Friday, September 30, 2016

HOTSPOT Van Mechelen [Amsterdam]

Every time I visit Michelle in Amsterdam we like to go out for lunch or dinner, and this time we couldn't think of anywhere to go until Michelle mentioned this "one place in an old auto-repair shop near her house". I didn't think much of it as she forgOT TO MENTION HOW AWESOME IT WAS! I liked it a lot so I was glad we'd eventually decided to go there: Stadscafe Van Mechelen it is!

It was indeed near her former apartment, and in an old auto-repair shop as well, although it hardly looked like one anymore, but the industrial look has remained rather dominant - at least part of the reason why this place is very cool. One part of the room (the part we were sitting it) was really light and clear (until sunset), old-ish posters covered one of the walls that were left unpainted and we sat down on the old skool chairs to a table with a wooden top and a large candle upon it. 

Chalkboards told us what was that day's speciality - some kind of duck I think it was that day, and it was what I chose. A very good choose I must say! Michelle had a burger and we both had a dessert that was served on cute little grandma plates. Not only did I like the general atmosphere at Van Mechelen, the food was particularly tasty as well! Some place I'd certainly recommend to any who's looking for a place to sit down nicely and eat deliciously and well. 

Van Mechelen serves some classic dishes, made from sustainable and high quality products - something you can tell by the food's taste, and something I can appreciate a lot personally. Not too many dishes to pick from, but certainly enough for everyone to find something he likes. Furthermore, it is perfectly fine if you only want to have a drink there, as they have plenty of small snacks that go extremely well together with a drink or two.

Make sure to check out Van Mechelen whenever you're in Amsterdam, because this one you don't want to miss!

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

L00K: the best white pants

A while ago I wrote a blogpost about the photographs that I was asked to take at the Croquet & Croquettes event this year. As you could read, during this event quests are expected to dress up fancy, and for girls this meants wearing a dress and a large hat, or something alike. I didn't think a hat was going to work out for me as I was going to have to take photographs the entire day, so I ditched the hat first and eventually I ditched the dress as well, a recommendation that was my moms. 

When she came into my apartment a few days before the event, she was wearing these white pants herself as they are hers, and I asked her where she got these pants and more importantly, why she got those and not me?! She then told me I could borrow it, and then said that I should wear it at the C&C event. At first I was at doubt, as it was very unusual to wear pants for that specific occasion, but it turned out that I didn't even own a dress at that point that looked better than those pants, and eventually we concluded that the pants would not mismatch the dresscode anyhow. So I went with the pants, matched them with a pair of pointy-nose black pumps, a crop top, my DW watch, and ready to go I was!

I got immensely positive reactions to my outfit, and my former worries that the event might not be the right occasion for those pants were absolutely unnecessary. Some girls even came up to me weeks after the event to praise my look! I can do no other than conclude that these white pants are awesome, classy, perfect for fancy events, and never less than a dress!

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Monday, September 26, 2016

fooOoOOo0d in HONG KONG

hi guys! Today I'm taking you on a foodtour through Hong Kong! At first I thought it might be a bit strange to dedicate an entire blogpost to food alone, then I remembered all those blogs that are entirely dedicated to food so I guess this should be fine at least. Anyways, why not? According to the internet, many people nowadays are very into healthy, conscious eating, but most people I know are more or less obsessed with food, and by this I mean eating as much as possible of it - me and some of my friends like to do binge eating by means of recreation, a very delicious one indeed. 

Anyways, I do believe that anything one could possibly undertake would be only half as successful if there's no food involved. This is also true for this trip. While going around the city, we liked to try different types of food we've never heard of before, or things we don't have in our own country. The result is that I am able to write an entire article on the food part of our trip. 

Two of my favorite things I had in Hong Kong are on top of this blogpost: first, an icee, blueberry flavored, almost identical to the ones I used to drink a lot when I lived in the USA for my high school year abroad. It is quite like a slushy, only a bit different structurally, and I hadn't had the blueberry flavored one for sooo long! So I was pretty excited to find these at some of the 7Elevens in Hong Kong. Besides icees, I found some other snacks at the 711s that I used to have in the US a lot - gold fish, Nature Valley crunchy granola bar (Oats 'n honey flavor), Chez mix... - so I mistakenly thought that 711 sells American snacks in general, but when I was in Thailand last summer, none of the 711s there had any of those snacks!! Disappointing much... Now I recently discovered a store in Amsterdam where they sell a lot of these American snacks, but prices are really fainting high. So close yet so far away... Bummer!! 
In the second picture there's a pure watermelon drink that we found at Cheung Chau island, somewhere at a greengrocery. The lady just chopped off the top of the watermelon, put in a handblender and mixed it up so you could drink it. It tastes so good and it looks cute, too! Pretty easy to try at home.

We found these filled rolls (much like a bapao roll) in some small Chinese shop at the ferries - I don't know the exact name because it was just like the menus on there entirely in Chinese, so we ordered just by pointing at the pictures, and these actually tasted pretty good (and they were hella cheap!).

The twirled piece of bread with raisins is one of the things we ate each morning, when we went to one of the bakeries to get ourselves some breakfast. All the bread rolls were a lot different from what we're used too - a lot sweeter, mainly - but then again it was a lot better than noodles 24/7.

You've probably heard from bubble tea before, and I actually had it before at the 8tea5 store in Arnhem. I liked the one I had there a lot, so I happily went to order my bubble tea at a Hong Kong subway station.....turned out I picked a really, really gross one!!! The ones two of my friends had were okay/good, but we couldn't get over mine it waS SO FREAKING GROSS!! The little jelly things in there (are those bubbles that make the tea a bubble tea?!) tasted strange as well, not half as good as the ones they put in my bubble tea at 8tea5! We thought bubble tea was originally from China, but now Wikipedia tells me it's a Taiwanese thing, so I guess I should go to Taiwan to have the real deal because this bubble tea I had in Hong Kong really sucked!! Lol

I had this corncob and sausage on a stick at a stall somewhere near the Big Buddha, both were really good although the sausage looks gross in the picture but I swear when you would smell that sausage in real life you'd have bought it too!!

I liked to eat some tropical fruits in Hong Kong and the mango was delicious, but I would not eat dragon fruit tasted like tasteless kiwi....oh and never put a dragon fruit in your yoghurt because it will spoil your yoghurt like it did mine!! Turned out all those tropical fruits I'd never heard of before in the store looked better than they tasted, but at least I tried!

In last picture you see fish balls they sold everywhere; I had a bite and it tasted alright although it was pretty spicy, so if you're going to try this and pass out don't blame me because I didn't exactly recommend it!!

Another snack that was quite delicious actually, were these mini egg puffs that they make out of sweetened egg batter by grilling it. Sometimes the puffs are filled with some kind of flavor, and I tasted the pandan flavored one - and I liked it! I also liked seeing how it was made, so I put those photos down here. 

At the beginning of our trip, we were very motivated to try out all these new Chinese dishes. So on the first night, we happily sat down in one of those tiny restaurants on bright blue plastic chairs, where we ordered some random dishes in broken English, which we all shared together like the real locals do. We tried to keep the noodles stuck between our chopsticks, and were cheering whenever they reached our mouths without falling off. We vaguely asked each other what kind of meat we were eating, concluded it must be some kind of beef, shrugged and kept eating, praising the cashews, and sipping from our large bottles of beer.  

Our first experience with the Hong Kong kitchen was great. The restaurant, called Wong Kee, was located right around the corner of our hostel, and we were very enthusiastic about the food we had eaten. We were the only foreigners there, and it was pretty cool to sit among the locals. The restaurant was simply decorated: some typical Chinese red lanterns hung on the roof, Christmas-like decoration was attached to it, some posters with Chinese signs hung on the wall, looking much like an ABC in a first grade classroom. But we shouldn't judge a restaurant based on its decorations here in Hong Kong: here in The Netherlands a restaurant like this would often be an accurate indication of what the food will be like, but for the people in Hong Kong, it is quite normal that a restaurant looks like this - the food is good anyways.

The second time we tried to eat at a local restaurant, we sat down at this place near Temple Street Market, and it was actually a huge tent we were sitting in. Plucked ducks hung on the wall. I didn't like the food at this place, so we were soon cured of the idea that the food in Hong Kong is always great.

Another restaurant near Temple Street Market: an Indian place that I do not know the name of, but the juice (I think it was mango) was delicious, and so was the naan bread and the meat. We actually sat down there because we needed some fuel in the midst of our souvenir shopping, and this was the first place where we agreed to sit down at. And it was better than expected.

One day we went to a Korean barbecue restaurant, as recommended by one of our fellow travelers, and we liked this restaurant because you got to grill your own food. In the middle of the table there was a hot plate where you could grill your orders, and of course you had to share whatever was ordered (so collectivistic). Fun fact: as we weren't skilled enough to tore off the meat with our teeth while holding it between two chopsticks, the waitress gave us a pair of scissors to chop the meat in smaller parts!

In Sai Kung there is this burger place called "Burger Deli" and they have delicious American burgers that we liked a lot! Especially after a few days of non stop eating Asian food and noodles, these burgers were well needed. Sometimes (okay, regularly) we went to McDonalds because it was like the only food around that we were familiar with and that we wanted when we felt sick of noodles, but these not-McDonalds burgers were very refreshing. 

So after all the Chinese food, you may imagine how happy I was when we went to this lunch place called 18 Grams that looked exactly like a Western food place, something we had not seen in a while, and where they sold fried eggs and bacon and toast, something I had been craving all week long... I know I'm like 50% Asian but I'm just not that much into Asian food (is what I discovered on this trip). Like, I can have it once in a while, but after a couple of days I am terribly longing for Western dishes - 18 Grams was the exact place I wanted to be right then.

Hong Kong must have several, but we went to this one cat cafe called Mr. & Mrs. Cat Cafe, because it was at walking distance from our hostel. I know some may think now that in China some people think differently, but here cats are friends, not food. I only then realized that a cat cafe is literally the greatest thing on earth!! Okay, the cats may have been not so cuddly as I had hoped for, it still was amazing to just watch them and pad them once in a while. When we got there, we had to take off our shoes and put on these soft flip flops and you could sit on the ground if you liked and sometimes a cat would sit next to you, others would just nap, eat or walk across the glass bridge over the top of our heads. I'm really a cat person (like a 100%, there's no room for dogs left) so I can't wait to visit the cat cafes in The Netherlands as well!

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

HONG KONG: what else to do

Hi there! In my last posts I wrote about my 5 absolute favorite things to do in Hong Kong, but naturally there are many more fun things to do in this large and vibrant city. One of those things is visiting some of the beautiful Chinese temples that Hong Kong holds. The Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple is one worth to mention. Besides that this temple complex is exceptionally large (including a 'Good Wish garden') and beautiful architecturally, what is more notable, is the temple's claim that it "makes every wish come true upon request". At the temple you can have your fortune explained, but first you'll have to light some incense sticks, kneel before the main altar, make your wish, and shake the incense sticks holder until one falls out - this particular stick presumably holds some information about your fortune, that you can have interpreted by one of the soothsayers that are present at the temple complex. 

Chinese temple architecture keeps astonishing me, how different it is from architecture we're familiar with here. Bright colors - a lot of blue, green, red and yellow - stone dragons, and all kinds of geometric shapes are represented in temple decorations - making buildings look closest to something I only know from fairytale-related amusement parks. I like it how a lot of locals regularly come down to one of the temples to pray, make a wish or ask for a favor, and how they undisturbed light their incense sticks and shake them eagerly in front of some mighty statue, ignoring all the tourists staring at them with great interest. I also like it how these temples are located in the middle of the busy city center, that may appear quite modern and even Western sometimes, the presence of these kind of temples remind us that this is still China, and that many old traditions have not faded yet. And that's beautiful. 

Hong Kong has some city parks, randomly placed in the middle of some tall sky scrapers, pretty much in the same way as Central Park lays in the middle of New York City. But Hong Kong Park and Kowloon Park are not at all like Central Park. For one, flora here consists mainly out of bamboo and palm trees, and secondly, they hold animals in these parks as if they were zoos (except they charge you nothing, compared to the 30 euros zoos charge you here - now I come to think of it, much of the things you can do in Hong Kong are free of charge, which is a great thing for a study trip like ours), and we saw all kinds of tropical birds, turtles and flamingos. These parks are pretty fun to walk around, especially when coming from the craziness from busy parts of the city, like Nathan Road

The Big Buddha is a famous, bit of an overestimated, large statue, that must be very impressive, but we couldn't tell because of the fog. Sometimes the sky cleared a bit and we could catch a glimpse of Mr. Buddha now and then, but overall it was a huge bummer. This was not the first time the fog spoiled our visit: when we went up to The Peak - which is a viewpoint up a building - we ended up having no view at all! But even so I don't think I would recommend The Peak to you......the line for The Peak tram was terribly long (buying tickets in advance meant you still had to stand in the same line as others) and we had to wait for hours, then they crammed tons of people in that tram (we could just as well been deported to some sketchy detention camp instead of some high rated tourist attraction) that went up extremely steep (not fun when there are that many people) and when we finally got there, the building appeared to consist out of many shops that wanted to profit from tourists.....and they charged you extra to go up to the actual Peak. So don't go, I found it horrible.

On the other hand, the fog at the Big Buddha didn't spoil it all. I think I mentioned this before, but the bus ride from fishing village Tai O to the Big Buddha was actually pretty cool, as it took us all the way up the mountain. The Po Lin Monastery near the Big Buddha was also worth a visitation, as one of the rooms (as seen in one of the pictures above) is almost entirely in gold, and very beautiful to look at. Then afterwards we took the cable car down, which was pretty awesome (when we finally escaped from the cloud we were in) and the view was truly beautiful, as the cable car took us both over mountains and over sea. 

At the Po Lin Monastery I apparently took a lot of pictures of people praying and worshipping by lighting incense sticks. I put them here beneath.

Aberdeen Fishing Village is a harbor in the middle of some tall building, where some old fishing boats are floating. Here we took a ride on a traditional Sampan boat, and we went up and down the harbor on it. Maybe it's because I like being on a boat, but I found this ride very relaxing. We could just sit back and look at all the little and colorful boats or the modern yachts that lay in the harbor, letting the wind rush past us. Even though Aberdeen is not as much as a fishing village anymore as it used to be, there are still some old fishing families living on boats in the harbor for at least some months of the year. You can still sense some of what it used to be like here before.

We liked Stanley mainly because of the beach (there was wi-fi on the beach, so some of us girls went on to FaceTime our boyfriends and making them jealous by showing them the beautiful surroundings), but we also went to Stanley Market where we got some souvenirs for ourselves, then did some photoshooting at the orange-ish rocks at the bay opposite from the beach. Stanley nowadays is pretty modern, and quite popular for tourists. It is a nice get-away from the city center whenever you feel like escaping for a little bit, it is quite different from the city center as well, but besides that, it's not that interesting.

We were at the Tsim Tsa Tsui Promenade by night, so we had this lovely night view of Hong Kong's skyline, but I bet it must be just as pretty in daylight. It's pretty nice to see, but not a place you'd hang around for long, so we soon went on to the Ozone bar at the Ritz-Carlton hotel (make sure you wear appropriate clothing, especially dudes!), the highest bar on earth. Again, the view at night from here was cool, but I think it could be even more spectacular during the day. Anyway, the Ozone bar felt like a high class private party where we were not invited, especially since we didn't buy any drinks (too expensive) so we only stayed for a couple of minutes to shoot some pictures and then left. Nevertheless it was a nice thing that we went up there: it was pretty exciting to walk in that bar, hear the booming music, and feel like some sort of celebrity at some exclusive after party - until you feel like some intruder and too poor to buy yourself a drink.

We were Cheung Chau island during/right before the bread festival, which explains all the white bread rolls with red stamps on them that we saw everywhere. But we soon took off for another part of the island, a bit away from the busy part, where we went looking for a cave, but the road towards it was worth the walk just as much: we viewed some beautiful rocks descending in the water, and some locals presumably fishing down there. When we got to the cave we never entered it, as it seemed a bit sketchy: a rather narrow hole between some rocks where you had to climb down, unsupervised, and some local dude selling flash lights to the tourists who dared to go in the cave. It was surely pretty on Cheung Chau island, but we didn't stay long as it was our last day and we wanted to buy some souvenirs before we left.

I loved the Hong Kong Zoological and botanical gardens! While here in The Netherlands a botanical garden usually means viewing tropical flora in a warm glass house, here in Hong Kong it was the other way around: outside were all the tropical plants and trees, while in one small glass house, that was of lower temperature, were some plants that didn't like the heat. I love botanical gardens in general, but I liked to see one in a completely different county and see the difference. Definitely recommended! 

Thanks for reading! :-)

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

My favorite things to do in HONG KONG!!

Hong Kong is GIGANTIC. There's so much to do & to see, we filled up ten days quite easily, but I must admit that I didn't expect it to be this much fun! I had always thought of Hong Kong as a large, modern metropole, crowded and overwhelming, and this was indeed true for some parts of the city, but before I did not know about the islands, the beaches, the fishing villages, the beautiful views from endlessly green mountains. This is what I loved most about Hong Kong, especially after being in the densely populated city center. So my favorite things that we did during our Hong Kong trip may seem far away from the city center, yet it's only a minutes-away drive by underground or ferry. Hong Kong is a city of incredible contrasts: peaceful nature versus crowded urban areas, modern Western stores versus small and cheap markets, the scent of incense versus another, bad smell in the streets, traditional temples versus modern buildings and underground stations, English influences like cars driving on the left side of the road versus people who hardly know how to speak English...

Even though there is much more to do than the things listed in this blog posts (and we did a lot more than just these things in the ten days we spent there), here are my 5 absolute favorites (in a random order).

Kayaking in Sai Kung
On the only day there were no scheduled activities, me and 5 others went to Sha Ha Beach, Sai Kung (a town in New Territories, Hong Kong) were we initially wanted to do a waterfall hike, but no single local around had ever heard of such thing, so then we decided to go kayaking - and it was the best choice! We rented some really cheap kayaks, and dragged them into the sea. Then we had some peaceful hours paddling from island to island, and from beach to beach, where we could make a quick stop before paddling on. It was pretty exhausting, but oh so worth it! The surroundings were absolutely marvelous - mountains, green from top to bottom, surrounded the bay, and in the water chunks of rock and land made a perfect pit stop. It was only at our third and last stop, that we saw a delimited swimming area near the beach, some feet away from us, and to this a sign saying "watch out for the shark prevention net" was subtly paddling back to the mainland was only slightly more uncomfortable...;)

A Patrick, presumably already dead, but we gave it back to the sea.
We found this extraordinary piece of fruit (?) on one of the beaches, and adopted it - mostly for some photoshooting.
Some photos taken in Sai Kung town before the kayaking.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery
We saw like ten thousand temples and monasteries while going around Hong Kong, but this one is special and my favorite. Two reasons: when going up to the monastery - which is not actually a real monastery, but who cares for the could check Wikipedia for the details. - you have to follow a steep path lined with golden statues of monks, until you get to the building that's filled from top to bottom with golden miniature statues of Buddha. Then you could climb up a little bit further and have a nice view and see some more buildings, statues and tourists. What we liked most about this place, is that we got surprised by wild monkeys, coming down from the jungle to look for food and attention from tourists. At first we saw just one monkey, sitting on top of the head of one of the monk statues, then jumping from head to head until it jumped in a tree and disappeared out of sight. Later, when we got to the actual monastery that's not an actual monastery, we saw a whole family of monkeys! They clearly enjoyed being photographed by all the tourists (including me! I confess!) but we stayed at a distance from them in case they would feel like sinking their teeth in us.

Hiking on Lamma Island
Another amazing experience! Now I come to think of it, it may have been my first-ever hiking ever! And it went very well for a fat old lazybones like me! We arrived at one side of the island (Pichic, to be exact) by ferry and walked down our way to the other side (Sha Po Old Village). It is supposed to be a 1-hour hike, and you can take the ferry back to the mainland from the Old Village. Naturally, that very day, it was the hottest of all that week (and they were all extremely hot, and especially humid - my hair was a real mess for ten days straight) so we were all sweating and whining while we walked on the unpaved roads - sometimes there were no shaded parts for a while - but the view! It was so splendid! Usually I hate the color green, but I do appreciate the shades of green you only find in these kinds of tropical settings! After finishing the hike, we walked back for like 15 minutes, to the beach that we passed on our way (Hung Shing Ye Beach) where we could finally cool down in the water and rinse of all the sweat. Overall it was a great day at Lamma Island, and if you were ever to go to Hong Kong, I would certainly recommend it to you too!

Pictures taken at the bay near Pichic.
Sha Po Old Village
Photos at Hung Shing Ye Beach.

Hong Kong horse racing
The funnest thing we did at night was going to see the Hong Kong horse racing at Happy Valley Racecourse (owned by the Hong Kong Jockey Club). I think it is every Wednesday night at 7:15, and there are about 8 races. If you, unlike me, are familiar with horse racing, you could try and bet on one of the horses and perhaps win some money. Never mind if you don't! Even though I didn't get the heck of it, it was still pretty exciting to see! For each race, the horses and the horsemen get ready at the starting gate, and when the race takes off, the gates slam open and the horses run by super's really only a few seconds that you can actually see them (at least when you, like me, stand on the ground floor, right next to the race can see the horses and everything from really close by, but whenever they go around the corner, you can't see anything, which isn't really a problem if you don't care for what horse wins). Then you've got to wait for some (pretty long) minutes, when they get the race course and the horses ready for another round. But for real, it's great fun! Everyone is so cheerful and the stadium (as it seemed to be) is so majestic (could be American) and it's all super fancy, because you got to dress fancy (is what they told me, but I don't think they really check, though it's fun to dress up for an event like this). While standing front row, I took some pictures of the speeding horses - had lots of fun for sure.

Tai O Fishing Village
This is Tai O, a small fishing village at Lantau Island, the same island where the famous Big Buddha is located (you can actually take a bus from Tai O to the Big Buddha, which is a pretty fun drive, all the way up the mountain). It is tiny, and still a bit authentic, as you can still discern the way people have been living there for decades. The tiny houses are build on stilts - they seem to be able to fall apart any minute from now - laundry is dangling above the water, colorful little boats lay spread out in the sea. It is an adorable sight. The people who live here are called Tanka people, a fisher folk that has been living in those stilt houses on the water for ages. We walked down a small market where interesting kinds of sea creatures were being cooked, and other stuff was being sold. We only had a short amount of time to walk around in Tai O, although not much time is needed as it is incredibly small, but I liked to see a typical Chinese fishing village and the way they're living, although I'm sure it has greatly changed over the years.

Thanks for reading! :-)

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