Budget travel

I’ve had great fun playing with Google Map’s Street View.

On a Google map, there is an icon of a little green man on the top left corner (yellow circle):

When you drag the man onto a street, the view changes to the street level. There, you can use the direction keys to “walk” around. You can also look around by moving your mouse as if it’s your head. Here I’m approaching the Flat Iron Building in NYC:

From Google’s website:

Google collects these images using special cameras and equipment that capture and match images to a specific location using GPS devices. Once the images are captured, they are “sewn” together to create a 360° panorama. Faces and license plates are blurred before the panorama images are served and become viewable in Google Maps…

Street View imagery is limited to public streets. Ultimately we’d love to drive every public road available, but there is no guarantee that we can cover every location completely…

In other words, it’s not available for places with no vehicular access. How disappointing; I was hoping to see the peak of Mt. Everest.

Within minutes, I found myself revisiting some of the memorable places I’ve been to, such as this cozy Sushi shop in Tokyo where Dad managed to buy takeaway despite knowing no Japanese (he’s got a gift in sign language):

The pier where I boarded the lake cruise in Luzern, Switzerland – also where I caught my first view of a snow mountain:

Vino Vino in Taipei – good coffee and pasta at ridiculously low prices:

Streets around Galerie La Fayette, Paris – I tried to find the boulangerie where I bought the pie that almost cracked my teeth or choked me to death. I’ll elaborate in the next post.

Now excuse me while I take a stroll in London, coffee in my hand:


My first French post

Bienvenue! Je m’appelle Kevin. Je suis chinois. J’ai vingt-neuf ans. Je suis traducteur. Je parle chinois, anglais et un peu français (if you call this much “un peu”). J’habite à Hong Kong. J’étudie le français.

J’aime chansons françaises:

DipTrans 2010

I resat paper 3 of DipTrans on Wednesday. Like last year I didn’t really do any revision, only some last-minute preparation (a long sleep).

Last time I passed the first two papers but failed paper 3. I made the mistake of attempting an unfamiliar field (science), even though law should be the most sensible choice as I would have benefited from my experience in a law firm. I ended up getting some key words wrong and that alone was fatal.

So this time I did the law text, which wasn’t very hard. It discussed, very generally, the proper legal proceedings in criminal prosecution, like the judge should be impartial and no torture must be used to extract confession etc. I had no problem understanding the text. Despite being a semi-specialized text, it didn’t contain too many technical terms, and my legal dictionaries helped a lot.

There were parts that I could have done better, I suppose. I don’t think they were fatal, though of course the examiner may think otherwise. After all, the standards of DipTrans are high. But overall I feel I have a greater chance of passing this time.

Once again I have to endure a long wait for the results, which are expected to arrive in April/May. I’ve been told that a large package means good news, since it contains materials for CIoL membership application, of which passing the DipTrans is a prerequisite. I certainly hope to see my mailbox overflowed.

What the Grimm Brothers didn’t tell you

The prince kisses Snow White. Snow White awakes. They live happily ever after.

That’s the happy ending we all know, right? But there’s more after that.

You see, the evil of the Queen knows no bounds. Death would be too easy for someone who dares to be a thousand times fairer than her. The purpose of the apple she gave Snow White wasn’t to poison, but to deliver a curse: Every man Snow White kisses or touches becomes a frog.

How cruel! Being the most beautiful girl in the world but denied any chance of intimate romance. Like a museum piece, she was there to be viewed and admired from a distance. Just keep your hands to yourself.

The only way for the prince to restore human form was to find another girl stupid enough to kiss him as a frog. Like the real world, after all, stupidity is rewarded. The prince eventually found the girl. Their story became known as The Frog Prince.

Meanwhile, Snow White, now traumatised but determined to break the curse, experimented on countless men, resulting in a boom in frog population. Some of them fled to South America and, since the grudge in their hearts was so great and venomous, evolved into poisonous frogs. Those who went to China ended up on restaurant tables, drenched in my favourite green pepper sauce.

One particular frog met a steamy end in a boiling pot.

A few EYEdeas

Imagine a future where bio-mechanical technology is so advanced that, people can change eyes like the lens of a camera.

Will there be a market?

Bird watchers will surely want telephoto eyes. So do the paparazzi. They can do their job by pretending to check out the view, inconspicuous.

Micro-sculptors need macro eyes. Cheating husbands also need them, to spot that tiny hair on the collar before the wife does.

Those who think they’re too fat can put on fisheyes to make everyone appear as rotund as them, if they enjoy self-deception so much:

Every wife who feels ignored by her tunnel-vision husband can buy a pair of wide-angle eyes for him, so that he can be aware of her presence at home, but this also makes it easier for him to check out other women on the street without moving his head.

Come to think of it, it’s his heart that really needs changing.

How to pronounce [th]

English pronunciation often causes problem to non-native speakers. For example, it is easy to confuse [r] with [l]. I remember hearing this in-flight announcement: “This is your captain speaking… It is my pressure to serve you… Enjoy the fright.”

Why are you smiling? I couldn’t when I heard it.

Another difficult area is the [th] sound. Both the Shanghainese and German accent pronounce this consonant as [s] or [z].

Zerefore, when you discuss philosophy wiz a German, he says: “I sing, zerefore I am.” And when you join ze Huangpu River cruise in Shanghai, ze operator says: “Many Sank”. Come to zink of it, I did have a sinking feeling while on zat boat.

Here’s my three-step guide to pronouncing [th] right:

  1. Place the tip of your tongue between the two rows of teeth.
  2. Read “The Smiths wear thin clothes throughout the winter months.” Repeat until perfect.
  3. Stop tongue bleeding.

If your tongue’s not bleeding, you didn’t bite it; if you didn’t bite it, you didn’t try hard enough.

M on the Bund

My “occasional craving for indulgence” led me to M on the Bund in Shanghai.

M stands for Michelle, the first name of Michelle Garnaut, the Australian who founded the first of the M restaurants at Fringe Club, Hong Kong.

Situated on the top floor of an early 20th-century European-style building, M on the Bund offers a panoramic view of the Bund, although these days the view is veiled by heavy smog and marred by ugly road works.  

The restaurant also has a terrace which doubles as a smogging smoking area – where smokers can the inhale the unlimited supply of smog as a free alternative to cigarette smoke. It is as thick and blackens the lungs just as fast.

Here’s my lunch:

Goose liver. Not the fatty foie gras I expected. This was another example where the sidedish steals the show. The bed of pastry, soaked up with the sauce, was wonderful, especially when eaten with the hazelnut. In fact, it made the goose liver seem rather unnecessary.

The salmon cake was also good:  

You must leave room for the signature Pavlova – a lot. If you have a small appetite you’d better skip one of the first two courses, because it’s huge:

The kiwi slice on top should give you an idea how big it is.

Much of it is cream and meringue, which melts quickly in the mouth, leaving only the intangible fruity aroma – like waking up from a sweet dream. This place is worth coming back, even just for the dessert.

I left the restaurant as a puffed lover of Pavlova.