Monday, January 23, 2017

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

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Gone with The Wind has been voted to be one of the best movies ever produced for as long as I remember, but the ignorant me didn't know that the movie was based on Magaret Mitchell's book of the same name. It was only when I learned that Bill Gates reads 200 books a year that I decided to pick up my reading, and I found out that "Gone with The Wind" is one of the classics. 

Margaret Mitchell is a talented writer whose detailed description of the lush countryside drew such a pretty picture that I longed to go there and the description of the bleakness of the Civil War and Reconstruction so bleak that I have never felt more thankful for all the comforts of my life. 

I have come to both love and hate Scarlette O'Hara for as much as I admire her strength and determination, I hate her selfishness and her indifference to her children, for this lack of motherly love will cause the children to have insecurity throughout their lives. The thing that infuriates the most about her is her "love" for Ashley Wilkes which is really just her imagination, even though he is already married to her best friend, Melanie Hamilton Wilkes. Oh, there are times when I wish I could strangle and wring her neck. 

I love Rhett Butler. I love his devotion to Scarlette O'Hara even though she hurts him again and again. I love that he is a doting father to Bonnie, Ella and Wade. There are many times when my heart arched for him and how I wish I were Scarlette O'Hara so that I may hold him and sooth his pain away. 

I am so happy that Scarlette O'Hara finally came to her senses at the end of the book when she realized that her love for Ashley is only an illusion and that she has come to love Rhett Butler as much as he has loved her. Although Rhett Butler says that his love for her has already died out, but now that Scarlette O'Hara has set her eyes on him, I am sure they will have a happy ending. If only there were a sequel to Gone with the Wind so that I may see them happily together. 

I am going to watch the movie and see how it compares with the original book. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

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"When Breath Becomes Air" is one of the bestsellers on New York Times and it was highly recommended by Bill Gates on his website, Gates Notes, and that roused my curiosity so I decided that this is going to be my next read.

This book was written by Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon who died at the tender age of 36 years old to lung cancer. I was expecting a heavy and dull book because this book is an autobiography as much as a memorial, but I actually felt very calm reading this book.

Paul was interesting in understanding the meaning of life and what makes life meaningful. Paul studied English literature in college because he thought literature "provided a rich account of human meaning" but he decided to switch to become a surgeon after he realized that "It was only in practicing medicine that I could pursue a serious biological philosophy." 

This book is not about dying because we will all die one day, but rather about how to die and how to live a life of meaning. 

Monday, January 09, 2017

In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom by Park Yeonmi

I was on Facebook one day when I watched a video of Park Yeonmi's speech at One Young World 2014 Summit where she told her story of her life in North Korea and how she and her mother escaped from North Korea to China, and finally settled down in South Korea. 

Park Yeonmi has written a book called "In Order to Live: A North Korean's Journey to Freedom" detailing her life in North Korea and her escape to China and finally to South Korea. I was intrigued and since I have made it my new year's resolution to read 100 hundred books this year, I thought this book would make a great addition to my reading list. 

North Korea is one of the last few communist countries where everything is state-controlled. I have watched a documentary on YouTube sometime last year where an American traveler who was granted permission to travel in North Korea secretly filmed his entire trip. Sure, everything about North Korea is about propaganda and they only show you what they want you to see, but that is how communism works. Although the people of North Korea does not have access to the outside world, at least they look decently dressed and well-nourished. 

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I was reading "In Order to Live: A North Korean's Journey to Freedom". North Korea was an exact duplicate of China during the Cultural Revolution which killed millions of people. I was born in China although I was brought to Singapore since young, I have heard stories of the horror of the Cultural Revolution that killed millions of Chinese people. I can't believe that these kind of things is still happening. North Korea has even taken it a step further by having their own calendar called Juche calendar that is based on  Kim II-Sung's birthday on 1912 and their own time zone known as Pyongyang Time. 

This book is not only about the horrors of living in a communist country, it is also about the human spirit, courage and thirst for freedom. Yeonmi bringw us on her escape from North Korea to China by crossing the frozen Yalu river, struggle to survive in China and nearly died while crossing the frigid Gobi desert to South Korea. 

This is a wonderful book that makes me feel thankful for having as much food as I want, being able to live wherever I want, not having to live in fear everyday and many others. 

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Company Hong Kong Trip (30 April 2016 - 2 May 2016)

The clinic has decided to have our annual company trip on 30 April 2016 to make use of the Labor Day long weekend. After much debate, it was decided that we shall go to Hong Kong, the land of food and shopping. 

Although I did not join my colleagues for the last company trip to Hong Kong, I know that the only thing they will want to do is to shop. They don't have to eat, they don't have to sightsee, they only want to shop! That's not the way I like to spend a holiday. I am more of a eating and sightseeing kind of girl, so I decided to plan my own itinerary. My colleagues from the Suntec City branch and Susan from the main office decided to follow my itinerary. 

Kinetic Rain is a new art installation at Changi Airport Terminal 1's Departure Check-in Hall. The iconic moving structure is made up of 1216 bronze rain droplets controlled by 1216 individual motors, swirls and dances to form 16 different shapes that depicts the joy of travel. 

The Social Tree is Changi Airport's largest interactive installation. You can use the eight touch-screen photo booths to attach your photo and video on the colorful and and animated tree crown which is actually a avant garde time capsule. 

Today is the last day of the tulip exhibition in Changi Airport and we got to see the beautiful flowers at Terminal 1's Central Piazza. The tulips are grown for 16 weeks in Amsterdam before they are flown to Singapore. The 16000 tulips are displayed in batches of 400 as the tulips need to be changed around every 10 days before they wilt. Huge thanks to Changi Airport for the huge amount of cost and effort to let Singaporeans have a chance to enjoy the beautiful tulips!

We are in the waiting lounge, ready to board the plane. Bon voyage! 

This is Hong Kong's Tsing Ma Bridge. It is the world's ninth longest span suspension bridge. Isn't it simply majestic? 

This is where we will be staying for the next 3 days, B P International House

 I brought us to this Mian Mian Dian noodle restaurant for our first meal in Hong Kong. It specializes in gong zai mian (Hong Kong style instant noodles) and you can choose your toppings. It is one of the most popular noodle shop in Hong Kong that is frequently patronized by celebrities. Add in the dried radish with chilli for an unforgettable dining experience. Everyone is so in love with this restaurant  that we had our dinner here the next day too. 

This is Hong Kong's famous Fa Yuen Street which is essentially a night market. You can find everything from clothes and bags to phone accessories and foods here. 

Our doctor recommended Ma Long Ki (MLK for short) jeans shop to us which sells great jeans at affordable prices. It is on Fa Yuen Street and the bright red sign should make it pretty easy to spot. The jeans may not be branded but they are really comfortable and cheap. I bought two pairs and my colleagues bought a pair each. 

We were looking for Ladies Market when we stumbled upon a whole stretch of road with shops after shops that sells kittens, puppies, canaries, fish and every other types of pets you can think of. This street is actually called Goldfish Street but it has been nicknamed "Pet Street" and it's easy to understand why. 

We thought this is Ladies Street, but this is actually Sai Yeung Choi Street. On Monday to Saturday 4pm to 10pm and 12 noon to 10pm on Sundays and public holidays, this street becomes a pedestrian street where vehicles are prohibited to pass through. The pavement is dotted with street performances with music blasting from speakers. 

We had dessert at Hui Lau Shan, a chain dessert shop that specializes in mango desserts and turtle jelly. 

We have finally arrived at Ladies Street! It is a night market with stalls after stall that never seem to end. Bags, clothes, shoes, luggage, you can find anything related to women here. 

After a long day of shopping and walking till my legs are no longer mine, we are finally back to the hotel. Due to our odd numbers and the fact that no one except me dares to sleep alone, I got a whole room to myself! Woohoo! I planned to wash-up and have a good night's rest to prepare for the next day's excursion that I have planned, but sleep simply will not come and I ended up watching television (one of Jackie Chan's old movie about Chinese illegal immigrants in Japan) till 3am, read book till 5am and finally slept for 1 hour before my colleague woke me up via the in-room telephone. 

We woke up at 7am to have breakfast at Yee Shun Milk Company but we were told that they only start serving breakfast at 8am and chased us out of the restaurant. After loitering on the streets (we used this time to get an Octopus Card each, which is invaluable because it can be used for almost all forms of transportation in Hong Kong), we finally got to try their famous Double Skin Milk Pudding. We are all absolutely in love with the soft and creamy pudding that slips down the throat and leaves your mouth with a milky aftertaste. 

We took the MTR (Hong Kong's subway) to Tsim Sha Tsui where we took many amazing pictures of Hong Kong's cityscape at the Victoria Harbour

We used the Octopus Card we purchased earlier to take the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island from the Tsim Sha Tsui Ferry Terminal

This is Hong Kong's famous Ding Ding tram (named after the iconic sounds it makes when approaching stations). 

Central - Mid Levels Escalator is the longest outdoor covered escalator system, it stretches over 800m. The first Hong Kong movie movie to feature it is called "Chungking Express" which is probably where most people learn about it.

We had lunch at Yung Kee Restaurant whose roast goose is world famous. It is a three-storey restaurant where you go to the second floor to get a queue number. Be prepared to wait at least half an hour. Besides the roast goose, my doctor also recommended their century egg. I am not a fan of century egg, so no comments there. 

I planned to bring us to The Peak, but there is at least a few thousand people waiting for the Peak Tram, it will take many hours before we can board the tram and it's just not worth it. We decided to bring forward the plan so I brought us to Yuan Lang to buy Hong Kong's famous Sweetheart Cake (Lao Po Bing). Both Dai Tong Lau and Hang Heung make excellent lao po bing, but everyone is more in favor of Hang Heung.

We had dinner again at Mian Mian Dian after shopping at Fa Yuen Street and Ladies Street (two of my colleagues were not with us when we went on the day before). After dinner, I joined three other colleagues for a foot massage at a small massage parlor opposite our hotel. Apparently, it is the peak holiday season and there is a shortage of masseuse because some of them went back to China during the holiday season, so what was supposed to be a 40-minute massage became a 2-hour affair. However, I have to say that the masseuse Ah Chuan who massaged for me is very skillful, and because he is a guy, have a lot of strength. 

The owner of the massage parlor we went to last night recommended Fu Sing Seafood Restaurant for economic and quality dim sum. It was a really good recommendation, the food is tasty and very reasonably-priced. 

I know from my research that there is another restaurant just two streets from Yee Shun Milk Company called Australia Milk Company which is famous for their scrambled egg and double-skin milk pudding, so I made a detour on our way back to the hotel to check it out, and I was greeted with a super long queue outside the restaurant. I must try out this restaurant the next time I am in Hong Kong. 

One more of the delicious double-skin milk pudding before I go back. The hot version tastes better than the cold version! 

We are going back to Singapore! 

This trip is a little short and hasty, there are many places I did not manage to visit, but I feel that I have made good use of the 3 days and 2 nights to show my colleagues a side of Hong Kong they have not seen before. 

Oh, I am thinking of learning to make the double-skin milk pudding and selling it in Singapore. Do you think it will be successful?