Archive for the ‘Hong Kong’ Category

11/01/09: Hong Kong

I was a little hesitant to bring it up last night just before 3am, but finally popped the question: “What if you sleep in and I’ll go explore Hong Kong in the morning?” Zhou’s response came quickly: “I was just going to suggest that myself!”

We both know Zhou very well, and if she doesn’t get her sleep, she becomes a little grouchy. (On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the T. Rex from Toy Story and 10 being a pre-Whoville Grinch, Zhou falls in at around 8.2.) However, after the debacle from yesterday, we had planned to cover this morning what we missed last night. Then we got to talking on Google Video and didn’t get off, which left the predicament that led to the above solution. So this morning at 6:15 I woke up and took off. Here’s what happened:

Unlike most Hong Kongers (Hong Kongites?), I have not learned how to sleep through all stops up until my own, so I have to stay awake on the MTR. So I pretended to sleep on the empty red line, but really I just took a picture of myself with my eyes shut. If you’ll notice though, in an attempt to blend in with the natives, I have the iPod earbuds in (don’t tell them it was set on Dave Matthews Band – I don’t think they’re all that popular here).

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Following directions, I looked right while crossing the road to the Peak Tram. Then following the directions that I learned in Kindergarten, I looked left as well.

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This tram is city-renown for the steepness of its angle of attack up the hill. Buildings look like they’re at 45 degree angles, but I wasn’t fooled by the optical illusion.

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Ooh! Bubba Gump Shrimp at Victoria Peak… I have to go! Nuts, not open at 7am.

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The view from the peak was amazing, even though I’ve heard it’s much better at night when the city lights are on. Notice I’m still wearing the indigenous iPod earbuds.

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Even my Pacific Coffee Company breakfast enjoyed the landscape.

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These signs were everywhere at the peak, but I wasn’t scared. (a) There weren’t all that many people around and (b) it looked like I could take them in a fight.

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After making my way back down to the city via the tram, I walked 15 minutes to Central Pier 2 to see the world’s only life-sized Noah’s Ark display. It didn’t open until 10am, but I figured I’d take a picture from afar. After all, if Noah really did fit two of every animal onto this boat, it must be huuuuuge.

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Wait, where did it go? Oh, you have to take a ferry to another island. What a waste… I headed back to Central Pier 7 and took the Star Ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui, because I actually wanted to go there. Apparently the Star Ferry is a very touristy thing to do. Don’t let the Hong Kongian iPod earbuds confuse you – I’m really a tourist.

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I grabbed my new addiction (McDonald’s overpriced Iced Chocolate) and walked right past the Hong Kong Space Museum to see something more worthwhile.

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Ahhh, there it is – Jackie Chan’s square on the Avenue of Stars. Hey, look! His hands are the same size as mine. I think I’m destined for great martial arts things.

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I’m going to put that last sentence to the test. Here’s a picture of me about to get in the ring with a statue of Bruce Lee. He doesn’t stand a chance.

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Ok, he was better than I thought. I guess the only thing left to do is walk home in shame. Whoa, the stairs here are really small. My heels are pressed against the back and my feet still hang over the edge.

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As you could tell I had quite a morning but I was ready to get back to the apartment so I could switch tenses all through the writing of this post. Plus, Zhou’s going to take me to one of my all-time favorite nice restaurants for lunch… I can’t wait!

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Picture of the Day: I’ve never heard of these before, but I’m bummed that we missed them by only a month!

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10/31/09: Hong Kong

“When in Rome, the best laid plans of mice and men something something…” Well, we’re not quite in Rome, but today we had quite a different adventure than what we were planning.

The plan was simple:

  • Mail Zhou’s transcripts for grad school at the post office
  • Dim sum for lunch
  • Cable car ride on Lantau Island to the world’s largest outdoor seated Buddha
  • Stop at Tsing Yi mall
  • Stop at Elements mall
  • See world’s only lifesize model of Noah’s Ark
  • Head to top of Victoria Peak via the Peak Tram
  • Take Star Ferry back to our side of the bay
  • Eat dinner at a cheap noodle place
  • Visit clock tower and watch the light show
  • Walk Avenue of the Stars
  • Return home to Google Voice dates with both families

Ok, so maybe we tried to squeeze in a little too much.

Without boring you with the gory details, we did make it to a few of the stops:

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The view of the bay from the cable car.

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Crossing the rolling hills, with our Buddha friend in the background.

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Unfortunately the sun was behind him, but the Buddha is quite large.

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If you go to this noodle place (we can't remember the name) don't order more than medium spicy! Zhou did, and paid for it.

I’ll pick up the story from here. We were finishing dinner, ready to watch the light show from the clock tower and then head back home to talk to our families for the first time since leaving the States. Quick quiz: What do you do after eating at a restaurant? Pay the bill. What does it take to pay the bill? Money.


Money! We kept our money in Zhou’s wristlet, but Zhou’s wristlet was conspicuously absent. By transitivity, that meant Zhou’s iTouch, Zhou’s credit card, our ATM cards and our student cards were all missing as well. (Before you ask why we keep all these important things in one place, let me just say that we had a reason for it, but agreed, we also had been getting a little complacent with security.) We carefully retraced our steps from the day, which actually wasn’t that difficult since we didn’t get in nearly as much as we had planned. We came to the conclusion that either the wristlet was still at the concierge desk at Elements mall (where we had gotten some travelers coupons) or it was gone forever. We just prayed for the former.

Since I kept our US dollars on me, Zhou quickly ran outside to exchange a $20 to pay for our $8 meal, then we were off. Thank goodness Hong Kong is the easiest city I’ve ever had to get around in – yes, easier than Charlotte, easier than New York, easier than any city with English writing everywhere. We hopped on the nearest MTR and made a beeline for Elements before Zhou had a heart attack.

Of course I probably wouldn’t be writing this story if we had ended up losing everything, so luckily the wristlet was at the mall, kept tightly by security. We were able to identify everything that was in it, then we filled out a form and were on our way. Kids, this brings me to the moral of the story:

When traveling the world (a) divide up your valuables into different locations and (b) when possible, keep them on your person. These are actually two things that we are going to do going forward to decrease our chances of losing things. First, since Zhou doesn’t have much in the way of pants pockets, I will carry the money in zippered pockets in my pants. Second, we will keep Zhou’s wristlet in my backpack. That way there are two people checking every time we use it: she will put the stuff back in it and then give it to me to put in the pack. Hopefully this system will work. We’ll be back to let you know if it doesn’t.

Picture of the Day: A store entirely dedicated to chopsticks! I only learned later that pictures weren’t allowed.

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10/30/09: Hong Kong

Though we were a bit sad to leave Jo’burg and Africa behind, we were also excited – for one main reason: we were going to get to fly Cathay Pacific for the first time. And ok, we were also going to never stay in a tent again and have lots of new adventures and tackle a new continent and eat lots of non-African food and have real toilets, blah-di blah blah.

Anyway, Kevin thought the Cathay flight was going to be the best thing ever, while I was a bit skeptical. But I have to admit that once we got settled into our seats, I was pleasantly surprised.

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Somebody, please, tell me why no one in the US seems to have thought of this before: put a cupholder on the OUTSIDE of the tray. Pure genius. Also, please note the coathanger thing that you can pull out and hang a coat from – I personally don’t see why you’d want your coat hanging into your lap but these are the same people who devised the outside cupholder, so who am I to judge? And you can’t see it, but when the tray folds out there’s an outlet in the back of the seat in front of you! Again – pure genius.

The flight to Hong Kong took about 12 hours, but we spent the majority of it watching movies on our personal screens (Kevin’s first selection was Taking of Pelham 123, mine was The Soloist). The Scrabble board didn’t even make an appearance. We were supposed to stay awake only a few hours and then sleep as much as we could in order to get a head start on overcoming jet lag, but the lure of Transformers 2 (Kevin) and Jennifer Gardner (me) – really, it was just too much.

We finally arrived in Hong Kong bright and early at 7:30 the next morning after having only slept a few hours on the plane. Luckily, there were so many things that we hadn’t seen in a long time (cars! tall buildings! people walking like the might actually get somewhere on time!) that we were distracted from our tiredness. We got to Vanni’s apartment in the afternoon and got settled in. She then took us out to show us around the city.

First we went to the bird market, where parrots shouted “Bye bye!” to us.

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Vanni and I are birds too

Then we went and had soup and dumplings for dinner.

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One of the nicest things about hanging out with locals is good, cheap food

Then we had dessert.

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Mango ice with glutinous rice balls and assorted fruit – all for me!

Then we rode the longest indoor escalator in the world. At least we think it was the longest one. Vanni seemed a bit unsure on that point, but Kevin and I were happy to believe her.


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Looking bored on the 89.4 second escalator ride

We finally collapsed, exhausted, into bed. I stayed awake for awhile, not able to fall asleep, and not able to figure out why. Was it the new bed? New city? Strange environment? Horror of horrors, was I actually missing sleeping in the tent?! Surely not… Then perhaps it was the lack of noise? In Africa I had fallen asleep while waves pounded, elephants trumpeted, buffaloes trampled, cicadas shrilled, neighbors snored… Maybe it was too quiet, I thought. But then I realized what it was – it was that unfamiliar sound – the sound of the air conditioner. And with that realization, I happily fell asleep.

Picture of the Day: The King still lives.

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