This is a 10 day trip report. It is chuck full of goodies but is meant to be read in increments or you will be exhausted. Enjoy!
Hong Kong Trip Report November 2015
Greetings from Hong Kong
This is a destination that has been on the bucket list for a long time, but for whatever reason always seemed unobtainable. This year due to our sad,sad dollar in Europe and cruddy exchange rate as well as stellar airfare for HK this endeavor was brought to reality. I don’t have much to report tonight, but a little rundown is certainly warranted. Now, I never go into flight or journey details of what it takes to schlep the hubs and I thousands of miles, frankly because it is how most think of childbirth regarding the struggle and pain that must be abolished by the memory in order for survival of the species. However, for those who know me, much stress, anxiety and trepidation was had anticipating a 16 hour flight. So, I must report- the flight was delightful. Trying to outwit the airplane Gods, we selected our seats 7 months ago- an aisle and a window. Well the aircraft stars were aligned because the only spare seat on the plane was the one smack in the middle of me and the Hubs. Additionally, whether a flight is 2 hours, 4 or 16-it really is no difference. A good book, a couple movies, several naps, 2 meals and several anti-anxiety meds (physician prescribed) and before you know it the wheels are touching down.
We arrived in Hong Kong in the veil of black night and evening sky with golden twinkling boat lights illuminating the harbor like a game of battleship. I have never arrived in a city in darkness and it does add a feeling of mystery to it. We took an uneventful taxi ride into the city, me in the back seat, taking in the overwhelming lights and palpable energy. The taxi driver sitting in what should be the passenger seat as we Americans know it- on the “wrong side of the road” as HK was once a under British rule until 1997. Lights pulsed from buildings as high as the eye could see, condominium high-rises flanked each side of the highway, my brain trying to take in the entire sensory overload.
We are staying at the Ovolo Central http://www.ovolohotels.com/en/hotels/hongkong/ovolo-central/ . This is a lovely hotel, modern clean and virtually every imaginary amenity you can imagine-including a free mini bar (including booze) restocked daily. We are on the 20th floor of this tall, slender, glass structure perched up on an elevated street. This is our home for the next 10 days.
A day and a half of travel really confuses one’s brain. Add a 13 hour time change and mood altering medications (prescribed by my Physician- people-and only for travel) makes decision making complicated. Sleep?Shower?Walk?Eat? After freshening up, we really wanted to get a lay of the land. So, we set out amidst all the activity of an energetic Friday night crowd. The buildings reminded me of a Jinga game, building after building on top of each other. We walked around while people spilled out from bars, snippets of conversations hung in the air and the overall humidity draped around my neck like a thick scarf. HK being a major metropolitan city contributed to the aromas that permeated the air. Indian food, Lebanese, pungent beer- all stirring up hunger that neither one of us were previously aware of.
Close to the hotel, actually next door was a cheeky, kitschy American diner-called The Diner http://www.thediner.com.hk/ . We sat in a red vinyl booth, with USA paraphernalia surrounding us as Laurel and Hardy served as background entertainment and ate –a Beet burger for me and Steak and eggs for the hubs. It was not bad, it was not great. Not what I would suggest on day one of an authentic Asian experience.
We are now calling it an early night tonight.
Tune in tomorrow for more tales of A girl, her hubs and a Suitcase
Hong Kong Trip Report
Have you ever paid a stranger to fondle your ear lobes? More to come regarding this but first -greetings from Hong Kong from your trusty blogger and travel extraordinaire. Come join me as I share the adventures of two Americans causing mischief across the Orient. This morning, was quite the typical travel sleep kerfuffle (for at least one in this duo). As we are located right in the hub of nightlife here in HK, the walls of this fine hotel were gyrating and shaking to the techno beat of dance music until 4am. Fortunate for them, I was on Eastern Standard Time and had no idea what time it was. My body clock was so confused that sleep was an elusive moving target. Eventually, the music stopped (in the wee hours of morning), right about the time I also realized the difference between Celsius and Fahrenheit as the room was so cold it could have doubled as a meat locker.
Oh let’s talk about this shower….A lovely spa- like experience, a girthy shower where one can do a high kick if they felt inclined (not this gal) a Niagara water flow above, causing a magical cascade of water happiness. This shower has renewed my faith in all hotel showers. I was in hygiene heaven. Breakfast was served right next to the hotel in an airy café. A yummy buffet of tasty pastries, fresh fruit and made to order omelets was offered. This was all included in the price and fueled us for our long day ahead of us.
We strolled out into the thick humid air that oddly at 8:30 am was like a work weekday, with bustles of people flocking the sidewalks, synchronized marching purposefully with a mission. Not sure what that was since most of the stores were not even open. The sidewalks, shining and wet were being pressure washed, rinsing away the havoc of the previous evening’s debauchery, due to the outdoor alcohol consumption permitted here. As we walked down the many steps in the region of Lan Kwai Fong, shards of large glass carcasses were dutifully swept away, making room for future revelry.
We landed at a Starbuck’s, picking a window-side table providing ample people watching on the busy street below. We sat there two hours, enjoying the city hustle from our quiet little perch. In the same building, was our next event in which we will discuss the hidden art of finger lobe fondling and where to get this done if ever in need of this procedure in HK.
On my bucket list has always been to get a massage in a foreign land. The concept is so ridiculously indulgent that the idea has tantalized me for years. The Chinese are famous for the art of reflexology and so to me this was the perfect trip to bridge these two together. We booked a medical massage and a foot reflexology massage at Gaos Foot Lank Kwai Fong http://www.gaosfootlankwaifong.com/contact.html . We were checked in and then they separated me and the hubs. In a small room I was led, with a woman that spoke no English. She barked harsh phrases and pointed non- sensibly to me and my clothing. I am still unsure as to what the commands were. I was thrusted face down on the table and this tiny 90 pound woman began to pummel me with her tiny hands, kneading her little digits into crevices creating charges of electrifying pain in areas I did not know existed. I yelped, moaned and even prayed –wondering what I did to this lady to deserve this. That is when the finger made its way into my inner ear and lingered several seconds to long caressing my ear lobes, in a rather Mr. Bean meets masseuse scenario. The hubs was not subjected to any inappropriate ear action.
This experience went on for 45 glorious minutes. I was then escorted out to another area where the hubs (who apparently had a very similar experience-sans ear lobe pokage) sat shell-shocked in a leather recliner. From there, the punishers immersed our feet into a hot bucket of soapy water and were layered with soothing, warm pads that draped our neck and shoulders. We were given some Chinese herbal tea while fake birds chirped in unison creating a bit of a Shangri-La type moment. We were massaged and caressed, a magical oil slathered on our feet washing away the previous memory of the torturing on the massage table just minutes before.
The services itself were quite economical and the foot portion was very enjoyable. If ever in HK, this is a must do-but just be prepared. This is not your Red Door Spa moment with eucalyptus permeating the air, hot fluffy towels and a nice thick robe. This is the real deal, no frills, work out the kinks and deal with the consequences later type of massage. Just know, you may stir something up, that you may not want to disturb. After the event, the hubs was curiously nauseous and his belly was quite unsettled. I was a bit jarred and hurt in odd areas and still a bit traumatized by the knuckle popping techniques experimented on me. Other than that, it was a lovely experience.
From there, anxious to test out our newly renovated joints we began to walk on foot and “just get lost”. We made our way to the harbor. We took the ferry across the harbor to the neighborhood of Kowloon. The water on the harbor illuminated an eerie aqua marine hue. The waterway was ripe with activity. Ferries criss- crossing this rather short distance, making the waves choppy and rambunctious. The heat at this point was nearly oppressive and made me long for the “cool” climate of my home base in Tampa, Florida! Make-up, smelling nice and any picturesque moments was curtailed by the weighty sledge hammer of humidity.
Disembarking from the quick 3 minute ferry in Kowloon, we sought cover in an air conditioned mall. We found an outdoor balcony overlooking the harbor and ate a quick snack, soaking in the pleasant view. We made our way back to the ferry, back to Hong Kong Island, traipsing up the many, many steps (much easier going down than up) back to our oasis of the hotel.
We took heavenly (much needed) showers and took a luxurious nap, exhausted by the day’s events. Invigorated we ventured out into the Saturday night madness of Lan Kwai Fong (aka—party city). The scene is really indescribable but I will try. The energy is electric. The music pulses into your body at a cellular level. It is a diverse crowd but mostly young, good looking and care free. Awww, youth. The scent is varied and noxious at times. A combination of testosterone, rotting fish, stale alcohol and an occasional tantalizing aroma of many foods, grease, and sweat. The music is wide-ranging and each bar, restaurant and shop offers different sounds. The Doors, love me two times with that great guitar riff followed by salsa music next door. Then, in comes the thump, thump, thump of a techno dance beat that melds in with your atrial lub dub and this goes on all night (as mentioned earlier).
Our beloved nephew- shout out Kevin H. recommended his favorite Thai restaurant Café Siam http://www.cafesiam.com.hk/ . After last night’s diner debacle (although, not bad-just not Asian) we checked it out. On the third floor of the building is this small intimate restaurant. Tables with window seats, displaying all the craziness below offer a bird’s eye view, in a peaceful respite. Trying to be a bit outside our wheelhouse, we went with unfamiliar dishes. There is a definite difference between American Thai cuisine and Authentic Asian fare. I ate a tasty salad with peanut dressing and had a curry eggplant dish. The hubs had a prawn appetizer wrapped in an item that resembled locks of golden curly hair. The meal was relatively affordable, the atmosphere was perfect and the portions were enormous.
After dinner, we hung out for a bit soaking up all the liveliness of the crowd. We made our way slowly up the 50 cagillion steps back to the hotel. Day 2 was full of fun, food and fabulousness.
Please tune in for tomorrow’s installment of A Girl, Her Hubs and a Suitcase
Hong Kong Trip Report
First rule of travel-be flexible with your expectations. This has been a tough lesson to learn but over the years, I have been forced to be at peace with disappointment, plans gone amuck and moving to plan B quickly. Today was a perfect example of this. Our original plan was to go a Viator excursion highlighting World War II famous locations and such. The company in my personal opinion is a bit sketch and I would recommend that you avoid using this untrusting company. They had rescheduled our original date to suit their needs. In addition, the tour was prepaid. It was a 4 hour tour and we woke up early to make it to the meeting place at 8:30 am. The meeting place was at the Postal office, and as luck would have it-there happen to be 2 postal offices within 3 blocks of each other. We apparently were at the wrong one. We waited 30 minutes and then resigned that this was not happening. We immediately started to rethink the day (Let me just add here, too-the tour was prepaid and sadly non-refundable).
We made our way to the ferry http://www.nwff.com.hk/public/home.php with the hope of going to one of the bordering islands off of HK. Lantau is reachable by ferry, a pleasant 30 minute ride across the harbor. We made a split impromptu decision and we were off. From the ferry, we took a bus up the mountain. This was another 30 minute drive up harrowing ,curvey roades and well worth the $14 per person round trip.
The bus drops you off right at the base of the village, with the Big Buddah statue shadowing everything else. The Big Buddah commands the area, bringing worshippers out from all over the world. It is relatively young (1993) but serves as a spiritual source of worship and luck for the devoted. Along the grounds of the statue are walking trails, ornate temples and oddly feral extremely tame cattle. They share the paths with stray dogs, the docile Monks on the property and annoying tourists, poking their steers and appallingly posing for selfies. Yours truly has a video with one as I made blubbering conversation and inquired if she-he spoke English?
After viewing some of the temples, we made our way to a vegetarian counter and purchased some authentic Asian light fare. Incents permeated the air causing a foggy visual residue. After much debate, I climbed the 268 steps in 90 degree weather to fully grasp the size and scope of the statue as well as the impressive views. And, indeed it was. Little old ladies with hunched backs and escorts bypassed me on one side, as blind men tapping their canes sidestepped me as I clung onto the railing heaving my chest and silently counting my pulse. Eventually, I made it to the top. The hubs and I rejoiced (being as August I had knee surgery and had to relearn how to walk up and down steps). We soaked in the sights and slowly scaled our way down the steps-going down much easier.
We toured the grounds of the village, making a few purchases eventually finding our way back to the bus, down the 30 minute journey to the ferry. This was followed by the 30 minute ferry ride back to HK Island. From there, we trudged through town craving good old fashioned Udon noodles.
We stopped at a divvy bar called The Hong Kong Brew House http://elgrande.com.hk/restaurant/hong-kong-brew-house/ just in time for the hipsters to start their night. Peanuts on the floor and a grit that probably never leaves- we relaxed our feet and the hubs had a beer. I had a“Lemonade” that was clearly 7up. The exhaustion began to penetrate my bones. From there, we went to an establishment called Crab Noodles http://www.openrice.com/en/hongkong/restaurant/central-crab-noodle/149949. The pungent smell of (surprisingly) crab permeated the small space and the slurping, fishy odor and odd meal selection choices prompted me to change my mind. So, we trudged on back to the hotel with a light snack of cheese crackers purely for substance. The day was full, and no meal could really have enhanced it any further.
We are calling it an early night as sunburn has made a mark on my virgin skin, the feet are beyond tired, swollen and on the verge of blisters. One side note, I want to add. This lovely hotel we are staying at, I complained about the all-night concert until 4am every day. Well, the room is equipped with fancy noise blocking curtains that are remote controlled. So, I wish to retract my statement as with this fancy piece of equipment resolved the all night madness pervading my dreams and disrupting my valuable rest.
Thanks for tuning in
Check in tomorrow for more fabulous tales of A Girl, Her Hubs and a Suitcase
Hong Kong Trip Report November 2015
Sometimes all good things must come to an end…(sigh)-or at least a pause, which is the case of my shower jubilation. If you recall in a previous blog entry I blathered on in detail about the “heavenly hygiene”, cascade of liquid loveliness, waterfall wonderfulness….Well, the flood kind of impeded that. Mid lather, the hubs starts banging on the bathroom door and apparently, I was submerging the whole blessed room. Suds in the eyes, and task incomplete, the shower situation was aborted-apparently, the bedroom had turned into a swamp.
Of course, this magnificent hotel http://www.ovolohotels.com/en/hotels/hongkong/ovolo-central/ that I really must continually rave about, drummed up their emergency SWAT team (aka, maid/plumber) because after an enjoyable breakfast, minus some soapy residue on your truly-the shower was magically fixed and the floor was a buffed shine. Not one remanence of an aquatic disaster.
After our eventful morning, we made our way back to the ferry to Kowloon http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/dine-drink/where-to-eat/kowloon-city.jsp to visit The History Museum of Hong Kong http://www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/Museum/History/en_US/web/mh/index.html . Now, I am certain we made life much harder on ourselves than necessary getting to this place, as we are still learning the lay of the land. But, just picture the hottest summer day, intense sun bearing down-like an ant under a magnifying glass. That is what the Hong Kong sun feels like. Now, I am no stranger to intense heat, as I live in Florida-but was unprepared for this amount of sweating that has occurred on this trip. We made our way, pounding the pavement, the pedometer tallying up on the abundance of steps- eventually to our destination. I must pause here and really praise the fine people of Hong Kong. Many times, during this trip we have been lost, disoriented, trying to gather our surroundings. Countless times, an individual has stopped us and even escorted us many blocks to where we needed to go. One young gentleman walked with us for 20 minutes, friendly chatter the whole time. For this wayfinding phenomenon, I give major thanks.
We eventually arrived at the museum, hot, slightly bothered but ready to take on the exciting history of Hong Kong. The hubs and I were both granted discounts, which made this activity quite economical; again that Masters is sure paying off…. We made our way to the comfy café to cool down and I had an interesting “pineapple ice” drink. Nothing fancy here-literally a large glass of ice, with a can of pineapple and juice. So simple, but cooled my inner core about 10 degrees instantly.
The museum is very large, open and extensive. It takes one chronologically through Hong Kong history literally starting with the rock formation 400,000,000 years ago and ending with the unification of China back into the hands of the Chinese government in 1997. It is very interactive and one feels as if they are a part of the displays as life in Hong Kong. It is bright, vibrant, vivid and multi-sensory with music, video documentary and an abundance of information. We spent roughly 4.5 enjoyable hours there.
Venturing out from there, we made our way slowly and rather unsurely to the Jade Market http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/shop/where-to-shop/street-markets-and-shopping-streets/jade-market-and-jade-street.jsp . This became a mission of mine, and the hubs was very determined in getting me there. We figured out- somewhat the MTR train system and eventually made our way into the crowded and popular market district.
Walking through these open air bazaars is a true experience. Booths with raw chickens hanging, tables of every vegetable you can imagine, strange herbs and fish, right next to bras and underwear. The smells were overpowering at times, from briny fish to musty mothball. It was a shopping frenzy, and fortunately for me, there was zero shopping interest in any of it. Not even the raw chicken!
Eventually we made it to the Jade Market, a green stone that is popular in China. I was requested from my friend back home-shout out to Bryn-to obtain a Jade bangle. Upon entry we were accosted immediately by a feisty lady, who immediately became my best friend. Urgent for me to purchase anything and everything she began tossing Jade items at me. The hubs, overwhelmed by her energetic selling techniques ventured off only to be hounded himself by another fierce competitor. I finally settled on a bangle, and now the haggling began. “Best offer” she barked over and over thrusting a calculator at me. We eventually after much back and forth- determined a suitable price. I still am not sure what I paid, but I know it was less than half of her original offer. I then started looking for a pair of earrings. My new pal for life, she says to me “you are now a returning customer; I give you the best price.” More calculator hot potato tossing ensued until eventually, she resigned due to the market closing. Upon leaving, I realized all my Hong Kong currency was tapped out. Good for her, my offers weren’t any higher.
After the exhausting negotiations, draining heat, intensifying crowds, noisy traffic, oh and did I mention empty stomach, dehydrated kidneys and throbbing feet— I was spent. The only problem was we were far, far, far from our hotel. Being as the hotel is on an island, we had to get to the ferry. Fueled by sheer determination, my feet trudged on, passing hipsters glued to their phones, eventually making our way back to our home base.
At this point, it was time for dinner. We settled upon a lovely Thai Malaysian restaurant called Good Luck Thai http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g294217-d3335019-Reviews-Good_Luck_Thai_Food-Hong_Kong.html nestled on the same street as our previous Thai excursion. Sitting side by side on a comfy couch, we hydrated on beer, water and apple cider, taking advantage of their happy hour. The menu was unique including Indian, Thai and Vietnamese dishes. We enjoyed some yummy Roti (Indian bread) as well as Pad Thai and the hubs had a very spicy Masala dish that required extra beer to temper the heat. The meal, atmosphere and service were top notch.
Fully satiated we made our way up the many steps, back to the hotel to rest for the remainder of the evening. It was a tiring day but well worth the effort for the outcome.
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Hong Kong Trip Report
I have found a new form of meditation. It is called Monkey watching. Consider me your modern day Sigmund Freud. I could create world peace with my concept I am certain. But, let me back up a bit.
This morning they were no plumbing catastrophes or drainage disasters. Yippee. Oh well, actually a minor one. Our lovely hotel, have I mentioned how much I love this hotel? One of its selling points is you can do your laundry for free on the premises. So, this morning, biohazard garments in hand-I proceeded to wash the dirty clothes. Upon starting the machine, copious amounts of soap began to erupt from the machine. Bubbles percolated everywhere under the contraption, dripping down the appliance. I beckoned for help and my new best friend; the poor front desk gentleman seemed perplexed. I silently prayed that he was not the poor sap that had heard my cries of panic yesterday during the battle of Waterloo.
Crisis averted- a mandatory task was accomplished. When traveling for ten days, laundry must be a consideration and unfortunately time must be allocated for such menial duties. The front desk manager during the folding of the underwear recommended several good suggestions for activities for the day. Taking his ideas, we formulated a plan.
Right down the street from our hotel a quick 10 minute walk– all uphill, is the Hong Kong Botanical Gardens and Zoo http://www.lcsd.gov.hk/en/parks/hkzbg/ . The gardens wind around and unfold like an origami layer by layer, subtlety until brilliant flowers, fragrant smells, and plush vegetation surround you. Turn the corner and low and behold (to my delight) in a cage were monkeys swinging from a vine, catapulting in their enclosure like professional acrobats. In their little sanctuary, all sorts of mayhem and hijinks ensued. They held a captive audience, each spectator mouth open, pointing enthusiastically, secretly wishing they could propel themselves in a similar fashion. Around us, school age children shouted in glee, some in English, some in Chinese-demonstrating that joyfulness is a universal language.
For those who know the hubs, I lovingly refer to him as “monkey”, due to his springy agility and mysterious skills to climb furniture in a rather vertical fashion. So, having him in his “natural habitat” brought great pleasure to both of us. We sat there mesmerized with the performance, waiting for the monkeys to tire. This never happened- at least on our watch. We made a brief stop to the indifferent and visibly bored orangutans and then swung over to the aviary equally impressed by the tranquility of the graceful birds. This activity is free to the public, and well worth the time we spent there. It is a beautiful oasis in the chaos of the city. It allowed my brain to decompress from all the over-stimulation and constant motion, compelling me to embrace my inner child and remember the joy these similar activities had offered me in my youth.
From there, our next stop was to visit Victoria Peak http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/see-do/highlight-attractions/harbour-view/the-peak.jsp. Slightly lost (and lacking a map- a common theme for us) we kindly asked a lovely woman to point us in the right direction. Again, just as in our other experiences, this lady escorted us down steps, winding roads and hilly pavements, all with yours truly lugging behind at a snail’s pace (remember the knee mentioned earlier). She went out of her way to ensure we got to a safe disembarking point and as if like a gift from the Gods, she disappeared down the busy street like a dreamy mirage.
Victoria Peak is the highest point on the island and if there is only one thing you do while in HK-this should be it. The easiest way (and by far the most interesting) is by tram http://www.thepeak.com.hk/en/5_5_1.asp. It is a cable car that is over 120 years old and takes you on an 8 minute steady 27 degree incline up to the top. As the cable car ascends, an odd sensation of the world turning on its access begins to take place. Bypassing monolithic high-rises, the slender towers begin to appear as if they are on an angle verses the occupants in the tram. It is an overall dizzying experience, almost un-worldly and literally offers a bird’s eye view of the entire island.
Once off the tram, the topography and weather system dramatically change. Welcoming balmy breezes embrace me and lush greenery, jagged ancient rock and the feeling as if I am suspended in a cloud overwhelms me. Oddly enough, once you exit from the tram, strategically placed is a colossal shopping mall. As if when I am at the pinnacle of Mother Nature, just what I want to do is shop for the same garbage I can get on any Saturday in suburbia. That part was a bit off-putting, however, with the temptation there and lacking any willpower, I did contribute to the financial commerce of Victoria Peak. Tour groups were abundant and annoying as usual, causing me to whisper a grateful side note to myself-that I have the best tour guide around-the Hubs of course.
Speaking of commercialism at its finest, from there we lounged around, resting our feet and soaking up the views from Starbuck’s. We had an indulgent light snack to refuel and ending our sojourn up the peak with a calming walk down a secluded path-away from all the tour madness and hubbub.
We took the tram down, as equally enjoyable and mild altering as the ride up. From there, we made our way back to the hotel to shower and rest. Later that evening, we dined at Jashan http://www.jashan.com.hk/. A welcoming surprise as the choice was derived purely out of hunger and desperation- turned out to be a wise decision. It is a cozy restaurant with views below of the trendy Lan Kwai Fong area. We were placed in a comfy corner table plush with silky pillows and the glow of candlelight. The Indian spices delightfully penetrated my olfactory nerves and hunger kicked in ferociously. We ordered our usual favorite Indian dishes and savored every morsel. If ever in HK and hankering some yummy Indian fare as well as some romantic ambiance, I highly suggest this as a first choice.
Tired, wholly content and ready to call it a night we made our way back in the balmy night. May I add here, as you all had to endure the relentless commentary regarding humidity, sweat, blah,blah, blah…. The weather today was absolutely delightful. A cool breeze, a so welcome reprieve from the strangulating humidity fell over the city, all day with a threat of grey sky and rain. But, it never did rain and only offered a much desired pardon from the persistent and pervasive hotness.
Tune in for more tales of A Girl, Her Hubs (the “monkey”) and a Suitcase…………
Hong Kong Trip Report
Balance is necessary for travel- action vs. rest, exhaustion vs. meditation, culture vs. mindless decadence. The daily desires vary on a trip and this is what adds life each day to a new adventure. Stacking too many things on top of one another, running from site to site just to check off a list dilutes the experience and eventually wears away the love of travel. I have learned this lesson the hard way. The purpose behind my blog is to add a bit of humor through the lens of travel, but mostly to save you-my reader from the hardships and mistakes I have made along the way.
Today was a day aimed at balance. This morning we began the day at Starbuck’s. Located in the same building as the foot massage establishment- The hubs coyly comments “if you want another massage, we have some time to kill.” Well, even though the full body massage was a slightly traumatic event, the foot reflexology part was enormously pleasurable. Worried if I hesitated, the offer would vanish, I immediately accepted the generous proposal.
Back to Gao’s Foot Massage http://www.gaosfootlankwaifong.com/ where they immediately took me back, propped up my feet and went to work. The hubs sat beside me, opting out on the luxurious act but my co-pilot on this somatic joy ride. The petite, sadistic lady’s fingers manipulated my feet creating euphoric feelings of delight followed by piercing jolts of agony. As I grimaced, it tended to encourage her to dig deeper- the howling, jerking and contorting only prompted a sinister giggle and more intense prodding. Meanwhile, the hubs sat next to me reading a book and appeared way more zen than I. However, in spite of all the negative commentary, afterwards I felt rejuvenated, recharged and ready to take on our next caper.
Uber car service-life changing. Using the handy dandy app on the phone, within minutes a man named Alex in a fancy Tesla showed up escorting us to Stanley http://www.hk-stanley-market.com/history.htm#.VkM1ozZdFMs our destination for the day. An enjoyable and stress free 20 minute ride with friendly conversation flowed as we passed homes of the richest of the rich in Hong Kong. Waterfront mansions dotted the shoreline of Deep Water Bay http://www.hongkonghomes.com/en/living_in_hk/housing_districts/deep_water_bay.htm. Arriving to our destination from a driver was a luxury that was not lost on us.
Stanley is a picturesque seaside village but more importantly the last stand for the British troops before surrendering to the Japanese during the war in 1941. This fact really resonated with us as today is Veteran’s Day. May I add at this point, we arrived at Stanley oddly 11:11 on 11/11, which is consistent with when World War I hostilities ceased at this precise time.
We walked around the promenade along the water’s edge, the salty seaside feel and boardwalk conjuring up childhood memories of the shore. Tucked away, at the end of a path was Pak Tai Temple http://www.hk-stanley-market.com/pak-tai-temple/#.VkM35TZdFMs. The aquamarine water lapped along the rocky shore line. Tranquility washed over me, flooding me with emotional gratitude.
Hunger began to settle in, and consulting our guide book a rather unconventional restaurant was suggested King Ludwig’s Beerhall http://www.kingparrot.com/restaurants.php?id=15&bid=20 . Ok, I know at this moment you are reconsidering reading further-German food in HK? Maybe not our best decision, but some positive aspects here-the view was stellar, widespread seaside vistas, beer was exceptional and the food particularly good. The pretzel starter was an epic disappointment, however the potato pancakes were quite good and the hubs Pork Knuckle, although “gamey” was one for the books! This meal would carry us through for the next 12 hours and so add fulling to the bill. Interestingly to add- this major military building The Murray House http://hong-kong-travel.org/Murray-House/ which the restaurant is located in, dates back from 1844 and was relocated from a different location then put back together at this site.
We walked along the street making our way to Stanley Military Cemetery http://www.cwgc.org/find-a- cemetery/cemetery/49428/Stanley%20Military%20Cemetery. Honoring Veterans in some way on this day was essential for us. We walked along the many gravestones, mostly young soldiers. It was very sobering and forced me to re-focus on what this day is about.
We made our way back to the markets where activity was bustling. Everyone told us this is where you go for anything you want to purchase. A couple items were taken off my list and I am proud to report my bargaining skills were very impressive.
We took the crowded (but cheap) bus back to our home base. Back at the hotel rest was necessary due to the 6 days of vacationing catching up with us. Apparently more than we knew as we slept awaking several hours later skipping dinner and calling it an early low key night.
Tune in for more tantalizing tales of A Girl, Her Hubs and a Suitcase
Hong Kong Trip Report
After a much needed slumber, we awoke bright and early along with all the other worker-bees (very industrious group of peeps here) to set out on our day trip excursion. May I add here, there is no behind the scenes travel agent, not even Rick Steves assisting us on this trip. The hubs- tourism aficionado, does all the research, creates a very well organized itinerary, and structures the entire schedule. Add this to many of his extraordinary skills including furniture climbing, guitar playing and my designated paparazzi for all events. My writing and relentless complaining as well as a reliable depletion of all fiscal funds are my contribution. I would say it is an even balance.
We took an Uber https://www.uber.com/ to the ferry https://www.turbojet.com.hk/en/routing-sailing-schedule/hong-kong-macau/sailing-schedule-fares.aspx to go to the Island of Macau http://www.macau.com/en/. Macau is a Portuguese settlement and is a hybrid of sorts between China and Portugal. Both influences make up this unique country. If doing this excursion, be mindful that you need your passport and go through a customs process upon entry and egress. Also, there is a different form of currency, but they gladly accept HK$, but not vice versa upon your return to HK.
We purchased our tickets and were shuffled rather quickly onto the ferry. The whole process for boarding took less than 5 minutes. It is a comfortable ride and due to a recent ferry tragedy, the turbo didn’t feel so turbo. It was rather a slow ride, a little over an hour. The gentle rocking movement served as a lullaby, as the hubs and I quickly fell asleep.
Disembarking off the port- mayhem, crowds and pesky hawkers swarm you. The attraction to this area is it is the only legal gambling in China, which makes it a very popular destination- the “Las Vegas of Asia”. We quickly made our way onto a taxi and a quick 10 minute ride brought us into the main hub- the ruins of St. Paul’s cathedral http://www.macau.com/en/Ruins-of-St.-Paul’s-2-14-6.html . The eerie carcass of a 17th century church that burned only remains. It stands tall and proud and represents a culture equally as resilient. Selfie sticks poking from all angles (including yours truly) all fighting for the perfect Kodak moment.
On the same grounds, situated within the Montes Fortress we made our way to the Museum of Macau http://www.macaumuseum.gov.mo/w3ENG/w3MMabout/MuseumC.aspx . It is a fine representation of the rich history of Macau and its people. Outside on the top floor, part of the Montes Fortress http://www.worldheritageofportugueseorigin.com/2015/07/17/fortaleza-do-monte-fortress-in-macau/ also from the 17th century served as a military center. There was also a historic battle- a small victory involved the Dutch Military. Large cannons dot the area that provides a breeding ground of picture taking. The views of the city are abundant here and there is a mish mash of old verses new. Big, ostentatious gold buildings shadow over old tenements adorned with laundry.
We made our way into the center of the village, many steps leading us down into a mecca of stores. The crowds at this point had overtaken the area, massive tour groups scurrying for their leader. We eagerly moved past this heading towards the casinos. Hunger kicking in and concerned with appealing options, we gratefully saw a massive sign of the MGM Grand http://www.mgmmacau.com/ off in the distance. Like a mirage in the desert, we migrated to it- a piece of familiarity in an unknown land.
Eventually after much pavement pounding, we made our way to MGM Grand. We were greeted by the loud rhythmic sounds of slot machines, bright lights of a casino floor and the lazy indifferent gamblers getting their fix. It was a vast difference from the atmosphere moments before in the main square. The contrasts was not lost on us.
Through the glass, a chorus line of buffet delicacies called to us. We dined at Rossio http://www.mgmmacau.com/rossio. A procession of indulgences displayed on tables- an abundant cornucopia of delights. We don’t need to go into the food sloth of details here but will refer to an appropriate borrowed Vegas saying “What happens in Rossio- stays in Rossio”. Our waitress was a real treasure and gave outstanding service and truly represents the kind people of Macau.
Here is where you are asking-“did you gamble”? We are such amateurs that sadly we could not even find the hole to put the coin. Are coins even used anymore for slot machines? We sat perplexed shoving our useless Macau money in every orifice we could find. Ultimately determining that we are gambling morons and aborting. I am sure this was all captured on video surveillance and was the entertainment of the crew for the day. My own family employed in the casino industry must be shaking their own heads in shame.
When and if you go to Macau, know that if you have any intention of visiting a casino they will provide the shuttle back and forth to the port. We found this out too late for our taxi arrival into the city, but did take advantage using this service back to the port.
With 4 Macanese coins left in my pocket and a full (rumbling) belly we headed back to the port. With just minutes to spare, back on the Ferry and eventually back to HK. The whole outing- a full work day, 8 hours was more than enough. Tired, heartburn and mildly seasick we taxied back to hotel for an early evening.
Tune in tomorrow for more tales of A Girl, Her Hubs (love him!) and a Suitcase
Hong Kong Trip Report
Sleep. My sleep is so very messed up. It is 13 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time which is what I am used to. I believe I adjusted fairly quickly with almost no jet lag, except I am sleeping at 7:30 pm and then up at 2:30 am. This is why when YOU are ending your work day-boom pops up another travel report magically. Just picture me, half way around the world (depending on where you are reading this from) typing my tired little fingers away-all for the hopes that my moronic mishaps will be to your benefit. Currently, my sad tired bones have been awake almost shy of 24 hours. But, I am diligently multitasking by performing my blogging duties as well as laundry. And, yes once again-like Groundhog Day, I put in too much detergent and caused a bubble-tastrophe -same clerk on duty – same indifferent nod.
Today was not my finest moment. In fact, I am not sure what to make of it. Let me begin and chime in whenever you see fit. Over our same cheese omelet that we have eaten consistently for 7 days, as well as the same occupants that have sat next to us and ignored us, we derived our layout for the day. With only a few things left on our list to do, we decided to knock out one of the more intimidating ones-hike Dragon back trail http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/see-do/tours-walks/guided-tours/nature/dragons-back-hike.jsp, which is located in Shek O Country Park. Having done virtually zero research, we contacted Uber to get us to the park. The driver had never been to the park, knew the address nor knew how to go (this should have been our first warning). He googled the address and using his phone to navigate proceeded to drive us there.
Now, small detail, we never requested that he drop us off at the entrance. This is equivalent to asking a taxi to take you to The Grand Canyon. There are many entrances and areas to enter. Long story short, Uber was a fail, followed by a taxi epic fail, resulting in going up the down staircase scenario of the Dragon back trail (most certainly not the preferred approach).
All the reviews rave about the scenic, breathtaking views of Big Wave Buy-unfortunately, we never reached this. We trekked through deep brush, subterranean tangled vines imbedded in the ground, causing a “tight-rope” balancing act. It was similar to a video game -each level of hell producing more havoc. Jagged rocks screaming for an ankle injury mocked me, bees buzzing frenetically in circular round-abouts causing me to frantically swat and swipe in mania. Then, the rain came causing the already treacherous rocks to be slippery death stones. School kids came in masses the opposite direction leapfrogging mindlessly as I was clinging onto a tree branch praying to the Big Buddha. Now, you ask where was the hubs during this bedlam? Well, those climbing skills and agility come in handy and he was constantly waiting for me (always the weakest link), watching with patience as I cursed the Trip advisor review rating the difficulty of this hike a 5. How dare they!
The overgrowth of herbaceous border created an umbrella effect trapping the insane humidity making the atmosphere a sauna. Sweat dripped off me as I had never experienced. After almost 3 hours on the trail (the review said a breezy 2 hour stroll!) passing many hikers who assured us there was no view for a “kilometer”, which seemed to be there measurement for everything (even though it was sufficiently triple that)- we officially gave up. But, when in the woods in heavy brush and one decides they have had enough-it is not as simple as calling Uber-Um, yes I am between the 16 inch spider and the beige rock….
Therefore, we had to turn around and backtrack the 3.5 kilometers that we had already hiked. Just to understand our frustration, please read below as this was my expectation….
According to the discover Hong Kong website-this is how it is described:
A lovely cool path takes us through shady groves of bamboo and lush woodland, accompanied by birdsongs. You will emerge into open hillsides often covered with wild azaleas or rose myrtle. Reaching the spectacular Shek O Country Park, you will follow rugged undulating spinal ridge of the Dragon’s Back. From the ridge there are spectacular views eastwards to Clear Water Bay Peninsula and islands in the eastern sea approaches to Hong Kong. To the west, there are views of Stanley Peninsula and the South China Sea. At the foot of the Dragon’s Back is the popular village Shek O with its sandy beaches and alfresco restaurants. You will finish the walk by strolling through shaded tunnels of exotic vegetation. Then take transport back to Central, Hong Kong.
From there, I am not proud of this, but by accident, we stole someone’s taxi. They had pre-called and became just a case of mistaken identity and we were off. We took the taxi to the MTR train station. From there, in our sweaty, aromatic disgustingness we took the train to the hotel.
We stopped at Starbucks, had a quick, light snack and back to the hotel to freshen up for the evening’s activities. We had tickets to see The Chieftain’s http://www.thechieftains.com/main/. The Chieftains is an Irish band that dates back from the 60’s. This activity does not scream Hong Kong, but again HK is a major international city that has world class entertainment. And, that is what this was.
Again, taxi failure was the theme for the evening. All week, humidity has hung over the city like a heavy blanket. This evening the flood gates opened and it began to pour. The combination of Friday evening (pre-weekend) craziness and the in-climate weather made it virtually impossible to obtain a cab. Wi-Fi has been unreliable internationally so Uber was out and additionally had a 3x markup, also for the weekend. We waited in the pouring rain with the lovely hotel attendant Mink, trying desperately to careen a cab. Over and over again, we were ignored, snarled at or another person would run and steal the cab. It was infuriating. After 20 minutes of this nonsense, we decided with the traffic moving at a crawl pace anyways-we would simply walk to the venue.
Our lovely hotel attendant Mink trailed the way even though she was officially off the clock. Again, I share this as another symbol of the kindness of the HK people. She took us the whole rout, clearly out of her way-simply to do a kind act. At our destination, she refused any kind of compensation, bowed to us and scurried away. It truly was one of the most unselfish acts and quickly evaporated the taxi turmoil from previously.
The Chieftains were playing at City Hall Concert Hall http://www.cityhall.gov.hk/en/hkch/index.html a rather no frills concert hall. We had unbelievable seats for an even more incredible price of $20 a piece-I believe. The concert was simply magnificent. They clearly have a recipe for success that works due to their longevity. The Irish music was festive and celebratory involving full participation from the audience. In their acts, they included local talent such as a HK children’s choir, a dance troupe, and a mesmerizing bag pipe crew. He weaved lively stories in with the musical numbers name dropping multiple times his encounters with entertainment royalty such as Sting, The Rolling Stones and even Paul McCartney. At one point, the dancers ran through the audience grabbing individuals -an Irish conga line of sorts erupted and by the end of the evening my hands were sore from clapping.
The ultimate ending of the show included an intimate Q&A with the leader of the band. A small group stayed behind and he answered random questions and even offered more insight of his long-lasting staying power. This was the highlight of the show and possibly the day.
Outside we were overcome with the bright lights of HK at night. Up until now, we had not truly seen the entire scope of color, electricity and excitement. A laser show of sorts illuminated the HK sky as high rises turn into a star wars night show -each building having its own unique personality brightening the evening sky.
The buzz of the night crowd, awakened hunger in us and again began the forage for food. Having exhausted all options in the area we were walking, we decided to try a place close to our hotel. It turned out to be a very wise decision.
We went to a popular and trendy Lebanese establishment called The Sultan’s Table (no website link found). Just 2 doors down from our hotel, the teak tables and hookah mist greet you. The food was for the books-a fresh cold appetizer of tangy, salty feta cheese and ripe tomatoes followed by a grilled assortment of vegetables and pungent rice. The hipsters were out in full force blowing aromatic smoke rings from their smoking contractions. Loud pounding music vibrated the walls as the hubs and I screamed to each other in an effort to converse, competing with the pulsating techno beat.
At this point it was past midnight, it had been a long and full day. We finished the meal off with some tasty morsels of honey drenched baklava and Turkish coffee.
Tune in for more tales of A Girl (actually an old broad with muscles aching, back twitching &, ankle throbbing) Her Hubs (suffering from a rip roaring Charley horse) and a suitcase (which all of the contents are toxic from sweat)
Hong Kong Trip Report
Day 9 & 10
Final Blog Entry
Lines….the bane of my existence- the hubs, I and a newly acquired friend experienced a queue like no other yesterday. I am telling this story in hopes that you, my fellow reader can benefit from our poorly chosen path.
We had earlier in the trip taken a day excursion to Lantau http://www.hong-kong-travel.org/Po-Lin-Monastery/ (refer to Day 3) and had enjoyed ourselves so much we wished to replicate the day, in an altered fashion. It had been suggested to us from individuals that apparently thought they were wiser (hmmmph…) – to take the MTR train to the “sky ride” http://www.np360.com.hk/en/ to Lantau verses the ferry followed by the bus to get there (which was our original route).
The train portion was uneventful. But, as we entered the np360 cable car line, we were greeted by a 90 minute wait sign. Our eyes squinted up to see rows of people filed up as far as the eye could see. Eager families clustered and huddled, armed for battle with fanny packs, coolers and selfie sticks. These people were in it for the long haul. Behind us in the line was a lovely young lady named Adele from the Czeck Republic. We immediately connected and swapped travel stories as she is a “Mary Poppins” of sorts teaching some very fortunate Chinese children English in their home. Her life accounts were fascinating as she travels the globe and does this all in her young age of 24 years old. The sun beamed down on us with no evidence of future shade, but her anecdotes were so alluring that we did not notice the time passing by. As the line curled around misleading us with illusive techniques, the hours ticked on by. Before we knew it, 3 hours had clicked away. A staggering amount of people behind us and an overwhelming surplus of persons in front, we were sandwiched in a communal nightmare.
This “agony” became a bonding experience for us as our muscles, backs and legs twitched in pain and fatigue. Like flamingos, perched on one leg, we balanced our exhaustion, second (and third) guessing our pitiful preparation for this choice. Many times, we discussed shelving this horrible idea and improvising an alternate plan. But, again, we felt committed and all of us shared this dreamy fantasy of the promising views the sky ride would offer.
After 4 hours, ticket in hand (10 times the price of the bus and ferry) we boarded our cabin with other occupants they crammed in there and the tacky photographer said “smile” as the hubs restrained himself from strangling the poor sap. The sky ride is 25 minutes and does have amazing views, however, there is little air circulation and the views are dotted through hand- smeared, unclean windows. Big Buddha peering his head about half way through causing an eerie silhouette across the grassy mountain. Sunset was approaching, which did add a certain magical element, but all in all-the 4-5 hours wait (I lost count at some point) of an aching back , numb feet, screaming bladder, all in a germ festering gathering in the ungodly heat as well as paying a ridiculous amount, make this experience a major thumbs down.
Arriving at the village, we parted ways with our new pal, Adele. Our main focus was on some good old fashioned retail therapy. Having many peeps on the list to bring back some useless piece of junk, that will most likely end up at next year’s garage sale was imperative. Many times, the hubs is useful in thwarting these impulses-but in this instance he was ready to get his “shop” on.
The hubs invested previously in a traditional straw hat on the prior expedition. But, why should one straw hat be sufficient? Another one was purchased as well as some other useless trinkets. Meandering from store to store, we mindlessly browsed until stores began to close. Our delicious vegetarian Chinese market we had frequented previously was also sadly closed. We had looked forward to some more delicious traditional Chinese cuisine.
Walking towards the Big Buddha (like pros as we were now repeat customers) we found our friend Adele. She had completed all her tasks on her to do list, having strolled up those 268 steps- a whole lot quicker than yours truly. We bumped into some handsome monks in their finest burlap and made friends quickly. They took pictures of us as I revealed jokingly that Adele was a famous movie star from the Czech Republic. She posed convincingly, playing along-all in good fun.
We made our way back to the crowded bus (bypassing a repeat 4 hour wait back on the sky ride). The relaxing ride down the mountain allowed for some much needed rest- cat napping the entire way. From there, we hopped on the ferry. The sky was black and the air was salty- soothing sounds of water and waves lapping against the ferry lulled me into more inertia. A quick 25 minutes later, the hustle bustle of lights and flashing neon alerted us that we were back on the island.
Parting ways with our new pal, we exchanged emails and promised to stay in touch. In all honesty, she served as a valuable life preserver. Creating laughter, comradery and much needed distraction. Traveling even with the companionship of the amazing hubs, sometimes generates a feeling of loneliness-being in a foreign country lacking the comforts and familiarity of home. Even though our worlds could not have been more different, we shared a common humanity that altered the course of the day.
Exhausted, hot, and sunburned (the theme of the trip at times) we realized we had not eaten. We found a lovely restaurant within the ferry terminal called The French Window http://www.miradining.com/french-window/ . A beautiful restaurant with a full landscape of HK harbor all lit up. The place was very chic, open and inviting. We dined on delicious, fairly light gastronomy. The service was impeccable and the views spectacular. However, it was quite pricey and proved to be our most expensive meal. Balancing that with being our only paid meal for the day justified the indulgence.
At this point, my legs were rubber, back was in spasm-mode and my joints were not cooperating. The hubs alert to my pathetic state summoned a taxi that shuttled us up the hill back to the hotel. I slowly moseyed to the room and collapsed on the bed. Blog was suspended last night due to total body system failure as well as a mild case of mental delirium.
This morning having slept in slightly, after breakfast we returned to the Botanical Gardens and Zoo http://www.lcsd.gov.hk/en/parks/hkzbg/ . We felt we had to see those darn monkeys one last time. We sat at a bench surrounded by rose bushes and plush foliage captivated by the monkeys’ antics and rambunctious behavior. They swung, climbed and scrambled about their cage knowing full well they were entertaining their audience. Families lingered towing strollers, mothers with children caboosed to their bodices clearly enjoying much needed together time. It was a nice snapshot of local life in HK.
On our way back to the hotel we stopped by the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception http://cathedral.catholic.org.hk/index.php?id=4 . A late 19th century Catholic Church rather austere and simple compared to the temples we have visited. I silently said gracious thanks to my God and a prayer for the sad recent international events that have transpired during our time here. Grateful for my safety and wellbeing, I sat in humble gratitude.
Bringing this trip to its final conclusion, we dined right down the street at Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen & Bar http://www.diningconcepts.com/ . A popular place even for a Sunday night, it was hopping. It has an open kitchen concept and the menu specializes in British fare. The pumpkin soup was pure perfection. Our main courses were hearty, with ample portions. The service was stellar. The waitress was very friendly and curious about our time in HK. The hubs wanted so badly to say in his best Gordon Ramsay voice “this food is cr@p!” However, it really was flawless. The only downside is we were too full for the gorgeous looking desserts. Next to us was the most precious looking child celebrating her 3 year birthday. An Asian family completely enthralled with their adorable little girl. The closeness of the family was a perfect example of my many observations of the people of HK. We trudged on back the city staircase for the last time- sighing a deep breath that we had fully and completely absorbed the people, culture and heart of HK.
Tomorrow we leave for home. I always like to do a Top 10 and recapture the highlights of the trip.
10.Museum of Hong Kong History
9.Day trip to Macau (amazing buffet at MGM-Rossios)
8.Monkeys at the Botanical Zoo
7.Lantau Trips with the Big Buddha x 2
6.The Chieftains Concert at City Hall Music Hall
4.The Victoria Peak
3.The varied and delicious restaurants of HK
(American, Chinese, Thai, Malaysian, Indian, German (yep) Lebanese, French and British)
2.Ovolo Hotel Central (and the amazing shower and free laundry)
1.Lan Kwai Fong (major party area & night life)
Additionally, I want to add that I really appreciated the kind spirit of the HK people. They were so courteous and kind as well as helpful and accommodating. Everywhere we went families huddled together, doting mothers, interactive fathers, and possibly the cutest children I have ever seen. The spirit of HK will live on in my memories reminding me to cherish the people closest in my life, enjoy a little nightlife, eat well and be active. It is the true meaning of Feng Shui.
Tune in for more tales in March 2016 when A girl, Her Hubs and a Suitcase takes off for Istanbul, Turkey.