Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

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Beautiful things: Gates and doors

There are many things I like to take photos of: clouds, reflections, and cityscapes at night, to name a few. Gates and doors are not the most popular or common subjects to photograph, but while sifting through the photos I’ve taken over the years, I realized that I’ve encountered a number of them that impressed me or are simply beautiful. I’ve gathered a small collection of these gates and doors here for your enjoyment.

Perhaps my favourite of them all are these aged but colourful gates all aligned outside the imperial palace in Hue, Vietnam. This is certainly not what most people went to the palace to see but it somehow caught my attention. There were at least five arched doorways (maybe not even gates or doors themselves?) that were lined up in a row in such a way that it was very pleasing to the sight. Almost symmetrical, but not quite perfectly, which is where its beauty lies.

The second one is this gate somewhere in Basel, the first city that I visited in Switzerland. You can only see the outline of the gate itself but two things appealed to me: the elegant details of the curves on the gate and the vivid colours on the other side. The contrast between the dark silhouette and the bright exterior further accentuated the features of the gate, making it one of the most unique ones I’ve seen.

Onto one that took on a rather different style – a door covered with graffiti in Prague. The sprayed writings on the door made it look quite messy, and in fact the door couldn’t be any more ordinary. Ironically, that’s what made it special to me because it shows that the ordinary exists, even in a popular and acclaimed tourist destination like Prague.

Let’s stay in Prague for a bit and go to the Prague Castle, where two weapon-wielding giants guard one of its gates. The one on the left chose a bat as his weapon of choice while the one on the right had a sharp object, presumably a knife of some sort. Each giant was in action, arresting what seemed like tresspassers trying to bypass castle security. Don’t mess with the giants or you might end up under their feet like that…

This door-and-window combination, photographed in Saint-Émilion, couldn’t be simpler, but its exquisiteness lies in the details. The three pots of flower, the octagonal hole in which one of them was placed, the aged walls, the intricate but delicate patterns on the curtains inside, the cobblestone street…a perfectly serene picture.

And finally…here’s a creepy gate that leads to a cemetery, I presume. I had actually completely forgotten where I took this photo and had to dig through my harddrive to find out that it was in…Edinburgh! Looking through photos of this particular trip, I believe this was taken at the Greyfriars Kirkyard. Indeed Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities in Europe and I visited it plenty of times when I was living in Glasgow. In addition to the many spectacular spots that most tourists would visit, Edinburgh certainly hides some secrets very well, like this one… 😉

What beautiful thing should I blog about next? Shadows? Clouds? Reflections? Hmm…

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May 2019

Here goes May, the month where Wuhan tried to initiate summer but sort of failed, thankfully. (I feel like I can’t start a Wuhan-related post nowadays without talking about the weather – go figure.) The temperature hovered between 25 to 28 degrees Celsius during the final week of May, which was PERFECT, and as much I know it’s wishful thinking, I seriously hoped that it’d be like this all summer. Mid-May also marked the one-year anniversary of my official arrival in Wuhan so at least I could say that I reached a milestone. Good to be still hanging in there 😉

One of the things I do to keep myself sane on a daily basis is to take photos of beautiful things that I see, one of which is cloud patterns. I often see the stunning artworks of God in the form of clouds and they are enough to make my day. This photo was taken at the Guanggu 7th Road subway station in the late afternoon, and it almost seemed as if the smoke was emerging from the sky lit by the setting sun.

Another photo near Guanggu 7th Road station, this time taking in the early morning, from the other direction.

Third and final photo of beautiful clouds in this mini-collection, taken near dusk in Yancheng, Jiangsu province. J and I attended my cousin’s wedding in Yancheng and was heading to Nanjing for the evening, and saw this while waiting for the train. The sun and clouds fascinatingly accentuated the silhouette of the city, sending us a perfect goodbye gift.

A change of scenery here – a view of “Fairy Island Lake” from the highest point of the scenic area. This was taken during a company spring outing and though I honestly did not enjoy 90% of the trip, I give credit to the 2.5 hours of free time that we had in the end. It was raining pretty horrendously when this photo was taken (rain only during the free time, great) but I somewhat managed to capture the surroundings successfully. Perhaps the rain made it more…”fairy-like”??

Not going in chronological order, this is the Pagoda/Temple of Gratitude in Nanjing during the evening. It is named so because it was commissioned to be built by a king in the Ming dynasty as an expression of gratitute to his mother. I think the original has been destroyed and this is a replica, but it looked magnificent at night. The pavilion is lit up in alternating colours but there is a 20-second window every 5 minutes where it is lit up in multi-colours. Very beautiful!

Still in Nanjing, this is a serendipitous photo of a little girl staning in front of the lyrics of the Chinese national anthem carved into a wall, with the score. I was wondering why there was no English version, but I think the four languages at the bottom might all be ones spoken by minority ethnic groups in China. I’m going to venture a guess from left to right…Mongol, Sanskrit, Arabic, and transliteration of Korean. Can someone confirm??

Probably the most random photo of this post is of this small cocktail that J ordered as part of a meal deal. The deal doesn’t exist anymore so unfortunately I can’t find its name, but it certainly was an aesthetically pleasing little addition to an otherwise great (and very large-portioned) meal ^_^

This set of pig figurines (and the large piggy bank) that was displayed at the front desk of the Nanjing public library made my day and I wish I could have gotten the entire set! So adorable!!! The last one on the right must be doing some sort of yoga post, heh, I love it ❤

Obligatory (almost) monthly photo of me and J, taken in Yancheng. J looks so sleepy and clueless in this photo but actually it was just him being his usual dorky self 😛

Overall May 2019 has been a pleasant month, and I think I’m finally realizing this: I can constantly complain about various aspects of Wuhan, but at the end of the day, I have to accept the fact that I’m living here and learn to embrace its imperfections. I will probably still complain just as a way to vent (and it is necessary), but again, keeping a record of beautiful encounters will be my way of maintaining sanity and reminding myself of the good things in life. Yes, even in Wuhan.

March 2019

Spring is here! I’m hoping it stays awhile before the impending doom of Wuhan’s summer arrives and sucks the life and sweat out of me. March has been a month of generally good weather that made it comfortable for going out, especially to view the various types of blooming flowers, including tulips and cherry blossoms. But I’ll write an individual post about the seasons of Wuhan in the future. For now, let’s talk about spring and March 2019!

This month was all about nature and one of my favourite phenomena to observe is dramatic cloud formations. Like THIS. Let’s ignore the fact that Luoyo Road was madly congested in the opposite direction and enjoy the smooth ride on our electric scooter (operated by J, with me as a passenger), against this fabulous sunset hour!

Dramatic cloud formations #2 – at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology campus. Again I was on the scooter and I told J, “STOP! I need to take a photo of this!”

Dramatic cloud formations #3 – enjoying another sunset, before the sun turns into a monster in the summer. The road was rather crowded with people when I was taking this photo, but I was sufficiently distracted by the unexpectedly lovely scenery and wasn’t as annoyed as I usually would have been.

Onto the flowers – first up, white magnolias in the technology park where my company was based. Well, I think they’re called magnolia, as that was what a colleague told me. One day they just appeared out of nowhere and sprouted and bloomed around the park. It instantly lit up my lunchtime stroll and I couldn’t stop myself from taking way too many photos of these beauties ❤

And here’s a collection of the many types of flowers that I noticed during my walks around the park. I can’t name them all or…any of them, to be honest. I’m going to guess the bright red ones at the top right are late-blooming plum blossoms (peak bloom happened about three weeks ago) and the others are various types of peach blossoms. Someone please tell me what they really are??

As I mentioned previously, peak plum blossom season was approximately three weeks ago (early to mid-March). On a gorgeous Sunday, I went to the plum blossom garden at East Lake and it seemed like every resident of Wuhan was also there – it was so crowded! Can’t blame them though, the weather had been so horrendous for weeks prior to that, so even the slightest sliver of sunlight was able to attract anyone to spend the day outdoor. Though crowded, the garden was beautiful and the plum blossoms were magnificent! I might even have to say that they are my favourite March flowers, compared to tulips, magnolias, and yes…even cherry blossoms!

This shy feline friend of mine appeared around my neighbourhood one day and kept trying to run away from me, but stopped to stare every few seconds. It reminded me of the fox who asked the Little Prince to tame him before they could become friends, and if I could have, I would have brought home this little fella with me. I wonder if it’s still lurking around somewhere nearby…

Almost-obligatory-monthly-photo of me and J, this time in a Ferris wheel (which you probably can’t tell). I was smiling but that was to hide the fact that I was hella scared. And J tried to make me look down at the highest point of the ride… not cool at all.

This height-free photo was certainly a lot more pleasant, phew. Apparently in addition to white magnolias, there were also red/rose/violet magnolias blooming in an area around where I live. Here’s a rare capture of a candid (or intentional?!) goofy moment. It seems like my fiancé isn’t all about all that serious research and teaching stuff, after all!

I still don’t like Wuhan but admittedly the city has been made a lot more bearable with nature’s beautiful exhibitions in March. I can’t emphasize enough that I’m NOT looking forward to the arrival of summer, which is inevitable and the single most detestable thing about Wuhan. Summer, please skip us this year??

My stories 03: The French toast that I never had in Hong Kong

A couple of weeks ago I was in Hong Kong, a place with which I have a love-hate relationship (I might write about that in a future post). I’ve been to Hong Kong plenty of times, discovering a new unique place on every occasion and still not deciding whether I like it or not. It is not a place for the budget-friendly traveler, even for western standards, though I cannot deny its charm and diversity. The most recent trip was unavoidable as it was for work purposes, but I did get a chance to wander around a bit in the midst of the official affairs that I had to handle.

One thing that I make sure I do a lot when I’m in Hong Kong is eat at a “cha chaan teng” (literally translated to “tea restaurant”), otherwise known as an “ice room”. These are traditional eateries that you can find in every corner of Hong Kong, serving a vast variety of items. Baked seafood rice with cream sauce, chicken wings, soup udon, fish skin, steak, baked vegetable, egg and ham sandwich, satay beef macaroni…just to name a few. If you could think of it, it’s probably on the menu. I could eat at an ice room for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and all extra meals in between and never get bored.

I am particularly in love with the classic Hong-Kong-style milk tea, an iced one in the summer to refresh the mind and a hot one in the winter to warm the soul. It’s got this unique rough texture that distinguishes it from the rather smooth and sugary powdered bubble tea, which feels overly fake. I couldn’t resist having a cup every morning with my breakfast, before doing any work, and that has become a necessary part of my daily morning routine in Hong Kong.

And Hong-Kong-style French toast. We call it “sai dor see” in Cantonese, which translates to “western toast”. It’s one of those things that I love but don’t feel the need to order every time. One day during lunch, while I was dining at an ice room, the lady with whom I shared a table ordered a French toast, and that instantly triggered my desire for one. With two days left in Hong Kong, I decided that I would certainly have a French toast before I leave. That definitely shouldn’t have been a difficult task, as there are so many ice rooms around.

On my last day, while having lunch right before catching my train, I happily ordered a bite-sized French toast (bonus points!) and eagerly anticipated its arrival. Certainly, this would have ended my short trip on a positive note. A few minutes after I placed my order, the waitress came to my table and informed me that they “couldn’t make” the French toast…what! I interpreted that as they were out of toast or out of butter or out of batter or something…but the fact remained that I wasn’t getting my long-awaited French toast. I was…disappointed, to say the least, but I didn’t have enough time to go to another restaurant, and so I left Hong Kong French-toast-less.

They say you leave a place with some regret so that there’s a motivation of going back. Maybe I’ll make French toast my priority the next time I visit Hong Kong, instead of waiting until the last day.

A very lovely hot Hong-Kong-style milk tea at Tsui Wah Restaurant near Tsim Sha Tsui, one of the busiest areas of Hong Kong.

February 2019

February was a fantastic month not only because I got to spend a couple of weeks at home with my loved ones, but also because I spent several days in Hong Kong and had good fun. The trip to Hong Kong was for work purposes, but I had ample time to explore and see old friends. And as is the case for every visit to Hong Kong, I discovered some unique, less touristy places…

First up: Garden Hill in Sham Shui Po. I had wanted to climb this small hill in Kowloon before but I ended up not staying at the hostel near it as planned, and so I never got around to doing it. It only took around 10 minutes to get to the top, but the view of Kowloon was amazing! What caught my attention were a few trees with these white-yellowish flowers – I don’t know their name (if you do, please let me know!) They were so pretty and smelled wonderful too!

Sunset on Garden Hill, overlooking the high-rise buildings in Kowloon. Hong Kong is so densely populated and smothered with high-rise buildings, and I can’t imagine how many people each one must house, all within ultra-small apartments/flats that are so typical of Hong Kong.

Whenever I take the bus in Hong Kong, if the front-row seats on the top deck are empty, I almost always take one of them. I love the feeling of sitting at the top and traversing through the city with a view in front of me, especially during the night when the roads are not so conested. One evening, I was lucky enough to get a top-deck front-row seat, and off I went into the night!

People like to leave their mark everywhere they go, and someone – probably a heartbroken person on September 23 2017 – wrote this on public property: (translated) “I will not love _______ again” (fill in the blank with the name that is scratched out).

A neat little man-made waterfall in the Nan Lian Garden near Diamond Hill MTR station, on a surprisingly clear and sunny day amidst the rainy days of mid-February. I had wanted to go see the Ng Tung Chai waterfalls, which would have been an actual hike in a natural settings, but decided against it because of the rain and my lack of proper attire. Next time…you’re top priority on my list, Ng Tung Chai!

I didn’t hesitate to eat at many cha chaan tengs (“tea restaurants” or “ice rooms”), and every morning I made sure I started off the day with a nice cup of hot Hong-Kong-style milk tea at a cha chaan teng. Every place makes it a bit differently but I’ve yet to find one that doesn’t taste amazing – or I just can’t tell the difference?!! It matters not, HK-style milk tea will undoubtedly remain one of my favourite beverages!

Time to see some friends! Annie met up with Sharon after a bit more than a year and had a great time catching up over delicious food (not shown unfortunately). Bordeaux days never fade!

Of course, a meeting with Mingming, Captain, and their kid V was in order. They’ve been in Hong Kong so long that sometimes I feel like they will stay there forever. These are people that I’ve known for over 15 years (well, not V…) and I cherish them dearly still today ❤

Finally…a photo taken in Wuhan! Yes, this is the only photo in this batch that was NOT taken in Hong Kong. The new year’s resolution of cooking more has been working out well so far, except it’s almost always J who cooks, and I’m totally cool with that. This meal might have been just a bit toooooo healthy/green, if that’s even possible? Still love my green veggies though!

March started off with promising weather as we’ve seen TWO days of sunshine out of four already – and before that, the sun must have been absent for three months. Let’s hope spring is here and STAYS for a bit before the summer inevitably takes over… >_<

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