Monday, February 14, 2011

Hong Kong Recap

Where better to celebrate Chinese New Year than in Hong Kong. I headed to Hong Kong with some of my Korea crew including Lizzy, Laura, Nuala and Carl. We certainly kicked off the year of the rabbit with a bang and here are some of my highlights. We arrived in Hong Kong via Air China and hopped on a double decker bus to head to The Hop Inn our hostel home. We were greeted by a really nice man named Simon who proved to be far less creepy than the Tommy Chong jump off that worked the night shift.
We met up with our friend Ben for some drinks and pub fare complete with HP sauce which we liberated from PJ Murphy's at the end of our meal. We also took advantage of some of the street vendors for some quality entertainment.
We are one photogenic group of people!
I don't know how they made our room look so big
but it was a tight fit with the three of us and all of our stuff. 
We woke up the next morning and hit the public transportation to get to Tian Tan Buddha also know as "The Big Buddha". This is the tallest, seated, bronze Buddha in the world. I've seen a lot of Buddha's since I've been in Korea but this one felt like the most commercial of them all. After climbing 268 steps I was looking forward to a place to relax and align my chakra's yet all I ended up doing was craning my neck to try to take in this 112 foot tall giant. I found myself frustrated by the people disrespecting the "Do Not Throw Coins" signs and the statues the signs were surrounding by repeatedly pelting the smaller bronze statues who seemed to be presenting offerings to this peaceful deity resting on a lotus blossom. At every Buddha I have visited there have been donation boxes to offer money for prayers, healing or just contribution with nothing expected in return. These smaller statues seemed to be coffers for the hopeless instead of inspiration for the hopeful. Needless to say it was worth the 3 hour wait in line to ride the 3.5 mile cable to see this place. 
If you don't get why the name of this subway stop is awesome
you need to reconnect with your inner 5th grader

Buddha with some of the other statues and their offerings

That evening we watched the Year of the Rabbit parade which I'm sorry to say was pretty boring and coming from a band geek that is quite the statement. I was expecting a parade with fireworks and dancing dragons like I had seen on Sesame Street as a kid. Instead I saw half naked go-goesque dancers and dragons who had already removed their costume heads. After the parade we had some girl time at a local party area where we drank wine and danced to a fun cover band. Nuala had a bit more fun than me, Liz and Laura but it was still a great time for everyone.
After McDonalds for the second time in less than 24 hours (who knew it was so hard to get Chinese food or any other food for that matter) we headed out for a day of sight seeing while Nuala recooped at the hostel.
The queu for Victoria peek was ridonkulous so we cabbed it to the top to see the view. Had I waited in that line to get to the mall and eat crappy Dim Sum at the top I would have been PIASSSSSSSED! It was worth the few bucks though to get a guitar pin for my pops from the Hard Rock shop and take some great photos of the city from the top.
I guess I have always been spoiled by the Lake Champlain Ferry b/c my ferry experience since I've been in Asia has been craptastic. We got stuck because of the fireworks extravaganza and couldn't make it back to Nuala so we decided just to drink some 8.5% Pirate beer and enjoy the fire works display. We then headed to a night market for shopping and finally ate some delicious Chinese food (or so I'm told, I was a wee bit drunk).
PIRATE Beer is so very dangerous. ARRGH
Nothing helps one recover from a night of Pirate like a sweet hour long ferry ride on choppy water. We all thought another passport stamp would be cool and we wanted to see what Macau was all about. Not our best decision ever. Again ferry transportation let us down. When we attempted to purchase round trip tickets on the Hong Kong side of this journey we were told we couldn't and we needed to get them on the Macau side. Not a problem though we just waited in a local park for our ferry to set sail.

Life in the City
In case you haven't heard me say it a million times
I LOVE MY CAMERA note that does NOT mean
I love Sony
Sorry to bust on my bud for a minute but traveling with Carl is a little like what I assume a senior center day trip to Atlantic City  to be like; nervous about time tables and jam packed with terrible jokes. Hakuna Mawater anyone? Well of course when we arrived in Macau we went directly to the ticket counter where we were informed that we COULD purchase return tickets..... for 7:00 am the next day. OH. SHIT. SON!  I thought the entire terminal was going to be covered in tiny bits of Carl's exploding head. We were not prepared at all for an all nighter in Macau but that's our luck I guess. We hired a private driver (we are soooo ballah) and she took us around the island to show us the sites. It was cool and well worth then haggled price that Nuala got for us. 
The first stop was a lotus statue followed by this lovely bronze lady who was warm and inviting even at a towering 20 meters tall. When you entered this statue you saw her heart dangling from the ceiling yet it felt as though I, like her heart, was completely protected by her bronze armor which could be why she stands protecting herself and protecting Macau.
From our tour guide "nine e nine e Portugal ehnine e Macau eh nnnnnn"
Ohhh  Kun Kun Ecumenical Center we thought you said that!
 One of our next stops was a very cool church. The ruins of St. Paul's is a cathedral that burned down as a result of a kitchen fire  in 1835. The facade is all that remains of this once enormous place of worship and study. When I visit religious sites it evokes a strong emotion in me that always catches me off guard. I am not a religious person at all but I am someone who believes in working for what you believe in and to imagine the back breaking work that went into creating this religious monument makes me remember that one does not have to be religious to be spiritual and deeply connected to the inspiration of passion and courage.
The ruins of St. Paul's 
 After a couple of more sights our guide dropped us off at The Venitian hotel and casino (can you say kick backs anyone?). The least obscene part of this monstrosity was the thousands of dollars being cha chinged into slots and laid out on tables. The gold inlay and cherub painted ceilings are a compliment to the canal that runs through the middle of this place. We quickly found the Irish pub in this Italian paradise and ate some greasy treats accompanied washed down with  some ice cold Magners.
The Venetian Hotel and Casino Macau
We then headed off to the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino for some tasty beverages and of course another guitar pin for my pops (I buy him one at each Hard Rock that I visit).
Clockwise: Tom Collins, Extra Dirty Martini, Red Wine and Mai Tai
Oh I mean Laura, Me, Nuala and Lizzy
We then headed to a karaoke bar and afterward ate a disgusting meal. We are still not completely sure what we ate but we are pretty sure it consisted of pig trotters (feet) and bird's nest soup (yes a real birds nest). The rest of the meal was compiled of nondescript meats, textures and flavors. It may have been the first time on the trip we were sad not to see a McDonalds or Starbucks. Ordering Chinese food from photos only is a really bad idea. After camping out in the ferry terminal we finally made our way back to Hong Kong and caught our flight home. Hong Kong was a memorable trip and I'm very happy that I got to spend my last vacation in Korea with my great friends. Thanks for everything friends!

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