Category Archives: Completed

Oh Yea, I Forgot I’m A Coder

When I was writing my post for The BlueprintI realised that there was something that I put on my bucket list back when I left teaching and could have been crossed off 2-3 years ago.

List Item: Code something
Progress: Completed

It’s so weird to have this as a crossing off now because this is my job now. I code using SPSS, VBA in Excel and, occasionally R. I dabble in some Python every now and then, but it nearly always goes wrong so I really need to have time to actually improve on that.

So not only have I written lines of code, I have written it in multiple languages. I wonder what the me from back at the beginning of the blog would think of this. Hell, I wonder what my Computing teacher from 15 years ago would think of this. We did some Visual Basic coding back then, but because young, dumb me was so fixated on doing Psychology at university that I dropped coding when I entered the final years of school.

Part of me does wonder how different my life would be if I continued with coding at school. I was one of the best in my year too. It’s a regret for sure, but at least I am doing it now and I am continuing to grow.

World Cooking – Japan

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Japan
Progress: 78/193

Although the post for my last world cooking country went up two months ago, it has actually been six months since I last made anything for this challenge. It started out because of the panic buying in March followed by the quarantine meaning ingredients were hard to come by – then other things happened.

Usually I keep a tight watch on the continents in this challenge to make sure I do a different thing week on week. However, as this was my first one back, I wanted to go with something that ranks as one of my absolute favourites – which is how I ended up making Japanese food and, because of taking too much on too quickly, ended up needlessly panicking about everything I made despite the fact that everything ended up tasting amazing.

Since I cook a fair bit of Japanese food anyway – mainly tonkatsu, yakisoba and curries – I wanted to make something that was a bit more out of my regular cooking routine. I was originally going to make three things, but given the complexities of the two I did end up making, I ditched the idea of trying to make tempura for the first time. However, I did find out that there is a Bengali version of this using squash blossoms – so all is not lost.

Main: Futomaki

When it came to deciding on what to make for a country, sometimes you have to go with the obvious choice because you know it’s going to be perfect. I mean, there are few foods out there that are as quintessentially Japanese as sushi. Also, and I completely forgot about this before I started writing, it allows me to cross something off.

List Item: Make your own sushi
Progress: Completed

As Bob Ross would say, this was a happy accident.

Now, back in the mists of time I have made sushi before. However, it has been many many years – and the last time I sliced my finger so bad that the blood loss made me want to throw up. So, despite loving sushi, I haven’t been the most eager to return to it. Plus, given the rules and variety, there is something quite daunting about making sushi.

For this challenge, therefore, I decided to keep it ‘simple’. Rather than make multiple types, I opted to just make sushi rolls. I don’t have specialist equipment other than a rice cooker – so these are all hand rolled (without a bamboo mat) and the rice was cooled with a handfan. Also, because of expense reasons and availability, I used risotto rice instead of proper sushi rice. In the end, they’re both short-grain rice of the same species and behave pretty much the same.

Thanks to Just One Cookbook, I was able to perfectly season the rice. I didn’t follow her ideas for the futomaki filling though, instead I went with what I enjoy: salmon, cucumber and avocado. There was also some surimi in there for my husband.

This sushi was a lot easier to make than I thought it would be. I haven’t had sushi since lockdown began, so to have it seven months or so later made for a delicious homecoming. Given how expensive it can be, especially if you get it as a delivery, I think I might actually start making my own as a part of the larger cooking rotation.

Dessert: Strawberry Shortcake

For my birthday last year, a friend of mine got me a really pretty Japanese cookery book called Tokyo Cult Recipes. Since then, I’ve really wanted to make something from it for when I did Japan for this particular challenge. So rather than make the spaghetti recipe, I went for this really lovely cake.

If you watch enough anime, you will have seen this cake somewhere. Recently I have seen it reference in Nichijou and in one of my favourite scenes in K-Onand it also has the honour of having it’s own emoji character. Like, outside of making mochi (which was never going to happen because I am not a rabbit and I don’t have the proper equipment) or something using matcha, this is the obvious choice for a Japanese dessert.

I may have gone a bit crazy with the piping (but hey, this is only my second time using a piping bag), but I couldn’t help but want to make this cake pretty. The sponge is extremely light with a cherry syrup soaked in and a thick layer of cream and sliced strawberries in between the cake layers.

Aside from the false start where I was convinced I ruined the cakes by not folding the ingredients properly (which turned out to be untrue), this cake showed me how much fun baking can be. I have already had a request to make this as a birthday cake and that been told this may be one of the best cakes I ever made – so this is a real winner of a recipe and this whole post has reminded me just why I did this global food challenge.

2020 – The Summer That Wasn’t

Back in January, which feels like a year ago by now, myself and the husband booked ourselves on a two week dream trip to the cities of Eastern Canada (Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto). Like with Japan and South Korea, the idea was to take a bit of a post break. However, this trip didn’t happen. I mean, they aren’t even really allowing people in at the moment.

Putting in for the cancellation of the plane tickets and hotels for what was going to be an amazing trip with whale watching and Niagara Falls provided a bookend for what has undoubtedly been the worst months of my life.

Thanks to COVID-19, my industry went beyond bananas and I have been part of a team doing horrendous amounts of overtime to the point where the legality has been questionable. The amount of work, the lost weekend days and the incredible pressure drove me to some of the darkest mental places I have ever been to. Darker than many of those that caused my total breakdown when I was teaching.

List Item: Shout as loud as you can
Status: Completed

This wasn’t quite how I envisaged ticking this one of, but it happened as a wider part of this summer. Screaming until I was hoarse. Screaming because I just couldn’t take it. Then having the guilt and conscientiousness that made me log back into work some 40 minutes later.

List Item: Accept a personal flaw
Status: Completed

Given what this summer was, I learned a lot about myself. I also accepted that I should have probably sought proper help after my post-teaching breakdown and that a lot of those patterns are still there. Patterns that became heightened this summer and ended in me having a day off sick where literally all I did was sleep. I am now getting help and we’ll see where that goes. If I am able to just get my panic reflexes back under control, then I don’t really care what I have to do.

List Item: Forgive someone
Status: Completed

On a professional level, this had to happen a lot this summer. I can’t really go too much into things, but there has been a lot of forgiveness that has had to happen else I would not have been able to move on. This has been a bit of a development for me as I can be one for grudges. So despite all the horrible stuff, there has been some real personal growth.

List Item: Keep a secret
Status: Completed

Given the confidential nature of work I’ve had to undertake this summer – this goes without saying really.

—-

So, where does this all fit in with the blog aside from some crossings off of some longstanding items? Posts have still been going up, but I haven’t actually written a proper post in three months and before then it had been an additional three months since I was writing at least one post a week. When lockdown started I had a lead of six months and now it’s closer to six weeks.

I still want to do this blog and one day maybe I’ll get back to more than three things in a week. Being actually able to write this post and contemplate starting things up again make me think that I can start to get back to some degree of normality, so let’s see how the first posts look as they go up next week.

📽️ Disney Time – In Summary

In less than a year I went reform buying the Disney box set to having watched all the entries in the Animated Canon. Guess that goes to show how, with proper structure, I am able to finish off one of the longer challenges in good time. Probably helps that we had a regular Disney night and that I knew and liked a lot of these films already.

Going into this, I had seen the vast majority of the films on the list – which means I had the motivation to carry on through the bad period as I knew there were films like Beauty and the Beast and Zootopia ready to welcome me on the other side. One thing I had not expected is just how many of these films that I know I had seen before and either had no recollection of or had clearly switched them off previously and counted that as a win.

Let’s not mince words though, for every good film here on the canon there is another either dull or downright bad film to be found. This the same of any major studio and few out there had the high hit-to-miss ratio that the likes of Studio Ghibli or a single director director may have. However, going through even the really bad films, it’s been so interesting to see the Disney company develop, experiment, ditch things that didn’t work and become the filmmakers that they are today. I think if I had included some of the non-canon releases (like Mary Poppins or some Pixar) I might have gained a fuller picture, but just knowing how close the animation wing of the company has been to closing on multiple occasions has been a real eye-opener.

Now, time for superlatives. I thought it would be a good idea, now that I am done, to do some rankings of the best and worst films on the list. So let’s go.

Best surprise (of a film that I hadn’t seen before):Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Bottom 101) Fun and Fancy Free
2) Melody Time
3) The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
4) The Black Cauldron
5) Home on the Range
6) Chicken Little
7) Dinosaur
8) Treasure Planet
9) Brother Bear
10) The Sword in the Stone
Top 101) Beauty and the Beast
2) The Lion King
3) The Little Mermaid
4) Zootopia
5) Sleeping Beauty
6) One Hundred and One Dalmatians
7) Dumbo
8) The Great Mouse Detective
9) Moana
10) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

📽️ Disney Time – Frozen II

List Item:  Watch The Disney Animated Canon
Progress: 58/58Title: Frozen II
Year: 2019

When I started the Disney challenge last year with Snow White I hoped that I would be able to make my way through the DVDs at a reasonable enough pace that meant I could finish my challenge off in the cinema. Turns out I had a few weeks to spare, so here I am now with Frozen II – currently the final Film in the Disney Animated Canon.

It was always going to be a bit strange to finish off this challenge on a sequel rather than an original movie, but I figured that since this is an ongoing challenge I’ll be back to the original Disney movies soon enough. Going into the cinema for Frozen II I must admit that my expectations were pretty low. This is one of the worst reviewed Disney films for a while and a sequel that we never really needed. Other than to generate more money for the Disney corporation that is.

Still though, I don’t know if it was the lowered expectations or the chilly weather outside, but I had a whole lot of fun with Frozen II. This is nowhere near Disney’s best not is it up to the standard set by the original, but if you wanted more time with tour favourite Frozen characters then this really is the film for you. Similarly, if you want time to stare in awe at some of Disney’s most beautiful CGI work, then you also need to see this.

One thing that I want to applaud this film for, however, is for being the first major children’s animated movies to properly deal with the idea of colonialism and the beginnings of some form of reparations. When I think of how tone deaf Pocahontas in places, then you get Frozen II where there is no victim blaming – instead the white man taking advantage and being 100% in the wrong. It’s an interesting topic to take a glancing shot at in a Disney movie, but I’m here for it.

Also worth noting is that, whilst the songs aren’t as good on the whole as the original film, there is one solid earworm in this film. ‘Into The Unknown’ will probably never reach the heights of memedom that ‘Let It Go’ did, but it sure sticks I your head. Especially the haunting call as provided by Norwegian musician (and my album of the year 2019 creator) Aurora. That call has been in my head for the last week and it’s showing no signs of leaving.

Tomorrow, I’m going to publish a post about some of my general feelings and rankings now that I’ve come to the end of this particular challenge. For now though, it’s worth saying just how much fun this mini-challenge has been. I probably won’t be doing another studio-based challenge for my bucket list, but maybe some more film ones will come up. Probably worth getting closer to the end of my other two film challenges before starting in those though…

Status: Completed

Honk Honk Hong Kong: Day 6 – Ocean Park

Despite its size, Hong Kong boasts two substantial theme parks. There’s Hong Kong Disneyland, which I’ll be visiting on my final day, and then there’s today’s destination; Hong Kong’s very own Ocean Park. Thanks to the South Island line stopping directly outside, there was only 18 minutes between my hotel room and some theme park fun and frolics – with a stop for breakfast of course.

Now, with these two buns I think I have now crossed off everything major from my “what to eat in Hong Kong” list. First there’s the pork bun, a classic and always a pleasure when the meat-to-bun ratio is in your favour. Then there is the Pineapple bun, a local specialty with a hard cracked sugar topping that tastes nothing of pineapple, but just looks the part. Perfect way to start the day really.

List Item: Visit 25 Amusement Parks
Progress: 16/25

Like with Everland, Ocean Park is part zoo and part theme park (which, given the size of Hong Kong, makes sense). It is also split into two sections because of topography, which means you have the Waterfront and the Summit areas, which are connected by a scenic cable car and an underground funicular. These different factors make Ocean Park a pretty unique visit and a varied one at that. Also, they were playing Christmas songs all day, which felt very weird given the differently themed areas.

Since it’s the closest to the entrance, our first visit was to the Grand Aquarium. It’s one of many aquaria in the theme park, but this is the one without any certain theme other than “here’s some fish”. Lots of different sea life here including spider crabs, a tower of milk fish, octopus and all matter of tropical fish. You also had a whole room with different types of seahorse and the overarching educational message that these should not be used for medicine when other things work better and are sustainable.

Next was a building referred to as the Hong Kong Jockey Club Sichuan Treasures. This large building contains two types of animal. Firstly there’s the oldest panda currently in captivity who, at time of writing, was 33. It was nice to see a panda just wandering around and being bear-like, especially an old gent like himself. Next to him were the Golden snub-nosed monkeys – including a baby who was born this year. I first saw some of these in Everland and, like now, find them so strange to look at. However, I did fall for Little Peanut (the baby) who was swinging everywhere and annoying their parents.

In the next park area, titled Amazing Asian Animals, you get even more animals to enjoy – including the two current breeding pandas at the zoo who were both asleep leaning on boxes. There are also exhibits featuring red pandas, Chinese alligators, otters and a strangely interesting room continuing many different breeds of goldfish. I’m ignorant in the way of the goldfish, but I had no idea there were so many variations.

Since the Emerald Trail was closed, we made a visit to the Adventures in Australia exhibit – containing wallabies, kookaburras and a rather obese koala before getting in the only queue that we were going to experience today – the one for the cable car.

When you come to Ocean Park, the one attraction that you absolutely have to do is the cable car. Not just because it’s one of the two ways to visit the other park (because the funicular is more efficient), but because the views you get en route are spectacular. Like, the type of beautiful where I was compelled to tell the seascape to “shut up” because it was being so beautiful. We ended up doing this trip twice, because when you are at Ocean Park when everything has next-to-no lines you ride the cable car twice.

The Summit level of Ocean Park is where you find the vast majority of the rides, a bunch of them were shut for upgrades (the perils of off-season) but we got in a bunch of the available ones. First was the rapids ride in the rainforest area, as those tend to be my favourite kind of rides. We strolled straight onto a tube and both got summarily soaked since, as my husband put it, “this ride cheated” when it comes to getting you wet as there are jets spraying directly at the riders. Still a lot of fun though.

We finished off the rainforest zone by looking at the animals in the Expedition Trail area – including electric eels, frogs and the most satisfied looking iguana that I have ever laid my eyes on. They also had a few arapaima, which are the largest freshwater fish in the world and look like something out of Jurassic Park.

Since we’d both dried off a bit, it was time to scratch the roller coaster itch by riding the two that were not currently under maintenance (sadly the other two were closed). First was the gentler of the two, the Arctic Blast. We managed to stroll on and get underway almost straight away. It’s one of those coasters that is a good in between to make sure you don’t accidentally bring your kid on a particularly rough one (the uncontrollable crying of the girl in Everland still makes me laugh).

Then there was the Hair Raiser, whose Luna Park inspired facade gives off a ‘can’t sleep, clowns will eat me’ kind of a vibe. As with the other coaster, we got on straight away and the experience was so extremely joyful and full of g-force that it left us both with smiles and headaches. Time to take a rest from the rides and head for the highlight of the day.

List Item: See a walrusStatus: Completed

I love walruses. You very rarely see them in captivity and the closest I’d ever seen one was in a Seaworld show when I was 10. So, to say that my reaction to seeing two of these beautiful animals swimming an arms reach away was a bit extreme is… well I cried. I managed to keep myself together to not go completely ridiculous, but I was very obviously overwhelmed and so stood there staring and snapping pictures for an inordinate amount of time. Towards the end of the day, there was a walrus feeding demonstration so we returned and I videoed the whole thing.

We finished up in this section by seeing the other polar animals on display – spotted seals, arctic foxes and three types of penguin. The Gentoo Penguins were especially interesting as it looked like they were in the process of nesting, so the male Gentoos were gaily running around gathering pebbles and bringing them back to their partner. So very very cute.

Two more rides (on the Rev Booster and the Whirly Bird) and then we went back to the lower level via cable car in order to get lunch. Since we had a two for one code, we grabbed a rather delicious sausage before settling down with some dumplings and dan dan noodles. Apparently, this vendor in the park is mentioned in the Michelin guide, which is really cool for an affordable food stand in a theme park.

We went back to the summit via the Jules Verne inspired Ocean Express tram and took in some more of the aquaria. First was the small one dedicated to Chinese sturgeon, then there was the better shark-themed one. So many things are better with rays and sharks, and this aquarium had quite a few of them. I ended up becoming especially fixated on the guitarfish and the sawfish. Sometimes it’s just amazing to see these oddities swim.

By this point it was nearly an hour to closing, so we watched the walruses being fed, had a second go on both roller coasters and bought some souvenirs before heading out. Our eight hours really flew by, but that wasn’t it for the day.

We’d always intended to go back up The Peak at night during our final full day, but geographically this just worked perfectly – so that’s just what we did. Only this time, we paid the extra 50HKD to go to the main viewing platform and made sure to get as much use out of it as our increasingly colder selfs could.

The uniqueness of Hong Kong’s geography and building density really makes for some incredible views from high vantage points. Also, at this point of view, everything is this futuristic metropolis – which is a stark contrast to the view I got from Sky 100 which showed some of the less attractive buildings in Kowloon. This particular platform also gave me the weird association between this night view and a photographer repeatedly ravaging a rubber chicken in order to get a smile from a child. I don’t know what to do with that.

Dinner ended up being a bit odd thanks to a curiosity of mine to try food from Filipino fast food chain Jollibee. I’ve seen them mentioned online before, and I heard the episode of Doughboys where it received low scores. Still though I was curious enough to get a combo meal of the Aloha burger and their spaghetti and was pleasantly surprised. Especially by the spaghetti which, at first, looked really suspect but ended up tasting really good. Even if we did have to eat it with spoons.

Tomorrow is the last technical full day (the day after, we fly out at just before midnight) and it’s going to be a bit of a weird round up day. There’s things we never got around to because of the protests and police brutalities requiring rescheduling, but tomorrow should make for an interesting one.

Honk Honk Hong Kong: Day 4 – Macau

Well, despite the overarching name of these posts, this is not really a day in Hong Kong, but Macau – the other city in China that has it’s own special designation having only been handed back to China by Portugal in 1999. Visiting Macau is such an interesting experience because of this pretty unique history that leaves many things around the city with three languages being displayed: Chinese, Portuguese and English.

Whilst it is the slightly more expensive method, we got the ferry to and from Macau. Not only is it quicker and more convenient, but given that both of these cities got their start as maritime areas, it only felt apt to do it this way. Also,  I didn’t get seasick on either journey – so a small win there.

Instead of getting a taxi or a bus, we decided to walk to the Old City as we’d be able to see more of the surrounding area. Looking around, it became quickly obvious that we had just missed the Macau Grand Prix. They were still taking down the track barriers as we made our way to the Unesco area, which added an extra element of difficulty when it came to finding a place to cross the street.

As we got closer to the old city, we began to get a flavour of some of the more central casinos and the grander hotels. And nothing could be grander, or gaudier, more brilliant or more bizarre than the Grand Lisbon hotel and casino. This is the tallest building in Macau and as such is visible from a very wide radius. I ended up referring to it as the ‘glass onion’ for the rest of the day. Looking at the photos now, I’m not sure why.

We eventually got the Old City where it turns out my sick spell on Sunday was good for one thing, it made us move the trip a day later to Tuesday where all the sites that would have been closed on Monday were actually open. At least it was good for something. This whole area – technically referred to as the Historic Centre of Macau is very much like a cultural theme park. It was odd seeing so many Portuguese style buildings, and Portuguese the language, in what is essentially China.

Before getting the proper exploring in, we had a light breakfast of a few Portuguese egg custard tarts on Senado Square. This whole square and surrounding area is incredibly beautiful. I mean you can see from the photo how high contrast the colours of the buildings are and how lovely the mosaics are on the pavement.

Sadly the church of Saint Domingo was closed for renovations, but that was it for closures. We still saw the treasury, which somewhat amazingly was mostly from Portugal or India. The cathedral was open though and, weirdly, it was the least impressively painted of all the churches we saw today. They were setting up a nativity outside, which I wish I’d seen completed.

Just down the road (and an alley) from the cathedral was Lau Kau mansion. This is a preserved house that shows how a prominent Macanese merchant from the 19th century lived. Inside there are stained glass windows and masses of lovely wood carvings. It’s a pity the second floor wasn’t open though, from the pictures it would have been equally as interesting. Still, this was free so cannot really complain.

Next was my favourite bit of this area, the Ruins of St Paul. There’s no other words really than stunning. Sadly only the front facade is left in tact, but they’ve really made the most of it with the large stairway and the surrounding verdant area. This really is one of the essential places to stop and take a moment when in the old city of Macau.

After coming out of the ruins’ crypt, we trekked to the top of Monte Fort. There is an escalator, but we didn’t see it until the way down. Still though, we got lovely views of St Paul on the way up so it was worth it. From here we saw how much of Macau is… actually quite like Kowloon. Thanks to the well preserved old buildings, you end up being ferried though the more palatable tourist areas. From up here we also got a view of China proper, which was interesting. I wonder if I’ll ever go there.

After popping in and out of Macau Museum (free entry for some reason I’m still unclear of) we made the very long uphill walk to the top of Guia Fortress. This is taller than Monte Fort and technically was meant to be a cable car but we never found it. The views really are better from up here. Plus, it has a lovely whitewashed lighthouse and a chapel with old preserved frescoes.

Having made the long walk back, we got a Macanese pork chop sandwich for lunch. We could have had something more substantial for lunch, but we were very much aware of all the things we wanted to see before leaving the old city. So it was a bit of a standing lunch.

Until we got to Saint Augustine’s Square that is. I insisted that we got a drink and a bit of a rest here for twenty minutes so could rest my bones. Turns out I’m still a bit weak after the end of yesterday. Then we went into the nearby St Augustine’s church, where we saw the first of the beautiful use of contrasting cornflower blue and primrose yellow. This would be repeated in St Laurence’s Church, whose Christmas display outside was bizarre.

Then came the Mandarin House, another preserved house this time of noted reformer Zheng Guanying and his family. More lovely wood carvings. Apparently he would be ferried from the front to the back of the complex, so he wouldn’t have to walk himself.

The final stop in the Old City area was the A-Ma Temple. Continuing with the theme of Taoist temples, there was so much incense burning that it really began to irritate my eyes. My husband was fine though, so maybe I’m just a demon. One thing that I hadn’t seen before from a Taoist temple was the many instances of Chinese characters being carved into the nearby rock faces and painted in red. At some point I need to research more into what that might mean.

Now that we had done the many sites of the Old City, it was time for something completely different and yet probably what Macau is most famous for: casinos. Luckily, there was a bus stop just outside the temple and we were there in a flash.

There are so many casinos in Macau, but the one I wanted to see most was the Venetian. This is the biggest casino in the world and, just overall in terms of floor space, one of the biggest buildings in the world. Even thinking about it, there is such an absurdity to how huge these buildings are.

Inside, everything is just so grand. I mean, I know that the whole schtick is to make you feel special and worthy, thus you’ll gamble, but dear god I felt just in awe of everything here. Especially once I reached the shopping area in the Venetian, which has its own canals, gondoliers and bridges. The sky is painted to the point that the hub was wondering if it was open air. Also, there was a magician performing. I just fell in love with this area and I know that it’s wasted on a non-shopper like me who just wanted to gawk at the Disneyland nature of the whole thing.

As lunch was small, and there wasn’t a chance in hell that we could afford a casino buffet, we decided to have a snack at the Venetian McDonald’s. Our rule is that we have to have something that we cannot get back home, so I went for the chicken and egg burger. This burger needs to come to the UK. Get on it McDonalds!

List Item: Gamble in a casinoStatus: Completed

Now that we’d finished exploring the shopping area, we went to casino floor where we both gambled in a casino for first time. Slot machines only, the equivalent of the nickel slots. It’s cool to say we did it, but it was more annoying than anything to lose money for no real reason. Looking around at the people betting at tables with a £500 minimum, I think I understand this even less than I did before the slot machines.

Our next casino was the Parisian, which is directly connected to the Venetian as they are both owned by the same company. The theme is, obviously Paris, down to there being a roaming mime who we kept encountering. That was odd and a bit creepy, although I admire how he could keep up the pretence after so many people fleeing from him.

The interior shopping areas and some of the restaurants are done like old Parisian streets, which are lovely. But the best thing, being November, was how they decorated their central fountain are with a ginormous upside down Christmas tree. It’s spectacular and I’m not usually one for an inverted tree.

The exterior of the Parisian is dominated by their Eiffel Tower replica, which was all decked out beautifully for Christmas. It’s a bit of a minefield walking around outside because, obviously, this is is a popular place for marriage photos and selfies so there’s a lot of darting around so you don’t end up in people’s cherished memory boxes.

Our final casino of the day was Studio City. The theme was meant to be American film studio, but it felt like a weird mix of things. I mean this is a place that had VR games machines, model dinosaurs, off brand aliens and a replica of a New York subway station entrance. I am not sure how this competes with the neighbouring grand casinos, but it seemed to be doing well enough.

As this was our final stop for the day, this is where we got dinner. For me, that meant Chinese sausage sticky rice, which was absolutely gorgeous to the point where my husband was having some serious food envy. You just cannot get Chinese sausage in the UK without paying a premium, so I knew I wanted to eat some whilst out here. So ended our casino experience and our time in Macau, one day was perfect in the end to do what we wanted and I can really see why this is such a popular day trip.

Well that should be the end, but that wouldn’t be my health for this holiday. The shivers came back and I ended up being a shivering mess for the final hour whilst in the hotel. I managed to recover enough to write up notes of the day so I could expand on them later to a full post later. I have no idea how my husband has been dealing with this, I need to get him something for being such a saint.

Good Eatin’ – Ending With A Pasty

Whilst this has not been an easy decision to come to, I think this is one that has been coming for a while. The 1001 food list was never one that I really expected to complete because of the sheer amount of logistics involved. I have, however, been fortunate to get well over three quarters of the list crossed off because I live in London, love to travel and have a husband who will buy me raspberry vinegar for Christmas.

However, in recent months things have been getting scarce and anything that was findable was getting expensive. I mean, if you asked me would I rather a plane ticket to Malta or trying some caviar, then the plane ticket wins every time. There was also an ethical question here. When researching things I could find in Hong Kong I was quite horrified at how many were listed as being overfished or ‘at risk’. 

So, for all these reasons, this is the last post I am doing for the 1001 food list. It’s been so much fun expanding my taste buds, but for now I’ll leave that to my cooking challenge that I really need to be getting back to. Now let’s finish this off in the most British way possible, a pasty.

List Item: Try as many of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die as possibleFood item: Cornish Pasty
Progress: 785/1001
List Status: Formally Retired

I wanted this to be the final thing I did in the event that I managed to get to all 1001 foods before the whole ‘endangered species and re-mortgage’ really dawned on me. Being a Brit with a love of pastry, I have had many a Cornish pasty in my time. They can either be a piping hot parcel of hearty deliciousness or a limp pale disappointment. Thankfully I got one of the good ones.

As I sat in the office eating this, knowing it would be the final item, I did regret how quickly I went through all the initial foods. Then again, I did manage to try things like bara brith, smokey blue cheese and Akita jidori chicken – all of which have some really lovely memories attached to them. Still though, it’s been a ride and maybe I’ll add to it if I happen across something at random. But for now, this is the end.

Two Weeks in South Korea: Day 6 – Anniversary in Busan

This time last year I was watching a ballet in an Ancient Greek theatre, two years before that was digesting a key lime pie at the top of the Empire State Building, the year before that I was saying “I do” to the man scurrying around the hotel. I can’t quite believe that this is my fourth wedding anniversary and I get to spend it here in extremely sunny Busan.

The day began with a bit of a whimper as we went to our local Lotte Mart in Seomyeon expecting a garden with a view as brilliant as the one near Nampo. It was always going to be an impossible feat to match it, but the high walls and the extended out walls didn’t help. The garden was also not as nice as the other branch so this, with the pretty blah breakfast pastries we grabbed, didn’t make for the best start.

Time for a scene change. So far on this holiday I’ve seen a lot of nature, eaten a lot of food and romped around a lot of the city. What I needed was a piece of peace in a lovely temple overlooking the ocean. Good thing Busan has one of those just a metro, bus and 10 minute walk away.

Before reaching the temple itself, however, there are a bunch of other things to see and snap. For one, a complete set of Chinese zodiac statues with the head of the animals and the body of a human (this chicken just looked confused to be honest), then there’s a model pagoda, a small Buddha by the sea and all manner of beautiful views of the temple that you are about to enter.

This is the Haedong Yonggung Temple and although its origins lay in the 14th century, the actual construction is from the 1930s. That doesn’t detract from it though, the temple is in a stunning setting and offers the peace that one would hope from a Buddhist Temple. The actual places of worship are a pretty small compared to some of the others I have seen, but they are beautifully decorated on the inside with golden Buddhas and carved swooping dragons coming down from the ceiling.

Outside of the worship spaces themselves, the two big highlights for me were the big statues. Firstly the Golden Buddha where, having been asked by a group of three sweet older Korean women, I learned that the Korean word used to take photographs is “kimchi”. I love these people. The other statue I loved was up a bunch of stone steps (which I leapt up thanks to my legs now being broadly back to normal) and depicts the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. She was beautiful and so is the view she gets from up there.

After purchasing a very nutty hotteok, we were back on the bus and heading back into the city in order to reach Haeundae. First on the list was to have a walk through Haeundae Market where I began to realise that whilst my brain wants me to eat all the new things, my body is beginning to wonder when this food lust is going to take a break. So we shared a small kimchi pancake and a shrimp pancake thing on a stick and didn’t indulge in any tteokbokki, fish cakes, kimbap or even see what sundae (Korean blood sausage) tastes like. Still, I’m here for another week so I’m sure I’ll get some at some point.

At the end of the market it’s a few minutes to reach the thing that everyone comes to Haeundae for – Haeundae Beach. This is the big beach in Korea and boy is it photogenic, especially on a day like today where there were no clouds in the sky. Being Busan, this isn’t just a beach, but there are pieces of artwork all around, including a pair in the water. I’m not a beach person really, but I did have the urge to dip my toes into the sea.

So we walked along the beach just basking in the sunlight and then dashing into shade because sunblock only goes so far. Then we reached the end of the beach, which leads into the beginning of the walkway for Dongbaek Island.

For the most part, this walk along Dongbaek Island, is done on wooden walkways above the rocks and sea below. There’s plenty of benches and viewing platforms so you can look out or back on where you’ve come. There’s also a statue of a mermaid and a rock featuring a 14th century carving that is pretty much still in tact.

As you head north you reach the two features that were built as a result of Busan holding the APEC leaders meeting in 2005. The first we reached was a lighthouse, which was sweet, but then there’s the Nurimaru APEC House which is very impressive to see jutting out like something from the Jetsons. We went for a look through the interior where we got an idea of why this was of such importance to the city of Busan as a way to raise their profile.

From here we clambered up to the peak of the island to have a look at the statue of Choi Chi-Won and then wandered over to the nearest metro station to head to Centum City in order to fulfil a big dream of mine

List Item: Attend a film festivalStatus: Completed

I still cannot believe that we did this by chance, but I am so glad we did. The film itself was utterly bizarre and ultimately flawed and with a poorly shot decapitation scene. Still though, I was part of the Busan International Film Festival for those two hours and I really want to get those tickets framed because I’m not sure if this sort of thing is ever going to happen again.

Before the film though, we went for dinner at one of the restaurants in the Centum City Mall. I had misread the name on the floor plan as being something a bit daft so had my heart set on this being the place we’d eat at. Sadly the restaurant wasn’t called Gooseful Hambak as I’d hoped (it was Gooseul), but they did do some really nice food. A Hambak is the Korean take on the Salisbury Steak and this plate was exactly what I needed in terms of food. Yet another tick in the long list of excellent Korean dishes I’ve had whilst here.

So, it’s been an eventful day and another great wedding anniversary, making three out of four being in a foreign country. I don’t know if it’ll happen again next year, but that’s a long time away. Better to focus on tomorrow where we will be journeying out of Busan for the day to see the old capital of Gyeonju.

Two Weeks in South Korea: Day 3 – Climbing Hallasan

We woke early today to a rather foreboding sky. The weather reports had been telling us for ages that today was going to have a few hours of rain… but they were wrong about yesterday so we figured it might not be too bad. So we demolished some instant ramen sans cutlery (mine being a black bean noodle pot), bought energy bars and water from the convenience store next door and started making our way to the beginning of the trail.

Hallasan is the tallest mountain in South Korea and has a number of trails that allow you to scale it. We went for the Seonpanak trail as it got us to the top whilst also being the gentlest (and so the longest at 10km). In preparation for this I actually bought some hiking poles because I heard the terrain was uneven at the top and wanted to make sure that my knees didn’t turn to mush partway through the ascend. Well, these purple poles of mine might be the best £20 I’ve spent for a holiday as not only did they save my knees but they gave me some confidence with balance when my confidence was failing.

The reason we even decided to climb this mountain was for a view of the gorgeous looking crater lake but, as you can see from this picture, the mists had rolled in. Still, we remained optimistic as sometimes mountains can punch through the clouds. Everyone else on the trail remained optimistic too. There was a man blasting ABBA from his phone, to the point that I started to sing along to ‘Andante, Andante’. People smiled and were considerate of overtakers and passers by. Hell, there were times where people were telling us how well we were doing, or I just initiated the Korean cheer of “Fighting” as I climbed down in order to spur on those going up.

I’m not going to mince words though, we saw absolutely nothing. I think we actually climbed into a cloud as it was actually hailing and extremely windy near the summit. There was a point where a gust caught me the wrong way and I could feel it trying to wrench the glasses off of my face, which made me feel incredibly scared for my own safety. At that point I knew all the crows at the bottom of the trail were making the flight up for my potential corpse.

List item: Climb a taller mountain
Progress: Completed

Still though, we made it to the top and to say that me, who is not in great physical shape (although I have recently lost 55 pounds) got to the climbable peak of South Korea’s tallest mountain is something that I am so incredibly proud of. Not sure I would do this again though, but at least I can say I’ve done it.

The way down was a lot easier than the way up… and drier. On the way up I got soaked to the skin and on the way down I started to dry off. It gave me the chance to take some pictures and appreciate the beautiful surroundings that I had climbed through, which was nice. Just wish it hadn’t taken another four hours to reach the bottom again. However, I did get a neat certificate out of it stating that I’d climbed the mountain, which I kinda want to frame and hang with my hiking poles.

We refuelled with some local orange juice (or is it mandarin, I’m not sure) and powerade before returning to the hotel and having a good rest and shower before heading out again for the evening. Where to? To Love Land, one of Jeju’s weirder attractions.

Essentially, Love Land is a sculpture park filled with depictions of sex or things of a sexual nature. However, in an over the top and quite tacky way. It’s a bit of a throwback to when Jeju was a top honeymoon destination, so you have this and the museum of sex as a way to spur on the production of offspring. It begins seedy and funny enough with some of the really weird sculptures, but things take a turn at the end of the tour.

The person who commissioned or made these statues at the end would have been a favourite patients of Freud. They all appear to depict the same man being coerced into sex with the same older woman – with titles like ‘You Can’t Escape’. Granted this is a park that began with a funny gimmick and just pounded it into the ground, but man did these sculptures get dark toward the end.

By the time we left Love Land it was eight in the evening and we hadn’t had a proper meal all day. Originally I wanted to go to a famous seafood place in the city that was known for their seafood stews with abalone, but then I learned how the octopus and abalone was cooked alive in front of you and tried to escape the pot. I know it makes me a hypocrite, but I can’t do that.

So we ended up going for a different place… and then for the address wrong completely as we ended up with this gorgeous spicy beef stew whose name I later found out was yukgaejang. It was exactly the hearty sort of meal that we needed at the end of the day and it came with a gorgeous plate of fish cakes on the side and the most lovely server ever.

Seriously, this Korean woman was in full auntie mode with us, telling us it was okay if we found it too spicy because a customer in the corner was clearly having trouble. She even gave us extra fish cakes and some warm milk with black pepper to help my husband with the afterburn. It was such a wonderful experience and I want to adopt her.

And that’s the end of the final full day in Jeju. We really haven’t been here for long enough to see everything we wanted to see, but we fly out to Busan in the later afternoon, which means we can squeeze in one more attraction as long as I finish this post quickly enough and get to bed. And on that note!