Friday, October 14, 2016

Blue Skies in China

Don't let ANYONE tell you there are no blue skies in China.

Main street by my place
When I came to China, I really didn't know what to expect as far as pollution goes because all we ever hear about is Beijing.  Yes, Beijing has the highest pollution index in the world, BUT China is a big nation and the US if 3rd on this list.  (Granted, China is still 4x more polluted than the US)

We are in the Zhejiang province and down here, we have some really lovely days!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Farewell, King Bhumibol Adulyadej

Thailand King Bhumibol Adulyadej
Portrait of the King taken in 1946

It is with a heavy heart that we bid farewell to his majesty, King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX, the 9th monarch of the Thai Chakri Dynasty) on this day, October 13, 2016 at 15:52pm.

After living in Thailand this year, I am shocked and saddened by the news of the King's passing.  I felt like he became a part of my life for that short amount of time I lived in Nakhon Pathom and like someone I knew just passed.

King Bhumibol is very much a part of every Thai person's daily life and has been for more than 70 years of his reign.  Everyone will be wearing black for 30 days and the country will be in mourning for a year.

Jazz Jam Session with Benny Goodman in 1960 (courtsey of Popperfoto Getty Image)
I know this is a huge loss for Thais and the country as a whole, but as a person that was lucky enough to  live in his beautiful country, I do feel the loss upon hearing about his passing even if I'm in a different country the this moment.

Many have a place in their home or work space dedicated to the King and he is greeted, honored and revered like a deity.  Whether you hear his anthem over speakers, see images of him and his family throughout the town and cities or even watching a movie and standing to honor him, King Bhumibol is loved and will be greatly missed.

Thailand King Bhumibol Adulyadej
18 November 2012: US President Barack Obama, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Ambassador Kristie Kenney, meets with King Bhumibol Adulyadej of the Kingdom of Thailand, at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok courtesy of:Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Shock of the Day: Food is Home

I am currently chatting with a friend in Thailand and I made a realization that the concept of home has changed for me now that we are moving all over the place.  We'll it's more like my concept of home has evolved over the years.

I indefinitely consider Hawaii home.  It's where I grew up and lived most of my life.  My family is there and I've got a lot of memories invested in that place.

What has changed is it seems that now a days, especially since I'm moving more often and not making a firm home base as I did in Hawaii, I may have added a new criteria to the list.

FOOD (and drinks)!

Good food that make me feel at home.

Yes, I am now using a food as a way to feel anchored to my location.  It sounds weird but it's true.  At the rate that we are going at traveling and seeing new things, I won't have a new home home for a while and that fine.  I've now found that food is my way to connect myself to a place because it's as close to a feeling of home as I'll get on my fleeting visits or stay.

My first ever Flat White in Western Samoa in an Italian Restaurant of all places!
Best Flat white so far but whenever I drink it (now available at Starbucks) it takes me back to Samoa.

I guess you can say it all started with basing a good trip on the best food we can find in the region, but now it's come to the point where I miss food just as I would miss my home.  I get HOME SICK for food.  I can care less about the place as I've enjoyed my visiting and seeing new sites but food and drinks are where it's at!

YES, of course, meeting great people and seeing beautiful scenery is great but that in itself is an added bonus on top of the food.  I know it sounds a bit fucked up, me putting food over more tangible things like people and actual places but hear me out.

I miss people and associations and I also miss and yearn for those good times that we've had with them more than anything.  In fact, I still pine over my times with friends and family in Hawaii, Thailand, Japan and California even.  My separation from those people were really tough but I think once I left Thailand the first time, I may have mentally prepared myself for not coming back in a way I never did before.

Yes, I knew I wasn't going back to my other homes, but my leaving for Taiwan was different.  I knew I was leaving Taiwan in two months and then going back to Thailand for a week before heading for China.  That may have steeled me from getting too attached to people and places as I've done in the past.

Don't get me wrong, I made some really great friends there but in the back of my mind, I always knew I would leave so I lived more in the moment there than I did in most other places before hand because of that very finite end in sight.  Hence, why I've invested more into food and less into everything else.

I think that's why I really honed in on my need for food as not just a emotional crutch -which it really is - but also a thing to keep me grounded in my lofty state of carpe diem as I flit around like a butterfly moving from place to place.  My attachment to the places and people were just as fleeting as my attachment to the food but while I had it, I'm totally committed.

Doesn't this look amazing? Taiwan's famous Manguo Bing!  It tastes as good as it looks.

Once it was gone, it was gone.

Maybe I associate food as comfort and a way to feel safe and just....GOOD.

I really don't know, honestly!

Back to the ranch...

Maybe it's also because I can associate good food with great memories as well.  The cake below is my absolute favorite for it's subtle flavors and overall scrumptiousness may also be well loved because it was also the cake I chose to be my wedding cake.

Almond Teres Cake at my favorite baker in Hilo Hawaii (BI) at Moonstruck Patisserie
I just know that when I'm in Hawaii, I want good poke, kalua pig and go to my favorite Hilo dives to make me happy.  These foods reminds me of home and familiarity and brings me to my happy place.

I know that if I am in Thailand, I want to go to Salaya in Nakhon Pathom and eat at "Crazy Bird" - We named it that because I have NO IDEA what to call it and have my Tom Kha, Prikang, and Gai Pet Met Mamuang (I can't spell Thai stuff) and then go around the corner, get Cha Yen or Nam Manaow to drink or even eat Kao Soi Gai.  I love getting my fresh fruits and Mango with Jim Nam and oh, Muslim chicken.  These foods remind me of our time living in Thailand and how all I had to do was walk across the street from my old home to get great food and around the block to get everything else I'm hankering for.

Cooling off with Malaysia's version of shaved ice, Cendol

Unagi in Hiroshima or Miyajima Island on a nice rainy day
If I'm in Japan, I need to eat Matcha ANYTHING but I also want to eat Shabu Shabu, I love their bento boxes - don't judge me but I find bentos from the grocery store to be the best!  Buying sweets and getting just about anything from vending machines - I mainly LOVE cold season because then you can get hot cocoa in a can from vending machines.  Don't get me started on all-you-can-eat/drink buffets over there because the food is VERY good (nomi houdai and tabe houdai)!  These food remind me of the great time I've had in Japan and I can always aesthetically appreciate the presentation as well as the great taste.

When I'm in Taiwan, I want to eat Mango Bing, Niu Rou Mian, and drink Zhen Jiu Nai Cha and many other great street food delicacies at the night market.  I just think about the batered deep fried mushrooms, jipai, bacon wrapped grilled cheese, nai cha and so many more good foods!

Now here in China, I am associating Niu Rou Mian and Chou Doufu and Rou Jia Mo with Shaoxing.

I can be home everywhere and when I eat good food I can feel at home because it's like a security blanket.

The Golden Rule I did learn though, was not to eat a country's cuisine in another country.  If that Thai food isn't from Thailand (or in my case from a specific eatery within BKK) don't expect it to taste perfect because you'll most likely be disappointed.

It will NEVER be the SAME!

You're just setting yourself up for failure because you were jonesing for that perfect Prikang, well, save it for when you go back for a visit.  If you find something that is exact, you're VERY fortunate but honestly, the best way to feel at home in these new places is to find what food is their specialty and eat at that location.  It makes it a lot easier to transition to the new place you are visiting or living in by giving you something you can look forward to or rely on.

So instead of wishing to revisit that same exact experience, how about try something new until the next time you can say hello to that 'old friend' again in the future.

I promise it makes the wait that much more bearable. 

National Holiday

China has National Holiday that starts on Oct. 1 until the 7th - Communism and whatnot - but the actual day is for Sept 29...not as auspicious as the 1st.

I remember having a conversation with our friends here about numbers and how it pays a lot into the culture.

In the US we have an aversion to the number 13 yet like the number 7.

Thailand loves the number 9 as it is a leap into future and fortune but hates the number 4

Here 6 is a great number and I think 9 but NEVER 4.  4 signifies death and I for

Japan has an aversion to 4 for the same reason.

No one likes 4 in Asia and it's usually for the same reason.

Numerology plays into a lot of things in life here.  Choosing good phone numbers with lucky numbers, getting married on a certain day, certain ages are considered to be lucky and celebrated.

I just find it interesting.  Oh, and there is no correlation between my pictures and the topic.  It just helps break up the monotony. 

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Long Time No See! (好久不見 - hao jiu bu jian) from Zhejiang!

Yes, it's been a long time since I've posted something.  I've been actively taking pictures and have posted some of my favorites on my Sept Zhejiang  Page.

Because people like pictures, I'm shoving some in so you don't have to click on my page that has about 50 pics queuing to load.

Great garden that is supposed to be a lover's garden but I don't know much else.  

At the base of a HUGE hill (mini mount) that we have to climb in order to get to another temple.  Lovely view, but I wish we went after a rainfall because of all the haze.  Still very enjoyable!

Almost at the top of Xiang Lu Temple.  See, it's a bit hazy, but the view is still pretty nice.  Yes, we climbed probably a 1000 some steps to get up here but it was worth it.  I'd do it again :)

 Happy to be back on solid ground and not have to get vertigo looking down

A wet day in Shaoxing's 2nd Ring...or is it the 1st Ring (meaning City Center)...?  Still peaceful and beautiful

Our city is known for all the canals and waterways.  Actually, there is a story about how one of the Emperors, Dayu, devoted most of his life trying to solve the city's flooding problem and actually constructed these canals over 1000(?) years ago.  A huge achievement at the time and kept the city from flooding.

Let no one tell you that you can't see the sky.  This is just outside my apartment building but I couldn't help but take a picture of the blue skies!  Normally, China is known for its pollution problem, but a friend of mine mentioned that Shaoxing has pretty good air quality because most of the textile industry moved to Hangzhou or other cities within our Province.  We do have a few hazy days where it drifts our way, but for the most part, I do see blue skies.

Today was extra beautiful because it just rained and washed away any haze that may have lingered.  It'll get colder soon and I'll be experiencing my first snow in almost a decade!

A museum that we didn't get a chance to go into but if you look at the hills, there are a few towers.  We visited those and will come back to visit other towers as well.  I'll swing by the museum then, too!

Keyan scenic resort.  It's like a Buddhist temple site merged with Disneyland.  Still cool to see!

I've seen a few Buddha's and in a few different countries at this point but I still enjoy looking at them and even noticing the difference from place to place.  This one is a bit rounder around the face that I'm used to seeing in Thailand but definitely not the portly, happy, jolly Buddha we in the west usually associate him with.

I may be bold in saying this but these are the best F***ing nuts I've ever tasted!  Each basket has a certain nut (peanut, cashews, pecans, walnut, brazilnut etc) but they also roast it right there in front of you!  I'm in LOVE with the lightly seasoned pecans and wish I had gotten 5 kg rather than .5kg.  I've practically devoured the whole bag in two days.  Not a bad price too for half a kilo of freshly roasted nuts.  I think it was about $5 and still warm when we paid.  There are just some things that you can't get in other places.

Needlees to say, I've found places to see, and things to eat that will keep me happy for a while but I'm also glad that China is such a massive country that I can probably spend the next 10 years or the rest of my life and still not see everything it has to offer.