December 31, 2010
Photo: Sunset at Victoria Bay
In HK people generally noted that it was new year's eve but most of their crazy celebrations are reserved for Chinese new year at the end of January. So today was pretty much an ordinary day for us.
My aunt and I got up and went down to the local shop to grab some special breakfast items since it was my uncle's birthday. I saw rice rolls being made for the first time!
Then Don really wanted to check out all the extensive escalators in Langham Place where we stumbled upon this display of huge Hello Kitty "in London" displays.
Don was pretty overwhelmed by all the cheesy music and the cuteness overload but he still indulged me with photographing the fun.
After riding the long escalators up to the 15th floor, we walked down the long spiral staircase back to the main floor. Most of these skyscrapers have malls on the bottom, and some mixture of commercial, office, hotel, and residential in the rest of the tower. This building had escalators that spanned 4 levels. Riding them was actually a little freaky.
Then we got onto Nathan road for a walk.
See that lone cyclist in the middle? Such confidence!
He is also stopped and waiting for his turn, in front of Yue Hwa, this big Chinese "stuff" emporium. Silk jackets and vests, massage chairs, teas, jade and jewelry, embroidery, statues, calligraphy... basically anything sort of Chinese-like, you will be able to get here. It's not as beautiful and good quality as the Arts and Crafts place in Tsim Sha Tsui, but Yue Hwa is decent quality for a fair price. And without the haggling you have to go through in some of the markets.
I didn't have time to browse too thoroughly because we had to be at the Peninsula for afternoon tea.
The hotel is incredibly beautiful, and old. There were loads of foreigners, live music, and tons of new years decorations for the evening's festivities. Back during WWII the Peninsula was also used as headquarters for the Japanese.
The epic tray of treats.
Don pretends to take his tea very seriously.
After taking in the sunset at the Bay, we hopped into the MTR and saw an urban Chinese cowboy.
Since Don is so tall he can take these great shots.
We headed over to Elements to browse around and then see our movie, Tron! What a great looking movie with a wicked soundtrack. After our show was over it was nearly 11 am and the place was just packed with people. The restaurants were full and even the grocery store was bursting at the seams with late-night grocery shoppers. I wonder when this place actually sleeps.
Don and I plan to toast our friends back home at 2 pm our time tomorrow. For now, let me say bye and happy new years to you all!
December 30, 2010
My aunt who we're staying with lives on the Kowloon side, whereas HK proper is across the water. When we take the MTR over to HK side it's hard to believe that we're under the harbor. Whoa!
Today we explored the Tsim Sha Tsui area after lunch with my godmother who also happens to be in HK at the moment. The area provides an incredible view over Victoria Bay. I'm all about the sightseeing for free or on transit instead of taking tours.
I'm still in short sleeves and bare legs. The girl giving me a manicure this morning asked me if I was cold (everybody seems to be asking me that) and I gave her my practiced line about being from Canada where it's -20C on a normal day. The concept of some place being that far below the freezing mark seems inconceivable to people.
In any case, the views are amazing and the density is just astounding. We ogled all the buildings from our side of the bay, and also took a walk along the avenue of stars (like Hollywood's walk of fame but with Chinese stars).
I found Jackie Chan! His hands are much bigger than my own. This was of particular interest to me because when I was small everybody at school would ask me if Jackie Chan was my dad.
Then it was off to the MTR station to head over to the area around The Arch to purchase some movie tickets for tomorrow.
Don has been wanting to photograph the train car for some time, however, it's very rare to find a car empty enough to illustrate the lack of division between cars. It's just one huge car from front to back.
Likewise with using our Octopus cards. The stations are so bustling that there has not been time for photographs. You just have to keep moving all the time!
The Octopus is like many transit swipe cards, but I just think it's the best. You can also use it at the 7-Eleven and bakeries and all sorts of other places. Just touch and go. Plus, the system keeps track of when/where you enter and exit so that your trips are charged via zones. That way shorter trips are really cheap (like 50 cents CAD for a few stops) and it is really encouraging to use the MTR for short trips in addition to longer ones.
As a pedestrian, these incentives to use the train even for short trips expands the radius of travel significantly! Drool.
So much construction in this area. It's really staggering, the rate of development and expansion we have seen here. This whole area around The Arch is just a mecca of new buildings. We were actually heading for the new shopping complex called Elements, which has a big movie theatre.
I'm not sure how dorky some of you are about this sort of thing, but it may interest you to know that the developer for the project is actually the transit authority. So if this was in Edmonton the developer would be Edmonton Transit System. What?! It sort of blows my mind.
As you might have assumed, this area is hooked up to a huge bus terminal and MTR station.
Gotta love some transit oriented development. I feel as though in Edmonton a lot of the building happens first, and then the services have to catch up. Here it's the complete opposite. Build it and they will come.
After more wanderings (we're big on the wandering, me and Don) it was back to Mong Kok area to meet people. It is quite surreal to be in a new shopping centre where you will see all of the world's most prestigious luxury brands together in one place and then after a 15 minute minibus ride, you're photographing BBQ ducks and pork, and soy sauce chickens in a little corner shop.
Can you tell I'm having a great time?
I bought myself some waffle street snacks to munch on while browsing street markets. I can really get used to this! Actually... I think I may already have become used to this...
December 29, 2010
Today we took the MTR and then transferred to a double decker bus for a winding journey over to Stanley on the south side of HK. The bus ride was like an unofficial tour and allows you the most amazing sights of the city.
Once we arrived, we were greeted by a wicked public library.
Then we had some snacks and wandered around the market area where you can get crazy deals on all sorts of things. I go to Stanley specifically to shop at the stores that specialize in embroidered things. There is this one that does tablecloths and napkins, and all the linens are embroidered by hand. So beautiful!
Then we went outside to see the water in the South China sea, and spied this little pier that used to be in Central HK, but has now been moved here.
We also saw a lot of people playing on these rocks so we decided to go check it out.
Along our walk around the water the streets are lined with pubs and bars to service visitors and tourists.
We took a stroll on the pier.
Then bid goodbye to Stanley Market.
On our way back into Cenral HK there was both dense traffic and buildings.
Our destination was getting back to Mong Kok on Kowloon side (near the flat where we're staying) to have some fried Chinese long doughnut indulgence.
The place is so small (like most of the other vendors in this 'hood) that their stuff faces the street. Good advertising!
I have a huge addiction to soy bean milk, both hot and cold.
The ladies prepare our order.
And we devoured a bunch of long doughnut wrapped in rice roll.
And the festival of food continued with my cousin's birthday dinner (also in the neighbourhood). Two words: Hot Pot!
Don is continuing to impress my relatives with his chopstick skills.
We needed to walk off our dinner so we went wandering over to the street markets.
Here is HK's version of street meat.
I love how at 10 pm there are still little kids standing around the street eating food off a stick.
The market was busy, like it is every day and night. Lots of everything.
The perfect place to go if you're looking for a sequined American flag dress.
Or fake play moustaches.
I can't get over how cute the "fake" food is in many of the restaurant displays.
Or how many choices there are in terms of eating snacks. There are multiple food options, both restaurant and street food, on every block.
We said good night to Mong Kok via an overpass.
December 28, 2010
So much dim sum in my life lately. I think that is a barometer for how happy I feel.
We had the chance to see some elders of my family today! Here I am showing them pictures of Dexter on the iPhone.
We are eating so much food. Even with all the walking I'm not sure if I can save my waistline from all the culinary offerings. Since we're guests there is added pressure to eat more and finish everything that people have left behind.
In an effort to combat the effects of continuous over eating, we took the MTR up to Central station and did our own tour of skyscrapers. I love how in the mirrored one on the left you can see the reflection of other big buildings.
Central area is like the business and financial district of HK, so there were lots of tourists and westerners in the streets. And like I've said before, lots of different modes of transportation. Today was the first time I have seen a double-decker trolley (the skinny blue vehicle in the middle).
We happened upon a very adorable public square.
And also saw the building that Batman jumps off of in the most recent film.
This big building is on pillars, with lots of freeway action underneath.
Our walk took us to Pacific Centre, where the have Eames inspired restrooms.
Back on the MTR to Tin Hua station to meet my cousin.
We walked all around this quirky neighbourhood full of little independent eateries and unique stores. I liked the little grocer on the corner.
There was a little place with salted duck and other meats and authentic treats.
Mini buses were all queued up along the street.
Here is a circular pedestrian overpass.
We thought this "pedestrian scheme" was quite funny, since HK is full of pedestrians. Oh, and Don read that 90% of trips are made via transit! That's sort of the opposite of where we're from.
I have seen a striking number of foldies here. No Bromptons, all Dahons. Mostly the masses of people are all in the MTR station and spilling out over the sidewalk. Popular fashion choices for women includes patterned leggings with booties that have fur lined around the ankles. I'm not sure that's quite my thing (I like my boots to go all the way to the knee, because of my Edmonton-ness), but I have also seen lots of girls with sequined converse sneakers that I think are pretty rad. I'll keep my eyes peeled for deals on such things.