Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Quick Trip to Hong Kong

Our company finally let us know that we were to take a trip to Hong Kong for our visa run.  They said that we would go early in the morning on Thursday and come back Friday.  Naturally Michelle and I asked if we could extend the trip through the weekend and they agreed.   There were two options to get to Hong Kong.  The easy way or the hard way.  Since the easy way, flying directly into Hong Kong, was more expensive, Michelle and I chose the difficult and cheap way.  Taking the cheap way consisted of tons of public transportation and hours of travel. 

Our morning started around 5am when our company thankfully sent us a driver to take us from Suzhou to Shanghai Hongqiao Airport.  This leg of our tour took about 1:15.  We easily found our terminal and flight waiting area where about three or four different Chinese men were using their electric shavers in unison. I clearly wasn’t up on that. Our plane came on time and we took the 2.5hour flight into Shenzhen which is still in mainland China and borders Hong Kong.  From the Shenzhen Airport we took our coats off and napped on the subway for the next hour until we hit the end of the line- Hong Kong.  The Hong Kong border seemed much like a maze to get through immigration.  This took another 45mins.  Next, we used our new, much cooler, Hong Kong currency to jump on the HK metro.  After another hour and two more transfers we used our map we printed out to locate our hotel successfully (1.25hours).

We thought our hotel room in Shanghai was small but this was literally half the size.  We stayed in this place called the Chungking Mansion which has 100+ hostels where backpackers and people from all over stay for very cheap directly in the downtown area.  It was refreshing to see different people and cultures from all over the world just like back at home in the USA.  Most people who stayed in the hostels were just there to see the sights for as cheaply as possible.

This shot is only missing the door behind me

Once we arrived we didn’t have any time to be tourists just yet. We had to take care of boring visa paperwork first.  Once we finished this we got dinner (forgetting that we didn’t have to use our poor Chinese to order) and then headed back to the downtown area.  Once there we went to the walkway by the water to see the Hong Kong skyline.  It was slightly raining but with the temperature being around 70degrees we didn’t mind.  The lights together with the buildings were one of the coolest sights that I have ever seen.  It easily gives the NYC skyline a run for its money.  I thought it was better. Not sure if Michelle thinks the same since she is clearly has bias.
HK Skyline

Hong Kong Junks

While exploring we were pumped to see the European architecture that is everywhere in the city.  We especially liked the huge tree that was built in between some very tall buildings and Chinese version of the Avenue of the Stars located on the edge of the river.


The next day we changed our plans because of the forecast of rain and chose to go to Disney.  I was going to write about this here but I think it will be better to give it its own post.  Michelle says she has written most of it so it will be up soon!  We spent most of the day there with a break in the middle when we picked up our passports and returned back to the park.

On our final full day we headed through the city and took a tram that ascended up the mountain that is in Hong Kong.  We could see some fog at the top of the skyscrapers but we didn’t realize how much fog would be at the top of the mountain until we arrived.  When we first stepped foot outside the building where the tram was, we only could see about 15 feet in front of us.  After doing the awkward “what should we do” walk we decided to hike the trail around the peak anyway.  This was a great decision.  Though we couldn’t see the great views that were possibly there from above the city it was still a really awesome experience to walk the path.  It was completely lined with semi-tropical plants and rock edges with a few mansions sprinkled in.  I’m pretty sure Michelle mentioned something about the Forbidden Forest from  Harry Potter in certain places but I’m sure that wouldn’t surprise any of you who know her.

Tram to the Peak

After we completed the hike (about 2 miles) and bought some souvenirs, we got on the tram and rode it back down the mountain.  Once we were at the bottom and completed a quick visit to the nearby WWF store (To hook Michelle up with a Lion key chain), our zoo radars kicked in when we saw a sign that said “Hong Kong Zoological Gardens”.  This happened to be a great unplanned surprise on our day trip.  The Zoological Gardens was both a park and a zoo that had about 15 exhibits and had completed free entry.  All of the animals except for our favorite there, the raccoon, were really active.  Most of the animals were either birds or monkeys.  Michelle somehow spotted this super small picture of a lemur (her ultimate favorite) and insisted that is was in the zoo even though we didn’t see it right away.  I doubted that there were lemurs but of course she located them and we spent probably a good 20minutes just watching them jump around.  Michelle says that she was in ‘lemur time’ so only about 5 minutes passed by for her internal clock.

She could stare at this picture for 10 lemur minutes

English translation: Free Zoo!

It reads: "Keep a safe distance from the beast"

After the zoo we found this church, which is a rare sight while in China.  We went in and took a few photos and were on our way.  The walkway that went down from the hill that the church was situated on was pretty cool.  There were all of these man made waterfalls that were really long and crazy. This is where the phrase we coined, “Mainlanding”, could come into play.  When there is railing and general safety is taken into account, this would not be very mainland.  If there is a general disregard for safety, allowing you complete freedom to climb, touch, or jump on whatever you please within reason, this would be mainlanding.  The term also applies to how pushy or aggressive people are when walking, entering the subway or bus, or standing in line.  Mainlanders, especially the elderly, will knock you out of the way no problem.  You can’t get mad though since this is the culture and simply don’t give up your ground by throwing an elbow…
Where was I? Oh yes, next we walked down the strip of skyscrapers just to check things out.  The area was so unbelievably modern that I wouldn’t even call it modern but rather it’s at least a step or two above that.  Everything is super futuristic and sometimes things are shaped architecturally so that it makes no sense at all, except to look awesome.  While on this walk we popped out our little tourist map and decided to freestyle it over to a place called Stanley Market.

Chinese and British people together

We climbed up front and center on the second story of a double-decker bus and were on our way.  The bus ride alone was really cool.  It took us from the downtown area and winded us though hills and coves into a less population dense area with coves and small beaches (with shark net barriers).  On top of these hills we were able to see some of Hong Kong’s many islands,  all looking like little mountains in the ocean.   The bus curved around turns so tight that we sometimes had to stop to allow other buses through.
When we arrived it was getting late so the huge shopping market was about to close down and since the market was nothing new to us we decided to pass it by.  After we exited the market that we had to walk through, we entered a very European/American land of cafes and outdoor seating bars complete with an awesome view of the ocean.  It looked like a smaller scale and less touristy area that could be in Florida with a rockier and tropical ocean view.  Michelle and I didn’t say much for a few minutes as we stood on the peer and soaked in the views.  When we did speak we agreed that if we could live anywhere that we have ever been to this might be the place.
Second floor street view

Left - Tram              Right - Double Decker Bus


Cafes and Pubs of Stanley

Stanley Market

The next morning we spend almost 12hours in two subway systems with transfers, China immigration, a plane, a bus, and a taxi until we made it to our home in Suzhou.  I was pretty proud of us when we were able to travel like locals in taking the long distance bus from Shanghai Pudong Airport to Suzhou because I knew the Chinese characters for Suzhou. 

Hong Kong was no doubt the coolest place I have ever been to.  I’m sure Michelle can agree on this as well.  We both are already trying to figure out how we can get back to HK for a longer amount of time.  If you’re ever thinking about coming to China, Hong Kong is a must.  Though we really love Suzhou, Hong Kong really made us jealous for those people who live there!