Sunday, Nov 8th – Hong Kong
Our flight from Saigon to Hong Kong was somewhat silly. Besides departing at 6am (meaning waking up at 3:45am, yuck!), we found ourselves on a 2 hour United Flight with about 500 passengers. Just seemed like a bit of overkill; the plane was as big as what we took from Chicago to Dehli! Hehe.
A little story: As I have mentioned in this blog, I have lost a good amount of weight on this trip. I would say I have gone from a size 4-6 to a size 0-2. So, my clothes they don’t fit. Well, I knew this, and so when wearing my now-oversized JCrew shorts in the airport, I used a piece of string to hold them up. But, on the way from getting out luggage to boarding the Airport Express train, I look down, and see the string has come untied, and my shorts are on their way down my legs. Another two steps and they would have been around my ankles. Good thing I realized when I did, and good thing Hong Kong is going to have lots of shopping options.
Hong Kong was amazing. First off, the airport express train from the airport to the center of the city was not only incredibly easy to get on, but signs and announcements were in English. Getting around was no problem. Once in Hong Kong we checked into the Marriott and relaxed after our early morning flight. We found some lunch nearby and internet to get ourselves reconnected with the world.
And then, it was onto the double decker trolly and off to shopping! I couldn’t get over the plethora of designer stores – LV, Gucci, YSL, and yes, even Jimmy Choo.
So we walked around for much of the day, getting used to things being in English again and marveling at a truly world class city. Around 7pm we hoped on the ferry to Kawloon, just across the canal (which used to be larger but the development in HK has moved out deeper into the canal, building over the water as the city expands).
In Kawloon we watched the Hong Kong light show. At 8pm the music comes on from speakers in the viewing area, and all of the major buildings with lights on them turn them on and off (and in varying colors) in sync with the music. Unfortunately, my camera had no more battery – the story of my life – so we did not get any photos of our own. However, after the show a group of about 6 ladies, from Taiwan, asked if we could take their photo, which we did. And then they all started giggling and whispering a bit. They then asked if we could pose in a picture with them – apparently they found us an attractive couple and really wanted us to be in their picture. We obliged, and loved it. So silly.
After a short dinner it was off to bed early as it had been a long day!
Monday, Nov 9th – night on the town
True to luxury style of a Hong Kong Marriott, our breakfast buffet the next morning was really great. Lots to choose from and we both ate a LOT of food.
After breakfast we checked out, but stored our luggage there, and headed for the city. Rob, the son of one of my clients in San Diego, had generously offered to host us at his place for the night, and we made plans to meet up once we was off work later that day.
For drinks and dinner we met up with Rob. He showed us around to some of the coolest parts of the city, including a roof top open air bar and an ice bar – ie, -20 degrees F.
Dinner at an Argentinean steak house hit the spot. It was wonderful to have some hearty food again. And the ability to drink tap water – something we had not been able to do for almost 2 months. I even got myself tangled in my sweater after dinner – I tried to pull it on over my head, but the little hanger straps inside got caught on my glasses, and I was so tangled, couldn’t see, and was so giggly from all the wine that Griffin had to help me.
Sleep came easy that night as we were well fed and in good company.
Tuesday, Nov 10th – The peak tram
After finding breakfast and doing a little more wandering around Hong Kong we took the peak tram up to Victoria Peak, which sits just above the city and offers great views – if the weather holds out. We were lucky in that the sky was blue and beautiful. The views from up top were spectacular: Hong Kong is built right up against the side of an incredibly steep mountain. The 100 story buildings, so tall and skinny, look like fragile sticks from the hill top.
I made a mad face, had a gumball, did some botany, and Griff smiled the whole time.
During the day we tried to book train tickets to Guilin. We had read and been told that the train system in China was one of the best in the world, so we were excited. Well, not so much. First off, no one at a travel agency in HK had even heard of Guilin, even though its a pretty large city (and claimed to be one of China’s best), nor did they know how to book us train tickets. Upon further research via the internet(s), we discovered that 1. train tickets cost more than flying, and 2. you had to book a few days in advance, but could only do that from the station that you wished to depart. No booking online, no prebooking unless you use an agency (which, again, we could not find). This would prove over and over to be a source of frustration for us in mainland China.
So, we bought plane tickets that day. We gathered our belongings and took the train to Shenzhen – anyone ever heard of that city? Well, it just happens to have 15 million people. Who knew? We get off the train and have to go through China customs, immigration, and health check. This took a lot longer than we expected. Then, realizing we had HK dollars and not Chinese Yuan, Griff frantically looked for an ATM, found one, only to have it reject both of our bank cards. Great. So now we have 1 hour to take a 40 min cab ride, which we cannot pay for, check in for our flight, and get on board. Seeing that we would have 20mins or less at the airport, we would most likely miss our flight. It did not help that the cab driver did not understand “airport”. We had to point in Lonely Plant guide to the Chinese characters for “airport”, then he got it.
I opened my computer while in the cab, thinking we had less than 30 mins at this point, to see that I was wrong abut our flight departure, it wasn’t 8pm it was 8:55pm. Phew. We made it with plenty of time, got on our flight, had some terrifying turbulence, and landed safely in Guilin around midnight.
Our great day was ended by the tool on the posters by baggage claim and the lovely message on our boarding passes: