Wednesday, July 14, 2010

To Hong Kong and beyond

On July 1st, eight Americans, on three separate flights, arrived in Hong Kong within 40 minutes.

The scheduling for the trip was made by the seven who came from the US, and it conflicted with an Industrial Hygiene training session at Yokosuka base, so Allan wasn't able to join us. Fortunately, he thought I should seize the opportunity to travel with my best friend, Jean.

A young Chinese girl named Winnie gathered us up at the airport and got us to the Park Hotel in Kowloon. Kowloon is not on Hong Kong Island, but on a peninsula of mainland China that juts out into Victoria Harbour facing south toward Hong Kong Island.
The name 'Kowloon' means nine dragons and refers to the 8 hills of Kowloon. The emperor is the ninth.

The following morning, we went by double decker bus (1st photo) around Hong Kong Island. The ride was an adventure, as the road was narrow, steep, curved and sometimes bumpy, none of which bothered the driver.

The scenery was like the a movie about the Amazon, lush and mountainous. The area had some interesting architecture like this concave building. We reached the town of Stanley where our adventure begins.

Here we are, just off the bus (2 men, 6 women). L-R Pilar, Renee, Cecil, Edmee, Jean, Andy, Yasmin and Elizabeth.

The guidebooks say to visit Stanley market, and we did. Jean and I each got a pashmina. I wear one every day in winter. We have a wet, windy cold in Yokosuka, so you want to protect your neck. Jean, Andy and I finished shopping and were wandering when we found Cecil and stopped for a beer while we waited for the others. After two beers each, we headed to Murray House for some lunch.

Murray Barracks, was built in central HK in 1846 and was one of the longest surviving buildings of that era. After being occupied by the British and Japanese (as well as being haunted), it was disassambled in 1982 to clear land for a large bank. Each block was labeled and stored until it was reassembled in 2001 in Stanley. When the rebuild was completed, six ionic columns were left over, so they were placed at the front of the terrace. Click on the photo to get a better view.

We lunched at a great Vietnamese restaurant. We have no Vietnamese restaurants in Yokosuka and I love Vietnamese food, so I was a happy girl.

Just like in Japan, the school children are assigned to interview native English speakers. A group of boys spoke with Andy and four girls, 9th to 11th grade asked questions of Yasmin, Jean and me.

The bus took us back to Kowloon in time to hit the 'night market'. It was a cheesy tourist trap, and one vendor had large beetles in shadowbox frames. Who would want something like that? As it turns out, Jean's son Sean asked her to bring one back as a souvenir. Hey, I just report this stuff...

After perusing the market, we found a few of our ladies at this table (above) having a drink. We all joined them and had dinner next to a table (to the right of the photo) filled with Americans, a few of whom were pilots for FedEx. This is their favorite place to eat, so we made a good choice. The table was on a busy corner, but we weren't sure what building the food was coming out of. Walking back, we did some window shopping for j-e-w-e-l-l-e-r-y, as it's spelled in Hong Kong (British influence).

Here are Andy, Jean and Yasmin (seated) on Saturday during our slow ferry ride to Lantau Island, just west of Hong Kong Island. From the dock we boarded a bus to Tai O, a small fishing village. It's really poor - well, you can see that from the photos.

It looks as though the boat might also be home. We took a long walk to a temple, but I missed the 'Walk of Wisdom'. That doesn't sound like something you should miss out on, but I did.

This was the nicest residence we saw in the village. Jean, who is a contractor said it was made from cargo containers from ships. If you thought you need a bigger, fancier house, what do you think now?

From Tai O, we rode yet another bus to Ngong Ping, a tourist village full of souvenir shops, restaurants, and a BIG Buddha, that can be seen from all over the island. He's right there at the top of the photo.

Andy managed to find a pizzeria and decided to eat there. Not so, Jean, Yasmin, Pilar and Lizzy. We found a ramen restaurant.

After lunch, and a long climb to the Buddha, we took a gondola ride across the island to the train station where we would head back to Kowloon.

This is my favorite part of the trip. We could see most of the island and Victoria Harbour, and the entire airport. The ride took about 20 minutes and cost about $7.

Here's some more interesting architecture. Hong Kong is a modern city, and although it reverted to China in 1999, just about everything is different from mainland China, right down to the currency.

After a train ride back to Kowloon, we set out in search of two stores, Pandora jewelry and Longchamp bags, and made purchases from each. Jean has a bracelet that she added three charms to, and Renee bought an extremely lightweight backpack. I was tempted to get one myself. That night we had fabulous Thai food, right there at the mall.

Our last morning in town, we headed to the highest point on Hong Kong Island - Victoria Peak. The view is great from here. It was once the poshest place to live, but now it's a big ole tourist trap.

Sometimes when you have a camera handy, there's that shot you just can't let go. I was pretty much running after this one, so it's a little fuzzy, but you can see what this guy's T-shirt says - right? and you can also see that he's on the phone - right?

Okay, good. That's all.

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