Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hong Kong! (Day 2 - Sun., Oct. 12)

Sunday morning was dim sum again, but at a Kowloon restaurant this time. This restaurant had really good chicken feet and cheung fan. Along with Auntie Denise and Uncle Ed, there was also their niece, Vinci. Auntie Denise had asked her to take me shopping that day since she figured a young person closer to my age (in her last year of university) would know better the types of places I’d be interested in.

I ended up getting along real
ly well with Vinci, so the day was a lot of fun! For shopping purposes, it was also helpful that Vinci and I seemed to have very similar tastes (except that her favourite colour is pink, which I never wear since I don’t think it suits me). So yeah, first we went to the Ladies’ Market since I had asked about it. It was kind of like Temple Street (very touristy), so I only bought a T-shirt there.

While we were walking around the streets (not the Ladies’ Market, though), I checked out laptop prices. The prices were pretty reasonable, but they were mostly newer models and at the upper limit of my budget, so I decided against getting one.

The mall in Mong Kok, however, was right on target. We started off getting drinks from Happy Lemon there, then dove into the shopping! I bought three shirts, a watch, a stuffed hippo, and a Kenshin cell phone dangly (from a gacha machine). ^____^

After all the shopping, we were a bit hungry, so we grabbed some curry fish balls and some s
ort of Chinese sausage on sticks. (Didn’t think to take pictures, just gobbled it down!) We then moved onto dumplings, soy milk and imitation sharks’ fin soup at another place (with tables and seats). (Again, just ate, no pictures. =P)

We took the MRT to Tsim Sha Tsui for more shopping. First we stopped by a Duty Free Shop to get my omiyage. It was pretty funny. A sales guy came up while we were looking at various products and was “This is Hong Kong’s yume product. It’s very oishii.” Clearly he thought we were Japanese tourists. Well, I guess technically I was one, but Vinci was a local! She told me after we left the place that some of the staff were talking about how strange we were—“Japanese” girls speaking in English! =P

I had about 100 people on my omiyage list (Kirita students & teachers, my office, other ALTs, Japanese friends, my dance instructor, eikaiwa students, etc.), so I ended spending almost half of the money I brought with (admittedly not that much) on omiyage alone! It was a lot of stuff, so they gave me a bag with wheels! It would’ve been too embarrassing to cart it around shopping, though, so we left it with customer service for two hours while we walked around. (Thank goodness for that service!)

After buying the omiyage, we had yet another snack break. This time it was HK style tea and French toast with peanut butter! It was pure artery clogging deliciousness! =P (It also reminded me a bit of home, and Friday nights at Café Hollywood after fellowship!)

Then it was onto another mall to find a Heroic Re
ndezvous store! Heroic Rendezvous is a HK brand designed by Vanessa Chan. I first saw it when I went to Singapore, and I really liked the stuff but it was too expensive for me to buy more than a bag. By HK standards, Heroic Rendezvous is still relatively expensive, but it’s cheaper in HK than in Singapore, and still comparable to (less than, actually), say, Roots prices in Canada.

We went back to collect my omiyage and then went to meet Auntie Denise and Uncle Ed for dinner—stopping off at Uniqlo (graphic tee designs seem to be different in different countries) just long enough for me to buy a ¾ sleeve hooded tee.

We had beef da bin lo for dinner. It was yummy, but I couldn’t really eat that much; I’m not much of a dinner eater now anyway, and I was still a bit full from the French toast! Even though I ate quite a lot, I still had space (I almost always do =P) for dessert! They took me to this place that has awesome mango desserts, so I had sago with mango juice and extra mango. SO yummy!

Then it was back to the hotel room to pack. I had to unwrap almost all the omiyage boxes, and either take out the plastic trays inside and repack them in the boxes (bringing 8 boxes down to 5) or put them into a Ziploc bag.

It was heavy, but I did manage to stuff everything into my one duffel bag (maximum carry-on size) and small bag.

Monday morning I took a shuttle bus (booked and paid for on Saturday evening) to the airport and was on my way home!

See more pictures in my Facebook album!

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.