Sunday, May 4, 2014

Having a Blast in Hong Kong


Back in March our dear friend, Adrienne, traveled all the way from Washington, D.C. to visit us. Since she is an awesome sport and always up for an adventure, we couldn’t pass up adding a trip to Hong Kong to her itinerary. We set up a 4-day trip to Hong Kong, with a day tour to the island of Macau. Hong Kong is the 4th major Asian city that Jeff and I have now checked off the list.

Perhaps the only hiccup of the whole trip was scheduling our flight during the first round of March Madness. It just so happens that The George Washington University Basketball team was playing a first round game at the exact time we needed to be at the airport for our flight. Thankfully Incheon airport has WIFI, so Adrienne and Jeff could cheer on their Colonials. Unfortunately Memphis prevailed in the game, but the alum quickly rallied with excitement for our trip.

In addition to checking another Asian city off of the bucket list, we also got to fly on a new Asian airline; Royal Thai Airways.  Can’t think of a bad thing to say about the airline. The planes were new (individual in-seat entertainment is key), the attendants were lovely, and the flight was smooth. The food was also pretty good, as far as airline food goes. I would definitely consider flying Royal Thai Airways again.

We stayed at the Hotel Icon on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong. I LOVED our hotel. The lobby walls were covered in plants (yes plants!), and the hotel had the most beautifully refreshing smell. For any of you who have ever been to Seoul for an extended period of time, you understand what I mean when I say that over time “fresh” smells become a sanctuary. We were also upgraded to the executive level, complete with a fabulous view and free mini bar. SCORE!!

The night we arrived decided to go for a stroll along the harbor and take in the sights. We walked along the “Avenue of Stars” celebrating famous actors from Hong Kong. Of course we had to stop and check out Jackie Chan’s handprints and Bruce Lee’s statue. It was fun to take in the sights along the water with a beautiful view of Hong Kong Island across the harbor

We were also on a mission to find some good eats, because, let’s be honest, I LOVE me some Chinese food. The hotel gave us a few recommendations to eat in the area, and we decided on Peking duck. We found a restaurant in a shopping area at the end of the harbor and we were not disappointed. We ordered some dumplings (you can’t go to Hong Kong and NOT order dumplings), and Peking duck for the table. Now none of us had ever had the meal before, so imagine our surprise when a WHOLE duck arrived at the table for presentation. It was fabulous, but also a little creepy to see the duck on the plate staring at us. Fortunately, they took the duck to the back to be carved, and then returned with a plate of deliciously juicy meat. It was a scrumptious meal and my mouth is watering at the memory as I type. After dinner we headed back alone the harbor walk to catch the light show. The building across the river light up with different colors set to music each night of the show. It was a perfect end to our first night in Hong Kong. 

We had a guided day tour around Hong Kong on tap for our first full day. We enjoyed a boat ride through the harbor and saw quite the dichotomy of how the “haves” and “have-nots” live on the water in Hong Kong. Yachts parked next to run down houseboats. It really was a site.  We then visited a jewelry factory to see how some of the jewels in Hong Kong are made (the obligatory tour stop that is my least favorite part of the tour). We then hopped back on the tour bus for a trip to Stanley Waterfront to visit the beach. It was a beautiful day in Hong Kong and I the harbor was booming with activity. The area near Stanley Waterfront seemed to have a high population of expats. The houses along the cliffs were enormous and I think I needed both hands to count how many Porsches I saw on the road.  Leaving the harbor we headed up to Victoria’s Peak to enjoy the best view in Hong Kong. The view was fabulous on a perfect day. Unfortunately the bus ride up left me feeling under the weather, so Jeff and I left early to return to the hotel while Adrienne stayed back to explore a little more.  She is such good sport.

After some much needed rest at the hotel to settle my tummy, it was time to close out day two with another delicious meal. This time we were in search of a Dim Sum restaurant. Adrienne had done some research before her visit and came on the trip armed with a few suggestions. We ended up at Kowloon Tang and were treated to a sampling of dim sum that I can only adequately describe as divine. I think I could have probably ordered three more helpings of the ‘”Sichuan” wontons tossed with Peppercorn, Garlic, and Chili Oil’.  With our tummies full and the daily craving for Chinese food satiated, we headed to the Ritz Carlton to have drinks at the “Highest Bar in the World”. At Ozone, we each had an outrageously overpriced drink, went outside for a brief moment to take in the view (and the high winds), and then we were headed back home for the evening. Our first full day in Hong Kong was a blast.

There was no way we were going to go to Hong Kong and not make the trip to check out Macau.  With a guided tour on tap for the day we headed to the ferry station with, it seemed, everyone else in Hong Kong that day. Since Macau is considered a separate part of China from Hong Kong, we were required to go through customs and immigration again and show our passports. Like Hong Kong that was once a British Colony, another European country, Portugal, once colonized Macau. Portugal transferred sovereignty of Macau to China in 1999, but there is still a large Portuguese population (and influence) there. Our tour guide for the trip was actually a Portuguese ex-pat who had lived in Macau for over 30 years.

Macau is famous for it casinos, in fact its gaming revenues consistently top Las Vegas’.  Visitors to Macau are mainly made up of tourist from Mainland China with the sole intent to gamble. Our little “trio of travelers” was not there to gamble, but to get to see the rest of what Macau had to offer. So off we went on our merry tour.

We enjoyed a stop at A-Ma Temple, and I enjoyed some people watching. I get such a kick out of Asian fashion during these trips. There is NO way I would look at any of the pieces of clothing in some of these outfits and think that I should wear them all at the same time, but somehow these ladies (and sometimes gentlemen) pull it off. Boggles the mind.

We drove around with our cheery tour guide taking in the sites of the city. We made a stop at Macau Tower and headed to the top for an awesome 360 view. Interestingly the tower featured a bungee jump attraction run by the same company I jumped with during our trip to New Zealand. I was ALMOST tempted to make the leap off the tower, but only mustered the nerve when it was time to leave with the group.

After enjoying a delicious lunch that featured both traditional Chinese and Portuguese dishes, we headed to see the Ruins of St. Paul. What a beautiful site. Built in 1580 this Catholic Church was rebuilt twice following fires. Unfortunately, a third fire left only one wall of the church remaining, and it serves as a popular tourist destination on Macau. What a story that one wall can tell.

After fighting the crowds at the ruins we hopped on the bus to the ferry terminal to head back to Hong Kong. Although we didn’t quite get to do Macau Casino Royale style this time, we all made a pact to visit again and do it up right (bungee jump included).

The Macau trip was a long day, so we settled for a nice meal in the hotel lobby before heading up to pack for the next day’s trip back to Seoul. Did I mention how much I LOVED the smell of our hotel lobby?

Hong Kong was an amazing trip and we are so grateful to have shared it with an awesome traveling companion in Adrienne. Traveling with a married couple can have its inherent challenges and Adrienne was a true friend for putting up with us. We are pretty lucky she was such good sport and up for the adventure.

-Marci

And now for the pictures.......



                                                    Day One: First night in Kowloon

The fabulous view from our hotel

At first sight we thought this building looked like a beached cruise ship

Teeny Tiny M&M packs in the FREE mini bar

Some local (expat?) children enjoying a game of cricket in a city courtyard. 


View across the harbor 

Jeff taking in the sites


Adrienne and Jeff

Bruce Lee

Hong Kong Version of the "hollywood walk of fame"


Yes, that say "shredded squid". And, YES the was a line to order. 


These two little ones sure new how to work a pose. 


Well hello there little duckie!

First taste of Dumplings in Hong Kong. YUM!

NomNomNom!

This giant flower bouquet sculpture was outside the mall. I didn't have my tripod so the pic is a little blurry and does not quite capture just how stunning this piece of art really was.


The light show begins



Day Two: Day Trip in Hong Kong

The largest floating restaurant in the world


House boat

House boat. 






Had to remember we were in China. 










Day Two (cont): Stanley Harbor & Marketplace




Fo ten minutes I watched this lady sitting there yelling directions at her husband (?) who was doing his best to get the boat into dock. 


Just in case your other unicorn costume was dirty next time you went skateboarding. 

                                                       Day Two (cont): Victoria's Peak

The view was spectacular on this beautiful day. See China over there?




I thought the architecture of these twin building was very interesting

We went browsing at one of the camera stores (no sales tax in Hong Kong) and I played around with a macro lens on my camera. 
 

                                                 Day Three: Macau                                            
 
The Governor's House


I thought these were building, but as we got closer we realized they were sculptures. 

Our Lady of Penha Church




Macau Tower




Good thing I decided to leave my mini dress and platforms at home for this WALKING tour. That would have been awkward. Maybe next time. 



Hot pink scarf, orange sweater, and leopard print pants? Yeah, that works. Oh and don't forget to top it off with an awesome lace hat. 



A-Ma Temple Entrance



Maritime version of bumper to bumper traffic. 

Kun Iam Statue

The goddess Kun Iam is a Buddhist deity of mercy



Monks!! (I missed the shot of the monk wearing Beats headphones!)


Non-verbal communication at its finest. Universal language!

It may be in the hot outside, but a true fashionista still needs her cape. 

The backside of the Ruins of St Paul Cathedral

Rock those pants, Girl!

A view of just how many people we visited the ruins with. 

In complete awe of 5000 year old architecture

Even the guys get in on the "fashion" action. I think I may have seen those shorts back in my great aunts house, except they were drapes ;-)


Adrienne 

A single wall remains


Did I mention Dasanba Street was crowded?

The living wall at our gloriously fresh smelling hotel. I could have stayed there forever. 










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