Discovering Bustling Hong Kong!
29.07.2011 - 30.07.2011 88 °F
Today we wake to a lovely, breezy (thank you, Typhoon season!) day in New Territories, where we stayed overnight with Becky & Liang. Becky graced us with a lovely breakfast of oatmeal, eggs, tea and fresh fruit. Yum! Thank you for such a welcome, generous stay - we are indebted to you both.
After booking accommodations at Liang's University housing for student/faculty guests, we are heading for a mini-tour/orientation of Hong Kong so Essie & I can get our bearings. We wanna get a feel for the area, and orient ourselves to where we'll be staying before Jigga arrives this evening.
We start out by heading down, down, down the mountain on a squirrel-y bus ride. Remember: not only do Hong Kongers drive on the Left-hand side of the road as Brits do, but they also drive fast, honk a lot, and swerve! This is a WILD ride, to say the least. Hey, at least we're thrill seekers - it felt like a mini bus roller coaster ride!
Finally at the bottom of the mountain, we enter the Metro at Sha Tin Grand Junction so we may enter the Metro Station before the sky opens up in a torrential downpour. I look up to see a giant IKEA - Ha! Now, that is not something I expected to see at [i]any point[i] on this journey! We quickly shuffle up the concrete walkway to the entrance of the Sha Tin Metro Station, but not before I can snap a few pics of the traditional buildings that grace the area next to the Station. Becky tells me these types of structures have all but disappeared from Hong Kong, since the City is all about "modernizing and renovating" what's already built, since there's not any more space to build. My ever-present Nostalgia kicks in, and I cherish the sight of the Old Hong Kong nestled within the trappings of the New Hong Kong.
We continue through the labrynthine passages of the Metro Station to a Customer Service Center, where I pay 200 HKD (Hong Kong Dollars) to purchase a [i]magical[i] "Octopus" card. This credit card-looking card will afford us passage on all manner of public transport while we are in Hong Kong - from the subway/Metro to double-decker busses and even the Victoria Peak tram. Public transportation is the way to travel around Hong Kong, as like in New York City, taxis can get expensive.
Octopus card in hand, we are ready to plunge into the City. We head to Kowloon on the Metro, easily navigating the well-mapped route on our way. We get off at Kowloon and walk to the Hong Kong Baptist University campus, where Liang teaches Finance. Essie, Jigga & I will be staying in the Guest housing/hotel tonight, all thanks to Liang sponsoring us. Thank you, Shao Liang!
I can't help but notice the cool murals and sights all around the Metro that are routine to my hosts, yet such a departure from anything I've witnessed in life thus far. The architecture, art, print ads, signage, even the people's mode of dress is captivating to my American eye. Not the least of which is the "Level 3 Typhoon warning" signs glaring at us as we pass through the Metro. Not to worry: Level 3 is only a moderate wind/storm. Level 8 is a full-blown Typhoon.
The accommodations are palacial! Two twin beds, hot shower, TV, internet, in a large, meticulously clean room.Truly...this hotel feels like an American hotel room. Wow. We'll enjoy every moment of this before our travel to Vietnamese/Lao/Thai hostels and guest houses!
After gettin settled into our room, we all take a walk back to Kowloon Station for a lunch of Dim Sum. We wind through the gigantic, well-appointed Festival Mall toward Hong Kong City University. On the 8th floor is a Chinese Restaurant with the BEST Dim Sum I've ever sampled. As we sit down, Becky carefully "purifies" all of our tableware in Cantonese cermonial style, using the boiling water on the table. Next, Liang pours Jasmine tea for all. I feel prvileged to hang with "locals" who know the cultural mores so I don't appear to be an American doofus.
We dine on carrot buns, rice buns stuffed with custard, shrimp/crab rice porridge, rice rolls with oyster sauce, shrimp pot stickers, delectable minced fish balls, steamed veggies, and shrimp dumplings. And, oh - Don't forget the mango custard dessert. Ahhh....Hong Kong International cuisine at its best!
After a bit of "sustenance" shopping at Taste, the International grocery store within the confines of the Festival Mall, it's time to march home. As Becky settles us into our hotel room and pledges 24-hour assistance once again, we thank her profusely for Liang's and her generosity and hospitality. Thanks to them, we have Seen How the Locals Live in Hong Kong. Who could ask for more?!
Essie & I rest until Jigga arrives, aside from a quick jaunt out to the Student Union to grab a sandwich and lemon ice tea juice box for dinner, both of which pale in comparison to our divine lunch experience. We are thankful our Travel Companion has arrived safely from Cali! Yay!!
Alas, back to the status of American Tourists. There are certainly worse monikers - we feel truly Blessed.