Friday, April 10, 2009

Mom's Visit- Hong Kong

Tuesday morning we left the apartment at 7:30am so that we could get to the train station by 8:30am. We planned it perfectly because just as we got through customs our train started to board. (Because Hong Kong is separate from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) you must go through customs when leaving or entering the PRC and then when entering or leaving Hong Kong). The train ride took a little over 2 hours and took us directly to Kowloon in Hong Kong. While on the train we were able to see the condition of the houses in which the local people live in. Definitely a far cry from what I see in the city.

This was my second time taking the train into Hong Kong so I felt a lot more prepared. I knew to take the metro to our accommodations instead of paying a ridiculous amount of money to someone offering you a ride. (Lesson learned.) I also knew to warn my mom before exiting the metro station about the horde of men repeating, “Copy watch, copy handbag, miss…” about a million times to you in very thick accents. I think my mom was quite surprised, but later said thanks for the warning.

I had asked my mom before her arrival if it was okay if we stayed in a hostel in Hong Kong. My mom agreed. However, I don’t think she knew exactly what she was agreeing to. Let me just say that when I travel by myself I stay in hostels because it is a place for me to sleep, shower, and it is very cost effective. My mom was such a trooper because she didn’t say anything when we arrived at our hostel in Kowloon, but really she didn’t have to say anything because her face said it all. But, she still agreed to stay there and give it a shot.

After dropping our bags off in our room we decided to go get a bite to eat. I, of course, was eager for some Western food. So, we opted for TGI Friday’s. I had an amazing AMERICAN hot dog and fries and my mom had a Cheeseburger.

Afterwards, we walked down to the harbor to grab a visitor map and brochure. Then we walked over to Starbucks to discuss our plan of attack over a cup of coffee. We decided to take the metro to Kowloon Walled City Park (九龍寨城公園 ). We had fun on the metro!

The park, which my mom chose to go to, was very informative. I suggest that you read about it To sum it up, the park was built in 1995 after the destruction of what was known as Kowloon Walled City in 1993. This city has a very long history tracing as far back as the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279). The PRC and British authorities agreed to tear down the city because of its high population density, many brothels, casinos, and overall sanitary conditions. The residents and business owners were compensated and the city was destroyed. My mom and I enjoy learning about a city’s history when traveling so that we can gain knowledge and appreciation for the city.

After spending a couple hours in the park I decided to take my mom to the world famous “ladies market”. When we arrived at the ladies market both of us needed to use the restroom. I informed my mom that we would probably only be able to find a “squatty potty,” and I was right.

I enjoyed showing my mom around the ladies market because it is just a long row of vendors selling purses, clothes, shoes, etc. It is crowded and bargaining is a must! It had been 3 months since I was last in Hong Kong and in those 3 months my Chinese vocabulary had grown leaps and bounds. My mom was quite impressed with my ability to bargain in Chinese! She even took some pictures of me in action!

After walking around the market for what seemed like hours we grabbed an ice cold drink and found someone to give us a manicure. Sadly, the manicurists were terrible! My manicurists in Guangzhou are awesome! After getting our nails butchered we were ready to head back to our hostel.

The next morning my mom got up kind of early and said that she was going to go venture out on her own to fetch us some coffee. I was a little worried, but knew that she could do it! After getting up and showering my mom returned with lattes and scones in hand. My mom then proceeded to say, “I appreciate you giving me this experience, but this is my vacation too. Tonight we are staying at the Holiday Inn!” I don’t think that my mom will be staying at a hostel ever again. She told me that it was even worse than she expected. However, for me it was about what I expected and for a single woman traveling alone a hostel is just perfect. I must say though, I am SO extremely proud of my mom for giving it a try and not complaining. She is AWESOME!

We packed up our things and walked a block towards the harbor to check into the Holiday Inn. We went up to our room and discovered a room in which our hostel room could have fit entirely in the bathroom! It was a very nice room fully equipped with slippers and bathrobes!

After mom took a nice long hot shower and we chatted on Skype to dad it was time to go across Victoria Harbor to Hong Kong Island. We knew that the weather wasn’t clear, but we still wanted to go to the Peak to say that we had done it. We crossed the harbor on a Ferryboat and then walked to the metro station.

When we got off of the metro on Hong Kong Island it was not just raining, but it was a down pour! We were still brave and trekked through the rain to get to the Peak Tram. The Tram took us up a very steep hill!

We got to the top and still wanted to go to the look out point to see if we could see anything. Sadly, we couldn’t really see much at all. But, we had a lot of fun in the freezing cold rain!

My mom is so good to me that she allowed me to pick where I wanted to eat. I chose Bubba Gump, good ‘ol American food. My fish and chips were delicious!

We then shopped around a bit and had fun with the escalators and multiple levels the Peak center had.

Next, it was time to catch the tram back down the hill, get on the metro, and then take the metro back to the hotel. Once back at the hotel we got dressed up to go have afternoon tea at the world famous Peninsula Hotel. We walked across the street to the Peninsula and were seated right away. Shortly after we were seated out came silver teakettles, and a large tier of sweets. We had a great time drinking tea, talking, and enjoying each other’s company.

After spending quite some time at the Peninsula we were ready to go back to the Hotel and prepare to watch the light show down at the harbor, A Symphony of Lights. God blessed us that night because it only drizzled slightly and overall was good weather to enjoy the light show.

At this time we were both quite tired and ready for bed. We went back to the hotel and went to sleep knowing that the next day was going to be another busy day.

The next morning we got up and packed up our bags since we were catching a flight that night from Hong Kong up to Beijing. We checked our bags at the front desk and went out to enjoy our last day in Hong Kong. Again, because my mom is SO good to me she allowed me to pick one of the activities that I wanted to do. I chose going to the cinema since it had been 5 months since I had been to one. We found a nearby cinema and chose to watch “He’s Just Not That Into You.” Overall, it was a fun experience and an all right movie.

After the movie, we decided to go back to the ladies market so that we could buy a few more things we had seen the night before. I had purchased a backpacking backpack the night before and wanted to go back and get a matching smaller backpack. We were able to find the same lady who I purchased the backpack from the night before and she was pleasently surprised to see us. I had fun talking with her in Chinese, in English, and getting to know more about her.

Next, I wanted to show my mom a part of Kowloon that I had seen the last time I was in Hong Kong called, “The Worderful World of Whoompa.” We took the metro there and then had to walk for about 15 minutes to get to where I wanted to go. At this time we were hungry since it was 4pm and all we had to eat all day was just a scone at breakfast. We tried to eat at the Outback Steakhouse, but they weren’t open yet. We tried finding a few other restaurants, but without luck. Trying to keep an eye on time we decided that it was just better to go back to the hotel, pick up our bags, and make our way to the airport so that we wouldn’t miss our flight.

It was a good thing that we decided this because neither one of us were anticipating the length of time it was going to take us to get to the airport. The process of getting to the airport started at about 4:30 and finally got to the airport at about 6:00pm! I had no idea that the airport was so far away from where we were.
Our flight was pushed forward so when we got to the ticket counter line we were whisked to the front and told to hurry. Again, we had no idea that getting to the gate was going to take so long. From the ticket counter to the gate took about another 30 minutes. We had to go through customs, go through security, take the escalator, take the tram, take another escalator, and walk for what seemed like forever. When we arrived at the gate they were already boarding. When we got closer to the doors we saw that we weren’t boarding into a plane, however, but rather a shuttle bus in which all the passengers just stand. After boarding the shuttle bus it drove for about 10 minutes to our plane. We couldn’t help but laugh over the fact of how long it took us to finally get to our plane. Literally it was from about 4:30 until 7:45pm!

Remember, it was now almost 8pm and we hadn’t eaten since our scone for breakfast. Needless to say we were hungry. I had packed a package of starburst from home to take some fun pictures with that we ended up eating since we were so hungry. This is why the starburst package in the pictures is an empty package. Fortunately, we were also served a teriyaki chicken and rice meal on the plane.

We arrived in Beijing a little after 11pm. After going through customs, and picking up our bags we were ready to find a taxi and get to our hotel. It took us about 40 minutes in the taxi before finally arriving at our hotel. By the time we laid our heads on the pillow it was almost 1am. It had been a long day and we needed our rest for our whirlwind 4 day trip in Beijing.

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