Uncertainty can be happiness

"Security is a false god," or running around the world as an FSO

Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

HK: I think I ate too much

Posted by quirksalight on December 13, 2010

Jen’s uncle took us to a seafood restaurant in the New Territories. It was AWESOME. I ate things that I have no idea what they are, but only that they were delicious. The seafood is freshly caught and in holding pens outside the restaurant. These were extremely large specimens… and you choose your dinner to be cooked in whatever way you please. It’s a good thing that we spent 6 hours earlier in the day walking around on Hong Kong Island.
I’m going to let the pictures do all the talking. 🙂 Definately on my top 10 meals ever.


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The Peak and other delights:

Posted by quirksalight on December 13, 2010

The rest of our group made it to HK and we were now a merry band of 4 Penn alumnae running around HK. Excellent.

Staying in Kowloon, we hit the local shops, the malls, and markets for interesting finds. Personally, I found some sunglasses, a bottle of Miss Dior perfume (which I hadn’t been able to find for a while), comfy/dressy shoes, and a jade necklace. The necklace was a part of a collective bargaining session at the Jade Market in Yau Ma Tei, with Laura taking the lead for our goods. Nice market, but definitely a place where you need to be able to bargain and knowing the language will do you a lot of good. Next, as one of our main agenda items for the trip was eating, we hit up a Buddhist vegetarian dim sum place. Hmm… the artificial meat in the dimsum was a little strange… but the veggie bits, such as the tofu skins, excellent!

Tea at the Landmark Mandarian Oriental – running late because turns out you can’t just get a taxi on the street to get you from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island, but have to call one for that purpose. Easy enough at any hotel, but to those who didn’t know this tidbit of info, quite frustrating, especially when you’ve got reservations.

Next, we split up and the three of us, Kim, Jen and I, headed up to Victoria Peak, just after sunset. Even though it’s not high tourist season, the tram line was LONG. And a crush to push our way into the tram – I seriously had to hip check a guy out of my way who tried to jump ahead of me.

But the view was totally worth it. With the wind whipping through our hair, we stood on top, watching the glittering skylines of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon spread before us, and the ferries moving across Hong Kong Harbour like balls of light floating across the water.

Recommended by our guidebooks and several friends, we first hit up Dragon-I for drinks and apps. Turns out that there is a Happy hour special of 2-1 drinks from 3-9pm. Just don’t get the one with Benedictine liquor – horrid… tastes like cough syrup…. unless you like that sort of thing…. Otherwise, it’s a great deal for drinks in that area.
Met up with an AFP photographer who I met at the G20 in Seoul the past month. He and his colleague joined us at Classified, a wine and cheese bar in the Soho/ Lan Kwai Fong area of Central HK. It was good to meet up with him, though his colleague wasn’t feeling well and went home shortly after arriving.

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Korean in HK

Posted by quirksalight on December 10, 2010

For me, a big part of traveling is absorbing cultural information and history, so I tend to hit the museums. Also, I really like museums; I think it may have had something to do with growing up with easy access to the Smithsonian.

Jen and I started the museums at the Hong Kong History museum, after a dim sum brunch. When we got there, we got the week-long, all-museum access pass (which is an AMAZING deal, $30 HK for 7 museums).

We get stamped in, and of course, the usual random chitchat with the ticket attendant about where we’re coming from, etc. Upon finding out that I was from Korea, she told me that my English was really good for a Korean, to which I answered that I was an American.

Finding out that I was bilingual in English and Korean, the ticket attendant asked if I could tell her how to say a couple phrases in Korean for the tourists that come by. She was pretty happy and excited that I could, and so I helped her with the translation and pronunciation in English for “Opens at 1 o’clock” and “How many tickets”.

Pretty neat. And later, when we needed to get back to an exhibit, she called the other museum guard to let us in. 🙂

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Hong Kong!

Posted by quirksalight on December 9, 2010

I’m skipping blogging on the Korea part because Jen’s got that one covered. 🙂
As you can see, the goal of our trip to Korea and HK is to hang out with old friends, but to have a gastronomical adventure in Asia. hee hee…

But today was one of adjustment… got up at 5am to catch the flight to HK, and had to take a nap because I was so tired. Pretty sure I overpacked, but meh… not exactly sure what is needed. But mainly, we were walking around in Kowloon and getting a scope of the place. I noticed that it appears to be more crowded on the streets than in Seoul…. but I’ll have to take stock of that in the coming days. A data point of one isn’t really telling much, no?

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Posted by quirksalight on December 9, 2010

I’m taking my first official vacation this month – with friends visiting from the US to explore Korea, then to Hong Kong, then to Singapore and back to Seoul in later December.

I remember that I was surprised seeing Seoul eligible for an R&R (which I haven’t taken for this trip), but it’s been a rather intense couple of months. I love my job, but decompression time is definitely necessary.

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Oops… the poker…

Posted by quirksalight on April 20, 2009

After Rothenburg, I crashed and fell asleep on the drive back to Wurzburg. But we didn’t have all that much downtime, as we were supposed to meet a couple of his friends at the Standard for poker. Apparently Wednesday night is poker night in the U Wurzburg Physics department. H invited us to join them last night at the beer hall, which we of course accepted. Texas hold’em style, 5 euro buy in, tournament with the top two splitting the pot. Sure, why not? A little poker never hurt anyone. 🙂 MH was more amused at the potential for trash talking between some of his collegues and I – apparently there was a high potential for his amusement.

Heading to the Standard bar, we meet up with H from last night, J and his wife C, and F, the postdoc. Some initial chitchat, though J was extremely dismayed upon hearing my reasons for leaving grad school, “There’s no difference! No matter where you go, it’s all the same! IT’s exactly the same!!” Uh huh. Yeah… he’s trying to finish. I think my reply was, “Sorry, dude. Grad school is grad school.”

We start out, and the guys (F and J) told me that the weekly poker night had been going on for about 6 months, and H is playing for the first time. At their question if I had played before, I answered, “Well, I haven’t played regularly for a long time.” Their answer: “Oh, regularly? Hmm…” hahhaha…. of course, at this, MH is just sitting back with a grin on his face. Honestly, I haven’t played at all since grad school, but then again, the first two years of grad school did have the weekly poker nights, mainly at my house, which MH was very well aware of. 😛

so we continue playing, and I’m playing pretty conservatively, with a couple random plays to see how the others were reacting. And I noticed a couple patterns. F had a tendency to lean back when he had a decent hand, and J would sit up straighter and almost brace himself when he had a good hand. Almost as if one is bracing for battle. MH’s eyebrows talks WAY too much, and twitches when he’s not sure. H was the hardest to read, but then I found out later that he had never played before, which makes sense that there was no pattern to read; he doesn’t have any established to read. And C would always play conservative.

With the knowledge in hand, I pushed and bluffed my way to being in the top two for both tournaments we played. Funny, sometimes I would ask them if they wanted me to explain how I won a specific hand, which they did. J quipped that he wasn’t sure what was worse; that I won the hand, or that would win and explain what I was thinking and how I won. Though all of them asked me to continue explaining.

I think I paid for my dinner and drinks that night with the poker winnings! hahahah!!! F wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to be around for next week’s game, as they all joked that they weren’t looking all that forward to playing with me again. Oops. MH did get his wish for some trash talking, though.

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Rothenburg and poker

Posted by quirksalight on April 20, 2009

Wednesday (April 1, 2009) was our road trip to Rothenburg, a town about 45 minutes away and well known for their old town area, where entire structures and the city wall from the 1500s are still kept up today. Also, they have the medieval crime museum there.
Waking up is hard to do on anyday for me, but the later the previous night, the harder it is. I don’t think I went to sleep before 2am on any of the nights in Wurzburg, so getting going was a bit tough. Knowing this, and my penchant for being a grump, MH informed me that it was already 9:30am and that I had said that I wanted to be on the road 30 mins ago. (which was true, as it is a 30-45 minute drive to get there) Thinking, “Oh crap!” I jumped out of bed and quickly took a shower and dressed. Out of the shower, throwing my stuff together…only to see that it was then 9:15am. WTF?? I looked at MH and he’s laughing his head off. dork. 😛 Hey, if you’re reading this, I bet you’re still laughing. Just remember… there’s always payback. 🙂

The old part of Rothenburg was visually amazing. It’s been kept in great condition over the years, including the old city wall, which is still nearly encompassing the entire part of the old city. Scattered at regular intervals along the wall are towers, which also allow access up to the wall itself. Which is really nice, as you can walk along the city wall around the Aldstadt and get a great view of the old and new parts of Rothenburg. As you can see, MH is demonstrating that the ledge that you walk along is not all that high. 🙂 Walking around, several places had already put up decorations for Easter, which at this point was about 10 days away. There were plenty of evidence that the town were very focused on tourism, with the shops, decor, and the multiple tour groups roaming around in multiple languages. Though the shops were rather interesting. We saw a shop that sold replicas of medical armor and weaponry… man… there were some neat items there….and may be a little difficult getting on the plane back with.

The architecture is a mix of styles, but one that you see a lot is the Tudor style, from the late 1400’s – 1500’s, where you can see the contrast between the wall and the wood frames on the outside of the buildings. I do have to admit that I preferred the stone buildings with the statues, gargoyles, and carvings scattered about the exterior. Such character… and as some of y’all can attest to, I’ll stop and stare at the building for a while to take it all in. 😛

One of the things that I really wanted to see was the Medival Crime Museum, which is supposed to be the only museum devoted to crime and punishment in the medieval era. I heard a lot of interesting things about it, and one of MH’s friends, H, had been there before and told us that it was a really interesting. Which, yes, it was, but also very somber, as the chronicling of the past has some resonances throughout history to the present.

But, the peak of the trip (literally) was climbing to the top of the tower of the Rothenburg Rathaus and seeing the entire city and the surrounding lands. About 93 meters high, you have to climb a series of stairs to the very top of bell tower, the last two sets of stairs being more a ladder than stairs. Then, you pop open the hatch (seriously) and climb out to a very narrow ledge, right next to the large bell. I’m generally not afraid of heights, in fact, usually I love them. However, maybe it was narrow ledge, or the extremely brisk wind, but I definitely felt a bit wary of being there! MH commented that I didn’t let go of the railing much…. which was true. In all the pics of me up there, I have one hand on the rail!

And the food, of course. For lunch, MH and I sat in the main square at a Bavarian restaurant, and split a schweinehaxen, which basically is
roasted pig’s calf. (Yes, I noticed that it was the lower leg when there was a tibia and a fibula…. anyhow…) Rather large, and I was very glad that I split it, and was very yummy. The Trollinger I drank with lunch was rather sweet, and not really “trocken” (dry), which is what I do like. But the best part was the dessert we had later! Apparently the region is known for a pastry called “snowball”. It’s a long strip of sweet dough that been twisted and formed in to a ball, which is either fried or baked – I couldn’t tell. After, it’s dusted with sugar and/or covered with other toppings, such as chocolate. mmm….

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Posted by quirksalight on April 13, 2009

I was hoping to avoid this pattern I have of coming home from vacation/long trips abroad sick, but alas, I have fell prey to it once again. Blargh… At least I didn’t come home sick this time, but just got ill a couple days later. Nothing major, just a sinus/cold issue. (again)

Another thing that the trip really drove home was the infrequency of the future. That all the friends I have made around the world, I’ll be lucky if I see them once a year or every two years. Which really freakin’ sucks. Can you imagine how much harder this would be, to keep in touch, prior to the internet?

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Work + Fortress + Beer + Karoke = Wurzburgr

Posted by quirksalight on April 9, 2009

The next day was a bit annoying as I had to work. Uh huh.. not a complete vacation. Still had to do some editing and I was a bit behind. Considering that I need the internet, MH and I went to his lab at Univ of Wurzburg (He doesn’t have an internet connection at home! Ack! Talk about detox… ), which is on top of one of the hills surrounding the river valley that the city sits in. Great view. Met a couple of his friends including F, his officemate, as I was using their office to edit in.

Of course, the paper was an extremely dry paper…. on Ostriches. Yep. Large flightless bird. So as I am working, I’m throwing out raather grumpy comments out loud, which is entertaining F and MH (as he’s running in and out of the office). As I finish, I tell F that I wanted to eat ostrich, just to kinda get back at it. Much to my surprise, there’s a place serving ostrich in Wurzburg. Heading there for lunch, we were too late, and the place had already finished serving lunch for the day. So we took advantage of the sunny day to grab a burger before heading to the Festung Marienburg (Marienburg fortress).

Built on one the many hills surrounding the city, the Marienburg Fortress is a rather imposing structure overlooking the river and the city. In the past it has been a residence, chapel, and the local defenses against warring neighbors. Now, it’s been restored and the grounds and building are beautiful. I definitely have to come back when the gardens and the vineyards on the slopes are in bloom…
Of course, the whole on top of a hill thing meant a bit of a hike up… but the views of the city and the hills surrounding it was well worth the climb. Great pandoramas!

And the structure itself! I loved the little details – the gargoyles, the janus faces, and the carvings that abounded on the building. Some of it historical, others following superstition. I think a good percentage of all the pictures I took in Germany were architectural; just so neat!

Later that evening, a couple of MH’s friends were meeting us at a local beerhall that evening. Wurzburg is really known for its white wines, not beer, but this was one of the better places to drink beer in the city (according to my friends).

Funny, it’s was karoke night. Serious. No, I didn’t sing. MH was signed up to sing ABBA’s “Dancing Queen”, but what do you know… it came up and someone else grabbed it! Hah… boy was he relieved. Two of his friends from the physics dept, H and F, did sing. I even have it on video. 🙂

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Posted by quirksalight on April 9, 2009

Yay for internet ! Hahah… I realize now how much I got used to the constant internet access of Korea. If there wasn’t wireless, there was an internet cafe (“PC bang”) readily available, no matter how small of town you’re at. Germany.. not so much. And WiFi… not so much. 😛 Probably a good thing…an internet detox? hahah… yeah right. I do need to for work.

But the DeutchBahn had internet via T-mobile! Whee! I got caught up on some convos with friends as we sped past fields, salt mine tailings, and through tunnels. Popped a call to MH, saying that the train was 5 minutes late, and chilled from the 2 hour ride there.

Please note that a lot of the German is spelled incorrectly because I’m not putting the umlauds…. yes, i know…Anyhoo…

MH was waiting for me at the train station as we pulled up. Pretty packed train for a Monday, but I guess it was also when any commuters took it. Monday night was more planning and catching up then anything else. Oh, and I had to do my laundry. Didn’t pack more than a week’s worth of clothes, and was definitely at the edge. 😛 Still, between laundry and just talking and catching up, I don’t think we went to sleep before 2am. OMG – MH has a streak of white hair at the top of his head a couple centimeters wide. It took a bit for me to notice it, but it’s pretty shiny in the sun. 🙂 No, he wasn’t too keen on this being documented, but someone’s got to.

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