Farewell Hong Kong

So, like I foreshadowed, I slacked on blogging while in Hong Kong. But that’s the sign of a great trip. It was a jam packed whirlwind of fun. This city is so easy to get around – we rode the MTR practically everywhere.

Quick list of highlights:
Riding the tram to Victoria Peak to see the amazing skyline
Riding the Star Ferry over to Kowloon just in time to see the laser show
A 10-course Szechuan meal to drool over – best Ma Po Tofu ever
Lots of shopping in markets: Temple Street Night Market, Ladies Market, Jade Market
Browsing the flora and fauna at the flower market, goldfish market, and bird garden
Getting some new kitchen gear including a sweet vegetable slicer from the kitchen supply district
Lighting incense at Man Mo Temple
A food tour with amazing wonton soup and dim sum
Betting on some horses at the Happy Valley Racecourse
Getting HB some custom shirts tailored
Eating at the world’s cheapest Michelin starred restaurant

… and after all that, multiple foot massages.

I took an afternoon of rest by watching Skyfall at the movie theater while HB pounded the pavement exploring the computer stores. Now I’m rejuvenated and ready to explore Taipei!

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A Bradley Babymoon

Some forewarning… Blogging this time around will not be nearly as comprehensive as last time. For one, Brad Beskin is not here, and we all know that his antics provided much motivation for blogging. Second, it turns out making a human being requires a lot of energy, so I’m going to pull the pregnancy brain card. The newest third Bradley has been distracting me with her fun kicks all day long, so just expect short posts about where we are, not the usual novel ūüôā

Vacation got off on the right foot with a little layover in San Francisco, where we met up with our friend Dani at an amazing little Italian restaurant called Laconda. Followed up by some Bi-Rite Ice Cream, it was a great start.

14-hour flight while 5.5 months pregnant went better than expected. We were in Business Class, which helped tremendously. I got extra pillows and the hostesses refilled my water all night long. Upon arrival in Taipei, hot showers and dumplings awaited us in the lounge. Now for a quick flight to Hong Kong, where we’ll meet up with friends who arrived yesterday: Lee, Drew, Amber, and Britt.

Looking forward to another Asia adventure! Beskin, we miss you!

The Mighty Elephant

I think elephants are basically the coolest animals ever.¬† I mean, did you know that they have 100,000 muscles in their trunk alone?¬† That’s freakin’ sweet.

They eat 100 kilos and drink¬†150 kilos¬†per day.¬†¬†If you’ve never seen an elephant pee, it’s like the Niagra Falls on legs.¬† (Seriously, they don’t¬†even bother to stop walking).¬†¬†

Did you know that elephants gestate for 22 months?  I once told a pregnant friend this, and she did not appreciate it.  Are you comparing me to an elephant?

Of course, I learned most of these facts when I did a report on elephants in the 5th grade, but they were reiterated to me when we went to the Siam Safari Elephant camp in the Chalong highlands of Phuket. 

We went on a little 45 minute elephant trek, to some beautiful viewpoints of the island.¬† It was completey silent and peaceful, and we had developed a bit of a rhythm trekking along on our elephant, when the silence was broken by the shrill voice of Taylor Swift.¬† Where did that come from, you may ask?¬† Why, it was the ringtone of our mahout (elephant trainer).¬† Seriously, I never thought I’d see someone on a cell phone riding an elephant:

Mahout on cell phone

Now, I could tell you more about our elephant trek in Thailand, but I’m going to pull the “I’m a bit of an elephant trekking snob card” here and tell you a better story.¬† To be honest, elephant trekking in a bus seat on top of the elephant is just not that¬†exciting to me after the types of experiences I’ve had in India before.¬† So my elephant trekking trump card:¬†

 
When I was 9 years old, I was awakened one morning by my grandmother, who dragged me half-asleep to the front door of the house.  I had barely opened my eyes to see an elephant standing within the gates of the compounds of our house before it sprayed me with a bucket of water and I was left there standing soaking wet.  I was then hoisted onto the elephant.  Bareback.  Those things are prickly, by the way.  And then I went on a casual stroll around the neighborhood.  No rugs, no ropes, no bus seat, no elephant trainer;  just me, the elephant, my soaking wet clothes and the peaceful morning. 
 
I have ridden many an elephant since that day, but no experience has matched that one yet.  But every time I ride an elephant, I still am reminded that they are the coolest animals ever.  They are one of the few things in this world that can still make me feel like a wonderous little girl, and I appreciate that. 
 

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New Year’s Eve Hits and Misses

I don’t like shopping.

Strange, I know, for a girl, but it’s true.

However, the morning of NYE, we woke up early to make our way to the Chatuchak market (pronounced “Jat-u-jak”, or “JJ” for short). The biggest market in Thailand, it’s rumored to have 15,000 individual vendors. Each colored section in the map below is supposed to feature vendors of a specific theme (textiles, antiques, clothing, etc.) – but as we walked the aisles it was evident that the sectioning was more a “loose suggestion” than strict zoning.

Now, this kind of shopping I like. In 5 hours, I did what it took most of you took all of December to do: I started and finished my Christmas shopping.

Give me good discount!

In Thailand, it is customary to haggle, and it is widely accepted. In America, haggling is sort of looked down upon, and is a tad bit shameful. However, Indians follow the same mindset as the as the Thais, so after years of careful observation of my mother, my grandmothers, and every other Indian woman I know, I quickly found my haggling groove.

Hunter and Brad, on the other hand, were far more likely to pay full price, and would often look to me when a price was stated, to see if I would think it was okay. I would promptly crinkle my nose, shake my head, suggest a lower number, and more often than not, the deal would be accepted. My mother would be proud.

*To be fair, Hunter and Brad eventually got into their own haggling groove as well, and we were well on our way to being a Baht-saving machine.

Amidst all of the stalls, we found a lovely little bar tucked away between the antiques and books, and it was quite a little respite for our tired feet.

After getting back from JJ, we moved our clothes and bags over to our second hotel in Bangkok, the Conrad. Brad posted the room walkthrough of the Executive Deluxe Suite earlier – the room was truly amazing.

For New Years Eve dinner, we went to a 16-course meal at Gaggan, a “modernist” restaurant with Indian influences from its Indian chef/owner. Several of the dishes were terrific, including the Lobster with cognac cream and mustard sauce, and the two courses with black and white truffle soup accompaniments. Unfortunately, there were also a few misses. As Brad said, “There is NO REASON anyone could think that Scotch (Johnny Walker) can be made into an ice cream”.¬† Also, my mango mania “cocktail” did this:

By the time we finished dinner and got back to the hotel, it was about 10 till midnight.

We got back to the room, cracked open a couple of Leo Beers to share, and flipped on the TV to watch the countdown. Thailand’s Channel 3 carried the festivities from Pattaya, which is the biggest Thai countdown celebration. It was fairly similar to a lot of the American countdown television shows, with boy bands performing, etc., up until the countdown itself. Channel 3 played the countdown, then showed the AMAZING fireworks show there while Muzak-ing us into the new year. If you’re curious as to what this type of display looks like, you can link over here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGLOMH81dO4&feature=youtu.be

Outside our window, you could see a view all across the south of Bangkok. Fireworks were literally everywhere, with about 20 small and large displays all across the city. I’m a little girl when it comes to fireworks, so I was truly excited to see so many fireworks at one time from¬†our 30th floor perch. Hope you all had Happy New Years!

*Post co-written by HB!