Saturday, August 4, 2012

Hong Kong

My dad and Tami had a wonderful visit in Okinawa. We snorkeled and saw a lot that even I had not seen yet. Turf and I spent the first year (completely my own fault) visiting the inner island sites and historical places on Okinawa. While my dad was here we were able to go up North to Nago, visit Sesoko Island and Minna Jima island for some snorkeling, head down South to the Okinawa Naval Underground Headquarters and Peace Prayer Park, check out American Village, go camping at Okuma, and eat some great food- maybe some of the most consistent food they had on their whole trip to Asia :)
The last leg of their journey was a 4 day stay in Hong Kong, and I of course couldn't pass up the opportunity to join them! Any excuse to travel!
The first day we took the Star Ferry over to Hong Kong Island. We stayed on the opposite side of Victoria Harbor in Kowloon at the Salisbury YMCA. Yes, YMCA! It had a gorgeous view of the harbor and the symphony of lights show. 
My synopsis of Hong Kong: The skyline and views are incredible. There is so much to see and do, but honestly, after traveling around in Taipei, Tokyo, and Bangkok, the culture and things I'm seeing are very similar. Of course, there are differences, and I think Hong Kong was a great place to visit, but the highlight for me was definitely the skyline. Hong Kong has a great transportation system and has by far been the easiest for me to navigate. Lodging and food are out of this world expensive. 

 We then took a bus up a winding road to The Peak, which under clear conditions would have made for great views of Victoria Harbor. But honestly, when are there ever clear views in Hong Kong?! It was SO smoggy! From The Peak we took a thrilling (pretty much vertical) ride on the tram back down to Hong Kong and hopped on a bus to head to Stanley.
 Stanley was a great town and had some pretty cool market potential, although we were there before the markets opened. All along the shoreline were pubs and bars, which would have been a nice place to go with a group of friends on a Friday night.
 On our way back we captured some amazing shots of Hong Kong City illuminated at night. The city is gorgeous and the skyline is absolutely the biggest draw and the best part of Hong Kong.
View of Hong Kong from the Avenue of Stars

 We went to Nan Lian Garden, which was a nice escape from the madness of the city. The gardens were so peaceful and tranquil, and the contrast of the gardens along with the high rises and mountains was really cool to see.

 Right behind the gardens was the Chi Lin Nunnery. At this point, I am a bit numb to temples and shrines, but this place was gorgeous as well. The sound of the nuns singing their worships was so calming and I found myself thinking about how I had pictured Asia before living there. The sights, sounds, smells, and feel of this nunnery were exactly as I had imagined: cultural, powerful, and beautiful.

 We made our way through some interesting markets in Mong Kok. Again, at this point, all of the cities and markets in Asia are blending into one giant memory, and there is not much different about one from the other. This time, I did get to see some new markets that I hadn't yet seen in Taiwan, Thailand, or Japan. We visited the Flower market, which was amazing. I kept saying that Turf was lucky we don't live close to one, otherwise I'd expect fresh flowers weekly ;)
Really though, those people had a talent for creating bouquets of artwork. The colors and smells of the fresh flowers was amazing.
 We also visited the bird market, where dozens of birds await to entertain, and dozens more await adoption.
 On we went to the Ladies Market, which sold typical knock off items like watches, handbags, jewelry, etc. The Hong Kong people didn't bargain as much as the Thai people did, and were much more aggressive, so I left empty handed.
 We also saw a fish market. It looked like a giant street dedicated to selling supplies for outrageously intricate fish tanks. Tons of fish, sea plants, turtles, and props were being sold for excellent prices.

 The symphony of lights happens every night at 8:00pm. We were lucky enough to be able to watch it right from our hotel window. It was beautiful. The symphony incorporates 5 themes shown to celebrate the energy, spirit, and diversity of Hong Kong: The awakening, the energy, the heritage, the partnership, and the celebration themes.
 On our final day we took a cable car ride up into the mountains to see the Tian Tan Buddha, a giant bronze Buddha perched on top of these incredible mountains. I used to love thrill rides and adventures, but I completely chickened out on this cable car ride, y'all! The thing lasted about 25 minutes and all I could think about was plummeting to my death. Aside from the fear, the views were gorgeous. We saw hiking trails all along the mountains below, and it looked like it could take someone days to walk around and see everything during the hike.

Tian Tin Buddha

Now, at the risk of sounding completely racist, I'm going to throw this out there just so everyone knows it's not all butterflies and rainbows. I really dislike the vast majority of Chinese people I have met throughout my travels. I have found them to be rude, pushy, loud, obnoxious, arrogant, and shady. The people in Hong Kong were better, but the more I am around Chinese people (from China....not Chinese people in the States), the more I dislike them. I think the government of China is power hungry and will stop at nothing to become the world's biggest super power, which they are working towards right now. The government is currently trying to impose a national curriculum in Hong Kong, something the Hong Kong people are extremely upset about. The thought is that the national curriculum will essentially "brainwash" students into following a certain party of Chinese leadership through propaganda in the curriculum. The curriculum will be mandatory from elementary-high school levels and the teachers will be given a scripted curriculum and supplied materials to teach with. As if that isn't enough, everything, EVERYTHING we have in the US is made in China. They essentially own us. I'm going to step off my soap box now, but traveling throughout Asia always makes me appreciate the Japanese people so much more, and makes me feel so blessed to have grown up in America.

It was an amazing trip and I'm so glad I got to spend more time with my dad and Tami. Thank y'all for coming out to visit me in Asia! I can't wait to see you guys again!

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