Friday, October 14, 2011

Day 10, Sunday funday

Sunday Juju and I woke up, watched TV went and got brunch. We went to a typical looking casual dining type place not far from our hotel. Looked at the picture menu and for some reason fried chicken wings and white toast with fruit salad sounded good to me haha. We also got radish cakes (standard dim sum item) and a pineapple bun, the famous Hong Kong pastry! It’s supposed to be one of the most unhealthy things you can eat in HK. The “pineapple” is actually just sugar, eggs, flour, and lard pressed on top of a bun to look like a pineapple. Then they also put a large pat of butter inside. It is tasty….Juju and I shared one, don’t worry! hahaha
After brunch, we went to get our hair done at a salon Juju visited before that she felt was a good price. Place is playing hip hop music, everyone is wearing black, definitely trendier than the little in home salon I went to in Beijing! A lot of the hairdressers in Hong Kong have you pay different prices depending on if it’s a new stylist, intermediate, or master. I went for the low end since I was just getting a wash and flat iron. Juju got her hair dyed and cut. She said the last time she came, she splurged on the master stylist, but he didn’t speak Mandarin or English :-/ She said it didn’t matter anyway, because since he’s a “master” he wouldn’t listen to her objections or ideas about her hair!! Geez. I had a Mandarin & English speaker wash my hair, but then the person straightening only spoke Canto. Darn! Juju’s stylist was really cool and helpful and spoke all 3 languages thankfully. Everything turned out fine for both of us. Cost was more than Beijing, I think about $12 USD.
Then we met up with the boys, headed to a café--chatted, read magazines, and had some smoothies and pizza. I picked up a wedding mag to enjoy the photographs

Thursday, October 6, 2011

DAY 9, moving back across the bay~

It's Saturday and my friend Juju is arriving from Guangzhou!! So, I am moving out of Hong Kong, and back to Kowloon, but to Tsim Sha Tsui, a bit nicer area than Mongkok.
Ben and I grab breakfast at the hotel first, nice buffet spread with Chinese style (dim sum, congee) and Western style (porridge, toast). Then go up to the rooftop pool to relax. Yeah, I told y'all this place was posh.

The boys swam, I read a magazine and took pictures of them and the scenery. Rich stayed behind to do some work, and Ben accompanied me on the long cab ride to Kowloon. We met Juju at the hotel and walked around the nearby area. Grabbed some frozen yogurt at a cheesy shop which labeled the sizes as "cute" for small and "sexy" for large. As annoying as it was, the girl working was nice, and the fruit was fresh. They were even making mochi fresh!
Bringing sexy back with yogurt

JuJu and I walking up to the mall
New hotel is Acesite Knutsford Hotel, it's definitely not as swanky as the website makes it seem, but it's economical and good location.

We weren’t sure exactly what we were gonna do that day, Ben initially made a very nice itinerary, which we immediately scrapped and decided to just kinda do the fly by style. We glanced at it for ideas though, and ended up heading on the train to Lantau Island to see the Big Buddha.
It is a loooong MTR ride to the end of HK to get to Lantau Island. We made it to the first part which has a huge mall and dining area and ate fries with ketchup and sugar in the raw (Juju’s style) while we waited for Rich. You can either take a bus or the cable car to get to the island. The cable car is nice, you really can relax and enjoy the scenery outside. We saw the airport, fishermen, the resort style high-rise Discovery Bay, and of course the 112 ft tall Buddha statue. It was built in 1993 to be the world’s biggest seated, outdoor Buddha--a huge tourist attraction. Once you arrive your picture is taken and sold to you on a keychain, then you go and enjoy a cold drink from Starbucks. Yep, capitalism at its finest. Funny to see the stark contrast, while mainland China blocked Western products and rampant consumerism, Hong Kong embraced it and it can be seen everywhere. Near where Juju and I live, there are 3 Body Shops (lotion and cosmetic store) within only a couple of short blocks. How much mango body butter does a person need?!
Ben, Rich, Juju and I walked around, took pictures at our designated Chinese zodiac sign statues, then walked the 200+ stairs to the top of the Buddha. The Buddha is seated and surrounded by devas giving offerings. Their faces are so beautiful. It was funny, on the way back to Hong Kong we saw this sweet little girl, about 5 years old, whose face looked just like those devas. Very symmetrical and all features were not too big or small (except ears haha). We were so relaxed on the train, we ended up missing our stop!  We got back on track, and ..honestly I can’t remember what we did after this?
Later on we went to Lan Kwai Fong for dinner. Rich was craving steak, Ben and I had found an Australian steakhouse that looked pretty nice the night before, so we headed to Wooloomooloo. Since all my friends live in China, Hong Kong is “civilization” to them. Shopping, dining, internet—all the products and quality they cannot get on the mainland. We went all out when it came to dinner. As are most high end restaurants, everything was priced a la carte and we each ordered a soup, side dish, plus steak. We shared 2 bottles of wine and desserts. Dinner was about $100 USD each!!
After dinner we strolled around the nightlife district, people watching, and grabbed some drinks and danced on the street. We were so silly, but had a lot of fun! Eric (couchsurfer/friend of a friend) said he was going to a nearby pub for a birthday and we went to meet him. More drinks, more dancing. Juju and left the bar at a decent hour, I think it was after 1am and the boys were behind us.

DAY 8, moving to the big city

Friday afternoon my good friend Ben arrived from China! I got to move to Metropark Hotel in Causeway Bay Hong Kong Island side ;)

Check out the view from the 29th floor~

Here's the room:

Friday, September 30, 2011

DAY 7, Still in Mongkok

Woke up late, nothing to do.
I grabbed breakfast at a Denny's type place. Spam & egg sandwich and iced milk tea. Most places in Hong Kong seem to charge you extra for iced drinks. I guess since it's so humid, they know people will pay for it?
After breakfast, I picked up my laundry and talked on the phone to family and friends, watched television. I really just had no idea what to do with myself.
On my original itinerary I thought about taking the ferry over to Macau, but decided to wait until my friends came and I had someone to hang out with. I flipped through my travel book a bit, and finally decided to check out the Hong Kong Natural History Museum. I took the MTR (subway) and walked around the area nearby a bit. I ended up actually running into the K11 Tokidoki Exhibition!
I am a big fan of Tokidoki, I got the original print purse 6 years ago when they first collaborated with LeSportSac.
After this I headed to the museum. It was less than $1.50 USD for museum entry!
The museum was a great way to spend about 3-4 hours. It's set up to really feel like you are in the historical buildings or events. For the first part, I walked around with an Australian guy I met, Daniel. He was in Hong Kong for work, and had some free time and went to the museum. He left when we got to the first Opium War section to meet his coworkers for lunch. I continued walking along and I ended up chatting with a lady working there. It was really nice, she sat and translated this entire piece about an old sundries store into Mandarin for me even though they had an English placard sitting there.
It seems to me that most people I have encountered in Hong Kong don't really speak English that well. Using half-Mandarin and half-English has been the most effective.

Pictures from the museum:
Original Hong Kong people, Pundi

Boat people
Salt production--dry fish and let the salt flow!
Wedding procession
Bun Festival --bun mountain replica. In the festival people race to snatch the most buns, it was banned in the past because of toppling and people dying and getting hurt

Lunch at the museum, creamy chicken with pumpkin, rice & veggies, and soup. Plus pineapple sprite!

I can't remember what I did after the museum, but I know it took up most of my day which is good. I think I probably window shopped, probably got another snack or icy fruit drink.
In the evening I went out to meet couchsurfers for the weekly happy hour in Lan Kwai Fong. I think they were meeting at 8pm, so I didn't eat dinner hoping the bar would have some food and I could eat with other people. Turned out it was just a bar and nothing else :(
One of the girls felt bad for me and said she would accompany me to eat something. Ended up going to a local chain and getting Malay style curry and rice. I met quite a few cool people. A girl named Brigitte from Austria who lives in Taiwan working as an au pair, a Hong Kong native who loves Spanish culture and goes by Paco, and a guy named Eric who also just came back from traveling in Beijing.
Eric and I chatted about my travels and I asked him what he was doing in Beijing.  He said nonchalantly, oh I went to Nan Luo Gu Xiang. I look at him, really? that's so random, you go to Beijing for this small shopping street? That's it? Yeah, my buddy has a shop there and he pulls out his Eco-bag which says NLGX!! I'm like noooo way! That's my friends brother's company. And then he asks,wait, did you eat duck on Monday? Haha so turns out we were supposed both be at the same dinner! 
Also turns out Eric is from Hawaii! Gosh so many little connections!

Friday, September 23, 2011

DAY 6, Wed 7 Sep 2011

I have to wake up at 4:30 to meet the taxi for my 8am flight from Beijing to Hong Kong. Anna meets me in the morning to make sure I get to my taxi and give me some breakfast (white bread and yogurt, as usual). I arrive in Hong Kong around noon, but it takes about an hour to get my luggage and go through customs. Hong Kong airport is HUGE. All kinds of signs talking about the HK Airport being rated as best in the world. It’s like a brand new, clean and shiny shopping mall with anything you want to buy. If you get a layover here, you will be comfortable.
Walk out of the terminal and it’s easy to see the MTR (metro/subway) information booth. I grab Hong Kong dollars from the ATM and then head to the info desk since my bill is too big for the auto-ticket machine. Hong Kong uses different money than China. The whole time I’ve been travelling I just get cash from the ATM. A lot of countries outside of the US are more cash based. You can only use credit in really big department stores or nicer restaurants. I am the type of person who typically uses my credit card for everything so I can get rewards points, but that doesn’t work when I’m travelling.
Mainland China money

Hong Kong 10 dollars (about $1.50 USD), isn't it pretty??

The airport subway line takes me directly to Kowloon and from there I take a taxi to my hostel.
Hong Kong includes a peninsula off of China and hundreds of islands. The main three areas are Hong Kong, Kowloon, and Lantau, which are pretty close together and connected by tunnels and bridges.
I arrive at the place where my hostel is supposed to be and I have no idea where to go. I see shops and food stalls and so many people, but I cannot figure out which building I need to go to. It’s hot and sticky and gross outside and I am hungry! So ready to get to my place, chill out, and find food. Luckily I have my phone and it works in HK, just uses more money for minutes. I call and the woman who answers says she will come down to meet me. As soon as she meets me she hands me her business card, Miss Kitty Choi haha. We go up a small elevator with some other guests and get to Geo-Home Holiday World Guesthouse. She hands me my key, a bottle of water, shows me the map of the nearby area on the back of her business card, and off I go. I walk into my room and I seriously want to cry. No more open courtyard, no more quiet walks in the hutong, no more SPACE! My room is literally a closet. There’s no shower either. Just a small space next to the toilet where you need to stand and rinse over the sink. This is life in the big city.

I call my high school friend Megan and we make plans to meet, but she’s at work and needs to see her Grandmother later, so it’ll just be for dinner.
I'm by myself for 2 more days, so I figure I better do something! I decide I'll eat, take my clothes to be washed, and get a manicure/pedicure. I ask Miss Kitty where I can drop my laundry off and where to get a manicure. She shows me on the map the nearest laundry and SaSa for my manicure. I'm like cool! I've got errands to run! Then she reaches in her purse and pulls out some nail clippers, "here you go, they have a lot of  different nail polish at SaSa, and other makeup too"...uhhhh??! What?! Turns out SaSa is a beauty supply store, not a salon. I tell Miss Kitty, no, I want to go to salon and she's like WHY?! It's like $100 (less than $13 USD) sooo expensive! Just do it yourself! I think to myself, really?! I don't have a file, nail polish remover in case I mess up, plus I'll have to suffocate on nail polish in that tiny room?! I finally just tell her thanks, but I'm on vacation and just want a treat, so I'll find one myself :p

It takes me a while to figure out where she means the laundry place is on my map, but it gives me time to walk around and get a feel for the neighborhood. In HK (I also saw this somewhat in Beijing, but not to this extent), they have particular streets that only sell one category of stuff. So the entire block behind my hostel are little stores all dedicated to selling things for the home. So there's one store that only sells doorknobs and door handles. That's it. Another that just sells sliding glass for your patio door. Etc...The block in front of my hostel is all pet stores. Lots of stores selling fish and puppies, and cats, you name it. It's kinda neat, but kinda odd to me at the same time.

I grab a watermelon slush, then go and nap in my room til it's time to meet Megan for dinner.
Megan is vegan, so she suggested Loving Hut, an international vegan casual/fast food place.
Dinner was pretty tasty, I actually only got a small container of a side dish with mushroom, tofu skin, and bamboo shoots, a basil seed drink and a vegan egg tart. I wasn't that hungry, but I also shared some of Megan's food too.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

delay no more

Sorry! I know I gotta finish the rest of my trip and tell y'all about Hong Kong!
I'm busy?

I'll share a youtube video for now. This guy talks about funny slang in Cantonese (Hong Kong Chinese dialect) and Ben and I were inspired by this character!

More stories soon!