Pictures from Asia: Part 1, Food

I have decided to post some pictures from our trip to Taiwan and Hong Kong in 3 parts: Food, family, and street.  I had to split up the posts to 3 parts because there are just too many photos to put in 1 post.

Food is all the things we ate that I managed to take a picture of.  This shows about 1/3 of the food we had, because the rest of the time I was either holding Savanna or didn’t have my camera with me and didn’t manage a picture.

Family is mostly the kids and my family in Taiwan.  This may not be interesting to everyone following the blog, but it’s more for my family to see the pictures.

Street is street photography of random things I saw in Taiwan and HK.

Today’s theme is food.  You can see how I quickly put on 3 pounds on this short trip.

Our first meal in Taiwan.  My dad went all out.

Our first meal in Taiwan. My dad went all out.

Various mango desserts.

Various mango desserts.

Pigs' ear, intestine, and lobster balls.

Pigs’ ear, intestine, and lobster balls.

Sausage, BBQ pork, and lobster balls.

Sausage, BBQ pork, and lobster balls.

Getting street food in HK.

Getting street food in HK.

Grass jelly, mango, and tapioca dessert.

Grass jelly, mango, and tapioca dessert.

Black sticky rice, coconut milk and mango dessert.

Black sticky rice, coconut milk and mango dessert.

Mango pancake with whipped cream.

Mango pancake with whipped cream.

Beef and rice noodles.

Beef and rice noodles.

Ma po tofu and rice.

Ma po tofu and rice.

Veggie rice and lok bok.

Veggie rice and lok bok.

Braised beef on noodles and soup.  Sooo good.

Braised beef on noodles and soup. Sooo good.

Shop owner in HK who wasn't too impressed with me taking his picture.

Shop owner in HK who wasn’t too impressed with me taking his picture.

Chinese meat sauce and noodles.

Chinese meat sauce and noodles.

Wontons.

Wontons.

Korean rice dish.

Korean rice dish.

Chinese pastry with braised beef slices.

Chinese pastry with braised beef slices.

My dad's homemade Chinese pastry.

My dad’s homemade Chinese pastry.

Peanut ice dessert.

Peanut ice dessert.

Fresh squeezed sugar cane juice.

Fresh squeezed sugar cane juice.

Fried squid.

Fried squid.

Grilled corn.

Grilled corn.

My favorite street food--oyster pancakes (oysters, veggie, yam paste, and sauce).

My favorite street food–oyster pancakes (oysters, veggie, yam paste, and sauce).

Oyster pancake shop.

Oyster pancake shop.

Lining up to get oyster pancakes.

Lining up to get oyster pancakes.

Pumpkin and salted duck eggs.

Pumpkin and salted duck eggs.

Scallops and crab legs.

Scallops and crab legs.

Red bean cart wheels.

Red bean cart wheels.

Sweet potato and grass jelly ice dessert.

Sweet potato and grass jelly ice dessert.

Taro and grass jelly ice dessert.

Taro and grass jelly ice dessert.

Giant wonton.

Giant wonton.

Steamed fried buns.

Steamed fried buns.

Rice noodle.

Rice noodle.

Ice Monster: Original mango ice

Ice Monster: Original mango ice

Ice Monster: Bubble tea ice

Ice Monster: Bubble tea ice

Ice Monster: Mango Ice

Ice Monster: Mango Ice

My all time favorite breakfast food: Chinese donut and egg in Chinese pastry.  I can eat this everyday!

My all time favorite breakfast food: Chinese donut and egg in Chinese pastry. I can eat this everyday!

Dumplings and green onion pancake.

Dumplings and green onion pancake.

BBQ pork and rice. C$2.

BBQ pork and rice. C$2.

Road side bento box of BBQ duck and rice. C$2.

Road side bento box of BBQ duck and rice. C$2.

Indian curry.

Indian curry.

Japanese noodles.

Japanese noodles.

Chinese meat sauce and noodles.

Chinese meat sauce and noodles.

Taro cream cake.

Taro cream cake.

Prime rib. Yum!

Prime rib. Yum!

My uncle is an accomplished baker.  He made the French bread in the picture.

My uncle is an accomplished baker. He made the French bread in the picture.

Big meal at my uncle's house.

Big meal at my uncle’s house.

Rice vermicelli soup.

Rice vermicelli soup.

Did you miss me?

We got home last night, after some brutally long and unnecessary delays for various reasons.  We are doing loads of laundry and settling back in.  We’re all still on the Asia clock, with Joshua winning the jet lag award for being up since 4:30 am.

We had a fantastic time with my family in Taiwan and Hong Kong.  I took almost 1,500 pictures.  Now I am going to sink into the deep hole of going through so many photos!

It’s nice to be home to sleep in my own bed, and have Sammy back.  At the same time, I sorely miss my family and the delicious food in Taiwan.

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Useful washroom accessory

The lack of posts lately is because we are visiting family in Asia right now. I brought my old laptop with the plan to sort through photos and blogging, but the laptop is so old that it won’t install my photo catalogue software. So all my photos in RAW format are stuck on the memory cards. Sigh.

Anyway, we are having a fantastic time being spoiled rotten and stuffed like little piggies by everyone. I will have to post photos after we go back home.

Here’s one of my favorite things about the public bathrooms here–the baby holder.

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Cravings

Since I’ve been pregnant, people often ask me what my cravings are.  I actually haven’t had ANY food cravings during this pregnancy.

My “cravings”, aside from food, however, have been quite intense.  You know what I really crave?  I’m craving riding a motorcycle, or trekking in Tibet, or rolling down the sand dune in the dessert of Egypt.  I’m craving something crazy, something exotic, or something my mom is going to have a heart attack over.

We knew before we had Joshua that life is going to change in a totally different direction once the little monkey (or in our case soon, two monkeys) arrives.  The type of traveling I loved will not be available for a few years.  I sold my motorcycle, knowing that I won’t have time to ride for a while.  I certainly do not regret the decision to put these things on hold, and focus on raising my kids.  All I’m saying, is that I have to admit, my heart has not stopped craving for the next adventure.

A few years ago, I read a book called A Camera, Two Kids, and a Camel written by Annie Griffiths Belt.  This woman is my hero.  She’s a photographer working for the National Geographic, had two kids, and took her kids on photo assignments with her all over the world.  Her book wasn’t very long, but it influenced me in a serious way.  She totally dispelled the myths that people don’t travel to exotic places with young kids.  She found ways to make it work to take her kids on assignments.  She’s the type of women who never follows tradition, and blazes her own path in life.  It made me decide that if I ever had kids, I’m not going to use them as an excuse not to travel.

I know, for now at least, I can only savour the memories of past travels or experience of exotic places.  I do really look forward to one day going somewhere really cool with the kids, and show them just how amazing it is to see the world outside of our little corner in North America.

Solo ride from Vancouver to Halifax:

 

In the Okavango Delta in Botswana:

 

Rock climbing in Joshua Tree:

 

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with Cliff:

 

Vienna:

 

Sand dune in Namibia:

 

A beach at Zanzibar:

 

Muncho Lake in Alaska:

 

Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu:

 

On a safari in Tanzania:

 

 

 

Hey, wanna see my vacation photos?

I’m always afraid of people asking me if I want to see their vacation photos for one reason: I have no interest in seeing 100 pictures of the same person standing and smiling in front of a monument or a landmark.  I guess I have something against the very generic “I’ve been here” photos.

Now that we’ve been back from our vacation for almost a week, I feel terrible not posting some pictures on this blog, but I also feel terrible if I’m making you look at my vacation photos.  So I promise I won’t show you any “I’ve been here” photos.

I found that traveling with a wiggly toddler makes photo-making quite difficult.  I often passed on opportunities because either I was carrying Joshua, or he’s whining for me to carry him.  Why did we not use a stroller?  More on that later.

I’ve decided that I will post my favorite 5 pictures.  Here they are:

At the biggest fish market in the world, a number of shops sell these dried fish flakes called benito flakes.  I’ve used benito flakes for cooking before.  You can make a very quick and simple fish stock from just boiling some of the flakes.  However, I’ve never seen benito flakes in this massive quantity.  You usually buy a small pouch of it from the supermarket and it lasts a long time.  Here, you buy it by the kilograms.  This vendor sells six different types of benito flakes.  When you walk by the shop, the first thing that hits your senses is the strong fragrance of the flakes.  These flakes are big, not like the tiny shredded stuff you get at supermarkets.  And here you have choices of which mix of fish you want.  We bought a very big bag that made our entire suite case smell like fish flakes.

When we visited the Meinji Temple, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  I’m not a temple-goer, and am not familiar with the history behind this place.  My favorite part of the visit was the big structure on which people hung their wishes and prayers.  Yes, you have to pay a fee to buy one of these tablets to write on.  But the reason I really liked this, is that you get to see how real people can be in their wishes and prayers.  Some people asked for blessings for their families, their health, careers, exams.  Some people simply asked to be happy and fulfilled.  It’s like reading people’s raw emotions and what’s truly on their minds without knowing who the person is.

This picture has nothing to do with our vacation, but it was taken during our vacation.  Joshua was sitting next to Cliff on a bench while sharing a serving of fries at a fast food joint.  I love how Joshua just loves to be with his daddy.

Tokyo is a very busy place.  On our first morning there, we were up so early that we thought we’d go explore the city early.  Big mistake.  We were caught in early morning rush hour traffic, and we could barely get on the metro.  People push and shove to get on and off the metro.  Sometimes a train comes into the station, and you can see the people plastered against the window of the train.  They almost fall right out of the train when the door opens.  I wish I had pictures of the crazy train ride that morning, but I was too busy trying to hold onto Joshua without being pushed too far from Cliff.  So here’s a picture of the busiest intersection in the world in Shibuya.  It’s a 5-way intersection.  When the light goes green for pedestrians, sometimes a thousand people rush through it.  When we went, it wasn’t that busy, but you can still see from the picture that people fill up the intersection.

Lastly, we also visited my parents in Taiwan on our trip.  Here’s a picture of a noodle dish my dad made.  It was my favorite.  He fries green onion for a long time at a very low temperature until it wilts, and add dried shrimp, soy sauce, and sugar.  I call it green onion confit because it preserves the green onion for a long time.  Essentially it becomes a savoury topping you can put on noodles or whatever you like.  It keeps in the fridge for ever!  He makes the noodle in a thick, homemade chicken and ham stock, tops it with the green onion confit, and the dish is to die for.

Yes, I’m alive

It’s been over 2 weeks since I posted on the blog.  That’s probably the longest break I have taken in over a  year.  Yes, I’m alive.  Barely.  Well, ok, I’m exaggerating a little.

The winter wasn’t as tough as I expected, but going into spring has been tougher than I thought.  After a series of flus, piling on the busy season at work, I just felt exhausted.  Making it to the office for 7 am became harder, and keeping my eyes open at the dinner table sometimes became impossible.  I barely tried any new recipes worth mentioning.  Wah wah wah.

The good news is, all this is coming to an end this week.  Come hell or high water, we’re getting on a plane on Saturday morning to begin our vacation!  We are spending 4 days in Tokyo, and 8 days in Taipei.  I can barely wait to take my shoes off and throw them on the airport security conveyer belt, and yell, “So long, Sucker!” to my regular life in Vancouver.

Last time we flew with Joshua, he was just shy of 5 months old.  He sat in our laps, cuddled, drank milk, played with toys, cried for a few minutes, and slept.  This time he’ll be 17 months old.  I have no idea what to expect.  I’m bringing a cooler full of food, drinks, snacks, and everything I can think of to distract him–crayons, coloring book, iPod, iPad, and toys.  We’ll just have to wait and see how it goes!

Thank you for your patience with my absence.  I promise things will get a little more exciting here after this!

Taiwan

From Maui, we flew to Taipei through Honolulu and Tokyo. This is Joshua’s first time meeting many of his relatives. He charmed everybody, especially his Grandpa. He smiled at his Grandpa right out of the airport, and then some.

Joshua was very popular in Taiwan everywhere he went. Everyone, including store cashiers and strangers, commented on how fat and prosperous he is and how cute he is. Ladies come up to squeeze his thighs and he would giggle with delight.

First picture with Grandpa:

Taking the High Speed Rail to Kaoshung:

Meeting Great Grandma:

Meeting Great Grandpa:

Meeting Great Auntie:

Checking out the market:

Picture with Great Uncle:

Charming Great Grandma:

Grandpa requested another picture with Joshua:

Meeting Great-God-Mom:

Hanging out with Grandpa and God-Cousin:

Hanging out with God-Cousin:

God-mom with all the boys:

Watching mommy and daddy eat shaved ice:

Found his toes:

Hard to tell where the elbow is:

Last picture in Taiwan before flying back to Vancouver:

Maui

We flew out on April 8th to Maui.  This is Joshua’s first “vacation”.  I’ve been stressing out about the flight since we booked the vacation.  But as it turns out, Joshua did really well on the flight.  On take-off and landing, I nursed him to reduce the ear pressure build-up.  He only cried for a few minutes during the flight, as a part of his normal pre-sleep routine.

We had a great time bathing in the sun and enjoying the beach in Maui.  In terms of new developments, Joshua started sitting, turning over from his back to his belly, and grabbing his toes all on this trip.

Joshua’s first flight; watching TV with daddy:

Hanging out at the beach with mommy:

Hanging out on the lanai with daddy:

Sitting up all on his own:

I love this little shark sun-shirt on him:

Family photo on the beach:

Up at 5 am Maui time:

We are so cool:

Fish:

Spinner dolphins:

Joshua’s first time on a boat:

I think he loves the beach:

First time dipping his feet in sand:

Hanging out in Lahaina:

Grabbing for daddy’s coffee at the airport:

On the flight out of Maui:

Playing in the bassinet on the plane:

Last trip before the due date

At 36 weeks, I wrapped up all the major projects at work, and started taking some vacation time. Cliff and I took Sam, and drove down to our favorite spot on the Oregon Coast–Cannon Beach, and stayed there for about a week. Having been working a lot of long hours, I was really looking forward to this break. Cliff had just taken on a new contract with a different studio, so he had to bring work with him. But at least we were going to be on the beach!

We drove through the worst rain storm on the way down to Oregon. But once we arrived at Cannon Beach, the weather cleared up and it was 5 straight days of sunshine! Joshua was kicking a lot in my tummy (now 37 weeks), so I think he was enjoying the beach as well.

Mount Kilimanjaro, September 10th

I woke up at 11 pm with a dry and sore throat, but feeling very positive and ready for the summit climb.  My thermometer said -5 C, but it felt colder.  We had some tea and biscuits at the dinner tent.  Nobody said much at the table.  I suppose everyone felt a mix of excitement and nervousness.

At 12:20 am, the porters sang us a song in Swahili, and we were off.  The sky was pitch dark, but not many stars were visible.  The half moon was glowing brightly in the sky.  The air was calm, with not a hint of wind.  The hail and freezing rain had stopped.  The scree below our feet felt solid to walk on from the freezing temperature.

The team lined up in single file and followed the lead guide.  For the 11 climbers, we had one lead guide, and 4 assistant guides.  One of the assistant guides stayed in the back of the line, and the other 3 spread themselves out to ensure all the climbers are together.

Everyone has different expectations of themselves.  I expected that I will go slow, carrying my own load, and eventually make the summit.  So even though my backpack was heavy, I strapped it on and began the hike.  I have always believed that if you want to play the game, then you have to be able to carry your own toys.

In a single file, I was right behind Cliff.  The LED bulbs from my headlamp illuminated the ground in front of me, and the back of Cliff’s legs.  He was wearing his gators, making his calves look so skinny.  That amused me for a long minute.

The air was so thin, every step required a breath.  I looked up the mountain, but could not make out the peak.  I could see other teams ahead of us, forming a line with the bright dots of their headlamps, slowly snaking up the hill.  The guides start singing in a soft, low voice in Swahili.  Their soothing voices distracted me from wondering if I was sane for signing up for this.

I sucked on zinc lozenges to sooth my sore throat.  The air was very dry and cold, irritating my airway as I breathed.  The lemon flavored lozenges tasted awful.  I swore to never take another lozenge again for the rest of my life.

In 40 minutes, we stopped for a quick break.  I took a few sips of water from my drinking tube, and made sure I blew the water back into the pouch afterwards to prevent the tube from freezing.  The team reshuffled a bit to ensure an even pace.  Cliff seemed to be doing fine.  No one was really talking, as if we were all deep in thought.

At 2 am, the wind picked up a little.  My fingers were so cold, I couldn’t bring myself to take off my gloves and use my camera.  It was -5 C.  We were on a series of switchbacks, winding up the mountain.

I thought it was unbelievable that I was climbing Kilimanjaro.  Everything seemed surreal, like a vivid dream.  Two years ago, I didn’t even know where Kilimanjaro was.  My friend, Brandi, who climbed it showed me her slide show of the climb.  It took very little convincing for me to sign up for it.

I synchronized my breathing to each step, going slowly up the hill, feeling positive and focused.

Every 30 to 40 minutes, we would stop for a few minutes for snacks and water.  A few people started complaining that the pace was too slow and the breaks too often.  Around 4 am, as we were at the half way point between Kibo Hut and Gilman’s Point, someone made a decision to split up the team, so those who want to go faster could go up ahead first.

One’s mental capacity really diminishes with the lack of oxygen.  I was aware of my own thoughts and decisions, but I really had little comprehension of other things going on around me.  I remember thinking that splitting up the team was a bad idea, because this climb is a team effort.  The split irritated me greatly.  But I was one of the slower ones, and I really had no mental capacity to figure out what else to do.

The faster team went up ahead.  I grumbled a little under my breath.  I was really starting to feel the effect of my 22-lb backpack and the inefficiencies of my lungs.  An assistant guide offered to take my backpack for me, but I refused politely.  I said I was doing fine, and I’ll ask for help when I need it.  I lied.  I wasn’t doing fine, and I will not ask for help when I need it.

The slower team pushed on, at a pace even slower than earlier.  The distance between the two halves of the team grew bigger and bigger.  The temperature dropped to -6 C, but I felt colder than ever.  It felt like my internal furnace was turned off, and I ran out of positive energy.  I felt cold and exhausted.

An assistant guide put his hand on my backpack, gesturing that he would take it for me.  I said no, I’m fine.  Another guide said I should let him take my pack, because we’re only half way up the mountain and I looked tired.  I was annoyed that they could tell I was struggling.  But can’t they tell I was determined to carry my own load?  I had no energy to preach to the guides about carrying my own toys.  Instead, I just lied some more.  No, I’m not tired.  Yes, I can carry my own pack.

As we continued up the switchback, I forced myself to think about positive things and good memories.  I thought about my dog, Sam, and how he loves putting his head on my laptop keyboard when he wants attention.  I thought about my friend, Jacqueline, and how she laughs so hard sometimes she couldn’t catch her breath.  I thought about how grandma will be proud of me when I tell her that I reached the summit.

I turned my attention to encouraging my team.  “Come on, you can do it!”  “You’re doing great!”  “We’re all going to make it!”  I spoke as if I was chasing away the demons in my own head.

Around 6 am, the sky finally showed a sliver of light on the Kenya side of the horizon.  The sliver turned pink and purple, and finally brightened up with the sun.  As the sun crept over the horizon, the coldest and darkest hour of the hike was finally over.  I sat on a rock, and enjoyed the warmth of the sun for a few minutes.  It was almost 7 am when the sun was fully up in the sky.  It took us another hour to reach Gilman’s Point, where the faster team was waiting for us.

At Gilman’s, the guides served us hot tea from a thermos.  I wrapped my cold fingers around the mug, and drank the best tasting tea in the world.  It warmed my core.

Two of the team members decided to turn back to Kibo Hut at this point.  The team doctor turned to me and said, “you are going down with them, right?”  He wasn’t giving a direct order, but he wasn’t really asking for my opinion either.  “No way, I’m going up to Uhuru!”, I replied.  He didn’t seem convinced.  He reminded me that it’s another 500 ft in elevation gain and we’re only staying up on the summit for a few minutes, as if to discourage me from going.  I didn’t really understand why he thought I should turn back.  Regardless, I was determined to go up to the summit.  He asked to carry my backpack for me, and I almost lost my cool.  Damn it, why does everyone want to carry my backpack?  I refused, and tightened the hip belt a little more around myself.

The last 500 ft of elevation gain was where the air was the thinnest.  At this elevation, we were only getting about 50% of the oxygen compared to at sea level.  The gradual climb left me breathless.  I stopped quite a few times to lean on my hiking poles and wait for my breath to return.  A guide offered again to take my backpack.  This time, I looked him straight in the eyes, and pleaded with frustration, “Please, just let me carry my own backpack!  If I’m tired, I’ll ask for help.”  I’m an Aries–impulsive, single minded and very stubborn.  I felt like my backpack has somehow become a symbol of my ability to climb this mountain.  If anyone was to take it away, I would have failed, then I might as well pack up and go home now.

At about 9:30 am, Cliff and I finally reached the wooden sign that said “Uhuru Peak”, at 19,340 ft above sea level.  This was the highest any of us on the team has ever been.  Reaching the summit was quite anti-climatic.  There was no contemplation of the meaning of life, no taking in the view, and no sudden enlightenment of any philosophy.  We congratulated each other with hugs and high fives.  Then we were rushed to take some photographs of various banners we brought, and a few team photos, and were herded to go back down the hill as soon as possible.

In the dense fog, we made our way down the scree slope that has now thawed out.  It was like walking down a slope with deep, dry snow.  It took only about 1 1/2 hr to return to Kibo Hut.

Upon reaching the camp site, we had been hiking for almost 11 hours already.  But the day was not over yet!  We ate a quick lunch, and started heading down to the next camp site at Horombo.  It was another 3 hours of hiking down a gentle slope.  By the time we reached Horombo, I was exhausted from the 14-hour hike.  I missed dinner and fell asleep without inflating my Thermarest.

Hiking in darkness:

 

The sun finally came up:

Finally reached the peak:

Looking down into the volcanic crater: