Where it all begins …

This is a visit to the birth place of my passion of baking and love of software development . Before moving to Vancouver, I spent F1 to F3 (similar to grade 7 – 9 in North American system) in one of the oldest all girls school in Hong Kong: Ying Wa Girls School(英華女校). Experience from Ying Wa has fundamentally shaped my life.

I can still vividly remember in the cookery class kitchen where I saw eggs turned into pale fluffy batter and baked into delicious sponge cake.  The transformation was magical and I was hooked on baking ever since that sight!  I was one of those geek who joined computer club and spending my after school hours sitting in front computer (Apple II ;-).   It was fascinating to write some “for loops” with some “if.. then .. else” and see diagrams displayed on mono colour screen.   One day when I was walking pass connecting corridor between the lower and upper building, I looked at career bulletin board which has posting about jobs in computer. At that very moment, I was determinated that I have to be a programmer (and I was only in F1 – grade 7)!  I still feel extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to study in Ying Wa. This place has brought me so much good memory and also dearest life long friends.

This memorable building will soon be torn down.  I am sad but I know I should not feel too sad because it is all for the best.  There will be bigger and better campus for future Ying Wa Girls.

P.S. Specials thanks to Ms. Leung (from school office) who kindly let me visit the school and show me around to revisit this wonderful campus for one last time.

Click on the map to see how I “urban trekked” back to Ying Wa that day!


India Trip Planning Site Update Progress

I am pretty happy with progress so far after three weeks setting up my wordpress.org site in my home server.  I need something interesting to motivate myself to get more prepared with my up coming to to Indian & Nepal by the end of year.

Here is the site: http://india2011.aleung.ca

v0.1 – 2011-08-07: initial draft – installed apache, MySQL, PHP and wordpress.org.  wordpess.org installation is indeed very simple.  There was a little problem setting the redirect public link to work properly but I could easily find the answer from quick google searches.

v0.1 - initial draft

v0.1 - initial draft

v0.2 – 2011-08-14: added expense tracker after I get my first big trip related credit card monthly statement. Really need to track this expense closely to make sure I don’t easily go over budget. The way I do is pretty simple and fun. I am a simple Google spreadsheet to keep track of the spending and show the data visually using Google visualization to compare latest spending with my budget expense range with very easy to read gauge. The bar char on the side is nice and quick way to see the breakdown.

v0.2 - Expense Tracker  created with Google Visualization

v0.2 - Expense Tracker created with Google Visualization

v0.3 – 2011-08-21: added preparation page, shared button and count down widget. Finally made myself read through pages of preparation written in Chinese.  After understanding those and  research a bit, I put together a page that I don’t mind to read in detail

v0.3 - added preparation, count down & share buttons

v0.3 - added preparation, count down & share buttons

The feature I love the most has to be  the header pictures from 2008 Nepal trip!

First Day of Baby Trekking in Annapurna Region

First Day of Baby Trekking in Annapurna Region

Fish Tail mountain (Macchapucchre)

Fish Tail mountain (Macchapucchre)

Rice Paddy Field

Rice Paddy Field

Soft Trekker Buddies

Soft Trekker Buddies

Soft Trekker Breakfast with Most Amazing View

Soft Trekker Breakfast with Most Amazing View

Europe Hopping 2010 Tripline

I have been back from this Hoppy Europe trip for almost a year and I have finally find the perfect way to showcase my totally 4 weeks trip to Europe.  Check out the following map created by Tripline.  Click on to map access flash playable version which flies through all the cities I have visited along with short slide show of pictures for each city.
Putting together my map and importing Facebook and Picasa pictures is so simple.  The end result is really amazingly cool  Before tripline, I have been spending a lot of effort on my Google Site(Europe Hopping 2010) the end result is no where close to tirpline.  I still like Europe Hopping 2010 for planning and gathering trip idea because of the flexibly to request for input.  Tripline is definitely perfect for sharing any trip.  I will slowly and gradually enter all my trips into tripline.

Day 5: Suddenly Kagoshima

So far I have been following my originally planned schedule (which has never happened before).   The sun was shinning very bright in my room at 6-ish, so it is hard to sleep any longer.   I went down for my having my rice ball + miso soup breakfast and there was a big group of high school kids.  Looked they were getting ready kind kind of ball tournament game.  The hotel I was staying in was in Higashi-Hiroshima.  It has nothing but the shinkansen train station,  this hotel and a 7-eleven.  It is very nice and comfortable, but it is too far away and you have to time the train schedule well.  It is better to spend a bit more to stay in the main city Hiroshima.

Enough about that, but the location is very likely the reason why I suddenly changed my plan to went all the way South to Kagoshima.  After the breakfast, I walked to the train station and just missed my train by a few minutes (saw it leaving the station as I walked into the station).  I waited inside the enclosed waiting room for a few minutes and finding too stuffy to stay inside.  It was so comfortable outside, warm yet still breezy.   Why would anyone want to sit inside that stuffy waiting room?!  Ha! I finally find out why when faster Nozomi (のぞみ) passed by.  It was so loud!  Still I enjoyed sitting outside a lot more.

Anyway, the extra waiting gave me more time to think do I really want to follow my original schedule to Miyajima.  It was Sunday, likely a time a lot of local would also be visiting that place.  Going to crowded place only take a picture of the floating torii?!  Couldn’t make up my mind, so still thinking of that while getting on a train.  After a sitting down for a while, all of a sudden I felt really sleepy and the idea of spending the day sleeping inside the comforty seat seems just too appealing.  So I suddenly changed my mind and take 3.5 hours ride going all the way south to Kagaoshima.  Yes, the main reason.. I want a day of doing “nothing” so, I sleep in train and relax for most of the day.  That is likely the benefit of solo travel.  You can all of sudden decide to do something really ridiculous and not worry about affecting other.

Even the actual time I could spend in Kagoshima was about 3 hours.  I enjoyed every single second of it.  The streets were much wider and the weather was noticeably warm and a bit more humid.  Because of the popular NHK period drama – Atsuhime (篤姫), Kogashima , which was the birth place of that wife of a shogun at the end of Edo period, has become very popular sight-seeing city.  Honestly, that drama was a bit too long and boring, but overall, still worth watching for the magnificent clothes and setting.    Because of that drama, my primary focus of that city is  Meiji Restoration museum. As soon as I got off from Shinkansen in Chuo-Kagoshima, I went to get some map and travel tip in tourist office.  Unfortunately the lady helping me did not speak much English so I really only got a map and basic direction how to get to  museum.  I walked for 15 minutes (without getting lost at all =) and found the museum.  There was a lot of interesting interactive display.  There was even role playing game but unfortunately that’s Japanese only.  I am probably one of those nerdy kid, but I would love to have a place like that to learn about the history of a country.  I did not have much time left after the museum, so I hopped on the a bus route for tourist.  The seat was very comfortable and the best feature is the detail Japanese and English description of each stop.  It was very helpful for considering where to go and what to see.  There are so many place that I would like to stop by and see more if I would have more time.

OK! I have decided, my next trip to Japan will definitely focus on Kyushu and if possible, taking one of the slow ferry to see Okinawa!

Oh yeah.. dinner with “homey” food – McDonald’s McPork, Shaka Shaka Chicken =)  yum yum!!

Day 2: Loving the Charming Small Town of Japan

This is quite an wonderful experience to pick Takayama which lead me to Toyama and the local train JR train rides.  Not doubt the local trains are slower, but it is so comfortable..so soothing.  Yes, it is actually presently relaxed to see he pretty mountain and rice fields slowly passed by rather then rushing through on Shinkansen.  Some local train looked like they were built in the 70’s.  The operation was very manual.  It is quiet interesting to see the train driver was signalling with various hand gestures.  I really wonder if anyone will see those signal and why does he has to do that when apparently no one is looking at him?!  Anyway, another thing I love about local train is how close to nature I can be.  No AC, just an old fan with nature breeze.  The not too hot nor cold and still raining a bit just feel totally like home. Since I am visiting smaller than, the air quality is so much better.  People also walk a lot slower too =P  I shouldn’t say slow, but definitely not in constant ready to jump mode like Tokyo.

JR charm

I find so much commonality from Japanese small town to Vancouver that I think I have found the third country I am willing to live for long term.  Of course Canada is the first country, then Germany and now Japan.  I actually found the ride to Takayama was more memorable than the visit of the city.   I will not recommend other to see the highly hyped “Hida Folk Village”.  Even the entrance fee was reasonable for the amount of stuff you see.  Actually I consider that’s cheap for the time you could have spent in there.  However, I don’t have enough culture background to understand and appreciate the history and item it was showing.  The house was very dark an a bit scary to walk in when I was the only person in that house.  On the other hand, the walk to morning market was absolutely delightful and highly recommended.  It was interesting to see local craft, fruit & veggie and the unexpected sight of wild life in the river next to the morning market.  Takayama reminded me of Nagasaki because both be are so extremely touristy.  Though I am leaving Takayama loving that place unlike Nagasaki which I found unbearable.

After checking out Tokyo and Osaka, you MUST visit the smaller city/town in Japan.   You should see those two  exciting big cities without doubt, but the smaller city is just totally adorable and you are likely going to fall in love with it once you allow yourself to slowly absorb into the surrounding (both the people and face).  Knowing basic Japanese or at the very least being able to recognize Kanji is necessary to travel to those places though.

Hida Folk Village

Oh yes, met couple very nice persons during today’s trip.  An middle age man who was travelling likely with his wife were so interested in my travel plan he dropped by to ask to take a picture with me.  Too bad my Japanese is so limited that I couldn’t carry any meaningful conversion.  Otherwise, it would have been really fun to find out more about his background and where he is from.  The other nice person was a small snack shop middle age lady along the road to Hida Folk Village.  Bought a cheap and pretty tasty grilled  mochi smothered with miso paste.  The mochi was a bit more grainy that the other mochi that I’ve tried, but I actually like the texture.  The miso sauce was very favourful.  That lady was very friendly and helped me to take a picture while I was eating I was eating the mochi.  Both the people and the environment of smaller town is so attractive and charming.


Day 2 – Nepal Day 1 – flight to Nepal

Still trying to adjust to HK time, so I woke up at 3:30am.  I was staying in my uncle’s place  in Sheng Shui.  It was very breezy and cool at night even without air conditioning.  Everyone must have sensed I really like dim sum that majority of the time I eat out in HK was going for dim sum ;-)   I had yet another dim sum (breakfast this time, it was dim sum lunch the day before)

After breakfast, I got to relaxed for a couple hours before meeting with my two secondary school friends (who were also my Nepal trip travel-mates).  I first met Natalie at Sheng Shui station and asked her to exchange major of the Canadian dollar.  Lucky that I have done that, the Canadian dollar had dropped so painfully that I couldn’t believe it.

Yes, it is a bit unusual, we were flying to Nepal from mainland China.  This was not because we wanted to save some money to get the cheaper ticket.  It was because there was not free space to fly back from Nepal back to HK on the day we plan to leave.   This had been an interesting experience but I would rather never repeat this.  It was quite troublesome to haul big backpack across border and especially annoying going through multiple security checks just before and after the train rides.

The flight was rather short – only 3.5 hours.   The time to get the airport almost took just as long.  This was also my first time ever taking flight operated by mainland china airline.  Apparently it is already second largest airline.  However, both food and flight attendant services had a lot of room for improvement.

When we finally arrived in Kathmandu International Airport very late at night, the line-up to get the visa was not only long but also completely disorganized.  There were two lines, one for just paying the fee ($25 USD for 15 days)  the other for handing in the application form.  Unfortunately, those two line got mixed up and I ended up standing in the line that was not moving at all.  But this was not the worst problem, my friend passport was taken by a rather careless visa applicant standing in front of us. We would have been in a lot worst shape if that person keep taking the my friend’s passport and never came back.

But the most scary part was yet to come… it was the mini-van ride from airport back to hotel.  The ride itself was very short, only 15 or at most 20 minutes.  However, the ride became very “adventurous” when the van-mini was obvious too old to be even running on the road.  Also there was really no way that tiny almost unmovable thing could take eight passengers and all or heavy backpacks.  I kept smelling something was burning…. obvious sign of being way overloaded?!  I was just completely relived that we made it to the hotel FINALLY…