Life in Japan 2003/2004

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Life in Japan 2003/2004 « First Japanese Mac | Main | Out of This World Premiere »

December 22, 2003

Hong Kong

On 6 November 2003, Brian and Deanne achieved a HUGE goal on their long list of travel dreams - HONG KONG!!!

If you know us, you probably know that we have wanted to visit Hong Kong for years! "Why?" you might ask. True, there aren’t many famous 'sites' to see on the different islands that make up Hong Kong, it's only a big city, but "Why not?!?". Our love of traveling, cities, Hong Kong movies, Chinese food, shopping, etc… we’ve wanted to go! And it was a great trip - five days filled with shopping, vegetarian food, and more shopping. We feel like we've got a better understanding of San Francisco, the world and commerce after visiting.

We decided to book a tour, which took care of our hotel, air tickets and travel to/from the airport in Hong Kong. All we had to do was get to/from Narita airport and around Hong Kong. Easy enough, well, basically...

Day One - We woke up at 5AM, to get to Narita airport by 7:50AM, and it was pouring rain! Our first thoughts were "Oh no! The trains". In heavy rain the trains in Japan sometime stop, but we made it to the airport and through check-in without any problems. Our next stop was Japanese immigration, which was our first memorable delay.
It seems that someone on the 'immigration list' has the same name as Brian, so he was pulled from the normal 'stamp the passport, get'em through' line and sent to a special seated area. The situation was cleared up quickly and without any questions, but we don't have any idea how. We had a great veggie meal on our ANA flight and watched a lot of movies and TV. Customs in Hong Kong was a breeze, but we had another memorable delay when Brian was pulled from line again to have his temperature taken. Remember SARS and all of those airport thermal scanners, will Hong Kong still has them. I guess Brian appeared too 'red' on the screen because they sat him down and took his temperature. The funny thing is that I was the one feeling sick! We met with our tour coordinator, who spoke in Japanese and called Brian "Mr. Boss". She took us to The Eaton Hotel in Kowloon, checked us into our room, then we set out on our Hong Kong adventure.
We tracked down a veggie restaurant from the Lonely Planet guide book (yummy food!!!), walked around, window shopped, found a very cool theater/book & DVD store/cafe and got tickets to see the Matrix Revolutions. We killed some more time walking around Temple Street Market (a nighttime street market where you can find all kinds of things just watch out for bootlegs!) until the movie started. We watched the Matrix in English with Cantonese sub-titles (a change from the Japanese ones we are used to) and were very disappointed. Our only consolation was that we paid Hong Kong movie prices not Japanese!

Pictures of day one

Day Two - Friday was spent on Hong Kong Island. We took the ferry over from Kowloon and had more great veggie food at a roof top restaurant above a gallery/theater, in a converted ice warehouse. We took the 100+ year old tram to the top of Victoria Peak the see "the view" of Hong Kong. This truly is required if you go to Hong Kong - the ride and view are amazing. From there we set out to find the Hong Kong Film Archive, which proved to be on the far end of town and disappointing. Sadly we never did find the Bruce Lee museum, we were told it moved but couldn’t find the new location. We took the double-deck streetcar back to the ferry, another item on the must-do Hong Kong list. Make sure you sit on top so you can get a good view!

Pictures of day two

Day Three - We woke up Saturday to pouring rain but decided to head to Lantau Island to see the big Buddha despite it. It was long bus ride up and over the twisty narrow roads of Lantau, but even in the rain it was a nice change from the non-stop rhythm of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. We had a filling vegetarian lunch provided by the Buddhist monks before we made the windy rainy climb to the Buddha. The rain stopped on the bus ride back to the train (of course!) and the entire bus "ooohed" and "ahhhed" at a double rainbow that suddenly appeared straddling a mountain ridge. We were glad we went, even with the rain.
Getting back to Kowloon we decided to check out Mong Kok, which we heard had some good shops. It was here we truly embraced the culture of Hong Kong - shopping! Brian was in heaven discovering DVD’s cost only HK$16.00 (about USD$2.50) and I couldn't believe my luck stumbling into a used clothing store specializing in used Japanese clothes (strange huh?). Our great night of shopping was made even better by finding a wonderful veggie restaurant. We had to wait 45min to eat...but it was worth it!

Pictures of day three

Day Four - Sunday we started out on Hong Kong Island. We went to Times Square, an enormous mall where the shops are organized on each floor by type, and had wonderful veggie dim sum lunch. After lunch we were blown away by the sight of all the Hong Kong maids on their day off. We had read about this, but there is really no way to describe it. Lots, and I mean LOTS of people in Hong Kong have live-in maids, and Sunday is their day off. With no place to go these women gather in public places to have picnics and relax - parks, office building plazas, under freeway overpasses, covered walkways, etc.. there were hundreds and hundreds of them. It was an unbelievable insight into Hong Kong's domestic life. We road the double-deck streetcar back to central Hong Kong and discovered a great record store and spent about HK$600/USD$100 on vinyl (even though we have nothing to play them on in Japan, we couldn’t pass up the finds!). Then it was back to Mong Kok on Kowloon for more shopping!

Pictures of day four

Day Five - Time to head back to Japan, but before we went to the airport we had to squeeze in some more shopping! First we went to the Jade Market where who do we see but a handful of the Miss World contestants. We didn't take a picture, but they were there! And they looked entirely out of place wearing too much make-up and too few clothes. After the market we only had enough time to quickly walk a few streets and alleys and soak in some last Hong Kong sites and sounds before we got our bus to the airport.
We had another great ANA flight back to Narita filled with another great vegetarian meal and more movies. After we landed our biggest worry was that Brian would not be allowed back in the country by immigration since he left he country only having a travel visa. We got VERY worried after I made it through and he was pulled from line and sent to a special seated area (again!). But five minutes and three immigration officers later he was allowed into Japan without a problem. Just like when we left Japan - the situation was cleared up quickly and without any questions, but again we don't have any idea how.

Pictures of day five

It was a great trip. The food and shopping in Hong Kong truly are great! We can’t wait to visit again! Hope you enjoy the pictures.

Posted by deanne at December 22, 2003 11:09 PM
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