Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Hong Kong Christmas

There's Hong Kong! You can see both pensisulas- Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsula

This is the tram that brought us to the top of Victoria's Peak, up on a mountain overlooking the whole city and both peninsulas. It's the steepest incline by a tram anywhere in the world! (basically vertical at some points...just a bit scary)
This is very representative of our time in HK (for Christine and I, at least): it didn't quite feel like Christmas until we had our first gingerbread latte from Starbucks!

At Hong Kong Disneyland, with a few of the "elves." Disney was all decked out in holiday lights, decorations, and costumes

You have NO idea how happy it made Darren to find cotton candy ("candy floss") at Ngong Pong village on the top of the mountain, when we were visiting Big Buddha. After nearly 2 weeks in Asia, he was ready for some American junk food again!!
Po Lin Monastery, also up on the mountain near Big Buddha. This monastery was so enchanting...incense burning all around it, surrounded by palm trees and bright, beautiful flowers...it was so incredible and peaceful

The entrance to the Po Lin Monastery...it was so foggy up there on the mountain

Statues surrounding the Big Buddha

Big Buddha: the world's largest bronze Buddha...one of the most incredible sights I've ever seen

These stairs led up to the Big Buddha. That's Ngong Ping village in the background

The fog kept rolling in and out...when we first got up there, we could barely even see the outline of the Buddha. But within 20 minutes, the fog had completely cleared for a few minutes. So foggy...

In the cable car, heading up the mountains to Big Buddha. Notice the gingerbread man...he accompanied Darren on his travels as a special request from a kindergarten teacher at his school, to take pics of the gingerbread man around Asia to show her class :)

Cable cars climbing up the mountains...over the water...

We opted for the "crystal cabin"- the new glass-bottomed cable cars. So cool...not even that scary!!

Everywhere in the city, there were beautiful Christmas decorations, lights, and trees set up

A temple on the side of the road in HK

Enjoying our Dim Sum experience: Dim Sum is like Chinese tapas, or appetizers that they eat with tea. We had jasmine tea and some of the following (which don't sound too appetizing but were actually pretty good): barbecued pork buns, steamed pork buns, glutinous rice with meat and vegetables wrapped in a lotus leaf, scallop and crab rice balls, egg and mango rice ball, shrimp and pork buns

So Darren accidentally ordered chicken claws as one Dim Sum choice...I had thought he was just being adventurous when I heard him ask the waiter for them!!
The exterior of the Jumbo Restaurant- all kinds of cool dragons and beautiful Chinese designs
The Jumbo Floating Restaurant
We took a boat like these ones out around the harbor to get to the Jumbo Restaurant
Another view from the top of Victoria's Peak...this was the closest I could get to the edge!

Waiting for our little boat to carry us out to Jumbo

No big deal, just doing some stretches on the pier at Repulse Bay beach...I'm actually demonstrating the "windmill" exercises my Grandma Helen used to do! Repulse Bay: there were some pretty crazy (and expensive-looking) apartments overlooking the bay behind us Repulse Bay beach: a bit too chilly for swimming though....

Statues for sale at Stanley Market
The view from our balconies at the Maryknoll House in Stanley: beautiful!

View from our rooms and balconies- Stanley bay- it was covered in fog every morning

Darren, me, Molly, and Molly's roommate Amy- just getting some snacks (and Guinness?) from our beloved 7-Eleven Merry Christmas from Hong Kong!!!
Molly, Christine, and I- the crazy, chaotic streets of HK
At some points, you could narely even see the sky because every inch of space around you was people, buildings, traffic, or signs...it felt kind of claustraphobic
We got these Santa hats for free at the airport...so obviously, we had to put them to good use

Down by the bay...Stanley Bay

The pier down at Stanley Bay

Best friends- Asian reunion!
(and yes, we had just gotten Starbucks...naturally)
Lunch down by Stanley Bay
Stanley Bay Beach- the only sunny day!

Stanley Bay Beach

Boats in Stanley Bay

Beautiful church for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve
Just arrived in HK on Christmas Eve! Hong Kong Disney

Dumbo ride at Disney

Christine and I with the Big Buddha

It's nice that I actually have the time, so soon after this trip, to write this: we're on our second snow day from school! We woke up Monday morning to a snowstorm brewing outside...and panic brewing across all of Seoul, as the city struggled to get moving in about six inches of snow. It was so peaceful to watch the snow falling from inside my top-floor apartment...and to stay in my pajamas and drink tea, instead of diving back into the work routine. Happy Extended Christmas Vacation to us! Apparently this is the most snow that Korea has seen in 103 years...I think the total right now is around 12 inches (so not too impressive by MN standards, but record-breaking by Korean standards!). Until the snow melts somewhat, there's no way for them to clear off the roads here...they don't have snow plows or anything like it, since they're not accustomed to getting more than just a dusting of snow at a time! Right now I'm waiting to hear if the school will open for afternoon elementary classes...I'm crossing my fingers that it doesn't, even though I am excited to see my students again...it's just so nice to go a bit longer without the stress and responsibilities again!
Got back from Hong Kong on Dec.31, just in time to ring in the new year with our Korean taxi driver as he drove us back to Suji. He had initially asked if we were from Canada, and when we corrected him and said the US, he got very excited and said, "Oh USA, yes! Number one! Number one!" and then, "Canada, number two! Number two!) :D When we got back to Suji, we dumped our bags in our apartments and then bundled up for a nice, cold, midnight walk to McDonalds (by this point, I was too tired and weary from traveling to fight Darren's insistence that we eat American fast food). We enjoyed a fancy feast of McChicken sandwiches, fries, and milkshakes while discussing our respective New Years' resolutions...who would have ever thought??
Hong Kong was pretty amazing- like a huge, chaotic, and incredibly diverse mix of old and new, East and West. I felt like I didn't even know what nationality everyone around me was...there were Chinese, and British, and Chinese who spoke with British accents, and Taiwanese, and Filipinos, and Africans, and Australians, and Indians...much more of an international city than I had realized. One of the strangest sights, which my friend had warned us about, was seeing the hundreds (maybe even thousands) of Filipino women lining the sidewalks and public spaces on Christmas and on Sunday. These women represent a majority of domestic workers (i.e. nannies, servants, housekeepers) who don't have any other place to go on their days off, since they live at their house of employment...so on those holidays and Sundays, they literally take over the city and sit out on the sidewalks and in parks, as though they're tail-gating for some big event. We initially thought they were staking out spots for some Christmas parade, seeing them sitting there in groups, huddled on blankets while drinking Boonesfarm wine (seriously), eating from big tupperwares of Filipino food, playing cards, and even facebooking on mini laptops (also, seriously). They were so many of them, it was such a crazy sight!
Our first hostel in Hong Kong was a bit...sketchy. It was in what seemed to be a Little India community, on one of the busiest streets in all of HK (called the "Golden Mile"). It was incredibly overwhelming to step outside the hostel building and just be immediately swept away in a tide of millions of people. Navigating the subways was about the same, especially around Christmas- so packed with people! We ended up forgoing our second night in the hostel and opting for "The Maryknoll Option" instead- staying at the Markynoll Guesthouse down south in Stanley, with Molly (best friend from college who's teaching as a Maryknoll volunteer in mainland China for the year- we had planned to meet up in HK). The Maryknoll house was a like a big, beautiful oasis, compared to that first hostel- situated up on the highest hill overlooking Stanley Bay, surrounded by greenery and palm trees, rooms with balconies...it was so peaceful! We basically had the place to ourselves- aside from a few of the Maryknoll brothers and priests who live or visit there.
It was so great to see Molly again! Even though we had talked about Asian reunions when we were both dreaming of Asia and applying for teaching jobs last year, I still wasn't certain that we'd actually end up seeing each other. Molly took us to a beautiful church for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve- it was so packed full of people that we had to sit on the back lawn, watching the service on a big screen. It was very magical, with the high-rises and lights of the city twinkling in the background, and the sounds of the mass, and of Christmas carols, filling the night air. Other than at mass, though, it just didn't quite feel like Christmas...maybe if I had been in Korea, in the place I now know as "home," it would have felt more like Christmas. But there in Hong Kong, even with some of the people I love, it just wasn't Christmas because it wasn't Minnesota...
This entry will have to be cut short now- just found out that I have to head in to school for afternoon elementary classes! I guess 1.5 snow days is nothing to complain about...
Happy New Year!!!


  1. There is only one thing better than shopping in Hong Kong, and that's eating. From small noodle joints to upscale French restaurant, you will locate all sorts of restaurant, eating hall and snack stall on earth in Hong Kong. Here I found small amount of Hong-Kong-styled snacks online (yummiexpress.freetzi.com). This is definitely a good choice before I have $ for another trip.

  2. Your Blog is really appreciable. You did a great job by sharing this valuable and helpful article with us.

    kids songs