Sunday, November 29, 2015

Day 3 Breakfast with a Friend

I woke up with excitement. This was the day I was going to meet not one but two of my pen pals. One for breakfast and the other in Macau also known as Asia LOS VEGAS. I woke up early so I had some time. I had some post cards I wanted to send so i decided to seek out a post office. When I exited my hostel on this day it was pouring out, and I had no umbrella. Luckily in Asia umbrellas are used every where. I walked into the first convenience store I could find (this one happen to be a Circle K) bought a couple of snacks and an umbrella and I was on my way.

This was my first "weekday" in Hong Kong so I was able to witness shops opening up and starting business for the day. Every space was utilized. Garages fixes cars people machining in the streets out of a tiny garage. It was fascinating. The city seemed to come alive slowly even on this dismal day. I wish I had taken more pictures of this but I guess I was too engrossed in my awe of the city.

Navigating the post office seemed simple enough... If i knew where I was going. Even with the use of my phone on GPS I seemed to have difficulty. It didn't bother me though, I was happy to explore these streets.I must of walked up and down the same street a dozen times before I found the post office. After mailing my post cards. I still had time so i continued to wander. Periodically finding WiFi to see if my friend had contacted me .

Tragedy struck when i tried to make my way to the meeting point. I went in the opposite direction!.
I was worried and stressed I wouldn't get to meet her since her time was so short. I took this train and that hurrying as fast as I could my heart pounding that I wouldn't make it.

I made it there right as they were done eating. I was deeply saddened that I didn't get to eat with her. However we sat down somewhere else to let me eat something. She was such a lovely girl and her English was really good and Japanese fantastic. I truly wish I had more time to see her.She lead me towards the Macau ferry and I went on my way to Macau where I was to meet another friend.

Waiting Patiently to the ferry
The Ferry to Macau

It is common to wear a mask in public
in Asia

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Day 2 Part 3 The nightlife of Hong Kong

Victoria's Peak was a tourist trap in short,but that is not to say it isn't worth seeing. We made our way up to the observation deck of the Peak. The peak was crowded with people taking selfies (never have I seen so many Selfie sticks in my life). I found a place and I squeezed myself between the crowds of people to see if I could see this view for myself.

The pictures truly do not do this view justice. For the few moments I was up there. The lights dazzled before my eyes. I was almost deaf to the crowds of people surrounding me.It amazed me how all my friends in Hong Kong told me this city of Hong Kong was small. How could it be small? Look at these towering buildings the dazzling lights. This was no Pittsburgh. Even in this late hour ships went back and forth through the harbor in a harmonic fashion.

It wasn't long until my friend became bored and asked to leave. I found myself slightly annoyed. I wanted to enjoy the view live in the moment.After grabbing a snack we made the long journey back down the mountain. Again we twisted and turned down the snaking road.

 We headed towards a place called Causeway Bay.By the the time we made it back to ground level it was maybe 9:30 10pm and the streets were still teeming with people. We continued to walk down through an area I think was called Lan Kwai Fong. We passed bar after bar filled with a number westerners more than I had seen elsewhere in Hong Kong. We stopped in one bar to meet a couple of my friend's friends. They also spoke English. They were preparing to play some music but I didn't wish to stay long.Part of me looks back wishing I had.  

We continued to walk past what looked like a strip club and another strip club and another. I turned to my friend and said "So this is where all the strip clubs are" A woman I want to say mid 50's sitting outside one of these "Gentleman's clubs" Perked up and barded my path. In perfect English  asked me if I was looking for some fun. I was stunned...I didn't know what to say. All I could think was wow  ... is a hooker offering herself to me. But then i blurted out no no thank you and my friend shooed her off saying something in Cantonese. Part of me felt dirty from this encounter but part of me 
couldn't help but laugh.
I had never been to Times Square before I just wasn't expecting
to see it so far from New York
Finally we made it to Causeway-Bay and all I could say was wow. This was a shoppers paradise. The train stations  stop beneath the malls and across the street from one mall is another mall. Store after store. What is interesting with malls in Hong Kong, there are no barriers between the stores. There is also no sales tax here. So when Chinese want to go shopping they come to Hong Kong. We walked into one mall and it was all electronics. Cheap and good quality products. I didn't have any interesting in buying things but it was an interesting sight to see.

It was 11:30 at this point and people were still filling the streets. They carried shopping bags and still people went in and out of all the stores. Even though this was perhaps the dullest time for me wakling in and out of malls. I still had a smile on my face. The lights, the people everything  this city was so alive even at this hour of the night. I thought to myself I have to move to a city like this be where the people are.

Eventually we parted ways and I made the journey home by myself. Exhausted I fell asleep in minutes after hitting my bunk. I was ready for the next days adventure. For tomorrow I would have breakfast with another friend and travel across the water to meet a long time penpal in Macau

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Day 2 Part 2 Hong Kong History Museaum

I found my way to the Hong Kong Museum of History. It amazed me to think of how I used to think of other countries particular Asia. I had always believed America to be the most technologically advanced and the so called best place to live on earth messaged drilled into me since childhood. Coming here opened my eyes. Everything from the public transportation to the design of some of the buildings surpassed all expectations.In a city with such a dense population I am still amazed at how clean everything was. In Boston or any city I have been to in the US there is always garbage laying everywhere plastic bottles here and there, cigarette buts dropped on the ground or even a platic bag blowing in the wind. Here there was nothing like this the buildings looked old yes but it was clean. I rarely found even a trashcan on the side of the road.
Hong Kong Museum of History 

The museum was incredibly modern. Every exhibit was in both English, and Cantonese. It was interesting to see how such a small portion of the far east could have such a big impact on history and with the current events that unfold in our own time. I don't want to sit here and write an essay on history,but the one thing that I took away from this is how diverse this city really was, how many different ethic groups encompassed the area of Hong Kong. One particular group caught my interest
the Boat People or (水上人)Shui Shang Ren. These people spent their whole lives on their ships only coming ashore to fix their boats or get supplies.

After I had finished exploring the museum, I found myself to be hunger, the museum did have it's own restaurant but the price was overpriced I felt. So i found my self walking up and down streets looking for a restaurant that appealed to me. I found it difficult to decide many of the menus posted outside did not have pictures nor did they have English.However I did find that depending on the area you were in they did give me an English menu. I found the most luck in areas around tourist destinations otherwise it was difficult for me to convey what kind of food I wanted.
Hmm I wonder what they sell there

Noodles was always a favorite of mine in Hong Kong

I ordered I ate and then I left. Finding the MTR was the tricky part most days but to be honest most of the time I was find with wandering till I found one. There was always something to amuse me. The way the people walked, the sky scrapping buildings and the rich smell of Cantonese cuisine. Eventually I did get frustrated and asked a door man at a local hotel "MTR?" and he pointed me in the right direction.

Storm Troopers in a store front

I had to make my way towards Forest Hill Station where another friend (who i actually met in Pittsburgh) had agreed to meet me. Compared to driving I found the Hong Kong MTR relaxing. although crowded I found it was easy to understand where I was where I was going and when to get on and off. They were the most technologically advanced subway system I had seen, Bright lights told you which stop you were at and which one was next. There was a voice telling you which stop you were at in both English and Cantonese.

I met my friend at Forest Hill station asking me where do you want to go? This struck me as strange since I really didn't care I wanted to see the local perspective. If I had a friend come to the United States I can instantly think of dozens of places to show my friends and one day I hope I can entertain someone be their guide to America. The only place I knew was the Peak Victoria's Peak.

I regret that for much of the journey I do not have any pictures to share. I guess there were sometimes on my journey where I found my self living in the moment rather than capturing it for other people.
My friend did not want to go to Victoria's Peak over and over he told me "Its not that interesting" or "There's not much to see" .Regardless I wanted to see it,when I had seen pictures of Hong Kong this was the place I saw on pictures.

We took at bus to the peak, up and up it climbed in almost a spiral around the mountain. The winding roads made me a little nauseous. Trees covered most of the journey upward but every now and then there was a break in the trees revealing a glimpse of the city below. I grew more and more anxious. Then finally we made it to the top and what did we find, a Shopping Mall.

A Glimpse at what was to come

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Day 2 Kowloon

My feet was a battlefield of pain. Every possible inch was covered with blisters. Stupidly I had not packed any mole skin. Since I could not find any in a single drug store my only option was to pop them. I cursed loudly with each blister. It seemed with each blister i drained the pain grew worse and worse. My feet thumped with pain as I staggered to my bunk shortly I drifted off to sleep. As exhausted as I was my body still was not accustomed to the time difference. I again found myself drifting in and out of sleep. It was like I was in a dream to this day it still feels like a dream.

In the morning I did not lay there for an hour like I normally do when I head to work everyday. I got up imminently ready to challenge the new day. This time I was alone. I would not have a guide till later in the day. Nervous as I was I still ventured forth from my hostel. I had no predetermined destination, but i made my way in the direction of the the museums.  

After A quick train-ride I was nearby many of the museums or so google maps said  so. It was another gorgeous day I cannot recall If i had breakfast this morning or if i just got something quick from a convenience store. That was perhaps my most difficult task getting food by myself. I could not speak Cantonese, and traditional characters were still a mystery so I was afraid to walk into a restaurant.

Near the train stop (In Hong Kong they call it the MRT)  was the entrance to a gorgeous park. I had to investigate. This place was known as "Kowloon Park"

It amazed me to see how small the trees 
looked compared to the towering sky scrapers. 

The park was flooded with people using every inch of space they could find. Reading books, having full picnics with delicious delicacies . Although it was crowded it was so quiet when people spoke they did not raise their voices to be heard.

The pavilion to my surprise was packed with people of all different races and cultures. Whole Muslim families gathered here to pray and to have a small picnic with family,something I did not expect to see in Hong Kong. I pictured Myself  living in Hong Kong ,coming here to relax and wander among the trees to escape the bustling city life of Hong Kong. 

Watching abundance of turtles in the pools of this park was particularly relaxing 

Surrounding the park were all these statues of different cartoon characters. Hong Kong much like my own country has a flourishing history of pop culture in comic books and movies

I have always been kind of a nerd when it came to comic book or movie characters, so I found myself giddy like a child looking at each character,pondering what each story could be.

This character in-particular (I can't recall the name)
I found statues of him in multiple places across Kong Kong 

For the next few hours I wandered in the direction of Hong Kong's history Museum going this way an that eventually finding the correct road. I still had not become accustomed to the heat so I was eager to escape into the cool air conditioned museum. 

It was interesting to find a Church in the Middle of
downtown Hong Kong
It was interesting to me how English is one of the recognized languages of Hong Kong, but how few people actually spoke it. In Museums and any tourist destinations I had no problem communicating. Restaurants depending on where they were often had English menus. Just being there made me want to learn Cantonese, I truly wish i had spent some time trying to learn more than just Good Morning "Jou San". I found it somewhat relaxing to no understand at times. Filtering out people's everyday conversations in large cities in america is often a chore for me but here it was almost like calming white noise.



Sunday, November 8, 2015

Day 1 Part 3 The New Territories of Hong Kong

 After leaving the market we headed towards the area of Hong Kong Known as the new territories. Hong Kong I have learned is very compact, and very efficient . We passed though one of the universities If i hadn't known it was a university I would of thought it was a shopping mall. A train station even runs into part of the university giving easy access for students

Students from all different backgrounds flooded the halls. Here classes are offered in Cantonese, Chinese and even English. When I passed through I was envious wishing that I could of had the opportunity to study abroad in such a diverse environment.

We continued to walk the buildings gradually shrunk givings a fantastic view of the mountainous 
region.The view was breathtaking the mountains and towering buildings almost matching in size.

This rock is supposed to look like a mother holding a baby

Horse Racing is very famous in Hong Kong. In fact during my
stay the first race of the season occurred

 These were almost like little villages set aside from the vast metropolis of Hong Kong.
These "towns" are regulated by the government. The owners own the land and the building but are strictly forbidden from building above 3 stories.I liked this part of town, it was very quaint. I remember feeling very relaxed here. Even though I had no idea where I was or even how to get back to my room, I still felt safe. 

Perfect for Barbecuing 

Each little Village even comes equipped with
their own shire.

From the village it was only a short walk to a convince store. Convenience stores in Hong Kong and everywhere I went in Asia (Taiwan, and Japan) were much more than a place to simply buy a soda and a snake. Many times there are whole tables set up to have a meal and  just relax.
Enjoying a coke out of a Glass bottle. Perhaps my only
Soft drink of the trip
Eventually we came to near where my friend lived. Next to it stood large parking garage gated. Everywhere I looked I saw "Luxary" Cars not a single one was a so called "junker" which you see all too often here in america. Getting in the left side of the car was strange to me being a passenger.

 We headed deep into the new territories. North east to a place called "High Island Reservoir"
This is my favorite memory from Hong Kong. Never could I have imagined how gorgeous the natural environment of Hong Kong Really was was. The mountain hid the bustling metropolis behind us , but ahead of us tumbled more and more mountains each surrounded by several different bodies of water giving the appearance that I was in an archipelago.

Soon, we came to a parking lot at the entrance to what appeared to be a small park. After exiting the vehicle he informed me that we would walk along a trail for about an hour to get to our destination.
I looked around, trail what trail? There was no trail we walked along the side of the road to reach our destination.

I was amazed at the endurance of my companion.I had only seen him drink a glass of tea earlier in the day walking in flip flops all day. Meanwhile I had been drinking water all day long wearing appropriate walking shoes. At this point the extreme heat of Hong Kong started to take a toll on me.
He moved at a quick pace down the path while I followed at a meager pace.

We passed by many paces such as these
October and November are the months when people typically
barbecue the summer months are too hot,
  Moving through down the path we saw few hikers. However there was almost a constant flow of taxi cabs coming to and from our destination moving faster than was comfortable. The trees and mountains slowly opened up giving us a gorgeous view. With each turn the view became more and more beautiful.

We turned one corner and everything opened up awestruck I had take it all in it was so... peaceful watching the boats sail along the lake below. I still couldn't believe where I was I had never dreamed I would ever see someplace so tranquil so close to a city such as Hong Kong.

This is perhaps my favorite picture of Hong Kong

I found myself standing there watching the boats cruise along the lake,only to find my friend still walking far from where I stood. After what seemed like two hours we made it to our destination. A large damn. Nearby there was a small shaded picnic area and the end of the road. Everyone who came here was waiting for a taxi cab to return to the city. From what I was told just over the next hill was a popular beach front only accessible by foot.

My water was all but gone and I was starving. My friend called for a cab and we waited and waited until our cab arrived.When we made it back to the car we made our way to the boarder to the mainland. My friend had to do some quick business over  over in Shen Zhen. Since I had no Visa I had to wait patiently at the station.

It killed me to stand there so close to China I wanted to cross so badly. Next time I told myself... Next time I will cross. While I stood there droves of people came filled with suitcases filled with god knows what. I had to press myself against the wall to keep from getting pushed by the crowd.


After A delightful dinner with him and his wife. It was time to return to my hostel. I was exhausted my feet ached my head began to hurt a little.. but i was happy and ready for a new adventure tomorrow