14 December, 2012

Ok Ok I know, I've promised entries and I've fallen behind.  To be fair, it's been a hell of a week.  So brace yourself, this may be my longest entry yet.

When last I left you, I was getting ready for several conference presentations.  All three that we worked on this year went very, very well.  By the end of the day on Wednesday all the clients were happy and it was time for a little fun.

The crew from Warner Bros. was lovely enough to invite us to dinner.  Happily we joined them at a restaurant called Underbridge Spicy Crab.  It is under a bride, but the spicy refers to GARLIC.  And yes that does deserve all caps.  The reek of garlic wafts out into the street as you walk by.  And I mean that in the best possible way.  We kicked off the meal with a traditional appetizer... Chicken Feet. Yes, you read that right.

And believe it or not, I actually tried it.  The flavor is really good, but it was going to take more effort than I wanted to give to get over the texture.

The rest of the dinner was all kinds of food imaginable, seasoned with garlic.  But the night was just beginning.  Next it was time for some karaoke with the Warner Bros. peeps.  Wait you say, everyone knows I don't sing in front of people.  Well guess what?  Yep, you bet I did.  By 4AM we had all sung ourselves hoarse and had enough vodka to make for a very pleasant taxi ride back to the hotel.

Lucky for me, I was able to sleep in a little bit the next morning.  I had to move to a different hotel for my last two days here.   So I packed everything up and dropped all my stuff off at the Island Shangri-la.  More on the new hotel later.  I was then off to once again do some shopping still in the company of my Warner Bros. clients.

First we hit the Ladies Market in Kowloon.  It's stall after stall of knock offs, knickknacks and junk.  And amazing for every step.  I didn't actually find anything to buy, but I came close.  The problem is that the moment you look like you want something, all the salesladies turn into fishwives, screaming lower and lower prices as you walk away.  It's a little intense.

It was time for some noodles so we wandered around and found a little local place.  Not exactly the best food, but I did manage to use a hole in the ground toilet.  It was very nice, tank on the wall and flushed and everything.  It just was missing the toilet part.  :-)  Sorry no photos of that one.

Next it was on to the Temple Street Night Market.  Exactly as it sounds, it gets going after dark.  We were just a little early so we decided it was beer o'clock and had a few.

We rambled through the night market, which has an even stranger assortment of goods than the Ladies Market.  It's a cross between product that has fallen off the back of a truck and a flea market.  You can buy everything from jewelry to extension cords.  Last of the shopping excursions was the 7 story department store where we all love to shop.  Every year EVERYONE tries to come here and find some good stuff.  This is a store that the locals frequent so it isn't touristy junk.  Trust me when I say some of you will see the results when I get home.

As if all that shopping wasn't enough, we decided it was now wine:30 so after a quick pit stop back at the Hyatt we headed out again.  Straight to Soho which is part of the area full of expat bars and restaurants.  The great thing is that it's not just British.  We had decided on Italian and picked one place on a street full of great choices.  Two bottles of wine and lots of food later, we were done.

The others dropped me off at my hotel.  Now at this point I've checked in and dropped off my luggage, but I had yet to see my room.  After some confusion with the room number I discover I'm on the club level.  Floor 54 out of 56.  And my room is awesome.  This is my idea of a great hotel.  dark wood, plenty of space and a view of the harbor that is to die for.  Sadly I knew I didn't have much time to enjoy it as a couple of us were planning on heading out at 7:45 the next morning.

My alarm went off at 6:30 and man was it hard to wake up.  Luckily a text conversation with Emily gets my brain going and I'm out of bed.  First  we hopped a ride on one of the little double decker rail cars that runs from one end of the island to the other.  I'll try to add some pictures tomorrow, but they're very skinny for a double decker and more than one person thinks they look like the Knight Bus from Harry Potter.  We then made a run to get to the Star Ferry in time to catch the slow boat to Lantau Island.

Lantau Island is home to the airport, Hong Kong Disneyland and the Tian Tan Buddha.  The difference in this island from Hong Kong island is amazing.  Given that it's a weekday morning, there is almost no traffic.  Of any kind. Foot, bicycle, car or bus.  We arrive with about an hour to wander around and end up having some dim sum for breakfast in the local market.

 There was so much to see even here, just places and temples.  Everything is striking and different.  We had a small discussion about how different life can be when the material doesn't matter like it does in the Western world.  Not that money is always a bad thing, but it does blind us frequently to the simple joy of life.

Next we're on a bus, chugging up the mountains.  Tiny winding roads and the desperate desire to go to sleep. Why does transportation always make me nap?  We arrive at Ngong Ping and head for the Tian Tan Buddha.  I have to say, that even from a distance with no idea of the true scale, it's impressive.  Upon seeing the actual amount of stairs (268) I'm about to climb, I know this is going to hurt.  See the look on my face?  I just know it.

Upon reaching the top, I was almost even more impressed with the sheer size of the bronze statue.  According to wikipedia, it's 112 feet tall and weighs 280 tons.  Take a look in the left column for some more facts.  You can also go inside for a small museum and to see the relic housed inside.  Honestly the museum isn't worth it, but it did come with free ice cream and water, so that's something.  I will say that I felt a little bad sitting on a bench eating ice cream while devout Buddists fell to their knees in front of the statue.  However, my guilt was alleviated by the yelling and carrying on of a visiting family.  So loud they could be heard clearly from some distance, they sounded like all hell was about to break loose.  Oh and did I mention they were Chinese?  Good to know that all cultures have their version of chavs or hillbillies.

And before you ask, yes I know there is what looks like a swastika on Buddha's chest.  Before the Nazi's flipped and perverted the symbol, it was a symbol that could be found around the world.  Most familiar usages would be in Buddhism or Hinduism.  The Nazi's even stole the word from the Sanskrit svastika which can be translated into something like "being with your higher self."  Quite an appropriate thought for Buddha.  It is frequently used as a symbol of good luck.  Now, moving on...  Here are some photos of the view from the top and two of the six Devas who present offerings to Buddha.

It was time for the trek back down the massive stairs.  There are other temples there on the grounds so we took the time to look at a few.  We also discovered sticks of incense that were almost as tall as I am and as bigger around than a can of soda.

On to another bus and we were headed for the fishing village of Tai O.  It really was one of the best things I saw on this trip.  We wandered from one end to the other.  From the tiniest houses to the fish markets; it's an experience.  We walked and walked.  Frequently as you neared open doors you could hear the distinctive sound of mahjong tiles being shuffled.  A few times we even caught a glimpse of the old men or women playing.

By this point we're all exhausted so we catch the train back into Hong Kong.  I head back to my hotel and have a lovely afternoon tea.

Now I'm so very comfortable in my amazing hotel room and I don't want to go back out.  It's early and I keep thinking maybe I'll head back to Soho for a few drinks, but the Tsing Tao beer in my mini bar tells me just to stay in and enjoy the luxury.  I'm afraid I'm probably going to listen.

Tomorrow is my last day here in Hong Kong and I have until about 9PM to finish shopping and pack.  I don't have to be out of my room until 4 so I'm going to enjoy it while I have it.  I'll try to make one last post before I'm on the plane and headed home.