Saturday, June 23, 2007

Hong Kong Whirlwind

Hong Kong Day was Fantastic! So so so lucky to have Vince and Michelle as our local guides show us everything. And I do mean everything. Let me type this out and then I will post pics. Just easier that way.

We met Vince and Michelle for the breakfast buffet at our hotel. Half of the food is Western. I automatically put eggs and bacon on my plate before going, "When in Rome!" Or rather, when in Hong Kong. Dumped the eggs and grabbed a plate full of dim sum, noodles, and rice. One dim sum was a sweet bread with BBQ beef wrapped inside. It looks like mereinge. How do you spell that word? Tastes soooo much better than my spelling. The other dim sum was beef and fish, but the BBQ one was incredible.

Then we left the hotel and got on a bus to head to the beach. We went through the mountains on a one way road that was under construction. You've heard about the bus and cab drivers in China? They're just as crazy in Hong Kong. I became extremely motion sick, so we took an available stop so I could get my stomach to settle.

Here's something I want each and every waiting family who will be traveling during the hot months to put on their packing lists. Underline it twice if you have to, it's that important. Wash rags. Lots of wash rags. Everyone in these extreme climates carries them everywhere they go. Remember I mentioned my Hong Kong goodie bag from Michelle? Two of the items contained within were wash cloths. I gave her a quizzical look and she asked me to trust her. She was so right! You are drenched in sweat the second you step outside. You think you've felt hot and humid in the States? You haven't. And I grow gills each summer with the crazy humidity we get there. It's NOTHING in comparison. It's intense humidity with a penetrating sun. That washcloth is a life saver. Pack wash cloths and extra undies and bras. You are soaked to the skin within minutes, no lie.

After my stomach calmed down, we hopped a ferry- not a tourist ferry, a rickety local ferry. Cooled off in the breeze while watching the sites go by en route to Vince and Michelle's apartment. Saw Disneyland- or rather, saw the hotels. You can't see much from the water. The ferry pulled up to Vince and Michelle's neighborhood, which highlights three immediate things right from the waters. 1. Squatters who live in shacks along the beach 2. High priced rentals mainly for Ex Patriots. 3. Run down housing for Aunties- (Nannies for the Ex Pats.) It's a lovely area, actually. We climbed up a steep hill and got over to Vince and Michelle's apartment. It's HUGE by Hong Kong standards. 1600 sq feet with a breathtaking view of the water and Disney in the background. They can watch the Disney fireworks at night from their balcony. We hung out with them and cooled off and had some drinks before heading back out again.

From there we took a short bus ride to an outdoor dining mall type area. Again, very nice. Everything in Hong Kong is very clean. All modes of transportation are spotless. Nothing is messy anywhere, really. Actually, in one of the public toilets, a woman cleaned it between each person's use. A lady would leave, she would step in and clean, and step out of the way. It was that way at the airport, too. Oh, and you never ask to use the bathroom or restroom. It's toilet. All signs say toilet and everyone knows what you mean when you say toilet. Most of the toilets were Western. We only encountered one Easter squatty on the ferry.

In this outdoor mall near Vince and Michelle's place, we went to a Japanese bakery and had some goodies while waiting to board another ferry. again- such incredible food. The reason everyone in Hong Kong is so thin is because of all the walking and the sweating. The food is too good to resist! We then boarded the the double decker indoor seating ferry that took us to Hong Kong.

The views going into Hong Kong are incredible. You have the mountain backdrop and then hundreds of high rise buildings all over the bottom of the mountains. No two buildings look alike. It resembles something from Alice in Wonderland. It's beautiful, but oddly out of place against the mountains. While on the ferry, we noticed so many families where the children spoke several languages. They'd go in and out of Mandarin, English, and French. It's so impressive. Oh, and while we are in the minority in Hong Kong as Caucasians, no one notices. So many Ex Pats live there, it's just no big deal to see Caucasians speaking numerous languages. Except we stupid Americans who can barely speak our own language!

We left the ferry and walked to this outdoor escalator that actually takes you up over the city. You can get off and shop, or get back on and head higher. While on the escalator, you can see between the buildings. Very interesting to see laundry hanging from lines outside of an apartment on the 30th floor!

We then went to an authentic Chinese restaurant. A typical hole in the wall where no one speaks English and there's a lot of pointing to the menu and hand gesturing. It looked to be a family owned place. Vince ordered for us and WOW, the food was sooooo good. Chopsticks are kept on the tables in a large container. Vince took ours and dunked them into his hot tea. He says all the locals do that to be darn sure the chopsticks had been sterilized. He says it's better than nothing.

We had a chicken and rice dish first. We were given a large bowl each with a spoon. We served the food into our dishes and attempted to eat with chopsticks. Rice is very difficult and the owner kept coming over to try to teach me how to scoop it into the spoon, then grab it with the chopsticks. That was too complex for me. I just ate it with the spoon.

We also had dumplings filled with leeks and chicken- MMMMMM. Noodles. And Dragon Rolls which were filled with meat and veggies but I didn't care for them. The total cost of the meal was about 15USD for four people.

Hong Kong is so odd like that. Housing is more expensive than Manhattan and yet everything else is so cheap.

From there we caught a cab to the outdoor markets. If you are keeping track, note that we took two busses, two ferries, a cab, (and later a train) and walked a whole heck of alot. The cab ride was uneventful except for hearing a news story in Mandarin on the radio about Paris Hilton. No, there is no escape from Paris Hilton!

We then walked to the market. The outdoor market we went to was sandwiched tightly between two highrise buildings. It was super hot and crowded and the shop keepers were not keen on much negotiation. I let Michelle do the talking because she understands conversions from Hong Kong Dollars to USD. I ended up doing a little bit of shopping on items I doubt I can find in GZ.

After that, we went to the train station. Took the train back to the mall that connects to our hotel. Said goodbye to Vince and Michelle. Attended the reception for our Executive Floor- beer and chicken fingers! Boooo! Too American! And now here I am, blogging this entry at about 730pm Friday evening as the sun sets over Hong Kong.

I never once felt afraid in Hong Kong. Not once. It is so incredibly crowded but the crowds flow so beautifully. No one stares, no one even notices you are alive. When you see that many people just going about their day, doing their thing, it really puts all the pettiness of a "small town city" like ours into perspective. You know- the whole- everyone knows everyone knows everyone's business.

Matt just got back from visiting the snack shop here in the mall. He was able to snag some Dr Pepper made with SUGAR! In fact, all sodas here are made with sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup and they taste sooooo much better as a result. He also bought some cucumber flavored Lays potato chips for the plane. And a huge bag of rice crackers that the babies are supposed to love.

I am starting to get a sore throat. AHHH! I do not want to get sick on this trip. I am hoping it was just the pollution downtown. It didn't start until we got off the ferry. I plan on ending this blog entry, posting some pics, taking a bath in this giant tub, and going to bed.

I plan on posting after we return to the hotel from Gotcha. As long as we have a reliable connection.

So that means tomorrow:
Wake up early
Have more dim sum for breakfast
Take a shuttle to the airport
Land in Nanchang
Meet the travel group
Learn when we will get our babies!

Talk to you then. Yes, my heart is already pounding with excitement.....
Tomorrow is one of the biggest days of our lives.


Jill said...

Have fun at your Gotcha tomorrow! Hong Kong looks wonderful...I'm going to have to add it to my places to visit someday (and not just for Disney!)

Dianna said...

As extremely exciting as your Gotcha Day is, I just have to say I totally agree about the steamed buns. Oh how I love barbecue pork steamed buns.

We are sometimes lucky enough to get them in the freezer section at our supermarket and they last 2 seconds in our house.

EEP! Your baby girl is coming!! EEP!

Dianna said...

Gah. It's 11:20PM and I'm tired and just re-read that comment and it isn't worded so great.

I'm all about food sometimes and when I read your description about the steamed buns I got all fooded up.

Your Gotcha Day is WAY better than steamed buns. WAY better.

Katie said...

Um - hate to break it to you BUT the cab drivers in HK are a heck of a lot better than the ones in China. There is a night and day difference. Like comparing that new Superman ride at 6 Flags to a kiddie ferris wheel. I was scared in HK but terrified in mainland China.

So glad you liked HK. Really clean huh? And people were so polite. What a great city. Okay - I now have goosebumps thinking about your day tomorrow - or I guess today now for you guys.

Katie said...

By the way - those BBQ dim sum buns - they have really good ones at this awesome CHinese restaurant off Olive on Sundays.