Thursday, July 26, 2012

Hong Kong, China 2012

Nǐ hǎo Hong Kong!

First Priority after our long flight!
This was my first trip to an Asian country, and I've been wanting to go for a very long time.  Each year when we decide where we are going, we toss a few of our wishes into a hat during the deciding phase, but Asia always got put on the back burner for whatever reason.  This year however, it was unanimous by everyone in the group. Drum roll please.....China!  More specific - Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing and possibly Xi'an!

The process for traveling to China is much for detailed than any of the other countries I have traveled to in the past.  The country if China is very large, so we need to decide how far we are willing to travel from city to city and what we wanted to see the most.  First priority...Apply for our Chinese visas.

$100 Hong Kong Dollars!
You can apply for a visa one of two ways.  Fill out your application and take it to the nearest Chinese embassy, or fill out your application and pay a travel agent to get it taken care of for you!  Since I live in San Diego, and the closes embassy to me is Los Angeles, I chose to take the lazy way and pay my travel agent a fee to just take care of it for me. The process to get the visa is a little lengthy, so make sure if you are allowing a travel agent to get your visa for you, that you plan a little in advance to make sure that you have both the visa and your passport back in your hands in plenty of time for your trip.

We couldn't decide if we had enough time to visit four cities or only three on this trip as we were on a limited number of days, so until about 15 days before the trip, we still didn't have all of our travel plans.  This was quite possibly the most last minute planning I have ever done for a trip.  Most of the cities were easy to get to by plane, however the order in which we traveled them was more tricky with the train system.  Since Hong Kong is almost like it's own country in itself, we couldn't get directly to Xi'an from there without ridiculous layovers in other places.  Some last minute juggling of flights and hotels got us there in the end.

Random building signs over the busy streets.
We decided that since we would probably need more time to adjust to such a different culture, that Hong Kong would be our first stop.  Seeing that it is the most western of all of the cities we planned to visit in China, we guessed it would be the easiest to adjust to.  It's a very clean city, and is very easy to get around it.  The subway system is very user friendly and can take you almost anyplace you want to go. Upon arrival at the airport, we picked up a tree day Octopus card which gave us total access to the cities subway system.

Because I have some hotel connections from my previous life in the hospitality industry, we decided to use a hotel in the suburbs of Hong Kong and commute every day.  It was only about a 30 train ride into the city each day so it wasn't that bad, however I would suggest to anyone visiting to make every attempt to stay in the city.  If you travel in the summer it is very humid, so you are going to want to be able to get back to the hotel to clean up every once in a while.  Us on the other hand,  we just went to dinner stinky.  That's how we roll!

The Giant Buddha in the rain!
There are so many things to do in Hong Kong, so I'll only touch on some of my favorites in this blog.  While I love living in cities, I would prefer to be out in the open nature and enjoying the natural scenery whenever I get the chance.  Since Hong Kong is one of the largest cities in the world, you will mostly see buildings and people, but if you feel like getting away from all of that, you can head north of the city to the Giant Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery that sits at the top of Ngong Ping on Lantau Island. It is a bit of a tourist area, but it is in the most beautiful location.  Surrounded by mountains and water, it is very peaceful.  After a long day of being in the city it's a great way to just relax in the quiet for a minute.  And on this day in particular, it was raining, so the tourists were far and few between giving us a fabulous opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

The view of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak.
On our second day in Hong Kong, the rain had past, and we decided that we should make a repeat appearance to Victoria Peak.  We had already gone up to the peak the day before, however it was very overcast and the view we got was of fog and rain!  The second trip up the peak on the trolley proved to be much more beautiful.  The city skyline of Hong Kong is breath taking.  When you are standing on the city streets you know that the city is very large, however when you get to the top of Victoria Peak, you realize just how enormous it really is. 

While the views and tourist attractions are the main thing that you would assume to see on a travel blog, I can't leave out the food.  I'm not a picky eater, so trying new and unusual food is usually high on my list of things to do on an international trip.  I can't even explain all of the different things that I tried while in Hong Kong, but the one that stands out the most is the Pigion.  I've eaten a lot of bird in my life, and seen some amazingly odd dishes, but I loved this dish.  Mostly because we were the only Americans in this restaurants ordering off the menu and not knowing exactly what we were going to get until all of the sudden, there was a whole cooked bird on our table. 

Fish at the street side Fish Market
Although there are many different options of street markets to see throughout the city, we had two that were our favorites. The Ladies Market on Tung Choi Street, Mong Kok and A local fish market that's name escapes me.

Fresh fruit at the Ladies Market
These two markets are very different from each other.  The Ladies Market is almost exactly it's name.  The market is only open during the day and seems to be a shoppers dream come true.  The streets are lined with options of amazing local fruits and knock off fashions that make for great souvenirs for your family and friends.  The second is this seafood street market.  I wish I could remember the name of the one we visited, but I'm sure they are all very similar.  These streets are lined with live local fresh seafood of every possible kind.  The baskets and tanks are lined up on the street full of fish jumping around and flopping on the sidewalks while the locals haggle over prices.  I'm not sure of the hours on this market, but I believe it is only open at night.

Our trip to Hong Kong ended only three short days after we arrived. While we did fit a lot of sight seeing into those three days,  I hope to someday make a return trip to venture to the outlying islands of Hong Kong.

Next stop......Shanghai China!

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