...and a brief stopover in Macau
27.04.2008 - 29.04.2008
After the long and drawn out process of traveling to Hong Kong from Turkey (which included, much to my mothers dismay, a brief stopover in Qatar, which translated into a very smelly 8 hour plane ride to Hong Kong, there is just something about that region that does not bode well with my nose... anyways) I arrived, an hour early to Hong Kong. I was exhausted, for some reason, I still cannot sleep on planes, and by the time I made it through the horrendous customs line to be admitted into the country.
Interesting side story: I almost didn't get let on my plane in Turkey, because I don't have a return ticket from Hong Kong. Luckily for me, I was able to persuade the ticket lady to let me through, because I had a return out of Bangkok within 90 days of my arrival in Hong Kong. Another traveller I met in the airport in Hong Kong was not as fortunate however, as she made him buy a return ticket in Istanbul from Hong Kong before she would let him check in through security. Of course, once I got to Hong Kong, they did not care, or even check if I had a return ticket, the wonderful world of customs...
Haha welcome to Asia...
Anyways, back to Hong Kong. Having arrived early than I had expected (because my plane from Qatar left 1 hour early... I guess they just leave once everyone is there as opposed to the scheduled time), I easily maneuvered myself from the airport, to the express train, to the correct station, to a very soft oversized chair at the Starbucks I was set to meet Brooke and our host at 5 pm. Having planted myself, I dozed for about 2 hours, probably looking homeless, and smelling that way too, I managed to find Brooke and Carrie, our couchsurfer. One shower and a fabulous spinach lasagna later, and I was happy in Hong Kong.
Since we only have 2 days in Hong Kong, they would be crazy busy, but afterwards, we will pretty much be traveling to Hanoi and can sleep on the trains/busses/rick shaws or however we end up getting to Vietnam. That having been said, our days were cram packed to say the least. Brooke and here father had been in Hong Kong for 2 days already when I got there and had seen most of the sights, but she went around with me again... how thoughtful eh?
Sights: our first day began with shopping at Stanley Market, a market near the shore line in HK. I was on a mission to find jeans so we set out... unfortunately no jeans were to be had, however, there was some sort of religious festival going on, as multiple people went by, pounding drums and dancing with Chinese dragons on there way to a temple by the shore. Along with the Dragon, each small parade of people also had offerings, including a plate of fruits, plates of wafers and, of course, an entire dried pig, complete with knife in its neck, pushed through the streets to the temple on little cart/wheel barrows. One parade group actually dropped their pig on the ground, I can imagine that is very offensive to the spirits as they were all in a tizzy trying to get the full pig back on the wheelbarrow.
While at Stanely market Brooke and I tasted a very interesting fruit. A little bigger than a strawberry, with green pokies, the fruit smelled awful, but was so intriguing we had to taste. When the fruit is peeled, a white, jel-like inner fruit is shown. The fruit has a pit, and though has a somewhat amiable taste, the weird hard jelly texture was gross, and I was good with one bite...
Still not having found jeans, we headed up to the Ladies Market in Kowloon (another district in HK, not on HK island, but attached to mainland China). Here we found myriads of people touting there wares and I was able to find 2 pairs of jeans for the trip for only $37 USD total. After a quick stop at the Man's Market for Brooke to buy a notebook (FYI: you can buy both men's and ladies clothing at both markets, the names are a bit decieving, you may be able to find more ladies things at the ladies market and visa versa, but I think it is debatable) we headed to the riverfront to watch HK's evening light show.
HK's light show is the longest constantly running light show in the world (15 min), is free, and definitly a must see if you are in HK. The show is best watched from the Kowloon bank of HK as the major buildings on HK island all light up and shine lights coreagraphed to music towards this side.
After the light show, we stopped briefly to see an Olympic display and then caught the ferry back to HK island to catch a bus back to our couchsurfers. Fortunately for our us, Carrie had a bus map of HK island that she let us use, for, while the free tourist maps are great for knowing physical locations of the tourist sites, they usually don't include info on local bus routes, making taking the buses very difficult. That having been said, Brooke and I were able to manuever through the various bus stations, and after asking mutliple bus employees and drivers, found a bus that would take us to near Carrie's building. Even more phenomenal was that we actually recognized and got off on the right stop. Not to shabby in my opinion.
Day 2 in HK started with a walk through HK park (not before we found/stumbled upon a Subway sandwich shop and splurged on footlongs to take with us to the Peak later in the day). The park is very nice, with a conservatory, aviary **which I was slightly freaked about... all the birds** and lovely sitting areas.
This was a cool tree we found, it had 2 different colored flowers growing on it... I don't know how that works but its cool huh?
After the park we rode the tram up to the peak, the highest mountain on the island, boasting beautiful city views and a slightly intense accent, which feels like you are going up 45 degrees. Really cool though. Atop the peak we enjoyed the 2nd half of our sandwhiches (we were to hungry to wait) along with the views of the city. We had wanted to go up the tram in the evening, as it is supposedly the best time, but both days we were in HK were quite foggy/smoggy and we were worried we wouldn't be able to see very well.
We decided to go full out and ride the tram both up and back (even though the bus was cheaper) and it turned out being great since we got on a tram down the hill that was quite full and got to stand in the very front, and were able to watch everything on the way down.
After the Peak we headed to Kowloon to see Wong Tau Sin Temple. A Toaist temple, the decoration and artwork is very beautiful. The most interesting thing I found were people, kneeling, as though in prayer, with cups full of sticks, shaking the sticks and hitting them on the ground in a regular motion until a stick would fall out. At that point, they would grab the stick, write something on a piece of paper and then either get up and leave, or repeat the process. Apparently, these are fortune sticks, each corresponding to a piece of paper with the same number with a fortune.
Not the temple, Brooke and I kickin' it with Jet Li
After the temple, we headed to Kowloon park, where we explored for a bit and then took a nap. Next up the floating restaurant. Brooke had seen the pictures in the tourist maps and was intrigued so we set out to find the supposed free shuttle boat to the floating restaurant. Because easily finding things is not our strong suit, this involved a bit of aimless wandering down the mostly deserted pier, complete with a very intergetic old woman who I think wanted to give us a boat ride around the harbor in what looked to be her house/touring vessle/workplace. Needless to say, she did not speak any English, and we did not get in her boat, though it would have made for an interesting story.
We finally found the correct dock, and sure enough it was a free shuttle. Free because the restaurant was over 50 USD a meal. We happily took our shuttle, took some pictures, and then turned around and took another shuttle back, we are much to cheap/poor to indulge in such ridiculousness and instead enjoyed a meal of bok choy and ramen for around 1 USD.
Another exciting game of finding our way back to Carrie's ensued, this time resulting us getting on a minibus that dropped us directly in front of her place and another day in HK was complete. Originally, our plan had been to take trains/busses from HK to Hanoi Vietnam, some researching however showed that the trip would cost around 100 USD and take 2+ days minimum, because of this, we changed our plans, booked tickets out of Macau for the following day to Bangkok and found ourselves on the ferry boat to Macau the next morning without to much trouble.
We found out that Macau, though different than HK, accepts HKD so we decided not to get any more money out and decided to try to make it with the little we had left. This wasn't going to be too difficult as we only had 5 hours before we had to be at the airport anyway.
After clearing immigration, we set out to find a bus to take us to the ficcade of St. John's. Without too much trouble we were able to get on the corrrect bus, and even get off on the right stop. (I know, we are good) From there we proceeded to walk through the streets of Macau to the ficade of St. John's. The back of the cathedral was destroyed in a fire, but the front is beautifully carved and was restored and still remains today.
Following St. Paul's, we hiked to the top of some mountain/fortress thing (with all of our stuff mind you), played on a cannon and then explored the casino strip in Macau.... not before however we sampled 3 of Macau's delicacies: an egg tart, dry almond cookies and this dried, pressed beef stuff (all three pretty gross in my opinion).
The casino strip of Macau is similar to Vegas, only with lots of developments going up. The Wynn Macau has a fountain show to music, similar to the Bellagio in Vegas, while the lobby of the Lisboa was definitely the most ornate and my favorite by far.
Other than that, they were just Casino's, not to exciting if you have ever been to Vegas (I didn't however go to the Casino's on the lower island, so who knows, maybe they were marvelous...).
After having taken in our fair share of Macau sites, we set off to find a bus to the airport. 45 minutes later, hot, tired from packing all our stuff and frustrated (we had received multiple, different directions to an apparently invisible bus station) we broke down and hired a cab to the airport and caught our flight to Bangkok... next up Thailand!