Back in Brisbane for the start of last rotation

We landed in Gold Coast at 8am on September 21st, Mike’s birthday!

Happy 35th birthday to Michael! We had a lot of fun celebrating in Canada and during our trip back in Hong Kong and Singapore so we didn’t have any special plans for once we were back in Brisbane.

No special plans didn’t mean we wouldn’t have appreciated not being held up at the airport for nearly 2 hours after landing though.

Let me tell you the story of how we almost ended up on Border Security. Actually, I’m lying, the show is never filmed out of Gold Coast Airport, but if we had been in Sydney or Melbourne, cameras might’ve been rolling. We got through immigration without any difficulties, picked up our luggage and headed to the customs declaration and exit line. While in line, a lady customs officer went up to Michael and asked him to see his incoming passenger card. He had nothing to declare (only me with homemade kimchi) and was given back the card with a simple thank you. I thought it was odd that she had solely singled him out of a big line and watched her go… straight to the customs officer at the front of the line and whisper something in his ear while pointing to Mike.

Great. Here comes trouble.

In the past, we have cleared customs through one of 3 lines:

  1. Straight out the door.
  2. Dog sniff. You lay all your bags on the ground and stand beside them while a cute beagle sniffs through all your stuff. If you’re clear, you’re free to go. This usually takes less then 10 minutes.
  3. Bag search and/or x-ray. We often end up in this line when we have things to declare and while slightly more tedious, still goes pretty quickly. The officer normally asks you to clarify what exactly it is you’ve declared, and if they deem necessary, they can ask you to open up your bags and show them the items or put your bags through a scanner. We have been in this line when we’ve declared bringing back wooden souvenirs from Vietnam and bringing back Frentel butter from Canada. Both times, we’ve simply opened our bags, showed them the items, which they were happy to let through and we were on our way.

This time, without any obvious reason or being told specifically why, both Michael and I were directed to a fourth line. One we didn’t know existed but immediately referred to it as the Border Security line. We were told to sit down on the benches and that an officer would be with us ‘shortly’. This area is completely blocked off from public view and actually depicts some scenes very similar to Border Security. Ie. An Asian man getting every nook of his baggage searched while he sits in a chair looking weary and worried. In another line, a ‘tough’ guy looks annoyed as his bags are being searched and he’s being questioned.

After letting us sit and stew for what seemed to be forever. The initial lady customs officer came over and said to Mike she wanted to talk about his “travel patterns.” Funny, because we both have the exact same travel pattern. We immediately figured it was because Mike was a guy and traveled too often and looked suspicious, especially when we frequented SE Asian countries. We explained to her that we were both medical students, have a 1 week break after every 2 month rotation and took the opportunity to travel cheap.

You could see her realise it… she was barking up the wrong tree. But that wasn’t enough and we had to sit there and answer more questions, including how we were even able to afford studying in Australia and travel at the same time. She was getting nothing and decided to let us go, after scanning our bags. One last jab from her as my bag was going through the scanner, “Are those cigarettes?” No, those are KitKat bars (and they look nothing like cigarettes, but nice try).

Anyway, we finally made our way out the airport. And miraculously, we were able to lug home 3 large pieces of luggage and 2 wheeled carry-ons back to Brisbane – via the bus, then the train. Pros or what?

Jet lag hit us pretty quickly but no time to diddle daddle as we had school the next day! The start of our last rotation – Surgical Specialties!

I was starting with 2 weeks of ENT, then 2 weeks of Opthalmology and finally finishing my medical degree with 4 weeks of orthopaedics. So close! Have to keep pushing to the end!

One night in Hong Kong

September 19, 2014

After a tasty dinner at Tim Ho Wan, Mike and I went for a walk to soak in the scenery of Hong Kong.

Immediately we were greeted with high heat and humidity, haven’t experienced that in a while! There was also quite a bit of smog, which was too bad because we couldn’t see a clear view of Hong Kong’s night time skyline.

Unfortunately, due to the long wait times at Tim Ho Wan, we had missed the Symphony of Lights 😦

A few sights along the way to Star Ferry Pier (Central Ferry Pier No 7) on Hong Kong Island

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Constant development happening

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Arriving to Central Pier, where you can catch ferries across the Victoria Harbour

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View while on the ferry traveling towards Mainland Hong Kong. Really liked the lighting on that building with silhouettes swimming up and down!

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Standing 44-metres tall, the old Clock Tower was erected in 1915 as part of the Kowloon–Canton Railway terminus. The once-bustling station is long gone, but this red brick and granite tower, now preserved as a Declared Monument, survives as an elegant reminder of the Age of Steam. It has also been a memorable landmark for the millions of Chinese immigrants who passed through the terminus to begin new lives not just in Hong Kong, but in other parts of the world via the city’s harbour. (Source)

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If we had time, perhaps we could’ve enjoyed a night of entertainment on one of these ships

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Hong Kong’s night time skyline!

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Bright colours

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Opportunistic photography

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Iconic sails

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Walking along Avenue of Stars!

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With commemorative plaques, celebrity handprints, descriptive milestones, movie memorabilia, a life-size statue of kung fu action hero Bruce Lee and a bronze rendering of popular cartoon character McDull, the Avenue of Stars fittingly sets the glamour of Hong Kong’s film industry against the captivating dazzle of Victoria Harbour (Source).

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Bruce Lee against Hong Kong skyline

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We then strolled through Kowloon and visited the Temple Street Night Market – a feast for the eyes! Tons of trinkets, arts, toys, gadgets, sex toys, electronics, jewellery and food stalls to browse and enjoy.

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It wasn’t long before we were back on the Airport Express heading to the airport – a comfortable and quick 20-25 minute trip!

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We both found these train advertisements annoying, because you know, coal is certainly not a renewable energy, no matter how you put it.

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Ah, so tired!

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The 11th busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic, with nearly 60 million passengers handled in 2013… this is how deserted Hong Kong International Airport looks like at 4 o’clock in the morning. Not a soul in sight.

Tip: As Mike is demonstrating, these benches are the most comfortable place to stretch when killing time in the Check-In areas… you will thank me!

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And look, two people can fit on one bench! And the man behind us is proving my above point! 😛

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Farewell Hong Kong! We hope to come back in the future and spend more time!

Tasty dim sum at Michelin starred restaurant Tim Ho Wan

We landed in Hong Kong from Canada at 5:00pm on September 19, 2014.

We had one single goal during our layover in Hong Kong – to enjoy delicious dim sum at Tim Ho Wan, famous being awarded a Michelin star in 2011 (Sham Shui Po location). It had been over a year since we’ve heard of this renowned, posisbly cheapest, Michelin starred restaurant in the world. We had been looking forward to this meal for months and anything else we had time for would be icing on the cake.

Tim Ho Wan was founded by Chef Mak Pui Gor, previous dim sum master at Lung King Heen in Four Seasons Hotel, the world’s first Chinese restaurant to be awarded a Michelin 3 star rating. What began as a small, humble, 30-seat eatery in Mongkok (this location has since closed) has now expanded to 4 other locations in HK, as well as into other Asian countries like Singapore and the Philippines.

We decided to visit the IFC Mall location, as it was most convenient. For those who are interested, the Airport Express train costs $100 HKD (less than $15 CAD) return and stops at Hong Kong Station, just below IFC Mall. Head up the escalator to Level 1 and turn left, you won’t miss the long queues. There is no sign that says “Tim Ho Wan” so familiarize yourself with their green logo and characters ahead of time so you don’t miss it!

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The other thing you need to prepare yourself for is how to get a table. It can be a little intimidating but don’t worry, it’s quite easy! Most people standing around have already registered themselves for a table and are waiting for their number to be called. So when you arrive, you need to push yourself to the front where you will likely be greeted by a busy, yet very efficient lady. Tell her how many people you have and ask for a yellow menu if you’re not automatically offered one, which is in English. You will be identified as a foreigner and a marking will be added beside your table number on her list so that when your number is called, it will be done so in English. As it gets closer to your number, I suggest standing near the front so you don’t miss your number when it’s called.

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If it’s a busy time, be prepared to wait! And keep in mind that numbers are not called out sequentially but according to how many people can be seated. Ie. A group of 2 will likely be seated before a group of 6.

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While in line, you should definitely start ticking off all the items you want off the menu. As your table number is approaching, you can give your menu in advance to the lady at the front. That way, your food will come as soon as you sit down. We gave our menu to her as we were being seated and didn’t have to wait long at all, so it’s really not necessary!

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We waited around 30-40 minutes before finally being seated. The restaurant is small and packed tightly. We sat in between 2 other groups on either side and felt packed like sardines but such is the experience of eating dim sum in Asia right? Pretty excited to start our highly anticipated meal!

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Place settings with their most popular dishes as well as a listing of their HK locations.

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Chuckled a bit. I know, we decided not to have tea with our dim sum, blasphemy! 😛

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Deep fried dumplings filled with pork ($15, 3pcs). Our first dish, which immediately left a good first impression. Fried dumplings are one of my favourite dim sum dishes, and these ones were perfect. Cripsy on the outside, fully cooked inside, nice and glutinous with a well seasoned, not too fatty pork filling. Yum!

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Panfried turnip cake ($15, 3pcs). Mike and I have tried different variations of this dish over the past few years. We have never been the biggest fans of this dish but being one of the “Big 4 Heavenly King Dim Sum from Tim Ho Wan,” we certainly had to try! We quite enjoyed the silky daikon flavour and beautiful sear of this cake.

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Steamed fresh shrimp dumplings ($27, 4 pcs). Delicate, translucent skins with nicely seasoned fresh, plump and succulent prawns – these were great.

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Steamed pork dumplings with shrimp ($27, 4 pcs). As you can see, these siu mai lacked the finesse of assembly, but were overall tasty.

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Steamed rice rolls stuffed with shrimp and chive ($27, 3 rolls) and Steamed rice rolls stuffed with BBQ pork ($21, 3 rolls). Both of us always enjoy this dim sum dish, but these rice rolls were too thick and the wrong texture, they should be delicate and slightly chewy. In addition, the proportion of filling to rice roll was too low 😦 The biggest disappointment of our meal.

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Baked bun with BBQ pork ($21, 3 pcs). La pièce de resistance! The reason why we came to Tim Ho Wan lies in these 3 sublime golden buns. Oven baked with a crispy sweet topping, this is the perfect love child of a pineapple bun and a BBQ pork bun. A delicious combination between salty and sweet. These were perfection and easily the highlight of our night! If we weren’t so full, we would’ve ordered more. After one bite, there was no doubt how these buns came to be Tim Ho Wan’s most famous dish.

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Tonic medlar & petal cake ($12, 3 pcs). This beautiful dessert jelly had subtle sweetness and was quite fragrant, filled with goji berries and osmanthus flowers. A very light and refreshing way to end our delicious meal!

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We had also ordered Steamed Egg Cake ($15) which unfortunately wasn’t available. Other dishes I would’ve liked to try on this menu include: Glutinous rice dumpling, Braised chicken feet with abalone sauce, Steamed rice rolls stuffed with pig’s liver, Sweet barley soup with bean curd sheet, Sweet pumpkin cream with red bean. Unfortunately, there were only 2 of us. We couldn’t possibly eat more and Michael is also not a fan of liver and chicken feet. It is also our understanding that some Tim Ho Wan locations may have dishes that are not available at others.

Aside from the rice rolls dishes, we thoroughly enjoyed our meal and look forward to the opportunity of dining again at Tim Ho Wan, likely at a Singapore location in the near future! The dishes were high in quality and lived up to our expectations. We left happy and with full bellies.

Is it the best dim sum in the world? Probably not, but still darn tasty! Was it worth our 30-40 minute wait? I think so, even if just for those BBQ pork buns and the experience. With that being said, I would definitely go during down time at my next visit so I won’t have to wait in line as long! 😛

Our total bill came to around $180 HKD, which is approximately $25 CAD, what a steal! Keep in mind that there is a $3 service charge for each dine in customer. They also have take out available, which is much quicker if you want to grab a bite to eat on the go or don’t want to wait in line.

Have you tried Tim Ho Wan before? Would love to hear what you think!

Hong Kong locations:

  • Shop 12A, Hong Kong Station Podium Level 1, IFC Mall , Central
  • Shop 72, G/F, Olympian City 2, 18 Hoi Ting Road, Tai Kok Tsui
  • G/F, 9-11 Fuk Wing Street, Sham Shui Po
  • Shop B, C, D on G/F Seaview building No 2-8 Wharf Road, North Point

Photo #111: Passport Sticker

June 18, 2012

This photo was taken during our 6 hour delay waiting to board our flight to Singapore.

I was sad when I lost the ‘T’ sticker, which was placed on by my dad, off my passport this trip. 😦 When we were younger, he was the one responsible for our documents when we traveled. By placing our initials on the passports, he could easily tell ours apart without having to open them up.

Photo #110: Traveling Liquids

June 17, 2012

Going to Singapore with only carry on luggage so my liquids have to be under 100mL in a plastic bag blah blah blah – you know the drill.

But I’ve always wondered – sure there are ways harmful things can be created with less than 100mL? It’s always hard to protect yourself if someone’s primary intention is to harm right?

 

Farewell Singapore, until next time!

Michael and I made it back to Australia safe and sound and ON TIME!

After 2 weeks of immobility studying for exams, our bodies are crying in pain from spending more than 12 hours a day on our feet. Wished we had podometers to see how many km we traveled!

Singapore, you have been good to us. Special thanks to Bing and his girlfriend Lihuan for picking us up at the airport and taking us for real local food a bunch of times! It was also great that my aunt, Tam, was still in Singapore – great to catch up and thank you again for the lovely dinner!

And now, it’s back to reality! Just a weekend to unwind, catch up with blogging before it’s back to school!

2 exams down, one more to go!

Woo hoo! Yay!

So far so good… don’t think I’ve failed any yet, which is always the most important thing 😉

Exam #1 – PSA 2.1 – Oct 18, 2011
Exam #2 – PSA 2.2 – Oct 19, 2011
Exam #3 – PSA 2.3 – Oct 20, 2011

I feel completely burnt out but I am so so excited for tomorrow! My final exam will be from 10am to 12pm and then freedom! Most of the grade will then be gathering for a BBQ and celebraaations!

First of med school…DONE!

Actually, that’s not true. My first year technically does not end until I’ve completed my 4 week medical elective from Oct 24 to Nov 18. Not to mention I have to pass that AND these exams!

But I can’t wait 🙂 Flying out to Vietnam Saturday morning so Friday will be a busy day for packing and running around in order to get last minute things done. Michael and I are traveling on the same flight and will be arriving a few hours after Kristen. Ong Ut Duong has kindly offered to pick us up from the airport and helped arranged accommodations for us – so we are set to arrive!

Our itinerary