Okay ... so, the trip.
I'm using only a limited number of photos. See, when I put a million up here, then I can't bore people later by making them look through the scrapbooks we make. So ... here goes:
A shuttle picks us up at 4AM for a ride to the airport. Yep. 4AM. Awesome. We fly to San Francisco, then to Tokyo, then to Hong Kong. When we check into the hotel it is about 1AM on December 31st, Hong Kong time. Jet lag wasn't too bad going that way ... you just go to sleep as soon as you land. Coming back, I've been really zapped, though.
We get picked up for a tour of the city. First, Victoria Peak for a somewhat cloudy view of the city. Then Stanley Market for cheap souvenir shopping (nice stuff, though), including some "chops" -- stamps of our name written in Chinese characters. Well, they said it was our names. They could very possibly translate as "monkey semen" and "he who weeps uncontrollably while peeing." Then a quick ride on a boat in the impossibly green harbor.
From there, on to a factory tour ... because there's always a factory tour on one of these.
After the tour, we strolled along Nathan Road ... sort of the Champs Elysées of Hong Kong. I was highly amused to see all the Christmas Decorations. Not surprising they have them, of course, but it seemed so odd that it was all snow and holly and pine trees when it was 72 degrees out. Singapore was like this, too, and they're almost on the equator.
Not that they do EVERYTHING Christmassy our way ...
What did you ask the Christmas Robot to bring you this year?
From there to the Avenue of the Stars, which is along the harbor, but otherwise is exactly like Hollywood Boulevard, with placques on the sidewalk commemorating Hong Kong film stars. Basically, I recognized Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, Chow Yun Fat, and Michelle Yeoh.
This was kind of typical of Hong Kong ... at least one side of it. For instance, for New Year's Eve we were recommended to go to Times Square. Yes. Hong Kong has its own Times Square.
Red is the traditional wedding dress color in China, but the British influence has modified things in Hong Kong, as you can see.
We explored the Hong Kong Museum of History, which filled me in nicely. We had to rush through the last few decades though, so, as far as I know, Japan invaded in 1997.
Took in a beautiful fireworks/laser show over the harbor -- they do the lasers every night, but the fireworks were a New Years Eve special. Shopping in the Temple Street Night Market, then back to the Times Square Area, which was ner our hotel to ring in the New Year 13 hours ahead of you mere mortals.
Took a long subway and bus ride to Lantau Island to see the famous giant Tian Tan Buddha. A long climb, but well worth the effort.
The Buddha is surrounded by six bodhisattvas -- usually translated as "saints" -- Buddhists who successfully let go of all worldy attachments.
That sign says "Do not throw coins at the statues" by the way ... but guess what that kid and dozens of others were doing anyway. I guess it's good luck if you can make a state "catch" your coin in its upturned hands.
Had a vegetarian lunch, followed by poking around the monastery where we saw them shooting a spin-off of Three Ninjas called the Bad News Shaolins.
Seriously, this was a martial arts demonstration. Since it was introduced in Cantonese, I didn't understand if these kids were monks, monks in training, or just kids who were studying with the monks.
Long bus ride back to town, then a ride on the famous trams. Dinner at Lan Kwai Fung, the hip nightclub area. No, we didn't club, but we did get to eat some non-Chinese food (we were already sick of it). No, we didn't go for burgers and fries. It was Malaysian and quite tasty. Oh, the street was called Rat Alley. Appetizing, I know.
Visit to old, tiny Man Mo temple, where they burn giant coils on incense from the ceilings. Some ash fell on Amanda's head. Another street market and a visit to a tea house.
We then strolled around the strange, lovely Hong Kong park. Quite modern, not very green, but still everything you'd want in a park, oddly. We visited an aviary in there ... yes, we were worried about bird flu, but it's not like it was a petting zoo.
A colonial afternoon as we waited in a long line for High Tea at the Peninsula Hotel. Very classy and, while it was the most expensive meal we had in Hong Kong by a long shot, it was under $50 American.
Amanda was very moved by the images it brought to mind of men in white suits, living a life of luxury.
More birds as we visited the Bird Market and, for some reason, bought a bird cage, which may eventually house action figures. Flower market, followed by "Ladies Market" (but they sell men's stuff too) where I discovered that I truly hate haggling, even though I got a good deal on some ties and a jacket.
Scary moment as an ATM wouldn't give us money ... we were afraid Bank of America was "kindly" preventing us from using foreign ATMS in case someone had stolen our cards and run off to Asia. Luckily, it was just one bank that sucked, but we were truly afraid we would have no cash for the rest of our time there.
Rode the Star Ferry from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island.
Our last day in Hong Kong had to end by five so we could catch our flight. But we managed to fit a ton in.
First, a visit to the semi-distant 10,000 Buddhas Monastery. Also a long climb up many steps, surrounded by bodhisattvas. More to be found at the top, including this one:
Reed Richards, Buddhist Saint.
The actual 10,000 Buddhas are small statues that line the wall of the temple. Just to clarify, 10,000 is A LOT OF BUDDHA STATUES. And they're all lined up, with slightly different poses, like some sort of Buddhamation. I'm fairly certain some of them were giving me the finger.
Then Repulse Bay ... which would be packed with swimmers during the summer, but our walk across the Longevity Bridge was unimpeded. Every time you cross it, you add three days to your life. Handy, seeing as we lost one on our travel day.
Then back to the hotel and a shuttle ride to the airport, where we had to hand in our nail scissors and file before getting on the plane to Singapore.
TOMORROW ... SINGAPORE.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Okay ... so, the trip.