(Copied from our travel journal...some of it written by Gary, some by Tracie)
Day1: July 17th Sunday
The flight to San Fransisco from Calgary seemed short and was uneventful. When we got to San Fransisco at about 9pm, we found the next gate very quickly and went through security without hassle. We had a 4hr stopover, so we got someting to eat at a mexican restaurant. Delicious nachos... best food ever. Well, best nachos either one of us had ever had.
On the flight, we met a young guy, about 30 or so from England. He was really nice and chatty. He was on his way to Cairns, Australia for fun.
Having never been on a plane before, I was (am) new to the flying culture. I noticed right away that people in airports (passengers waiting for their flight) are friendly. We had several people strike up conversations with us and it made waiting quite enjoyable. I guess its easy to strike up a conversation at the airport because you already know you have something in common with the other guy.
Day2: July 18th Monday
Flight to Hong Kong was long and boring. We flew on Air Singapore which was a pleasant change from Air Canada. The stewards were very attentive, bringing hot towels and drinks around. They gave us pillows and blankets, toothbrushes and socks. There were tvs on the back of each chair so we each got our own.
A few turbulant patches, but mostly a smooth flight... 13 hours of flying was not fun on the butt, but the captain said we were way ahead of schedule because of a tail wind- so it would have been 2 hours longer.
Day3: July 19th Tuesday
Time change meant that we lost 14 hrs, so all of a sudden, Monday became Tuesday. We didn't go through any customs (as far as we could tell). Someone stamped our passports and then we were here. We got our backpacks and took a cab to the hostel for $200 hkd (6 hkd=1 cad). We weren't sure about forking over the cash for the cab, but in hindsight, we're glad we did because it would have taken forever for us to find it ourselves. Even if we had found the general neighbourhood, all the streets are busy and confusing in Tsim Sha Tsui.
It was still only 7am when we got to the hostel, and check in wasn't until noon. So we took to the streets (left our backpacks at the hostel) and happened upon Kowloon Park. This is a huge, beautiful park with wonderful trees and flowers. People were out in full force (well, maybe notbut there were lots of people anyway) Here in Hongkong, people go to the park and do Tai Chi(or something like it) Where we would have joggers, they have guys meditating. It was prety intersting.
About 1/2 hr later, Gary yelled "Oh, Crap!" I jumped, and it turned out we forgot our duffle bag full of shoes. We headed for the airport and decided to take the subway.
Subways here are huge! They are clean and they don't smell bad. We figured out (with a little help from a passerby) that we needed to buy a one way ticket from an automated machine. Everything at the subway is automated. There are no people to check tickets, once they print off, you feed them into a machine that lets you in, and you can only get out by feeding it to another machine. I guess if you tried to ride the train further than you paid, you wouldn't b able to get through the gate.
Upon arrival at the airport, we were directed to the lost baggage office. We found it quite easily, but is was the for the wrong airline. The office we needed was about a km away at the other side of the building. We travelled down the longest, narrowest hallway I have ever seen. The poeple in the office said we need a claim check, which we left at the hostel. They said we should see if security would let us in to the baggage pickup area.
On our way up one of the workers caught up to us and whisked us to the security entrance and took Tracie in because only she had her boarding pass. The bag was sitting all alone beside the carousel.
After we got back to the hostel and checked in, we explored the neighbourhood. Walking around Kowloon gives you a sensory overload. The buildings are so high. There are so many that they seem to block each other from view. It becomes hard to see the forest for all the trees.
We were pretty tired so after seeing the avenue of stars and the festival of lights, we went home for the night at around 10pm.
Day 4 July 20th Wednesday
We decided to go to Kowloon City to see the old walled city, but on our way we happened upon the ladies market. The ladies market is a must see for anyone visiting Hong Kong. It has mostly clothes, purses, fake watches and jewelery.
I bought a copy watch , Tracie got a shirt and purse.
After the ladies market we went to find something to eat. The place we chose was on the third floor. We felt really out of place. We were unsure of the proper ettiquette.
They brought the food out one tray at a time, giving us the impression that it was to be shared at the table, and not just eaten by one person. We waited for the rest to arrive before starting which seemed to confuse some of the staff.
After supper we went to the Temple St. night market. Here they have more electronic type things along with clothes, watches and other knock off items.
We each bought shirts, Tracie got a necklace and I bought a DVD.
Day 5 July 21 (thursday)
First thing in the morning we walked to Kowloon City to see the old walled city park. It was a very long walk, but well worth it. We found it a pleasant respite to be away from all the people pestering us to buy suits or watches. It is a very interesting place. A lot of effort went into making it nice. You probably wouldn't see that much attention to detail at a park in Canada. For example most of the foot paths had small disk shaped stones set sideways in the concrette. Out side the walls there was a very interesting jogging/walking path that looked a lot like a go-kart track. There were a lot of beautiful stones, some carved and some just naturally beautiful. We took pictures by the "Long Life Stone" and the " Marriage Stone". There was a chinese Zodiac garden with each figure carved out of stone and displayed in a big circle. The chinese Zodiac figures were also carved (trimmed edward sissor hand style) into bushes.
We decided to take the train back, because it was a good 1hr-1.5hr walk.
It was still a fair way to get to the subway, but we found a bakery on the way "Le Bon Pain" that was so delicious it was worth the walk. We really like going to bakeries to eat, and since one item is around $5hkd) it's a pretty inexpensive lunch and it doesn't involve eating animal guts.
Since we spent so much money shopping at the markets the day before, we decided to spend as little as we could that day. Park in the morning and beach in the afternoon.
We chose Repulse Bay as our destination (because it was mentioned in our travel guide book) and set off on the bus. We sat at the top of a double decker right beside about 8 people from Edmoton. The one couple was in Hong Kong teaching English through a bible school. They were almost half done their 2 year term and really loving it.
The beach was a nice escape from the sweltering humidity. It was 35 degrees C, but with 97% humidity, you are drenched in sweat within the first few steps out of the airconditioning. It's very hot and sticky here.
Anyway the beach was very fun. Not too crowded at all. My uncle Jeff mentioned on our blog a few weeks ago all oceans are freezing cold (this was in response to Gary's comment that oceans in Canada are ice cold)This is not true. The water was cool and refreshing. Maybe a little colder than my shower in the morning, but that's all. We jumped right in. Echodale last week was colder than this ocean. We stayed and played in the water for a few hours, and then took the bus to the hostel.
In the evening, we walked around looking for somewhere to eat. As Gary said before, every 2 steps in Tsim Sha Tsui you are attacked by guys trying to sell you stuff. You learn quickly to ignore them and keep walking. One guy that shoved a flier at us, I pushed past, but Gary said, "Hey, this is a menu".
We were immediately ushered in. It seemed that we got handed off several times on our way up the stairs into the building. The whole while competitors were shoving menus in our faces. A few steps into the building, tempers flared and our guide shoved one of the other guys. I (Gary) said to them that I already had a menu. We got dropped off at the elevator with someone there to make sure we went up.
The whole experience turned us off eating there so on our way up to the 7th floor we decided to sneak out using the stairs. They didn't see us leaving, and we avoided that area for the rest of the night.
We found a nice internet cafe that was nice, clean and quiet. I had Tandori Chicken with Fried Spaghetti and Tracie had noodle soup with leeks and beef.
Day 6 July 22 (Friday)
There was a wild storm all night and it was still raining in the morning. We decided to get some laundry done, so we gave it to the hostel people and they sent it out for us.
The rain had almost stopped by about noon so we took the star ferry over to Hong Kong Island. The ferry has two classes it costs 2.20 on the top deck and 1.70 on the botom deck. Other than that there is no difference that I can see between the two classes.
When we got there we went to Hong Kong Park. It is a very nice park with lots of stuff to do and see. There is a fountain that is big enough for people to go in and see the back side of the water falling all around them. We went in and took some photos.
There is an terrarium that you can go through and see all sorts of plants. The cactus area didn't seem to be any less humid than any of the other ares. There was no entry fee.
Hong Kong Park also has an aviary that you can go through for free. It is basically a huge dome net over jungle with lots of exotic birds. You walk through on a boardwalk high in the air. They made us spit out our gum before we went in which was disappointing because we both had fresh pieces. We left right away though because the sky was clearing up and there wasn't as mcuh haze as usual. It was a prime time to head over to victoria peak.
The peak tram was just across the street from where we were. It cost $20 one way and $30 return each. We decided to get return tickets. We headed up, it was a pretty steep climb, but kind of boring. The real sights were to be seen at the top. It only took 6 or 7 minutes to get up. The tram is pulled up by a single cable.
At the top there were 2 main lookout areas and one of them was also a mall. The other was under construction to become a mall. We went up to the viewing area and took some photos. It's hard to tell how huge Hong Kong is until you go up there, and even then it's hard to believe it when you see it.
After about 30 minutes, we decided there wasn't too much more to see.
We walked around a walking path/road that took us in a circle around the top of the "mountain". We got some more photos of the city. It is very big and very beautiful. There are some gorgeous homes up there... You have to be really rich to afford to live up there. They all have security gates with guards.
When we got back to the peak lookout, it was around 5pm and we figured there was only about 2 hours or so until sunset. We decided to hang out until then for some night shots of the city. It was a boring wait, since the only thing to do up there (other than see the views of course) is to shop, and we don't have a lot of money for shopping.
Night came, we got our shots and when we went to leave, the lineup for the tram was very long. We figured it would take the Tram at least 3 trips down and back before we could get on. We decided to walk down to save time. The walk was brutally steep, but we had a lot of fun. We only saw about 4 or 5 other people the whole way. The path was well lit.
At the bottom, we had to weave in and out of narrow roads with traffic before we found our way to the central area of hong kong. We passed about 3 hospitals on the way that looked pretty big. We took the ferry back and skipped supper and went to bed.
Day 7 July 23 (Saturday)
Today we went to Lantau Island to see the Big Buddha at the Po Lin Monastery. We rode the ferry from Tsim Sha Tsui to HK Island Central, and then another ferry to Mui Wo on Lantau island. The ride was about 45 min long. At Mui Wo, we took a bus to Ngong Ping, which is where the Monastery is. You could see the Big Buddha from a ways away as he is on the top of a hill and he's frickin' huge. We walked up the stairs to the Buddha, but didn't pay for meal tickets (because we brought our own lunch from a bakery that we've been going to around the corner from our hostel) so we weren't allowed into the area under/inside the buddha.
On the main level (downstairs from Buddha) was the monastery. It was big and very nice. There were a series of areas to pray/meditate and some dining halls for monks.
There were incense stick to be bought (regular size up to human size) and a ton of places to light them and incense holders everywhere. Each building had smaller (human sized) buddhas to pray to.
After the monastery, we bought some water (and souvenirs, hats for Gary and I and a lion figure & chopsticks for my parents) We wanted to go to see the fishing village of Tai O on the west end of Lantau Island, and we decided to walk. It was a downhill walk and took almost 2 hours (with lots of stops for photos.) A dog joined us for the whole walk (we named him Chinese Barky) We saw several more monasteries in the hills and some huge spiders. Bigger than my hand. Gary wishes he'd never seen them, because after seeing the first one he started noticing them everywhere. He would have rather been oblivous to them the whole time. Other than those spiders and a few ants, we didn't see any other bugs.
Tai O seemed like a small friendly town. Right away we met a villager named Ping something. He said he'd lived there his whole life and was a handyman. He took us to the stilt houses where we took a lot of photos.
He took us to a small Buddhist shrine and gave us each an incense stick to burn. He told us to pray for happiness, long life and health. He said marriages are predetermined from before birth, and that we are a perfect match for each other.
He showed us a cemetery on the hillside (it's good feng shui to have them there). He gave us dried kumquats and at the end of the tour he took out some trinkets. We bought a bracelet. We would have bought more, but we needed the money to get home. We hopped on the bus to Tung Chung and took the train back to Tsim Sha Tsui with $3.00 to spare.
The bus to Tung Chung had a cooling line problem. I saw them spraying water on the motor before we left, and just before we got to Tung Chung, some passengers noticed the engine smoking and demanded to get off. Everyone got off, and most people waited for the next bus to come along while a few hailed cabs.
Day 8 July 24 Sunday
We went to church. The branch was small and most of the people it seemed were not from HK. Lots were from the us, uk and australia. Not only that but about 30% were just visiting that day, as they were travelling on business. We think we would have like to be in that branch. I met a woman named Rhonda Crosbie, who is from Perth originally. She emailed me the next day some contacts in Perth.
We also met a girl Gary recognized from Medicine Hat, Julianne. He doesn't know how he knows her though.
After church we went back to change, and then returned to HK for the day. We went to the Happy Valley Sport complex to take photos of the racetrack and to several cemeteries across the street. There are huge tombstones that are practically in ruins. We finished off the night at the worlds longest set of escalators. I bought some earrings on the way back.
Day 9 July 25 Monday
By our last day, we were starting to feel tired. We decided to spend the day relaxing. In the morning we sent our laundry out, got some Singapore money and mailed away some souvenirs for my family.
We took the ferry to HK island and then hopped on the bus to Stanley for the afternoon.
The beach at Stanley (St. Stevens??) was pretty bad. There were nice showers, but the water was dirty and full of garbage. We swam for a while anyway to escape the heat.
The market in Stanley was really nice. It was a lot like the other markets we'd been to, only it was less crowded, the displays were nicer and it was airconditioned. We bought some stamps with our names in English and Chinese for HK$120 for both. I bought some place settings. We got a mango to share, which was sweet and delicious and after we ate it we realized we were hungry for supper.
We ate in Stanley at a nice place called Bayside Brasserie which was like any restaurant in North America. I got crab coconut mango risotto, and Gary got some lamb curry with indian bread. It was $311 hkd but it was the tastiest meal we had. There was a nice view of the beach, and they played all songs we knew. (pearl jam and live)
We got back to the hostel, packed our stuff and spent our last night in HK.
Day 10 July 26 tuesday
We got up early and left the hostel by 7:30. We took the MTR to the airport and our flight left at 10:30. We got to Sinapore around 2pm. The flight was a lot shorter than our last one, which was really nice.
In Singapore, we found our hostel easily (Back Packers Cozy Corner). We took a room with a double bed over 2 twin beads which we think was a mistake because our room is in the lobby (loud) and our blanket is small. (Actually it's a large towel).
We don't have our own bathroom this time, but it's ok. This is more of a party hostel than our last one. We took to the streets by about 4:00 to explore. As compared to HK, Singapore sems a lot more like home. The signs are in English, people speak English and it's not very busy at all. It reminds me of Calgary. Also, it seems breezier here than in HK which makes it seem a lot less hot. In HK I was drippng in sweat, here I'm not. I thought that was odd considering we're practcally on the equator here.
( Singapre is a much slower pace than HK. There are a lot of shopping centeres. They have a few street vendors selling the exact same things as in HK only for more money. I think we would have more fun here if we had come straight from home, instead of from a bigger, more exciting Asian city.)
We walked around malls mostly in the evening. One mall in particular I can't remember the name had a lot of furniture stores with a lot of interesting pieces that were different than what we'd seen in Canada. Gary was fantasizing about buying wholesale and selling them in Canada. He asked the store cleks about it, and they all sell wholesale.
We retired to bed early although didn't actually et to sleep until around midnight.
Day 11 Wednesday, July 27
This morning we were up at 8:00 and ate toast at the hostel. We went to Suntec Mall to see the world's largest fountain, but apparently it only gets turned on at night. We decided to walk to Chinatown. We walked by the Esplanade and a Merlion Fountain (Head of a lion, tail of a fish, like mermaid only a lion) and took some photos and then followed a suggested wallking path through chinatown in our book.
Chinatown was mainly a bunch of street vendors selling the same old stuff.
(Tailor made suits, purses, jewelry) We took some photos at an Indian temple. We headed back to the hostel to recharge the batteries and for a much needed nap.