24 Years Later I re-visited Oxford / Day 1 of 2019 UK Holiday

I studied O-level and A-level in the UK. After graduating from Oxford University in 1995 I have moved to Singapore and started working. It is hard to pinpoint why for more than two decades I have not made a return to the UK. Partly because I have lived there for six years. Whenever I have a chance to travel, my wife and I would pick somewhere new. Deep inside, I have this notion that memories – fond or not – are like whiskey. It takes time to age. Perspective changes as I encounter new experience in life. I don’t need to remember every bit of it. Only those that survive the test of time are worth the reminiscence.

Click here to view the photo album with captions. The pictures are shot with Nikon Z6 35mm Z lens and SB900 flash unit.

Wadham College was our first stop. I collected my Alumni Card at the Porter’s Lodge on a Sunday. There are parts of Wadham that stay the same. And there are new structures are built within the campus. My wife Cynthia asked what the differences between the colleges are. A short answer would be that in my time, group lectures are held at the department whereby one-to-one or small group tutorials are held at the college conducted by the resident fellows. Hence, some colleges are more famous than others when certain subjects are concerned.

In reality though, most prospective students including myself back then just picked the college we like the most during field visits to apply for.

Board Street and the town center, by and large, look very much the same as before. Backwell’s Bookstore is still there, still full of books. In the era whereby bookstores are closing down one after another here in Singapore (thanks to eBook format and perhaps Netflix), it is quite amazing to see people still prefer physical books in the UK. Selected books are being featured with a short review posted at the shelf below them. Some are printed and others are handwritten.

Boots got bigger but Virgin megastore has gone (I guess while physical books survive in the UK, CDs don’t). There is a huge mall called Westgate at the far end of Oxford and it is very un-Oxford-like. Nevertheless, it is a very nice mall with a shop that sells … Rolex. A rather posh mall shall I say?

The very friendly porter at Wadham College mentioned that in our next visit, we could stay in one of the rooms and relive the student life for a hundred pound a night. We could do that. Or we could stay in an Airbnb as we did that comes with a full family of peacocks (no kidding).

Photographs from Our Holiday in Taipei (2017)

So I did it! I have managed to processed all the photographs taken during our trip to Taipei within three days of return. That is a feat of discipline. I still have years old albums unprocessed, waiting to see the day of light. With more and more different shapes and forms of distraction we have in our daily life, it is getting harder to focus on to something and get it done. This change of mine is so positive that I am feeling the energy. Next, I would like to memorize some quotes from Romeo & Juliet so that I can pen down something artistically intelligent in public without referring to the Internet. It is a long story for another day.

This is me in Shifen, Taipei - a photo taken by my wife Cynthia.

My wife and I have spent six nights in Taipei. We stayed in Mandarin Oriental for three nights. Then we stayed in Our Home 187 in Jiufen for two nights. Finally, stayed in Mandarin Oriental for another night. I brought along my Nikon D700 as well as my two lenses – Nikkor 24-70mm f2.4 and Nikkor 70-200mm f2.4. Pretty heavy stuff but it was worth it. Especially the long lens for photographing the animals in Taipei Zoo. I always love the results from my Nikkor 70-200mm anyway, even for the portrait. Photo albums as follows.

In addition, I have also taken some pictures using my Nexus 5x. The quality is not as good. But at times, the phone camera serves its purpose to add context to short journals. Links to the entries as follows.

HK 2014 Day 6 – Rather Pointless Gossips That I’ve Picked Up

Perhaps Singaporeans prefer to be alone and communicate quietly using our electronic devices. Or maybe Singapore just doesn’t have that many gossips. In contrary, you can quite easily pick up gossips or news simply by being out there here in Hong Kong.

Like this 15 years old girl found inside a rubbish bin, dead. She was with a man in his mid thirty, inside a hotel room likely to be in some sorts of S&M sex game while being paid for the whole ordeal. Or was supposed to. That is the gist of the story I got from a short escalator ride at Times Square. What was amusing to me turns out to be the insightful debate between the two women behind me. Was the young girl being rapped after she was dead (the quick correction came from the other woman saying that it was consensual)? And that the man was having sex with a corpse? What kind of man does that?

The other day while waiting for our Chinese medicine to be assembled for what seemed an eternity, a young man was gossiping about his younger brother to an older woman. The gist of the story is that his younger brother is in love with a girl who is rather successful in her career. So her criteria of a partner turn out to be pretty high. Like someone with a reputable profession such as a doctor or a lawyer. Or in a commercial world, director rank and above. On top of that, other criteria on housing and car. What happens to the notion of building a future together, the young man exclaimed. At that point, I really wanted to turn around, chip in and say, “Perhaps quite simply put, the girl is not that into your younger brother?”

I did not offer my thought. However I could not help but think, what if I were a girl, with a successful career, would I not set some criteria looking for my partner? I know as a guy, I did not. Then again, it is not a fair comparison I suppose. What do you think?

HK protesters occupying Causeway Bay

Occupy Central or the umbrella movement is still very much alive in Hong Kong. Some main roads are still closed with protesters peacefully camping in the open. I was in Causeway Bay and have witnessed the situation firsthand. According to the news, all may come to an end tomorrow. The authority this time is using law as the leverage since these protesters are being sued by the public. I will be in Hong Kong when this happens. No, I do not plan to dive into ground zero and take some pictures. My family plans to avoid the city center and head to Lantau Island for sightseeing instead. I seconded that in a heartbeat.

If I am to describe my holiday in three words, that would be eat, shop, and walk. We eat till we drop, shop till we drop, and quite literally so, walk till we drop. Today is no difference. Our luggage is getting fatter by the day while our wallets, thinner.

Cynthia and I at Lee Gardens HK

HK 2014 Day 5 – Playground And We Had A Small Pig And A Giant Fish For Dinner

Playground has once left a bitter aftertaste to my childhood so much so that my prior fond memories have been thoroughly wiped off leaving that one scene I vividly recall. I was on a swing. I went higher and higher, faster and faster thinking I could reach the moon if I tried hard enough. How? I do not remember. But I flew off from the seat and landed badly onto the concrete ground. My mother was in shock.
My legs were covered with so much blood. There was so much pain. In my mother’s arms I kept crying till I reached home. Or was I on my dad’s? No doubt I had tons of playground related fond memories before that incident. But that painful and bloody accident was the very last thing I associate playground with. Since then, my scar has long faded. But memory remains.

The Peak, Hong Kong

Today, the entire family has decided to visit the peak. In the old days we were used to take the cable car. Now we take bus number 15 – the only bus that reaches the peak. Initially I thought we would hike up and go around the peak. Instead, we stopped at the new Mount Austin Road Playground. The decoration is pretty. Beautiful backdrop of fountains and buildings and this playground has attracted even couples for their wedding photo shoot.

One of the backdrops

My dad has decided that this is a good place for the kids to play. Hooray! I thought I could take a back seat at the bench and enjoy the fresh air and scenery. Hong Kong has been cloudy since we landed and at times drizzles. In a rare moment, it was sunny. The sky was blue. The weather was much warmer. At the bench I took out my bottle of water and my tablet ready to …

My younger niece Lydia just over a year old kept asking for me. That smile of hers melt my heart. Her sister Bethany three years of her senior kept asking me to be an alien and chase down young girls. The two girls went up the slide and down the slide, running all over the playground nonstop. The moment I tried catching my breath, they called for me. I had no idea that having kids can be so exhausting. I hope the two girls remember that once upon a time in Hong Kong, this uncle of theirs has spent time playing with them. That they have a much better memory of the playgrounds compared to mine.

Mount Austin Road Playground

In the evening, my family had dinner with my uncle’s. My uncle is my mother’s younger brother and he has two sons. I do not recall when was the last time the two families have dinner together, with everyone presents. We are closer to this uncle than another uncle of mine. The elder cousin was raised by my mother and with my sister and I. My uncle has sponsored my overseas education and now, my mother has helped to fund his business.

In short, the two families are very much intertwined in a good way.

Barbaric as it sounds, between ten adults and two children, we had one young pig, a huge live fish in excess of five kilograms in weight cooked in three styles, and a large clay pot rice with preserved meat. Plus fruit and dessert. Man, I am stuffed and am still feeling so as I type this journal.

HK 2014 Day 4 – The Rhythmic Moaning That Rocked My Dream And A Visit To Grandma’s Resting Place

I was in a deep sleep with my arm wrapped around my wife when the loud rhythmic moaning sound from one of the hotel rooms nearby woke me up. The dream up until its immature end was nothing short of epic. It bettered the Korean drama Doctor Jin when a male doctor incidentally went back in time and attempted to change or rather preserve the history. It bettered another Korean drama that I adore called either The Great Doctor or Faith depending on who translated the title. A stunningly beautiful female plastic surgeon was kidnapped by an equally handsome male warrior from the past so as to treat a soon to be dead princess, and a series of adventure that follows. In my dream, a group of doctors – myself included – were put into another time line so as to – wait for it – save ourselves! But no. I did not get to dream the ending because our neighbors moaned so hard.

She went on and on. When the sound died down, I thought it was over only to hear the accelerated rhythm with more intense moaning sound. I could even tell the position the couple was in by the sound of it. Anyway, eventually, all came to an end. There was sound of the showering and then, the door was opened. Someone left the room. That was odd of course. A few scenarios came into my mind. Something is best left as imagination. With effort, I went back to sleep and seemed to have lost contact with my fellow doctors from another timeline. I hope the operation without me has gone well.

You can almost guess what my family had for breakfast. Dim sum. It was a rather late breakfast. By the time we called the bill, it was past noon. My sister has planned to meet her friend Amy because today is her birthday. The kids stayed home with daddy. My dad was being assigned to do grocery shopping. That left my wife, my mother, and I to stick with the original plan – to pay respect to my departed grandma.

It was twenty years ago when my grandma left us. I did not have much bonding with her mainly because the traditional side of her flavored the boys from her sons and not from her only daughter. As I get older, I also realize that my grandma is still my mother’s mom. The love my mother has for my grandma is no less than my love for my mother. Hence, in a way, I can relate.

Sha Tin has a mixture of old and modern buildings

The three of us bought some flowers from the wet market. I insisted on paying as a good gesture though technically speaking, my mother’s money partially comes from me. The temple is located in Sha Tin, a satellite city in Hong Kong. Back in the old days, it was a pain to travel to Sha Tin from where we live. Now, we took the subway and changed at Admiralty. Then headed north and changed at Mongkok. Thereafter, made another change at Kowloon Tong. There, we switched to the train, which very much looks like the underground version and aligned at Sha Tin. Sha Tin seems far from the city.

It was a pleasant hike up the stairs and into the temple. The main attraction are the Buddha statues at the main hall. Devoted ones burn joss sticks. Tourists take pictures. Further up, there are a number of open halls with three walls and no door. From the high ceiling to the ground, the walls are covered with rectangular jade plates of different sizes. Most belong to the standard size. Some are doubled, horizontally so. A few are quadrupled. Each plate has one or two photos in the center. In the midsection of three walls is a divider in the form of a small platform. My mother arranged the flowers and placed the vase on the platform underneath my grandma’s resting place, together with some food offerings. It was an emotional moment. I felt tears at the back of my eyes. I saw my mother’s eyes have grown red too. Today was my first visit to my grandma’s resting place.

A mall near the Sha Tin station

There are malls in Sha Tin. My mother took a bus back to home while Cynthia and I stayed for some shopping. There are so many shops in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is indeed shoppers’ paradise. I dislike shopping. But still, the atmosphere here got me excited. It takes a ton of willpower not to spend too much in Hong Kong.

Oh. There is a home for Snoopy in Sha Tin too.

Snoopy lives in Sha Tin, apparently