Monday, 29 October 2012

My Hong Kong adventure

 It's been yonks since my last post, and amidst the crazy summer (which seems so far away now) and graduating in London, paired with a short family getaway in Berlin I AM FINALLY in HONG KONG.

I've moved here for a job and will be based here till further notice. Never having been here before, I can honestly say it's everything I expected it to be and more. Hong Kong is a city full of highs and lows - literally. Hotels, shops, restaurants and offices are stacked inside skyscrapers and whole worlds of commerce exist side by side in underground shopping malls. Yet most of the land is still a superb countryside of hiking trails, islands and protected parks. There's a lot to take in, but it being a small city, it's easy to get a good impression within the first few days.

Kowloon Clock Tower

Hong Kong is unabashedly a consumerist city and is built upon this culture (or lack thereof) Where else do you regularly see wedding shoots held at shopping malls? 
It's home to over 7 million people many of those real estate magnates, old guard industrialists unafraid to show their wealth and new arrivals from mainland China looking to make a quick buck in factories, shops and hotels.

Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong - night and day versions 

Some of these luxurious hotels can be found in neighbouring Macau. Decided to get away from the bustle of the city to this Southern Chinese enclave. A short ferry ride away, Macau has indisputably become the world's gambling capital. It is the only place in China where casinos are legal. 

We stayed at the newly refurbished Sheraton hotel and I was surprised at how little else there was apart from the luxurious hotels and grand casinos. I was keen on exploring some culture in this once Portuguese colony which still had a strong mark on this once tranquil fishing village. From the road signs to the architectural influences to the food, it was nice to see a unique blend of 'East-meets-West.' 

Portuguese take on Chinese egg tarts - a famous Macanese dessert - named 'Po Tarts'

Hong Kong is land of plenty. Plenty of people, plenty of Porsches and plenty of FOOD. It's like the main attraction here - especially the Dim Sum. You can't go wrong with the trolley cart experience of these Chinese pockets of yumminess. There are few other places in the world, where you can get Michellin starred dim sum restaurants for £5! Just be prepared to wait a couple of hours to get a table during busy hours.

You can get too much of a good thing and chances are my next Greek salad craving is right around the corner!

It's been a whirlwind, and in just under two weeks of arriving here. A new environment, new language, new people and faces, new job - I'm treating everyday as it should be - an adventure.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Bella Italia!

No one likes Milan. Not even the Italians. But I decided to give it a second chance to prove me otherwise. You see, since my last visit five years ago, my relationship with Milan has constantly been at odds with each other. For my part, the list of gripes included the city's notorious weather - since much of the city is constructed over filled-in canals it becomes perennially humid; the dearth of cultural attractions; the lack of reliable public transportation and above all? The attitude. The Milanese are at times so aloof they make the Parisians seem like members of the Welcome Wagon. It is not that the citizens or the place has changed. Milan remains a vain and superficially dull and distant city. But I have recently developed an affectionate knowledge of a city that makes itself intentionally difficult to know.

 Yes the 'Made In Italy' label still signifies that the person who affixed it did so within Italian borders but many Italian designer goods are made in Eastern Europe and The Far East nowadays. But the true gems of the city are the designer outlets and second hand, vintage stores. We came across a hole-in-the wall shop along the hip Navigli district. Louis Vuitton small shoulder bag for a haggled €50? Yes please!

 For instance, it quite possibly has the best meal deal in Italy. When my friend and I were trying to relieve our bank accounts of designer impulse buying, we decided to stop by a bar for a quick drink. To our surprise we discover a drink comes with an unlimited buffet. Too good to be true? That's just how it goes when you have aperitivi in Milan. Loosely translated as cocktail, aperitivo carries an additional meaning there and the rest of Northern Italy: restaurants all over the city, for the price of a single drink you get unlimited access to a buffet of fresh, regularly replenished food. Milan has the reputation for the best aperitivi in Italy. Like I recalled, the fresh, creamy mozzarella still made music with the tomatoes and rich olive oil. Small squares of focaccia were embedded with sweet zucchini and tangled in spaghetti were tiny squid, mussels and shrimp. It was the ultimate frugal foodie experience! 

Aperitivi times, unfortunately, end too soon. By 9pm latest, the buffet tables are cleared and people think about where to go for dinner. Ah Italians! Bellies full but not ready to head back to our hotel, my friend and I decided to hit the town for some dancing.We decided to hit the trendy Corso Como, a stylish strip of bars and fancy boutiques. The city prides itself as one of the world's fashion capitals, lined with D&G, Versace and Armani boutiques but you'll delight as much in the local store designers.  Appearances matter in Milan. For proof just roll past the sites: the majestic Gothic Cathedral, the Duomo Piazza, the Teatro alla scala opera house, and the Milanese. (Yes, they're an attraction too).  We decided to join in on the alfresco cafe culture and do some people-watching of our own.  When in Milan, do as the Milanese do and head to the nearest stop for something suitably filigree to slip into. We stepped into the creamiest gelaterie on the corner of the Duomo piazza. It was absolutely incredible and for €3 it bizarrely kept us going throughout the day!

Milan is one of the few cities where you can see Michaelangelo's art. A massive castle called the Castello Sforzesco houses a number of museums including a Museum of Ancient Art, a Museum of Musical Instruments, and an Archaelogical Museum which has prehistoric and Egyptian sections. In typical tourist fashion,we stumbled upon the contemporary art museum, Museo D' Arte Contemporanea where we saw the much critically acclaimed Marina Ambranovich method exhibition. Controversial to say the least, but I was very much interested in the way the most revolutionary ideas are not only sellable, but mind changing.

On the third day of our stay we were feeling spontaneous and hopped on a train to Milan's neighboring town Bergamo. We were informed by the (much friendlier) girl at the tourist guide desk that we ought to see the Piazza Vecchia - the heart and centre of Citta Alta, the medieval part of the city which sits on the hill from the rest of the town. A funicular operates to connect the upper and lower parts of town but we opted for walking routes down wide cobblestone steps and curving roads lush with ivy that join them. But whichever part of town you are in, the art which is much housed in churches small museums and mansions, the Romanesque structure and picturesque view points, is exceptional. The historical richness came alive for us on a walking tour where we were taken aback by the beauty of a medieval castle now home to one of the most beautiful gardens in the Lombardia region. It's hard not to fall in love with Bergamo. 

  We ended our day with what else? Pizza! Baked in traditional ovens, and with queues of locals lined out the door you know it's gotta be good. Serving both savory and sweet options - think fruit and nutella toppings! - we opted for a vegetarian version: Zucchini squares, red capsicum cubes and mushrooms under molten Bianco Grana Padano and mozzarella. As we ate the heavenly concoction, and took in the mountain views around us, Bergamo's many pleasures melded into one. Gioia!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Emilio de la Morena A/W 2012 RTW

Lashings of patent leather, inky hues and figure hugging forms were given an innocent touch with chunky knits and cute bow hair bands by J Smith Esquire at Emilio De La Morena. 

Not having featured pants in his collections for 5 years, this season's faux leather and cheetah print cigarette trousers were a nice change to the typical Morena 'ladylike' wardrobe. 

'Structurally conscious' Morena had another change of direction. Hooded capes and maxi skirts - the designer proved that the covered look can still be sexy: with defined waists and provocative, inky hues in forest green, black, petrol blue and oxblood red. 

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Hey, It's Okay if..

1.    You still watch cartoons

From elementary school through college, and maybe even beyond, you still get excited on Saturday mornings and zone out with a bowl of cereal to back-to-back animation. Because the day you stop giggling at a talking square-shaped cleaning appliance is the day you’ll be an ‘adult’…or dead.

2.     You still pinky swear

One day you’ll get married and make the biggest pinky-swear of all. For now, in the midst of a rotten economy and a mountain of undergrad loans you’ve still got to pay off, a promise that you will always have a spot on the couch is good enough. You’ve pinky-sweared and that’s forever.

3.      You believe in monsters

Like the ones that live in your room and will come out at night if you don’t shut your closet door. And the ones that will sneak up on you in the corridor after you’ve thrown out the garbage and are hurrying back to your apartment door. You know they exist – partially due to shows like Doctor Who and Geordie Shore – just waiting for you to forget about them.

4.      You are a closet loner
Say ‘yes’ to your friend to meet for drinks at 9pm to only cancel at 8pm. Then proceed to buy a cheap bottle of red wine and refuge back home so you can bask in the warm glow of your computer screen.

5.      You don’t like dealing with people
Attempt to cross the road when you notice a group of people laughing gregariously on that side of the road, quietly go back to the side of the road you were walking on and wait to cross the street until the rowdy, scary, sociable people are well out of sight.

6.      You suffer from imposter syndrome

You think about your friend’s jobs, and your jobs, and your friend’s talents and your talents. This leads to an exhausting and toxic spiral of self-loathing where you become so convinced that your achievements so far are the outcome of dumb luck or good timing where you’ve managed to successfully fool others into believing you’re a worthy human being.

7.      You don’t know how to network

You practically chew someone’s ear off when you’re out socializing, but when it’s under the context of networking it makes you feel like a used car salesman. Every time someone hands you their business card or email address just after two minutes of meeting them you feel like you’ve been fondled inappropriately under the table. To those people who might as well just shout to someone: “LOOK, CAN YOU ADVANCE MY CAREER? NO, WELL GTFO,” here’s a gentle reminder: charm doesn’t foam milk, nor develop a website, or save lives.

8.       You are a firm believer of netiquette

CAPS LOCK text make you feel as if you’re brains have exploded across the wall. It is also online acceptable to add vowels to express levity or enthusiasm (e.g heeeeyyyyyyy in offline mode would make you sound verbally delayed or socially awkward) and similarly single ‘ironic’ quotes will always seem inhibited.

9. You believe procrastination is effective in some way or form 

"It's perfectly normal to have Facebook, Skype and Twitter open right now. They'll just provide mini-breaks every minute or so. That way, instead of taking longer-breaks, I will just sit in front of the computer all day, occasionally chatting.. It's just a different way of organizing my time. No biggie."

10.      You find it impossible to say No to people (sometimes)

Trying to deliver this single two letter word can often sound as if we are trying to say ‘Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.” Setting boundaries can be hard, but failing to do so, leaves you attracting a bunch of users and a series of toxic relationships. (I’m talking about you: Drunk Text Ex,  Kill Joy Karen and Manipulative Mary.) Some friends deserve to get voted off the island and you’ll be surprised at the liberation it gives you! 


Monday, 23 January 2012


I know I'm not the only person who's experienced such a moment: you see an article in a magazine or newspaper titled something along the lines of "Ten Signs You are Addicted to Technology." At first, you dismiss the piece, thinking it could never apply to you. But you later catch yourself sneaking a quick look, just to make sure.

In a world where the greatest gadgets and computers are more than mere tools: There are like living things themselves, making our own lives revolve around them: routine Facebook check-ins, Twitter updates and vicious rounds of Angry Birds on your smartphone.

With this great technological shift, a backlash has come through the form of a new movement called 'The Slow Movement' described as a 'call for quiet calm in a world that is moving faster and faster.' How is such a zen-like approach to digital networks constructive? After all, isn't the point of technology to make our lives more efficient?

However, a world which gives us the ease of logging in and staying connected comes with a price: computers and mobile phones have become as addictive as a pack of cigarettes.

Almost like the 21st century's comfort blanket, the thought of detaching ourselves leaves us feeling so anxious and stressed that psychologists have even come up with the term for this condition: discomgoogolation.

A survey also found 76 percent of Britons could not live without the Internet, with over half of the population using the web between one and four hours a day and 19 percent of people spending more time online than with their family in a week.

Modern technology has arguably become one of the leading contributing factors of divorce, along with money, sex and parenting. We could all use some time a week where you shut off the technology. 

Slow Tech not only encourages this 'unplugging', it values more subtle interactions with technology.

A new project based in London is organizing a club where members are encouraged to engage in activities like meditation and art appreciation, limiting or obfuscating their Internet usage, reminding us to stop and smell the roses. A recent exhibition in London showcased the work of several slow tech designers. One of them, called Screen Time, created by Hector Serrano was a real-time pie chart documenting the time you spend on social networking. The great thing about this watch is that it raises awareness of how much time there is left in a day for real  social interaction.

In my own New Year's Resolutions to confront my online addiction, I even attempted to switch off my laptop at 9pm for a week. I failed miserably. This all too real shift has already crashed our economy twice, changed the ways we educate ourselves, entertain and socialize with one another. Yet, so far, we have very little understanding of what is happening to us and how to cope. 

Who has the time to consider much else, and who is going to pay for it? 

But it's a conversation worth talking about. So let's. 

The Slow Tech:  fad -or - full on movement?