A day in Sai Kung

For those who are not familiar with Hong Kong, you may think that Sai Kung sounds like some cities in Vietnam. In fact Sai Kung is the country side of Hong Kong and is located in the New Territories, the area that is attached to Mainland China.  Sai Kung is for the whole family – rural, delicious (great seafood and cafes), sporty (lots of water activities and cruising), fun, and relaxing.  

On the day of my Dad’s Big Birthday, we have planned a day in Sai Kung, breathing in the refreshing air and doing something different.  No wonder why HK people, with their daily life stretched to their max, love to hang out in Sai Kung with its beautiful pier, beaches, neighboring islands, and wonderful cuisines.

Let’s take a look at what we did:

Photo courtesy of Venue Hub, HK

Wow, a Polynesian-style bowling alley called Tikitiki Bowling Bar was our first stop. How fun to combine bowling with the entire family with brunch next to the alley! Because of the gates erected along the gutters, even a 6-year old can play bowling and score well!  We had so much laughter.


Then we strolled in the village market near the Sai Kung pier and had a great time discovering all sorts of local street food, fruits (durian), coffee places, and even great fashion!  I highly recommend this if you want to venture beyond the famous Stanley Market.


Along the water, you will take in quite a lot – the beautiful pier, lots of sampans (boats), a local museum, and of course lots of seafood restaurants (the famous Seafood Street.)


Zooming into the Sampans a bit, one can see they don’t just carry people as a great way for transportation or touring (one can check out island hopping in Sai Kung – many people will want your business at the pier), they also carry lots of seafood (dried especially) for sale!

What I enjoy HK the most is that while it is probably the most convenient place in the world for conducting businesses, is a city that almost never sleeps, has the most amazing places to eat and drink, its serenity is also just less than an hour away.  Check out Sai Kung next time!

Advertisements

The Beauty of Ikebana lies in its Philosophy

I spent a wonderful afternoon learning about Ikebana (the Japanese art of arranging flowers) at the Asian Arts Museum last Saturday with the President of the Wafu School of Ikebana in the California chapter, Fusako Hoyrup Sensei.

The word Ikebana means “live flowers in a container”; it allows us to enjoy indoors the charm and beauty of landscapes, the seashore, or lakeside.  The practice dates back to the 6th or 7th century in Japan as simple offerings on Buddhist altars but has now become an art form in everyday’s life.  There are now about 3,000+ schools of Ikebana in Japan.

The Wafu School, founded in the early 20th century, emphasizes complete harmony among the flowers, vases, and the environment.  Wafu style brings out the “natural beauty”, respecting the flowers and plants in their natural state.

The fundamental way of arranging the flowers is to create a trigonal pyramid (or more accurately an inverted, oblique trigonal pyramid.)  The lengths of the 3 main stems are different and can be simplified as long, medium (2/3 of long), and short (1/3 of long).  The length of the long can be determined by the height of the container + the width (at its widest) of the container.  Then, you can add complementary or supplementary stems as necessary.

Ikebana principles
Courtesy of the Wafu School of Ikebana

I love learning that these flowers and plants harmonize each other as well as with the artist and the environment.  You would know which flowers to buy or use because flowers talk to you.  Arrange the flowers and plants facing toward the sunlight because this is the natural way how plants grow!  This way gives the arrangement more depth and natural beauty.

So here is the result of my very first Ikebana lesson – ta da!

Ikebana - first
This is a Moribana (flat) arrangement of the upright pattern, using 7 major steps in a basin

Could you guess that the focal point of this arrangement is the 2 lowest-placed tiger lilies? Can you sense that the flowers are coming toward you?

Thanks to Sensei Fusako Hoyrup, I have learned some simple but very important lessons of life as well – bond with nature and appreciate it anywhere.  Here is a lovely arrangement by the master, herself.

Fusako_Hoyrup_Seiga_
Magnificent arrangement by Fusako Hoyrup. She also used some of the smaller stems to create the second arrangement, isn’t it cute and lovely?

 

What do San Franciscans Do on a Beautiful Sunday

A couple of weeks ago during Sunday lunch, I attended a University alumni function at the St. Francis Yacht Club in the Marina district, described as the most prestigious yacht club in the Western U.S.

While the club is no doubt very nice, what captured me the most that day was the surroundings and the leisurely San Franciscans on a sunny, beautiful afternoon by the Bay in San Francisco.  I ended up walking back home from the marina – about an hour of leisurely walk! What a feast for the eyes and goodness for the body!

Right outside the San Francisco Yacht Club

 

Great Angle of the Golden Gate Bridge
Strolling along the marina

 

The Palace of Fine Arts – oh so fine!

 

Colourful Marina district houses

 

Great park for many Sunday activities

 

Resting in front of the beautiful St. Peter and Paul Church, Washington Square Park

 

Charming Victoria B.C.

After spending almost ten days in Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, I decided it is one of the best places to have a relaxing vacation.

Victoria, the capital of B.C., is actually on the Vancouver Island not Victoria Island and is famously known as the City of Gardens and, if I may add, the City of Bikers, as 10% of residents bike to work! The city was named after Queen Victoria and was established as a Hudson’s Bay fort in 1843. The first Chinese in Canada settled in Victoria due to the gold rush. Its food scenes are not only British but also very diverse, and locals and visitors enjoy cuisines with the freshest ingredients including seafood, veggie, and fruits.

Although it is on an island and has a population of about 350,000, there are direct flights from its international airport to cities such as Toronto, Calgary, Montreal, Seattle, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Cabos and also Cancun. The airport is extremely friendly.  There are more cool facts about the City here.

What I enjoyed the most is its natural, untouched beauty, its relaxing pace, friendly faces as well as its Britishness. I was fortunate enough to stay with my Dad’s high school friend, who lives a 10-minutes walk from woods, park, and beach! Compared to Vancouver, Victoria has milder temperature and less than half of the rain with precipitation falling between November and February. No wonder it is popular with retirees.

Here are a few moments that I have treasured:

Ferry ride (1 hour 40 minutes) from Vancouver to Victoria
Rock and sand at Mount Douglas Beach
Beautiful flowers with the Parliament in the background
The tourists’ favourite – Empress Hotel and the Inner Harbour
Strolling in Downtown
Sunset in the Harbour
Along the Oak Bay Marina
Horse carriages all over roads lining the Inner Harbour
Rural beauty along trails in Mount Douglas Park
Breathtaking Ogden Point Breakwater – 1 mile to the lighthouse at the end – photo credit to Melichard at Tripadvisors.com

  
The Galloping Goose Trail, running on the previous Canadian National Railway, weaves through rutal, urban and wetlands
 
  

Simple Ways to De-Stress and Gain Positive Energy

Calm
Courtesy of: http://www.laschivasrayadas.com.mx

I have been hearing great nuggets from online talks from Hay House (free until May 26) to help one to de-stress, build up the immune system and positive thoughts, and increase oxytocins, the hormone of joy and love.

From John Norseman’s talk in Hay House:

The power of [ONE] positive thought negates 85,000 of negative thoughts…you can’t afford to think negatively…but when you can’t help but feeling a negative thought, just think of something beautiful and something very positive, and you can clear the whole thing; having negative thought not just lower your immune system but your physical strength in your body (concept was proven by the Kinesiologists.)

…There can be no healing without forgiveness…the first step: you forgive, the second step: you bless, the step 3: you thank him [the person who wronged you, for all the efforts you expend to overcome it]…and you receive the freedom.

…Love is like a precious flower, it needs to be nurtured and refreshed everyday, always putting the others first, never taking the other for granted…make the most of everyday, living life as if each day is our last.

From Davidji’s blog:

16 Seconds That Will Change Your Life

Of all the pattern-interrupting techniques that I’ve shared throughout the world, the one with the most powerful effect in the shortest amount of time is perhaps the simplest one. It’s a game changer, and I call it “16 seconds to clarity.” Not only does it have a profound destressifying impact in the moment, but it can also be the foundation for greater clarity of thought, heightened creativity, deeper intuition, and making better choices. Let’s try it right now. It’s okay to keep reading as you go through this exercise with me.

Think of something that has irritated or bothered you in the past few days . . . a difficult conversation, a disappointment, an unmet expectation. Perhaps someone said they would do something and they didn’t, or they said they would meet you at a certain time and they were late, or they unexpectedly shared something about you with another person and it got back to you. (Don’t go too deep. This isn’t therapy.) But right now, feel free to envision that other person’s face . . . maybe replay the moment in your mind’s eye, even notice someplace in your body that feels connected to the irritation. Take a few moments to settle into that space.

Now take a long, slow, deep breath in through your nostrils, and as you do . . . slowly count to four, and observe the air as it moves into your nostrils and to the back of your throat. Watch your breath as it moves down your chest and deep into your lungs. Feel your belly expand.

Observe your belly being filled, and hold that breath in to the count of four. And just witness the breath in your belly as you silently count. One, two, three, four.

Now slowly, to the count of four, release your breath and watch it as it moves up into your chest, into your throat, into your sinuses, and out through your nostrils.

And when the last wisp of air is out of you, hold that breath out to the count of four. And observe it, watch it, witness it . . . as it dissipates into the air.

Now breathe normally, and let’s try it with your eyes closed. Remember: in four—hold four—out four—hold four. And make sure you follow your breath. Observing it along the way is key to the process. (I’ll wait right here . . . it’s only 16 seconds.)

I’m guessing you’re back right now, eyes open and breathing normally. Well, our whole experience was 32 seconds: 16 seconds with your eyes open and 16 seconds with your eyes closed. And in that half a minute while you were observing your breath (assuming you were playing along), you were totally present. You were not thinking about the past or any of its grievances or regrets, nor moving into the future with all its predictions and projections. You were not thinking about your irritation. You were totally in the present moment. Your mind is a little calmer; your heartbeat has slowed a bit. You’ve filled your body with heavily oxygenated blood and nourishing hormones, and in the process, you’ve released a little bit of stress.

In under a minute, you have taken a powerful step into destressifying. The formal terminology for what’s happening in 16 seconds is introducing a pattern interrupt. You actually just jammed the brakes on a potential surge of stress hormones and all the negative bodymind reactions you were starting to feel. You broke the flow of conditioned physical and emotional responses. Just the thought of this irritating situation or person triggered a memory of the stressful circumstances, and in 16 seconds you returned to the present moment. Then in the 17th second, you’re clearer—beyond the moment of emotion. You are a bit calmer . . . a bit lighter . . . a bit easier.

From Julie Daniluk:

The Role Of Serotonin

Serotonin creates a sense of peace, self-esteem, happiness and safety. Beyond concentration and relaxation, the more serotonin you have on board, the less pain you will experience. We boost serotonin levels naturally by embracing the practice of yoga or tai chi, prayer and meditation. Even going for a walk amoung the trees and sitting in the sunlight can boost serotonin naturally. Talking with a close friend or writing to love one can bolster the love hormone oxytocin and serotonin levels.

Foods rich in complex carbohydrates such as whole gluten free grains, including wild rice, buckwheat, amaranth, teff and quinoa and root vegetables, squash and fresh fruits boost serotonin levels, creating a sense of calm, peace and confidence.

Herbs that help boost serotonin levels include burdock, dandelion and ginseng.  Read more.

Finding gratitude in plants

Not just “don’t sweat the small stuff,” but treasure the small stuff!

In the recent rainy days of San Francisco, I particularly enjoy seeing the flowers and trees – they are extremely lush, colorful, and useful.

Beautiful peach blossoms in front of the Ferry Building in San Francisco

 

Trees lining the pavement acting as rain shelter!

 

Lovely idea for your balcony – taken from a page in a book (sorry can’t remember the title)