Sha Tau Kok pt. 2

It’s been busy shipping and packing my life over to North America in about three weeks. My scanner is on its way to to USA so I’m either going to have to suck it up and wait to scan my backlog of film or try to get it done at my photo lab. Not sure how reliable that place is….

I’m also busy seeing everybody, friends and (extended) family! I haven’t cooked regularly for the last little and it’s been driving me and my diet nuts.

Anyhoo, here are more photos from my trip to Sha Tau Kok . It was so hard narrowing down photos from my last post! I’m a little sad that these mini explorations will soon be over for me. Any abandoned buildings for me to explore in the states? Anyone?

Some of the mailboxes around don’t look like they’ve been opened for years
loving the scarecrow!

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Sha Tau Kok

Inspired by David’s post, I took a little trip to Sha Tau Kok.  I wanted to not only explore the newly opened parts, but try to get to Zhong Ying street and go through that border into Shenzhen. It is one of the four border crossings onto Shenzhen, and apparently it used to be quite the place for illegal activity.

I took the mini bus at Sheung Shui station fully expecting to just get off at the last stop. Silly me forgetting some parts still needed a permit to get through.  The bus stopped right before the gates and a police man stepped on.  I quickly apologized and left the bus. Then to top it off, it started raining, and I did not have an umbrella with me. The whole trip wasn’t looking so promising.

Luckily, it stopped raining, but the humidity came…yuck.  The sky was grey and spitting but I after half of hour of walking I was pretty much ready to go. I think I ended up walking for about two hours because there was so much to see.  And I’m sure I still didn’t see all!

I walked around trying to find anywhere to head onto Zhong Ying street (briefly put, this is a street which borders Shenzhen and HK, and you can walk freely there, but you used to need a special permit but those, as far as I know, has been lifted.) but no avail, I accidentally wandered onto the road where cars/buses/trucks drive into Shenzhen, and got more questions from another police officer asking me where I was going.  Feeling semi-defeated, I walked towards the mini bus stop and found a little stand selling tickets into Shenzhen. Only cost 20 RMB. Bad thing was, they bypassed Zhong Ying street! Tried to ask if there was a way for a bus to take me there, but nobody knew.  Ended up going into Shenzhen and walking towards Zhong Ying street, and I would have had to cross immigration again if I wanted to walk there. Of course, I just ended up taking a bus home.

If you are up for looking at older areas in HK this is definitely worth a visit. If you do live in Shenzhen I`d recommend crossing from Louhu border then taking the mini bus.  The Sha Tau Kok border on the Shenzhen side is in Yantian district and takes some time to get there. It took me about 40 minutes to get back to the MixC in Louhu district without traffic. In my opinion the bus ride through Shenzhen is kind of boring as you`re just looking at highways, but in the HK side you get to see a bit of Fanling (which I hear has some interesting places to frequent as well)

Photos of Sha Tau Kok below:

Loads of abandoned buildings. This one had a second floor but I wasn`t about to risk it considering I had bad luck that day.
Loving the old bikes. They could do serious damage if they hit you!
I wonder how long it took this building to get like this?
If you see this intersection get off the bus, you’ll need a permit to enter from that point on.

If you are interested in seeing more, head over to part 2!

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My Class at Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong

I was a bit nervous going yesterday to the Ashtanga yoga class because I wasn’t sure how I’d manage to do an hour and a half of it. Plus, I haven’t been practicing much as I’d like to lately and there are still lots of poses I haven’t attempted yet.  But, I promised myself I’d give this a try, and as a treat (because it is sooo darn expensive at 260 HKD!!!) I got myself a class this month.

Walking into the hotel I already felt like a swanky person.  Just something about walking beyond the concierge at  a five star luxury hotel just oozes awesomeness. Plus, five star hotels do this lovely thing where they pump a wonderful scent (Shangri-la does this, we luckily recieved a room scent hamper by a manager here and I feel like I’m in heaven every time we spray it on our sheets) and I was just in love.  I’m probably a bit silly this way, but I don’t care.

The yoga studio is on the fifth floor, which is part of the spa.  Now, if anyone has ever walked into a spa part of a five star hotel (yes, I keep mentioning this, but this was all I thought about, really!) you would know how awesome and calm it is. The staff were very friendly, and after I signed up an attendant kindly walked me through the change rooms and all that junk. Let just say that the showers are just fantastic! People who live in Asian countries can understand that when most of time you have water simply dribbling out of the shower head, it’s nice to have a nice shower with good water pressure. Oh and the towels! The towels!

Alright, I digress, but I just loooovvvvvvveeeee (did I mention love?) fancy towels and all things awesome from nice hotels. Let’s go on to the actual yoga studio and class.

The yoga studio is not large at all.I’d say max it’d hold about 15 people, which is fine by me. If I’m paying a lot of money for a class, I’d certainly want a more intimate setting.  The day I went there were about 6 people, so the teacher had plenty of time for adjusting and all that junk. Mats and towels are all set up for you, but I brought my own non slip yoga towel because I know I get sweaty palms. They also provide water, tea and fruit for you before and after your practice.

I forgot how much I enjoyed a yoga class. I know when I practice by myself I still struggle with keeping my mind focused and remembering the routine.  I felt comfortable with the led Ashtanga yoga class because I was able to concentrate on going into asanas and remember what was next.  The teacher (Siu Shan) was very nice, and asked questions and pushed me just enough to get me deeper into postures. There were some that I never knew I could do! I did certain poses and she asked me to do the full asana, and I felt elated when I was able to go in and out of them smoothly.  I also felt like I fed off the energy off the other students, and realizing I was able to do more than half the primary series makes me feel a sense of accomplishment.

I few things I learned from attending this class.

-A DVD can NEVER replace the guidance of a teacher, especially when trying new poses. I still enjoy Swenson’s DVD as a guide. I think next time I go I will ask the teacher to help me into a full headstand.

-Attending a yoga class really motivates me. I know I have to trek all the way to HK Central for this, but it’s worth it.

-I can do more than what I give myself credit for sometimes. I think this also translates into all parts of my life.

-I LOVE the ‘high’ I get after yoga class.

-There is nothing wrong with being sore the next day. It’s a sign I’ve worked my body good and hard.

-Be ready with LOTS of water to drink afterwards.

-I sweat a lot (haha!).

The verdict. I will DEFINITELY go again.  Aside from the fact that this is one of the only places with Ashtanga yoga classes (and the only one with certified teachers in Hong Kong), it is a nice setup, the staff are friendly, the ammenities are wonderful, and the teacher was nice.  Such a relaxing vibe, and I can’t help but giggle every time I walk out the door and there is a fancy doorman opening the door and greeting me. I’m weird I know.

You don’t need to register, just drop in about 15 minutes (or earlier, I went at about 30min before) and sign up.  You pay when you leave. For more information, check out their website.

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Ashtanga at the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong

One of the main factors why I stopped going to yoga  here (even though I went to a pretty good one) was not only because the instructors spoke Chinese, but there was no consistent Ashtanga class.  When I first decided to concentrate solely on this style, most classes were held around 8am on weekdays only, which sucked considering I had to be at work at 8!  I relied on DVDs and (now) David Swenson’s awesome book, but I don’t feel it is enough anymore.  I am indeed pushing myself with a few more poses, but I keep using time as a excuse not to practice more (with the fact that I joined a gym with my hubby, which I’ll blog at another time).  I also feel that talking to other yogis and a teacher who speaks English will encourage me more.  Doing a bit of digging, I’ve pretty much concluded that there is nowhere really that close to me that a) works with my schedule b) does anything other than yin yoga (which I find boring, no offense!).

Enter Mandarin Hotel in Hong Kong.  First, it’s a pretty fancy place. Second, there are two certified Ashtanga teachers there go check out their profiles here)! I’m pretty convinced this is what I’ll need to boost my practice.  It’s a bit expensive at 260 HKD (about 35 USD) but I figure if I go once a month, it’ll be worth it.

I might give the beginners class a try, or the beginner/intermediate one to see what level I’m at, and if I’m brave enough, one day I’ll head to a Mysore class.

Can’t wait!

If you care to, go check out my review.

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When the Novelty of Being an Expat Wears Off

I speak with a lot of friends back home and they tell me how lucky I am in terms of my financial situation, such as being in China with a low standard of living but making the salary I would make back in Canada. I’m not sure people necessarily realize that as much of an incentive it is to go to another country, there are a lot of sacrifices you have to make too. Being away from friends and family this long is wearing on me, and simple things, such as not being able to buy fresh herbs/have a garden makes me a bit sad at times.

I remember when I first got to Shenzhen and I was all about visiting new places and all that. I went out a lot and met a lot of people I really don’t remember (haha!).  It happens to the best of us. 6 months to a year, the whole idea of going out and exploring places, or things you though were comical  starts to annoy you. I’ve been there. I’m at the point if I have to wait in line and it’s busy, I get very impatient.  I rather do a lot of online shopping here than go out and face the crowds.  I know people cope by going to HK a lot, where more people speak English and you can get more “Western”  products/restaurants.

I feel that a lot of people find it hard to cope because they don’t try to move beyond their expat circles. Sure, it’s nice to speak to somebody who understands you, but the more distance you put between yourself and the Chinese culture (I’m talking about always drinking at foreign bars, eating at foreign restaurants, etc.), the harder it is.  I try my best to support the local economy (hubby has a good hair cutting guy, very nice) and as silly as it seems, it’s kind of my connection to the local community.  I’m at the point where staying home is just nice, and just because I’m in a foreign country, doesn’t mean I have to go out and explore all the time (though there are still a few places in Guangdong province I want to head to). I also find people get a lot more negative and eventually may not have nice things to say about the people and the place.  I fell into that trap previously, but now I try my best to understand why certain things happen. It still annoys me, but it makes me feel better when I can understand why something happens.

Some of the ways I cope and relax when Shenzhen gets to be too much:

-Go the local market, or walk around where hubby gets his haircut. Lots of photo ops there (wish I wouldn’t forget my camera half the time!) and for some reason, looking at fresh produce and coming up with dishes based on what veggies look delicious  makes me happy. When you get to know the vendors (you definitely need some Chinese skills there)  they’ll be more ‘honest’ about freshness, price, etc.

-Make random experiments for myself, like make western dishes (not counting salads, or things like pasta!) using only ingredients from local supermarkets.  My last experiment with baked tamales was a partial success, am going to try Swedish meatballs next.

-Learn Chinese. Believe it or not it really helps. Plus I like learning new things, being with a tutor gives me more accountability.

-Visit poorer areas of Shenzhen. I’ve been too lazy to do it, but I’m going to try for this weekend.

-Gym/yoga: trying to hammer out a routine where I can find a good balance between gym and yoga at home.  It’s been a bit crazy trying to balance extra crazy school schedule this year too!

-Practice expressing gratitude and positivity everyday.  There is always something good about being in China or China itself, I just have to remind myself.

-Finding  a community with similar interests (other than drinking!): I hang out with a few flickr friends and I’m going to try and connect with photographers in SZ who are interested in photographing the same subjects as I do.

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Da Chong Village

sarah li cain-mumbled jumbles-da chong village01

Shenzhen is known for its intense construction. Buildings going up, buildings going down. I was semi-surprised to hear that a lot of this development can be quite political for regular folk. I’m not one to explain this very well, so you’ll probably have to head over to Shenzhen Noted again to get the full scoop. What it basically boils down to is this: Shenzhen wants the land because it is prime real estate for developers. The developers then have to ‘compensate’ the residents of the land and building owners for their houses and moving expenses, plus a new building.  When I visited Dachong village, about 10 buildings were still holding out for a better compensation package (this was about a month ago, must follow up on this, but need to find translator).  There are  a few things I find somewhat disturbing. One, the fact that these people have no choice but to move, even though they get compensated. When I arrived with a friend, we were initially told to leave because the security guards were specifically told not to allow foreigners, or people from Hong Kong in (my friend is a foreigner and because I can’t really speak Mandarin, assumed I was from Hong Kong).  Obviously from this conversation I pretty much concluded that China/Shenzhen is paranoid about letting this leak out to anyone other than the Chinese. Two, small children and elderly still live in fairly squalid conditions while these negotiations are going on.  One building owner followed us and (it seemed to me a means to gain sympathy) informed us that water and electricity were cut off in his building and his grandmother plus his children are still living there. Yes, it sucks that the government is using these means to force people out, but I also wouldn’t let children and elderly live like that. But then again, I don’t know an awful lot about situations like these (apparently there are a lot of these all around the city, hopefully when I come back from vacation in the summer I’ll get a chance to explore these grounds) but as always, the innocent have to deal less than satisfactory situations.

I do hope though, that the children still living there don’t always have to play around areas like this:

sarah li cain-mumbled jumbles-da chong village02

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