A taste of Ilocos

Finally getting some free time, I was able to finish up this post. In the spirit of the previous post, I’ll continue the story starting from December 31st. Enjoy!

While Krissy was getting ready to celebrate the oncoming new year, I was actually onboard a plane from Denmark to Philippines. The plane landed in the afternoon, and baggage claim was its usual time-consuming ordeal. However, it felt good to be back. It is that sense of nostalgia that rushes through your veins. It was a concoction of sensory awakening; feeling that heat on your skin as you set foot off the plane, getting a whiff of that familiar airport smell, seeing the hustle and bustle of balikbayans - it all comes together, giving me a deeply-rooted sense of belonging.

Balikbayan refers to a person of Filipino origin who lives outside of the Philippines.

It was a special night, not only because 2014 was right around the corner, but mainly because I could celebrate New Year’s Eve with my sisters—something we (sadly) haven’t done in many, many years. Needless to say, it was a memorable night; one that I will always cherish.

During my stay in the Philippines, I was also very fortunate to visit the beautiful province of Ilocos, located on the Northwest coast of the country. Although I was born in the Philippines, I have unfortunately not seen much of the country (there is just so much to see!) So I felt very excited that I would get to experience a new place, and of course try their cuisine. This post is dedicated to all that I saw and all that I ate.

Ilocos, Philippines

Ilocos collectively refers to Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur.

Ilocos actually consists of four provinces: Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. I saw most of what both provinces has to offer in the form of tourist sites. In hindsight, it probably would not have been as effortless (nor as informative) without the help of our kind tour guide. After arriving in the city of Laoag  at night and having rested, the first stop early in the morning was the sand dunes of Paoay, Ilocos Norte. There, it is possible to explore the sand dunes on a 4×4 or even have a go at sand boarding. Being a man of extremely adventurous spirit </sarcasm> … I did not try either activities. So I cannot offer silly pictures of me with sand all over my face. Instead, I give you another photo (other than the cover photo) taken near the sand dunes.

Barbed wire, Paoay Sand Dunes

Following the sand dunes was a stopover at Malacañang of the North, the official residence of late President Ferdinand E. Marcos, and his wife, former First Lady Imelda Marcos (yes the Imelda Marcos, the Rose of Tacloban, the Steel Butterfly, the Lady of 3000 pairs of shoes). Casting aside whatever opinions people may have of these two individuals, their home was an undeniable display of grandeur: from the arching staircase carved in Narra hardwood, to the hanging pieces of art, the scenic view over Paoay Lake, and to all the other intricately carved furniture, their home is certainly fit for people with power. The Spanish colonial architecture definitely brought a sense of time travel. As I walked through the corridors of their home, paying close attention to all their interesting memorabilia, I listened to the tour guide talk about the former President with so much vigor and Ilocanian pride.

Next stop was the Church of Saint Augustine, or Paoay Church. I clearly remember its distinct architure, borrowing from Gothic and Baroque designs. According to UNESCO, its architecural style is a reinterpretation of European Baroque by Chinese and Philippine craftsmen. There is a certain beauty with the way light falls on its facade, accentuating its lines and curves. The spirals featured on the buttresses breaks all the linearity and adds a more organic, and nature-centric touch to the design.

Paoay Church Paoay Church

After seeing a number of museums dedicated to Marcos, the tour headed south, toward Ilocos Sur; specifically, the destination was the city of Vigan. Having spent many hours touring, we arrived in Vigan quite hungry. I was quite excited to finally try Ilocanian cuisine. Oh yes, the joy of food! The guide took us to a place where we could get Vigan-style empanada. Basically it is a crispy shell filled with vegetable and meat. The shell is made of rice flour with added atchuete (achiote) to obtain that bright orange colouring.

The filling is normally grated green papaya, mung been sprouts, egg and longganisa (a type of sausage). So how do I explain its taste? I can’t. You will simply have to try it for yourself. The finishing touch is the vinegar sauce that comes along with the empanada, which really brings the whole thing together. It does dirty (oily!) wrestling with the empanada in your hands, so make sure you have extra napkins. As such, it will receive (as this blog’s first) the wildwonton seal of approval (SoA)!

wildwonton Seal of Approval

The wildwonton seal of approval (SoA) is given to specific food or eateries that we feel perfectly captures the spirit of ww, in form of taste and presentation. Look out for the seal in future posts! Fun fact: The SoA was designed to look like Chinese art stamps! If you look carefully, you can spot all the letters that form ‘wildwonton’. 

For 35 pesos a piece, those little orange bundles of joy are quite filling. I…had three.  #satisfiedtummy #sealofapproval

Seal-of-approval

The next stop on the itinerary was pottery making. The people of Vigan are known for their pottery skills. They value and commit to preserving the tradition of making burnay (unglazed earthen jars), a skill passed down from immigrated Chinese artisans during pre-colonial times.

The tour continued to the Vigan Heritage Village, a residential complex of Spanish colonial houses. In the heart of the Heritage Village lies Calle Crisologo. As I look back at the memory, I close my eyes and I hear the the clippity-clop-clattering of hooves on the cobblestone street, as people experience the town through horse-drawn kalesas.

Calle Crisologo

Following Vigan was a trip back up north, across Ilocos Norte, driving along the northwestern coast that is bounded by the South China Sea, all the way up to the town Pagudpud. On the way there, we also passed by Burgos and Bangui. In Burgos, there is the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse , another cultural heritage from Spanish colonial times. It was first lit in 1892 and it marks the northwestern-most point in Luzon.

There are stories told of ghosts watching over the tower. The distressed look of its exterior definitely adds to the image of a lighthouse that is often shrouded with mystery. To me, the structure stands magnificent and resolute; like a lonely sentinel of the sea, withstanding the tests of time to keep watch over the expansive waters.

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse

The word is derived from puraw, which means pure or white.

Only a few minutes further away,  the Kapurpurawan Rock Formations are located in the rocky coast of Burgos. The beauty found here is in stark contrast to man’s architectural prowess exhibited in the cities; these limestone rock formations shows the beauty of nature’s canvas. A thousand years in the making, these creamy white and streamlined formations were sculpted by the forces of nature.

The wind turbines are from a Danish manufacturer called Vestas Wind Systems. Go Denmark!

Still en route to Pagudpud, we took a quick stop at the Bangui Windmills. Facing the South China Sea, these towering windmills arc along the shore and provide 40% of the energy for Ilocos Norte. It was quite exhilarating standing right underneath one of these 70-metre wind giants. It was, shall I say, FANtastic…………………………………. (   ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

Bangui Windmill

It was a long drive from Laoag to Pagudpud, and so upon arrival, we made a pit stop at Evangeline’s beach resort for some refueling. The menu was surprisingly varied, but my eyes were set on thing and one thing only: pancit (noodles)!

Pancit bihon

Pancit bihon & kalamansi!

After enjoying three days of resort-life at Hannah’s Beach Resort in Pagudpud, the trip came to and end in Laoag with dinner at the Saramsam Ylocano restaurant. The place was very cosy and the dishes were not only delicious, but also creative, accentuating traditional Ilocanian cuisine with modern-day twists. Absolutely worthy of the wildwonton SoA!

From man-made structures to nature-sculpted landscapes; from Chinese ceramic artistry to Spanish architectural mastery, and from century-old kalesas to modern-day wind turbines, Ilocos definitely has much to offer. I only hope that I was able to give you a taste of its splendor.

-Gideon

Defibrillating WW

We have already moved well into 2014, so looking back at the year that went by seems rather foolish.

Yet, that was exactly my intention. Our last blog post was almost a year ago, and to many followers wildwonton has been dead. But that is why we humans construct New Years resolutions, right? To start over. Clean slate. New beginnings. For some time my bf and I wanted to revive this space and share with you our travels, musings and other rants – the original idea behind WW. And with a new year beginning, this is our excuse to do better.

As with many things in life, to start afresh often requires coming clean, which is why I have decided to fill in the gaps. Those fillers will hopefully illustrate where we have been since April 2013 and give an idea about where this platform is heading in the future.

Traveling is at the heart of this blog, not only because traveling musters up fond memories, but also because it allows for some critical reflection about oneself and ones everyday life. So what better way to fill in the gaps by starting with the 2013 travels that were not documented here on WW?

In June we heard the chimes of wedding bells in Estonia, as some of Gideon’s best friends got married. It was not only a magical experience to witness such an important moment in two people’s lives, but the ceremony was straight out of a fairy-tale, with the actual “I do’s” taking place in a little chapel, on a hill, near a forest by the sea. Checking all of those dream-wedding-locations at once. Having visited Tallinn on an earlier occasion myself, getting to revisit it during our stay was a perfect addition to the wedding experience. No trip to Tallinn is complete without vising the Old Town, stumbling along the cobblestones and getting into that medieval spirit.

For my part, summer also included travels with the girlfriends. A spontaneous trip to London became quite the highlight, as I have a deep and affectionate love relationship with that city. Of course shopping was on the agenda, but it soon enough evolved into eatery frenzy by visiting both the famous Jamie Oliver Italian kitchen (spaghetti bolognese gets a whole new meaning) and the Dishoom, an above and beyond Indian cuisine experience. There was also time for some Columbia Road Flower Market perusing, something I wanted to check out after having seen a few bloggers documenting their experience. And it was great! With a coffee in one hand and the flowery scents hitting you from left and right, it was worth the travel/walk to go browse and soak in the market atmosphere. Southbank Book Market also became a highlight, tucked away under Waterloo Bridge. If I one day get to live in this vibrant city, I would consider myself one lucky lady.

I also went with my long-time childhood friend, Maria, to Lisbon – Portugal. Completely new to Portugal, I savoured every moment. It is a completely different Southern European feel, with picturesque monuments everywhere. Walking around along winding, narrow streets is definitely a favourite of mine, and it is easy to lose track of time. Mosterio dos Jerónimos was probably my favourite – unbelievable beautiful, and a sight which I wouldn’t mind visiting again. Another genius stroke of ours was taking the train to Sintra to go look at Walt Disney-worthy castles. Despite warnings from tourists, we decided to make the climb up the mountain to Pena Palace, and it turned out to be half the fun! I just have one advice for you if you are near Lisbon: go to Sintra. And also eat Pasta del nata – Portuguese egg tart pastry. And go see Castelo de São Jorge. And Belem. And… you get the drift – See it all while there; they are not tourist traps for nothing.

Summer went by quickly, but travelling was not over. In the wet, dark and rainy months of December/January, I went back to Thailand with the family. You can read an earlier post on Thailand here if you are interested in the Hua Hin area. Gideon was fortunate enough to visit family in the Philippines, so stay tuned for some pinoy blogging soon to happen, right here on wildwonton.

And with those words, I hope I seem convincing about defibrillating the heart of wildwonton.

Let us know what you think,

-Krissy

It shall be no secret that ever since I returned to Denmark, I suffer from Hong-Kong-withdrawals. The abrupt discontinuation of my Hong Kong lifestyle often have me craving dishes and snacks from the region, leaving me with a constant, lingering taste of siu mai, sushi, xia jiao, fishball on stick and whatnot. As such treats cannot be so easily uncovered in the streets of Copenhagen (at least not at a fair price for a student) it has serious implications for my Bachelor thesis-work in university, and such other small and trifling matters, when the cravings start running off with my head. It is due to such thought-meanderings that the boyfriend gets a ton of iMessage hints, a clear tactic of mine to induce him to dig up some traditional recipes and attempt perfection in a tiny kitchen, in a tiny city, in a tiny country.

The latest mission has been to secretly plant the idea in his head that homemade wonton noodle soup is a necessity for my well-being. This inception-like strategy paid off Sunday 21.04.2013.

-Krissy

For some reason unbeknown to me, I woke up one day with the urge to make wonton noodle soup for Krissy and myself. I had recently been sick, so I was really craving for this specific soup. Surely, that is what gave birth to this yearning. We both agreed that Sunday would be a good day to make dinner together. As she was busy with her thesis during the day, I made it my mission to get all the needed ingredients and commence preparations. The idea was to make the wontons together once she was home. Sunday romance at its best.

Ooh la la, Monsieur Swayze!

Imagine the pottery scene in Ghost. Sleeveless Demi enveloped in Swayze’s arms. Except less clay and more wonton. That’s pretty darn romantic. A relationship thrives when you can do the things you love together with the person you love. And boy do we love Asian food!

The recipe for this is all over the interwebs. There is simply no need to make yet another recipe blog, when others have already done so. Instead, we’ll just throw some pictures at you.

- Gideon

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I have been fortunate enough to end my amazing exchange experience by celebrating Christmas with my family in Sam Roi Yod, Hua Hin – Thailand: and what a Christmas! It might not entail snow and your usual runny noses, but Hua Hin did offer 30 degrees Celsius, pool and shade under the palm trees. It was great to see my family again, especially my clown of a brother <3 Danish tradition is to celebrate Christmas on the 24th of December, with a massive dinner table carrying roasted duck, pork, white and brown potatoes, red cabbage, gravy and ris a la mande. A tradition is a tradition. Thus, my tummy contained all such wonders on the 24th, mixed with a good deal of red wine. Our Christmas tree was somewhat untraditional this year, yet the Christmas spirit was as high as ever.

It is not my first time in Thailand, and it is great to be back once again. If you know what touristy places to avoid, this country is simply wonderful. The Thai people are the most smiling and warm-hearted I’ve ever met, with a good dose of humor, always making fun of you, themselves or whatever comes to their mind. Thailand to me means laughter. Obviously Thai food contribute to the wonder of this country, and this Christmas season has offered many plates of pad thai, king prawns and spicy curry.

The 25th of December was spent on a scooter cruising through Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, scouting for monkeys (for your information: not difficult to spot). There is nothing like experiencing the country-side from the back of a scooter, feeling the wind and the sun on your face, whilst the landscape opens up to you. The park contains dozens of mountainous limestone hills, which stand before you wherever you turn. As you cruise along you will find freshwater marshes and shrimp farms, with beautiful temples scattered around the park. My brother and I also worked off the duck-calories by climbing up to the Phraya Nakhon Cave. A sweaty journey, yet worth while every out-of-shape-breath that you will take. But beware of snakes! My brother nearly stepped on one and had a near-death-experience (read: not at all, but two Danish youngsters definitely got spooked, trying to remember what we have learned on Animal Planet).

On a less-serious note, most of the time has been spend by the poolside, or on our rooftop soaking up some dangerous sunrays. A fair amount of Leo beers have also been consumed in the Jacuzzi overlooking the mountaintops as the sun was setting. It is peculiar how fast the days go by when you do absolutely nothing.

The most memorable moments, this time around, have undoubtedly been the many scooter cruising’s, with my brother as the driver, covering much of Thailand’s countryside. As must by now be known world-wide the Moeller-family is somewhat out of the ordinary, and my brother and I undoubtedly scared a Thai family or two, having covered all possible Christmas songs, “singing” at the top of our lungs in the heat as we drove around. Also late-night cruising at the coast of Sam Roi Yod beach, with only the moon as light will not be forgotten.

Our housing is located in the true Thai country-side, approximately 30 min. outside of Hua Hin, surrounded by beach + cows. Thus, there is always some excitement about “going to the city”. In Hua Hin, the necessary shopping is always done, finding some great bargains, and the city spree is always concluded at the night-market, eating burritos and sipping frozen margaritas at an excellent Mexican joint. Most importantly, the mandatory mango-and-sticky-rice dessert is brought with us home.

Our concluding days here will undoubtedly resemble the others, and I simply do not want them to end.

With the best wishes of a Merry Christmas and a fun and safe New Years Eve, I complete the ranting’s from Hua Hin.

/Krissy

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The inevitable has happened. My exchange semester is officially coming to an end. I know my life back in Denmark is waiting patiently for me, and I am looking forward to see all my loved ones. Nonetheless, I am left with a bittersweet feeling. Leaving Hong Kong is not something I want to do. This city has spoiled me. The haze, the daily CO2 doses, the overrun MTR stations, taxi drivers refusing to go to New Territories, stinky tofu on the street, expensive milk, slow-walking pedestrians with a severe phone obsession. I will, from the bottom of my heart, and with the utmost, genuine sincerity miss every ‘not-so-perfect’ experience here in Hong Kong. This city has just proven amazing, and I am so grateful for having had the opportunity to enmesh myself in HKs urbanity. It is one of the most vibrant cities I’ve been too, with amazing treats on every corner. I am going to miss my 14hkdollar noodle soup, the pulsating streets on a Sunday/Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday [insert any day], and my Sheung Wan dumplings. Heck, I am even going to miss all the signs, which I cannot read. Before this post turns into a sentimental memoir, I will relay some of my concluding adventures.

I have been fortunate enough to have two friends come visit me. Firstly, my old, fellow high-schooler came to visit me, as she was going to South of China anyways. Thus, there was no excuse for not coming to HK. I got to stay with her for a few days in Sheung Wan, one of my favorite areas in the city. We of course overtook The Peak, and this time I got to the amazing view via the old tram, which was a vertical experience to say the least. We also paid a visit to the famous Ocean Park, where the inner child was freed. Ocean Park has it all: big aquarium with mysterious sea creatures, cutest pandas doing absolutely nothing apart from sleeping, and fun roller coasters. We topped it all off with a dolphin show, where we also saw some amazing head accessorizing. Other fun shenanigans of course included shopping, some LKFing and eating dim sum at the cheapest Michelin Star restaurant in the world (Tim Ho Wan). I went to Macau for the second time, and enjoyed a fancy evening inside of the largest casino in the world – The Venetian, Macao. A friend back from primary school also popped by on her way to the Philippines, and we of course also stuffed ourselves at Tim Ho Wan concluding the evening with buying funky iphone cover.

I also found my inner hostel patriotism during my last weeks in HK. The past few months I have lived in an all-girls dormitory, better known as Wen Chi Tang. We are three exchange students living in this bloc, so together we have explored hostel life, with the help from some sweet-hearted local Wen Chi Tang’ers. Hong Kong dormitory life is nothing like my previous experiences of gloomy dormitory existence. In HK there are so many activities going on within your own home that you do not even need to join the activities offered at the University level. It has also been very difficult to say goodbye to my home-girls-exchange-crew :(( Lately we have been spending most of our time together, whether it be in the library or at an amazing Vietnamese restaurant or in a basement for an underground party.  My roommate also had to leave me prematurely on her own adventures, and a tearful parting was unavoidable. It is always so hard to say goodbye!

Exam period was stressful as I had five of them, with various hand-ins as a side-activity. But I don’t even want to dwell on it or waste blog-space on such a boring subject. Pretend the last two lines never happened.

If there is one thing you got to know about me, it is the fact that I am a sucker for Christmas. The whole charade. Glitter, decorations, lights, snowmen, Santa, Christmas bakeries, movies, carols, jingle bells – I eat the whole season up. Though Christmas may not be on the top of the list in seasonal celebrations in China, I was still surprised at the many decorations to be found around the city. It really warmed my Christmas heart. I also have two considerate friends back home, who as a surprise send me a humongous package, containing all what a Christmas heart can desire. From the content of such mentioned package, along with a loving mommy who also contributed to the festivities, some friends and I were able to put together a JULE-HYGGE DAY (I apologize, but in this SINGULAR, one-off case, the English language is void of words with same inherent meaning as HYGGE). My Finish sister had outdone herself on this occasion making ginger bread and glög. Christmas therefore came early to Hong Kong.

Shenzhen was also visited which essentially makes a good campfire story. My friend and I effectively got deported from China. Yes. Deported. You would think having travelled around Asia for so many months would have made me into a pro, but sadly not. Turns out I forgot to check my double-entry visa expiration date, and voila: Chinese border-control-man asks me to step aside in a not so friendly tone. However, after being escorted back across the border, several sweaty moments on the Hong Kong side with no passport, and a big fat stamp saying CANCELED on a fresh passport page, I finally got to purchase a one-day visa and commence my shopping spree.

Conclusively, I’d like to think that the 17th of December is a magical day, as this is the day I was born. Despite exam stress and empty wallets as the exchange experience is coming to an abrupt end, I was celebrated by some beautiful people who made my day very special. Especially because a special lady plastered up posters all over 2nd floor in my hostel, making sure everybody knew this was my day.

On such a happy note, I will end my blogging from Hong Kong. However, Hong Kong and I have unfinished business, and I will without a doubt be back, so who knows – maybe a new Hong Kong post awaits in the near future.

There is less than 2 months before Krissy is back in Copenhagen, and I am definitely becoming more and more giddy from excitement. During her stay in Asia, she has tasted an impressive palette of street–as well as in door–cuisine. From the get-go, a love that we share has been Asian cuisine. However, having the opportunity to delight herself with such food on a day-to-day basis, it has only strengthened her appreciation for it. As such, dim sum is slowly becoming the center of her universe…literally.

Being the amazing boyfriend that I am, I have taken it upon myself to read more about these various bite-sized, bundles of joy, with the goal of learning how to make them. This way, Krissy will not miss her delicious meals in Hong Kong (as much), and I become a better cook. I have always been into cooking, and I certainly developed culinary skills growing up under the tutelage of my step father, an adept French chef. And so I cannot say that I am diving into this gastronomic escapade blindfolded. I have my kitchen instruments and I have my senses. Time to cook up a symphony. ♫
I embark on my dim sum journey with a dish that I believe almost everyone has heard of: the dumpling. Specifically, pan-fried dumplings, or as they’re normally called, guotie, for which the literal translation is “pot stick,” hence the title. The choice was made based on several things: my eagerness to learn (high), my general laziness (low), my budget (low), much I wanted to impress Krissy (sky high), and how much I drool at the pictures I see (for this one, the droolage level was definitely high). The recipe I follow is from Rasa Malaysia. This blog features some great recipes and mouth-watering food photography. I urge you to have a looksies, if you’re into Asian cuisine. She has a recipe for-it seems-the best dishes Asia has to offer.

Thankfully, I had most of the ingredients at home. All I needed to buy was Napa cabbage and some dumpling wrappers.  Consequently, this would bring me to Chinatown. The trip would normally not be anything out of the ordinary for me. This time, however, my hunger got the best of me, and I swear everything in my path turned into a dumpling. Yikes.

When hunger is at its worst (best?)

With the goods in my inventory, I continued to read through the recipe.

“Right. Seems easy enough,” I thought to myself, having only the slightest bit of conviction in my tone. I mixed the ingredients in a bowl and set it aside. Normally, this would be the step where I take a small test piece from the mix and fry it. This would enable me to determine whether the mix is fine as-is, or if it needs more adjustments.

Normally.

This blob actually smelled so delicious

I put a spoonful of the mix onto the wrapper and stood there staring. The eerie silence was only broken by the surrendering sigh I let out. “How would I be able to create such a thing of beauty?” I thought to myself, “Dumpling? More like…Dump-King”

Heh.

Nevertheless, I figured that since I have always been good with papercraft, this task could not be that much different. All I had to do was try.

:D

Above is my very first dumpling pleat – colour me impressed. Looks good, doesn’t it? After approximately 8 hours, I finally covered the pan with dumplings (yes, there is already oil in the pan.)

Gather around, little children

“Knock, knock.”
“Who’s there?”
“Dumpling.”
“Dumpling, who?”

I fried the little guys until the bottoms are golden and crisp. At this point I was so hungry that I could have shoved the whole pan in my mouth. Without the lid of course.

The crispy bottom creates a beautiful texture together with the soft, almost fluffy upper layer, that only steaming can provide.

The final part of the cooking involves some steaming. Then simply serve with a dipping sauce to your liking. I had mine with soya sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil and some Guilin chili sauce.

NOM NOM NOM.

This is for you, baby ♥

And so there it is. I think it turned out pretty good. I did not follow the recipe perfectly, though. For example, I did not use cilantro leaves, but I did add black fungus. Sadly, I only had a few shrimps left in my freezer – I could really taste that it needed a few more pieces. Just to give it that extra oomph!

The recipe needs:

  • 50 tablespoons of patience
  • 3 dashes of courage
  • 2 set of delicate fingers

Surely, the batch I make for Krissy will be perfect. When she comes back home, I know that she will long for the scrumptious food that she was able to treat herself with while in Hong Kong. My dream is to one day take her on a round-trip in Asia. For now, however, I’ll bring Asia to her — through food.

Thanks for reading. Look forward to more of my adventures in the kitchen.

Gideon

Before I let my new Hong Kong rants unravel, I must make an announcement. As for those who follow my blog, you may well remember that in my previous post on Hong Kong I promised to search for the monkey, which is rumored to be on campus. I must disappoint in saying that my wilderness skills are non-existent, and I have therefore not been able to gain up on the creature yet. However, my dear, dear friend from Finland clearly knows a thing or two on how to search for this climbing beast. On her way to class a cat-like noise caught her attention (ironically the same class I go to, had I not been in the Philippines). Only, the noise came from a big, fat monkey indulging in human trash. By courtesy of Karoliina, I hereby give you proof of her encounter, which also satisfy my need for settling the “rumor”.

Just as in my last post, my taste buds have once again been catered to. One experience worth reporting on – which I am admittedly late at trying out – was a visit at Mr. Wong’s. From the outside, this restaurant looks like your average Chinese restaurant found on any side street of this city. Yet, the personality of the owner differentiates this joint from all the other eateries. For 50hkd, Mr. Wong will provide you with enough food and drinks to last you a week, whilst telling you life stories and other fun anecdotes. I cannot guarantee that all of these stories will be understood; as I am yet to uncover what language he is truly speaking. However, the English that I do understand brings a huge smile to my face, and a night here guarantees you a lot of fun – well worth your money. Also, dim sum is slowly becoming the center of my universe. It is without a doubt the best Sunday pastime I can think of, and luckily I have an obliging roomie who willingly takes me to the local hotspot near campus so I can get my dim sum fix. It is no joke that Hong Kong is famous for its food. If you know where to go, you will not be disappointed. Even if you don’t know where to go (like me), behind my veil of ignorance, I have still not been disappointed.

I also started attending regular dance classes at a dance studio near Tsim Sha Tsui (Infinity Dance Studio). I have danced for some time now, without ever claiming to be good at it, but having always loved it. However, for some time back in little Denmark, I’ve felt like I lost the joy in dance, lost the fun in it all. Luckily, the classes in Hong Kong have proven amazing. The level is better than at home, with teachers and students who all move with such breathtaking accuracy that my eyes hurt a little. My lack of skills becomes even more apparent – BUT: I have rediscovered the fun – and it feels great. One Sunday the studio even had a workshop with one of my favorite female choreographers from the US, which was an amazing opportunity. I always leave that place with a smile.

More sights have also been uncovered. Along with a good friend, I managed to explore more of Central, in particular the trendy area of SoHo (South of Hollywood Road). Here you can find the Central-Mid-Levels escalator, which according to the ‘oh so’ reliable source of Wikipedia is the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world. In this area you will find bars upon bars, offering happy hours and tapas deals and the offerings keep on meeting you as you move up the escalator. Nearby I also stumbled upon Man Mo Temple, a small delight of Chinese worship. The mix of darkness and incent and the noise from the city outside is a strange but amusing mixture. It really exemplifies the contrasts, which you will find in Hong Kong, the modernity with a touch of longing for the ancient. Hong Kong Park also proved a highlight for me. It is somewhat of a strange mixture of your usual park-like elements such as trees and flowers, but also contains a museum of tea ware and experimental playgrounds. Nonetheless, the fact that skyscrapers are surrounding this spot truly makes it seem like a little oasis where one can escape. I will definitely come back here before immigration kicks me out.

Classes at the university are still interesting and “entertaining”, in particular my literature class. It is greatly amusing to have a Chinese professor teaching you 20th Century, English literature. Not that that is not perfectly doable, but it does add a whole other dimension to the learning and the way a text is approached. Clear culture differences become apparent in this class. Generally it has proven hard to sufficiently balance exchange amusing’s and serious learning. I never quite seem to find the right balance, some days amusement is winning, and on others the inner nerd.

My exchange semester is fleeing me and I desperately try to make the fleeting and momentary experiences last. I wish I could hit pause on the remote so as to prolong some wonderful moments here in Hong Kong. The city never ceases to amaze me, and I wish I could put my finger on why. Partly, I think, my fascination manifests itself in the eternal vibrancy and vitality. There is always something to do, somewhere to be, something to see.  This constant opportunity of uncovering new adventures is so stimulating and makes you feel like you are in the center of the happenings.

I will hopefully be able to post once more from this center, before departing for ……… Thailand.

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