Monday, 19 November 2007

Who wants to look like Paula Radcliffe? Janet Street Porter?

Janet Street Porter was complaining on Sunday that Young people today want to look like Posh Spice rather than Paula Radcliffe. I personally do not want to look like either but I would love to have the figure of Flavia on Stricly come dancing. For someone to be an icon they have to first be glamorous. When I go to the gym now I think about attaining Flavias shape and I think others should follow- she is a great inspiration for fitness.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Amazon the vine, vine voice

I was delighted last week to be invited to be a member of 'The Vine' . Amazon promise to send me free books in exchange for honest reviews on their website. They say that a 'select' group has been invited - well I am in the top 2000. I dont know if that has anything to do with it. -

My first review is for the Sarajevo Haggadah which I started with trepedation as it looked so long but I soon changed my mind and found it one of the most interesting books I have read this year. I now intend to find out more about this amazing book and would love to see the real thing. Here is my review -

I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to preview this book prior to publication. The Sarajevo Haggadah is a real book with a turbulant history and many of the details in this well researched novel are based on historical truths. As I was curious myself about the Hebrew Codex I checked out some details and found that the book has an estimated present value of around $700 million - no wonder this rare and beautiful book has a chequered past. Geraldine Brooks introduces the story via a book conserver from Australia who travels to Bosnia to carry out sensitive restoration. The storyline then hops through a possible past as recorded and as imagined by the writer. Some of the stories are quite harrowing and I was particularly moved by the young Jewish girl who becomes a member of the partisans to save herself from extermination- not a piece of history I had been familiar with. Due to the excellent background details the stories are always plausable and each one is a fascinating insight into the real lives of people of that particular time in history. A love story runs alongside the short stories. To be honest my only slight dislike in this book is the 'Miss smartypants know it all book restorer' who I feel would probably have to be acted by Juliette Binoche or some such person if and when the film comes out. Are there really people out there with 2 degrees and a Phd in book binding, no strings or ties, incredibly beautiful - of course! flitting from country to country on UN missions to conserve valuable books? No doubt all the bright young girls at school will now want to be book binders on the strength of this. Anyhow despite my little complaint a really worthwhile and informative read.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

How do people eat these things?

Field mice plague caused by worst floods in 50 years (CNN News)
The business management philosophy that one person's crisis is another's opportunity may perhaps never have been taken to such bizarre extremes.
A plague of 2 billion mice in central China was described just days ago as being so bad that it resembled a scene from a horror movie with roads and hillsides turned black with rodents.
But in a remarkable display of entrepreneurship, businessmen are catching, shipping and selling the eastern field mice, also known locally as rats, to the southern city of Guangzhou, where restaurants are reportedly offering rodent banquets to diners notorious for their unusual tastes.

This was an article written earlier this year about rats/mice being eaten in Guangzhou China.

To my delicate western taste I find many of the things on the menu in this area quite horrible to contemplate.

Breakfast even in a five star hotel means a search of what we might consider edible. There were huge vats of glutinous porridgy soup - with no mention of the ingredients. Other pans were filled with noodles in a soup and diced liver could be cooked and thrown on top by the well masked and gloved chefs on hand.

Some eggs looked normal whilst others were a dark greeny black - it was mentioned that they were preserved in horse urine.

The Chinese restaurant had a whole fridge filled with the delicacy 'river crab' which was in season at the time. I thought I would give it a whirl but found it very problematical. First it was wrapped in a plastic band and boiling hot from the steamer. There was thick river mud still on the large claws and the tools given to me were just scissors, a long pointed metal tool and some plastic gloves. I gave it my best shot but got very tired of sorting the whole thing out and gave up on the claws completely. High Cholestorol anyway I hear.

Another delicacy at the hotel were pigs ligaments - just the sound of them put me off and I dont think I could eat them without thinking of what they were.

We had lunch one day in a supermarket in Hong Kong and did not have much luck there. Again the menu had offputting items - most notable being 'steamed fish heads'. Our orders were not that pleasant and not really like the sort of food we are used to in Chinese restaurants in the UK.

Nevertheless there is some great food available. I just wish they would not mix the others on the menu

The shop window

Blow fish for dinner and we lived to tell the tale

Our supplier Eddie took us to a Japanese restaurant where we were served the delicacy Blow fish sashumi or 'Fugu". The blow fish is most often seen in aquariums rather than restaurants in UK and is a very expensive item. A Japanese chef needs years of training to prepare the fish which is highly poisonous in the liver.
This chef cut it up in to Sashimi and we ate it raw. Blow fish contains Tetrodotoxin which is around 1200 times more lethal than cyanide, one blow fish can kill 30 people. In Japan around 100 people per year die of poisoning by eating blow fish, mainly because they try to prepare it themselves.
When the fish is irritated it blows itself up and usually it dies afterward as seen on the left.

It is very delicious but I dont hold out too much hope that I will have the chance to ever eat it again. When a customer enters the restuarant all the staff shout welcome in Japanese which is quite surprising the first couple of times. We though we were famous when we walked in.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Iran from the aircraft

This amazing photo was taken from the aircraft. We flew north from Dubai up through Iran where there are some fantastic rock formations. Looking closely at the picture it is possible to see towns and agriculture.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Asian games 2007 macau

We were sorry that we just missed seeing any of the asian games in Macau as we were there on the very last day.

The ladies team from japan won gold for 5 aside football and they were celebrating in the hotel
I was glad to have seen Macau but it would not be on my list of places to visit again. It is really geared up for Chinese gamblers from the mainland and not much else.
We had a great time there nevertheless.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Dongguan to Macau

I took these photos on the way this morning. I have just got the blog facility back to will be able to add a few things we have been doing. The lady here is selling grapefruit and eating the profits - the grapefruit are humungous and turn up for breakfast. Havent tried them myself though.

These guys work a the factory we have been visiting - Orbit international and as you can see are very conciencious in all they do. China is extremelly fashionable and in the towns everyone wears the latest fashions and there really is a great choice - not as cheap as primark but very stylish things are available.

Macau the gambling capital of the far east

Macau Via the Chinese border
We were driven through 100s of miles of banana plantations and goose farms that form the livelihood of the indigenous Chinese who have not had the luck to have their land bought for development in the booming area of Guandong and we were relieved to have reached the China/Macau border. Bleary eyed we joined hundreds or were they thousands? of Chinese rushing into Macau. Some wheeling washing machines and others carrying massive bales of , I presume, clothing made in China. Many though were just strolling through with hand baggage. Organised and well staffed though they were at passport control we were puzzled by the queues formed by this massive migration. Once through and worried we would not find a room for the night we headed for the nearest travel agents and booked asap despite limited English on their part. It was later that night that we found the real reason behind the hordes crossing the border, no it was not a mass evacuation but weekend gamblers heading for the rapidly modernising sin city of ‘Macau‘. Bolstered by the big boys from Las Vegas injecting zillions into the province it is now close to being the biggest gambling den and town of vice in the world. It’s new found fortunes being based on 1. The break up of a monopoly on gambling by controlling triads in the province and 2. The huge nouveau riche Chinese so nearby and their well know love of gambling.
That night we entered the lately finished Venetia hotel built as an exact replica of the one in Las Vegas but reportedly double in size complete with singing gondoliers and a vast, eager, ready made clientele on the doorstep dying only to get on to the gaming tables and we were stunned! The interior replicates all the sights in Venice albeit in a pretty naif style but with daylight streaming into Piazza S Marco at midnight, the square lined with noodle houses and Chinese food speciality chains, remembering we are in South China and not Italy. We went with the flow and wandered the new shopping malls where 1600 US dollar silk shirts competed with tiffany diamonds to catch the eye of the prosperous gambling man and his lady about town.
The following day we headed for Macau City centre and saw the real development going ahead of unbelievably humungous new casinos - 2000 bed +. The old Lisboa and it’s former owner Stanley Po has built the most gargantuan place opposite in the shape of a lily - you wonder how it stays up and despite it not being finished it is fully operational as a Casino. Games I never knew existed are being played by ever eager to lose their money individuals in the most gold, migraine inducing surroundings I have ever seen - tasteful this is not.
However the owner of the palace of gold has tried to prove to everyone that he is cultured and has purchased the most expensive ever item of the Qing dynasty - a bronze horses head - yes I did at first think that it was a joke on the Las Vegas Barons and their links with the mafia and Frank Sinatra but he spent 64 million Hong Kong Dollars ie around 3 million pounds sterling and it is guarded 24/7 which happens to be the opening hours of the Casino it is displayed in. If you are bored for one minute there are the ever present dancing girls around the clock - they do seem to have a suspiciously similar routine to the Russians in the MP3 nightclub around the corner, who do their dancing around a pole but hey this could be ‘The Moulin Rouge’.
And sex does seem to be a big part of many a Chinese gamblers package and it is not wholly surprising considering the lack of girls in China due to certain cruel policies over the past 30 years. Yes prostitution is big business in the area. I saw weekend packages for Macau at the Hong Kong ferry terminal with ‘Sex all in!’ for the discerning man looking to enjoy the whole weekend in full. Hotels in Macau provide rich pickings for working girls from the world over and it is difficult to escape from. Foot therapy, massage (of course), VIP service, Hotel service are all covers for sexual services and whether you are in the street or innocently going back to your hotel room chances are you will be accosted by one or more of these people.
Just as we were leaving Macau the trial was beginning of the former Macau public works manager who is charged with accepting million upon million of bribes for everything from the long suspension bridge to every casino in town - so long were the list of charges that they took 5 hours to read out in court. I am going to miss old Macau now I am back in the UK. Not for the weather or the gambling, no for the gossip!

The bronze horses head on display in the latest casino