been slacking on this morning gym attendance. I've been keeping track of the number of times I've been to the gym. I read a book where the author kept track of his gym attendance using (total amount spent)/(number of times) to get the amount of money paid per visit. The amount of money paid goes down every time he goes to the gym. His goal was to get the $$/session to be below the one time fee (because otherwise he could have just paid the one time fee every time) and then he can stop going! I have some work to do if I want to follow this.

This weekend was relaxing and eventful at the same time. I didn't do much Saturday morning other than buying my flight to Thailand! So excited for this vacation!! More on this later. I made some blueberry pancakes for breakfast and lunch. I went to Ikea and got one more set of comforter covers. Now my bed is very appealing, with two sets of down covers. Also got another bag of Swedish meatballs. I can't help myself! Then I went to TST for another massage. The masseuse kept saying I'm very stiff and that I needed to relax. I swear I wasn't being tense on purpose.

After this, I found my way to an outdoor concert and met up with a friend there. The place was filled with foreigners and expats. I'm not sure I enjoy being around so many drunk people. We tried to squeeze to the front of the main stage because it was impossible to see anything from the back. People were very tightly packed in. The music wasn't all that great, to be honest. I couldn't really hear much of the music at all, nevermind the lyrics to the songs. Anyway, the cool part was that there was a total lunar eclipse going on. The band on stage pointed it out. We basically got to watch the whole eclipse happen during the performance. The nice part about this event was that they ended it at around 10:30pm so that people can still take public transit back home. I'm very against having to take a cab because we overstayed by 5 minutes. Anyhow, I chatted with friends of my friend on the way back. I suppose I should get more exposed to the expat world here since people's stories are very interesting. Actually, people generally find my story to be pretty interesting and it's always nice to talk about myself. hahaha.

Sunday morning was not very productive either. I did managed to go get my laundry, drop off more laundry, and buy food before coming back and talking to friends and family online. At around 3pm, I really wanted to get out of the house and walk around nature so I took the bus to the monkey mountain again. There were a lot more monkeys and people this time of the day. I think next time I should go earlier. I'm not actually all that fond of the monkeys. So many trails to explore in this region! I have to say, I have a lot more confidence in my hiking abilities after the Inner Challenge.

I didn't hike for too long because I didn't want to be somewhere in the mountains when it got dark. I took the bus back down to the city and went to the gym. I used to really dislike the stationary bikes but then I discovered some that would let me sit very comfortably while reading a book. This made the bikes a lot more appealing. I had dinner at a Japanese place because I really wanted raw salmon. They're so good! Eating fatty stuff without feeling guilty.

I did some massive cleaning after I got back, mostly of the bathroom. Even though my space is not that big, it's still a big effort to clean the entire place in one go. So I switch off between the bathroom, the kitchen, and the rest of the place. I usually find a dead cockroach after I do a lot of cleaning though (usually after I move the couch around). Cockroaches are so gross! We'll see what happens tomorrow morning...

That's all for now. Next week will be my last massage at the massage place I've been going to. And lots of Skype appointments next week.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas decorations

Left work at 7pm today (Friday). So early that I don't know what to do with myself now. haha. I had time to go buy some turtle jelly, cook pasta, wash my hair at night, do some budgeting calculations to make sure I have enough money for a Thailand vacation, and blog!

I've been meaning to post some pictures of Christmas in HK. The malls go all out with decorations! Here's a HUGE pyramid made with Ferrero Rocher:

I hope you can get a sense of how big this thing is. A lot of people were taking pictures so I took some too.

The office has its own Christmas tree and "Christmas flowers". We are also getting a delivery of "Christmas flowers" on Saturday. I don't think we get to keep them though because there's a removal date scheduled.

Festival Walk, the mall attached to my office building has gone all out with Christmas decorations. They took a week or so to put up. They have all very nice! I think the reindeer are very cute. I want a picture of me riding one. But I think that has to happen when the security aren't around. Maybe one of these late nights...

(these are all in different places around the mall)

And of course, the tree. This tree is so huge that I couldn't get it all in one shot. It's not a real tree. It took a couple of weeks to put up. The total height is 5 tall stories.

This is under the tree. There's a whole exhibit under the tree with a bench for Santa. 

 I've heard that the other fancy malls also go all out with decorations. I guess I should do some mall hopping the next few weekends. I'm also starting a Hello Kitty spotting photo collection on Facebook.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Annual Dinner

Every weekend is another adventure. The highlight of this weekend was the company's Annual Dinner. This has to be the biggest company event every year. The entire office of 1,000+ people is invited, along with the option to bring one guest. So there were 150+ tables (12 people per table). It was held in the Grand Ballroom of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, which is another huge venue in itself. The convention center is gigantic. They can accommodate a crazy number of events at once. Not that I've been to very many convention centers but this one has to be the biggest one I've ever been to.

The evening consisted of lots and lots of picture taking, eating, and watching the entertainment provided. The pictures will surface very soon, I think. There were so many people that I didn't even get a chance to find everyone I knew. The event was more than just dinner. We had live music and dance. They hired some celebrities to MC the event. There were mini contests and raffle drawings. Most people left after the final drawing for $10,000 HKD. Some of us stayed behind to take more pictures and dance with the dancers. There were less awards and ceremony than I had anticipated though. They started the evening out with recognizing the 10 year and 25 year Long Service Award recipients. You get a silver bar for the 10 year one. Not sure about the 25 year one (gold bar?). Even if I end up at a different office, if I manage to last 10 years with this company, I would fly back and get my silver bar here.

This past week was a very tiring week. I went to a three day training course for Plaxis, a finite element program that is made for soil modeling. We use it a lot at work and I thought it would be useful to go and learn the ins and outs of the program. I don't think my supervisor entirely agreed with us spending three days on such a training course. But I felt like I learned quite a bit. Anyway, the classes took the entire day and were held on HK Island. Everyday, the few of us from the company would surround the instructors and badger them with questions. I went back to work afterwards, which naturally meant really long days. I felt pretty drained by Friday and decided not to go back to work on Saturday even though it seems like we keep having more deadlines to meet.

I spent Saturday mostly hanging around the house. I managed to put up some wall decals that I bought a while back from Groupon:

This one is in my living room:

This one is in my bedroom:

They make my space happier. I wish they had some color though. I didn't like the designs with color so I picked out these two. I've seen wall decals at other stores as well so maybe I'll get one more to add some color to these.

I also bought some green tea toilet paper. I ran out of toilet paper earlier this week and hadn't had time to go buy any.

I met up with a high school friend who was in town for her cousin's wedding. I took her to the dim sum place that I always take my guests to. We ordered way too much food. I wasn't all that into eating either since my stomach wasn't feeling that well after the annual dinner (too much alcohol!). We each did a little summary of what we've been up to for the last 6 years. Can't believe it's been 6 years since I graduated high school. That means it's been 10 years since I started high school. I feel old...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Epic adventures

Truly epic weekend! The highlights are bowling and hot pot on Friday, followed by a 30km hike on Saturday. Our long awaited, much discussed, team gathering happened on Friday. Our group has been talking about having a team gathering for the 20+ people in our team. One of the girls who is now working on site organizes a lot of these team events, finally got around to planning everything out.

The bowling lanes were booked for 2 hours, from 6:30-8:30pm. Of course, it was expected that we would all be late so she booked 2 lanes for the first hour and 3 lanes for the next hour. Once we got everything going, we split ourselves up into the available lanes and played until time was up. I think everyone participated so it was a lot of fun. There was a lot of cheering, jokes, and laughter.

Some former members of the team showed up for the hot pot part. This was the worst preparatory dinner possible for my upcoming hike. We ate a  lot of seafood and other random things. We kind of split ourselves up into a "kids" table and an "adults" table. The "kids" table wasn't full but we ordered and ate a ton of food. The other table didn't seem to eat as much. It was nice to see everyone having fun and chatting.

After this massive dinner, I went on a 30km hike with some other graduate engineers in our company. Our company sponsors the Inner Challenge, a annual charity hiking event. The charity and organizer is Breakthrough Village, which is a non-profit that puts on events for young people. Teams have to raise a certain amount of money in order to participate in the hike. There's a 8km, 15km, and 30km event. I think all of our corporate teams participated in the 30km event. We had at least 5 teams that I know of participate. Each team consists of 4 members. There were a lot of people participating. There were 100+ teams total, mainly high school and university students.

Our team consisted of all first year geotech graduates. Other teams were a mix of people from different disciplines. Our team was lucky in that the organizer is also from geotech and we have a strong support team from last year's participants. Three guys from last year's group helped us out by buying us congee and other food and driving to meet us at the check points. One of the guys from last year's group really likes hiking and did a 100km hike the weekend before. He somehow was still full of energy and helped us out by walking with us part of the way. I'm not sure I know any other team with someone like that as support.

The hike started at 2pm. I met my team at the Breakthrough Village, which is at the base of Ma On Shan, a bit past noon. We dropped off our stuff with our support team and took a lot of photos with the Arup banner and the Breakthrough mascot (a match). The hike started off pretty easy with a walk along the river. We set a fast pace and was trying to get to the front of the pack. Unfortunately, we didn't managed to get far enough and got into a human traffic jam at the first difficult part of the hike. This first part was truly epic. We had to "hike" along a river bed of rocks. Imagine a stream with running water and lots of big rocks. I thought we just had to hop across and be done with that bit of the hike. It turns out, we had to hike along the stream for a pretty long while before coming back up to the trails. It took us nearly an hour to get through that bit of the hike. It was a big energy drain to be jumping and climbing around big boulders and rocks.

Our supporting member met us at the end of this part. He helped take some of our bags to that point so that we didn't have to carry it while hopping across rocks. I think we were all surprised at the length and the physical demand on this early part of the hike. There were 14 checkpoints total and 3 major ones that were popular spots for supporting teams to wait for their teams. We blasted through the first part and got to the first major checkpoint before our supporting team arrived. So we actually waited around for longer than we wanted to. We had only completed less than 1/5th of the entire hike but one of our team members was already having cramps and had been falling behind. He didn't expect the hike to be so harsh. I honestly wouldn't have either if I hadn't gone on the practice hike. Good thing I had been working out at the gym lately. The other two guys were fine. One of them is very fit and exercises a lot. The other guy is a geologist and runs up mountains for a living.

By the time we started the next part of the hike, the sun was already setting. This next part consisted of going up Ma On Shan (Horse Saddle Mountain). The elevation view of the hike is located here and the contour map here. The huge 450m climb is the Ma On Shan part. I've done this part of the hike on the practice hike but it was definitely different in the dark. I don't mind the uphill part so much. I mean, you need a lot of strength and endurance but it's fine if you're able to keep going. I really hated the downhill part. The impact on my feet and knees felt really painful. Our team member whose legs had already cramped up had trouble keeping up with our pace. Luckily, our supporting member was there to push him along and help carry his bag. I think we all got a bit impatient at the end though, trying to get to the next major check point to get refreshments from our support team.

I swear I've never had such good congee in my life as the one we had on the side of the road. Our support team got us duck eggs and pork congee, tofu fa, bananas and sports drinks. The guys were really awesome. They were actually supporting two teams. The other team was slightly behind us the entire way.

We all felt recharged after that second rest stop and made up some lost time in this next part. I was starting to feel really tired since it was getting close to midnight. I really thought we could finish the entire thing within 10 to 11 hours. But it actually took us close to 14 hours. I won't go into a play-by-play of the entire hike since this post is getting really long. I will post some pictures later.

The event is called Inner Challenge because it's not a race. It's supposed to be a team bonding and mental and physical challenge for all the participants. Hiking in the middle of the night is definitely a new challenge. At the last part, I felt so tired that it took a lot of effort to stay focused on the trail. The trails were also not easy. Most of it was not a nice dirt trail but consisted of large boulders, rocks, random paths through the forest, and other small trails. I think it would have been better if we hadn't taken so long because hiking for 14 hours is definitely an exhausting activity. We were the 20th team (out of 56) to finish. I think a lot of teams must've had a lot of members drop out or entire teams dropped out on the way. It's quite a challenging activity and could be very harsh for people who aren't prepared.

One of the guys on our support team has a car and drove us all home afterwards. I think I got back at around 5 or 6am. I showered and passed our until 11am. I got some dim sum and pineapple juice and ate while calling home. After this, I passed out again until around 4pm. I treated myself to a burger and frozen yogurt. I also went to the sauna at my gym in hopes that this will help me be less sore tomorrow. I feel pretty stiff but not as bad as after a half-marathon.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Health and beauty weekend

I think I can really get used to this sauna and massage thing. Well, my massage session will end soon but I can always to go my gym for the sauna.

I went to the office on Saturday but didn't end up doing any actual work. I went to print out and bind some building codes and other guidelines that I always use. I think I'm getting to the point where I can read these codes and know what's important. At first, it just seemed like there is an endless amount and I didn't know what was what. I talked to X about the CA PE exam and she told me that we need to know the California Building Code for it. I didn't know there was one... But I'm guessing it's should be similar to ASCE stuff except with heavier emphasis on seismic. Maybe more stringent guidelines. I should really spend some time figuring out what I'm supposed to know for this exam because it seems like there's a lot of material in the exam that I won't be learning on the job. I think for the actual geotech part, I will be fine. But things like seismic, surveying, and other civil engineering topics, I won't have much exposure.

I went to the gym afterwards and was walking all over Langhram Place (the mall next door) for a decent dinner option. Things were either too pricey or I had already tried it. I ended up to going to Honeymoon desserts and had dessert for dinner. That place is really good. I need to go hang out in a different mall after my workouts. There were also a lot of people at the food court level because of a Hello Kitty Christmas display. I couldn't really see what it was because there were just too many people all trying to pose with the displays. I swear this city is crazy about Hello Kitty. Can a city have an official cartoon character?! I think I'm going to start taking pictures of Hello Kittys whenever I see them. Should be an interesting collection.

I started Sunday with a hike. I saw a reservoir while taking the bus to Shatin one day and decided to go hiking around it today. A lot of people got off at that stop as well. Hiking is actually pretty popular here. There were a lot of other people on the trail. It wasn't crowded but I definitely ran into a lot of families and groups on the way. While it is good to see other people out and about, some people are very obnoxious. The reservoir is not very big, only 1.4km for the entire loop. So if you shout, other people can hear you from across the reservoir. There was a lady who kept whooping and telling people to hurry up. There are also people who carry their own radios and blast them. One old guy actually had the FM radio going and was receiving mainly static. I don't know what he was trying to listen to.

 Can you spot the monkey?? There were a lot of monkeys. And a lot of signs telling you not to feed them.

Anyway, there are actually a series of reservoirs supplying water to the Kowloon area. There are link paths between them and I took one to get to another reservoir farther north. It was a cool day out so I felt that I had enough water, snacks, and energy to keep going. I ended up walking around that reservoir for only a little bit before attacking another family trail. I swear the category of "family trail" is very deceiving. You would think it's a walk in the park. But no, it was mostly uphill with many steps and small paths around the side of the mountain. I guess that's why it said 1km, approximately 30 minutes. I was like, there's no way 1km would taken 30 minutes. Should have known better. The end of that trail deposited me at a big road but I wasn't exactly sure where I was. I just knew that I was about 3km from where I had gotten off the bus. So I figured I was closer to the next town (neighborhood) than going back. I wandered around a bit and just  went the opposite way of other people. This was a good choice because it took me to a street with bus stops. I successfully found a bus going back to my neighborhood and took it back. I really love the public transit system here. I knew that there had to be a bus that will take me to the right place, even though I didn't even know where I was.

I showered and at lunch at KFC. Have to replenish those fat and calories lost! I walked around a bit and then went to get a haircut. My hair was getting really long. The guy definitely cut off more than 2 inches though. I think in about a month or two, I have to find some time to go get it straightened again. It's getting curly again. It's such a long process. Getting a hair cut beforehand is part of that process. I want to minimize the time I'm sitting there so I need shorter hair. Then I have to wait for my hair to grow out a bit more because after the actual hair straightening, which takes 4-5 hours, I need to get another haircut in another few days to get rid of all the split ends caused by the extreme heat.

I had another massage. This is the 4th out of my 6 paid sessions. They keep trying to sell me another package but they're not very appealing, price wise. The facilities are not bad though. They have nice showers, a sauna, a hair products. But there are better deals on Groupon! For example, their package deals, even with all the "discounts" are still $300+ (HKD) per session. Groupon deals are usually $100-ish a session. Anyway, I'm putting these massages down as a "health" expense. My masseuse says my back and legs are very hard. I should make a bigger effort to get out to MegaBox to make use of the swimming pool there.

I bought another pair of shoes after dinner. hehe. But some sales people here are way too aggressive. They will literally follow you around, chatter like crazy, and push for a sale. I mean, it gets to the point where I don't even want to ask  for the item in my size because they'll just keep pushing that or another product until I buy something. It's difficult to get yourself out! Maybe I need to learn to not be so polite about things. When my coworkers get phone calls trying to sell them stuff, they just say, "I don't need it. Thanks." and hang up. The salesman on the other end is still talking! I guess that's just the way things work here. It's much better at bigger department stores though. The employees don't seem to care as much.

Very busy week coming up: hard core work on submission, seminar on Thursday, bowling and hot pot on Friday  30 km hike on Saturday!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

November updates

Only the second post for November! This is not acceptable. I've been really busy this week. Took a taxi home three days in a row. But let's do things in chronological order.

The day after my hiking practice, I went with a friend from work to watch Tower Heist. It was a pretty good movie. It had action, suspense, and humor. It wasn't really a comedy as in there wasn't a joke and punchline every other minute. The ending got very exaggerated but it was definitely a good movie. The setting is NYC, same as the last movie I saw. There were a few "American" references that I wasn't sure an international audience would appreciate.

Anyway, interesting things about going to the movies in HK. The regular popcorn served is the caramel one. I haven't tasted butter popcorn in theaters yet and not sure if they have them. My theory is that butter (dairy product) is more expensive than sugar... Also, aside from having assigned seats, movies start on time. As in, the previews are played before the advertised time for the movie showing. Both times I've been to the movies here, I got into the theater just as the actual movie started playing. I remarked during one lunchtime to my coworkers that there doesn't seem to be previews. They were like, of course there is!

Last weekend was interesting. I went into the office on Saturday for a few hours. I arrived before noon in order to make an attempt to open another bank account. I chose the Bank of China because it offers a credit card that you can use in the Mainland without charges. I thought I had brought everything I needed but apparently a receipt for my rent does not qualify as proof of address. I had to go print out a bank statement. Anyway, I left my application as it was and went back to finish it this morning. Customer service is lacking here. They didn't really bother to explain things. But I guess it's good that they didn't try to sell me a bunch of stuff. Their online interface is very simple and you get to chose what you see right after you log in. Waiting for my ATM card to come in the mail now. Let's see if this credit card gets approved.

I went to the gym Saturday night but there's too much people there on Saturday nights. There are also too many personal trainers roaming about. They make me nervous. Could start selling me their service at any time. They roam in packs. As I was heading to the shower, I saw that the sauna was on and decided to give it a try. I started sweating intensely after about 5 minutes. I had dinner nearby and by the time I got back, I was extremely sleepy and went to bed early. I felt really sleepy the next morning as well. I felt like the sauna gave me some extra doses of melatonin.

I made a trip out to the Breakthrough Village, the host of our 30km hike on Sunday for the briefing. There were a lot more other participants than I had expected. Many of them seemed to be high school students. We felt old as we saw at the back of the auditorium wondering why we're singing songs instead of learning about useful stuff. I headed to TST after that and I had my third lympathic massage. Again, I felt extremely sleepy afterwards. I guess it's good to get more sleep on the weekends.

This week, I went from never having gone to the Buildings Department (BD) to going there every single day. All the civil engineering projects here have to be submitted to a government body for extra checking and approval. It's an interesting process. We had submitted our drawings for some trial (test) piles and had been communicating with the BD officer to address his concerns. It's apparently common to get a lot of comments and have extra conditions imposed on your submission during the approval process. This whole process takes up a lot of time and effort. But it's very interesting because you must know your own submission and project very well in order to answer questions. I'm beginning to see more and more of the entire design process here in HK. My team definitely wants me to be more independent and be able to do more of the non-analysis parts of projects.

Next week will be another long week as we are trying to push out another submission. But Thursday evening will be another geotechnical team workshop. This time it will be by the slope team. And Friday night, our team is having a team gathering. We're going bowling and then hot pot. Should be fun.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Hiking practice!

Really tired after a 15km hike today! In my last post, I mentioned that I signed up for a 30km hike. Today, a few of us did a practice hike with one of the guys who did it last year. The guy leading the hike is also in the geotech group. And it turns out that he's super fit and hikes really fast. Good thing I've been exercising somewhat lately because otherwise I would not have been able to keep up. 

The hike is mostly on trails but the trails are not easy. We started off on a concrete road and then turned into this really small trail and at some point, we totally went off any marked trails in order to cross this big hill. We got lost at this point trying to find the right trail and climbed all over the side of this mountain. Lessons learned from the first two hours of the hike: wear hiking shoes (which I did), wear long pants (which I did not). After crossing a stream, we found the first BBQ area where our support teams can meet us. Now I see how important it is to have a support team. There's no way we could carry all the food and water we want to carry. I've always got the feeling that our geotech team is very close in terms of things that need teamwork. We're always watching out for each other. Let's see if this holds true for our support team!

We went up one part of the Maclehose trail, which is one of the trails that are really well kept in HK. Things were very nicely marked at this point. But it was still a tough trail since there were a lot of rocks and other loose things on the ground. We saw people paragliding. There were a lot of other people on the trail as well. I didn't find the ascend to be particularly bad. One of the guys had a really hard time though because his legs kept cramping up. I found the descend to be more difficult because it was very hard on the knees and a lot more of the trail consisted of rocks and dirt. I went through nearly 2L of water on this part of the hike. It took us 6 hours but that was including getting lost and all. So we're looking at about 10-12 hours of hiking on the actual day. 

I finally understand how hiking can help with running. If the hike was this intense, with a lot of uphills, then it can be a really good workout for the leg muscles. I feel like running on flat land builds the lung capacity more than muscles. Anyway, I need to start training for that half marathon because I saw that they charged me. Actually, I think after the 30km hike, I might be mentally ready for a full marathon. A marathon is over in 4-5 hours but this hike will last at least twice as long!

Not going into the office this weekend. No one from my team is going into the office. Weekends should be time for recharging anyway. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pumpkins and other fun

This past week was a relatively relaxing week at work. I mean, we're still trying to make a whole lot of deadlines and such but since things weren't imminent, we didn't see the point of staying late.

On Tuesday, I organized a pumpkin carving with the other graduate engineers. Several of us went down to Taste (a supermarket) and bought a couple of pumpkins. Some of us brought some knives from home and we carved them. The knives weren't exactly the right kind, the rinds were very thick, and we didn't have a whole lot of time. But we managed to finish both of them. It was amazing how many people we managed to cram into a tiny meeting room. The company is very fond of glass walls so everyone who walked by did a double-take. My boss used the meeting room after us and he was like, what is going on here??

Thursday turned into a short day with all of us leaving by 7:30pm. It felt really early to me and I walked around my neighborhood and picked up some papayas and shui mai. The papayas were small ones and looked really good. I only wanted one but the lady stuffed three of them into a bag and it was only $10 for all of them. I'm going to make some papaya and banana milkshakes soon! I got back, realized it was still really early, so I got changed and went back out to look for some dinner. There's a place that I've been meaning to try out. They make rice in clay pots. I ordered take out and they said to come back in 15 minutes. So I decided to go shopping for a external hard drive for work. I've been meaning to do this so that I can keep a hard drive at work and have work and personal stuff separated.

I got back and watched part of a movie while eating my take out. The clay pot rice didn't turn out to be as good as I imagined. I thought that the rice would be tastier. Anyway, I saw a place that makes sticky rice. Smelled really good. I'll save that for the next time I get out early, I guess.

I'll admit that I did no work at all Friday afternoon. We had a meeting Friday morning. And then the people who were promoted to Grade 6, Senior Engineer, in the geotech group held a celebration lunch. They booked 8 tables at the dim sum restaurant and we all crammed in there. Some of the people from the site offices even came back for this. After lunch, I went around with my Inner Challenge team to fundraise.

I joined the company's Inner Challenge team where we're hiking for 30km in the mountains. We're supposed to raise funds for the Breakthrough Youth Camp as well. The company sponsors the event and we have several team participating. The youth camp was designed by the company as a charitable activity. This event is somewhat of a tradition at the office so the old timers all know what's going on. It takes a lot of time to walk around the entire office asking people for money. We collected a lot though. People are very nice. It was also interesting to finally walk around our floor and meet more people. I feel like I've never ventured out of our little corner. Getting too comfortable nowadays.

So lunch went until around 2pm. We fund raised for 2 hours. And then we had a foundations design workshop starting from 4pm. The workshop had too many speakers and went an hour over. These workshops always come with food at the end but a lot of people left by the time it ended. There weren't as many people to begin with this time. So there was a lot of leftover food which we brought back downstairs.

A lot of the food actually disappeared overnight. We think that people took them home. Anyway, I was back at the office this afternoon (Saturday) to do some calculations. I feel like I have no time to actually crunch numbers during the working hours. A few of us munched on the huge plate of salad that was still in the fridge. Very healthy lunch.

Lots of submissions on the horizon though. So I'm foreseeing a couple of very busy weeks...!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

6 Months! 10K and tailor made shirts

After next week, I will have worked for 6 months at my first job! I can't believe time has gone by so fast. At the same time, I also feel like I've been working forever. I feel like I've done an incredible amount in these past 6 months, both in terms of work and in life. I've moved to yet another country, started my first real job, got my first apartment, gotten a lot more fluent in Cantonese, learned the work culture in HK, joined a gym, and expanded my circle of friends and acquaintances. 

More on the recent stuff though. I ran a 10K today and feeling sunburn now. This race didn't feel like it had a lot of people. It was held at the Disneyland Resort but we didn't actually get to run inside the park. We ran around the Inspiration Lake and Arboretum instead. I thought the course looked very short on the map and then read the legend where it said that the 10K participants are to run around the lake+arboretum 3 times! I usually don't like running in circles but I guess the circle was big enough and there weren't a lot of opportunities to see other people going in the opposite direction. 

Anyway, Disneyland is very interesting. The MTR goes there and once you're there, it doesn't feel like HK at all. There's a lot of open space. You can see the hills that have no development on them and there's even a parking lot. The race was pretty very well organized. The bag check felt pretty secure and well looked after. The was even a kids race that was held at the field next to all the booths. There were a lot of families. The only downside to this event was that they had a lot speakers and pre-event things. They even started late because there were too many people they had to recognize! Their awards ceremony was also very late. Not sure why they decided to hold it an hour after everyone is supposed to have finished.

It was very hot. I ran it with a friend from work. We were very disappointed at the end at the lack of food provided. They gave away a goodie bag and such but only had one little snack booth with non-appetizing selections. After the race, we walked around the outside of Disneyland and saw the pier. I don't think this pier is operational. We were wondering if there were any boats to take us back to the Kowloon side. The pier was farther than we thought so we missed out on the raffle at the end. We took the MTR to Tung Chung and got lunch there before heading back. I passed out after getting back for a bit before heading out to my tailoring appointment.

I got this Groupon deal for 3 tailor made shirts. I had made an appointment and an Indian guy picked up the phone. Then I found out that it's in the mall next to the Chungking Mansion. When I finally found the place, it turned out to be this very tiny place but it was very busy! I think everyone else there had the Groupon deal. The guy did some quick measurements and I picked out the fabric I wanted. I didn't think they had very good solid colors. Their solid colors were very guy-colors. So all the ones I picked were striped ones. Hope it turns out well. It was very hard to visualize what the end product would look like with just fabric. I swear there were many different styles for women shirts. Anyway, I told the guy to make my shirts shorter. I really don't like shirts that are too long since I don't tuck mine in. I guess that was the good part about the tailoring. The whole process was very fast but now I have to wait 3 weeks. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Weekend hike

Living in a crowded, busy, very urban city makes me miss the outdoors and nature. Where is my nearest tree? So I decided to go hiking today (Sunday). The nice thing about HK is that nature is very readily accessible. I took the MTR and then a bus to find some hiking trails in Sai Kung. Sai Kung is a mostly hilly, mountainous forested area in eastern Kowloon. I took the bus past Sai Kung town and got off at a bus station where I got some fish balls to start my journey. 

I went on this trail that went along the reservoir that had a lot of mangroves, wedding picture-taking people, and mini-mangroves:

The end of the trail leads to the Folk Museum, where they rebuilt a part of a Hakka village. You can go inside to see how people used to live, the tools that they used to harvest, etc. The house arrangements are very Hakka in that they all have the second story loft. 

The actual ruins of the village are down the road. Very educational for families. Nice hike plus more! I saw a couple of families on the way. 

 Instead of turning back and going back to the bus station, I continued on another trail. All the HK trails are very well marked with levels of difficulty, length, maps, etc. Impossible to get lost! I went on a "family trail" so I think it's supposed to be easy. There are "country trails" which are very long but they split them up into "stages" and you can do the stages separately.

This family trail had a lot of stone steps that led up the side of a mountain. The views were very nice. I got a call from a friend while walking along this trail. She asked if I wanted to do something outdoors! It's too bad that she lives in HK Island and Sai Kung is very far for her.

Lots of steps. This is probably not such a good trail for small children. I didn't see very many people along this trail. At some point, a helicopter flew by broadcasting something about "beware of forest fires."

After I found the end of the trail, I made it back to the main road and got on a bus to Sai Kung town. I really like this town because it's got a very busy pier where you can buy fresh seafood. You buy them directly from the boats. I got a pineapple bun from a really busy store. They're probably famous or something because the line is very long. The bun was also relatively expensive. This one equals the cost of 3 buns at the shops near where I live! But it was very good.

I ate it sitting on this platform that overlooks the piers and some palm trees.

All in all, it was a very good trip. Didn't take too much time or effort to get there. Even managed to get back before sunset even though I left early afternoon.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mid week holiday

I think I can get used to these mid-week public holidays. Wednesdays are definitely good days to be on holiday. Because it chops up your week and it feels like you're working less. Or at least have a day to recharge and get more sleep.

I went for another massage with another Groupon deal. This place is pretty nice. They give you a locker and the bathroom has showers and a sauna. I was there pretty early so there weren't a lot of other patrons. I have 5 more sessions left. I think I need to use them wisely.

After this, I was in a very dreamy and relaxed mood. I found an Indonesian restaurant that another HK blogger blogged about. The place is in a little corner with lots of other Indonesian restaurants and shops. All the other customers were Indonesian, with the exception of this one family where the dad is white. Anyway, the food was really good. They definitely use a very good combination of coconut milk and spices. Their chili sauce definitely wasn't the same as the Padang ones. Anyway, their menu has a lot of good selections and their customers all seem very happy. Wish I can speak more Indonesian. I think I've forgotten a lot of it already.

I walked to find some shoe stores to buy another pair of running shoes. The first place I tried to find didn't exist anymore. I kept on going to the second place on my list and nearly gave up. I was right outside their building and couldn't figure out where they were. And then I realized that they were inside the residential apartment building. They set up shop inside the 1st floor of an apartment building. Seriously would not have found the place if I wasn't looking for it. The place was very small but was very busy! They carry Mizuno, Nike, and Asics. I gave Mizuno another try because their shoes start at a lower price. But I didn't like how hard it felt, which was one of my complaints about my pair of Mizuno shoes. The lady said that Mizuno uses air cushion and Asics uses gel. I was wearing my Brooks and she said that they are very rare in HK, have to go to Singapore or US to get Brooks. I ended up buying a pair of Asics that has more gel than what I've been wearing. Went for a run in them after getting back. They felt pretty good.

Work is very busy. So much stuff to do! We're bidding for another job that I think we have a good chance at winning. I seriously did not imagine I would be doing so much in such a short time. Learning new things every single day. Sometimes I wish I didn't have to learn so fast but I guess it would get boring.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Massage and shopping

This weekend has been interesting. I managed to spend a bit of money on myself. Saturday started off pretty slow. I went to the gym at around 10am and worked out for a little bit. I stayed away from the treadmill and was on the elliptical mostly. I think I need new running shoes, more on that later.

I ate lunch and then headed to the office. I got to the office at around noon and there was a sign that asked me to register before entering. Normally, you only have to register on Saturdays after 2pm. I was wondering if they had changed the rules and walked into a non-air conditioned office. It was when I was putting my bottles into the recycling that I remembered that it's supposed to be national holiday. October 1st is China's National Day. In China, they get the entire week off. In HK, for those of us who are only supposed to work 5 days, it's basically not a holiday.

I mostly took care of some personal stuff at the office and didn't do too much project stuff. I did start on a few things though. I got bored and headed out. I headed to TST for my 7pm massage appointment. I saw some massage deals on Groupon the other day and purchased two of them. The one I went to on Saturday is a foot + body massage, 50 min each. The deal seemed pretty good. The place is located on Knutsford Terrace, which has some really nice Western restaurants and bars. The street is on the side of a hill and is pedestrian only with lots of outdoor seating areas. The street has a very nice feel to it.

The massage place is nicely decorated and scented. They even had little TVs for people to watch while their feet are getting massaged. The masseuse said that the shin area on my legs are very bloated and stiff from running. I definitely felt that my left leg is stiffer than my right. When I joined the gym, they had this machine that measures the amount of muscle in your legs and arms. The machine said that my right arm is stronger than my left, no surprises there. It also said that my left leg is stronger than my right. I wonder if this is normal for a right-handed person or if it's all that military stuff I did way back. Anyway, my lower back and shoulders are also very tight and stiff. I did the pressure-point massage instead of the aromatic oil one. Which meant that the masseuse didn't use any oils and kneaded my muscles over a towel. Felt very good afterwards. But my lower back is a bit sore today.

Anyway, I also got a deal for 6 sessions of lymphatic massage. This is supposed to produce a lot of benefits like weight loss, endorphins, relief stress, etc. I just hope that they can loosen up my back. I booked a session for this upcoming Wednesday, which is a holiday. Should be interesting.

Right after I got out of the massage place, the fireworks started. I ended up watching part of it from Nathan Road, which was blocked off from cars. There were a lot of people out. I tried to get closer to the waterfront because you can only see a tiny part of the fireworks between the buildings on the road. But I couldn't even get within 3 blocks of the waterfront. There was literally too much people. People started getting there before it got dark. Should have known better. Anyway, 20 straight minutes of fireworks.

After the fireworks ended, I went to redeem another Groupon at a pizza place. It's the second time I've been to that place. The pizza is okay. The fries are very good though. I wanted to get a milkshake but they didn't have any more (wouldn't make it so late at night?). I figured the MTR would be very crowded getting back so I took the equally crowded bus back.

I'm beginning to be more brave in taking buses. I have a general idea of where things are now so it's easier for me to just hop on a bus that's going towards something I know. I found out about some interesting trails and wanted to do the one that started at Kennedy Town. There's a bus that goes from near where I live directly to Kennedy Town. I've heard that there's a lot of expats in that area and have been meaning to go check it out. The MTR doesn't go all the way there (yet) so you have to take a bus.

The hike was the main thing I had on my to-do list today, along with getting a fan. But as soon as I stepped outside today (Sunday), it started raining. Not too hard at first so I was hoping it would let up by the time I go to the other side of the harbor. But it just kept raining... I gave up on the hiking part since it was also very windy. I basically ate lunch there and then tried to take the bus to Olympic, where there are some big malls that I've been meaning to check out. But then I got too adventurous with the buses and took one that took a different tunnel than what I was expecting. So it ended up taking a long time for me to get to Olympic because I had to take the MTR after getting back to the Kowloon side.

The malls at Olympic were kind of lame. The malls were very big as in they have a lot of space. But there didn't seem to be very many stores. Maybe I wasn't walking in the right places. I think I prefer more compact malls. The stores themselves were kind of small. I felt like there was an uneven ratio of public space to stores space. I was looking for running shoes but the "sports" stores that I went into had more fashionable shoes than running shoes. The Marathon Sports had some cheap New Balance selections but the sales people clearly did not know much about running shoes and kept trying to stick these ridiculous looking Nikes at me. Maybe I just don't understand fashion...

I walked all the way to the Mongkok East station and took the train the Shatin Ikea. One of the things on my to-do list was to buy meatballs and a fan at Ikea. Turns out, Ikea doesn't have fans. I did get cinnamon buns and meatballs though. On my way out, I saw another store with fans and got a mini-tower fan. I dragged everything back and made fried rice.

I chopped up all the vegetables I bought yesterday to facilitate future cooking. I find that I am much more likely to cook if the veggies are already chopped up. And it's more efficient to chop everything in one go. Veggies at the wet markets are very cheap so I can get a nice variety. I think this is the second time I've used my rice cooker. I usually make noodles or pasta.

That's it for the weekend. There's another typhoon in the area. It's at signal number 1 right  now. Kind of hoping it would get up to 8 again so that I can chill at home again. Of course, it would mean a very crunched schedule at work since Wednesday is also a holiday.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Graduate Induction

I just finished attending my company's Induction Camp for graduate engineers. The company runs a camp for all the fresh graduates that they hire in each region. I suppose they hope that people would stay at their first job for a while, especially if they are treated well. Now that I'm in the East Asia region, I attended the East Asia Induction. This consists of mainly graduates from the HK office, followed by the Mainland China offices, and a few from India and I think, Taiwan. There weren't any from Japan this year. Singapore is another large office in the Asia region but they are part of the Austra-Asia region. Something to do with how the company expanded. 

The camp started last Friday. We were shuttled to a youth camp in Shatin for Friday night and Saturday. We had Sunday off and then Monday - Wednesday consisted of an engineering project in the InnoCenter (very close to the office). And due to the typhoon today (Thursday), I'm only really working one day this week, Friday. 

Friday started off with some really lame speeches. The theme this year was resilience. Other than a lot of speeches and presentation about resiliency, risk, vulnerability, I didn't see how it all connected with the activities. They really need to work on this. I mean, if you're going to have a theme, then it's got to make sense. Otherwise, scrap the theme. Anyway, there were a lot of us, 150+ graduates. We were broken up into 10 teams and then 2 subteams.

After lunch, we got on buses that took us to the youth camp. This camp was designed by the company as a charity thing and so we use the space every year for the induction camp. We checked into our rooms and then started the "night challenge", which is basically an urban orienteering event. I think this even could use work as well but it was fun. We were sent off to Wanchai and Sham Shui Po. It gave both the locals and non-locals a chance to see some historical stuff around Hong Kong. Some teams took the challenge way too seriously though, tried to go to a ton of checkpoints, and got fast food for dinner. Our team agreed to take it easy and just strolled leisurely about until we got tired. We took our time eating dinner and basically gave up about an hour before the deadline. We even had time to chill in Festival Walk before being the first team to show up at the pick up point. We got extra points for being the only team to show up on time, which gave us enough points to tie for first place. We lost the tiebreaker but the tiebreaker was really difficult. I still don't think I get it. It had to do with using the Chinese measuring system.

Saturday consisted of physical activities at the camp. We had rock climbing and then a ropes course in the morning. I don't know why they tried to squeeze it all in the morning instead of splitting it up into a morning and afternoon session. Anyway, it was all going well until the very last part of the ropes course. They divided the teams such that each team was supposed to do two courses, one that involved teamwork and the other one being a personal challenge. The personal challenge is actually very personal. You get two hooks and have to hook yourself to the safety ropes. One of our team members was completing this course when he slipped. He was saved by the ropes, of course. But then he couldn't get back up onto the net that he's supposed to climb across. He was tired and then lost his glasses. It was very alarming and amusing at the same time. We really couldn't help him and he was stuck up there for probably around 20 minutes. He ended up being saved by two instructors somehow tying another rope to him and then lowering him down.

We had some low-key stuff in the afternoon and then another team exercise before leaving. The team exercise consisted of crossing a lawn area with wood blocks. Each team got a total number of blocks equaled to the number of team members minus two. So we had to work out how the entire team was going to cross the "ocean" using the blocks. We weren't allowed to talk once the game started and we were in the "ocean". I think that "no talking" was the key that allowed it all to work out. Our team was made up of mostly Cantonese speakers and of course they (we) dominated the conversation. They tried to speak English in the beginning but it just wasn't efficient. Once we found out we couldn't talk during the game, this forced us to get everyone on the same page. And we were forced to stick to the plan once the game began. We managed to complete the task. But during the wrap up, someone pointed out that if all the teams had combined resources, we could have just walked over very easily. I wonder why the guy didn't try to make it happen.. I think I was too busy trying to translate to think of such things. Usually these borderline cheating things reveal themselves to me. My team had some very vocal people. So if I had suggested it to them, we could have been able to round up all the teams to make it happen. Wasted opportunity... 

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were Skill Days, which consisted of a conceptual design for a project. Sadly, the background location for the project is the Central Police Station, the project that I've been working on since joining the HK office. The actual project is, of course, very different. I think the point of having a local (real) project as the background setting is so that the teams can do a site visit. Of course, no one actually did the site visit, which I thought was very sad. My team managed to scrape together a decent project proposal. We ended up being the only ones to propose a long tunnel excavation to make it happen. But I think it's the most technically feasible scheme. At one point, I wasn't sure we were going to do a PowerPoint so I started making a model with paper. I basically folded three pieces of paper together to make a model of our centerpiece and then all of a sudden, people started chipping in. HR provided a lot of cookies and other snacks for us to eat at any point so I scavenged among them to get boxes. Once I brought the boxes back, I started wrapping one of them in white paper. I didn't really have a plan of how much of the project site to model but everyone started picking up boxes and making things. People started coloring them, making other pieces, and in the end, we got a huge 3D model:

They made me do the introduction for the presentation, which I totally knew was going to happen. I mean, the people on my team were all able to speak English pretty well, unlike some other groups... Anyway, our first question from the panel was how our centerpiece (the green thing sticking up) would fare in a typhoon. Our structural engineer was trying to make stuff up on the spot when the rest of us remembered that the thing can move up and down. So we pushed it down and got immediate applause from the panel. I'm happy to claim that I made that part of the model. =)

In the end, we had a lot of fun. the whole skill days project was interesting. I'm not sure what the team dynamics were like in other groups. Ours was interesting though. For the skill days, we had 13 people on the team. We had 1 Indian, 4 Mainlanders, and the rest are from the HK office. Whenever we have group meetings, we would start with English, and then after a minute, it was pretty clear that the only people who were speaking up were Cantonese speakers anyway so we switch to Cantonese. There would be translation services at some points but it was difficult to get everyone to speak one common language. It was better when we decided on a direction and split up into smaller groups. My subgroup ended up using Mandarin for the most part (I say "most" because I had to use a lot of English to make it work). 

I would also like to comment on the power of socializing with people outside of "working hours", namely during lunch. Because our teams were so big, during the camp days, we mostly worked in subgroups. I got to know the people in my subgroup pretty well but didn't really know the people in the other subgroup. When we came together for the skill day project, there was a clear divide at first. I saw that the other subgroup had 3 HK people who were clearly got along very well and already had their own sub-team going. I ended up going to lunch on Monday with them and I felt like the four of us bonded during that lunch. It's not that we spilled our life stories or anything. But I definitely felt that we established trust and crossed a lot of borders during that one short hour. The three of them were working on one part of the project while I was working on another part. Before lunch, there wasn't much communication between the two teams. After lunch, I felt like there was much more interaction. I think some people in other teams also went drinking at bars after we were released for the day. It's always these informal interactions that seems to form the stronger bonds.

 I hope we keep in touch. I'll definitely see the HK people around the office. Hopefully I'll see the other folks as well. The company definitely managed to hire some very sharp graduates. 

Typhoon lockdown

Had an unexpected day off from work! Today was a typhoon signal number 8. There are 10 levels total, with 1 being the weakest and 10 being the strongest. When it gets up to 8, then all businesses basically shut down. This is the first one of the year. Level 8 doesn't actually mean the typhoon is hitting HK, it just has to do with the wind speeds. Last night, the warnings got up to No. 3 and I totally wasn't expecting a No. 8. But then I woke up and saw that one of my former coworkers had a facebook status about the famous "HK wall/force field" being ineffective. I was expecting one of my coworkers to call me but none of them did. Thought they would care more, but I guess not!

Anyway, I didn't end up doing much. I mostly read a lot, took care of a couple of small things, cleaned a bit, and moped around the house until I couldn't take it anymore. I went outside for lunch and most things were closed. I went to the mall nearby and luckily, some places were opened in the food court. The rain wasn't too bad actually. The rain and wind were intermittent. It seemed like the storm was very uneven and moving very fast. There were a few times when it rained so much that I couldn't see the street across from me though. I came back after lunch to see if the No. 8 was still up. At some point, I figured that even if it got lowered, I wouldn't be going back to work, so I went out again. This time, I went to TST, hoping to find a good spot to sit down, read, and watch the waves. Nearly all of Habour City (big mall in TST) was closed. The Starbucks was open and I ordered a mint mocha and a chocolate dome. The chocolate dome was not very good. It consists of mousse, a bit of cake, some rice crispy things, and sugary covering. Definitely did not have as much chocolate as I thought it would. Mint mocha was very good though.

I was happily reading from my Kobo when it ran out of juice. That thing needs a better battery indicator! I feel like this always happens. Either it runs out of battery or the book expires. How disappointing. I went for a walk around the mall and then went out to one of the piers. The clouds were moving very fast, the air was super humid, and the water was very choppy. There were other people there as well but at some point, a security guard came to herd us away.

Back to work tomorrow...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

More September happenings

Wow, a lot has happened over the past couple of weeks and haven't had the time to blog about it all. I can't believe September is almost over. I've been working for 5 months now! I still remember seeing my blog post count for August (4 posts only) and thinking that it's really sad. September is up to 7 posts so far and this is still below standards for me.

Anyway, I want to continue to with my previous thread of posts about the Mid-Autumn festival fun-ness. The day after the holiday, Wednesday, the friend I was hanging out with (A) was leaving in the afternoon and two other friends (M&A) were arriving in HK that day. So we got A's stuff out of my apartment in the morning. All four of us managed to meet up at Festival Walk for a tiny bit, took a picture, and I went with M&A back to my apartment. My apartment is seriously very small. Somehow it's managed to accommodate a lot of guest. I guess a lot of my friends are travelers and don't really mind. You know they are people who enjoy traveling when they say things like, "oh wells, I guess now I can say I got stuck in traffic in HK. I'm sure it was somewhere on my to-do list!" 

I had a really busy week following the holiday so I didn't really do much with M&A. They went to a lot of places and met up with people by themselves though. I joined them for desert and Temple Street shops Friday and Saturday night. They only stayed until Sunday morning and I had originally planned to hang out with them on Saturday. But it turned out they wanted to go to Macau, which I wasn't too fond of doing. They had this crazy plan of going all over the place, which I didn't approve of. I'm all for going to lots of places but the plan has to make sense, e.g. (a) sticking to the same geographic region and (b) move in a big loop, no crisscrossing. Anyway, it turned out that I had to work that Saturday. 

I managed to go to the gym and then meet up with them afterwards for more souvenir shopping in Temple Street and then visiting the bar on top of the ICC. The bar was on the top floor and had a outdoor bit to it. It was a nice setting but the music was too loud. I really don't understand why bars are always blast their music so loudly. I can't even hear myself think. We ended up staying too long and had to take a taxi back. I don't really like staying at a bar too late and have to take a taxi back. It's so meaningless to sit around in a dark room and having to make such an effort to talk. Anyhow, I slept really late the next day and then spent the day cleaning and such.

I really want to spend this weekend outdoors, chilling somewhere with nature and just read. But there's a typhoon coming by so the outdoor thing will probably not work out. I did buy some Groupon deals for massages so that's in the works for this weekend. My back feels super stiff from sitting around all the time. Just also noticed that next Wednesday is a holiday. Looking forward to that as well.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mid-Autumn Festival, Part 2

More on the Mid-Autumn Festival edition of HK exploration. In HK, they have these weird mid-week holidays, most of which are traditional Chinese holidays. We got Tuesday off for the mid-autumn festival because they expect people to stay out late on Monday night (I suppose). So on Tuesday, A and I went to HKUST, which is one of the universities in HK that focuses on tech. Their civil engineering department is famous for being really tough.

Their campus is really nice though. It's right on the bay.

Student housing have great views of the bay. It was really, really quiet when we were there. Most local students live at home so all we saw were international students. There weren't many of them around. They were probably all out on the beach. We had dim sum at one of the cafeterias and walked around the campus a bit.

Then we headed to Clear Water Bay. The bus stop looked like this. I really like this picture. Reminds me of California with shrubs on rolling hills and wide roads. It's really nice to get out of the city once in a while. It feels really refreshing.

Clear Water Bay is really nice. The water at the beach is actually clear, unlike the one in Mui Wo. I wish I had brought my swim suit along. There were a lot of people though. Very crowded. There were also big rocks on the other side of the beach and we climbed those

After that, we went back to HKUST, ate some more food, and then took the bus to Sai Kung. I've heard a lot about this place from people who like to go hiking and camping. Unfortunately, we got stuck in traffic due to an accident on the highway. It took us forever to get there! It turns out Sai Kung consists of a small town with a very active pier. There were boats that will take you out to the neighboring islands where there are a lot of interesting geological formations to be found. I will definitely come back for more hiking. 

Really cool cakes at a pastry shop:

We found out that there's a minibus that goes to Mongkok. I'm not sure if it's entirely due to the accident but the line for the bus was extremely long. Each minibus only takes 16 people. We tried to wait it out by walking around and even eating dinner there. But in the end, we ended up taking a regular bus. I was really tired and fell asleep the entire way. We walked around a mall before heading back on the MTR.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

HK Adventures: Mid-Autumn Festival Version

Been a while since I've written about what I've been up to. I've been spending a lot of time at work these days but recently some friends came to visit so I took the chance to go explore some more of Hong Kong.

The first week of the month, a friend of a friend, W, from Stanford came to HK to start her second job. She graduated from Stanford undergrad the same year as me and then went to Boston to work for the last two years. Now she's out here working for another company. We have some mutual friends from Stanford so we met up at Sham Shui Po and had dim sum. There's a pretty good dim sum place near where I live. I totally forgot about it when my parents were here. Oh wells, next time.

We walked around the neighborhood for a little bit afterwards and then she went off to look for apartments. I tried to tell her that it's not necessary to look so soon but I think she's still on the US schedule of apartment searching. Anyway, I went to work that day. That Sunday, I got some mint seeds and started a mint plant at the office. It hasn't sprouted yet but hopefully there will be something happening soon.

I went to the gym with a friend from work. We've been meaning to do this for a while now and finally found a time that works for both of us. We got there with the intention of joining a class but I think we got the schedule wrong because we caught the last of the class instead of the beginning. We headed for the treadmill and I went to warm up on the elliptical for 5 minutes before joining her. In that short amount of time, she got targeted by a couple of the personal trainers at the gym. They had her working out for an hour or so and then started selling their services. I think she signed up for something in the end. This is one of the very annoying things about HK - people are always trying to sell you stuff. We went for dinner afterwards and then got coffee chendol.

The next week was another busy week at work. I had thought about going back to China for the moon festival but it didn't seem like work was getting any less busy and a friend of mine, A, from Stanford was visiting for the weekend. He arrived on the 10th, Saturday afternoon. I got W to come along and the three of us went sightseeing. I took them to the Big Buddha and let them go on the cable cars themselves. I went shopping in the outlet mall next to the MTR station. I didn't think the prices were that great but there were a lot of sales going on. I wasn't looking for anything in particular so I didn't end up buying anything.

After they got back from the cable cars, we took the bus to Mui Wo and walked along the beach for a bit. Then we got dinner at a seafood place and then took the ferry back to Central. W went to meet up with some other friends so A and I just walked around Central for a little bit and headed back to Kowloon.

The next day, A met up with another friend of his and the three of us had dim sum at the Sham Shui Po place again.

After that, we went to take the Peak Tram. We took our time walking around the mall around the Peak and found out about the moon festival celebration in Causeway Bay. It started at 7:30pm and it would take us more than half an hour on the bus to get there. I managed to convince the guys to do the 3K hike around the Peak in less time than advertised. I think I exhausted them but the view was really nice. It wasn't very hot out either so it was a very nice walk. We got on the bus with a couple of dumb American guys who were trying to flirt with two girls. I was going to die listening to their conversation.

Anyway, we found a huge lantern fish at Victoria Park and it is now my Facebook profile picture.

We then tried to go see the fire dragon dance but there was wayy too much people. The street was packed. So we gave up and headed to TST for the HK Light Show. We caught the end of the light show, which was good enough for A. By the time we finished with the light show, we were all really hungry so we ate dinner at one of the expensive malls. We had Singaporean food that was really good. The owner is supposed to be a Stanford grad. I need to make more friends in the right type of industries...We got dessert at the mango place where A managed to drop his share of the mochi. It was really funny and we laughed for 5 straight minutes.

I went to work on Monday and had a really stressful morning getting drawings printed and signed by four people. Can't believe it's so hard to get four sets of signatures. My boss felt sorry for me and helped me call a secretary and things went pretty fast after that. Since it was the Mid-Autumn Festival, a lot of people left work early. The office was pretty empty by 6pm. I met up with A and we had dinner at Mongkok. There weren't a lot of people out and all the restaurants were lacking customers. We had food at a small place and felt like the waitresses all wanted to leave as soon as we were finished. I decided to go to the restaurant because they were advertising fried mantou:

Even the Ladies Market was not very crowded. I wanted to buy a purse but the lady wasn't in so we moved on.

Then we went to Langhram Place and went up all the way up to the top. This mall has a very small footprint but is very tall. There are over 60 boutique shops that sell very cute stuff. There were statues of the western zodiac on display and A took pictures of all of them as we made our way down. We also played air hockey at one of the arcades.

 Being eaten by the fishies:

 The pictures are courtesy of A, who likes to take pictures of funny things.