A Travellerspoint blog

Hong Kong Park

A view of the city from the viewing tower at Hong Kong Park.

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After a 105 step climb this is the view I found. Just wanted to give you a sense of the city.

Posted by Aeren 05:39 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (0)

Gold, Jade, and Temples Oh My!

Day 2 in Hong Kong

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We opted to ride the Star Ferry today and took the train to the Hong Kong station to pick it up. For $1.80 HKD per person ($.23 USD) it was a bargain ride. We could see the lovely Hong Kong conference center and skyline in the short ride across the harbor to Kowloon. Jeannine had seen on the in-flight magazine for Cathay Pacific that a woman’s drumming group called “Red Poppy Ladies” would be performing this weekend at the Hong Kong Cultural Center in celebration of 60th anniversary of the people’s revolution. We got tickets for Saturday night so we’ll let you know what the performance was like tomorrow. A bonus of going to the center was that there was a great display about the Forbidden City in Beijing. I stood there for 25 minutes reading all about the Ming and Qing dynasties until the revolution. It was fascinating.
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Star Ferry arriving at port.

By the time we finished there the light breakfast we opted for was wearing thin and we went to eat at the King Tak Lam Shanghai Vegetarian Cuisine Restaurant. We got there early enough to get a table overlooking the harbor. What a treat, everything vegetarian and the product is from farms that they own. We opted for the Pumpkin Soup that came highly recommended, an order of Sweet and Sour Veggie Pork, and Jasmine Tea. The food was heavenly. We finished off the meal with gluten balls filled with mango and covered in shredded coconut. I hope to make these a part of my repertoire in the kitchen!

After that hearty meal we strolled up Nathan Road, known as the “Golden Mile”. It is as fancy as it sounds with shop after shops jewelry stores all with the name “fook” in them. I began to infer that “fook” meant jewelry or gold, but I was wrong. It means: fortune, luck or happy. We decided to keep our happiness in our wallets and save it for later. We detoured for a little walk through the Kowloon Gardens and enjoyed a few minutes in the peaceful surroundings of the banyon trees and ponds before heading out to the Tin Hao Temple. Built in the 1800s as a residence, the temple has been used to worship the goddess of the seafarers and ancestor worship with some fortune telling built in. We saw a variety of men and women in the temple that would be willing to read your palms or face to tell you your future for a price. No photographs are allowed inside the temple, but we got a few shots from outside.
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Tin Hao temple details.

We finished our stroll of the Nathan Road area at the Jade Market and while jade was abundant, it was a traveling mahjong set that caught Jeannine’s eye. I’ve been curious about the game since the Joy Luck Club came out. Now we’ll have to figure out all the rules which are nothing like the mahjong game on the computer.

Our next stop was the Wong Tai Sin Temple complex which represents multiple religions including Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism with more ancient folk religions of animism, and shamanism in close proximity allowing the worshiper to cover the current life and afterlife in a few steps. The complex is truly eye candy if you like traditional Chinese architecture. Everywhere I looked there was something to see. A word of warning, If you have allergies to incense it’s best to wear a mask the air is thick with the smoke.
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Wong Tai Sin Temple area.

We’d been out all day and rush hour was upon us, but we made one more stop at the Flower and Bird Markets. Even after spending so much time at the temples and feeling assaulted by sandalwood, the flower market’s exotic flowers provided an olfactory respite from the pungent smells of incense. At the end of the flower shop row there’s the entrance to the Bird Market Garden. Most of the sellers were gone or finishing up their packing, but we were entertained by one stall owner who had a chatty green parrot. He would say “hello” and the high pitch voice would answer back “hello” then he’d say something in Chinese and the parrot would answer back in a long sentence. At first we thought it was a man having an argument with a woman, but we realized he was talking to the bird and the bird was giving him an earful!

One aside…

What’s with the T-Shirts?

We were walking around and saw a guy wearing a shirt that said, “Flow Sexuality in Here,” another man whose shirt says, “Sex pot revenge, don’t be the last one to kick ass” and “Pleasure Club here many cute puppies,” we wonder what is going on here? Could it be that there might be some Chinese saying that’s been badly translated or perhaps they like the words and just put them together? Of course we (Americans) are just as guilty, we have lovely Chinese characters on T-shirts that have no clue what they really say but we wear them because the characters are beautiful. I can’t help to think a Chinese person might be wondering, “What does ‘Horse his mother “mean?"

Posted by Aeren 18:56 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (3)

Hong Kong

What can you do after a 13 hour flight?

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Getting There
The flight to Hong Kong is a long 13 hour trip. Having the pilot tell us we arrived 40 minutes early was little comfort. The seats had an unusual feature where instead of reclining back it kind of slipped down to give you support in your lower back as you slump. The problem with that is you lost some of the actual seat so you felt you might fall off! I can’t imagine what a large person did on the flight. There was no shortage of entertainment if you wanted to stay up all night since each person had an individual TV with an abundance of movies.

Going through customs was painless. We had two forms to fill out. The government is still very concerned about H1N1 (though they still call it the swine flu) there were lots of uniformed health officials roaming the halls. There was no physical check for our temperature, however, just a health form from each of us and go on through to immigration.

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The beautiful and totally impressive Airport Express subway train with LCD TV screens for advertising, of course.

Hong Kong airport was clean, and efficient. We both loved the clear large signage. Our trip into the island was on the Hong Kong Airport Express which cost $100 HKD ($14 each). Expensive even for our standards, but it is clearly the deluxe metro. Switching to the local metro at the Hong Kong stop we got a taste of the early rush hour. I guess I wasn’t as impressed as other travelers having lived in DC and seen what rush hour looks like there. But what was impressive was that when we reached the platform for the train it was encased in glass and had clear marking of where the doors would be when the train arrived. No guess work and no chance for someone to push you accidentally in front of an oncoming train!

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View of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak.

Victoria Peak
After dropping off our bags at the hotel we set off for Victoria Peak. It offers the highest view of the city via train. Opened in 1888, it is the first funicular train in Asia and takes you to the top traveling on an incline between 4 and 27 degrees. It was strange to see all the building askew as we rode past them. There was a haze over the harbor, but I read that it’s unusual to have clear days and it was HOT over 90 degrees. We walked along the trails some and stopped in the The Peak Galleria (yes there really is a mall up there). No shopping though, just browsing and getting a bite to eat.

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Accommodations
There are some really expensive places to stay in Hong Kong, but if you’re willing to put up with cramped quarters you can find some nice deals. Jeannine found a place called Yes Inn located in near the Fortress Hill metro stop. It’s in a large building called the Continental Mansion. I think the Hongkongese seem to like the use of “mansion” for a place to live. I had asked for a room for two with a private bath and we got a room with a three twin beds and a private bath. Compared to the house we just bought this room is our master walk-in closet, but at $33 USD a day it is safe, clean, and a bargain. Luckily we are not spending that much time in the room.

Dining
There is everything you could want in Hong Kong for people with a western palate. They could stick to western food purveyors the entire time and never experience any of the Hongkongese cuisine. We are more adventurous and for dinner headed out to explore the Central Section for a while and ate at The Luk Yu tea house built in 1928. It is one of the oldest tea houses in the city. We went for dinner and had wonderful fried rice and a not so tasty veggie egg roll. We’d heard the service could be spotty, but at dinner it’s less crowded and the servers were very attentive.
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Luk Yu traditional tea house.

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Common street scene with crazy Chinese neon signs!

What Jet Lag?
I’ve traveled a lot overseas and for me the best way to deal with jet lag is to force the body into the new time schedule as soon as possible. Fortunately we both slept some on the plane and the day’s activities helped pass the time quickly. We got back to our room around 9:30 pm local time and were quickly asleep. This morning we arose at 6:00 am on Friday and while that sounds early, remember that’s 5:00 pm central time on Thursday. I can only hope the rest of the trip progresses as smoothly.

Posted by Aeren 17:28 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged air_travel Comments (1)

San Francisco Stop Off

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After driving from DC to Austin, buying a house, and flying out to San Francisco, I figured we'd need a couple of days to relax before the 14 hour flight to Hong Kong. We arrived in San Francisco, on Monday morning and set off to see some of the sights. I know this is not some people's idea of relaxing, but we like to take advantage of the opportunity and we ended up walking for miles in San Francisco… uphill from Embarcadero to Grace Cathedral, little Italy, and (of course) Ghiradelli Square and back to Embarcadero to catch the BART to the Airport. We even took a stroll through Chinatown to get a mini version of what we will find in Beijing.

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We love this view of the lovely homes in San Fransisco.
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What an amazing church! It was worth the long walk and afterward I couldn't resist walking the indoor labyrinth.
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Jeannine and I both spent some time reflecting in the AIDS Interfaith Chapel located on the right hand side of the cathedral. This was an unexpected find. Keith Haring's last work before he died of AIDS was this altarpiece triptych titled "The Life of Christ." It was stunning.
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It wouldn't be San Francisco without the cable cars!

It was a good thing we stopped for sustenance along the way. In the category of “it’s a small world” I ran into a friend from Pittsburgh at Ghiradelli’s. Carol Rigdon, a board member from Bethlehem Haven, was having a snack with her cousin before they went off on a driving trip down the coast. It was wonderful catching up for a few minutes.

Parking Woes

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During our walking I mused upon the numerous signs that San Francisco homeowners use to discourage people from parking in front of their garages… “Please let me get out,”” The tow truck is on speed dial,” “If you are parked in front of my door even a little bit, you will be towed, “(honest) and “Don’t even think about it.” The last one reminds me of an old Rosy O’Donnell shtick where she stands in front of the door and says, “OK, I’m thinking about it, what are you going to do about it!”

We ended our evening soaking our feet after all the walking, a taste of what is to come.

Here's a map of our upcoming travels...


Posted by Aeren 05:26 Archived in USA Tagged air_travel Comments (1)

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