Hello from Hong Kong, again. I apologize for the silence this past month. After all, I did promise in early January that I would start to post five blog posts a week to clear up backlog after realizing how little I had posted in 2019.
And I managed to do pretty well, publishing 22 posts in January and 17 posts in February. In March I began with the same fervor, but stopped when things just started to get crazier and crazier in the world. It felt wrong to continue pushing out posts needlessly while ignoring what was going on all around me.
Meanwhile, my life was a bit crazy too. In late January, Bryan flew to Belgium for a one-week business trip. While he was there, the coronavirus situation in China started to worsen significantly. Due to the many meetings Bryan needed to attend in Europe, his boss advised him to stay in Europe indefinitely until the situation got better in China.
At that time, things were getting worse in Hong Kong too. The government closed schools for a month, instructed all civil servants to work from home, and advised private companies to do the same.
HKG --> Brussels
After getting clearance from my company, I flew out to Brussels to be with Bryan. I brought him some more clothing, a 2-month supply of contact lenses, and other daily living items he might need for the longer haul.
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At the time, things were a bit hectic in Hong Kong. The city didn't have enough face masks, and people were hoarding disinfectants, face masks, and toilet paper. There was even a robbery where the robbers made off with rolls and roll of toilet paper.
I was thankful to be in Belgium with Bryan. At the time, Belgium only had a handful of cases, so life carried on very much like normal. Initially, I thought I would only stay in Brussels for two weeks before heading back to Hong Kong. Because of that, I tried to make the most of those first two weeks in Brussels, packing in recommended restaurants, famous beer destinations, and top museums. (Thank you so much for those who sent me recommendations on social media. I used A LOT of those recs!)
I plan to blog in detail about the many wonderful places that we visited in Belgium. For now, you can find some on my instagram feed (#tinyurbanbelgium), which I updated from time to time while in Brussels.
My plans for returning to Hong Kong in two weeks changed when it became clear the situation was not getting better that fast. The HK government extended school closures and work-from-home policies. Since I was planning on going to Boston in March, I thought (wrongly, in retrospect) that it would be easier to enter the US from "safe" Europe versus from Asia, which was in the middle of a massive coronavirus battle at the time.
Bruges and Ghent
I canceled my return trip to Hong Kong and booked a new flight to Boston in March. Since things in Europe were still not bad, we took a few short weekend trips to cute little towns around Brussels, such as Bruges and Ghent.
Bryan had some business in Paris so we spent half a week in this city of lights. I had not expected to return so soon, since I had just visited in early December. I mostly worked in the hotel while I was there, but it was still nice to enjoy a few nice walks around the Arc de Triomphe area and enjoy a lovely dinner and my favorite galette.
In Brussels I continued to work remotely in my hotel during the week. In order to stay closer to Hong Kong's time zone, I woke up at 5:30AM and worked all throughout the morning from 6AM onwards, sometimes straight until 2PM. Then I would finally let myself take a long lunch break after my colleagues turned in for the night.
Bryan commuted to his company's Belgium office every day, and we had dinner together every night in Brussels. Because we stayed in the center of town right near the Grand Place, we had walking distance access to many, many excellent restaurants.
In early February, we took a short weekend trip to Amsterdam, which I absolutely loved.
This stunning city has incredible museums, beautiful canals, and so much to see. It is a walker's paradise with endless cute streets to explore.
Alas, things started to get worse in Europe starting around the beginning of March. Bryan originally had additional meetings in Europe, but they were getting canceled left and right. Finally, even the Boston meetings got canceled.
I had already made plans for some business meetings in London. By then, I was feeling quite nervous about the whole situation, but decided to go just for a short 2-day visit. I ended up even shortening that trip to 30 hours. I took precautions, going against the grain by wearing a face mask on the Eurostar train (even though no one else was doing it). I avoided public transportation and crowded restaurants. I even walked from one meeting to the next, even if it took close to an hour!
It's amazing how quickly things change. Part of the reason I cut my London trip short was because the situation in Europe quickly worsened that week. We managed to book the last two seats on one of the few remaining direct flight from Brussels to Hong Kong (flying only once a week). It was seriously quite a miracle it all worked out, and we are so, so thankful.
The timing was impeccable. The morning of our flight, Brussels locked down the city and closed all restaurants. Even our hotel restaurant, where we had enjoyed breakfast for over 6 weeks, was shut down.
On the morning before our flight out, we took one last "good-by" nostalgic visit to the beautiful Grand Place. It was amazing how empty it was.
Back to Hong Kong (again)
Our flight home was relatively smooth, despite the numerous temperature checks, discomforts of sleeping with a mask, and having my nerves rattled every time I heard a cough nearby.
After nearly two months away, it was so nice to finally be home again. Although we made it back to Hong Kong before they started enforcing mandatory self-quarantine for Europe passengers, we still chose to self-quarantine and actually spent the next four weeks at home.
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Been cooking A LOT lately. 🥣🍽🥘Practicing social distancing for us means not eating out and only cooking & eating take-out at home. Cooking dry-aged USDA Prime ribeye tonight brought back fond memories of the steaks we used to make on our grill in Boston. Actually, HK gas stoves are pretty powerful & I was pleased w/ the sear I got on the pan. 😊 #steak #🥩 #tinyurbanhkkitchen #homecooking #wanchai #socialdistancing #usdaprime #tinyurbancovid19
After being away from home for sooooo long, I actually really enjoyed being home for the self-quarantine. It was nice to revisit cooking again, something I hadn't done in a very long time.
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So thrilled with how my pretty floral chives pies (韭菜盒子) turned out! Having all this time at home has re-ignited my creative self. I made dough from scratch and cut out & embedded flower shapes using purple scallions. Recipe for chive pies on the blog. I am also working on a video version! #comingsoon #tinyurbancovid19 #homecooking #chivepies #韭菜 #韭菜盒子 #🌷 #🥟 #韭菜花 #dumplings #healthy #socialdistancing #beautifulfood #foodisart #tulips
You can see some of my post-Brussels home cooking projects on Instagram or Facebook.
So now that things are finally settled back in Hong Kong, I think I can finally get back to blogging regularly. I hope to write about the many wonderful places in Belgium, Amsterdam, Paris, and London that I visited. I may also write a few posts that are timely for our current situation, such as our experience with great restaurants offering delivery in Hong Kong during this pandemic, or just new ideas for cooking.
I hope you all are staying safe during this crazy time. I am very, very thankful to be OK despite my recent crazy travel schedule. I am so touched by the numerous acts of kindness and generosity I have seen around me. I pray daily for our front line workers, the patients, those risking their lives to make our cities run, and our leaders.
Stay safe everyone. "See" you again soon.
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