July 29, 2011

Ngong Ping 360

A cable car made a slow journey across Hong Kong's Tung Chung Bay and over the lush green hills of Lantau Island. It was raining intermittently. After disappearing into the mists above the rolling greenery for 25 minutes, the cable car emerged on the other end 5.7 kilometers away. It's destination was Ngong Ping village, home of the giant Tian Tan Buddha. Three British girls sat in the gondola, eyeing the stranger sitting in front of them with a mixture of fear and delight.

The cable car switched directions twice, with the gondola temporarily detaching from the cable at the angle changing stations. With low visibility outside, their only view was of this handsome man. Occasionally their attention would be diverted when an empty cable car going in the opposing direction would break through the mist for a few seconds, before disappearing into the same fog once more. One of the trio squealed "This is straight out of a horror movie!".

My face remained impassive until I arrived at Ngong Ping village. I let the three girls get off the cable car before me, and then climbed up the many staircases to reach the giant statue of Buddha. It was my last day in Hong Kong, and I had a plane to catch across the border in Shenzhen later on the same day. I wandered the island for a little while, before having a quick lunch at the village, and taking the bi-cable gondola lift back to Tung Chung. This time I was alone.


"In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true." ~ Buddha 

July 27, 2011

Beijing's Underground City

Despite spending almost two and a half years in Beijing, one place I never made it to was the fabled underground city. Built in the seventies to shelter Beijingers from a potential nuclear attack by the Russians, the tunnels reach depths of 18 meters, with 30 kilometers of tunnels covering an area of over 85 square kilometers. 300,000 people chipped in to build a thousand shelters that could hold forty percent of Beijing's then population. Beijing's city walls, its ancient defense mechanism, were torn down and the material used to construct the underground complex. Apparently, each citizen knew where to find the nearest trap door entrance to the tunnels from their house, and could quickly go into hiding if necessary, which it never was.

There were a few underground shopping areas scattered through out the city that I explored, but I could never confirm they were previously bomb shelters. I located the official tourist entrance in a back alley near Tiananmen Square. A polite message, shockingly inscribed in English, was posted on the door saying that it was closed indefinitely. A few friends mentioned that there was a staircase that descended into complete darkness in their apartment complex, and surmised that this could be an entrance to the subterranean chambers. Another urban legend is that these underground shelters have been converted to makeshift dwellings and rented out to poor migrant workers, who emerge from them only to work, eat, or smoke. Another rumour is that due to safety reasons the underground city will not be opened to the public anytime soon. Until then, what lies beneath will remain lurking in the catacombs of the imagination.


Message posted at the entrance: Welcome to our under-ground City. Since April We have a big constru-ction inside until now So we don't open for the public. We're so sorry about this. May be. it'll open next Year.

Beneath this, someone has scrawled: May be. I'll come back.

July 25, 2011

ARNABlades of Glory

Expo 86 shaped the Vancouver of today, leaving behind BC Place, Canada Place, Science World, and the SkyTrain as significant parts of its legacy. For the 2010 Winter Olympics, one of these legacy projects was the Richmond Olympic Oval. On December 12, 2008 the oval was opened to the public. As part of the opening ceremonies, the masses were invited to skate on its icy surface or merely admire its form and function.

I entered the oval, briefly gazing at the sleek wood paneling on the roof, before turning my attention to the sheet of ice before me. I took a deep breath and sat down on a bench to put on on my skates. The sinews of my arms rhythmically stiffened and loosened as I laced my ARNABlades on. I stood up to test that the skates fit snugly around my ankles so that they did not wobble and hinder my balance. Satisfied that they did, I pulled off my blade covers and and ran my fingers gently across the edge. Both the tips of my blades and my eyes sparkled as I stepped onto the oval. It was unlike any ice rink I had skated on before.

I glided around the smooth surface of the track, effortlessly sidestepping any toddlers, novices, or Olympic mascots that were not keeping pace. I completed several dozen laps of the oval before calling it a day. The facility was impressive from top to bottom. Apart from the speedy ice surface, which could be replaced with turf or ball courts as desired, the roof was another attention grabber. Its rippling wooden roof was constructed in the shape of a heron's wing in recognition of the Salish people who had first inhabited the area. Giant sky lanterns artfully adorn the exterior of the complex. These nets, made out of polytetrafluoroethylene mesh, change shape in concert with the wind.


"I was more interested in skating and the girls and traveling than I was in calculus." - Scott Hamilton 

July 20, 2011

Shanghai Tang

Shanghai Tang revealed its Spring Summer Collection for 2011 in Beijing's Honglingjin Park. Despite its moniker, Shanghai Tang was actually founded in Hong Kong in 1994. I had received an invite to the launch celebration being held by the "global ambassador of contemporary Chinese chic" from my good friend Swathish. We were welcome additions to China's fashion scene, posing on the red carpet as photographers clicked away.

My favourite Chinese bombshells were in attendance, including actress Fan Bing Bing and MTV China VJ Zhu Zhu. Fan Bing Bing and I made eye contact for a moment. Time froze and a lifetime together was imagined in that split second. I had first seen the captivating Zhu Zhu hosting an event at the Sanlitun Village in my early days in China, and did not expect our paths would cross again. Zhu Zhu interviewed Fan Bing Bing. After regaining consciousness, I went to get a drink.

After cocktails were served, the guests were ushered to seats near the stage. The actual fashion show portion of the gala was over in a flash. One model was indistinguishable from the next, presumably so the clothes could stand out and grab the attention of the trendsetters in the audience. The models strutted to the front of the catwalk, jutted out their bony hips, swivelled, and returned backstage. Even though a warm weather collection was being revealed, Beijing in March is still quite chilly. I empathized with the plight of the scantily clad beauties that stiffly patrolled the catwalk, understanding why they had broken neither sweat or smile.


“Fashions fade, style is eternal.” - Yves Saint Laurent

July 19, 2011

ARNABites: My First Pizza

I usually write about my passions such as travel, work, and ARNABabes. Cooking is a lesser passion which I rarely dabble in, much less mention. When living in exotic places where the food is delicious and affordable, I find no need to cook. Only when I am back in Vancouver do I occasionally add to my culinary arsenal. Since I never use prior recipes or write down what I did while cooking, I must piece together the different ingredients contained in my edible enigma using my memories and photographs later on. It is with great pleasure I reveal the first of my ARNABites recipes. The venerable pizza is one of my all time favourites.

  • McCain International Thin Crust Parisian Pizza

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  2. Place pizza inside the oven for 15-18 minutes
  3. Take pizza out of oven 
  4. Subdivide into equally sized slices
  5. Enjoy!


“You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I'm not hungry enough to eat six.” ~ Yogi Berra