Monday, September 24, 2007

Hong Kong day 2

Monday morning I woke up after more than 12 hours of sleep. I got up quietly and saw Chris was up and getting ready to head off to school. We chatted for a little bit and he handed me the keys and set off for work. Eventually Kevin got up and we both got ready and headed out.

Our first stop was Wong Tai Sin Temple in Kowloon Tong. This was on the top of the list of my things to do. Its a Taoist temple that is supposed to bring good luck. So a lot of the time people will pray here if they're in need of some luck :). It was our first experience with the incense that we found out later was a must at these types of places. They sell the incense in tons and tons of little stands outside of the temple. There are even people that will come up to you and try to sell you some as you come out of the train station. Fortunately seeing as we were "american looking" no one approached us or bothered us with anything like that.

We went in and instantly felt a lil... um... different. I saw no other westerners or anything. We both got a lil wide-eyed and maybe wondered if we were allowed to be there. But anyhoo.. back to what this place is about. So people light the incense and do some praying. Hardcore folks will lay out a lil mat and offer fruits. There were also some ladies spilling some sort of oil on the ground... maybe extra luck if you do that. Then there were these cans of bamboo sticks that they would shake until one fell out and I'm guessing that this had your fortune on it. I wouldn't know first hand because they were written in what I'll guess was Mandarin or Cantonese.

I originally thought this was all that this place had to offer, but was suprized when we walked behind the temple and found little gardens and ponds. There was amazingly beautiful architecture and paths that I'll assume the monks use more than anyone else, but it was very serene and lovely just sitting down and watching the turtles swim around. There were sooo many turtles in various areas in HK. Not indiginous I'm sure, but very very cute nonetheless. There was also the "9 Dragon Wall" which is evidently what Kowloon Tong means. :) So we walked around there for a bit before heading to the train station.

On the way to the train station we picked up some incense and stopped into a mall (yes another one) and I bought myself a new battery for my camera, since I failed to bring my charging cord it was my only option if I wanted to take pictures.

We hopped back onto the train and hit the next stop on our trip which was the Chi Lin Nunnery. This place was amaaaaaaazing. Built entirely without the use of nails. So this wooden place is held together with wooden dowels and strategic bracket work. In the pictures you can see the tall modern buildings behind this place. Its funny to think something like this is just smack dab in the middle of a really populated area.

On our way to the Nunnery we passed the gates to a little garden and since we had the time after the nunnery we decided to walk through there. And that goodness we did. It was spectacular. There were a lot of really strange looking rocks and just nice paths and beautifulness. There was the "Pavillion of Absolute Perfection"... it had an orange bridge. We kept walking and noticed this nice waterfall thing they had which was right by their vegetarian restaurant. Seeing as our were hot we decided to give it a try. tummy's were rumbling and we Whooo! That was seriously the best food I've had in a long time. I'm not vegetarian or anything, but that place could convert me. MMMMmmmMMMm...

We went to the gift shop and got ourselves some nice lil sketchbooks and made our way back to the train station. Since I didn't have camera battery for that morning I requested that we go back to Wong Tai Sin and take pictures... so we did :)

Hong Kong day 1

Alright so Sunday morning Me, Kevin and Chris set off to tour around Hong Kong a little bit. It was at this point that I realized how much of a genius I was because I brought the cables to transfer images from my camera, but not the cable to charge it. Wonderful... especially since I had no juice in my battery. So I apologize, but there are a lack of pictures from day 1... Kevin has most of those pictures and we have no internet at home right now so I have none to show :)

Okay so we set out for the train station. The public transportation in Hong Kong is amazing. Easy to use, convenient, and cheap. We went and purchased Octopus Cards. Octopus cards are like little credit cards that are used on all public transportation in HK, and even taken in restaurants and vending machines. So we got those and hopped on the train to Kowloon Tong to go to the mall to get our coffee on. So we went into Festival Walk, which is the mall just outside the train station. This mall is incredibly clean... and huge. There was an ice skating rink inside. I tell you I have never seen so much shopping in my life.

From there Chris we hopped on another train up to Yau Ma Tei... Chris wanted to show us some crazy shopping districts where the signs covered the sky and people were packed in tight. We also walked through some markets that had produce and fresh fish swimming in little styrofoam tanks of sorts. This was very intriguing until one large fish decided to take a flying leap out of his tank missing my face by inches. I'll admit it scared the crap out of me and was definitely not what I expected... therefore a few curse words were yelled and I hopped away as Kevin took a picture of the flying fish. That was enough market for me, so we kept walking. We were getting hungry so we stopped at a pizza joint to grab a bite. I think one of Chris's favorite foods is Nachos, and so we got some there. What they brought out to us was quite interesting. It was... nacho flavored Doritos, covered in cheese, beans, and all the fixings. It seemed a little redundent to me, but... they were good. After there we headed toward the water. We walked around a little bit and decided to take the Star Ferry over. You would think... man taking a boat across the water would be expensive, but it was like 25 cents American. SO we took that across the way and ventured into the heart of Hong Kong.

It was on the boat that Chris explained to us that in Hong Kong everyone had a maid. EVERYONE. And Sunday is their day off, but they aren't allowed to stay at the house with the families... so... every Sunday there are hordes and hordes of these women just lining the streets and different areas. Most of them sitting on cardboard playing cards and eating or just... sitting. When we got to downtown is was even more than I could have imagined. A lot of these women are really well educated as well, but they can make more in HK as maids than they could in their home countries being lawyers and such.

So when we get off the boat and start trekking across downtown we see tons of these ladies around. Its weird.

SO we walked around and around... through some parks, which are more like landscaped paths. At this point I am huffing and puffing because its 90 degrees out, plus humidity, plus I sit behind a desk for a living. We headed back to Chris's at about this point. We were going to meet some friends of his for dinner and so went back to take a little rest before then. We got back around 4 or 5 I think and man was I beat. I was so tired in fact that I decided I'd lay down for a little bit. Cut to 7 o'clock Chris comes in and asks Kevin and I if we wanted to go out... I don't remember responding, but I believe it was a no, then cut to the next morning when I woke up. Yeah... we slept forever. Miles of walking + heat - 15 hour time difference = JET LAG.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Hong Kong... the prequel.

So, last week me and Kevin ventured to the far off land of Hong Kong. We stayed with my cousin Chris who has lived there for quite some time now. It was our first out of country experience and I'm going to post basically what we did day by day. So... without further adieu... Hong Kong.

I guess I should start with a prequel to what happened before leaving Hong Kong. On Thursday night me and Kevin flew up to San Francisco and hopped on a BART train to Oakland. Jon picked us up and we took Kevin to the hotel to sleep while I went and surprised everyone at poker night. It was a lot of fun, I didn't win anything as usual, but a great time none the less... I even got some old bust-a-move in! After poker night Toaster took me back to the hotel and I went to bed.

Friday morning we were off... we BARTed to the airport and went into the International Terminal. We exchanged out money and it was nice to see that the American Dollar was worth about 7 HK dollars... and their money was pretty colors! We made our way to the gate and to see if we got on the flight. Our names were called and we ended up getting business class! I asked the lady at the counter how long the flight was going to be and she said "oh about 10 hours"... oh how wrong she was. 14 hours later... we arrived in Hong Kong.

We got off the plane and went through what I guess was customs... aka... nothing. The new Hong Kong airport is amazing... HUGE! (I think it is like the 2nd largest single room in the world or something like that) Walked out and began the search for my cousin. Kevin had no idea what he looked like, and I wasn't sure what color his hair would be this time around, so I just told him to look for a white guy haha. I tried my laptop to see if Chris had emailed and left a destination that we were to meet at, but as soon as I got the laptop open Kevin nudged me and asked if a guy walking around was him... and it was. :) I haven't seen Chris in forever, but he looks the same... and I swear he never ages! So, did some introductions and we were off! We caught a Taxi back to Chris's flat back in Tin Sum Village. Tin Sum is one of the few places in Hong Kong where the buildings cannot exceed 3 stories high.

We climbed the steps to his place... where he informed us he had become Asian and shoes were to be left outside the door. Which was cool with us :). So we went in and got some good ole air conditioning. Air conditioning is an interesting thing in HK because... no one has central air... they all have these window/wall units. Incredible tall buildings... all with air con units attached to the sides of them... dripping down on all the people on the sidewalks. We relaxed and caught up for a bit and then headed out to a near by Thai place to eat. It was sooo good. Other than the hard pieces that were in the soup that you weren't supposed to eat, but I somehow managed to get one in every spoonful.

After eating we just headed back to Chris's flat because we were pretty lagged from the plane ride out. Chris graciously offered us his room and we passed out.

Then the real adventure begins...

This is us waiting for our flight in San Fran.