Hey folks! I’m back in the United States! Thankfully I had automated Monday’s post because I was in no position to write on Monday. In Europe, I gave you a rundown of what was going on everyday in real time. This trip, however, was so short and jam packed that I decided I would just put together one extended blog post.
Desirée and I left directly from work on Monday to head to Dulles, where our flight was departing out of at noon on Tuesday. We left the car at a Park, Stay, and Ride hotel 8 minutes from IAD, hopped from DC to Newark and then, 16 hours later, we were in Hong Kong. We only fly with carry-on luggage because 1) checked baggage get lost easier and 2) then we have to wait for our baggage. Once we arrived, we caught public transit to the Rosedale Kowloon Hotel and, by the time we checked in, it was 10 PM. Since we didn’t have a chance to stop at an ATM and none of the local spots took credit, we had to eat at McDonald’s but that isn’t too bad. McDonald’s is a bit of an international ritual for me. It allows me to gauge the cultural norms in different places. Example: They had some kind of a salmon Big Mac, with the beef as one layer and a deep fried salmon burger as another. We ate and went to the room to get some sleep in a city that was 13 hours ahead of home. One really cool thing about our room is that the hotel provided us with a cellular device so that we would have connectivity throughout our trip if we needed it. We ended up using that primarily for Google Maps and to call home but that’s really all we needed it for. Sleep didn’t come easy on this (or any) night in Asia.
The next morning, we hit the ground RUNNING. First, we walked 20 minutes to this hole in the wall restaurant Desirée found on Yelp. I had a beef and egg sandwich that was decent and she had this marvelous French Toast. I can’t describe it but it definitely was good. After that, we caught the subway to Ngong Ping where the Big Buddha statue is located. We had to take a cable car over the mountain to get there in reasonable time so I dealt with my fear of heights and we saved a couple hours on a bus. The statue was magnificent. Of course, I’m not Buddhist but I can certainly appreciate the effort put into a monument of that stature. While there, I happened to run into some brothers of my fraternity (I had an Alpha shirt on), one of Desirée’s Delta sisters, and an AKA. We spoke and, since it was Thanksgiving, they invited us to Thanksgiving dinner with them. Unfortunately that didn’t end up happening because communication there relies on my ability to connect to wifi. But it was cool to be across the world and meet frat. On the way out of the park that surrounded the Buddha, we stopped and I got some dim sum. Was pretty good but some sweet and sour sauce would have helped. After the Big Buddha, we went to the Hong Kong Zoo and got to see some exotic animals. My favorites were the black and gold buff cheeked gibbons. We ended up catching an Uber back to the hotel and were planning on eating somewhere and then going out for drinks but exhaustion had set in. We didn’t make it out of the hotel that night (even though we had dinner reservations that we didn’t remember until we were already in the bed and comfortable), but we did grab drinks on our hotel’s sky bar.
The second day, we got an early start at around 6 AM (which was fine with me because sleep was evasive). We caught an Uber about 45 minutes out to Dragon’s Back Trail and hiked about 60 minutes up the mountain and 30 down. The climb was pretty rough, but we reached the top of the first peak and it was worth it. The views were spectacular from every direction. I captured as much as I could but no photograph could show you God’s beauty from that point. I posted a photo from one of the peaks and my uncle wrote on it, “Remember to take in the view, but don’t forget to acknowledge the vision.” The vision that created all of this was unmistakably divine and to experience it, a blessing.
After Dragon’s Back, we caught a bus down to the metro station (we didn’t have exact change for the bus but thankfully the driver gave us a break because, as he assumed, we didn’t speak Cantonese) and walked around looking for food. We came across this street vendor that had great noodles (Desirée’s) and Crab Fried Rice (mine) as well as some local delicacy snacks (me, a barbecue dish and Desirée some pastry). Then we Ubered back to the hotel to shower and get out of our hiking clothes (and to sneak in a quick nap before we got back to it). We set back out again around noon, dressed for the rest of the day and the evening, and went to the site of 10,000 Buddhas (which is actually a winding hill with 10,000 monk statues. Pretty impressive even though, after the morning’s strenuous hike, we only made it through about 200 of them before saying, “Well, that was nice.” Next up on our itinerary was the Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden. The garden was beautiful and well kept. Maybe it was the novelty of it all but the beautiful sites in Hong Kong were more plentiful than those in any major city I’ve been to the United States. Everywhere I looked, there was something designed to enhance nature’s beauty from every angle. We left the garden/nunnery stop and rushed to catch a train that would get us to Sky 100 for high tea on the 100th floor of the highest building in china. As I said before, I hate heights, but once again, I made my way up there and was glad I did. The view of the city from the building’s observatory was rivaled only by the view of nature from the peak of Dragon’s Back. After tea, we walked around some and finally made it to our dinner reservations from the night before, which we were able to reschedule. The reservation was on a dinner cruise across the harbor during the city’s light show, which is held every weekend at the end of November and December. Seeing the city lit up from the water like that was a sight that I will always look back to and smile about (plus the entertainment on the dinner cruise will creep into my mind and make me chuckle as well but I won’t mention that unless personally asked). After dinner, we went back to the hotel, dog tired, and passed OUT. I lied earlier. This was the night when sleep came easily.
On our third and final day in Hong Kong, we woke up and it was supposed to rain all day . I knew I didn’t feel like walking 20 minutes for French Toast even though Desirée wanted the toast she had on Day 1. So I said, “Let’s go around the corner. I’m sure theirs is just as good.” You know how your grandparents say “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” Yup. They’re right. Because, this time, the French Toast was BROKE. This place decided to put their own spin on the dish by injecting it with peanut butter. We were not fans and, needless to says, I got the evil eye for suggesting that we go there. Following breakfast, we went to Hong Kong Time Square, the Avenue of the Stars (their version of the Walk of Fame), and Causeway Bay (a popular shopping area). We ran into some guys who were marching for equality for the LGBT community. It’s interesting (but not surprising) that, across cultures, some things are still issues that affect all of humanity. We had lunch in Causeway Bay at some hole in the wall. Let’s just say I’m glad there was rice with my meal. A lot of rice. Following lunch, we caught the metro the central part of the city to visit Man Mo Temple, one of Hong Kong’s oldest and most visited temples. Then we went down this ally full of street vendors to find a few souvenirs (we collect magnets everywhere we go so that was one thing we couldn’t leave without) and then we hit happy hour at a couple bars. Hong Kong is known for well-crafted cocktails and I can see why. This one place we went, Aberdeen Street Social, made me the best cocktail I’ve ever had. If you’re ever in Hong Kong, you must go and, if you like scotch, order an Aberdeen Royal Flush. You won’t be disappointed. Along with our drinks, we had a great lobster roll. By then, it had begun raining so we called it quits around 5 PM. On the morning of the 27th, we caught a flight out of Hong Kong to Tokyo, but not before we walked the 20 minutes at 5:30 AM to grab a certain person’s favorite French Toast. While at the airport in Tokyo, where we had a layover, I picked up some Chivas Regal Scotch that is crafted with Japanese oak barrels and only sold in Japan. I’m pretty excited about opening that in good company.
All things considered, this was a great trip. I wish I’d had more time but we made the most of the time we had there. Will I go back? Certainly, one day but we’ve got a lot more to see before then, Lord willing.
Make experiencing life a priority.