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Hong Kong Travel Tips 21-30

Thai fish cakes

21. Crocs and their escalators are not the best of friends. The shoe material seems to melt on prolonged contact with the metal sides of escalators. The good thing is that Crocs come at a cheaper price here, especially if you buy them from Citygate Outlets.

22. There is a Hong Kong-wide sale every January and July.

23. The Symphony of Lights is not for everyone. It is better to combine watching the show with another activity in your itinerary such as dining in a restaurant with a view of the Victoria Harbour, having drinks on a junk, or riding the Star Ferry.

24. Most cabs along Canton Road will ask for a minimum of HKD100 flag down rate at night. To avoid this illegal practice, take a cab from Marco Polo Hongkong Hotel along this road or from the bus terminal at its harbor end.

25. As a guide to the best bespoke tailors of Hong Kong, refer to forums instead of ads.

26. Save time by knowing the real-time ferry schedules to outlying islands using iPhone apps.

27. If you have to choose between Sky Terrace 428 and sky100, I recommend the former for a better feel of the vertical city.

28. Thai food, from a hole in the wall or otherwise, is always bang for the buck.

29. There are more outlet shops in Horizon Plaza than in Citygate Outlets. However, the latter is a convenient stop on the way to the airport. It also has a newly opened section, 10th Avenue, that carries Aerosoles, Guess Accessories and Lacoste Accessories among others.

30. Tsim Sha Tsui Station is a megastructure. You can easily spend 10 minutes of walking time to get to street level. If you know the shopping area, it is best to exit the soonest. Exits A1 and H are the best to get to Harbour City.

Enjoy the rest of the holidays!

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Tales from the Diplokitchen: Martha Stewart’s Carrot Cake

This recipe will not fail any baking rookie. We prefer to use just half of the confectioner’s sugar for the cream cheese frosting though.

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup water
1 pound carrots (8 to 10 medium carrots), peeled and shredded on a box grater or in a food processor (about 2 3/4 cups)
2 cups pecans (1 cup finely chopped for batter, 1 cup coarsely chopped for decorating sides of cake)
Cream Cheese Frosting

Directions

1. Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter three 9-inch round cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment paper, and butter parchment. Dust with flour, tapping out excess. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and nutmeg.

2. Beat butter and sugars with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat 3 minutes. Add vanilla, water, and carrots. Beat until well combined, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, and add flour mixture, then finely chopped pecans.

3. Scrape batter into prepared pans, dividing evenly. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cool in pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around edges of cakes to loosen, and turn out cakes onto rack. Turn right side up, and let cool completely.

4. Using a serrated knife, trim rounded top of 2 cakes. Place one trimmed cake, cut side up, on a serving platter. Spread 1 cup frosting over cake. Top with second trimmed cake, cut side down. Spread 1 cup frosting over cake. Top with remaining cake. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides. Gently press coarsely chopped pecans onto sides of cake. Refrigerate 1 hour before serving.

Ladies who brunch

The ladies

One of the first things I searched for before being posted in Hong Kong is an organization that caters to diplospouses in particular. There was none. I met my counterparts at random through my Cantonese class and diplomatic functions, but I was longing for something more regular than that.

Last Tuesday, I found my self preparing for a ladies’ coffee morning primarily organized by the wives of the consuls general of Indonesia, Brunei and Myanmar. It was going to be my first diplomatic function without Mr. Diplomat, and I did not let my third trimester blues get in the way.

That morning, I met some 40 new faces of the diplomatic corps, the wives of consuls, honorary consuls general, consuls general and heads of missions. My composure was specifically starstruck (not quite obviously, I hope) by having been able to chat with three women who belong to a family that Mr. Diplomat and I were recently watching about in The Biography Channel. Of specific interest were the wives of honorary consuls general as I found it amusing knowing their life stories on how they earned the title.

I am hoping that this will be the first of many. I made sure to send a thank you note, crossing my fingers to get invited again.

Booked!

Maternity room (www.matilda.org)

Finally! After 7 months of shuttling between the public and private healthcare systems here for antenatal checks (from my previous post I need a private hospital and some Dunkin’ Donuts), I received the provisional booking confirmation for delivering at Matilda International Hospital. That is a feat given that I was only deferred once and I still have 6 weeks to go before the due date. Donations for the deposit and final hospital bill are very much welcome!

Shaken, not stirred

An article on The 6 Characters You’ll Meet At Every Expat Bar got my attention a couple of months back. Make a wild guess on who made it to no. 3…

3. The Diplomat’s Wife

She shows up every night at five o’clock on the dot, ready for happy hour surrounded by the group of four ex-pat wives who make up the town’s Western high society network in its entirety.

The Diplomat’s Wife will without fail order the one martini on the menu, and will without fail mention how unfortunate it is that “you can’t even get a decent martini around here.”

She spends her days doing her best to avoid the fact that she no longer lives in the land of Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods by shuttling between the one grocery store which stocks imported goods and the one coffee shop which has made a few token efforts to imitate Starbucks.

Any conversation with The Diplomat’s Wife will inevitably come around to all the ways in which “the locals” make life difficult, from stalling the delivery of her shipped furniture to routinely botching her weekly hair and nail appointment.

I found my self amused as it may not be far from the truth, but I must admit this one sent one eyebrow raising a bit and made me embark on a task to give more dimensions to the idea of being a diplospouse.

A small group of 12 diplowives and 1 diplohusband responded to a survey I made on what they do before being and as a diplospouse. Most are in their first posting like me. Two had just finished their first posting and are back in their home countries, and one has been posted to the United States and Luxembourg prior to being posted in South Africa.

From the bunch, we have a media relations officer posted in Myanmar, a university instructor in music in Indonesia, an industrial automation engineer in the United States, a lawyer in Italy, a human resources consultant in Austria and another one in South Africa, a librarian in Morocco, a life coach in the Philippines, two marketing executives in Indonesia and Brazil, and a photographer in East Timor. We also have a physician and a university instructor in psychology who decided on staying in their home countries. I, for one, was a medical editor and medical student for a while before being Mrs. Diplomat. A lot of diplospouses from my home country are, in fact, doctors. You see, diplospouses are as equally established in their careers as the diplomats they ended up with.

Although most of us prefer being able to work at post and we are gifted with spouses who support us in pursuing a career of our own, not all of us are at liberty of doing just that. Those of us at post are first and foremost subject to an agreement between our home country and the host country we are currently at on whether to allow diplospouses to work or not. Any given country may allow all, some or none of us to work. The case differs from one posting to another, as well as from one diplospouse to another. Half of us do not work at post. For three, this is primarily because their host countries do not allow them to. Our colleague posted in Italy is allowed to work for international organizations only. Our diplospouse posted in the United States is continuing a career in industrial automation engineering in the local economy. Some get to work in the embassy or consulate as part of an internal arrangement their governments have for employing diplospouses, such as our colleague posted in Morocco who is now an assistant public affairs officer and our colleague in East Timor who is now an embassy photographer. Our diplospouses posted in Austria, the Philippines and Brazil found continuity in their careers by working from home as a human resources consultant, a life coach and an owner of a marketing consulting firm, respectively.

Those of us at post who are allowed to work by our host countries in the local economy are also subject to language barriers. A lot of posts do not have English as a secondary language. Here in Hong Kong, English is considered as an official language, but working in the local economy will require you to know Cantonese and/or Mandarin as well for most part. It helps us to learn the local language before being posted or while at post. However, it is inevitable that some diplospouses maybe allowed to work by the home country and host country yet still end up having none because of language differences.

I have been a full-time diplomat’s wife (and diplobrat’s mother) for a year and a half now. My job starts at 7:00 pm, when most ribbon cutting ceremonies, oath takings, charity balls, cocktail receptions and national day celebrations commence. It ends when Mr. Diplomat retires as being one…or does it ever?

In between diplomatic functions, some of us are stay-at-home mothers, fathers or life partners; some of us have careers, businesses or blogs; some of us have pets; some of us go into further studies; some of us are learning the local language, cooking, decorating or wine pairing; and some of us are simply into enjoying a martini with friends at the end of the day.

Cheers to everyone who participated in the survey.