Here now and now here or nowhere

The title of this blog comes from a play on words that "now here" is also the same letters as "nowhere" just with a space added in the middle. I am always trying to get better at being in the here and now, and I've always been a bit of a joker so that is why I chose this name.

Friday, October 29, 2010

You dirty rat...

Well, not so dirty, especially after you burn the hair off and then cook it. What am I talking about? Well in Guilin one of the local specialty foods is bamboo rat. Bamboo rat is a little different than the rat we know in the states. It looks more like a possum than a rat, though still not the cutest rodent in the world.
I met a local guy in Guilin through couchsurfing who knew of a spot to eat rat, so away we went. I wasn't too worried about getting the plague but I was worried about it tasting very nasty. Let's see what happens...

The bamboo rats in the cage, we get to pick the one we want to eat.

This is the guy we picked. notice in the right bottom corner you also see some turtles. I really wanted to try turtle here but didn't get the chance... maybe in the future.

up close and personal with the future main course.

Looks a lot different here, no? Tasted delicious, really I'm not just saying that. It had sort of a slight mutton taste but not too overwhelming but also a little taste of rabbit. Very boney which can be an annoyance but that's most foods in China. They really had a nice spice in the marinade. to the right were some very tasty and spicy Guilin mei fun (rice noodles).

All in all I'm glad I got the chance to eat rat. The only negative is that it's surprisingly expensive for what it is but I guess a lot of delicacies are this way.

A day at the Longji terraces

As mentioned in the previous post, I came to Guilin in part to go to the Longji rice terraces. Famous for the excessively large number of terraced rice paddy fields on its mountain, which have created an intricate pattern on the hillsides, the Longi terraces also house the villages of minorities of the Zhuang and Yao people.

Longji means 'Dragon Backed Mountain'. When the paddies are full of water in spring, it is said to resemble the scales on the back of a dragon. The fields are beautiful all year round, in the early stages when filled with water, and as the rice grows and matures, changing colours as it does so.

The Longji terraces are comprised of two separate but closely located areas: the Ping'An terrace fields, and the JinKeng terrace fields, each with their own villages and hamlets within easy walking distance. My tour was of the Ping'An fields.

Local sellers of minority handmades. This photo shows a girl actually knitting one of the products.

Chicken and her chicklets in a rice field

Local houses with some small rice fields.

Hey there cutie. In these houses animals are on the first floors, people second floor.

Inside the house. We're right above the pig's room.

dried rat.

A covered bridge with fruit sellers as we traverse our way up the peak.

Bamboo cooking. Inside is either rice or chicken. For the rice dish, the rice is stuffed inside the hollow core of a bamboo along with some meats, vegetables and spices. The bamboo tube is sealed and placed on the fire to cook. Chicken is basically the same technique.

Bamboo chicken and bamboo rice. Sounded and may look tasty, but was as bland as the day is long.

Original minority farmer houses, now restaurants and guest houses.

For the right price you don't have to walk at all up the hill.

The rice terraces from above

Rice terraces

the hero and the rice terraces

farmers working on harvesting the rice.

rice terraces

rice terraces

I met a nice Israeli father and son while on the terraces. The dad bought us ice cream, a welcomed treat on the warm day.

rice drying on the steps of a building.

a portion of the rice terraces up close

This was local honey. I bought some as I was getting a little bit of a cold. It was very sweet and crystalized.

Not the best shot, but this was a cobra with some other snakes living in a cage. Cobra's are a bit expensive, but I'm curious to try them.

This was sort of neat. It's stone meat. All the items were made from stone and shaped to look like various meats. The one on the far right is supposed to be a pigs foot and hock.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Around Guilin

From Hong Kong I spent a few days in Guilin. Why one might ask? Good question. Well, mainly because north of the city is Longsheng where the Longji terraces are (see future post) and south of the city is Yangshuo which you travel to by boat on the beautiful Li jiang river (see future post as well). There is not to much to do in Guilin but they do have some interesting and tasty goods. Known for it's snakes, turtles, dogs, rats, and also the local delicacies of Lipu taro pork and Guilin Rice Noodles (Gui Lin Mi Fen). The town's most celebrated scenic spot is Elephant Trunk Hill (Xiangbishan). The shape of the hill is just like a huge elephant drinking water from the river with its trunk, so it is called Elephant Trunk Hill. I've seen a lot of elephant shaped hills and mountains before but most were just trunks and such, none had the body as well so this one was a little more impressive.

Xiaolongbao and Gui Lin Mi Fen, breakfast of champions. So far Gui Lin Mi Fen have been my favorite noodle. Not sure what the deal with them is but they are very delicious.

Elephant Trunk Hill (Xiangbishan), you can see besides the trunk it looks like legs on the side and also the pagoda on top reminded me of someone sitting on the elephant.

On the top of the hill is a two-storey pagoda built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) surrounded by green trees. The north seat of the second floor is inlaid with an image of Bodhisattva Puxian. The pagoda looks like a precious vase on the back of an elephant seen from distance and many beautiful legends about the pagoda with good wishes are said among people.

A view from the top of the hill.

Another view showing the city with the beautiful gum drop mountains surrounding the city.

A clearer view of the other side of the hilltop. These mountains will look prettier in a future blog, I promise.

A cave in the hill often regarded as the eyes of the elephant, which lies in the hillside.

No idea what this thing was but I found it at the bottom of the hill. Reminded me of some 1970's cartoon show, "The Snorks." Very odd.

Little Buddha area with fish bond and a very colorful wall behind the Buddha.

The park around Elephant Trunk Hill had these elephant benches and this one with the guy sitting on it and that face he made, well something just seemed a little wrong to me.

Various pickled things for sale. SCORE!! I got some pickled mango and pickled garlic heads. So tasty.

Lipu taro pork is made from pork, taro, Guilin preserved bean curd, and various other ingredients. Pork and taro cubes are fried separately and then steamed together, so that each piece is golden on the outside and soft, juicy and flavorful on the inside.

It was a different tasting food than most things I've had. Taro is similar to the potato in texture and sort of in taste. I liked this dish but mainly because the pork was delicate and the sauce tasty.

The Sun and Moon pagodas. The taller of the two, at nine storeys high, the Sun pagoda is the tallest copper pagoda in the world. The moon pagoda stands seven storeys high.

Glass Bridge on Guilin Lake. The picture doesn't do the justice to the light show that they put on there.

Apparently this was supposed to be a fake Golden Gate Bridge. Didn't really convince me.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A day on Lantau Island

After Dim Sum at Tim Ho Wan I went out to meet up with Alex and Tanja (The swedes I met in Sanya) to go explore Lantau Island, Hong Kong's largest Island. Lantau's biggest attraction is probably Hong Kong Disneyland, we didn't go there. We did go to the second biggest attraction of the island though, the Tian Tan Buddha. Weighing in at 250 tonnes and 34 metres tall, it is the largest, seated, outdoor bronze Buddha statue in the world. Half the fun of getting to the Buddha is the cable car ride that you take to get up the mountain. After walking around the Buddha and adjacent monastery we head to Tai O. Tai O is a traditional fishing village with houses built on stilts over the water. It's nothing too special but it is enjoyable to walk around in, esepcially to take in the sunset. Following Tai O Alex and Tanja went to do a little shopping at the outlet mall in the Island (I believe it's the only one in HK) and Natalie (one of the dim sum people who joined us along for the day at Lantau) took me to Discovery Bay. She was under the influence that everynight at a certain time there were fireworks there. If there were we missed them, but we did get a great view of the city over the water from a beach. Discovery Bay does not allow cars on it's premises so to get around people use golf carts or public shuttles. There is also a ferry to Central, which is what we took to get home.

Haagen-Daas had this ice cream sandwich that both Alex and I really wanted to try. We didn't end up getting it, but it's going on my list of "to eat!"

In the Ferry car heading up the mountain.

Tanja and Alex.

Not what one usually thinks of when they think of Hong Kong.

This sign just made me crack up for some reason. I hope the stick figure just got a scare and didn't break a line.

Tian Tan Buddha in the distance.

Getting closer.

A stuffed monkey wrapped itself around me. I bought the male version for my 8month old nephew, but don't tell him and ruin the surprise. :)

almost there.

I'm pretty far from home right now.

WTF, I have to walk up ALL THESE STEPS!!! grrr

Hi Buddha!

He's waving at you!

At the Po Lin Monastery, I thought this little makeshift garden was pretty.

Buddhas inside the main temple at Po Lin

A little snack from the vegetarian canteen. Green tea with red beans, mango with sago and coconut "cakes" and cold tofu. The cakes were just ok but the tofu was very tasty.

Boats docked at Tai O as the sun starts to set.

Tai O fishing village.

Tai O and the mountains surrounding it.