Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Day in Macau

Just a one hour ferry ride from the ports of Hong Kong lies the Macau peninsula.  Similar to Hong Kong, Macau boasts a rich, multi-cultural past.  Hong Kong is heavily influenced by the British, Macau by the Portuguese. 

Unfortunately, in the eyes of some, Macau is now most well known for its casinos.  It is called the Las Vegas of Asia-and for good reason.  More money is lost and won through gambling per year in Macau than in LasVegas.  Gaudy casinos line the coast of Macau.  Gambling is not legal elsewhere in China, so Macau has a monopoly.  It is a gamblers paradise. 

Uninterested in the casino scene, we walked past all of the tackiness to find the Macau in which we were interested.  The most famous cultural icon in Macau are the ruins of St. Paul’s.  We started there.
Unfortunately for us, it was pouring rain.  Pouring. 

Despite the rain, we thoroughly enjoyed the ruins.  Soon after we found the Macau Museum and took relief from the rain.  The museum was so well done, we ended up spending more than three hours inside. 

By the time we had finished, we were starving and ready for a late lunch.  We wandered through the streets until we found a little Portuguese restaurant.  We went all out-it was fantastic. 

The best cappuccino I have ever had.  Ever. 
When we had finished, we stepped outside to find the weather beginning to clear-thank goodness. 
Walking around, we discovered some truly fascinating areas of Macau.  You really feel as if you are walking around in Portugal sometimes, then you would turn a corner and see a Chinese temple.  It is an extremely interesting place. 

The only blue sky we saw for the entire trip.  Sigh.

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Hong Kong: A Little Night Viewing

After yet another delicious meal of dim sum for dinner and also making ferry reservations to go to Macau the following day, we took a walk along the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade for a little night viewing. 

The Hong Kong cityscape is truly beautiful.  Every evening there is show called the Symphony of Lights-we incidentally saw it some evenings, but never actually sat down to watch it. 

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Hong Kong: The Tea Museum and Aviary

Since the hike took us less than half the time we had expected, we found ourselves with more than half the day free.  We hauled out our little guide books and maps and quickly zeroed in on our next destination: Hong Kong Park and the Tea Museum.

The tea museum was free of charge and definitely worth a visit.  We had hoped to join the free tea appreciation class that is offered at the adjacent tea shop, but unfortunately the class was filled.  Fortunately, the class would be offered once more during our visit.  We made a reservation and continued exploring Hong Kong park.

We came upon the aviary during our exploration.  It was full of rare birds-some of which were not a bit shy.  

On our walk back towards the pier, we came upon a beautiful church and another park.  (Hong Kong is full of nice parks!) 

We caught the Star Ferry back over to Kowloon.  If you have time, taking the ferry from Hong Kong island to Kowloon is so much more fun than taking the metro.  And just as cheap and nearly as convenient.  We loved it and took the ferry multiple times during our trip. 

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hong Kong: The Dragon’s Back

Almost from the very beginning of our trip, Karl and I fell in love with Hong Kong.  We loved the unique feel of the city.  The international feel, the amalgamation of cultures, the size of the city.  We are used to Tokyo-home to approximately 13,000,000 people.  The vast megalopolis is amazing, but it can get tiresome. 

Hong Kong is home to more than 7,000,000 people.  Compared to Tokyo, Hong Kong seemed like a small city.  Not because of the population, but because of the physical size.  It is not that large.  The metro is itty bitty compared to the intricate maze of trains and metro lines we are used to dealing with in Japan. 

One of the other reasons we loved Hong Kong was because of how easy it was to get out of the city and into the mountains.  And how quickly you can get there.  When researching our trip before we left, we decided we would try to fit in some hiking.  We found one hike-the Dragon’s Back-in the southern district of Hong Kong Island.  In 2004, it was voted the number one urban hike in Asia by Time Magazine. 

We had to check it out. 

It took us only about thirty minutes to get to the trailhead from Kowloon.  We loved the hike.  It was not difficult at all.  We reached Shek O Peak with no trouble at all.  Our little guidebook told us that the hike would take about six hours.  It took us two and a half.  

At the end of the hike we walked along the beach and checked out this incredible ancient stone carving.  Definitely worth seeing if you do this hike.  We then caught the shuttle back to the metropolis.  

Back at the metro station, we spied an outdoor market and couldn’t resist walking through and looking at all the amazing food stuffs.  I would love to shop at one of these places for my groceries. 

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hong Kong: Antiquing on Cat Street

Though not particularly set on purchasing anything, we were interested in walking around Cat Street.  The shops varied tremendously from being very neat and tidy with legitimate looking antiques to literally a junk heap that you had to scrounge through to find treasures. 

We ran into an interesting person at one of the shops who noticed a little charm on my backpack.  It is a little piece of wood displaying a few Chinese characters that we got at the top of Mount Fuji when we climbed it last year.  This older man who ran an antique shop asked us if we knew what it meant, when we said we did he was surprised and (I think) impressed. 

The characters mean something like “protection of the senses.”  However, they are written in characters that nobody can read anymore.  Our new friend was interested in our story and asked us if we were on our honeymoon.  When we said no, he informed us that it was our second honeymoon and wished us all the best. 

I love little surprise encounters like this. 

We wandered out of the antiques district and found our way to another interesting building.  Built when the British were in Hong Kong, the Western Market is a European style building.  It now holds several restaurants and some nice places to shop for souvenirs.  On the second floor we found some textile shops with some stunning fabrics where Karl bought me a gorgeous silk scarf. 

Back in Soho, we found a nice looking Indonesian restaurant for dinner.  The coconut rice was amazing.  

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Hong Kong: Man Mo Temple and Easter Sunday

We happened to be in Hong Kong during Holy Week.  After joining a friend for Easter mass and brunch afterward, we hopped on the tram and took it back downtown.

We spent the afternoon exploring more of Hong Kong Island.  To start, we made our way towards Man Mo Temple. 

I had never seen a temple like this one before.  The ceiling was entirely covered by enormous incense coils-all of which were burning.  There were signs advising wariness of these coils, as not all of them had trays suspended above them to catch the ashes.  The floor was covered with the ashes of the spent incense. 

The décor inside the temple was quite dark and mostly red and gold-similar to Po Lin Monastery.  This particular temple is dedicated to two gods-Man (God of Literature) and Mo (God of War).    There is a rich history surrounding the temple.  A large sign outside the temple summarized how instrumental Man Mo Temple has been in creating schools and supporting education in Hong Kong. 

When we had finished, we consulted our maps and noticed that the street of antiques was nearby. 

How could we resist?

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Hong Kong: Avenue of Stars and Andy Warhol

The morning of our third day in Hong Kong found us walking along the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade.  We were waiting for the art museum to open and had about thirty minutes to kill.  Fortunately, the museum is right on the waterfront of Kowloon, looking across to Hong Kong Island.  This promenade features the Hong Kong Avenue of Stars.  Although we did not recognize all of the names on the stars, we did see a few major names. 

During our trip, there just happened to be a fantastic exhibit at the art museum-Andy Warhol 15 Minutes Eternal.  The artist in me was giddy with excitement.  We bought the special exhibit tickets (that also would allow us to see the other regular exhibits) for the extremely reasonable price of about three US dollars.  (Museums in Hong Kong are cheap and good.  Go to as many as you can!)

When we had finished, we made our way over to Hong Kong Island to meet a friend for some dim sum. 

If you find yourself in Hong Kong wondering what to have for lunch or dinner (or breakfast) go for dim sum.  The variety is wide and always delicious.   In fact, we had dim sum again that evening for dinner.  Yum! 

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