Week 15- Hong Kong

Hong Kong!! I have been excited to go here for a very long time. I have talked about living here for over a year so I wanted to come to make sure it was everything that I thought it would be and it really was. It was crazy, vibrant, and a good mix of city and nature. It was very clean and the public transportation works so well it seems like the streets aren’t  crowded at all for the amount of people that live there. At night the city lights up and it is absolutely stunning. The city comes alive and the night life in the city is vibrant and they also stay out very late in the same fashion as it was in Buenos Aires. I felt right at home. As a warning this is a really long post! Feel free to skim…I went into lots of detail and included lots of pictures! It was so hard to choose!

View of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak

This stop was a bit different than Bangkok because I was always meeting people here and I met people even before I made it to my hostel! I was waiting for the elevator when there were two other foreigners waiting with me. They were Lisa and Blaire and they quickly asked if I would like to come with them to the light show in an hour . There is a light show every night at 8pm down by the river. I said yes and basically just had an opportunity to check in, drop my bags, and put on a little extra deodorant before it was time to go. I thought we were just going to the light show and maybe a quick dinner. What I failed to remember was that it was Halloween. So, we saw the light show then headed over on the ferry to Hong Kong island for drinks and that is where I saw all the costumes and masses of people and realized this fact. I was still wearing my athletic clothes. So, we went for a couple of drinks in this alley of restaurants and some food, but it was so expensive!! In general, Hong Kong is very expensive. We did find that the long island iced teas were the best deal so of course I had 3 of them. Halfway through dinner, two of the other girls from the UK had some Halloween makeup and made us all look like zombies and people were also selling little crowns and things so we did get into the spirit.

We had quite a group though. We had the 2 girls from the UK, Blaire, Lisa from Sweden, Paige and Nate from the US, and Mike from the UK. Many of these people I traveled with for a bit or else I will travel with them in the future. Paige convinced me to come to yacht week in the islands of Thailand with her over New Year’s so guess what? I’m going! Not on her boat, but on a boat that will travel with hers because they are all friends. After the restaurant, we headed to 7-11 because that is the cheapest place to get alcohol and they don’t care if you drink on the streets. We lost each other for a bit in there with the crazy crowds and we never did see Lisa or Nate again, but we finally found a club and danced and had a great night.

Me at the top of Victoria’s Peak

The next day, I woke up to some of the guys talking in the room. It was Mike, Nate, and another guy Lee from South Africa. We were all comparing stories from the night before and the craziness of Hong Kong. I decided to go with Lee and Nate to the top of Victoria’s Peak that day to see the view. Basically you can get there by trekking, tram, or bus. We chose the bus because we weren’t quite sure how to do the other two. The buses are nice and most are double decker which I don’t know why they don’t do in every city. We got a nice tour of the city and mountains as we went up. Once up there we weren’t quite sure what to expect/what do to. At first, all we saw was a series of restaurants and a mall. So, we went into the mall and explored around a bit and found an observatory deck on top, but it only looked in the opposite side than the harbor. We were struggling hard and walking circles around the mall and Lee even went on a bit of a shopping spree until we found the observation deck to view the harbor. It was just beautiful. We stayed up there awhile and then looked across to see a pizza restaurant that had a similar view and we were hungry. We went and had a table with the whole harbor view while eating really good pizza even though it was a bit pricey.

Viewpoint from restaurant for lunch

We stayed until it was starting to get dark and then found another observation site and started to watch the city light up as the sun went down. We wanted to walk down, but we couldn’t find the path again, then we wanted to tram but the line was really long, so we opted for the bus. Well we should have waited for the tram because the bus took forever to get there! We made the ferry ride back across the river during the light show (oh yea, if you didn’t know a light show was supposed to be happening, you would never know its a light show, very overrated). Then, I just headed to bed early to watch some Netflix while the boys when to get some sushi.

The next day I woke up early and Nate and I headed to the Vietnamese embassy because we both needed a visa to get into Vietnam, which was our next stop. We had heard that for Americans they were only selling year long multiple entry visas which are very expensive so we were a bit apprehensive about that. Also, I was struggling to get an ATM to take my bank card for some reason. We ventured onto the metro system for the first time and it was very easy to use. We arrived at the embassy and luckily it was pretty empty. Also, they only charged us for a single entry one month visa which was perfect! Still a bit pricey because we had it expedited because if not it would have taken a week and instead it took 10 minutes, but much better than if it was multiple entry. On the way back, we found an amazing pastry shop and I got some fresh pastries with mango.

In front of the Venetian in Macau

We needed to get back by 12 because Nate, Lisa, and Mike were headed to Macau for the day. Originally I had decided not to go because it was going to be a whole day/night adventure with ferry crossings and border crossings and there was a lot to do in Hong Kong. Yet, as they were all standing there staring at me ready to go, I got FOMO and then said “wait while I grab my purse!” then joined them on the adventure. China is an interesting place because Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau all belong to China, yet they have their own currency and laws and even the Chinese need a visa to get to Macau. We had to take a ferry to get to Macau and it was really easy, yet we did have to go through customs. Once there, we hopped a free bus that went to all of the high rise hotels. Macau is basically the Las Vegas of China. This is where are the rich Chinese businessmen go and gamble. Yet, unlike Vegas, these guys are serious gamblers and there is very little drinking or noise in the casino.

View of Macau at night

Nate was trying to teach us how to play craps at one table (he is actually a really good craps player) and people were annoyed that he was talking to us while playing. However, the hotels are just as big and grandiose as the ones in Vegas if not more. I think they looked more elaborate because you could see them because everything was very empty. We went exploring 3 hotels, the Venetian, the Parisian, and Studio 8. All of these hotels have been recently built and you can tell that a lot of money has gone into them.

The Venetian looked similar the one in Las Vegas and I was expecting a bit more since everyone told us that it was supposed to be the best hotel there. The inside still had all the water canals with gondolas that could take people between them. The ceiling were beautiful and looked like the sky, but apart from that it wasn’t anything too special. I did have probably to most expensive ice cream cone ever though. It was filled with very expensive stores, yet no one was shopping in any of them. I did see the most ridiculous sports outfits I have ever seen in an adidas store.

Do you play sports in this outfit?

The Parisian on the other hand was a much prettier hotel. There was a very large eiffel tower out front and the fountain in the entrance is truly spectacular. The ceiling above it was all painted with a mural and the check in areas were elegant and had amazing chandeliers. As we walked on we came to what looked like an outdoor cafe, yet we were inside and there were two couples doing a beautiful waltz type dance. We walked on and then saw an opera singer on a balcony and following here there was a mime, not to mention all the men with swords walking around. It was a magical place.

(Entrance hall to the Parisian)

Cafe at the Parisian

Our final stop was studio 8, which was my least favorite and the emptiest. They did have a ferris wheel in the shape of an 8 though which was an interesting concept. Also, they had this ball floating in midair and also a disc and they would go through each other, which Nate was blown away by. The rest of the hotel tried to follow a hollywood theme, but it was just lacking.

Outside of Studio 8. The 8 is a ferris wheel!
Magic floating ball and ring

After, we went to meet up with some friends of friends of Lisa who were local to Macau. These girls were very cool and really fun! They first took us to a local Chinese restaurant that didn’t even have a menu in English and just ordered a bunch of food for the table to share on this rotating tray in the middle of our table. The food was really good and it was great to try new things that I would have never ordered for myself. Also a plus is that I am slowly getting better with chopsticks though that night certainly wasn’t my best showing.

The whole gang at dinner

Next, we went to a local bar which had a really great feel. We were able to sit outside and it was really fun learning about their life in Macau. After this, Mike left because he said he was too old to go out dancing with us, which I don’t think was true. We then hit a club because it was ladies night and the girls drank for free all night. We had a really great time dancing and Lisa and I wanted to leave around 4:30 am while Nate wanted to go back and hit a casino so we parted ways. Lisa and I took a taxi back to the ferry station, but the next ferry didn’t leave until 6 so we had some time to kill and we were hungry. We found a restaurant that was open, but all they had were beef noodles and they weren’t very good. I was so tired that I almost fell asleep right in my noodles!! We finally caught the ferry back and made it safely back to the hostel. Then, I went to sleep for a long time.

All of us at the bar
Ready to go clubbing

Lisa and I woke up around lunch time and we went out in search for some lunch and found some amazing burgers. Then, we went back and chilled at the hostel for awhile until dinnertime where we went out with Nate and a group of swiss to get some really great Dim Sum. The BBQ rolls were to die for!

Wonderful Dim Sum

The following day, Nate and I decided to head to the Giant Buddha on Lantau Island. We wanted to take the cable car over there because it went over the water and the mountains and we heard that it was the best way to go. We didn’t exactly get an early start and then we had to metro all the way out to the cable car and then stand in line for about an hour and a half for tickets. As a recommendation, I would say try to get there early before the crowds. The cable car was a great experience and the windows were pretty clean to look out. There is an option as well to get a cable car with a glass bottom, but I didn’t think it was worth the money. Getting up there we had lunch in the little town as soon as you get off the cable car.

Then, made our way to the giant buddha. On the way, we stopped because we found a bunch of cows just chilling in the parking lot. They were really friendly cows and one even came up to me and let me pet it. I think maybe they get fed by tourists.

Me and my cow friend

Then on to the Buddha. This guy was massive!! I am not sure exactly why he is there other than a tourist attraction, but he was pretty cool. You can go up inside him to this museum sort of. Then you can look out the top and the views around and just spectacular of all of the mountains. It was hard to believe that just that morning we were in the city.

We made out way to the monastery next and saw again some beautiful temples to pray in. We also saw a really beautiful area with lots of incense. I saw this small girl lighting incense and I thought it was the cutest thing. The most beautiful we were not allowed to photograph.

Then, we went on the wisdom path as the sun was starting to set. We found ourselves in the middle of these bizarre pillars then went a bit off the path to a giant rock and I am so glad we did. We had a view of a lake, and mountains, and the Buddha sitting on the hill with the sun setting in the background. I couldn’t have asked for more. I have put more pictures at the bottom of all of this. We watched the sun go down and then realized that we had no idea what time the last cable car left so we made out way back and the bus we needed and the cable car had stopped running!! We did figure out there was one more bus we could wait for that would take us to the metro station from which we started and we could go home. We were so relieved! We made our way home without problem. Then, we found another Dim Sum place and enjoyed it.

Sunset on the rock with Buddha

My final full day in Hong Kong was spent on a junk boat. These are boats that will leave and drive around the islands of the coast for awhile to beautiful beaches and coves and are catered with food and drink. My friend Cory who I worked with in Argentina is now working in Hong Kong and I was so lucky that his work had coordinated a trip that weekend and they let me join in. What a perfect way to spend the day in the company of other international teachers on a boat catered with all you can eat food and alcohol. We woke up early and make our way to the dock. Then, hopped on the boat where they immediately began giving us appetizers.

Cory and I on the junk boat

There was a lower deck with a table and padded benches in a semi circle and chairs up front, then a second deck with the same semi circle of padded chairs. I spent most of the day on the second deck. We sailed to a little cove and then dropped anchor and stayed there the rest of the day. They also brought along a speed boat so we could banana boat, wakeboard, or water ski. I got to wake board!!! We had a wonderful lunch and as I said before quite a few drinks as well. If you wanted to float in the water you had noodles, a floaty raft, or a paddle board. It was totally worth the $90. All of the people were so nice and friendly as well. I could definitely live in this city!!

The whole gang on the junk boat for the day

The following day I woke up, had breakfast, and then Nate and I headed to the airport because we had both booked the same flight to Hanoi, Vietnam. We took an airport bus which was perfect because it was right near our hostel and took us straight to the airport. Next stop, Vietnam!!

Hi five Bhudda!!
Worship area with incense
Interesting pillars on the Wisdom Trail
Bhudda on the Hill
Nate and I on the rock at sunset
Silly shenanigans while we waited for the last bus

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