Sunday, 27 September 2015

Pander Panda

We've come to that age where a casual dinner is no longer enough to mark a birthday or farewell. Given the accessibility and access to more disposable income it's not uncommon for milestones to be used an excuse to travel and explore. Traveling forges new memories and reinforces friendships through new adventures and experiences. Chengdu, the Sichuan capital, famous for the apothegm, "Chengdu, can do" and the home of the giant Panda would be the next destination.

Chengdu is a destination that is not high on people's traveling lists with the question of "Why are you going to Chengdu?" being the most common question. The natural answer was of course "Chengdu? For Pandas and hotpot of course!" which meant we had to see pandas and have hotpot.

Due to the last minute nature of the trip and the unintentional coincidence with Mid-Autumn Festival this turned out to be quite a costly trip. We secured flights from Hong Kong to Chengdu for 4200 HKD, corporate rates at the Ritz Carlton for 1200 HKD and a half day tour at the Wolong Panda Club for 3000 HKD.

The first evening was spent carousing Chengdu's own Lan Kwai Fong. Unfortunately the rain and the national holiday meant that the scene was a little weak, none the less, we found late night dumplings, headed to Jellyfish and found ourselves in the psuedo-projects of the Poly Centre which still kept us out until 4 am.

Saturday morning 8:35 am we were greeted by our friendly driver/host who was assigned to give us a tour of the Wolong Panda Club. The astronomical prices (400 USD) for the panda club included entry into the reserve as well as the rare chance to dress up as a surgeon and take a photo with a panda cub. Upon arrival (we were late), we were immediately whisked to an aluminium bench where were we given protective gear and asked to line up 6 others.

The panda was brought out from his enclosure and propped up against the bench. Not the most natural environment but I assume pandas find human furniture just as comfortable. We were issued the following instructions "You can touch him, just don't touch his face" and then the procession started, the cub was busying himself with carrot sticks as the attendant screamed out "next person", each person shuffled in next to the camera took a photo before the attendant screamed "next person" with a sense of urgency that was not reflected on the cub. It lasted 20 seconds. The cutest panda. Over. What a quick but fun experience! The highlight!

The rest of the trip was spent exploring Jinli Street and devouring Sichuan food. So. Spicy. So. Good.

Currently reading "Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman!"

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Chinese Visa for Australian Passport

Having recently renewed my passport it was time to apply for a new visa into China. I had always used my local travel agent CTS for China Visas and had read somewhere that it you had the time and patience it would be significantly cheaper to apply for a Chinese Visa in person. The process is straight forward enough, go to the China Visa office in Wanchai (see here for details). Bring the following:

1). An up to date passport
2). A photocopy of the passport page
3). A copy of your airline tickets/schedule into China
4). A copy of your accommodation/hotel itinerary
5). A photocopy of your Hong Kong ID
6). A pen
7). A photograph of yourself

Fill out the latest form and prepare to wait. The process for regular Visa applications takes four working days (you submit your application form on Monday and it's ready for pickup by Thursday). The upside for Australian passports is that it only costs 800 HKD for a multi-entry Visa that lasts a year.

Sunday, 5 July 2015


Broccoli and pistachio, beetroot and tomato, mushroom and truffle, pumpkin and carrot.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

June 21st: International Yoga Day

I have a sprained hamstring and a discombobulated shoulder, both results of reckless abandon at jiu jitsu. I attribute this to old age, I am no longer that twenty one year old blessed with youthful recovery time. Despite all of this I'm unusually obdurate about attending the inaugural International Yoga event.

My left eye opens at 6:30 am. I rub my face, groan and desultorily search for my phone. First thing's first, I need to stop the alarm. Phone, found. Alarm, off. I open my second eye and peek under the curtains. The sky is cloudy. Ok, that adjective fails to paint the picture, the sky is threatening. It's a struggle prising myself out of bed at this ungodly hour. There's messages on my phone from a few hours ago - "Out?" - sender, last seen online 5:32 am.

Decision made. I have breakfast and put on my yoga gear. 7:30 I reach to open the front door, my entire apartment is enveloped in darkness and the early morning silence is replaced by a distinct muffled roar. It's raining. Wait, no, it's absolutely pissing down. Well, can't say I didn't try! I change back into my PJs and crawl back into bed. I can't sleep, the rain stops.

My life is unnecessarily complicated, the internal monologue that guides and directs me down paths is fraught with indecision and supreme laziness. I finally arrive at Sun Yat Sen, the field is filled with people. It's an excellent turn out, especially considering the weather. There's lots of families, a plenty of people from all walks of life.

I manage to grab one of the last remaining yoga mats. The event has not managed to escape the precipitate precipitation - I spend the next five minutes wringing the water out of the yoga mat. It's a relaxing yoga sessions, basic postures with nothing too intense. The final pose is savasana. I lie there on my back with my eyes closed whilst listening to the peaceful soundtrack being played over the loudspeakers. I feel the drops of water fall onto my face, the rain comes down steadily, some people stand and make for shelter, I'm already wet and I slowly drifting back into sleep ...

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

This morning, I spent five minutes

Trying to coerce a spider out of my apartment with a comb...

Saturday, 13 June 2015

A weekend in

Finally, a weekend with no visitors, or no reason to go out. Hong Kong can be a demanding city. 

Managed to do a stack of reading, finally started watching Game of Thrones, a lot of massage therapy with my new Yoga Tune of massage balls, made a cream of mushroom soup and even got to the Asia Yoga Conference to listen to a talk with David Swenson.

Currently reading "Essentialism: The disciplined Pursuit of Less" by Greg McKeown