About a year ago, our friend Lorraine Wild sent us some Vietnamese Cinnamon, with a post-it attached on which was written, “Life-Changing Cinnamon: Try It ‘n’ See!”
We never took the post-it off, and anytime a recipe calls for cinnamon, we use it — referring to it by its complete name: life-changing-cinnamon-try-it-’n'-see.
Now we know what it looks like in its virgin state.
The children here are exquisite, and we’ve been photographing them everywhere: sleeping under displays at the markets, posing with their classmates, wedged between their parents on bikes — some even come up and try to sell us things. Hard to say no, but we resist: good practice for India.
We arrived in Saigon late on Saturday: hot and humid, crowded at the airport, but soon we were making our way through this astonishing city. Signs everywhere of the destruction of long ago, but so hauntingly beautiful in so many ways — a palace here, a post office there — but most amazing of all to me are the people themselves on their motorbikes, mothers and fathers with their babies sandwiched between them.
And they carry all sorts of things with them: so far we’ve seen a man with a plate glass window, another carrying a massive amount of noodles, and a woman carting a tree. Families pile up their belonging and each other, and children under the age of six aren’t required to wear helmets. The really little ones are sometimes asleep. And most people wear masks because of the smog here.
In the market, women grabbed us by the arm and tried to sell us their wares. But there is another, more feminine side to women here, especially those who wear the traditional dresses that we see everywhere.
Even the nuns are beautiful here. And the children — more on them in a separate post. Meanwhile, we visited a pagoda yesterday, and the Post Office, and the Reunification Palace, and the War Museum which was powerful and terrible and sad. At night we walked to the waterfront, had dinner on the roof of a hotel with the most amazing food: a feast, including wine, and all for about $42 US.
Hmmmmmmm… cupcake flavored? Cupcake man flavored? Cupcake man with a staw in his head flavored? Or even — wait for it — rootbeer float man flavored? How in the world would you know that this is Puccho Energy Drink flavored by looking at the front of the package?
You’d never know today was Christmas from the scene in Kowloon today: even more activity than yesterday, with people and parcels and buddhas and incense burning and fish for sale and, lest we forget, lots of caroling.
Causeway Bay, with its flagship “Times Square” shopping mall, was a sea of people yesterday. Christmas isn’t a religious holiday here, but that doesn’t inhibit shopping, a popular activity at this time of year — and if the numbers of shopping bags from Gucci and Chanel are any indication, it’s a booming economy in Hong Kong. Claustrophobes beware: the escalators alone were swarming.
Pharmacies here have this amazing display of Chinese medicines, medicated oils intended for afflictions I can’t even begin to imagine. The entire shop in Causeway Bay was the size of a closet, with a queue snaking around rather efficiently inside. Bill was looking for Aspirin, however, and they charged us a small fortune for a tiny box of Bayer tablets. (Much more tempting to buy the oils, however.)
Later, we took the children for cocktails (“mocktails” for them) on top of the Princes Building, where the twilight view was spectacular. The day ended with a memorable feast at The China Club, a throwback to 1930’s Shanghai, with a magnificent art collection lining the stairwell. In the bar, a beautiful Chinese woman was singing jingle bells with castanets. Perfection.
The overweight, blue, plastic man with spiky blue hair and goggles had just bought his favorite kind of candy. He popped one of the pieces of candy into his mouth. Then he idly turned the bag of candy over.
Right there, in the top right corner was a picture of an overweight, blue, plastic man with spiky hair and goggles!
“Yippee! I’m on a candy product!” exclaimed the man. “Now I’m famous!”
Buildings on the harbor in Hong Kong are occasionally built with an opening in them — so that the dragons living in the mountains can reach through to the bay for a drink of water. We saw many of them yesterday when we took a boat for several hours, ending up at the small fishing village of Lamma Island, where buildings are prohibited beyond three storeys, and where many of the locals go out on the pier to catch their dinner.
In the evening, we took the ferry to Kowloon, which meant first taking a taxi to the Star Ferry in Central. Along the way, we passed one of Hong Kong’s extraordinary graveyards, built on plateaued stretches of land between high-rise buildings, much like the vineyards in parts of Italy and Spain — a beautiful, dense field of statuary.