Back in HK for Xmas ’09 & Updates!

A few eventful things have happened since the last update…well…

1a. Managed to grind my online bankroll up from $50 to $800+ within a week. PTR doesn’t show this because I won a ton of money from Double or Nothing SNGs which basically meant I was flipping my roll across multiple tables.

1b. Suicided my bankroll from $800+ to $5 within 2 days. Oh well at least I managed to sell off $360 to Jason so instead of being down $550 overall online I’m only down $190. (I deposited $550 to start)

2a. Coursework #1 is done with! It constitutes 50% of my grade and finally I’m done and dusted with it!

2b. I’m not quite that free despite it being Xmas. Coursework #2 is due in Jan…it constitutes 50% of my grade and I have yet start on it…

3a. I’m back in HK! Anne and I have been planning to “film some sh*t” over the xmas break for quite some time.

3b. I forgot to pack my camcorder >.<  No wonder my suitcase seemed so empty when I was unpacking…

So far nothing has really transpired. Oh well it’s the experiences that count!

4. I’ve been watching a ton of movies, many not worth mentioning (like Time Traveller’s Wife. (If you haven’t read the book,) BETTER NOT SEE IT). Overheard was a really solid movie, but it was quite corny and a bit too ordinary for me. From a filmmaker’s point of view several scenes were really well done, but the movie was nowhere near as good as Infernal Affairs (IMO anne…). The movie just didn’t seem special at all. I did watch some great movies though. The Bow (Korean movie by Kim Ki-Duk) was a really interesting movie. I watched it with Vic and he agrees it’s one very disturbing, FUKTUP movie (we were under the influence though). Amadeus (1984) was a remarkable movie, for me at least since I love classical music (especially Mozart’s Requiem). There are several scenes I don’t think I’ll ever forget, and the acting was one of the best I’ve ever seen. I’m also starting to really enjoy Shunji Iwai’s movies, especially Love Letter. It has one of the most superb endings I’ve seen in any film. You should also check out 500 days of summer if you haven’t already. I reckon it’s one of the best movies to come out of Hollywood this year, definitely an Oscar contender IMO.

one messed up movie!

5a. Hit Ministry of Sound with Kenta and Ron on Wednesday to celebrate coursework completion. That was a pretty sh*t experience. There were too many people who just kept walking around the dance floor trying to find their friends. It was impossible to dance. Music was horrible too, stupid MC kept going “HOO HOOO” to the beat of songs (ruined many songs IMO), DJ was doing a crap job mixing, cutting out good songs (i.e. Fake Blood) in the middle for some Cheryl Cole junk. It was a sausage fest as well. I guess nobody goes clubbing on a weekday… and student nights are generally sh*tty. I’ve also never gotten body-searched for drugs before…and gotten caught reeding up by security…I suppose this made it all the worse.

Fabric is an amazing club, and I live right next to it!

5b. Hit Fabric with Vic and Kenta on Friday (2 nights ago). Now that was a good night! They came over first at 2am to wake me up (I was sleeping lol) and chat/drink/smoke a lil and then we left for Fabric at 3. Tickets are cheaper after 3 so we got in for half price. Although drum n bass & dubstep really aren’t my thing, for some reason it didn’t bother me at all! We were so high it didn’t matter! This is what clubbing is really about: the music! Not taking 150 photos to tag on facebook & trying to get drunk for a really sh*tty hangover! We left Fabric at around half 6, headed back to mine and chatted/smoked more, listening to really chill music (Deftones, Portishead). Then we went to a tiny cafe nearby at around 8 for some REALLY GOOD ENGLISH BREAKFAST. The kind old man who owned the restaurant gave us really big portions & loads of toast. The hot chocolate was sublime too. It was a great end to 2009 in London.

6. Sat next to Bauhinia (uni friend) on the flight back! It was good seeing her for the first time since summer. Didn’t get any sleep on the flight back though, it was still fun! This made me realize I’ve gotten so used to reed in order to sleep that I have trouble sleeping without it. (It’s also 6:30am right now and I’m not asleep)

7. The windows in my bedroom have been boarded up. It’s pretty damn depressing.

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So what are my personal goals this xmas?

1. I aim to go to the gym regularly again. I stopped after summer because there wasn’t a gym when I went back to uni in September, and ever since I moved in to my flat in Barbican I have not been eating right (and couldn’t be arsed to really lol)

2. Play tennis regularly as usual…

3. Get my essay done! Also need to catch up on work especially French & Finance (I didn’t attend the last 8 hours of lectures)

4. Bankroll boost to + HKD15k before Jan 10 2009. Well, AT LEAST 9K+.

5. Wardrobe boost is also in order lol. Haven’t really shopped since summer.

I think that’s about all I have time for this xmas. HKD15k is definitely a bit of a stretch, but not impossible. I’m not PLANNING to film anything because I stupidly forgot to pack my camcorder, but who knows something might transpire. Well, I’ll keep updating so keep checking!

MACHU PICCHU!

Sorry for the delay since the last update. It’s not that I have been busy; I was just being lazy, which I definitely shouldn’t have been. So here it is, the highlight of my holiday, visiting Machu Picchu!

We took a train called the ‘Hiram Bingham’ (named after the man who discovered Machu Picchu) there from Cusco. It was a luxury train, but quite an experience as the train ride was full of exhilarating views of the jungle, the Urubamba river and the Andes mountains.

Hiram Bingham Train

IMG_6009

The food was excellent too. At Machu Picchu we stayed at The Sanctuary Lodge. It’s funny how the Hiram Bingham and The Sanctuary Lodge are owned by the same group…it’s no wonder they’re able to jack up the prices so damn high (800 USD a night at The Sanctuary Lodge and 500USD a roundtrip on the Hiram Bingham). It was getting to be a @#$%in expensive trip. Luckily, everything was free at the Sanctuary Lodge, so we dined at the most exclusive restaurant and ate ourselves silly. It’s funny that I was able to gain more weight during the Peru trip eating quality food (starter, entree and dessert) than while I was in the US stuffing myself silly with In-N-Out Burgers in the west and Friendly’s in the east.

We went to Machu Picchu twice. Once was the afternoon we got there and the second time was the next morning to watch the sunrise. In case you didn’t know, Machu Picchu is regarded as one of the new seven wonders of the world and is often referred to as the lost city of the incas. It was discovered and made famous in 1911, which is amazing because it was not found by the Spanish when they conquered and ruled Peru, so when it was discovered it was in its pristine state. Also interesting is that there were no inhabitants when it was discovered, meaning that those who lived in Machu Picchu either fled the village during the Spanish rule or all died of some sort of epidemic. It has some of the world’s most breathtaking views. Here are some pics.

Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu
An alternate view of Machu Picchu
An alternate view of Machu Picchu, nestled deep in the mountains

fff

the mountains around machu picchu are breathtaking
the mountains around machu picchu are breathtaking

Amazing. I’ll definitely visit machu picchu again along with the nasca lines next time I go to Peru.

Cusco and the Sacred Valley

It’s been a while since the last update, due to the events of the past week.

After LA we took an 8 hour flight down to Peru. To me, Peru is as exotic as it gets. It’s literally halfway across the world from Hong Kong and mirrored latitudinally in the Southern Hemisphere. We landed in Lima and after one night we flew to Cusco, the capital of the ancient Incan empire. We first headed to Urubamba, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, one of the empire’s main points for the extraction of natural wealth, and the best place for maize production in Peru.

On the way to the Sacred Valley
On the way to the Sacred Valley
In the Sacred Valley, we stayed in small bungalows like these
In the Sacred Valley, we stayed in a small bungalow
The Urubamba river and the Andes mountains
The Urubamba river and the Andes mountains

We visited Ollantaytambo, an Inca archaeological site that starts the Inca trail. It is a panoramic beauty but walking up the stairs was very tiring because of a lack of exercise and the high altitudes of the mountains (Sacred ‘Valley’ is nestled between the mountains of the Andes range but nonetheless located approximately 2500 meters above sealevel).

Ollantaytambo
At the foot of Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo was originally a temple in the sacred valley, but later became a fortress the Incas used against the Spanish conquerors. It looks a hundred times better in real life than in pictures because of its overwhelming size/height and the scenic view overlooking the valley, the little town of Urubamba and the mountains behind from the top.

After staying the night in the Sacred Valley, we traveled to nearby Pisac to visit the Pisac market. Peru (or the Amazon for that matter) is famous for its gems and stones, notably birth stones, so I got a few of them. Then, we went to Sacsayhuamán, an Inca walled complex near the old city of Cusco, at an altitude of 3,701 m (approx 12,000 feet). We didn’t wear oxygen masks, so we were easily out of breath after a few steps. It’s hard to breathe when the air is so thin.

The rocks at Sacsayhuamán are so huge!!!
The rocks at Sacsayhuamán are so big!!!

It’s unbelievable how the Incas were able to carry 100-ton rocks all the way to the top of the mountain, and carve them in order for them to fit perfectly on top of one another without cement or any adhesive! Note that they were able to build this at such an altitude more than a thousand years ago before the invention of wheels in Inca civilization!

Next we headed to the Llama farm, to see llamas, alpacas and vicunas! They were domesticated so they were extremely tame and cute. Alpacas have beautiful camel-like eyes and fur so soft you cannot even feel them. HO LUNN DUK YEE!! They’re like sheep except smaller, softer, gentler, prettier, cuter and better ~~ and Llamas are the smaller, cuter versions of camels lol. Vicunas are cute as well, except less friendly and more violent. Their wool is the absolute highest grade that can sell for thousands of USD because their wool can only be sheared off once they are shot and killed due to their vicious nature.

Breathtaking view of Urubamba, the Sacred Valley
Breathtaking shot of Urubamba, the Sacred Valley

We spent a night in Cusco and I found it to be difficult to sleep because of the lack of oxygen in the air. I constantly needed the oxygen tank in order to breathe properly and acclimatize. It was necessary to acclimatize quickly and get plenty of rest because the next day we were going to go to Machu Picchu…

3 days in LA

En route our way to Peru, we stopped over in LA for a few days. It was nice to stopover and revisit California for I missed the weather, the food, and cheap outlet shopping, and I was able to meet a few old friends which is always a bonus. On the way to LA, I sat in the new Cathay Pacific business class for the first time thanks to having enough mileage…

Aboard Cathay Pacific's new business class
Aboard Cathay Pacific's new business class

It was really cool how the seat was able to transform into a flat bed, and each person had their own private suite…

businessclass2

I watched two movies on the plane: He’s just not that into you and The Class.

He’s just not that into you was really entertaining and at some parts funny. I always enjoy movies and books that attempt to explain the psychology of human beings, even if, as was the case in this film, they’re not always true. The Class was a film on an entirely different level. It’s a Palm D’or film about a French teacher with the best intentions who cares too much and gets into trouble with the problems of a bad 15 year old student. It’s an amazing film because it has a documentary-like feel, a very strong ensemble of actors (even the young cast of students were really convincing) and an incredible build-up of plot that made me feel as though I was part of the class. I really felt the teacher’s frustrations as he dealt with kids and their fickle immaturity. When I arrived in LA we went to watch The Transformers 2. I fell asleep halfway through the movie (it was a really LOUD ACTION movie). I had never fell asleep during a movie before so to me it was quite a revelation. It sucked.

Flowers and letters reading "sorry for your loss" placed around the star of The Jacksons
Flowers and letters reading "sorry for your loss" placed around the star of The Jacksons

If there was something I would never forget from my LA visit it would be Michael Jackson’s sudden death. My sister picked me up from the airport at around 2pm (she went to USC for a year), and as she was driving me back to her apartment, I turned on the radio. I hadn’t had a chance to tune in to a good radio station for a long time as Hong Kong has never had any stations featuring good music. As we were driving past UCLA, the radio commentator suddenly announced the confirmation of Michael Jackson’s death, just as if everyone had expected it. I thought it was a joke. Michael Jackson was to perform in London next month, and the radio commentator had said it too casually for so big a story. I checked out the story after I arrived and it turns out Michael Jackson was dead. What’s more, he died in his LA home and his death was confirmed by doctors in UCLA less than an hour ago! It felt so bizarre that Michael Jackson, one of my most revered childhood idols, dies the moment I touch down in the same city!

I don’t know why, but the next day I felt that I had an obligation to pay his star a visit. It still feels so surreal that he’s gone! Unfortunately, his star at the Chinese theater was blocked off by officials, so we went to the star of The Jacksons. It really felt good to know that people still sympathize with his death even through all the scandalous events that took place during his life.

View from Hollywood Highland mall. Lots of TV cameras near MJ's star
View from Hollywood Highland mall. Lots of TV cameras near MJ's star

The next day we visited family who just arrived in San Gabriel. It’s a part of LA so infested with Chinese that it felt more like a “Chinacity” than a Chinatown; in fact, it felt more like we were in Shenzhen than in California. Everywhere there were English words, there were Chinese words. Apparently, this was where the FOBs get off their boats lol…the Vietnamese food was really good though!

We had a feast!!
We had a feast!!
In N Out kitchen at work
Speaking of food, cheap and tasty In N Out burgers!

That’s all for now, will update in a couple of days in Peru!!!