You havn’t had a real Hong Kong experience until you have been hospitalised!

So I consider myself pretty lucky that it is only in my last 2 weeks in Hong Kong, thereby amounting to almost 4 months in which I had avoided it, that I had to make a trip to hospital. I don’t know about you, but visiting a Chinese hospital wasn’t high on my to-do list. Alas, after my first ever rugby game last night, it became somewhat unavoidable that I go and get my finger tended to today. Don’t worry, it was well worth it, I absolutely loved playing last night and I love my team. So much so that I really wish I could stay longer. They are all so lovely and so much fun. 

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Anyway, back to the point. No time to get sappy just yet, I’ll save that for December 9th! In the line of duty, aka ‘SMASH’ (yes, that is the actual description of my on-field role), my finger had a somewhat unfortunate encounter with the rugby ball. Well it actually happened in the warm-up… in the cold and with my injury-prone luck, the second ball i encountered bounced hard and fast straight into my finger… I played with it taped and it didn’t seem to phase me but I woke up early this morning to an ache in a very puffy, purple, slightly off centre finger. Bummer. A short trip to the CUHK clinic saw me soon heading to the ER room at Prince of Wales hospital. 

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It was in the hospital that the real fun began. I went alone which was probably my first mistake and immediately got lost looking for the ER department I was referred to. I then had to try and overcome a HUGE language barrier which ended up with me getting my referral letter out (which was also in English) but had a CUHK stamp and they soon directed me to the ER reception and a lovely English speaking receptionist. Alas, the doctor at CUHK had neglected to tell me that you need your passport to go to the hospital. He would put me into the queue but I needed to have my passport before I could be seen. So a huge shout and and cudos to Rochelle who not only brought my passport but sat with me and entertained me for around 2 hours whilst we waited. 

I then had to go and try and communicate with a Cantonese speaking nurse who after checking me out spoke to me and pointed in a very generalised direction and then turned to the next patient. I understood he wanted me to go somewhere but I had no idea where that was. I tried to ask him again and he just waved his hand in the same direction and spoke more cantonese. After wandering in that general direction, I found a queue and suspected I was meant to join it. I tried asking the those in it, but again, no English. I really should have studied Cantonese and not Mandarin basics. Being able to talk about my university classes and what floor I am going to in Mandarin is no help in a Cantonese hospital (who would have guessed right?). Finally, they called my name over the loud speaker after I think they realised I had gone the wrong way and was probably lost. After that, a very kind nurse decided he would shepherd be everywhere and explain/translate everything. He even came hunting for me after he realised I had been told the wrong thing, some people really do deserve gold stars. It is probably thanks to him that after 5 hours, an x-ray, 3 doctor visits and some strange gas that my finger has been reset, I was prescribed some drugs (which I will probably never take.. something about pills in a zip lock bag just doesn’t seem legit to me), and was on my way home. 

All in all, it was an eye opening experience. Despite taking forever, they really looked after me and it was about as enjoyable as any hospital visit can me, and I would do it all over again if it meant I could play more rugby games in Hong Kong! 

If you come to Hong Kong on a longer-term basis (6 months or more) I definitely recommend looking up sporting teams and getting involved, everyone is so accepting and it’s a great way to meet some amazing locals. Just try and avoid getting injured, the hospital system, like most systems here, is over complicated and slow. If you are studying at CUHK, look up the rugby team, you will not regret it!

G.E.B.

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The best cocktails in Hong Kong – Feather Boa

Earlier this year, I worked in Shanghai for 3 months at DDB. Lucky for me, my boss, Michelle, turned out to be one of the nicest and amazing women I know. Even luckier, was that between the time I went home from DDB and came to Hong Kong, she had moved to the DDB Hong Kong office. It is owing to Michelle (centre, below) that I have found my favourite cocktail bar in Hong Kong and who you can all thank for this great tip!

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Feather Boa is located on Staunton St in Soho on HK Island. The front of the building is unmarked so it can be a little hard to find but look for the building with curtains across its windows which a lady opens occasionally when people knock. Whilst all the drinks are amazing, Feather Boa is known to serve the city’s best strawberry daiquiris, and believe me, they are insanely good! Even my lantern Elmo loves them!

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Another favourite among my friends is the Malteser Martini. Yes, they have done it. Taken two of the world’s best inventions and put them together! Whilst not on the list of gluten-free things, and thus not for me, I have been assured by many of my friends that they are simply divine. I cannot wait for Janma to get here and have one – I’ll keep you posted on her thoughts!

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If you are in Hong Kong, I cannot recommend this place enough for either a girls night out over great cocktails or even just a stop-through to see what it is all about! If your here before mid-December you may even see me there, its an understatement to say I’m addicted to the place!

Much Love,

G.E.B.

Welcome to the Jungle (CUHK, Hong Kong)

Living gluten-free in Hong Kong has been completely hit and miss and it is for this reason that I havn’t been able to provide heaps of tips and recipes for you all. I have lived mostly off supermarket sushi and strange renditions of things I cannot name from the school canteens. Thus, after 2 months there is nothing I miss more then my kitchen! Or, I’d take any kitchen really. All I have is a mostly broken portable hotplate and a microwave. Want any utensils? You have to supply your own and they will most likely be “borrowed”, permanently, like my last 2 umbrellas. So, in the interests of giving you all something to procrastinate with (and me something to procrastinate from studying as I just HAVE to write this) I figured I would detail some of what has become my weird and wacky home away from home.

So, what am I doing? I am studying abroad at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). Why? Because I got the option and it seemed like an amazing experience I shouldn’t miss. Where is CUHK? In the middle of the jungle near Shatin, N.T., Hong Kong, S.A.R. Quite literally – check out the photos of campus and imagine yourself strolling to class and BOOM! Monkey! Or going to get into a lift at night and there is a snake inside. All true stories and there are many more. Whilst this could happen anywhere, you know its accurately described as ‘jungle’ when your morning commute to class tends to look something like this:

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I’ll give it to CUHK, it’s quite a beautiful campus. But building a campus on a huge hill when you know the HK climate wasn’t very kind. Hiking hundreds of stairs in 39 degrees and 90% humidity is anything but pretty. How are you supposed to make friends when you go to class looking like you have been swimming? Alas, I have found the key – you only ever hike DOWN (with an iced coffee in hand..) and take the free buses back up. You still get a little sheen (and a little exercise) but you are not visibly dripping. It’s only when you a) don’t have to be anywhere special, b) can jump straight in the shower or c) have a short way to go that you attempt to conquer sets of stairs the other way.

Just like campus, exploring Hong Kong has proved to be a very beautiful experience. Whether its looking over the high rise buildings of Hong Kong central or hiking along trails, the views have always been spectacular. Probably one of my favourites was the hiking trail to Tai Long Wan. Having heard from other CUHKers who had gone camping there the weekend before we figured it was well worth our time to make the journey and have a night camping on the beach. And believe me, it was.

Having had a less then seamless commute to the starting point we set off on foot for the hike alot later then expected, and a truthfully, a little grumpy. But when you hike for 5 minutes and are greeted with views like this, I don’t think anyone could stay ruffled for long:

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The end result of the hike is that you get to a set of beaches where you can camp next to a 4 shack ‘town’ where you can rent tents from, by water (and beer) and get food. But be warned – don’t go during the lantern festival or I suppose any other main holiday – its busy – and when you get lost along the way and end up getting to the beach around 5pm, there will be NO tents left. Originally it doesn’t seem a problem as sleeping on the beach isn’t that bad and hey, you save a little money. But at 3am when the wind is blowing sand in your face and you are so cold you actually cannot sleep, you might start regretting not having a tent. Learn from my mistake, this is NOT fun. It’s only the guy who was so drunk he passed out that doesn’t seem to mind. Then again, not being able to sleep has benefits – mine being that I got to see the sunrise and set off hiking bright and early before the heat kicked in.

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On your way in or out, stopping at the cliff jumping is a must. It is not far off the main trail and absolutely beautiful. If you go early you get to have it to yourself for a while too. It can be a little daunting jumping, take it from someone who is petrified of heights, but it is well worth it, just remember to point your toes before you hit the water. 

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All in all, a great trip to take, and well worth the effort. If you have a spare weekend, get yourself down there!

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I won’t keep you any longer for now, but stay tuned for more of my Hong Kong adventures, tales and tips :)

Much love,

G.E.B

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Pasta is back on the menu!

I don’t know about the gluten-free pasta’s you may have tried, but the vast majority I have attempted to eat have been really underwhelming. Most look more like Clag Paste (that stuff you use in craft as a kid and were told NOT to eat..) then pasta and tasted either like cardboard or glue. Yet by some weird coincidence, when I am finding myself strapped for any other options, the one gluten-free pasta I pick up from a store is actually really delicious. Or maybe its just that my body was so excited to have some proper gluten-free food, who knows? I am hoping that its the former. I felt even better about eating it knowing it was made from brown rice and certified as gluten-free. The brand is Canadian so I am not 100% sure in which countries or where you will find it, but google it and when you are shopping, keep an eye out for this packet:

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To make it a wholesome and delicious meal I added a tin of tuna and topped with some Barilla olive pasta sauce. Some would think I am strange for coming to Hong Kong and using Australian pasta sauce, but for now, I am sticking to what I know! Add a little cheese and you are set to go! 

Heres a not so flattering photo of my meal. Turns out that before I embarked on cooking the pasta, I should have checked to see if we had bowls in the dorm kitchen! Alas, as I sat and ate pasta from the pot, I had a sense of utter accomplishment and relief in that even in a completely foreign country where they speak a language I do not, I can still get by completely gluten-free. 

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Regards,

A much happier G.E.B.

Overboard?

So my skin is changing colour, my eyes are different and I am uber lethargic. Gluten-free in Hong Kong clearly hasn’t been working. So after skyping my mother and getting a lecture about it, I figured I would go sort myself out.

Enter – City’super.

So this place is like a palace for me. There is, of course, much more glutinous food but they have lots of gluten-free stuff too! Pretty much they have food from all over the world and reprint the ingredients into English. They also have certified gluten-free stuff! They even go as far as having cake mixes!

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It’s expensive, as is most gluten-free stuff. But well worth it as you can know for certain that you are not going to be eating gluten. I bought all this:

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There was so much more I wanted to buy but the kitchen here is so limited so I am going to have to work on that first! That and we share a communal fridge and thing which I have been warned is often stolen from by others. I am not flushed with enough funds to feed everyone gluten-free goodies!

Anyway, if anyone is in HK and not anywhere near a sushi bar. Like, for example, living on campus, I cannot recommend City’super more. Go check it out :)

Regards,

Your Hong Kong explorer: G.E.B.

Politeness mixed with Chinese Culture – a recipe for disaster

Last night CUHK hosted a welcome banquet for all the exchange students. 11 courses of preset food. Sounds amazing? Well that wasn’t quite the outcome…

Despite the fact the school knew of my allergy it didn’t seem to translate to the restaurant and they constantly put questionable things on my plate. I tried to put the gluteny-looking stuff to the side but on the small plates it was all just being contaminated and I knew the night wasn’t going to end well. Whilst it had occurred to me to say no, I had been told that to not offend you should say yes and then just leave it, so that’s what I did. Yet even then, only so much can be on your plate before you have to eat some of it. Some of the dishes were delicious, some cute, and some just plain weird looking!

A particularly worrying item on the menu was ‘marshmallow rabbit’. We read this and got quite fearful of what we were going to have to eat. This is what came:

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A cute rabbit shaped marshmallow. We breathed a sigh of relief and gobbled the laser-eyed treats!

Despite all my attempts, I found my plans to head out swiftly ending and instead retreated back to college, my bed and the bathroom.

Lets hope for more luck in the future!