A Travellerspoint blog

Last Entry from HK

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Before I talk about the end of my trip in HK, let me take a moment to introduce you to my cats: Huai Bao (坏包)and Bao Bao (宝宝)。 I've had Huai Bao just over a year and Bao Bao about seven months. By the way, Huai Bao means "Rascal" or "Little Devil" and Bao Bao means "Baby." When I got Bao Bao, he already had his name and I'd been going back and forth about Huai Bao's name for a while. Prior to becoming Huai Bao, I called him "Chip," "Mister Mister" and probably some other things I can't even remember now. So when Bao Bao came into our lives, I thought naming the older cat "Huai Bao" gave it a nice symmetry and made it seem like they're really brothers. Also, one of the reasons I got Huai Bao a brother is because he would usually wake me every morning by biting and scratching me. Therefore, "Little Devil" seemed to be a fitting name for him.

Fortunately, having two cats has relaxed him somewhat and saved my skin (most days), unless they commence to chase each other around the apartment like they did this morning. I was lazing around and trying to sleep in a bit in my nice warm bed, but every minute or so, a cat would streak across my legs or feet (and once, even my head - I have the scratch on my forehead to prove it). When they get like this, I have no alternative but to get up. As much as they can aggravate me at times, I love them dearly! Check out just how cute they are:

IMG_2453.jpg Huai Bao and Bao Bao sleeping on the futon

IMG_3243.jpg They were sleeping, but you can see they've opened their eyes just a bit to see what I'm doing - I love how Bao Bao props his feet up on his brother and Huai Bao doesn't even seem to notice

IMG_0074.jpg Huai Bao in the bathroom sink (no, your eyes haven't lost the ability to see color - it's a black & white photo)

IMG_0081.jpg Bao Bao in the basin underneath the bathroom sink

If you're wondering why they're in the sink and basin, it's because they follow me from room to room in the apartment. If I'm in the bedroom, they're in the bedroom (unless I've locked them out - Bao Bao can open closed doors, he's that clever!); if I'm in the living room, they're in the living room; if I'm in the kitchen, they're in the kitchen; if I'm in the bathroom, they're in the bathroom. I have no more rooms in my apartment, but you get the idea. For people who think that all cats are anti-social, you haven't met mine yet. Although, I must admit that I think Bao Bao is actually part dog. You see, he likes to play fetch! Balling up a piece of paper is a surefire way to get Bao Bao to jump up and pay attention. If I throw it, he runs to catch it, then brings it back to me and drops it. He'll run after the ball for probably 30 minutes or so, then finally instead of dropping the ball, HE drops to let me know he's finished playing. I've never had another cat like him!

The reason I bring up my cats is twofold: one, they're my boys and I want to show you how cute they are. Two, I realized last night without a shadow of a doubt that they are Chinese cats. China just celebrated the Lunar New Year on Monday and today is Day 5 of the new year. That means today is the birthday of the "god of money." Therefore, Chinese people greet him with the sound of firecrackers. It was pretty intense late last night since so many people followed tradition to greet him. Even in a closed apartment, you could smell the saltpeter (gun powder) that reminds me of the air outside after my dad goes target shooting. And the racket was much louder than you might imagine. Fireworks shows in the US tend to be spaced out a bit, but here, they sounds just don't stop for several minutes. So how did my cats react? They'd wake up occasionally, but then go right back to sleep - they're definitely Chinese. What's funny is that if someone knocks on the door, they'll growl quietly, then run and hide under the couch. Based on their reaction last night, I hope that means they were as unaffected by the sounds on new year's eve, since I was in HK and wasn't there to comfort them.

Now, back to HK. On the 23rd, the first day of the year, my friends and I went to "Central" on HK Island to the Apple store there. One of my plans while in HK was to buy a new iPhone 4S, but that didn't happen. It's basically impossible to get one because the scalpers have figured out a way to cheat the system (and the average person like me). But I still needed to get a new battery for my laptop. I've been using the same laptop since summer of 2006, but I'm on my third battery now. Eventually, the battery swells up and it's time for a replacement. When I got the first replacement in the States in 2009, it was free (I think it had something to do with previous or pending lawsuits at the time). In HK and China, however, you have to pay for a new battery. By buying it in HK, I saved more than 200 RMB which is more than $30! Here's a picture of HK's one and only Apple store (by contrast, Shanghai has three, one of which happens to be on the same road on which I live).

IMG_2081.jpg It must be awesome at night - the lit apple must look like a beacon

IMG_2084.jpg My friends, stopping to pose together on the way from the Apple store to the ferry terminal

IMG_2098.jpg Part of the skyline on the HK Island side of HK harbor - the HK Convention & Exhibiton Center is built out right on the water on reclaimed land

IMG_2100.jpg Looking back at the Star Ferry Terminal

IMG_2103.jpg The IFC (International Finance Center) building - the Apple Store is at the base of the tower

IMG_2110.jpg Annaliese (LOVE the tights!) on the ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui (TST). TST is part of the Kowloon peninsula, which is the mainland section of HK. Technically HK consists of Kowloon, HK Island, the New Territories (where my friends are living) and over 200 offshore islands. In fact, HK's airport is on one of those islands, also built on reclaimed land

IMG_2115.jpg One of the few photos I have with my friend and 2/3 of her kids - this is at TST looking back at HK Island

IMG_2127.jpg My last winning hand at "Bananagrams." It's similar to Scrabble, but instead of all the players building one board together, you build your own and win by using all of your tiles before your opponents can finish using theirs. I'm especially pleased with the cluster of tiles at the top left - "cab," "greatest" and "zoo," also "ago" and "brood." I'm not completely full of myself - my friend suggested I take a picture of my win

As I predicted, I didn't do too many touristy things - in fact, the one touristy thing I did (riding the ferry across the harbor) was my friend's suggestion. She feels that no trip to HK is complete without a ride on the ferry. It was also a bit necessary, since we needed to go from one side of the harbor to the other - don't you love when these things work themselves out?

I would have wanted to do more (I especially like to go to Victoria Peak - you can get great views of the whole harbor from there on a clear day) if the weather had been nicer. As it was, it was colder and grayer than I thought possible for HK. My other trips there were also in January, but I enjoyed some sun and warmer weather at those times. You know what this means - I'm going to have to return to HK sometime later this year... Oh darn! (said very sarcastically)

Posted by feiheli 18:59 Archived in China Comments (1)

Chinese New Year's Eve

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I got in to Hong Kong about 30 minutes late on Friday night, but my friends, the Harveys, were faithfully waiting for me. We enjoyed dinner in the HK airport, then took a taxi to their apartment about 45 minutes to 1 hour away. I volunteered to sit in the front so they could be together in the back, and at first tried to walk to the front passenger door...only it's not the front passenger door in HK. Since HK was a British colony, they drive on the left (to me, also known as "wrong") side of the road. Consequently, the driver also sits on the "wrong" side of the car. Since I had no intention of driving, it was back to the left of the car for me. I did the same thing the first time I was here in 1999. I told my friends that if I ever lived in HK, it would take me a while to get used to the difference.

On my first full day here, we went to do some grocery shopping - first at a market, then at an awesome grocery store called "Taste." It seems that HK shuts down for the first few days of the New Year (like Shanghai used to do in 1999), so it's necessary to stock up and get things done in the last few days of the old year. The market sold everything - flowers, meat and seafood, pastries, fruit and vegetables, even kitchen pots and pans and other odds and ends that a person might need. While I have seen more crowded places than this market, this place seemed to be worse - firstly because of the impending holiday, secondly because the aisles between the different sellers aren't really wide enough to be called aisles. For the average Chinese person, they're barely wide enough to walk through side-by-side. When you add someone of my size into the mix, well, you can probably figure out that it's a disaster-in-the-making. Add to that my aversion to trying to squeeze through any place. Even after several years in Asia, and even knowing that you have to push and shove sometimes to get to where you need to be, I still wait to let others through, then try to find the perfect moment to get my own bulk through. It's harder than it should be, however, because there's never a perfect moment. As soon as you see a space where you think, "I can navigate through here without stepping on toes or pushing anyone aside," that space is cut off by the people coming your way and even the people behind you who are surely thinking, "what a wuss - just GO!" Therefore, I made the decision to stop waiting and "just GO!" Unfortunately for me, I practically bowled over a few people in my haste to catch up to my friend Raquel. And I paid for that decision when I was sharply elbowed right in the center of my lower back. It hurt tremendously and I turned around and yelled "you jerk" at the young man I thought was responsible for it. But it was pointed out to me later that more than likely, it was the two old women who were the most vocal about me getting through.

I won't lie - I was stewing inside for quite a while yesterday about the whole episode. I'm sorry to have bumped the old ladies, but in a crowd like that and in a space as narrow as that, it happens. I was especially upset late last night when I thought about my recent back problems. Last September I threw my back out and was basically lying in bed for three weeks - I had X-Rays and an MRI done and found out that I have not just one, but two slipped discs. Whoever it was that elbowed me got me right in the same spot. I hope I don't ever experience that kind of pain again, but I have to admit that I would have been perversely satisfied if I had dropped to the ground in agony and the guilty party could have felt the guilt that I think they should feel. What they did was absolutely unnecessary!

But I know it's time to get over it - I didn't get hurt (other than the immediate pain), I can't change what happened and I'll never see those women again (see how quick I am to assign blame? It must have been them!), and it's a New Year in just 27 more minutes, so that's all behind me now.

As I predicted, I haven't really done any touristy things (remember, the purpose of my trip has been to see my friends), so my pictures are of my friends and the area where they live. Here's a few pics for you to see:

7IMG_1947.jpg Hot Chocolate with snowmen-shaped marshmallows and a homemade birthday cheesecake - yum!

IMG_1965.jpg Holding Eliana

IMG_1977.jpg Big sister Annaliese

IMG_2021.jpg Big brother Trey

IMG_2022.jpg Annaliese again, wearing the dress I gave her over her clothes and an adorable hat!

IMG_2066.jpg Trey & Annaliese waiting for the elevator

IMG_2078.jpg Nighttime view from my friend's apartment. Believe it or not, this is the outskirts of HK

Posted by feiheli 07:05 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (1)

Back by Popular Demand

My first trip in 2012 - HONG KONG!

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I've been told that many of you have enjoyed reading my blog and would like me to continue it, even to share about my daily life in Shanghai. While daily life is really not that exciting, I do plan to blog from my first destination in 2012 - Hong Kong (HK from now on in this blog)!

One of my best friends and her family recently moved from Beijing to HK (they're American, by the way) and it's been too long since I've seen them. In fact, the family has grown to include a second daughter since the last time we saw each other (which was here in Shanghai), so now it's my turn to go to them.

Chinese New Year is early this year - on January 23 and I get 5 days off of work. Since my birthday is on the 20th, I arranged to take my vacation time a bit earlier than most of the other teachers and come next Friday, I'm off to HK for 5 days/4 nights. I've been to HK twice (and actually celebrated my birthday there both times!) but it's now been seven years since my last visit, so you can imagine how excited I am to be returning! I don't know how many "touristy" things I'll be doing there since the main purpose of my trip is to spend time with friends and bask in their company and the warmer weather of HK, but I'll try to get some pictures (of course) and show you some of the sights of HK. In fact, I looked online yesterday for some photo tours I could try to take while there, but I don't think they're going to work out. Some of them are outrageously expensive (more than 300 USD!) and others take up an entire day which should be spent with my friends. Therefore, I predict that most of the pictures you see in the next post will be of my friends and of their local neigborhood in HK. But they should still be nice, especially since I recently received an early birthday present, a new 50mm camera lens.

The 50mm is best for getting pictures of people (or things that you can take up-close) and I've been testing it out extensively since I received it. Actually, our company's annual dinner was last Wednesday and I took the camera there and every time I took a picture and looked at it on the viewfinder, I practically shouted "I LOVE THIS LENS!" I'm including a few pictures for you to see why I like it so much.

IMG_1880.jpg These are the two Michaels I work with - the one in front is from the UK, the one in the background from Australia. These guys are great - they're both absolutely hilarious! - but I have to admit they look like they're taking part in a meeting of criminal minds here...

IMG_1898.jpg This is me and my friend Sylvia, a former colleague who now works at another location (same company, though)

IMG_1904.jpg One of the most photogenic people I've ever met! This is my colleague Jessie

I haven't fully committed to any other destinations in 2012, but I have made an important decision about the length of stay in each place I do visit. Vietnam was great and if you want to see a new country as fully as possible, a long vacation is definitely the best way to go about that. However, when travelling solo, 3 weeks is a very long time... too long, in fact, I've determined. So I've decided that I'll split my 3 weeks this year into 3 (probably equal) parts. I'm hoping to visit two different countries and then go on one trip in China, specifically a place in China that I've never been. I don't know that I'll be travelling once every 4 months, but I would like to space the trips out a bit. Also, if I travel during major holidays in China, such as Spring Festival (this month) and National Day (October 1st), I can more than likely tack on a few extra days. So it's entirely possible that I could use one week of vacation but go somewhere for a week and a half. There are two downsides to this plan: everyone else is trying to do the same thing to maximize their vacations, so there're a ton of people on the roads, trains and airplanes. The other downside is that the prices go up at those times (of course). We'll just have to see what happens.

So even though I haven't picked absolute destinations, I do need to stay in this corner of the world to make the most of the limited time and money. At this point, I'm thinking South Korea (since I had to cancel that trip in 2011) and probably Thailand. One can be a cultural trip, the other can be a "lay on the beach, read and sip cocktails" kind of trip. South Korea does have beaches, right?

No, I'm just kidding. South Korea's for the culture, Thailand for the beaches. But did I get you? Ha ha!

I'm not sure if there's anything else I need to tell you. I don't leave for 3 more days, so don't expect to hear from me until after I'm in HK.

Thanks for reading!

Posted by feiheli 09:00 Archived in China Comments (2)

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