In honor or Buddha’s Birthday

According to this legend, briefly after the birth of young prince Gautama, an astrologer named Asita visited the young prince’s father—King Śuddhodana—and prophesied that Siddhartha would either become a great king or renounce the material world to become a holy man, depending on whether he saw what life was like outside the palace walls.

Śuddhodana was determined to see his son become a king, so he prevented him from leaving the palace grounds. But at age 29, despite his father’s efforts, Gautama ventured beyond the palace several times. In a series of encounters—known in Buddhist literature as the four sights—he learned of the suffering of ordinary people, encountering an old man, a sick man, a corpse and, finally, an ascetic holy man, apparently content and at peace with the world. These experiences prompted Gautama to abandon royal life and take up a spiritual quest. He spent the rest of his life perfecting meditation to find the peace within and teaching the techniques to anyone who wished to know.

Having attended a 10 day Buddhist meditation retreat 8 years ago, I now make a 20 minute meditation a part of every day and this has, over the years paid off in spades. I highly recommend meditation for relaxation, stress relief and it helps when crossing Hong Kong’s busy pedestrian pathways!

“I can die happily. I have not kept a single teaching hidden in a closed hand. Everything that is useful for you, I have already given. Be your own guiding light.”
– The Buddha, while leaving his body at the age of eighty

In China, celebrations often occur in Buddhist temples where people light incense and bring food offerings for the monks. In Hong Kong, Buddha’s birthday is a public holiday. Lanterns are lit to symbolise the Buddha’s enlightenment and many people visit the temple to pay their respects. The bathing of the Buddha is a major feature of Buddha’s birthday celebrations in the city.

It is remarkable that a man of simple stature, having given up his royal status, could affect the course of history and bring peace to so many. In a frenetic city like Hong Kong, calm descends for just a day. If you have time to visit one of the many Buddhist shrines around the city, today probably isn’t the best day to do so. But take a moment to enjoy the country side, the beauty of Hong Kong’s natural places, and todays glorious weather because with the factories of China turned ‘off’ during Golden Week, we are sure to enjoy cool spring skies and some fresh air for a few days – perfect for getting our breathing techniques focussed in line with Buddha’s teachings.

 

Mid-Autumn Mooncake Munchies

Ooh the annual mooncake munchathon is upon us and I am delighted to take a break from sugar free and totally healthy and join this most fun of festivals in Hong Kong.

Its a time we all watch the weather – is that Typhoon coming, or not, to rain on our parade? No apparently not this year!
Is there going to be a basket of candies and fruit to deliver – a few this year again and its a pleasure ( thanks to all our wonderful clients for supporting us)

And then there is the BIG debate – which is the best mooncake to buy, give or relish…Well this year I am going to put my neck on the line for the NO EGG, nutty, not so sweet cake as opposed to my collegues choices of mango centred chocolate mocchi or green tea snowy ones that melt before you eat them. As time goes by it seems the traditional two egg yoke cakes are disappearing – I have never liked them and I guess more Western tastes are creeping in. Soon we will see McDonalds making twoallbeefpattylettucecheesespecialsauceonasesameseedmooncake and then I reckon the west will have won and we can all go home… Thankfully this is not yet. We all live in  Asia and happy to participate in this cherished family activity.

Have a wonderful Mid-Autumn Festival with friends and family, relishing the love of your kin if not the mooncakes in your tin.

 

Days of Sorrow in Paris and Beirut

During these days of sorrow I am reminded yet again of how lucky I am to live in a peaceful, open minded and safe country. Hong Kong has never had violence of the nature of the current international events, and we walk side by side on our busy streets with peoples of all nations, religions, colours and languages. One has only to wander Nathan Road around Peking and past the Mosque to feel the solidarity of French speaking Muslims with Afghans and Pakistanis and Mandarin speaking Chinese. This small melting pot of Hong Kong is my home. I’m not in denial that we may have some serious issues looming, but just for today I can’ find a Cambodian Restaurant and enjoy a meal, or go to a sports game or a concert with my family, and know that our lives and our future is safe here. For that I am thankful. My heart goes out to refugees of Syria, victims in France and Beirut and all nationals anywhere in the world who just want to feel safe tonight.

The Big Chill

I do love the Hong Kong climate – Hong Kong can really turn on the heat, the wet and the humidity over summer and I adore that because I have a pool and air-conditioning, but somehow, and I have never figured why, on 1st October its all over and by 1st November is positively arctic. Aircons are off, pools are closed, deckchairs stored away, brollies down, and suddenly we start to witness the emergence of the PADDED JACKET. I have to admit there are days when I envy anyone with the gall to wear one but so far I have not found HK cold enough to turn myself into a Michelin woman. It happens overnight. Today I looked out the window and spotted an AMBER leaf on a tree. Woohoo Autumn is here… and in a few days it will be WINTER. Well not really winter as we know it down under or in Europe or Japan, but there is no question that Hong Kong has seasons. Short, but significant. Can’t wait. A few nippy chilly days and my now too thin blood will be hankering for summer again.

Kiwi in Hong Kong on RWC Eve

Its fair to say as an expatriate Kiwi during Rugby World Cup final week I feel a mix of emotions. Proud of my country, its heritage and its sense of fair play and the fact that anyone can make it. I love that Rugby isn’t about who you are or where you come from – its the boys from the Pa and the Doctors son’s that blend into winning team perfection. And then again rather obviously not a part of the crazy world that is taking a whole country to the brink of nuts. ( Over the edge of nuts really – Haka Crazy)

Not far from my own memory is a night four years ago when I gathered 20 or so friends from different nations at my home and treated them to Anzac Biscuits, Marmite Toasts, Pavlova, Pikelets, Afghans and an assortment of Kiwi treats and we won the cup – now to be able to do that twice in a row seems frighteningly ambitious.
This time, I’m happy to spend a night in at home watching and at midnight I’ll miraculously turn into a crazed sports fan too – but I do wish I was back home spinning around in a kitchen making Onion Dip, pots of soup and fresh bread that always goes with a big game in winter, jesting with our Aussie friends,  hoping we all play well, and getting ready for the match that will prove NZ doesn’t just farm sheep, or kill a nations pride – the game of the century – with my mates. Its just not the same. But I wish all sides well and look forward to it all being over for another four years.

Sporting old chap.

With 7 million people stuffed into upright cans of convenient housing, sport could have been a low priority to most Hong Kongers but this was certainly not the case over many years. The British penchant for games brought clubs and cricket to the elite in Asia and we can see a steady rise in sport action over an astonishing 160 year history. The Victoria Rowing Club VRC Hong Kong founded in 1849 is still thriving. Dragon Boat racing is a national obsession. The first ‘Chinese football team’ is documented in 1904. Hong Kong’s love affair with water sports floated in 1996 with our Gold medal from Lee Lai Shan in Mistral sailing. In 2000 Hong Kong participated in the Olympics under its new flag and name in Sydney, and in Athens in 2004 we won our second medal ever in Table Tennis ( Silver in mens doubles)  In London in 2012 the cap was firmly placed on Hong Kong sport with a cycling medal by Wai Sze Lee and its been all MONEY MONEY MONEY since.

The equestrian events of the 2008 Olympics held in Hong Kong saw a sudden rise in tiger mums placing jodpur’d tots on ponies. The medals in cycling brought wobbling geriatics out on to the roads at night without helmet or lights but with ambition to climb every mountain! Hong Kong now fields its own home grown team of Olympic asiprators in the Rugby Sevens arena and the Institute of Sport is the gene lab for every sport conceivable. MONEY MONEY MONEY is buying talent, and investing in sports science on a very intensive level and with remarkable potential success. If we can rise to the heights of home trained horses thanks to the Hong Kong Jockey Club we can push our athletes to leap the hurdles needed to make Hong Kong proud. Hong Kong has done well in all major events from Asian games to Commonwealth in years past but its not without significant investment that we will see future stars come to the Olympic tables.

What of the stay at home couch potato in TST or Tin Shui Wai? Well Hong Kong abounds with sports facilities, public parks, tracks, courts, facilities and programs and we are very keen to try everything on offer. Sports programs and lessons are heavily subscribed. Hiking is free – and HK has 75% of its area in country parks! Thousands of people, who probably shouldn’t, go out and about in the country parks every week. We boat, we beach, we sail and we seasonally surrender to the sea as every inch of Hong Kong is minutes away from the ocean. We even run at night – just last night the Moontrekker 40km run was held on Lantau. We Oxfam run 100 kms a year for good cause. We support football with the most expensive grass on the planet and we definitely bat, bowl,  run, walk and cycle our way to good health in a variety of ways. I’ll wager that if SHOPPING was a sport we would also win – but I have not gone down that route YET – Hong Kong seems to have a proliferation of the latest body watch gadgets including the FIT bits, the Protrekkers, the UPs and the Jawbones and everyone seems obsessed with monitoring their hearts and their footsteps.W’m obsessed with running right now and as in previous posts I can update that my time has increased – I can now run for five minutes without dying of a heart attack. I can walk and run for 20 minutes and my ‘trainer’ thinks I may have a chance of finishing that 10 km race in December but we are not counting on it yet.

Have fun on the trails people – its a BEAUTIFUL day out in Hong Kong

1st October National Birth and Child Birth

084EYE Bar view

There’s no question about this – I’m fiercely patriotic about Hong Kong ( I think I am anyway for a Gweilo ) except I can’t speak Chinese, I can’t sing the anthem and I can’t vote, BUT I remember National Day 1st October 2000 like it was yesterday – not because of the birth of my nation state, but because it was the last time I went to the FIREWORKS on the old Helicopter Landing pad on the HK waterfront right where there is now a motorway, an underpass and the barracks of the PLA have been driven inland by reclaimation. The Fireworks are a clearly spectacular display of Motherland Maternal splendour and we all love going – from time to time. http://www.hong-kong-traveller.com/hong-kong-national-day.html#.Vgtpj_mqpBc

I remember it also because at the time I was 36 weeks pregnant with twins and the roads had been closed and the police made me climb a barrier to get into the closed off areas we were lucky enough to have access to.

I remember it well because my discomfort mounted until a full crescendo of psychedelic dynamite signalled the start of the birth of my flame haired identical twin daughters who arrived 4 weeks prematurely in the public hospital of Prince of Wales on a public holiday a few hours later.

Fireworks

I remember it also because I had chosen to go ‘public’ for a safe delivery of my babies, partly economics and partly because Hong Kong has one of the highest standards of Obstetric and Neo-natal care in the world, and several teaching hospitals exist to feed a growing population of Tiger Mothers spawning. 2000 was a year to give birth to Golden Dragons and the line was long in the public hospitals. Prior to and during the birth of my children –  I was carried along on a flying carpet of consideration and professional competence hitherto scoffed at by my well insured friends who gave birth at the Mathilda Hosptial on the Peak.  As they dined on a post-partum feast of strawberries and sipped champagne regaling stories of their birth rooms being dimly lit and music piped in etc etc I provided a lesson in birthing twins in a teaching unit where 20 trainees need to be taught and one mother gives a demonstration The sterile sense of humour of the intensive care staff over a period of several harrowing weeks was perfunctory but in the end very caring – and my babies received everything they needed. Rather than being escorted to the Peak Cafe leaving bugs in baskets in the nursery cared for by competent but hideously expensive midwives, I was unceremoniously ejected from the hospital minus my babes who remained in situ for some time. But all in all the public hospital delivery was faultless to a professional tee and one hundredth the cost of my friends deliveries. My team of professionals may have changed hourly but I never lacked for a caring person to ask advice and to help me get my babies well enough to go home. Total cost HK$998

Now I remember all of this because my $998 birth experience ( Two for the price of one including weeks of intensive care ) compared to the HUNDREDS of thousands of dollars forked out by friends for normal deliveries, comes to mind on 2nd October every year when I celebrate my daughters’ birthday – The ‘about to be FIFTEEN’ year olds are growing up and tastes are becoming defined. The request – A more adult experience, a terrace bar with a view, dinner on a terrace somewhere outside, and it must serve VEGAN – off we go to find  a birthday meal . ONE MEAL that will cost the equivalent of a birth experience EACH and we shall laugh and rejoice and love them for the amazing young women they are … and pray we get to sixteen in one piece and with our wallets intact.

Brick Lane is the destination preceded by EYE BAR

They want a view – lets give them a spectacular view!

 

Thats all … they deserve it.