Trouble in Hong Kong…

an outsider's perspective of hong kong

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a village of 400 families

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we went to a very strange place while we were at xiamen. located three hours by car from xiamen city, we booked a day trip to this hakka village that lies in the fujian province. known as tulou, this hakka village is like a version of a village laid out in the form of the colosseum in rome. the only difference is that people actually live in them. we went to the biggest tulou in the village.

the 700 year old structure is a three storey circular complex that houses more than 400 rooms where families live together. as the hakka people are considered a minority ethnic group, i suppose like all minorities everywhere, they like to huddle together in unity.

as the village is situated on the highlands, i think that the main economy comes from growing tea leaves because at the ground level of the complex, you are invited to sample various types of tea. i initially thought that going to a place like that, the locals will definitely try to hard sell their wares to us because they are pretty chilled. so the atmosphere is quite nice.

seeing families live together in such close proximity makes me think of how alienated we are nowadays. it wasn’t too long ago when we had more of a communal sense, i suppose. if only we have more of that now, maybe people would be happier. it seems to me, people now are often eager to have a family but they don’t think about ways of raising the family. some leave it to domestic helpers, others have nannies – paid help, everything can now be exchanged with money. this has become a value that we instill in our children.

sad isn’t it..

back then, it takes a village to raise a child..


Written by smalltroubleinhk

September 13, 2011 at 8:10 am

xiamen, gulangyu

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i love going to new places and seeing the world. there is nothing quite like seeing the concept of the everyday from another person’s perspective of how everyday is like

whenever there is a holiday in hong kong, people just love to travel. maybe because hong kong is quite centralized most other asian cities just a couple of hours away, that kinda leads to the convenient of traveling.

after working hardcore hours – 12 hours a day for the last 6 months, i threw in the towel for a few days of relaxation. if there was one thing that i would like to do this year – it’s really to see more of china. there is so much to see in china. so much history so many different places and faces.

we headed out to xiamen for a few days of ” doing nothing…

upon arrival, we stayed a day on a little island next to xiamen city. gulangyu reminds me a lot of lamma island. i was really surprised with the large number of colonial -style mansions scattered all over the island. probing the local residents had later revealed that the mansions were built by rich overseas chinese from nanyang ( singapore and malaysia) after they made their fortunes abroad. apparently as well, the xiamen university was funded by a rich overseas chinese who went to singapore. interesting.

anyways, gulangyu must have been one of the most artistic little island enclave i have seen. called the paradise garden of china, one is able to see how art is part of everyday living. the gardens are beautifully landscaped and every bit of space they have, they use it to plant things. at the b&b where we stayed, there was a garden at the back where it is used as an open air art studio and students go there with easels and paint brushes, drawing whatever inspires them.

i really like the old colonial mansions and the coffee places. don’t bother trying the cakes because they are still not up to par but every single coffee place try their hardest to carve out a unique identity of their own.

sending postcards and writing to one another seems also be a unique fabric in the culture of gulangyu. we saw many people regardless of age buying loads of postcards and sending them out. i didn’t hesitate sending my family one too.

i think you will like xulangyu. compared to a lot of places in china, xiamen is spotlessly clean. i hardly see blue skies in china but for four days, i saw nothing but blue skies with an occasional passing of the summer’s shower.

Written by smalltroubleinhk

September 10, 2011 at 9:04 am

i left my heart in kaikoura

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there are only about 3500 people living in kaikoura new zealand and that explains its captivating unspoiled beauty. it is so beautiful, i have no words to describe it. being close to the sea is one of my sources of happiness and kaikoura has that kind of effect on me.

i have not seen a seaside town like quite like kaikoura. known for its whale watching/ swimming with the dolphins tours, many people come to this town to witness for themselves, the miracles of man’s last unconquered frontier – the ocean.

we stayed at brook house a bed and breakfast i picked out from the b&b guide book. i must say throughout the whole trip, brook house was the best place we had stayed at. the guide book  reads – judy and louis( the poodle) welcome you to their home. and also their two cats, bruce willis and i forgot the other cat’s name because he was hardly around.

as it turned out, judy the host works for the whaling company and when she found out that we hadn’t made any bookings. she immediately called the company and put us on the waiting list ( note: people who come here for whale watching sometimes book years in advance especially europeans)

there are seven rooms at the brook house. judy had bought the property shortly after her divorce because she wanted to share her home with people from all over the world. her sons are working in japan and london and because her father had loved kaikoura so much, they came here a lot during the summer when she was a child. coming back to kaikoura had been a sentimental choice. well, i am glad judy had done so. one would be blind to not see the amount of careful thought and consideration, she had put into making brook house a pleasant stay.

if you stay at the brook house, remember to have some of judy's home baked chocolate muffins. they will be the reason why i go back there again and also to see louis the sweet black poodle

the garden view - overlooking mount fyffe. we should have hiked up mount fyffe, it doesnt take that long!

the view was just splendid!! note - we didn't take a picture when we checked in, this was taken when we were about to leave and hence the messy bed

thanks to judy we managed to do the whale watch. right before we had boarded the boat out the authorities had put on a sea-sickness notice but i thought hell, i have come all the way and i am not going back without seeing a whale.

the national geographic moment. to be this close and see a whale with your naked eyes - it is a miracle in itself!!

according to our guide - they have been friends with this particular whale for 20 years. the whale knows them very well by now.

apparently the same last year this rock was just filled with seals - the la nina phenomenon sweeping across the globe has some terrifying effects on every living being

dolphins are my favorite sea animals. these are dusky dolphins - swimming along with the bed trying like as though they are trying to tease us into a game of hide and seek

the seal colony - i can't believe this place

nothing beats a nice fish & chips by the sea

this is how close you can get to a seal ( if it is sleeping, not a good idea otherwise)

if you like nice romantic dinners like i do and watch the sunset

i love this photo!!

i think i left my heart in kaikoura and i know you will too.

if you want to visit judy and louis at the brook house and if you want more information about kaikoura

Written by smalltroubleinhk

February 17, 2011 at 4:39 am

the land of the green and blue lakes

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there were a few places in new zealand, i wished we had the luxury of time to stay a little longer and rotorua was one of it. many years ago, i watched this documentary about places that are considered energy vortexes such as glastonbury and sedona. i am not sure if rotorua make this list but i feel that it should.

of all the pools that lie within hell's gate i remember sodom and gomorrah the most because george bernard shaw the writer named it. for me that describes macau and shenzhen!!

there are things that are distinctly rotorua which you cannot help but notice the moment you drive into the city. first of all the smell hits you like bad revenge. rotorua is like a friend with a bad farting problem. there is literally the smell of sulphur everywhere. famous for geothermal activities, a lot of the infrastructure is built around the hot pools. i find it very much a novelty when i see gas emitting out of the ground.

almost everyday is a beautiful day in new zealand

many people who come to rotorua will try out the spas. the most popular one is probably the polynesian spa that is located right in the heart of the city next to the botanical garden. we didn’t try that because a friend had recommended us to go to hell’s gate instead.

first of all the name hell’s gate did not appeal to me and when i looked at the website – i didn’t think it was very well designed. but i must say, it surpassed  all of my expectation and we had a great time there.

when i asked about the landscape of hell's gate, our guide told us, it changes every few years because new pools are formed and some of the older ones changes in terms of size and level of activities. very interesting

the maori people consider hell’s gate a “taonga”( treasure) and all throughout the reserve – there are many different types of pools.  our tour guide pearl taught us so much about the reserve, the healing properties of the different types of mud.

look i am a warrior!!

i tried the mud spa for the first time as well.maybe it’s pyschological but my skin felt really soft after the dip. i secretly wanted my own mud pool at home too but i think it may be too much maintenance.

after the mud spa, we got ready for our massage was surprised to see pearl our tour guide earlier at the reserve walk as my assigned masseur.

i said – ” are you a therapist as well?”

she laughed and said they do almost everything. sometimes she is a cashier, sometimes she is a guide and that is what i find cool about the new zealanders. unlike corporate america – where job functions are streamlined, people in new zealand seem to understand business from a holistic point of can quiz them about the most intimate details of a business and they can tell you. i like that. it gives everyone a form of ownership.

she asked me, what do you think of the reserve walk?

i kept quiet for a minute. i was struggling to find the right word. i then said, you know pearl, it struck me as very odd to find in the middle of all these hot boiling pools a bush walk.

earlier on while she was taking us to the various pools, there was this “green reserve” with a waterfall nestled right in the middle. the waterfall known as the kakahi falls is the largest hot waterfall in the southern hemisphere. the maori warriors used to bathe themselves in the fall, cleaning battle wounds and because sulphur is so acidic it was then used as a form of antiseptic.

the enchanted bush walk in the middle of the reserve

pearl looked at me as i continued speaking. i said – i think the green reserve is enchanted. there is an energy there, i felt something.

she said, you are right and from her eyes – i knew immediately i said enough. something unspoken was exchanged between us.

after we came back - i was looking through our entire album. i found this picture of the green reserve at hell's gate. when i said to pearl - i felt something there. i think we may have even caught it on camera. but i must say, what i felt it was a good feeling. it wasn't eerie or anything

maybe there is magic in this world. somehow right, after coming back from my trip. i became somewhat intrigued with the healing powers of plants. maybe it is in line with my resolution this year of wanting to eat better. maybe our ancestors knew better than us about the healing power of certain things. we just forgot about it along the way.maybe….


sometimes i think we focus too much on what lies on the surface level, we don’t care about what is within. we spend so much money on using expensive skincare but not what we eat. a lot of us are broken inside. i have been struggling with nasal complications for years and none of that – allergy medication is helping me. i think it’s time for me to look elsewhere.

i like the maori people. every single maori i spoke to – they tell you stories about their ancestors. i have enjoyed their stories. when you speak to enough maoris, you’d gather that the eruption of mount tarawera on 10th june 1886 changed maori history forever. i cannot help but to think that rotorua is a good representation about life in general. in life, there is always duality. the land of rotorua is beautiful yet so deadly. so fertile yet so destructive.

mount tarawera - breath taking isn't it.. the volcano isn't extinct, it is just sleeping

i hope to go back someday. until then, like what the maori people say. we are the ” kaitaiki” ( guardians). we need to good care of the environment.

auckland zoo

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auckland zoo is such a special place- it truly is. located only 20 minutes from the city centre of auckland, auckland zoo is a happy place for both kids and adults.

don't miss the auckland zoo - it's definitely worth a visit

there are so many things i love about it. i don’t know where to start.

when we were waiting for our turn to feed the giraffe, i heard a man’s voice saying – do you know that a giraffe has seven bones in its neck, just like a human being?

without being in africa this is perhaps a good substitute to the african savannah

i turned and found ray, a volunteer at the auckland zoo talking to the visitors. i started chatting with him asking him questions about the animals and the zoo. i love the volunteer program at the zoo. for people who are retired especially, this is a good way of giving back to society and not to be bored because you  will have a million people to talk to.

one of my favorite sections at the zoo is the aussie walkabout whereby animals roam free.. the friendly ones normally would come by and say hi whilst the ones shy ones like wallabies - it takes a while for you to spot them

i was totally taken aback with the gentle nature of the emu

i love the sense of involvement that the auckland zoo gives its visitors. i love the open-ness of the zoo and energy of the zoo. i noticed as well they try to put a few different types of animals ( the sociable ones) in a certain enclosure. when i asked ray about it, he laughed and said – like people you don’t want the animals to think they are the only ones in the world.

the great green lizard and i

ray the man

i hope that for years to come, children and adults get to enjoy the auckland zoo. i used to think zoos are such horrible ideas but i now see the good as well. we are the destructive animal of all no doubt but we are also one of the most compassionate ( potentially) and intelligent as well. there is so much good we could do, it is unbelievable.

chickens on the loose at the auckland zoo. it's so cute

we only have a few 100s of these amazing rhinos left in the world. it's so sad, i don't know where to start.

the auckland zoo and as well the rest of the new zealand and australia zoos run a pretty successful breeding exchange program and as result to that – they have many animals born in captivity. unfortunately, many including myself will only have the zoos to learn about the animals and fortunately, we still have this channel. there is so much we need to learn about respecting other life forms and that when we hurt nature and its beautiful creature, we all get hurt too – that i guarantee you.

meerkats are fun to watch - very animating

whenever i read about researches done on animals, it never fails to occur to me how dumb we truly are. we grade how intelligent animals are based on a system that we created. if you just spend a little time with them, i can tell you that each animal deserves to be treated like an individual.

it is not hard to see the bond kashin has with his handlers... if you have any questions about elephants,they always encourage q&a questions

nice day for a nap...

we thought snorkel was one of the oldest resident until we found a chimpanzee who has been living in the zoo since the 1950s...

while i think the auckland zoo has done a fantastic job i think they should do more to promote the breeding program. i think they should create opportunities for the public to witness the entire birth program of the animals. make you tube videos, create a campaign around their birth/ when they first come out to meet zoo visitors. that would be great public involvement. nevertheless, it was one of the best zoos i have been to.

Written by smalltroubleinhk

January 29, 2011 at 9:24 am

the animal farm

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we stayed at a farm in this relatively small town in canterbury 40 minutes away from the city of christchurch. first of all i have to explain to you why i think that this so personal to me. as what you would call a city slicker, i absolutely detest the fact that i know so little about the entire food chain ( amongst other things)

my next door neighbor robbie the kunekune pig. the kunekune pigs are a unique species to new zealand. they are highly intelligent unlike the myth. when you call out robbie - they come running out like a dog.. really ugly animals but very endearing.

what is lamb chop to me? it is what i find in the freezer. it is what i tell the butcher to give me when i make a purchase over the counter. i feel that the sanitized condition of how i live sickens me. it absolutely frustrates me that i do not know.

one of the shows that i recently enjoy a lot is a show called the colony. it is on discovery channel. it is about how a group of people working together ( with different skill sets) to build a society from scratch. i think as much what we know today, we don’t know enough and we have overlooked the fundamentals.

i learnt a lot while staying with chris and elaine. i cannot tell you how humbled i am when i realized how a farm is run. i just want to ask you one question – do you think we respect farmers enough? i don’t think we do. which is a shame because without them, we’d have nothing to eat and the fact that they work so hard and yet get back so little – that’s another question i ask myself constantly.

bertie the rooster. i am telling you this rooster has so much personality. when it wants attention from you, it pecks at your toes, it wants to be carried all the way. when you carry it in your arms, it falls asleep and bertie snores... seriously, every year when time magazine puts together the study on animal intelligence - they should put bertie as an example

i don’t think i can throw away anything anymore without thinking about how to re-use it or finding a different way to use it..with chris and elaine – everything is maximized. if a chicken coop falls apart, they reuse everything including old nails, when they go for drives, they find apples to feed the donkey, when they eat out and if they can’t finish their food, they take it home to feed the chickens..

the rascals.... they know where to look for good food - humans!! and the moment you pick them up. - they squeal like as though they are being strangled or something. they are really smart though and fun to watch

good honest hardworking people who knows how to build the world. i feel that we need more of these people. if you are interested in staying at a farm and see for yourself some of the nicest animals around, please pay chris and elaine a visit at warwick farm

sunny the one year old alpaca.. definitely one of my favorites. sunny has such a sunny disposition, he lives up to his name that's for sure. he is on sale. if only we have more space in hong kong. i may be the only girl in hk with an alpaca pet. they are quite nice pets i think. they like to poop in a certain area and only eats grass, willow leaves and hay...

rose is the sweet one..... such gentle eyes

one of the 12 enderby island rabbits

they have enderby island rabbits -they are very rare. in fact one of the rabbits that they have at the farm – they are only 12 of them in the world. how lucky i am to have touched one of the rarest animals in the world.

i feel like the messiah of farm animals

way way way down under…. new zealand

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before the fall of the berlin wall, east germans were asked about what they envied most about the west. it was the fact that  west germans could travel whenever they want to.

i must say i resonate the same sentiment. people that i have often found interesting were people who had travelled extensively. i find stories of their travels so intimately thought -provoking. we did 15 days in new zealand. whilst we now have thousands of photos to remember the trip by, there was so much about the country i won’t be able to take home with me.. the clean air, the curious looking animals and plants, the spirit of respect the maori people have for the land and animals, the people that we met along the way, the stories that were shared along the way.

i think we went to new zealand at a good time. this year the country is hosting the world rugby cup. whenever a country play host to an event of that scale – the country gains a lot of attention forever changing the lives of its people. many europeans i have asked see new zealand as one of the furthest places they could go and now that traveling has become so common, new zealand will be high on the any avid traveller’s must-visit countries.

things that i will miss about new zealand

1.) every kiwi we have met and talked to, they look as though they really like talking to you. i like that sense of sincerity ( or maybe it’s because when you are so isolated, living with 4.5 million people in a rather large space don’t create enough people for you to talk to. in asia, we have too  many people but we have too many people whom we don’t want to talk to!)

2.) the meat because from what i see, cows really graze and run around in large space. if you have seen food inc, you would understand my paranoia about our food source.

3.) sitting outdoor and having a nice cuppa coffee. the air is so clean. i have come to the conclusion that the world doesn’t need 9 billion people, the world needs 9 billion consumers. think about it.

4.) seeing children play.

5.) keeping a sense of child-likeness. we stayed at a farm ( i will devote a write up to this) and the owner of the farm told me this – what is the likelihood of you taking a walk by the beach and finding a piece of driftwood that resembled the head of an alpaca? i seriously thought he was pulling my leg. it’s funny that this person has so much less than me yet have so much more than me – at least he is not jaded and being jaded is nullifying.

5.) i will miss all the animals i made friends with while staying at the farm.

children playing by lake takawera, rotorua

the shoreline of kaikoura

all ready for the world rugby cup?

enjoying a glass of wine is somewhat such a pretentious affair in asia. i really like the laid back vineyards in new zealand. it doesn't cost anything to get a nice glass of anything. i am not a fan of pinot noir but apparently new zealand is famous for good quality pinots. picture was taken in a vineyard in the canterbury region - it's called langdale. it's very pretty with all the lavenders around.

pahi beach - have you seen a beach with black volcanic sand? that was my first time.

church by lake tekapo. do you care about eternity when you have a view like that?

lake pukaki. seriously this lake is strange. have you seen a lake that is completely still? maybe there is a monster that lives in there? you know what they always say about still water runs deep right?

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