Wow. Just wow. Let me go on record now and say that this trip was the vacation my soul didn't know it needed until I was there. I had no idea how much I would love Hong Kong. It's honestly surprising.
Now anyone who knows me even a little bit is aware of the fact that I am an obsessive planner. Before I do anything I research it to death; come up with the most efficient plan of action, and try to execute it as flawlessly as possible. This trip was no exception. If anything this tendency was exacerbated because I was traveling with a friend. (I don't think she knew it but I had a list of emergency numbers that included the U.S and South African embassies and I had found both on google maps. Just in case.) All of this research forced me to confront an unpleasant reality.......I had no clue. I am ashamed to admit how ignorant I was about this vibrant city. (If you can even call it a city; it was more like its own little country.) For some strange reason when I used to think of Hong Kong, Jackie Chan was the first thing to come to mind. which is pretty pathetic since he's not even from there. (But Bruce Lee is ;) ) Now though, I will have vivid memories of clear blue waters, friendly smiling people, and mullets. (They're alive and well in Hong Kong)
I have to start off by confessing a few things. We didn't do a lot of the typical touristy things so if your reading this expecting to see something about the big Buddha, Victoria peak and cable cars prepare to be disappointed; cuz we didn't do any of that. Also we were there for four days............and did not eat a single piece of Dim Sum. (hangs head in shame) BUT as long as I live I will never forget the moment when Lisa asked "What's Dim Sum?" I have never seen a persons head snap around so fast or an expression filled with such disbelief and judgment. Some where in Peng Chau a local has lost faith in white people forever because they showed up in a country not knowing what the national dish is. The memory of that look will keep me warm on cold nights for a long time to come. (Even as I'm writing this I'm snickering from the memory.)
Now on to what we DID do. For starters we flew into Hong Kong ridiculously early. As in I landed at two in the morning. Naturally we stayed in the airport. My paranoia does not allow me to sleep out in the open so we checked into one of the airport lounges. A good idea all around for the most part. They had nice hot showers, comfy chairs and a decent breakfast line. The only downside was not even the lounges fault. There was one dude there who has no idea how close he came to death by strangulation because his snores echoed. Our check in time for the flat we had rented wasn't until two in the afternoon so we had plenty of time to kill. Our first stop? Hong Kong Heritage Museum.
This place was beautiful. Inside they had displays about all aspects of Hong Kong culture and history. I loved the replicas of the theater river boats and the theater that they eventually built on land. They had so many different displays of art and history. It absolutely broke my heart that we were not allowed to take ANY pictures; However if I told you that we came solely to appreciate Hong Kong's historical heritage I would be a liar. Our primary reason for visiting the museum was this guy.
Bruce Lee had an entire floor dedicated to his life and career. I was blown away. I didn't really know anything about him before coming. For example did you know that he was an inch shorter than me? I had this image of him being this larger than life legend so it was shocking to see that he was actually petite. He was also a total marshmallow. The museum had letters he had written to his wife on display and they were the sweetest things. I was also impressed by his dedication to honing his skills. Not only did he have some serious gym equipment and an exercise regime (Beautiful handwriting btw) his personal library extended across many different fighting styles and philosophies. He had books on psychology, women's self defense, kendo, fencing, kick boxing, jujuistu the list goes on and on. It was amazing. Now I have to look up his movies and actually watch them.
After the museum we made our way to where we were staying. At this point we were both pretty fried from lack of sleep and dragging our luggage around so this was a welcome relief. The only reason I'm bothering to mention this part of our vacation is because this is our first encounter with the ferries.
I like ferries. Traveling by ferries is cool. It's hard to feel rushed or anxious when you're on a gently rocking boat. Further more as you can see from this picture Hong Kong is an easy place to travel around for English speakers. All of the signs have Chinese and English on them. You can imagine how much of a welcome relief this was to us. (I'm not certain my brain can take trying to learn another written language.)
Where we were staying required us to take the ferry everywhere and I don't regret this in the least. Island living is the only way to live as far as I'm concerned. Our flat was on the island of Peng Chau.
Peng Chau is an incredibly quaint place. I would even call it charming. One thing Lisa and noticed about this island was that there are no cars. Everyone either walked or rode a bike.
You don't realize how noisy motorized vehicles are until you're in a place without them. Honestly the only "car" we saw was a fire truck and a couple of ATV's.
We didn't spend a significant amount of time on Peng Chau but even so I couldn't help but be taken in by the pace of life here. It is incredibly mellow and I loved it. I told Lisa that I couldn't remember the last time I simply strolled down a sidewalk with a Popsicle.
We woke up on Sunday with the best intentions to go exploring. (Well tried to anyways. I woke up with a nasty headache that morning. Nothing a nap and some serious painkillers couldn't cure.) We started the day by heading to Cheng Chau island. I had seen advertisements for a bun festival and I was beyond excited to eat buns and watch people dance around with dragon masks. Sadly we failed to realize that the festival had been put on hold for Sunday. No buns. No dragon masks. that didn't stop us from having a good time though. Cheng Chau has a lot of narrow alleys filled with shops so we spent a significant amount of time wandering aimlessly through them.
One thing I had discovered while researching Hong Kong was the fact that they have no open container laws. I light of this I fully expected to encounter drunk people out the wazoo. Happily I was mistaken. However it did mean that the free samples there are absurd. There was a man walking around with a cooler offering full bottles of beer for free as advertisement for the bar he worked for.
Have I mentioned the weather yet? It was HOT. and HUMID. It would be 9:00 in the morning and I could be standing under a tree and sweat would be pooling. (Ladies you know what I mean.) It was like I had never left Florida. I think we spent about half the trip looking for ways to beat the heat. Hence our stop in this awesome place.
I think Lisa and I spent about two hours inside this place painting our little wooden letters. The lady who owned it was super sweet and had no problems helping us and salvaging our projects when it was starting to look ugly. All in all it wasn't how we had planned to spend our afternoon in Cheng Chau but I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Sunday night saw us on the big bus night tour. This was a nice change of pace for us because it meant we could get a decent view of Kowloon without having to walk all over it. Next time I go though I'm definitely getting a closer look at the different markets. The tour guide voice thing on the bus mentioned the night market, jade market, flower market, ecetera, ecetera. At the end of the tour we were supposed to see this incredible light show (symphony of lights) that showcases the Hong Kong skyline. Being raised in Florida has given me unrealistic expectations of light shows cuz I didn't see anything worth mentioning on a travel blog. (of course it's highly possible that we simply missed it.)
Monday. This was the day I had been waiting for. Literally my main reason for going to Hong Kong. The most magical place on earth. Disney Land.
I would like to go on record and say that price wise we are being ripped off in the United States. Compared to the Florida park Hong Kong was dirt cheap. Truly the most magical thing.
Hong Kong Disney has many things that are similar to Magic Kingdom in Florida but there were enough different things that it felt nostalgic without crossing into deja vu. Toy Story land was new and cool. Lisa absolutely loved it. Toy Story is her all time favorite so this was like Christmas and a candy store all rolled into one for her five year old self.
Another major difference is the lack of Haunted Mansion. (Which is my favorite ride.) Ancestor worship is prominent in Chinese culture so ghosts are a big no no. The solution? Mystic Manor.
Hands down this was my favorite ride in the park. This was such a clever way to incorporate the suspense and mystery while still respecting Chinese culture. I won't spoil the story line for anybody wanting to go but definitely make it a point to stop by and ride it.
One thing that made this Disney trip special for me was watching Lisa. She had never seen anything like Disney before so everything was shiny and impressive. Her reaction to it's a small world sticks out to me the most. The singing, dancing dolls absolutely blew her away. The jungle cruise safari did not impress her in the most hilarious way. (She turned to me and said "anyone else from South Africa would be like what the heck is this??") Watching her flip her lid when Woody came down the parade line was priceless. I can't really express just how much fun we had that day.
Sadly all good things must come to an end. Lisa left for the airport directly from Disney, leaving me to find my own way back. This was the most ridiculous adventure throughout the entire trip. I thought it would be a simple process of retracing my steps. I should have known better. I have a particularly irritating curse. If I have to depend on a bus to get me home my life becomes infinitely more complicated. That day was no exception.
It should have been a straightforward process of getting off exactly where I got on that morning and getting on the boat back to Peng Chau. Of course it didn't happen like that. I have no idea where I was dropped off but it was no where near a pier. No biggie. I'll just follow the signs. Through the construction sight. At ten o'clock at night. No problem. (and it really wasn't. Weird.) I make it to the brightly lit, clean pier. It was the wrong one. But that's ok because this Scottsman and his daughter are more than happy to tell me that the pier I need is only a ten minute run over the hill and through the woods (I'm not making this up.) But the last ferry is departing in six minutes. Don't worry though these boats never depart on time. You can do it! RUN! Guess who watched the last boat sail away on time as she was a minute away up the side walk. (Mind you I'm sprinting around in the dark after a full day at Disney lugging souvenirs behind me.) This girl, right here.
During the night bus tour it was proudly declared that Hong Kong was one of the safest cities in the world. I believe it with every fiber of my being. Had I been anywhere else in China that night I probably would have been kidnapped, and my parents would forever be wondering about what happened to their fool daughter who went gallivanting across the globe. Rest assured though I was not in any danger that night. Which was good because I was literally this close to calling the number scribbled at the bottom of the ferry times to have some dudes cousin who owns a junker come pick me up. (As in I had borrowed a strangers phone and was dialing the numbers.) Luckily another kind citizen pulled up the ferry schedules on their phone and told me that I could still catch a ferry to Central pier and from their grab a boat to Peng Chau. I just had to go back to the first pier I was at. Go figure. I made it though. It was about one in the morning by the time I finally made it back but I didn't have to spend the night at the pier so kudos for that.
Tuesday was the bittersweet day of departure. Flat cleaned up. Souvenirs packed. one ferry, two trains, two infernal buses, one plane and a taxi ride later I was home. I loved every minute of it and would happily go again.