What an interesting ride...
22.02.2011 - 26.03.2011 67 °F
I have waited to write about Hong Kong for a while now because I was so overwhelmed with it when I was there that I could have written a huge novel. Now that things have settled back down I shall begin.
We started by leaving on Sunday morning for our 2 day trip to Hong Kong. We had a flight to Xi’an followed by a flight to Shenzhen, right on the border of China and Hong Kong. We had been told that getting to Hong Kong form Shenzhen would be quite easy. We took a bus which took us to the border, went through customs, and took another bus into Hong Kong. Entering the city at night was absolutely amazing. For approximately 10 minutes on the bus there is not much to look at with the exception of a huge suspension bridge. Then it hits you. This is the real city of lights. Las Vegas may still have more, but the setting of Hong Kong, next to the water and directly in front of Mt. Victoria was absolutely amazing. I found myself scrambling to get my camera out of my bag and of course, as soon as I did we entered a tunnel and could not get another good picture. This of course is just my luck.
Once off of the bus I felt like I was in another world. What an amazing place. The city was clearly Asian, having the same type of residential structures as in China. For the most part however, the similarities ended here. I looked up and down the street on a Sunday night and observed the huge towers and the lighted buildings. The city seemed absolutely massive. Not only this, but one of the greatest parts for me was the diversity of the people. I later learned that not all of these people were tourists, but rather residents. People were from all over the globe living here and it was so interesting to see it. It was also quite refreshing for me to see a 7-11 on the corner. Already I felt like I had returned to civilization.
We immediately began to search for a cab to take us to our hotel. While attempting this feat I realized that something was very odd about the city. Since the British occupation of Hong Kong some of their trademarks still remained. The first most glaring one was that they drove on the wrong side of the road and the driver’s seat was on the right side. This really threw me off when attempting to cross the street and looking the wrong way for cars. I found the next day that apparently this is an issue for all tourists as many intersections have “Look Left” or “Look Right” to remind you. The other most glaring icon from England is the double deck cable cars. They run all over Hong Kong Island and are definitely the cheap way to get around the city.
Upon our arrival to the Crowne Plaza Hotel, I realized that we were in for a treat as soon as we entered the building. Liz’s mom travels frequently with work and had spare hotel points which she graciously gave us to have a comfortable place to sleep for a change. Little did we know what we were getting into. We arrived in the room and my mouth about hit the floor. I had never been in such a nice hotel room let alone slept in one. The view out of the window was amazing, overlooking the area of Times Square Hong Kong. The room came equipped with a flat screen 3D television, nice work space, very comfortable bed, and a shower that had glass walls so you could see the television while taking a shower. My favorite part about the room oddly enough was the shower. Not only can you see the TV, but the speakers were wired into the bathroom as well, and the water came out of the ceiling. As a 6’10” person I find myself wondering why this isn’t the standard for showering. We stayed in on night one after a long day of travelling and ordered room service. It was quite refreshing to have a Caesar Salad and a hamburger.
Morning two came along and we woke up early to get to the Chinese Consulate first thing. One we arrived, passed through security, and got to the window, we soon found out that there was once again another problem. Our school had done it again. My 3 pages of paperwork were fine. The first page was an instruction from the Chinese Government on where to apply for our work visa. My paperwork said Hong Kong. Liz’s said USA. The consulate would not take her paperwork. We later made contact with school letting them know about the issue. They phoned the consulate and were dismayed to hear that they could not fax over a new copy as each page had an official seal on it and it had to be the original. This meant that Aston would have to send the correct form by courier. Back to the hotel we went and later to vent our frustrations began to tour the city.
The first place we went was nearby Times Square. The square was seemingly smaller than Times Square in New York, but the amount of people/businesses was definitely not. The main mall on the square is 9 floors and it contains all of the high ends brand names that you could think of. Not only this but the floors were all divided into categories which I found to be a very novel concept. For example, one floor was all outdoor stores such as North Face, Columbia, and Patagonia all next to each other. The only place I have seen this type of organization in America is a food court. After checking the listing of stores we decided that we would return here later.
Our second stop was to get on a ferry boat ride on the Star Cruise line. The boat was very simple (Nothing bigger than the B&B boat on the Ohio) and had a recording playing explaining the history of several of the buildings that we could see. The boat went right down the middle of Hong Kong Harbor and the iconic view of all of the major electronic buildings could be seen from here. We also had a great view of the convention center which was very oddly shaped and quite interesting to look at. In total the cruise lasted 1 hour and was well worth the ride. Though it was a bit cool (I still wore shorts and a T-shirt on principle) we had quite a good time on the boat and getting to see both of the islands. After the cruise we went back to the hotel room to rest.
We decided that we would go up to Mt. Victoria that evening to get pictures of the city at night. We again took the subway train a couple of stops and walked to the seemingly gravity-defying trolley car that takes you up the mountain. The train ride was very interesting and fun due to the fact that it felt as if it could tip over backwards or fall back down at any time. Upon reaching the summit, we were greeted with the closest thing to a tourist trap that Hong Kong had to offer. We quickly left the shopping area and went outside to take in the view of the city. It was quite amazing to see such a large city with so many lights tucked into one small area. After obtaining a few pictures, we had dinner at a place recommended by our tour book which turned out to be not so great in our opinion and way too expensive. We returned to the hotel to sleep after dinner.
The next morning upon waking up, tragedy had struck. My throat had felt sore the late in the previous night and it was only the beginning for what was to come. I woke up with an extremely sore throat, horrible cough, a fever, and an inability to move out of the bed. For the 1st time in my entire life I had the flu. After an hour of sitting around I got dressed and attempted to get my paperwork completed at the consulate as requested by our school. After walking the 6 blocks and hacking up flem at least 20 times in the streets we arrived at the consulate. I immediately found a chair and sat down. I had never felt so bad in my life. When we were called I think the attendant was confused as I was sweating profusely and struggling to stand in front of the window. After receiving my receipt we returned to the hotel.
Once back at the hotel it was straight into bed for me. Liz managed to find some medicine for several different things and I took some of each. I am usually extremely stubborn about taking pills but this time I would take anything I could get my hands on. I flipped on the television and had plenty to watch as the uprisings in Libya had just began in the morning so news coverage was quite interesting. On day 2 of my sickness (yes, 2 days basically spent in bed) the earthquake hit New Zealand. Due to these events plus the fact that I felt like death I had no desire to leave the bed.
On the second night of the sickness I went upstairs for a short while to join Liz at the patio bar above the hotel. The bar was very modern and enjoyable. The view was also amazing. The bar overlooked the Hong Kong Horse Track and the horses were racing this evening. It was nice to watch the races even from so high up in the air. We took several pictures of the bar and the horse track and then went to bed again.
Day 4 of our stay had finally come and I felt much better at this point. Liz’s letter from the courier had finally arrived so we went to the consulate again to turn in her paperwork. I obtained my passport with the work visa inside of it and was good to go back at any time now. We planned to go and see the Big Buddha statue one of the other islands that day and upon our arrival to the cable car that takes you there found it to be closed for maintenance until the next day. Pulling out the travel book we found several shopping areas to hit as well as an electronics market unlike anything I had ever seen before. I felt like I could spend hours there so it was a good thing that we arrived just before their closing time. We returned to the hotel and went to the upstairs bar again for a drink and went to bed.
Day 5 had finally come and we immediately returned to the cable cars to go and see the Big Buddha. The cable car system was extremely next and we took many pictures from the cars. It overlooked a small harbor and the Hong Kong airport as well. Upon arrival to the top we thought it appeared touristy however not nearly as much as on Mt. Victoria. It was a very interesting site. I enjoyed this area very much and wish that we had more time to spend there, however we had to get back to the consulate one last time to obtain Liz’s passport once and for all. Once it was obtained we took the subway to the border and spent the night back in China in Shenzhen.
Being in Shenzhen was quite frustrating. After a week of people understanding everything I said and then going 20 minutes by train to a place where nobody understood really made me angry. Not only this, but of course the television channels were all Chinese except for one. The only story on there was that China was bringing home 20,000 migrant worker from Libya but provided no explanation to the people as to why they were doing it. The television was quickly turned off and we later went to bed.
The next morning we woke up at 5:30 am to catch our 7:30 flight. It again stopped in Xi’an and while we were there my Chinese cell phone rang for the first time in days. I was instructed by our manager that after getting back we were to immediately head to school to pass out flyers to promote the school. Both Liz and I were extremely upset that we could not just relax, however it turned out that our plane left too late and we could not make it anyway. We arrived back safely in the afternoon and went home to rest for a couple of hours.
That evening we went to dinner with one of Liz’s students. Neither of us were in the mood to do so because of our early plane flight but it was planned 2 weeks prior, it was the girl’s birthday, and we were supposed to have been back 3 days prior to this. Both of us decided to suck it up and go anyway. This later proved to be a bad idea.
We arrived at the dinner and had our first experience with hot pot. Hot pot is small pot that you get with a burner underneath it. You have your choice of no spice, medium spice, or very spicy broth. I of course went with very spicy and was extremely impressed. The meats and vegetables to choose from were plentiful and after three hours of nibbling on all types of food I had finally finished eating. The food was excellent and I definitely plan on eating there on several occasions.
The bad news came after dinner. The student’s parents invited me, Liz, and the Chinese teacher for the student named Liza to the dinner. The parents wanted to thank them both for helping their daughter learn more English. They felt that Liz and Liza had done an excellent job over the term. After dinner the adults from the other table came over to ours and tried to have us drink some beer with them. Neither of us wanted any however we had to try some as to not be rude.
After and couple of “gambe’s” pr “cheers’” the student’s father asked where we were from. I told him Ohio in America. Then he asked what we did in America. Liz explained that she was an auditor and explained her position in simple English for Liza to translate for us. I told him that I was a police officer. It was then that I was immediately swarmed by him and two of his friends from the other table with demands for more beer. Liza then told me that all three of them are also Chinese Police Officers. Due to the fact that I was still recovering from being sick and extremely tired from the long day, drinking so much was not a good idea. I , however, had no choice in the matter. After getting sick once in the restroom the others finally agreed that it was time to go. We left after having a very good time but were very excited to go home to bed. This ended our long week and we were excited to take the next day off and do nothing.