Saturday, January 14, 2012


As its been about a month since I was even in hong kong, I figure now's as good a time as any to write about it. after having been in Bali, stepping into an airport that was clean, and technologically advanced and bustling was like an ice bath. It couldn't have been more different, yet somehow I couldn't shake the feeling that I had accidentally taken some super fast plane and ended up in NYC. Lesson one: all major metropolitan cities are the same, just different ( much like the rest of the world, as ive learned...get to that later). Thanks to the college roommate of my parents' next door neighbor, and her family, Sarah and I could not have had a better experience in Hong Kong. We made it to their beautiful top floor apartment on the outskirts of the city just in time to see the sun setting over the ocean... and we thought we'd never again see a sunset like the ones in Bali...pff. Otis and Susan greeted us with big glasses of wine, veggies and dip, and the feeling we were at home with our families. Coming from the grimy inn in kuta, we were in absolute paradise. They have three little boys, Mason and Austin (7) and Harper (4 and a half). Possibly the most adorable children on earth. They were very excited to have new friends at home and we spent the night watching their totally awesome dance moves to flo rida, mj, and usher. These kids are going to be something big, with those personalities. The energy was so refreshing and revitalizing, having this beautiful family around us. Susan ever so kindly wrote us down in my infallible little notebook some suggestions of what to do and see in hong kong.
First morning: Dim sum attempt. So why not try and tackle dim sum the first morning in china? well turns out it can be awfully important to know mandarin. Starts off with Sarah and me trying to ask where the bus comes to, only to end up having a cab called for us. Ok, no big, sort of expensive but whatever, we'll deal. Next, we tell the cabbie "town hall dim sum" in central. So he instead decides that he likes a different place better for dim sum and drops us off at this seemingly random dim sum place somewhere in hong kong. So we go with it, what else can you do? We climb up some stairs and emerge into a linoleum floored, fluorescent-ly lit cafeteria full of people, reminiscent of elementary school lunch, and we are ushered to one of the many round tables, and we join the other five who are already partially immersed in their dim sum experience. Having only ever had dim sum at single pebble, I wouldn't say my experience prepared me at all for what was to come. There are people pushing steaming carts around, and more people shuffling about to gather around said carts in order to see what's offered. It's as though this might be the last food on earth or something, the way you can be pushed, elbowed and shoved out of the way. Our luck was spot on that day, however, for there were English speaking people at our table, and so a
kindly middle aged woman told us what each dish was. As a vegetarian... it's exceedingly difficult to know whether something is truly meat free, so Sarah was a tester. It felt like ten minutes the whole whirlwind time we were in there, people stamping our card and thrusting food in front of us, and washing our bowls and cups and chopsticks with boiling hot tea. We seemed to explode back out onto the street after, like a character being sent back into the real world after her journey through a wonderland of sorts.
We took to wandering the streets and beginning to understand the layout of the city. Everything is so damn clean, it's a tad unbelievable. One of the cleanest cities I've been to, and the polar opposite of the rest of China. We made our way through the Louis Vuitton and Gucci section of town, as well as the southeast Asian market section. One of the days we found our way to the peak tram. Hong Kong isn't really a place with loads of tourist attractions, it's mostly a city like any other, but this was definitely THE tourist attraction. We waited in an orderly line for our turn to board the tram, and when it only took about 3 minutes to get to the top, we sort of wish we had just walked... I had anticipated perhaps a bit
of a ride around for the views, but nope. We were deposited in the midst of this shopping mall on the highest point in Hong Kong and climbed up to the observatory with a 360 degree view of the city only to find Rolando Blackman hanging out right next to me with his girlfriend. We took some secret photos. The sunset was red and big and beautiful so we walked down to a little overlook, really a very insignificant location as it were, yet my cousin Shephard just happened to be in that place at the exact same time. Fancy that. So we exchanged shocked hellos and introduced our friends and chatted a bit and then went on our merry ways. It's sort of like a dream when things like that happen. What are the odds of being on a hilltop overlook in a huge city at the exact same time that your cousin just so happens to be on that exact same overlook? I'd say slim to none, but maybe odds are improving.
Otis and Susan were the best hosts we could have asked for and each night was full of wine and food and good old fashioned family fun. The boys loved having people to entertain and we loved being entertained. They kindly had insisted we stay with them for the duration of our stay in HK. Otis also helped us plan out the next bits of our China adventure. His travel agent booked us flights to Guilin, and he sorted out all of our bus information and gave us great insight and tips about traveling in China; not to mention allowing us to use his office/apartment in Shanghai instead of staying in a hostel. This family is a godsend, so incredibly thoughtful and in the most selfless of ways.
Our last night in HK we made a serious effort to make it to the waterfront on the Kowloon side to see the ever talked about light show. First things first, HK as a city has the most outrageous lighting. We were there around holiday time, so there were lights in the shapes of prancing reindeer, falling snowflakes, jolly santas, and then some... all on the sides of sky scrapers. It is so bright, brighter than NYC. Essentially every building has lights on the side of it. So, we figure the light laser show has got to be something awfully special. Turns out, it's a bunch of green lasers dancing about the sky and off of buildings, synchronized to a song that could have been in a dark scene of Fantasia. Really, not altogether too impressive. I think that letdown comes with the fact that the lights are already so wowing and effective, it's hard to go any bigger than they already have. Still. One hundred percent worth it to take the ferry over to Kowloon just to look at the city from the bank there. It's like the opening scene of a broadway musical.
The next morning we rose at 445, bright eyed and bushy tailed (as if), and Otis drove us to Kowloon to the bus station, and this began our journey into China.

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