Weekly Photo Challenge: Fresh

I took this photo after an hour of boxing training session, as a matter of fact, it was my first boxing session. I used to think boxing was all violence, after that session I started to see the sport with new respect. Anyway right there I was exhausted yet excited, gym attendant kindly brought me freshly brewed ginger tea, steaming with soothing fragrance, paired with the arrangement of floating rose petals. Fresh was how I felt there and then.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: The Golden Hour

I took this picture last July in Cape Town, we stayed at a friend’s place, sun was setting when we arrived, waves crashed on cliff, seals waggled their way on rocks, and clouds were gathering, everything was in a pink hue… Now it has been a year, I can still see that spectacular view in my head, as if it’s yesterday….

Thanks to this week’s photo challenge, I get to share the moment with you dear readers.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Nostalgic

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In my early childhood years, on my birthday, mother would take me to a photo studio to have a photograph as a way of celebration, so there I was, in this picture, standing awkwardly in front a backdrop depicting a country road, smiling sweetly to the camera. The backdrop might have been a colored one, however mother must have been watching her budget, for colored photograph would cost a lot more than black/white ones…

Going to a photo studio to have picture taken was a significant event in my younger years. Camera was not a household commodity in China until late 1980’s. Mother always dressed me up as much as she could for the occasion, I’d be excited about it way ahead of it, then i’d be anxious for a few days till mother fetched the prints from the studio. I haven’t developed to be camera shy yet, at least not as bad as i am now.

I often wondered how much life has changed over the years, most photo studios are out of business by now, even kodak had to do something about their film business. Camera is no longer a luxury for Chinese families. On the contrary, we have developed this unstoppable tendency of taking photos, food, place, friends, or self portraits, you name it… some travelled afar to search for breathtaking scenic shots while some wandered around the city for a suitable background…  

No more scenic backdrop required for photos, but I do miss those days for its simple yet ceremoniously ways. Moreover, I miss the little girl who smiled so sweetly to the camera, alas, that smile has long gone!

 

  

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: The World through My Eyes

I was born and bred in Shanghai, the capital of commerce and finance of China, a city that has changed tremendously over the years.

Despite its humble beginning, Shanghai had always been and is still the window of China to the world. Huangpu River runs through the city and splits it to two distinctive parts, the rice paddies on the east side have given ways to the skyscrapers featured in the latest 007 movie Skyfall, while the west side of the river continues to charm tourists with its European styles architectures and colorful stories from the early 1900.

Ferry was the only means of river crossing until 1970, now there are 12 under river tunnels, 5 bridges, and 1 metro line connecting the two sides of Huangpu River.

I took this picture from a hotel restaurant located on 56th floor on an overcast summer day. Outside the window the river runs towards East Sea and cargo vessels travelled with various goods – an every day scene has carried on for centuries. A bridge is standing around the river bend. ‘The Oriental Pearl’, the highest TV tower in the Far East and the world’s third, appeared through its reflection on the tinted glass, together with another skyscraper under construction.

All these in one frame, the past, the present, and the future of my beloved Shanghai, my window to and of the world. You can’t beat that.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: The Sign Says

Our home in Cotswold is a 400 years old stone cottage, although tiny in size it is a cute little house with a quiet charm. Located in scenic English countryside, every summer tourists from overseas snap numerous photographs around the village. My father-in-law got very upset a few times when working in the garden – somehow tourists often mistook him as a gardener, so they would ask him to hide behind the cottage, not to get into the “perfect” pictures of the building. Sometimes we have studious travelers buried their noses in Lonely Planet, cross checking everything they read in the book with everything they saw in the street. We thought our visitors might like to see something “historically” trivial – so we put up this sign outside the house, in a position that will make in to a perfect picture.

Wish everyone a nice week ahead.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Culture

OK this is the second time I am here for the Weekly Photo Challenge. From the brief the submissions are supposed to be thoughts provoking, curiosity provoking, and hopefully a glimpse of different culture foreign to our own.

So I decided to cheat a bit, I chose a subject that most cultures will either shy away or try to be quiet about it, but not in Bhutan, a country that Buddhism religion, mythology and history have interwoven tightly into each other for thousands of years…

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Yes you are seeing it right, your eyes are not playing a trick on you. What painted on the wall of this humble cottage are a Garuda – a mystic bird, and two Phalluses – erected penis. Both are considered auspicious signs that would ward off evil spirits and protect households and habitants.

The story goes back to 600 years ago, the legendary Drupka Kingley, aka “The Divine Madman”, subdued demons in a form of flying phallus so as to protect villagers and their processions. Drupka Kingley holds an important role in Bhutanese history and mythology. Many stories are related to him and his unique ways of teaching through dances, songs, and sometimes erotic forms.

I guess that’s why we travel – to see the world from various angles and to hear stories from different sides. I love it!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Up

Never thought I would take part in the Weekly Photo Challenge, however when I read the theme of the week I thought of this photo immediately.

I took this picture earlier the year when visiting Dujiangyan, a city located in southwest of China. Dujiangyan has a history of over 2000 years, it is famous for the irrigation works built in 256BC in Qin Dynasty, the oldest and the biggest of its kind in the world; the city also survived an earthquake of 8.1 in Richter scale in 2008.

What captured in the photo is the escalator that takes tourists up to the temple on the top of the hill where Li Bin, the mastermind of the Dujiangyan Irrigation Works, is worshiped over the past centuries. The escalator is one of the city’s many measures to revive tourism after the earthquake. Missed out the last run of the escalator, it took me 2 hours went up and down the hill, although tired, I was impressed by both the natural beauty and the effort people made to preserve the heritage.

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The Mystery of Walking Backwards and Ear Flicking

April is probably the best time of the year in Shanghai, sun shines in blue sky, birds chirping behind leafy trees, flowers blossoming, wind blows gently, and fashionable girls and boys can’t wait to take off the heavy winter coats to show off the well toned limbs. In the mornings and evenings, parks transformed into centres of recreational activities, taichi, sword dance, line dance, and percussion drums, just to name a few. You’d see people jogging, walking, and practicing peking operas. Everyone minds his own business in any way he likes as if there’s no one watching. It could be noisy at times when all the activities take place at the same time with different background music, but it’s the best noise for me in the world, the sound of spring, the sound of life, the sound of enjoying life. It is the time of the year I spend more hours sitting on a cool park bench than my big leather office chair, I let my eyes stray and my mind wander.

I don’t know if you have seen people walking backwards in parks, and/or flicking ears in public anywhere else in the world, I haven’t. I asked my well travelled colleagues, they consider these can be well categorized as the few “Only-in-China Phenomena”, and “weird”.

Confucius once said he would have no regret to die in the evening if he had learnt the truth in the morning. Although I don’t want to die yet, it will certainly make the bench sitting days worthwhile if I could take a stab at unveiling the mystery.

They say sharing is caring, here’s what I found.

Walking Backwards – First of all, it has nothing to do with superstitions, in contrary, it is a recommended exercise for the elderly and the adolescents, provided doing it right – no bending knees, walk backwards steady and slowly, fingers closed, arms moving forward and backward gently, keep back straight and breath rhythmically.

The benefits of walking backwards are: strengthen spine and muscles on the lower back, good for “chi” and blood circulations on the back, relieve fatigue and pain in the area, especially for the seniors who suffer from the chronic pain of lower back.

The theory is: when moving backwards, different muscles and tendons on the lower back, around knees and ankles are used than walking forward, and extra pressure will apply while keeping legs straight, hence the foresaid would be strengthened and reinforced. Also it requires more balancing technique when step backwards, it stimulates cerebellum as well.

I am no physiotherapist so I am not going to bore you with technical details. I promise this is no prank, so you should be able to feel the difference if you stand up and experiment yourself (ok, maybe not the cerebellum as that’s hard to measure, but you will definitely fall if not focused).

For the adolescents, walking backwards is in a similar vein as walking with a book above one’s head – to prevent bad postures.

Walking backwards is a gentle workout, as a result it is recommended to those who are not suitable for strenuous exercises.

Ear Flicking – as weird as it sounds, ear flicking is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine, which has a history of more than two thousand years. According to TCM, ears are miniatures of a human body, and the acupoints on ears reflect status of various organs, therefore stimulating the pressure points would help to restore the strength of body parts. It is said about over 190 chronic illnesses range from internal to dermatology can be treated through massaging, acupuncturing, pressing, and other ways of sensitizing the ear acupoints. Yes, exactly the same concept of foot reflexology.

Speak of that, I reckon my effort just earned me a pampering foot massage on this beautiful Friday evening. Bye for now dear readers, wish you all a happy weekend!

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Taste of India

I am not a foodie, far from it – I eat to live, however living in China means that your day-to-day life is filled with food and food related stuff, even a trip abroad wouldn’t make an escape…

Before my latest trip to India, same as always, my friends worried I might suffer from lacking for culinary options. As hard as I ridiculed the worry, I couldn’t produce any solid evidence to back my argument, end of the day I was the one to blame, I just couldn’t recall any detail of the dishes I had previously.

I must hasten to add – I usually don’t have a clear memory about food, it would take me a few minutes to recall what I had for lunch or breakfast, my brain somehow doesn’t have much space for that aspect of life.

So this time, in order to rectify the misperception about my beloved India, I decided to keep a photo journal of adventures on palate, again I must hasten to add – I was still experimenting in vegetarian lifestyle during my stay, and I usually have two meals only a day – breakfast and lunch – hence, only a dozen of photos are available here.

Ok, shall we? Let’s start from the appetizers:

1. Dilli Ki Chaar

A combination of typical northern Indian delicacies – Bhalla, Papdi, Dahi gola pappa, and tikki; Ingredients include raisins, cashew nuts, sweet chutneys and yogurts. It’s usually served cold, taste slightly sweet with a faint trace of sour.

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2. Salads & Papadoms

Call it a side dish if you like, but crispy papadoms are usually served before meals, compare with the plain ones I prefer the spicy version.

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Move on to the entrees –

3. Subz Rogenjosh

You must have heard lamb rogenjosh, here lamb is replaced by subz, which means vegetable, as its color suggested, it could be spicy for some, but I love it.

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4. Palak Aap Ki Pasand

Usually it’s a combination of corns and cottage cheese, but I am really not a big fan of the latter so I asked for corns only, don’t be fooled by its rather calm colors, it surprises your tastebuds unexpectedly.

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5. Subz Briyani

Come on, everyone knows briyani! Indian style fried rice, this is a vegetarian version, filling but will not make you feel heavy.

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6. Amristar Choley

Chick peas prepared in masala sauce, so it will have a kick after a few bites. Light in stomach, pleasant on palate.

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7. Zeera Aloo

You are right, aloo means potato, and I love all potato dishes. By now you probably have figured out that I love spicy food too, that explains why Zeera Aloo is one of my favorites. The green bits are cumin seeds and shredded corianders.

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8. Dal Makhani

Made of whole black lantils and red kidney beans, I prefer Dal Makhani to any other dals, not just for its robust taste, but also the creamy texture. Bear in mind it’s quite heavy. I always had to have a cup of strong coffee to keep me awake after savoring romali roti with the black dal.

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9. Kadhai Paneer

Paneer is cottage cheese, although not a big fan, I occasionally order it for proteins. Thank to the special slow fire cooking method, cottage cheese absorbed all the flavors from various seasonings and spices, which is helpful to soften the not so soft texture.

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10. Poori Bhaji

Poori is the roundish Indian bread, unlike naans, pooris are deep fried. It’s potato in the soup, very tasty. Poori Bhaji is probably my favourite Indian breakfast, especially on a wintery Sunday, it warms me up inside out.

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11. Uttapam

Another option for Indian breakfast, uttapam is similar to a thick pancake, with toppings cooked into the batter, served with curries and curd (yogurt), up to you how you want to wake up the tastebuds.

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Sweet ending is a must to complete a meal properly, especially in India, I don’t think I had ever tried anything sweeter than Gulab Jamun, our item 12 – a milk solids based desert, served in syrup, which made it extra sweet.

12. Gulab Jamun

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13. Shahi Tukra

As you can see from my note, it is a bread pudding dessert of fried bread slices soaked in hot milk with spices, including saffron and cardmom. Not as sweet as gulab jamun, but it’s not for the sensitive teeth. I love its aroma.

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14. Gajar Ka Halwa

Carrots based dessert, light and refreshing.

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15. Moong Dal Halwa

Halwa means “sweet” in Arabic, this is another rendition of carrots based sweets, unlike Gajar Ka Halwa, Mong Dal Halwa is served warm.

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I’d better stop here before work up myself feeling sentimental, it will be another 12 months till I visit the incredible India again. Please forgive me for not being able to give you a more detailed explanation of each dish – I can’t cook, I can’t cook at all. My only cookery education is from watching Nigela Express, and I was more interested in Nigela Lawson’s curvaceous figure and satin dressing gown than her food.

Moreover, I want to add that photos can’t do justices to Indian cuisine, which is definitely more than what meets eyes. In my humble opinion, its special ways of preparations may have contributed to the rich flavors, but on the other hand, have also restrained the possibilities of fancy presentations.

Anyway, this whole exercise is to prove that I ate well in India. In contrary to my friends’ concern of lacking options; I often walked along buffet lines back and forth in an agony of choice.

As a testimony, despite the hundred percent vegetarian diet, I put on 2kg within 4 weeks, that’s right – I ate like a horse; well, what to do, the food was delicious!

Bon appetit!