Monday, July 7, 2008

Days 1-4 Culture Shock!

The day is finally here…took forever it seems. We are about to embark on a 5 city tour of Asia and it all begins with a 14.5 hour flight from L.A. to Hong Kong. To me, this was not the best way to start a trip as I get motion sickness and have never been on a plane for more than 5 hours.

Meds to make me sleep – check

Socks to keep my feet warm – check

Twizzlers – check

GRE study book – ha ha ha ha ha

Thankfully, we had bulkhead seats on the monster of a plane. Basically this means a bit more legroom than normal. Great! So we make our last cell phone calls home and try to get comfy. Not ten minutes after we sat down did I realize…my seat was wet and consequently so were my pants! Fantastic. I tried not to think about what it could be but the idea of a two-year-old-can’t-hold-it-any-longer-but-mom-won’t-wake-up tortured me. I smelled it. It didn’t smell like pee…so it wasn’t, right? I proceeded to collect several blankets to separate me from the mysteriousness and when I told a flight attendant, she said “Okay, you sit here” and pointed to the seat across the isle from me. And sit in a ‘regular’ seat for over 14 hours and not be next to my boyfriend? – I thought. I stayed in my seat.

Like an angel in disguise, another flight attendant asked us if we would like to move to the exit row. Seriously?!?!? Dean and I both bolted. We had the entire row and about 4 feet of open space in front of us. And with that, we felt the universe telling us that this was going to be a good flight and a great trip.

The next 14 hours went by sllllllllllloooooooooowwwwwwww then fast then slooooooooooowwwwwww then fast. We talked. We ate. He read. I slept. We stretched. We ate. We watched 5 movies. And ever so gracefully, we landed. In Hong Kong.

We made our way through the airport, found our bags (thank goodness), took a train and then hopped in a cab to our hotel. The airport baggage and train system is so efficient. The US really has some catching up to do. If the rest of our trip is like this, what a load off!

Our first impressions of the city: Hello high rises! Hello Chinese people! Oh good, there’s English under all the Chinese writing!

The hotel is in a part of Kowloon named Mong Kok. The cab ride was interesting because Mong Kok (at least the part around our hotel) is not very impressive. It is quite run down with a bunch of little stores covered with tin-like garages. For a second, we thought that our hotel was one of these places. Then, all of a sudden the cab turns a corner and there stands this incredible monstrosity of a hotel. We both looked at each other thinking the same thing... Where the hell did that come from?!
Our hotel room was…well, luxurious... ridiculously luxurious. The view from our 29th floor windows was breathtaking. We fell asleep fast at 9pm (9am home time) because jet lag had set in and our 14 hour flight was not filled with much sleep, only excitement for our future journey.
We awoke bright eyed and bushy tailed at 630am (thanks to our early night). We planned our mission for the day (which was quite extensive considering we only have three days in Hong Kong) and ordered breakfast to the room. Around 800 we were off like two wheels on a scooter.

First, we went to Victoria peak, the top of a mountain with spectacular views of the islands. We took a cab thinking that this was surely the only way up. To our amazement though we saw a cable car half way up the winding streets to the top. Well, I guess we can take it back down I thought. We got up to the top very early and saw what looked like a huge mall. This was not exactly what we imagined we would find at the Peak. The stores were all closed and so was the observation deck, so we went to an open coffee shop and enjoyed the view over a hot cup. After finishing up we snapped some pics right outside the shop and walked around for a while until we figured it was time for an early lunch.

We ate lunch at a not-so-cheap restaurant (that was all that was open) at the top the peak (caprese salad for me – chicken vindloo for Dean). The restaurant was correctly named the Lookout, as it has one of the most amazing views I have ever seen in my life. It turned out that the Lookout is actually the oldest restaurant in Hong Kong and is considered a landmark by the locals. The food was above incredible, which is a good thing considering all the weird stuff Dean is going to try to make me eat on this 3 week culinary adventure.
After eating....We walked through Madame Toussade’s museum of wax celebs. The wax figures look so freaken real that you have to look over your shoulder to make sure they aren't moving when you look away. Dean was happy becuase he got to square off in a mock fight against Bruce Lee (one of his childhood heroes) and I got to do battle with a sumo wrestler (I had a big lunch) and stuff Yao Ming from making a jump shot. I know... I'm so cool!

After excitedly coming out of the wax museum we took the cable Wandered through the zoological and botanical gardens
- Meandered around the treacherous and busy streets of Hong Kong island

- Took a ferry ride from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon
- Went to the space museum and science museum where we watched a liquid nitrogen demonstration

And no tour of Hong Kong would be complete without none other than a visit to a Brazilian jujitsu gym. Most of the guys spoke English and they were so excited to meet someone from American Top Team. So the guys rolled around for a few hours while I watched and took pictures. When class was over, every guy showered and they invited us to a nearby bar with them. Sure, we said.

Our night ended with stories over a few beers with some locals and not-so-locals as one guy was from the US but living in Hong Kong to teach English and a few guys from Japan. That was a great night cap after a LONG but successful day of seeing Hong Kong.

Dinner: ham and mushroom in olive oil pasta for me and left-over chicken vindloo for Dean

New impressions: It smells bad. Our map was worth triple its weight in gold. 1 US dollar = 7.1 Hong Kong dollars. A lot of people smoke. The AC units in all the high-rise apartments drip onto the street. It’s so different. We love it.

The next day was a bit more slow paced. We enjoyed the rooftop pool on the 41st floor until noon and then headed back out on the street. Lunch was out of this world. I ate more than Dean. No lie. I had a salmon with cheese and veggies rice bowl. MMMM I want one now! Dean had a chicken and veggie with raw egg and hot sauce paste rice bowl. To my surprise, his was good too but not as good as mine!

With the video cam, camera, gym bag, guidebook, and map we took the streets again in route to the BJJ (Brazilian jujitsu) gym. After class we were invited again to the same bar with the group. We learned they go every day after training to the same bar. The same table is always reserved. After a few beers there we walked to a restaurant for dinner. They wanted to show us ‘real’ Chinese food. The 8 of us had a private room and Brad asked us if he could order for us. Okay! With unease in my stomach, I remained optimistic. Then the dishes began to arrive. Jellyfish. Bamboo. Pork. Shrimp. Dim sum. Ham. Tofu. More tofu. Beans. More tofu. Unknown things. Hot Chinese wine. Hot tea. Cold beer. Veggie rice. I tried almost everything and liked almost everything I tried. No slimy tofu of jellyfish for me ever again. Dean ate everything and loved it all. Good for him. Overall, the whole experience was just that, an experience and it was a great one. From there we made our way to yet another bar for, you guessed it, more drinks.

Don’t worry. Dean and I kept our consumption to a minimum. And we learned that none of the guys owned cars. We also learned a Chinese dice game. And suddenly around midnight we realized we had to get up early. Very early to fly to Shanghai. So goodnight Brad, Forrest, Aki, Mkoto, another Mkoto and a few others and goodnight Hong Kong.

Let’s just say we were less than amused with our 445am wake up call. But we managed to pull ourselves together and get up and out. To our amazement, the city was also waking. Many street vendors and shops were already open.

Airport bound, again. Here we come Shanghai!!


Renee said...

Hi Ash & Dean,

Love the blog & pic's. Man Ash did you gain some weight???? Need to slow down on all the food??? That pic is to funny.
Hope your having a wonderful time. We miss ya!!!! Java sends many licks!!!


Cheryl-Dene said...

Hey guys,
It looks like you are having a blast!! I guess no more sushi dinners for a while when you come back. Love the blog - thanks for keeping us all updated.

Have a fun and safe trip!!!

Cheryl-Dene and David