Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hong Kong! (Day 1 - Sat., Oct. 13)

Hong Kong was AWESOME!

I was a bit worried before going that the brevity combined with the distance would make it a tiring trip—and, given my school/work schedule, I need all the R&R I can get on weekends—but thankfully, I was wrong.

Guess it just goes to show the importance of getting away from everything for a while. I think that when I’m just bumming around the house on weekends, even if I’m not doing work, part of my brain is still occupied with it. But being in a different country, I had too many other things to do, see and think about to “worry” overmuch about work.

Plus, my family friends (Uncl
e Ed and Auntie Denise) really took care of everything for me—getting from the airport to the hotel, my daily itinerary, travel, food, etc. Independence is great and all, but sometimes it’s nice to be taken care of.

But anyway, about the trip itself:

Since I was in Aomori for the (A)JET Culture Day on Friday, I took a flight from Aomori Airport to Haneda Airport. Then I went from the Haneda Airport to Hong Kong. I was a bit worried since my flight was delayed twenty minutes, so I “only” had about an hour and forty minutes (instead of two full hours) before my flight. I had to take a shuttle bus from Terminal Two to the International Terminal and it took me a while to find the bus stop. Then it seemed to take the ANA staff a while to get my ticket (the JTB travel agent had booked through some other site/service and not directly with the airline, so I was paranoid something would be wrong with my ticket), so I was worried. There was no problem, though, and the walk from customs to the gates (there are only three!) in the International Terminal (at Haneda, remember) is super short, so I made it with plenty of time to spare. It was funny, though, because we actually got put on a bus from the gate and were driven up to the plane.

The flight was uneventful and I arrived in Hong Kong almost half an hour before scheduled. My family friends met me there and drove me to the hotel they had booked for me—which is actually something of a story itself. When I was planning the trip, my mom was going to book a hotel for me, but whe
n I talked to Auntie Denise about coming, it really sounded like she wanted me to come stay with them. So my mom and I decided I’d accept their offer instead of getting a hotel room. Some days before I left, however, she emailed me to say that they felt bad about letting me sleep on their floor, so they had booked me a room—in the same hotel my mother had been planning on booking! ^^;; I emailed back to ask if they could cancel the reservation, but… It was super nice of them, but… Plus they paid for the hotel room ahead of time, so I didn’t even have a chance to try to pay for the room (or even to see the actual cost).

Anyway, they picked me up at the hotel Saturday morning at 11am and we went for dim sum. I’m not exactly sure where the restaurant was (except that it was on the Hong Kong island side and not on Kowloon, where they live), but it was great. It had the best char siu (Chinese barbecued pork) I’ve ever had, and a unique type of char siu bao (barbecued pork bun): yellow and crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside—very different from the typical white, steamed buns! Luckily I’m used to eating breakfast (8:30am latest) and a big school lunch (12:30pm), so I was able to eat a lot. =P

Then we went sightseeing. I hadn’t done much research before going to Hong Kong and I didn’t really have (m)any places in particular that I wanted to go, so I was thankful they were there to take me to all the “must-see” tourist spots: Stanley, Repulse Bay, The Peak, Temple Street, and Nathan Road. We didn’t really spend much time in any of the places, apart from The Peak, but at least I got to see them so if people talk/ask about them, I’ll be able to say I’ve been there (and I have the photos to prove it!).

For Stanley and Temple Street (and even the famed Ladies’ Market—though that was on Sunday), I didn’t really spend too long or buy anything there. It seems to be more touristy stuff, and I’m more into quirky/original things. But again, it was good for me to go there and experience Hong Kong markets. And thankfully I was with locals so they were able to bargain a bit for the few things I did buy.

The Peak was pretty cool. We took the tram up, which was a good experience. The beginning of the ride is impressively steep! If you take the tram, I recommend getting a seat by the back, on the right side (next to the window, if possible) for the best view!

We also went to the Madame Tussaud’s Museum, only because the line to buy Tram/Museum combo tickets was a heck of a lot shorter than the line for just the tram. =P I don’t think I’ll ever understand the appeal of life size wax models of people—even if they are celebrities. It’s SO CREEPY!!

Anyway, after Madame Tussaud’s, we had Hagen Daaz (mango passionfruit for me!) and then wandered around for bit. I found some weird key chain things and simply “had to” get two. Well, I planned on buying two, anyway, but Uncle Ed wanted to pay for them for me, so… ^^;; I thought they were cute, but Uncle Ed and Auntie Denise thought they were ugly. (Guess that’s the generation gap, huh? ^_~ )

After that, we had dinner. Unfortunately we couldn’t go the restaurant they wanted to take me to (it was next to my hotel) because it was occupied with a wedding banquet, so we ended up walking to another. The food was pretty good there, but the service was mediocre at best. (Definitely the dim sum place from the morning was a much better place in terms of both food and service!)

Next we went to Temple Street for some shopping. I bought a sporty, small and cute bag, but that was it. We walked up to Nathan Road (most of the stores were close to closing time, so it was just to see it) and then back to my hotel. They headed home and I decided to go back to my room rather than walking around some more. I did decide to venture out to the 7/11 just across the street, but it was mostly Japanese snacks, so I didn’t buy anything.

I stayed up watching TV for a bit though; it was SO nice to be able to watch English programs again! I caught part of a Discovery Channel special on alligators/crocodiles and watched a full episode of Amazing Race Asia before turning in for the night.

You can see all of my Hong Kong photos in my Facebook album.

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