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Monday, February 26, 2007
One More "Wake-Up" and we're outta here - ARGHHH!!
 
Unbelievable.  One more nights sleep, one more shower and we are on the plane to Athens.  I'm sad and happy, excited and disappointed.
 
Have had absolutely no luck trying to contact apartment owners/renters in Athens.  Only a few people have bothered to respond to my enquiries, and they have had unsuitable accommodations.  Bummer.  Looks like my first week will be spent trying to find a place to live (and get us out of the 5 star hotel they've put us up in). 
 
Mike worked all weekend, but managed to sneak out to Lamma on Saturday night for our final good-byes to those good people.  Was a fun night, if not bittersweet.  Did manage to leave my jacket in the bar, but Rajen to the rescue is bringing it to me today.  Thanks buddy!
 
Final packing stages going on, nothing much else to report.  Next post will probably be from Athens!  Amazing.
 
Adios, Hong Kong.  It's been real.  It's been fun.  And it's been real fun!!!

Friday, February 23, 2007
 
Thank you kindly, Mother Nature, for restoring the sun to Hong Kong so I could say goodbye in a proper manner.
 
Despite the fact we were out a little late last night, I jumped promptly out of bed this morning and headed for the peak. . . in bright sunshine.  For Christmas, I bought Mike a framed vintage photograph of Lamma Island taken from the peak, and I've wanted to try and reproduce the shot as close as possible in order to get a comparison shot to put with it.  And, although his picture is safely in a box headed for Grand Rapids, Michigan, I think I did it.  I took about 80 pictures, so I'm sure one will match close enough! 
 
Did a little last minute shopping, found a pair of nice walking shoes on sale (in my size!!!), bought some extra lithium batteries for my new reading light, and met the boys in Lan Kwai Fong for lunch.  As I was leaving the peak around 11 AM, I decided to walk down, which is something I hadn't done yet.  Well, I walked the wrong way for about ten minutes until a nice lady (who I asked) told me, so I turned around and headed the right way.  My watch told me it was 11:20 as I hit the top of the trail to Central.  I figured I had plenty of time (mind you, this is my $3US watch I bought at the market here), so after walking for what I gauged to be about 20 minutes, I reconsulted said watch, and it said 11:20. . . uh oh.  Looked at my phone (which was and has been securely placed in the same pocket on my camera case that I lost it from on Mui Wo), which said 12:04.  Grabbed a cab for about a 4 minute ride and arrived directly in front of the Hong Kong Brew House for lunch.
 
Had a nice lunch, came home, dropped off my purchases and wandered around for a little while longer.  Came home and worked on the Friday NY Times crossword (failing miserably), had a catnap, and finished reading "Galapago's" by Kurt Vonnegut.
 
Now, I haven't read anything by him since "A Clockwork Orange" in High School, and I didn't care so much for it at the time (maybe I should re-read it now), but I found "Galapago's" to be GREAT!  In fact, it's funny, but sometimes when I get "smart" (read:  drunk), I have even argued this storyline as how human life will end up, or maybe really is. . . . Read it, if you're into reading.  It's cool.
 
Boys are cutting over tonight, so it's 7:17 and they're still at work.  I'm meeting a friend of a friend from home for lunch tomorrow (her name is DeeDee and she is from Grand Rapids and her husband is working for Steelcase here and they arrived the same time as us and I've NEVER seen her here yet, I'm an awful person).  Her husband is in Kuala Lumpur until tomorrow night, and they have a small baby, but will be nice to finally see her in Hong Kong. 
 
Also tomorrow is our going off party at The Island Bar, and there's a band, so should be great fun.  Even some of the other crew members who haven't left the island except to go to Macau on a visa run (which all they did was go through immigration, get right back on the boat - WEAK), say they are going to go.  Should be interesting.
 
Trying to get packed and decide what I need for Greece.  Looks like the weather is starting to warm up, although still quite cool at night.  Probably bringing too many sweaters, but as British Airways and I are in a big fight about how much weight I can bring in my suitcase, I finally just purchased an extra bag worth of cargo from them, so DAMN IT, I'm using it!   There website says like three different things about weight allowances, and then when you call them here in HK they can't tell you what rule applies to you.  Quite frustrating.  Whatever.  I will have plenty of sweaters in Athens. . .
 
Still doesn't seem quite real. . . .

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Lovely Lamma

Thursday, February 22, 2007
5 days to Athens, Greece!!!!!
 
Hong Kong weather has NOT been cooperating with my desire to go out and take farewell photos of my favorite spots (peak, harbor, etc).  Cloudy, misty, rainy, humid.  And, it doesn't appear we are trading it in for much better weather in Athens, where it has been cold and rainy.  Well, colder than here for sure.
 
Had every intention of going to the fireworks on Monday night, but it was really ugly weather.  We decided to go to the Marine House and watch them from the 50th floor roof of the apartment building they are housed in.  Unfortunately, the visibility was horrible, and we were forced to go inside and watch them on television.  But, being the devoted photographer I am, I took some pics of the television screen so I could post a couple pictures here and try to fake you out that we actually went.  I am, however, ruining that by telling you we didn't and admitting to what I did.  Anyway, here's the pics of the fireworks from the television. . . WEAK!

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Poor visibility atop the Marine House, which is why we were nerds and watched on TV

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They were the most awesome fireworks I ever saw. Wish I would have stood in the rain and fog!

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Honestly! WOW!

After the fireworks, we headed down to The Globe in the rain to have a couple, then headed home to bed.
 
Had a very fun night Tuesday in Lamma.  It was our last Standard Charter Twenty night.  So, a little background:  As I mentioned previously, there are two different banks that print money here in HK, one being Standard Charter Bank.  And the Island Bar has a special on Tuesday nights where you can buy any drink for $20HK as long as it's a $20 bill printed by Standard Charter Bank.  Well, we'v been hoarding them for the last 4 months, spending them loyally every Tuesday on Lamma. 
 
But, we ended up with quite the surplus.  When we left for Lamma we had over 40 of these wonderful little fun tickets.  And, we were determined to spend them all there, as why spend them anywhere else? 
 
Plus, a few people who NEVER come out for SC night made an appearance in our honor, which was awesome.  So after we settled in with our first round, we did a head count and "rung the bell".  Which means you are buying everyone in the bar a drink.  That, plus our first round, put us back about 28 20's.  After buying a few more for ourselves and a few more for our friends, I did another head count.  We were down to 11 people in the bar, and I coincidently had 11 20's left, so I gave that bell another ring!  Plus, Rajen rang the dang thing somewhere along the line as well.
 
It also works really, really well for keeping people you don't want to leave in the bar, as they will always stick around for "one more", heeheehee.
 
And, another plus, is strangers coming over to thank you for the free drink, and meeting MORE cool people.  Tuesday we met a guy named Claude and his girlfriend Nancy.  Nancy is from California, and is visiting Claude, who lives in HK, for a week.  And, although Claude has been here as long as us, this was his first trip to Lamma Island, so it was funny enough to meet them by accident.  Then, after talking to Nancy for a little bit (cue music:  It's a small world after all. . . ), I found out her BEST FRIEND is from Grand Rapids, Michigan (our hometown for those not in the know).  Hilarious.
 
ANYWAY, made a date to take Nancy shopping on Wednesday.
 
And, needless to say, we were all in terrible shape when we fell aboard the 11:30 ferry back home.

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The awesome IFC Tower under cloud cover on the way to Lamma

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Lamma Ladies!

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Claude and Nancy, and some crazy woman. . . oh! That's ME!

Wednesday dawned too early for me, so after getting up at 8, I immediately went back to bed!  Nancy called around 10, and we set a date to go shopping at 2.  I took her to all my favorite bargain basement haunts, and we both secured some bargains, had some Hot Chocolate Gelato, and arrived back to the apartment just after 5 PM.  Walked her to the subway, then jumped a cab to Lan Kwai Fong to meet Mike and the crew for some quick drinks, grabbed Kabobs to go from Ebenezer's, and came home and watched "Borat".  GROAN!  Some one owes me an hour and a half of my life back.  In bed by 10 PM!!!!  Felt so good.
 
Woke up in the middle of the night having a nightmare there were robbers in the house.  Peculiarly, they were saying "Gung Hey Fat Choi", which woudn't make any sense if they were robbing us, but whatever.  Had trouble getting back to sleep afterwards, but managed finally. 
 
No big plans for today, although I may go to Kowloon with Nancy.  Or, I may practice packing to see how much more stuff I need to mail home before we leave here. 
 
I feel sorry for Mike, though.  He has to work all weekend (it's cutover!), and Monday and Tuesday, then jump on the plane to Greece Tuesday night, arrive early Wednesday and go to work again.  Plus the fact he flew directly here from Papua New Guinea (although he did have a few days off when we first arrived).  No break for him, and this is the most stressful part, then go right on to another big project where he is arriving a few weeks behind everyone else.  Poor guy.  He needs some R & R!
 
Oh, and twice this week on two separate occassion by two different people I was told I looked like Princess Di.  Now, I KNOW this is a compliment (and a sure one, as she is/was WAY better looking than me), but WHY does it bother me, and always has since I was 14?  Anyway, those who know me know what I mean.  And, Mike got a Tommy Lee Jones thrown at him. . . funny.  That's a new one for him!

Monday, February 19, 2007
GUNG HEY FAT CHOI
(Happy Chinese New Year of the Golden Pig)

That is not a literal translation, I'm sure, but I'm proud of learning my FIRST Chinese phrase (outside of mumbling what I think is "Thank You" in Chinese).
 
What a wild a fun weekend we've had.  Thursday night was bad, though.  Met up with Mike's supervisor Angelo from the Consulate, Natalie, TJ, Mike and Natalie's friend (who's name is escaping me right now) at Al's Diner in Lan Kwai Fong around 7 PM (the boys were working late. . . again!).  Proceeded to have a few cocktails, drink through the dinner hour, and fall home into bed around 12:30 AM.  Ouch.  You would think we would learn. . .
 
So, Friday morning was a little slow, except Mike left his BAG at the BAR Thursday night, so I had to hoof it over there and deliver it to the Embassy for him (before my shower or anything!).  All was intact, though, thank GOD for honest Asian countries!
 
Well, we were invited to Rajen's on Lamma for a BBQ on Saturday, and I had volunteered to bring potato salad, so picked up those supplies on the way home and made about 5 kilo's of yummy salad when I got home. . . then took my shower, for those worried about my personal hygiene. 
 
Friday night was the normal mayhem.  Down to Wan Chai for dinner at Agave's with Nat and TJ, joined up with a couple of Marines, Patrick and Nick, and partied up and down the avenue.  Ended up at Carnegie's for a little while, where Natalie danced on the bar (with a variety of other clientele).  Surprisingly, I decided to skip this experience.  It was a fun atmosphere, but really, really LOUD, so we went over to the Devil's Advocate for a last one before home (and saw our mute Chinese bootleg DVD salesman and made him a happy dude once again). 
 
Saturday morning we took it pretty easy.  Made Mike his most favorite corned beef hash and runny egg breakfast, lounged around, said good-bye to Natalie (she's off to Mombassa, Kenya for about a week), napped a bit, then grabbed our overnight bag and the potato salad and headed to Lamma Island. 
 
It was misting a bit in HK when we left, but still quite warm.  Checked into our hotel and headed over to Rajen's.  Sun came out and gloriously shined upon the party for the rest of the afternoon.  Good people, good eats, good fun!  Arrived around 4ish and stayed until almost midnight, when we had to adjourn to The Island Bar for the fireworks and "crackers" (firecrackers lit off all along the bay). 
 
Needless to say, the bar was packed.  The fireworks were okay, and I got my second wind and we all made it til about 2:30 before calling it a night.

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Rajen and his brand new grill and BBQ set! First time user!

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BBQing some DEE-LISH chicken wings

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John and Louise T hamming it up for the camera (notice John's black eye of unknown origins)

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Kumar and I hamming it up (minus any black eyes)

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Louise K's beautiful daughter Alyssa hamming it up, and doing the best job of it!

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Fireworks on Lamma

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What $85US gets you a night on Lamma Island (!!!!)

Up around 10, sent Mike off for coffee while we waited for the water heater in the shower to warm up, knocked on TJ's door and went and had breakfast.  Stopped at The Island Bar on the way to the 12:45 ferry, came home and whiled away the afternoon. 
 
We were under the perception that Sunday night was the GRAND FIREWORKS SHOW over Victoria Harbor, and we were planning on going, but when I checked the internet we found out they were tonight.  But last night was the big parade, so we headed over around 5ish to Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon. 
 
Tickets for the grandstands were sold out, so we were forced into standing along the parade route with the rest of the "minions" (heehee).  I think it would have been cooler had we been at the beginning were all the "International Acts" actually performed before walking the parade route, and I'm sure the visibility would have been far better. 
 
We went to dinner first at DeLaney's Irish Pub.  I couldn't even look at a drink, so had some Diet Coke (TJ joined me on the wagon with Ice Tea), then off to watch the parade.  The lead-up was incredible, people jammed along all the roads, smashing red "bang stick" together, making lots of noise.  The first float went by around 8:15, but there must have been some problem (we saw a bunch of fire trucks going the opposite way as the parade), as there was quite a lull between the first float the the next, around 25 minutes, but then the parade continued and all was well.
 
I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "Everyone loves a parade", but typically I don't.  And, really, this was no exception.  Not that the parade wasn't okay, it was just so crowded, and the visibility stunk, and every time you tried to take a picture you just got someone else's arm and their camera in it.  But, it was fun to be part of the excitement, people watch, etc.  We even were able to get out of the crowd fairly easy, back on the MTR (subway) around 10:30 and home to bed!
 
Suppose to go over and watch the fireworks tonight, but has been misting all afternoon.  Don't know if they will cancel them, if we will go watch them in the rain, or if we will decide to stay home and watch them on TV  (which would have probably been a better idea last night for the parade).  Anyway, fun to be here during this auspicious time!

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Pre-parade chaos with "bang sticks"

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I kinda wanted to steal this little gal

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More dang cute kiddies. . . .

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New Zeeland stilt walkers. . . finally people taller than ME!

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Attack of the giant pink Dragon!

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Full pink dragon in all its glory

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Absolute nerdy bored parade watcher

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Scary African warriors in the parade. . .

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The famous Lions on a Stick trick

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Rotating crazy float, don't know what Asian country it represented

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Another close up of the same float, I like large, shiny objects apparently

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Confetti Shower

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And the quick and immediate arrival of the "confetti sweeper-uppers"

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Lions not on sticks

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Beware the evil blue dragon. . . . I like the dragons, they're COOL!

On a different note, here's a HILARIOUS picture of my friend's Kenya and Kevin's little bitty almost 4 month old baby. . .

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Buddha Bellied Michael Andrew Varnes

Don't know if anyone is still with me here, but the BIGGEST NEWS of the weekend was an email and phone call from the home office. 
 
Seems we are desperately needed in Athens, Greece.
 
OH MY GOD!  I'm SOOOOOO excited.  Went and bought my Lonely Planet Greece book today. 
 
Bad news is, we are leaving on 2/28.  So, bye bye Hong Kong, Hello Attica!  I guess if you HAVE to leave Hong Kong, Greece ain't such a bad place to end up.
 
More on that exciting stuff later.

Thursday, February 15, 2007
HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!!!  (I know it's not V-day, but it still is for some of you!!)
 
Maybe this will be hard for some of you to relate to, and I don't mean it as a 'rub', but did you ever notice the the less you do/have to do/lazier you are the more tired you get.  Must be directly related to Newton's Law of Motion (you know, an object in motion tends to stay in motion, while things at rest tend to stay at rest).  I've been staying at rest!  I have been sooooo tired this week!  For no reason!  I literally have done so little I hardly have anything to say (when have you known me to have nothing to say???). . .
 
Tuesday, after realizing that V-day was Wednesday, not Thursday (yes, I own a calendar, yes I know how to check the date on my computer, yes I have a phone that tells me everytime I look at it the date and time), but somehow I blanked on this one.  Just had it in my mind it was Thursday. . . So, after sitting around doing laundry all morning I figured I'd better get out and beat the street to find my hubby at least a card!   I was leaning on my higher power to magically guide me to a store selling something that would make my husband go "WOW!".  This worked for me at Christmas when I was a total loss of what to buy my Dad, so. . . .
 
Off I went!  First store was called Fortress, and sells all kinds of computer and electronic and (of course) phone related stuff and accessories.  I found a cute little camera case that has a separate pocket for his extra battery (remember, Mike got my camera when I got my new one, and my PURSE was my camera case, but being that he is a man and by society's standards can not carry a PURSE, and even if he could he wouldn't, and now that I'm carrying the new camera and my purse, I just don't want to carry the other camera, too.  Although to be fair, he hasn't asked me to once, but anyway, I digress).  I bought the camera case and it came with free Valentine's Day tags and a free piece of wrapped chocolate that says "I Love You" on it. 
 
Okay, but still didn't seem enough to express my love, so off I went hoping by going to this store and making this purchase I hadn't wrecked any "higher power help".  Found a funny card, which is hard here in Hong Kong, but still continued on my quest. 
 
And, there, right across from the card shop, in the window, was a display of antique brass navigation instruments.  Okay. . . worth a look.  And so I bought a neat little compass that looks like a pocket watch and has a signaling mirror on one side and a (duh) compass on the other, and came in a cute little wooden box. 
 
And then, out of the overwhelming feelings of love I have in my heart for the man, I stopped into McDonald's and bought him gift certificates (and me a chocolate sundae).
 
Last stop, $10HK store where I bought a heart shaped box that says "love amour" all over it, stuffed the gifts inside and put it in Mike's underwear drawer, where he would find it in the morning.
 
I think he liked the card and the gift certificates.  *Sigh*  My husband is IMPOSSIBLE to buy for.  Really.  He wants for so little, and what he does want, he goes and buys.  Kind of like me, I guess. . . . except I tend to want for lots of things, so rather unlike me in retrospect. . . heehee.
 
Tuesday night we went to Lamma,   Paid for our hotel for Saturday night, had dinner at the B&B Pub, and went to The Island Bar.  Meant to grab the 9:30 ferry (which TJ and Natalie did), but ended up on the 10:30. Poor man has been working like a slave since the 5th of February, but he really did want to stay.
 
A little nervous about my leather coat I bought just before leaving for HK.  I sent it out to be cleaned, and it hasn't returned yet.  Seems there was some "problem" with a stain or something.  I sure hope it hasn't been ruined.  I LOVE that coat with a feeling that is probably slightly unhealthy to feel toward a piece of clothing.  I had forgot/blocked out the last incident we had of sending leather out to be cleaned when our coats came back looking all right, but smelling so badly of chemicals that it took almost a YEAR to air them out.  Keep your fingers crossed for me!!
 
Last night was pretty uneventful.  Met Mike, TJ, Rajen, Larry, Paul, Rick and Natalie at Insomnia for a couple beers after work, came home and ordered Pizza and watched "The Oh in Ohio", which was pretty funny. 
 
And today, it is raining.  Bummer.  Been building up to it all week, with very little sun and low "cloud" cover (not sure if it's actually clouds, or pollution haze).  Must be a direct reflection on my mood.
 
The good news (for us) is that the cut at work is NOT going to happen this weekend, so Mike has the weekend off and we can play and party for Chinese New Year's without worrying about him needing to be at work the next day!  YEAH!  Which, in turn, means we will be here a little bit longer. . . . YEAH!
 
Sorry about lack of pics.  Haven't even taken a picture all week.  Honest.

Monday, February 12, 2007
 
THINGS I'M DEATHLY AFRAID OF:
  • Heights.  Don't know why, didn't develop it until my early 20's.
  • Worms.  All kinds of worms, and anything that looks similar to a worm. . . except snakes, snakes are cool as long as they are not poisonous or hanging from a tree where I don't know about them. (And, unlike heights, I do know why I'm afraid of worms, and it has to do with my three brothers and being about 6 and lying in the sun on the picnic table in my backyard and them dumping about a bazillion of them on my naked stomach and standing around laughing as I'm screaming and my Mom is yelling out the window for me to SHUT UP!).  But, I'm not bitter, nah.
  • People I care about dying.

So, obviously I would be a terrible contender on Fear Factor or the Amazing Race.  Not that I would ever consider doing either of those things.  And worms and heights are both things easily enough avoided, provided it doesn't rain and I watch where I'm walking.

Yesterday, as I mentioned, I was a SLUG and did NOTHING.  And, it felt good.  Met up with Mike, TJ, and Natalie in Lan Kwai Fong after they had finished work, had a couple beers, grabbed some gyro's from Ebenezer's and came home and watched "Cars" on DVD.  Cute, light entertainment.  Don't know when we are going to watch all the movies we've bought.  I guess if we get sent home from here and have lots of cold and snowy nights, we will have free entertainment.  Or, end up in some god forsaken place next with nothing to do. . .

Don't know what's next on the agenda yet, of course.  Just know our time in FANTASTIC Hong Kong is dwindling away.

This coming Saturday night is official Chinese New Year's Eve.  Mike and the boys will again have to work all weekend, but I have secured us two little hotel rooms on Lamma Island for Saturday night.  Rajen is having a BBQ, then fireworks at midnight.  Mike and TJ will have to catch the ferry to work in the morning, probably a little worse for wear, but we HAVE TO DO THIS EXPERIENCE! 

Chinese New Year has actually already started, and will continue through the 3rd (?) of March I believe.  What a cool tradition, celebrate the new year for a month!  The actual date fluctuates around the moon (like Easter and Lent, I guess), and most Hong Kongers do get some extended vacation during this time.  Initially, we weren't suppose to be here this long, and were going to miss the whole thing, so glad that changed!  Should be an experience.

I know my Chinese zodiacal sign is the Rooster, and in the spirit of finding out what the "Year of the Pig" holds in store for us Roosters, I found a website with a "description" of what Roosters are (and aren't).  This is what is says:

ROOSTER: The Rooster is a hard worker; shrewd and definite in decision making often speaking his mind. Because of this, you tend to seem boastful to others. You are a dreamer, flashy dresser, and extravagant to an extreme. Born under this sign you should be happy as a restaurant owner, publicist, soldier or world traveler.

I don't know about ALL of it, but I do like the last two words!  I feel validated!!!

Here's the link if you are interested in what and who you are in China.  http://www.chinatoday.com/culture/zodiac/zodiac.htm

 

Sunday, February 10, 2007
 
THINGS I LOVE:
  • My wonderfully cool, completely original husband, who I love more every single day
  • My awesome family, who (except my Dad), doesn't email very often, but I still love them
  • My very cool life and the opportunities it has provided me.
  • My dear, dear friends at home and around the globe
  • Being here in Hong Kong, right now, even though I'm soooo lazy I haven't even left the house today

THINGS I HATE:

  • PMS
  • Ignorant idiots who don't want to improve themselves
  • People who lie

Went to Lamma last night for dinner and live band.  Was fun.  Meant to get the 10:30 ferry home, but ended up on the 11:30, surprise, surprise.  Mike hard at work again today.  Me, sitting around lazy as heck.  No sunshine today, but warm.

 
I have decided to open a new page on this website called "Rants and Ramblings".  It may not be appropriate for all viewers (i.e. children, parents, people who find my views offensive, people who don't like sentences that end in prepositions, etc.), but when I started this site 3 (!) years ago, I intended it to be a place where I could write.  It has evolved into a kind of drunken travelouge, which is fine, but in lieu of starting an entirely new site/blog for such things, I'm putting it here instead.  You can choose not to ever go there, as the rest of the site will remain unchanged.  There will probably not be pictures or explanations of what we had for dinner.  The choice is yours and you've been warned (and will be warned again on the page itself). 

Saturday, February 10, 2007
 
Now, I may have mentioned Hong Kong, unlike many other cities of its size, is relatively safe.  No gunpoint muggings, knife wielding thugs, subway pickpockets, random drive-by shootings, or even (noticeably) corrupt police.
 
However, the other day we noticed this potential hazard.  And, although the plants look innocuous to me, I did see "Little Shop of Horrors", and someone felt it necessary to post the sign.  So, I will keep my distance from this new found danger lurking on the streets of Hong Kong.  Thank God I saw the sign.

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HUH!?!?!

This weekend and next, Mike, TJ and the crew will be working both Saturday and Sunday.  Yuck.  Getting some "chores" done today, plus the general goofing around I normally do on Saturday's (crossword, reading, bringing my read books to the book exchange, gelato. . . ).
 
It would appear that all my clothes have shrunk here in Hong Kong.  Odd, as we don't have a dryer that can actually dry my clothes all the way.  Doesn't seem to have affected Mike's clothing, either.  Very strange.  I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact I'm completely unable to walk by XTC Gelato/Ben & Jerry's/Haagendaaz and even lately the chocolate sundae's from McDonalds.  Dang it. 
 
Today, in my morning ritual of searching the net for frivilous information I came across a website that made me MAD.  Mad at myself more than anything, but still mad.  This gal has been web blogging since 1997.  Now, she's a single Mom raising three kids in Texas, with a full-time job, and has managed to publish over three books!  And, she's quite funny, all though admittedly, I've never read her books or heard of them.  But she makes me feel inadequate.  I guess I really should do something about this.  I have been out here with nothing to do but fool around for 6 1/2 years, and what have I accomplished next to her???? NOTHING!!!  Arggh.  Enough said.  I need to get on a writing regimen. NOW!  (And, no, I'm not giving you her website, you might like it more than mine and I'm trying to INCREASE traffic. . . heehee).
 
Other than these life altering events, we are off to Lamma tonight for a live band at The Island Bar, and tomorrow I'm going on a "easy" hike with TJ's friend Natalie.  Hopefully I can find the right start point this time.  Or at least have someone to share the blame with if I end up off in the wrong direction. . . again.
 
Deep in the thorough of Chinese New Year.  Actual date is next Saturday night to usher in the "Year of the Golden Pig".  Supposedly any child born in this year is destined to be rich, so you can imagine the amount of pressure on those trying to produce offspring.  I bet condom sales will be down this year. . .  (that's my stock tip of the week, I guess).  We are going to spend the night at a hotel on Lamma, watch their fireworks and midnight "red carpet" display.  At least should provide some good pictures.

Thursday, February 8, 2007
 
First of all, it's been a busy and beautiful week.  I've not seen the air so clear and the temperature's so high in a LONG time.  It's lovely.  Sorry to all you Michiganders struggling under the snow. . . really, I AM!
 
Second of all, a short list of things I hate about Hong Kong:
  • They truly have too many busses.  For a city/country so concerned about air quality, you would think they could eliminate about 50% of the busses running around town - AS MOST OF THEM ARE ALMOST COMPLETELY EMPTY all day long.  It's true.  I've watched.  It's aggravating, yet somehow, amusing.
  • That everyday can't be just like yesterday, weatherwise.

Okay then, that completes the things I don't like about Hong Kong, at least right off the top of my head.  Maybe if I really sat and thought about it, I might be able to come up with more.  But, not today!

Thirdly, about 2 months ago you may remember me talking about a Scavenger Hunt on Lamma Island to benefit Operation Santa Claus.  Well, little did we know, but we MADE THE PAPER!  Of course, you will never be able to recognize us, but it's us in the very back row!  The South China Morning Post, December 13, 2006.  I've already looked into getting a back issue or two, but it seems that's not something they're into here.  So, alas, all I have is this dodgy JPEG (but thanks to our friend Harry, the political cartoonist, for procuring it for me!). 

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First "Mug in the Paper" in a foreign country. . . I think

And fourth and last, I am forever amazed at how small a town Hong Kong can be.   A couple of days ago I mentioned Mike "found" Rajen on the way home from work.  Not so strange, as he works in our neighborhood.  But, the other night we were sitting in an out of the way little Nepalese restaurant (Sitara) owned by our friend Sita, when along comes a guy named Mark we met briefly in the bar about 6 weeks ago.  He recognized us, stopped and chatted.  Then, about a month ago at The Island Bar some guy introduces himself to us, has seen us in the bar a few times, but had saw me on the street by our apartment that day.  This turned out to be Harry the political cartoonist for the South China Morning Post.  Not to mention how many times we've run into Richard (professional video guy from Lamma) out and about town.  Also, last week, before we knew we were in the paper, we met a journalist from Minnesota that works for The South China Morning Post, and he has helped me in the pursuit of trying to find hard copy of the above article.  Then, last night we went to McSorley's Ale House for dinner (never been to this one in SoHo), and at the end of the night (for us), the manager, Emma, sits down, buys us a round, chats for a while, and we find out she has a flat on Lamma and one of her best friends is the girl, Christina, who cut my hair a couple weeks ago. 

I swear, things like that don't even happen at HOME!

ANYWAYS, on to the adventures of the last couple days.  Unfortunately, I was quite busy Tuesday morning, doing laundry, answering emails, recovering from Monday and didn't realize how absolutely beautiful it was outside until I left the house about 1 PM (I've had the curtains drawn, as there are China men running around on the scaffolding and my balcony).  After getting the coffee and the paper, sitting outside and reading the paper, I decided I needed to go get the camera and at least get some pictures of such a clear day.  Decided just to take some photos around the Harbor on our side, then jump the ferry to Kowloon and take some of Hong Kong.  Too bad that it was so late in the afternoon, as I was taking pictures mostly into the sun from the Kowloon side, but it was breathtakingly clear.  I could see down the coast of Hong Kong further than I've been able to EVER!  Everything just seemed so vivid and sharp.  It was awesome!  And warm.

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These big old "kite" birds are one of Mike's favorite things in HK. . .

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Seriously over-laden boat out in Victoria Harbor, on a VERY clear day

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Ahoy matey, cast us off, please!

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Looking back at Wanchai and the Convention center from the Promenade in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon

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Central silhouetted by the afternoon sun

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The vegetation here is so varied and unique, plus there really is a lot of it!

Tuesday night we (of, course, say it with me now) went to Lamma for Standard Charter Night.  TJ even brought his friend Natalie for her first ever trip to The Island Bar.  Had a quick bite before we left.

Wednesday dawned as bright and clear as Tuesday, so I decided a hike was in order.  Now friends, you may remember last week Wednesday I decided to go for a hike, and promptly got "lost" and didn't see what I intended to see.  So, for this week's outing I decided to go "easy" and just take the ferry over to Mui Wo, on Lantau Island and do the hike to the Silvermine Mine (redundant?) and the waterfall garden.  Like a good hiker, I SMS'ed my husband whilst on the ferry to let him know my intentions (in case for some reason I did not make it back).

After getting off the ferry I stood and studied the map, and even took a picture of it just in case.  Wandered along the beach area and took a few pictures. . . .

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Another great and spooky long boat

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Mussels drying in the hot sunshine

But, I didn't quite make the right turn, and ended up on ANOTHER VERY STEEP UPHILL STAIRCASED HILL through a graveyard.  Well, it was a great, sunshiny day, so I just figured, what the heck, let's keep going.  Up and up and up.  I was hoping it would hit another trail that would take me where I intended on going. . .

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I don't think I would/could drag a dead body up here. . . had enough trouble with my LIVE one. . .

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But a pretty gorgeous view for us of the living!

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Looking out on Mui Wo bay, towards Peng Chau Island

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And yet another cool view

And, at the top of the "hill", this is the path I found. . . which continued on for a while, taking me through thick forests, an abandoned school (?), and finally up to a wrought iron gate, which fortunately was open.  After the gate were some steps leading down to the "road" (Thank GOD!).  But, I still didn't know where I was, so I went uphill (what is WRONG with me?) because I could hear water (and my original destination as you may remember was the waterfall garden).  As I climbed, though, the sound of water receded. 
 
Now, I was a little spooked from walking the other path, as the sounds of the forest here are a bit different than home.  The bamboo makes clacking noises against itself, and there is some wildlife in there you can only hear, not see.  I startled myself dearly while watching where I put my feet when out of my peripheral vision I saw something white and blue hanging from the tree next to me.  I was sure it was a snake, and did the boogie boogie dance for about 30 seconds before I realized it was only a piece of plastic hanging from the tree. 
 
Anyway, not knowing where I was seemed a bit disconcerting, but being that I was on a road, I felt safe.  Until I came to a directional sign that said "Tung Chung" and "Airport".  Now, to the best of my guestimation, these two destinations would be about a billion miles away from where I was standing.  Okay, sit down on the steps, have a rest, and review picture of map.

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I do believe I'm lost. . . . hope this leads somewhere!

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More of that very varied flora. . . .

It looked so close on the map, I just couldn't give up.  Mind you, I have now been hiking mostly uphill for the better part of two hours.  I made my way back down to the main "road' where I emerged from the forest path, and HURRAY, a gal on a bike came by.  I stopped her and asked which way I should go and she helpfully pointed down the hill.  Cool.
 
And withing 10 minutes I had found the mine, and then the waterfall garden.  Both of which were not worth the time to walk to.  But, I did it the FUN way, right.  Popped over and checked out the temple.

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The lovely and impressive Man Lo Temple

Now I knew exactly where I was at, and approximately how long it would take to get to the ferry, so I decided to call Mike, say HI and let him know I was still alive. 
 
And discovered my phone was gone.  Now, it was securely fastened inside the outside pocket of my camera case, where it has safely traveled with me since the purchase of the new camera.  But it most definitely was not there.  Thinking back, I remembered texting Mike from the ferry.  So, logically and rationally, I decided I had somehow left the phone on the ferry.  Okay, this is an honest place, I will check with the lost and found when I get to the ferry terminal.
 
No luck.  They do not have it, and the actual ferry I took over to Mui Wo (as they run a fleet) was sitting at the pier, so a helpful gentleman from First Ferry let me go on the boat and look around.  Not there.  Okay, I think, maybe someone turned it in at Central.  Walked over to the China Bear and had a mid-afternoon snack (I had worked up a bit of an appetite).  Grabbed the next ferry back, checked with the Customer Service there, no phone.  DANG!
 
It was now about 4 PM, so I resolved myself to the fact I had lost my phone and went home.  I called my number and it rang!  Which meant no one had actually stolen it, as the first thing they would do would be to remove the SIM card so it could not be traced.  But where was it ringing???  Hmmm.
 
Told Mike when he got home, and he said, "Well, it looks like you get to do your hike all over tomorrow and try to find your phone".  YUCK.  That didn't sound like what I wanted to do, but I HATE losing my phone, not because of the actual phone so much, but all the information it contains!  Vital!  So, I resigned myself to getting the 9 AM ferry back to Mui Wo.
 
It was about that time I remembered doing the boogie boogie dance on the narrow, overgrown path where I thought I saw a snake.  $1,000,000 (HK) to one odds that's where it popped out.
 
Off I went this morning, deciding to go backwards to avoid that nasty climb of yesterday, worse case would have to walk down huge uphill climb if I didn't find the phone first.  Brought Mike's phone, continually calling my number and stopping to listen.  Took a little while.  Finally made it to the boogie boogie place, and VIOLA, there was my phone, laying right where it landed.  It camped out last night!
 
Was very happy and relieved to have phone back in my possession.  Proceeded back to town, jumped the ferry and came home.  Replaced my UV lens cap, as that also fell off my camera yesterday (at the house) and cracked, picked up the papers, some razors, toothpaste and a few other essentials, came home, took a shower, and reveled in the fact that I ACTUALLY FOUND MY PHONE!

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Sorry. . . more flora

On another tangent, my website has been reporting almost double the amount of hits as just a week ago or so.  Welcome to however you are(s), drop a line if you get a chance, just wondering who's visiting! 
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
 
I am in complete and utter denial that next week will mark our 3 month period in Hong Kong.  Time flies when you're having fun and all that, but GEEZ, give me a break!  We just GOT here, didn't we??? 
 
Yesterday was a mess.  Got up at 5:45 AM to go to the BAR for Superbowl.  Yikes.  Of course, after having breakfast at 12:30 PM and watching a pretty exciting game and paying our bill that, among other things, had 33 (!) Bloody Mary's on it (there was 7 of us, but still), we came home and slept away a beautiful day.  Up around 4:30 PM, feeling not so great.  Ordered Pizza Hut for dinner, stayed home and watched a movie.
 
Now I'm trying to convince myself it is Tuesday, not Monday.
 
Did have nice seafood dinner on Lamma Sunday night, some lonely darts (we were pretty much the only people in The Island Bar), and a nice early cruise home on the 9:30 PM ferry.   Probably going back over tonight for Standard Charter Night, will depend on how the boys feel when they get home. . .
 
Watched all the Superbowl commercials online this morning, as of course we didn't get them on our Asian broadcast.

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Most the gang at Delaney's watching Superbowl XLI . . . at 8 AM!

Sunday, February 4, 2007
 
Mike worked yesterday, so pretty uneventful weekend thus far.  We worked so he could take Monday off, and we can go to the BAR at 7 AM to watch the stupid Super Bowl.  This will be my second early morning Super Bowl kickoff, first being in Tokyo.  All I remember is that by 2 PM things were a little hazy. . .
 
Today is TJ's birthday.  We went to dinner last night in Wanchai, and then checked out a couple places that were having Super Bowl parties to decide where we wanted to spend our money.  At midnight we bought him a shot and left him on his own.  Today we brought him a card and a cake, and are leaving in about a half hour to go to Lamma Island for some eats (and drinks, I'm sure).
 
 

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TJ and his birthday cake

The cake LOOKED good, but tasted bad, and had big chunks of Jello like things on the inside.  Fairly disgusting, but it's the thought, right? 
 
Actually, the bakeries all have delicious looking cakes and tarts and muffins, but so far I've found that's all they are, delicious looking. . . Seems they don't like to use sugar when they bake, or something.  What's the point in that?!?!?
 
All for now.  Sure we will have some fun pics from Super Bowl Monday.  Ta Ta for now!

Friday, February 2 (!!!!), 2007
 
Unfortunately, things seem to be moving right along on the project.  No big snags or problems to delay us much further than our original leave date.  We can only hope something comes up.  TJ is just doing too good of a job, it's supposed to be the switch that keeps us here!  Dang kid is too smart for our own good! 
 
I DON'T WANT TO GO!!!  Of course, that is still 4-5 weeks in the offing, but I am already dreading it.  Plus, as of today, nothing appears on the work schedule after here. . . hopefully there is something going on! 
 
Received confirmation Thom made it home okay, and got to fly First Class!  Lucky guy.  Tried to call him a few times, but no answer.
 
Wednesday I decided to go for a hike.  My destination was an easy trail called Eagles' Nest in Lions Rock Country Park.  Somehow I got off track (possibly because I gave Thom my only map of this area, and couldn't find another one), and ended up doing some very strenuous uphill climbing in the wrong direction.  Now, I wasn't exactly lost, but I had a good idea I wasn't on track, either.  Pretty deserted on the trail, didn't come across anyone until I came out in an area (2 hours later), that overlooked the Kowloon Harbor at Diamond Hill.  Hmmmm.  Definitely not where I wanted to be.  Then I found a trail head that lead to where I wanted to be originally, but it was 7.5 kilometers away on the path, and I knew I couldn't get there before dark (doesn't sound far, but these paths are known to be quite hilly, and I just can't do my normal clip on them), so I decided to walk down into town.  I thought I was walking into Diamond Hill, but I was actually one stop over from there.  Took about 30 minutes to get into town, and I still didn't really know where I was, but discovered a HUGE temple complex, so checked that out for a while, plus hit the potty.  Kind of hungry, so had a yogurt parfait from the local Micky D's (yes, they are EVERYWHERE!), and walked over to the Metro station to figure out where I was.  No problem.  Had about a half hour ride ahead of me, but I was tired!
 
SIDE NOTE:  I am amazed that all these trails are mostly PAVED.  I can't imagine the work involved in doing this, or even why hikers would prefer to walk on concrete (as that's ALL you do in HK) than on the actual ground.  These paths are way up in the mountains, going up severe inclines.  Don't even understand why they aren't washed under or away during the rainy season.
 
Will have to save Eagle's Nest for another day.
 
Weather has been spectacular this week, sunny and warm.  My stomach, however, has not been.  For the past two weeks it's just been a little "off".  Nothing overly crippling (except one day), but definitely not normal. Not sure what to attribute it to, but getting a little bothersome.   Hasn't affected my appetite, though, Thank God!
 
Stayed home Wednesday night and watched a couple of our bootleg DVD's, ate Pizza Hut, drank some wine.  Yesterday I walked around a bit, got the papers, took a nap.   Just didn't feel up to snuff, but was a glorious day.  Trying to figure out what is on the agenda today.
 
Yesterday on his walk home from work, Mike found Rajen and brought him over for a quick drink.  Hadn't seen him since "Wild Dim Sum Day", so was a nice treat.  He works in our neighborhood (lives on Lamma), but we rarely see him out and about. 
 
Okay, suns out, and I should be, too!

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Hard to see how steep this is, and of course, it's PAVED, and only one section of the many I climbed

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About halfway up the climb, looking back at the paved path I've walked so far

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At the top, finally, looking down at Sha Tin, where I got off the metro! GEEZ!

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Big Temple as I take the turn coming down the mountain on a very steep street towards Wong Tai Sin

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Overview of HUGE temple complex at Wong Tai Sin, never would have seen this had I not got "lost"

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Main entrace into Temple

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One of the minor shrines inside complex

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Cutie Patootie all dressed up for his temple visit

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Just put Thom in a cab for the airport.  He's flying stand-by, so hopefully he gets on the plane.  I think he's ready to be back on familiar ground.
 
Did the Lamma Island run last night, and as always, fun, fun, fun.  Did finally, for the first time, manage to catch the 9:30 ferry back, so all could be in bed my a manageable hour. 
 
Lovely morning, clear and bright.  Must get out and take pictures. . . .
 
Here's some from last night.

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Lamma power plant at night, over the bay

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Thom delivering pearls of wisdom to Mike and Louise

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Kids misbehaving on the Lamma ferry (return)

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IFC Building from the ferry pier

Tuesday, January 30, 2007
 
What a sunny and beautiful day in Hong Kong.  Yesterday, too.  Been waiting for this weather for more than a week, it seems.  Supposed to be quite cool at night (low-fifties, upper forties farenheit), but the days are glorious and it's supposed to stick for a while.
 
Have had a busy last four to five days.  Almost done with my "tour guiding" responsibilities!  Friday we had a BIG night, probably too big for the night before we left for Macau, but fun was had by all, even if Thom fell off the sidewalk (and rebounded too quickly for me to even get a picture!).  Went to dinner in the neighborhood, then decided to hit the Russian Ice Bar in Lan Kwai Fong.  Quickly did our obligatory shot of vodka there and adjourned to the Whiskey Priest Irish Bar, then over to the Globe.
 
Up and around a little slow on Saturday, but caught the 1 PM ferry to Macau, got checked in to the hotel, went on a small walkabout up to Guia Hill Lighthouse and Fortress (our planned outing for Christmas Day that was hindered by our SEVERE HANGOVERS!).  Neat.  Decided to go to the bar strip and have a pre-dinner drink, then walked around the corner to a Macanese restaurant for an early dinner.  Out by 7:30 to the Sands casino.  Mike won a little, I lost a little, and Thom broke even.  But, we stayed there til 1:00 AM, so not bad for that amount of time!
 
Slow start Sunday, had breakfast (minus Thom) at around 11 am, then took a taxi over to the Macau Tower, down to Taipa Island, did some repeats of the last time, just to show Thom some stuff.  Grabbed the 4 PM ferry home and had a nap.
 
Sunday night we headed over to Tsim Sha Tsui for the light show, then to our favortite Chinese place in Knutsford Terrace.  Good meal had by all, home early in bed.  Needed it.
 
Monday Thom and I went over to Lantau Island and did the Big Buddha trip up in the cable cars.  Again, a repeat trip for me, but still fun.  It was a really nice, clear day.
 
Went to dinner on Cheung Chau Island to the Hong Kee restaurant (again).  Took TJ and our bill was very cheap, just like last time, and we even had the lobster this time around (although not a crowd favorite)  We figured out that he only charges $20HK for the BIG BEERS there!  About 1/3 the price of everyone else.  BONUS!  Took the slow ferry home and had the first class compartment pretty much to ourselves.
 
Tonight we are off to Lamma Island for $20HK drink night at The Island Bar!  Going to take the early ferry home, though, as Thom leaves in the morning!
 
Here's some random pics from throughout the weekend.  Enjoy!

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Cool old Chinese style boat Thom and I saw in Victoria Harbor from Kowloon side

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Thom and I in the ice bar (photo credit to Mike, with his new camera, my old one!)

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Guia Hill Lighthouse in Macau

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View from Guia Hill of Macau

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Ah Ma statue on the waterfront, NAPE area, Macau

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Taverna bar in Taipa, start of "scene of the crime" Christmas Eve, but not guilty this time around.

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Sat in sun in the square in Taipa, watching kids learn to ride bikes, this gal was doing great. . .

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Digital "Film": $0HK HK Lightshow : $0HK Taking 167 pictures: $0HK; getting ONE SHOT: PRICELESS

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Digging the red sails on the boat. . . .

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Thom at Ngong Ping, near Wisdom Path, overlooking reservoir

Friday, January 26, 2007

This is for all you engineers out there, and the randomly curious. 
 
I've been talking about the scaffolding of our building for the last week or so.  They are refacing the entire outside.  But, this isn't your "typical" scaffolding job.  These guys use bamboo.  And, it's not unusual.  There are buildings all over town with bamboo scaffolding, covered in green mesh (for whatever reason, we got white mesh, which I've not seen before, and is nicer to the eye).  However, our 19 floor building is now encased in a cage of bamboo.  And, they put it up really fast.  And, they don't use machinery, just a series of pulley systems.  I took some pics while they were pulling a load up to the rooftop.  It's really pretty amazing.

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He's got a load on. . .

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Pulling it up. . .

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And in.

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Looking down from our balcony at the bamboo

Okay, there's your lesson in Asian construction.
 
Yesterday we had a pretty slow day.  Took the tram up to the peak (I didn't take ONE picture, except on Thom's camera).  It was pretty hazy and proceeded to get hazier while we were up there.  Thom treated me to a nice lunch at the Peak Cafe, checked out the overlook, and took a cab home.  Naps for everyone!
 
Went down to Lan Kwai Fong to Bar George, met up with Rick and TJ there, had some drinks and some dinner, and got home around 10:30.  Easy day.
 
Going to Macau tomorrow for the weekend.  Will return on Sunday.  Thom's gotta see Macau, plus Mike and I have wanted to go back, too.

Thursday, January 25, 2007
HAPPY BIRTHDAY DADDY-O!
 
Happy Birthday to you!!!!
 
Yesterday Thom and I had a very busy day.  Got out and about at 9:30, got him his Octopus travel card, and thought we'd go ride the escalator.  However, for the first time since we've been here, the escalator was coming DOWN!  We were too early!  So, we meandered on a little walk around the area, and caught it a little higher up.  Walked him back through the market on Graham street, and asked him how he felt.  He said "hungry".  Okay.
 
Decided to take his first ferry ride to Peng Chau, had a bite to eat, walked around the island.  He's still got energy! 
 
Grabbed the 2:30 ferry back to the house just in time for them to be DRILLING OUR OUTSIDE WALL!  Developed a bit of a headache, although they did knock off about 5:30 instead of 7, so all was good.
 
Took him out for dinner to an Irish Pub in Wan Chai, then to the Devil's Advocate for a drink or two.  We told him he had to stay up until at least 10:00, and he was starting to nod a bit, but insisted he could make it until 10:30.  Got home and he had a nightcap, poured him into bed. . . and guess what. . . he was UP AT 4:30 AM!!!  So, should be an interesting day.  He's definitely going to need a nap, but we're going to have to be mean to him and not let him sleep very long, or else he'll NEVER sleep tonight.
 
Anyway, here's some pics.

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Flower market in Lan Kwai Fong

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Preparing for Chinese New Year's at The Center

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Hello Kitty! On a roof in Peng Chau

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Check out the boats made out of broken surf boards. . . "yea, I got a boat baby"

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I want this house at the end of the point in Peng Chau

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Glad my camera takes decent night photos just walking around. . . Like the Hay Hay Restaurant

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My bodyguards. . . they look formidable. Don't know why my camera is double exposing, though. . .

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Mike and Thom at Delaney's

Although I really like my new camera, it's kind of giving me fits.  Like the picture above of the boys crossing the street, I'm tending to get about 1 out of 5 pictures "double exposed" or whatever you would call that type of photo.  I'm sure it's the operator, but it's making me MAD!
 
I did find it's easier to carry it on my belt than on my shoulder, though.  Ah, the learning curve. . .

Wednesday, January 24, 2007
"Proof of Life"
 
Obviously, one should never fear travel, as proven by our "fearless friend" Thom who arrived last night after a grueling 15.5 hour flight from Newark, full of p!ss and vinegar!  He was ready to P-A-R-TEE!
 
We snuck out for a little dinner at a local restaurant we like, thinking there was no way he would be at our apartment before 9:30, but they called us and "warned" us he was here.  Quickly came home (5 minutes, max), fixed the man a drink and sat on the balcony and chatted for hours.
 
No problems on the flight, no problems on the train, and no problems with the taxi.  All is well.  Ready to experience Hong Kong!
 
And, the sun came out yesterday afternoon for the first time in a week!  YEAH!

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Thom Joyce "Proof of Life"

Possibly, more later. . . .

Tuesday, January 23, 2007
No, I'm not dead, yet. . . .
 
Had a reasonably slow weekend.  Lot of big plans, not such good weather.  It has been rainy or overcast (no sun at all) since last Wednesday (?), and everytime I look at the weather forecast they are predicting full-on sun for "tomorrow". . .   Seems in Hong Kong tomorrow never comes. 
 
Friday night we did the FCC with Peter from The Island Bar.  Had some Italian eats at Milano's rooftop afterwards, fell home.  Saturday I wanted to go for a hike up at Eagle's Nest in Lions Rock park, but the weather was gross, so we lounged around all day.  Until about 6:30 when we decided to grab the 6:40 ferry to Lamma for dinner and the live band.  Had decent seafood at the Lancombe (I think everyone we know on Lamma holds a stake in this restaurant, as everyone always says, "Just go to the Lancombe", but that's okay, the food is good).  Went back to The Island Bar, which was packed, and watched the show.  A very ecclectic and cool band, and crowd.
 
However, the beginning of my death arrived Sunday morning, in the shape and form of a KILLER HANGOVER.  The weather, again, was overcast and threatening rain.  Laid around for a while and then bought tickets online for "Blood Diamond" and ventured over to Causeway Bay with Mike and TJ for the show.  Good movie.  Went for a bite to eat afterwards, then down to Wan Chai to try and find a bar called "The Handlebar" (motorcycle bar - owned by a fellow American that lives on Lamma - hoping he had some Superbowl festivities planned-didn't see him).  Found it, had a beer, and I was still feeling bad, so Mike and I went home.
 
Woke up Monday SICK AS A DOG!  Stayed in bed all day, all night.  SUCKED.  Only consolation, tomorrow still hasn't come. . .
 
Our friend Thom arrives tonight.  I am able to walk on two legs.  Both pieces of good news. 
 
The complete scaffolding of our building is well underway, noisy, and quite ugly.  Entertaining to watch the workers scramble around on the bamboo, though.
 

Friday, January 19, 2007
 
Okay, so I did it.  No rain yesterday afternoon, so packed up the new kit and headed up to MongKok, where there are hardly ever any Whitey's and lots of cool photo opportunities.  I was also in search of bootleg DVD's, but seems those operations are a thing of the past, due to government crack down, although fake purses and watches seem to be in HUGE supply.  Whatever.  I have my mute Chinaman for that, Louise just told me he comes to the Island Bar, too.
 
It was fun snapping pictures at the speed of light (or so it seemed).  Here's a couple examples, although not award winning photography (as none of mine is), just kind of cool. 

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All three of these photos are taken from the same spot, see the old lady down the way. . .

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Now I zoom up as she makes her selection

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Zoom in a little closer as she digs for change. . . It's neat, it's fun!

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This kid caught me catching him. . .

Thursday, January 18, 2007
 
It's sad to admit you know nothing about something you are really interested in.  My camera and I have had some issues already, one being it's mad at me for not even BRINGING IT OUT OF THE HOUSE (except the balcony) YET!  It sits there and glares at me, saying, "USE ME!  USE ME!", and I have to tell it no.  Basically, I'm afraid.  Afraid of losing it, afraid of dropping it, afraid that I don't know how to make it work right (and it really isn't that complicated, has many just "point and shoot" settings.  It's just that, well, I'm a BABY!)
 
But, it my defense, it has been raining since Tuesday night, and I don't want the poor dear to get wet!  Have completely (sorda) read the instruction manual twice, and there are just so many terms beyond my understanding of photography I've come to the conclusion I need a class (or classes), or need to just point and shoot the little darling.   I do like just sitting and looking at it, too, though.
 
So, this is why you haven't seen any new photography on the website.  I'm weak and stupid. 
 
Yesterday, to combat my boredom from the weather, I went to the movies.  "Flags of our Fathers" has just made the theaters here, and I had a bawl fest watching that.  WOW!  Another well done movie by Clint Eastwood.  It was amazing, for those who haven't seen it, and I truly hope "Letters from Iwo Jima" makes it here before we leave. 
 
My plan for today (as the rain is supposed to continue for days on end) is to go up to Mongkok (in Kowloon) and buy bootleg DVD's to watch.  On that note, Mike asked me to look for "Taladega Nights" (being the NASCAR nut that he is).  So, last night we go to dinner in Wan Chai to Coyote, then down to the Devil's Advocate for their version of $20HK Standard Charter night, and some mute guy is walking around selling DVD's.  And, he has "Taladega Nights".  He also has "Flags of our Fathers".  But, I'm glad I saw that one on the big screen.  I bought Mike his movie, and also "A Good Year" and a movie that I don't even know what the title is (I think it's French made), it looks like "jindabyne". . . but the mute said it was good.  Paid WAY too much per movie ($25HK, I know I can buy them in Mongkok for $10HK), but oh well.
 
Funny how the world hands you what you want right when you want it.
 
We did make it to Lamma Tuesday night, with a picnic dinner on the ferry across the water.  Saw some regulars, and Peter, the owner of the Island Bar, invited us to be his guests tomorrow night at the Foreign Correspondence Club (FCC).  Will meet him there around 6:30.  What a nice guy.
 
Skipped the horse races last night on account of the rain.  Will need to reschedule that outing. 
 
It appears it rained all night, but isn't raining at the moment.  Maybe I'll take the little sweetie out this morning and see what it can do. 

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Playing with the camera on the balcony

Unfortunately for my beautiful orchid, on Tuesday I decided we may have been over-watering her, so I put her out on the patio to dry out a bit.  Left her out there when we went to Lamma and it rained.  She got drenched!  I tried to nurse her back to health, drained her bucket, etc.  and explained to her that sometimes her Mommy and Daddy have too much to drink, too, and make it.  So, hopefully I didn't kill her.  She's inside now, and not looking too much worse for wear, but I don't think I will water her for a while.  I will feel bad if I killed her.  I'm such an idiot with plants.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Seven Days til Thom Joyce's Arrival
 
The count down is on!  Our friend Thom is coming to visit for 10 days, arriving January 22.  Yea Thom!
 
Yesterday was a BIG BIG day for me.  I finally, after a year of thought and consideration and self-justification and inner conflict went out and bought a NEW CAMERA.  This is the "new" (albeit, it's been around for a couple years) generation of digital camera's classified as SLR's, which means they take pictures at the same speed (almost) as you can click them off with a 35mm.  I bought the Nikon D40 and anyone interested can look at this link. . . .http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/nikond40

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Mike cradles our new baby. . . .

Now I just need a full body harness for it so I dare take it out in public.  I have a terrible track record of dropping/banging around/injuring cameras. 
 
Will have to do some technical reading and a lot of practicing to get the most of my purchase.  Big learning curve ahead.  Oh well.  Not like I have that much else to do with my time. . . . except today I get to have a HAIRCUT!  YEAH!
 
Here's the first pic I took with the new camera after the battery charged at twilight yesterday from the roof looking at Kowloon.

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Wish I would have thunk to bring both cameras up there for comparison

And I KNOW it takes better pictures at night on the night setting than our old Nikon.  That was one of my biggest b!tches about that one. . . It's nice the new one is a Nikon as well, will help on the learning curve. . .

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The Center Building from our balcony

And a big hug and kiss to my WONDERFUL husband who told me to just "GO BUY THE DANG THING" and is happy that I'm happy and I'm happy that he's happy I'm happy. . . Life is good.

Sunday, January 14, 2007
DIM SUM DAY!
 
Okay, I'm cheating a bit, because it's actually Monday afternoon as I'm writing this, but by all accounts everything that followed happened on Sunday.  Except my recap of Saturday. . .heehee.
 
Saturday we woke up early to quick hug the folks goodbye at 6 AM.  (They are safely home in Michigan, got a call from them Sunday morning as we were leaving to go to Lamma).  Spent the rest of the day laying pretty low.  Did manage to have breakfast FINALLY at the Flying Pan, went over to MIX for smoothies (Mike had the Liver Flush, myself the Stressbuster with a shot of weight loss - hope it works!), then home for naps and crossword working.  Out for a light dinner at Cafe Ola, to the Globe for a couple quick ones, and home by 10:30ish.
 
But enough of that!  Tuesday night Louise invited us over to the Sampan Restaurant on Lamma for a typical Chinese Dim Sum Sunday morning breakfast, and we readily agreed.  Seems her and Terry (the bartender at the Island Bar) do this regularly with whoever else happens to show up. 
 
We grabbed the 10 AM ferry no problem, with young TJ, and made it to the Sampan exactly with everyone else.  Terry, ever eager to please, washed our dishes properly in the tea, and proceeded to order up the Dim Sum.  It was us 5 to start, but Rajen wandered by, and then Kumar as well.  Dim Sum was okay.  Glad we skipped the chicken feet (Terry went and took a picture for me), and everything we ate was recognizable after someone told us what it was. . .

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Chicken feet we did not eat, not in a box, not with a fox, not on a train, or in the rain. . .

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This looks really odd (read: GROSS), but it's actually just rice pancakes rolled up. . . .

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Kumar, Rajen and Terry

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Louise, Mike and TJ enjoying Dim Sum

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Louise and I enjoying Dim Sum. . .

So, after our breakfast, we decided a walk was in order.  Destination:  The windmill at the top of the island.  Dropped Louise at home, stopped at Rajen's to collect Max and Taro, the dogs, and off we went up the hill.  We hadn't actually been all the way there on any of our Lamma treks, so was neat, and had spectacular views of Aberdeen and Aberdeen Harbor.  Could see the route our illegal Sampan had taken a few weeks ago.  It was a bit of a stiff climb, but only took about 25 minutes, versus the 3 hours of uphill climb I did with Mom and Dad last Thursday!  Piece of cake. . .

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Now that's a BIG fan. . .

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Aberdeen Harbor (south side of HK Island)

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Northwest tip of Lamma reaching out to HK

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Mike and Rajen on the rail

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My two "Chinese" husbands throwing out the "V", Lamma Island behind them

It was really quite a bit warmer on Lamma than when we left HK, and after the hike up the hill we enjoyed the "Lamma Winds", and the views for a while.  Rajen invited us to his house to have a beer or two on his roof top terrace.  Why not?

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Typical Lamma type dwellings

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View from Rajen's rooftop

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"The Man" in the swing on the rooftop

After drinking Rajen out of beer (only two a piece, really, but sounds more impressive that way), we decided the Island Bar was in order. 
 
Wandered that way, and when we arrived there were to young college girls at the bar talking to Kay the bartender.  She introduced Mike, TJ, and I as fellow Americans, and as they were both cuter than cute, TJ and Rajen attached themselves like magnets to that end of the bar and started buying them margaritas. 
 
Mike and I also talked to them, and they were sweet girls.  And we all drank, and talked, and drank, and suddenly we were dancing in the bar. ..

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Notice who is missing from the photo. . . Mike, who took the photo, and doesn't dance!

And, suddenly, we were dancing on the chairs. . .

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What is WRONG with us????

And engaging in all kinds of tom-foolery!

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Why do I do the things I do?!?!?

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Mike may be "too cool" to dance, but he goes Hollywood on us with my shades. . .

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One last shot of the group before dinner, minus our photographer.

By now we decide we're all pretty buzzed, and probably in need of some dinner.  But first, STOP!  LOOK AT THE GORGEOUS SUNSET!!!!

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SWEEEEET!

It's so purdy, I'll let you have another look. . .

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Still SWEEET!

Off we go to the Lancombe Seafood Restaurant for Minced Quail, scallops and brocolli, steamed shrimp, fried rice. . . . possibly something else. . . I have no idea.  Not ONE of us can remember who bought dinner (I hope someone did), and we know the girls didn't. 
 
Unfortunately, that darn Island Bar is RIGHT on the way to the ferry, so we all stopped in for one (?) more, then poured ourselves onto the ferry.  Diana and Sara (the college girls), were in terrible shape, so we dumped them into a taxi to get them home safely and walked ourselves across the road and into bed.
 
Beware if you are invited to Dim Sum breakfast on Lamma Island.  Anything can happen. . .

Friday, January 12, 2007
 
WOW!  This week has flown by, and been keeping so busy running the parents around that I haven't had time to hardly think about updating the web.  Done some great things, and have lots of pictures to share. 
 
Tuesday we picked up a picnic lunch at the City Super on the way to the Discovery Bay ferry.  Ate in the plaza after we arrived, checked out the beach in the sunlight and the restaurant we had Mom's birthday dinner at, and then walked over to the inter-island ferry to Peng Chau.  Little bitty ferry, but the price was right $5HK/piece.  It was a beautiful sunny day, and we had about an hour to kill before getting the ferry back to Central so they could head to Lamma for there big walk across the island.  Saw a couple temples, wandered through people's back yards.  Supposedly the "most Chinese" island left in HK, whatever that means. 
 
After arriving back in Central I put Mom and Dad on the ferry to Sok Ku Wan, gave them the cell phone, and told them we'd meet them around 7 pm for dinner.  They had a nice walk, but by the time we arrived they were freezing and hungry.  Grabbed a quick bite at a pub, then headed over to The Island Bar for Standard Charter $20HK drink night.  Not a lot of our normal crew around, but introduced the folks around, had a couple and jumped the 10:30 ferry back home.  Early to bed as we were off Pink Dolphin Watching the next morning.
 
Met up with the tour guide at the Mandarin Oriental at 8:30 AM, took the bus over to Tung Chung on Lantau Island, and saw a whole bunch of pink dolphins.  And I say, "SAVE THE PINK DOLPHINS!!"  Quite a sad story on their habitat and birth survival rates, plus the fact they are not recognized as an endangered species as of yet, but just a variation of the humpback dolphin.  Their habitat used to be where the new airport is, the surrounding waters of an island called Chek Lap Kok (which is the name of the airport now), but when they built the airport they blasted the island and the surrounding sea, filled it with toxic fill being dug up on the land reclamation projects around HK harbor and surrounding areas, and pretty much destroyed their living area.  Plus the boat traffic and high pollution levels in their food source.  Everywhere else in the world humpback dolphins live to be about 40, here in HK they live to about 20.  Quite sad, really. 
 
But, they were beautiful and we saw a score of them!  It was exciting every time one jumped up.  They really were quite different than most wild dolphins we've encountered, as they are "shyer".  They know we are there, and like to interact with us, but from a distance.  One of the more "famous" ones, Ringo, actually showed up and Dad got the award winning picture of him!
 
After the Dolphin watch, we grabbed a quick lunch at the Delifrance, put the parents on the cable cars to Big Buddha, and I hit the outlet mall for about an hour (bought nothing), tried to hit the right subway stop for pictures of the suspension bridge, but decided the visibility was too bad to justify walking the mile or two over to where the observation deck was.  Will have to wait. 
 
Parents got back around 6, and we were off to dinner at a local joint, but it was closed due to a private party, so had dinner around the corner at a cafe that wasn't so wonderful, but did the job of filling the pit and serving us beer.
 
Thursday we went to the New Territories to do an "easy" walk (according to the Lonely Planet, again, I'm not sure this dude ever did the walk!).  It was quite the hike over the mountain to Bride's Pool (around Plover's Cove), and Mom insisted we were "trying to kill her" several times, but we all lived.  We left the apartment at 9:30, arrived at the trailhead around 11:30 (after a slight detour of getting on the wrong bus, I thought I could outsmart the Lonely Planet, but I couldn't).  Had to get a cab to the right spot, but afterwards, no problem.  Except we didn't have any food or water and it took us almost 4 hours to do the entire hike that was supposed to take 2 to 2 1/2.  Then we waited FOREVER (30 minutes) for the proper minibus to take us back to the metro station.  Finally arrived, and all was well.
 
Arrived at the metro station STARVING, so resorted to some decent fast food at Maxim's, jumped on the subway and came home.  Took the 7:30 Star Ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui to watch the "WORLD'S FAMOUS LIGHT SHOW SET TO MUSIC", which was appreciated greatly by everyone over 50. . . i.e.  TJ and I were not overly impressed, but whatever, we had to see it once.  Walked around in circles looking for Knutsford Terrace for dinner (instead of just following my simple directions, Mike knew a "shortcut"), but finally made it to "Heaven on Earth" Chinese restaurant and stuffed ourselves silly.  Had five different main courses, plus rice and chocolate cake shooters for dessert. 
 
Afterwards it seemed only proper to fall into the Russian restaurant's ice bar for a quick vodka shot.  Then up one block to Observatory Lane to Que Pasa for a nightcap.  Stumbled back to the subway and came home and went to BED!
 
Friday (today I think), Mom and I shopped all morning while Dad did a private tour (him and his Lonely Planet book) around Sheung Wan (our neighborhood).  Met back up around 3, they did some packing, and we are off to Cheung Chau for dinner tonight! 
 
Took the 40 minute boat cruise to Cheung Chau, a shame my folks weren't able to see the harbor in daylight, but I showed them my pictures.  Found our destination, the Hong Kee Restaurant, and had scallops with broccoli, fried prawn with garlic, a steamed fish and sweet and sour chicken (which Mom said was the best!).  The owner was hilarious, bringing seafood over to our table to show us before bringing it in back to prepare.  We were the only Westerners in the place (or all the places we saw along the waterfront).  Had a great meal and Dad bought. 
 
Walked around a little after dinner, but most the shops were closing, so grabbed the ferry home.  Folks have to get up EARLY (4:30 am) tomorrow to catch their flight.
 
What a great experience having them here with us!  COOL!

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Old chinese house and old chinese man on Peng Chau

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Peeking down some side alley in Peng Chau

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Harbor on "far" side on Peng Chau (about a seven minute walk)

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Us and Louise at the Island Bar, Lamma, after Mom and Dad's climb over the mountain (and dinner)

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On the boat in Tung Chung for the Dolphin Watch

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Fishing boat out in Lung Kwu Tan Bay. The dolphins like to follow the fishing boats, we're watching

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Still waiting, but cute little boat out fishing

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THERE'S ONE! These buggers are quick, and beautiful, and PINK!

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Pink dorsal fin popping up, kind of looks like a nipple!

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Dad's Ringo picture

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Two pink heads cresting at once, I think they're playing with us. . .

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This is a juvenile coming to play, they are born gray, then turn speckled, then pink. . .

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Looking down from the top of the mountain at Plover's Cove Reservoir. . . wish it was sunny

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But as 70% of the path was like this and severely uphill, pretty glad we had some cloud cover!

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It is GORGEOUS up here, though, despite we can't BREATHE!

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Can't stop snapping pictures, it's sooooo cool!

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Mom and Dad at the end of the line. . . look pretty good for a 4 hour hike!

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Me throwing the asian "V" at Bride's Pool

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The "amazing" Bridal Falls. . . Sure it's better during rainy season, when it's 108 degrees. . .

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Hong Kong skyline during light show from Tsim Sha Tsui

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Crammed in the Ice Box sub zero freezer for vodka shots!

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Last dinner with folks. . . good play on words, bad proof reading before making large neon sign

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"Would you like a prawn little girl?"

Monday, January 8, 2007
 
Oh boy, we really did it last night.  As hard as it may be to believe, none of us have been up to the Peak after dark to see the skyline of Hong Kong lit up (not to mention seeing the 8 PM light show from the Kowloon side, which we WILL DO on Thursday night, we've promised the folks!). 
 
I know this sounds bad, but I called Bubba Gump's for reservations, as their restaurant is surrounded by windows right on the view, but they were full.  So, I called a place called Pearl at the Peak, which I knew would be a little expensive, but thought we could probably handle it. 
 
Showed up and it was POSH POSH POSH.  I can't believe they let low lifes like us in there. . . 
 
After a brief but unpleasant confrontation with one of the staff (as we were entering we started taking a couple pictures off their balcony and this dude came out and started yelling at us, telling us this was a restaurant, private property, etc.).  I'm like, "Yeah, I know we have RESERVATIONS".  Sure, this could have been handled a bit more diplomatically on their part, but anyway, they had "misplaced" our reservations.  The dude that was yelling at us then proceeded to try and be our sommelier and waiter, and again p!ssed me off, so I think he got the picture, as we didn't see him again.  The rest of the staff was great, though, and the manager did come and apologize for the mix-up with the reservation and such all.
 
We did get a seat, without much of a view though.  And then proceeded to eat the most expensive meal of my life (well, at least in HK).  Today, while trying to find an email address to provide some feedback, I did find out the Australian chef, Geoff Lindsay, was named Chef of the Year in Australia in 2005. . . for whatever that is worth.
 
Started out with a "gift" from the chef of deep fried Hibiscus flowers with honey and something else (can't remember).  Very delicate and delicious.  We all ordered soups as a starter, and a nice bottle of Cabarnet.  Mom and Dad had the Chick Pea soup, while Mike, TJ and I had the Sweet Corn with Crab.  I found mine to be a little bland, but it was served so prettily with a little crab salad on a leaf and a wonton of some sort.  Mom and Dad's came with deep fried cheese balls and some lemony type greens. 
 
For our main course we had a bottle of Shiraz to accompany Dad's Sea Bass, Mom's grilled chicken, Mike and TJ's US Angus Tenderloin and my grape stuffed quail.  Of course, it was all very artfully presented, and I didn't get a good look at everyone's but my quail was on some greens with pommegranate seeds.  TJ and Mike said there were some type of green balls under their steaks that were tasty, and Mom had some kind of potatoes hidden under her chicken.  Dad's disappeared rather quickly, so didn't get a good look at that. . .  Also had a side dish of mushrooms and mashed potatoes.
 
For dessert, Mom and Dad split the chocolate souffle that was exactly like Mom's hot fudge soup from her birthday night.  It also came with coffee ice cream, with coffee beans sprinkled on top and a small piece of pie that looked like pumpkin but was actually caramel.  TJ and I opted to split the deep fried chocolate with vanilla sauce (DEEP FRIED CHOCOLATE - WHAT A CONCEPT!), the only problem being there wasn't enough of it!  Then another "gift" of Petit Fours. 
 
We were sated and impressed.  Then the bill.  OMG!  Oh well, you only live once.
 
Taxi Ride to the Peak:  $50HK
Four Main Courses:  $1560HK
Two Bottles of Wine:  $700 HK
Total Bill:  $3384HK
Experience of eating in a restaurant we would NEVER have walked into on top of the Peak in Hong Kong:  PRICELESS
 
So, for all you gourmets or wanna be gourmets, we had a epicurean experience for you. . . that was probably somewhat wasted on us, but delicious indeed!  And, by all standards, it was really only about $85US a person, drinks and dessert included, so you could do that anywhere in the world, without the same ambience and view, so I guess we can live with that!
 
It was pretty cold last night, about 53 F, and windy, especially at the Peak.  We tried to get some pictures, but it appears none of our cameras were made to take long distance pictures at night that well.  I think Dad got the best shot (see below).
 
Mom and Dad off to Macau today, on their own with no cell phone, but explicit instructions from me, The Lonely Planet Guide Book, and a map with all the places written in English, Chinese, and Portuguese.  I think they will be okay as long as they remember to look both ways when crossing the street.  Don't expect them back til late tonight. 

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Dad got the shot of the night. . .

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Mom, Dad, and I at the Pearl

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My best effort

Sunday, January 7, 2007
 
Let the kids off the leash today, as Mike was quite tired and sick, and I felt like I might be getting what he had.  So, as they weren't planning on leaving the rock, we armed them with a map and the cell phone and they set off about Central Hong Kong.  Dad wanted to go and see some of the local parks and such, and then go back up to the Peak and walk around (a very nice route that I've done twice).
 
Yesterday was Mom's birthday, and we celebrated by having a nice brunch at Bacar's, then heading over to the south side of the island, starting at Stanley (where we somehow, luckily, avoided going to the much acclaimed and highly over-rated Stanley Market).  Walked a short trail up looking over the beach/harbor to see a temple and an ancient well (not sure we saw that, though, we did see a hole).  Had a quick drink at The Smuggler's Inn, grabbed a taxi to Deep Water Bay, sat around a little and decided to come home and rest up.
 
The apartment has some of those Brookstone massage chairs and my Mom has become their best customer.  The other day she had two!  She gets one everyday as we come home. 
 
We took her over to Discovery Bay on Lantau to Hemmingway's on the Bay for dinner.  Was a nice meal, and we caught the 9:50 ferry back and sent them home to bed.  Mike and I met TJ at the Globe for a few.
 
On Friday we had went over on the Star Ferry to Kowloon and walked around.  Took them to the Ladies Market, where they picked up a few souveniers. 
 
I think they're having fun. . .
 
 

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Mom and Dad partying like rock stars in Lan Kwai Fong

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Mom enjoying her blinking birthday present (check shawl) from TJ in Lan Kwai Fong. . . quite late

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Kitty hanging out at Graham Street Market

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Freshly butchered fish. . . their hearts are still beating!

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Fishing boats in Stanley Harbor

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Stanley Harbor from above (on the way to the temple)

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Bailing Dad our from jail at Stanley. . . not really

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Pirate ship anchored at Deep Water Bay

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Mom and Dad before Mom's birthday dinner in the apartment

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Pre Mom and Dad sunset on Peng Chau

Friday, January 5, 2007
 
Alrighty!  The parents made it in no problems on Wednesday night.  Arrived at the apartment about midnight, Mike and I had been out to dinner and then to the Globe for a bit, but stayed up til about 2 AM with them, getting them settled down and ready to sleep.  First day was pretty much around the neighborhood, then up to the peak. 
 
Our friend Sita who works at the Globe owns a small Nepalese restaurant on Peel Street, a street we walk by all the time but have never climbed up far enough.  We took Mom and Dad there last night for dinner, and the food was AWESOME.  Very spicy.  We had a variety of starters, including "dried buffalo meat with chilli's", some spicy pork balls, nepalese style onion rings, spicy potatoes and spicy sweet potatoes, and chicken spring rolls.  Then we ordered one main dish and all tried the pork chiallo.  Wandered down the street a bit after dinner and hit a couple more spots that we've never seen, an African bar named Zingha where we had some Cameroon beer by the same name and a bar called "Joyce is not here" that had a "sad hour".  Very interesting and eclectic block. 
 
There was also a cute little temple right at the corner of Peel and Staunton.  About 50 years old, I guess.  Idiots that we are, no one had a camera, so I'll have to go back and get some pics.
 
Today we are going to cross the harbor on the Star Ferry and go to Kowloon.

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Odd sign on the way to dinner Tuesday night. . .

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Christmas lights on the buildings in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, coming in off the Lamma ferry

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Bee-u-ti-ful orchids Mike brought home for me on Wednesday. . .

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Weird light at the Peak, looking back at Lamma, around 4:30 PM

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Mumma's feet hurt. . . sitting up at the peak.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007
 
Don't you hate it when you put a little water and a little soap on the end of a Q-tip to get the eye make-up off from under your eyes only to realize it AIN'T eye make-up!?!?  Dang.
 
Went to Lamma last night, but did it smart.  Ate before we left and caught the 10:30 ferry.  Home sleeping by just after 11.  We were "lucky", not many people we knew were around, everybody still gone for the holidays.  Will have to catch them next week with the folks, if not before.
 
Of course, today the parents arrive so we wake up to the first rain we've seen in over a month. . .  Weather says it will clear off by tomorrow, but so far I can't hold much with the meteorologists over here. . . they are as bad as home.  Keep your fingers crossed, as Hong Kong is a lot more fun in the sun than in the rain
 
Off to do some last minute errands, including picking up our Dolphin Watch tickets.  COOL!
 
In case you missed it on the home page, I FINALLY upgraded my sight.  Now I own my domain name, www.aroundtheworldin80beers.net.  The old web address will automatically transfer here, but go ahead and change it if you want!  Also can get email at rachelle@aroundtheworldin80beers.net, I think. . .

Monday, January 1, 2007!!!
Ho-Lee-Kau
 
Yeah!  A whole new year! 
 
Had a fun night.  Started with dinner at Coyote in Wan Chai, good enchiladas and chimichunga's.  Walked over to the Bridge to have one afterwards before jumping a cab to Lan Kwai Fong to see what all the fuss was about.  Jam packed with people, could hardly move or walk.  Did one lap and headed for the Globe where we ushered in New Year's around the globe. . . or at least 3 or 4 times, including Hong Kong's.  Went home and slept like babies.
 
Woke up this morning to a glorious, sunny 72 degree day.  Made breakfast and a jug of Bloody Mary's, ushered in the New Year with Anderson Cooper on CNN, and headed up to the roof to admire the view.  Had a few more Bloody Mary's and a nap.  Did a little packing and laundry to prepare for the move upstairs tomorrow, and headed out around 7 for dinner at Ebenezer's Kabobs and a little gelato for dessert.
 
Talked to a few people back home, that was nice.  Had a great New Year's Eve and New Year's Day in Hong Kong.

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New Year's Eve at the Globe with TJ and Toby

Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Eve!!!

 
Well, for those of you who don't know, we just "lived" through one of the largest telecomm/internet outages of the century!  There was quite a large earthquake in Taiwan on Tuesday (strangely, 2 years exactly after the Tsunami) that snapped a bunch of cables that were buried on a fault line (??? HUH ???) that connected all of Asia with each other and the rest of the world, particularly North America.  The outages were all through China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Southeast Aisa, Japan, even causing the Hong Kong stock market to have to trade on PAPER (can they still DO that??).
 
While we could still "connect" the internet provider here, we couldn't navigate anything unless it was a few Chinese websites.  Needless to say, it was a frustrating four days, for everyone!  No one could really say how quickly things would be resolved, and it was Friday afternoon even before Mike had any type of connection at WORK! 
 
It may take weeks before the cables can be fixed, but until now they are apparently re-routing all internet and international calling through other sources, probably costing them tons of money on top of the tons of money it will cost to fix this submerged cable.  Somehow I think everyone will build some redundancy into their new systems. . .
 
The only truly fotunate thing for everyone here is that most people have Holiday until the 3rd of January (most business people), so it hasn't affected them as hard as it could have.
 
That has been the big news of the week.  Other news:
  • January 1, 2007 will see a non-smoking ordinance go into effect in HK.  No smoking in bars, restaurants, or OUTSIDE!  Wow.  This is getting serious.  $5000HK fine for violation.  Mike and TJ are waiting to see what the "smoking area" signs look like, then they will make black market copies and carry them around, slapping them up whenever the feel like a smoke. . .
  • The parents arrive Wednesday night!
  • My beautiful pointsettia has fallen victim to my black thumb and is shedding leaves faster than I can pick them up!
  • We move to our new apartment on the 19th floor on Tuesday.  Saw it yesterday, has a very large balcony with full sun (as we are on the top floor now).  Only problem, on January 7 they will encase our entire building in scaffolding (lovely) for refurbishing.  Scheduled to last long after we are gone.
  • Our friend Thom Joyce is threatening to come for a visit.  Of course, he's welcome!

Haven’t really been up to much this week, but we all did go out to our local Cantonese restaurant last night.  Everything everyone else was eating looked/smelled good, but for some reason, our food was not so good.  I guess we totally ordered the wrong things.  Our soup starter was good, but it went downhill from there.  Next time we’re going to just point at other people’s food as it comes out. . .

 

And, now we know what we don’t like as far as Cantonese food.  Don’t like the pan fried stuffed fish and don’t like the fried rice Fung Shing style (although Mike and TJ seemed not to mind the sewerish smell coming off it).  We did have sweet and sour pork (how original!  And, we picked on TJ for picking it), which ended up being the best thing we ate. 

Did some island hopping yesterday with TJ and Mike.  Had a pre-New Year's Eve buffett to attend at Maria's in Discovery Bay on Lantau, so headed over their around 1:00.  Had a nice time, good food, met some kind people, including her husband.  Decided as that was wrapping up to take the inter-island ferry to Peng Chau, a very small island just off of Lantau.  Ran over there, had a snack and a pint, walked through town, saw that there were a few things to do, but didn't have the daylight for it today.

Instead, jumped the ferry to Mui Wo (back on Lantau), thinking we could get to Lamma from there (which we can, just takes two more boat rides).  Went to the China Bear for a couple and a few more snacks, and decided to just catch the ferry back to Central, save Lamma for another night.  We had a great time on "Boxing Day" night (the day after Christmas for you American's is a British Holiday called Boxing Day).  Happened to be on a Tuesday night, so coincided with Standard Charter $20HK drink night, so that was of course an inescapable black hole.  

Left Mui Wo for Central, but is was only a 9 PM, so checked a "posh" place called Red on the 4th floor of the IFC.  Nice view, but full inside, so we had to sit outside and serve ourselves $60HK bottles of beer.  Okay.  Maybe a fine place for one and the view, but not our type of place, obviously.  Went from there home to get our darts and then off to the Globe.  However, the dart area was jammed with people.  I was tired and wanted to go home, so we did, but Mike stayed up late calling whoever he could reach back home. . .

Mike and I were fighting the start of a cold for a couple days, looks like we've won, so we were taking it kind of easy this past week, plus needed a recovery from Macau (that trip recap to follow).  Also need to "store up" energy for my job as a tour director next week. . .  :-)  Have booked a "Pink Dolphin Tour" for my parents and I on the 10th.  Supposedly one of the few places on earth where there are Pink Dolphins (although I think I remember something about pink dolphin tours in Cambodia, maybe they were river dolphins. . . ) and their tours have a 97% success rate of finding them. . .  www.hkdolphinwatch.com for those interested. 

Macau.  I think I will open a new page for that trip, so you can either click here or go to the Macau tab above. 

HAPPY NEW YEAR'S TO ALL!!!  CHEERS TO 2007!!!

Friday, December 22, 2006
Off to Macau!
 
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE! 
 
This will be my last post before Christmas, as I'm NOT bringing my laptop to Macau (!!!), so hoping everyone has a very merry one with lots of Christmas cheer. 
 
Packing is all done, got a few things I need to run out and get (including some $$), but it's officially a three day weekend!
 
About out of storage space for pics on the website, though, so will have to take some down in order to put Macau pics up next week.  I'm sure I won't take many pictures over there. . . . HA!  I think I've taken somewhere around 1,000 pictures already in HK.
 
Wandered around our neighborhood some more yesterday.  Amazing that after a month I can still get lost in our own little neighborhood.  Geez.
 
Have a wonderful holiday!  Love to all!

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Us at the Apartment Christmas Party, courtesy of The Bauhinia

Wednesday, December 20, 2006
HO HO HO!  Five Days til Christmas!
 
Even though the whole town is dressed up and ready for Christmas, I've still had a hard time finding my Christmas spirit.  The fact that we arrived here 10 days before Thanksgiving, we really haven't seen Hong Kong without all it's pretty holiday things!  I don't know how long they will leave it up after Christmas, but hopefully long enough for my Mom and Dad to see all the silliness!
 
Anyway, even though we are off to Macau over Christmas weekend (leaving Friday night, returning Monday evening), I decided we needed something like a Christmas tree to liven up our dully decorated apartment.  So, I went and found the biggest dang pointsettia I could and dragged it home and decorated it, complete with tiny blinking lights!  I had my own personal tree trimming party this afternoon, with Jimmy Buffett Christmas tunes!
 
And, I bought a few things for Mike and wrapped them up.  Yesterday I found the most perfect gift for my Dad, so that will be ready next week (after Christmas, I know) to put under the "tree" as well.
 
The Consulate had a small Christmas party yesterday afternoon that I went to with Mike.  Seems like a pretty nice bunch of folks that work there, especially for a pretty prominent post like Hong Kong.
 
There's a theme park here called Ocean Park that is actually making snow everyday until January 1, if I get really desperate.
 
Anyway, deck the halls and all that. . . I'm starting to feel a little like Christmas. . .

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Our tree!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Six days 'til Christmas!

Fra ra ra ra ra, ra ra, ra, ra
 
The apartment complex had a Christmas party for us last night, complete with Turkey and the trimmings (and wine!).  It was really quite nice.  Played a game of BINGO (TJ won a prize) and had a lucky draw, but Mike and I got nothing but a buzz and some food.  We must be saving our luck up for the weekend trip to Macau (I hope).  Anyway, cheap dinner (FREE!), and we met the owner of the building who took us on a tour of some AWESOMELY redone apartments.  It's hard to believe we are even in the same BUILDING.  Plus, he finally showed us our new apartment (which doesn't appear to be any better really than our current apartment, except it does have a vanity in the bath), but is an entirely different floor plan with much larger rooms.  It is completely under renovation, but not the exciting kind, it's getting a new floor and waterproofing.  A very fun night, and the owner dude was really excited about the renovations he's been making (as well he should be).  Young TJ is thinking of paying $HK10,000 more a month to move to one of the refurbished ones.  
 
But, about the weekend!  Wow, it was a busy one.  As I mentioned in Saturday's post we were off to the walled cities in Kam Tin.  First off, if you were here for only a week or 10 days, I wouldn't necessarily put this on the "must do" list, but I've heard a lot about them and read some things, so we thought it was worth a shot.  Plus, we hadn't ventured out into the New Territories yet, and this seemed like a worthwhile first stop.
 
We stupidly got on the wrong metro line to get there , so it took twice as long as it should have, but we made it to the KCR West Light Rail interchange (which looks exactly like the subway), and got to our intended destination.  It gave Mike some time to work on his crossword. . .
 
We emerged from this HUGE station into this very isolated looking area.  Seriously small town, seriously huge station.  They must be expecting some growth in the near future or something.  Anyway, checked the map and followed the signage to Kat Hing Wai, the first of the two fortified villages.  Apparently it was first settled by the Tangs, one of HK's five Mighty Clans (never heard of any of this) in the 12th Century AD.  The cities usually had moats, and one entrance to ward off pirates, bandits and imperial soldiers.

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Scenery out of the subway on the way to Kat Hing Wai

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The amazing walled city of Kat Hing Wai

Only one door into the whole place, and we luckily arrived on the day the "Social Sanitation and Engineering" truck was there.  I don't know how often it happens but they must come in and hose down the streets on occasion.  Today was the day. 
 
Funny though, as soon as you walk up to the door, some old broad pops out and starts pointing at the sign by the door informing that all tourists must pay $HK1 to get in the city, and not to her, mind you, but deposited through the slot on the door.  As soon as the clink of the coins hitting the container happends, three other old gals jump out and put on this old bamboo hats with fringes and "make" you take their pictures, charging only $HK10/per old gal.  Seemed expensive, but was funny as heck.

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Me and the money grubbing old girls. . .

Curiously enough, we appeared to be the only tourists there that day.  Not much to see once you are inside except some narrow streets laid out in a grid and a temple down at one end.  People still live here, and the TV antennae's and such do detract from the atmosphere, and it's really quite a small area (probably one city block square), but we have been there, done that.

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Narrow streets of Kat Hing Wai, that's Mike's skinny self up ahead there. . .

So, after seeing all there was to see in Kat Hing Wai we ventured over to it's younger and newer sister, Shui Tau Tsuen (don't ask me how to pronounce these places!).  This walled city was built in the 17th century, but is mostly in disrepair.  They are trying to refurbish it and draw the tourists over, but I really don't know why.  I'm not thinking they're raking it in over at Kat Hing Wai charging $HK1 to get in. . .

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Mike at the temple at Shui Tau Tsuen

The architecture was quite ornate and different, though.  Very much what you think of when you think "Chinese", dragons and fish and stuff.  Worth a look while we were up there.

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Famous dragons and fish (all being refurbed)

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Reconstructed walls

Well, by now we are fully bored with the walled cities, so head back to the rail system to catch the MTR back to town to switch lines so we can head all the way to the Eastern side of the New Territories (we are on the Western side right now).  Have no idea how long this is going to take, but are hoping to reach our final destination of Sai Kung for dinner before dark.  I do know it involves taking bus 92 from the Diamond Hill subway stop. . .
 
We make the switch on the trains and exit at Diamond Hill - into a MALL, of course!  Geez.  I thought we were out of town.  This one was called Hollywood Plaza and we went in to use the potty before grabbing the bus.  There is a nunnery here at Diamond Hill that is supposed to be a must see, but will have to save it for another day (it's not hard to get here from our house, will go without Mike or with my parents).

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Another award winning shot through the bus window of the Sai Kung peninsula in the distance

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Marina in bay before Sai Kung

Bus ride took about 45 minutes, so we arrived about 5 PM in Sai Kung, passing quite a bit of nice scenery and lots and lots of new development (high rises after high rises - amazing).  Fell off the AIR CONDITIONED bus (I am freezing by this point) and it's cold outside, about 12 degrees (celsius), or 55 F.  And windy.  Did I mention that I'M COLD!!!
 
Sai Kung was quite a bit of a larger town than I expected, but on the bus ride in we passed Duke's pub, so that seemed in order.  Walked over and Mike thought he had died and went to heaven.  There was an American pool table, a dart board, the people at the bar were playing cribbage and another guy was working a crossword. . . and they served beer to boot. . . heehee. 
 
No one talked to us, though, and we had to get a restaurant recommendation from the bartendress, who was really nice.  Asked us if we wanted "Chinese" seafood or "Western" seafood.  Not sure of the difference, but we went Chinese. 

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Two little fishing boats off the shore in Sai Kung

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Happiest fisherwoman on the planet

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Restaurant strip entrance in Sai Kung

As you cruise the restaurants, they all have huge tanks of seafood outside.  Some of the stuff is just downright unrecognizable, and fairly unappetizing looking to the western eye. . . And, of course, I would have no idea how to prepare most of it, let alone eat it, even if I wanted to.  We met a gal out front (hawker, trying to get you to eat there), who was letting us "play" with other people's dinners, and telling us what each thing was and explaining how her Dad dives for this stuff everyday for the restaurant.  Unfortunately, we had already stuffed our faces at another place, but will eat there the next time! 

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Deliciously fresh mussels, I touched one and it SPIT at Mike, HONEST!

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I ain't eating this dude for dinner. . .

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"Which one you want?"

Fell into another bar called "Yes Bar", were the only non-locals in there, played some Liar's Poker with dice (popular passtime, we've noticed in some of the bars), and as it was getting late and COLD, decided to head on back to our part of Hong Kong.  Didn't want to stand outside waiting for the bus, so took a cab back to Diamond Hill MTR Station to catch the subway home (cab fare: $US15, not having to stand outside in cold and wind and ride on air conditioned bus:  PRICELESS!)  Made it back to our neighborhood, but had to stop into the Globe Bar for one last one (it was only 10 PM on a Saturday).
 
Woke up to GLORIOUS weather on Sunday.  It was sunny and beautiful.  I was amped up to do something, anything.  We originally had planned on doing very little today, as I have been running Mike ragged like a tourist, but it was just too nice a day to waste.  I ran up to our roof top to take pictures, and it was so clear that I knew we had to go to the Peak.  Called TJ to see if he wanted to go to breakfast and then to the Peak, as he hadn't been yet, and he was in. 

Tried to eat at a very popular and busy place called "The Flying Pan", but the line was out the door and down the street, so settled for some other joint at the escalator and walked over to the Peak Tram station.  Again, the line was out the door so decided TJ was going to have to wait for that experience and jumped into a cab.  Got up to the peak and it was BEAUTIFUL!  Absolutely stunning up there today.  But windy, and a little cold.  Told TJ about the walk around the top, but told him he could do that another day.  I think I now officially have about ten billion pictures of HK from the Peak . . .

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Clearest of clear days at the peak!

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Clearest view of Lamma Island from the Peak yet!

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Santa and his helper outside the mall at the Peak

Being it was so beautiful, and that we hadn't yet been to the south side of the island (just cruised past it in ferries on our way to Lamma), we jumped in another cab and sped our way down the backside of Hong Kong to Repulse Bay, one of the most popular beaches in all of Hong Kong.  Less so today, as it is "winter", but I did stick my toes in there and it was pretty darn cold.  There were people swimming, though!  Brrrr.  Interesting area, some dramatic new buildings, and some strange temple like, bridge thingy that we never really quite figured out.  They sold take-away beer there, though, so we had one while sitting there in the warm afternoon sun.  Decided we did want to see Aberdeen and possibly take a Sampan tour of the harbor there, and we were running out of daylight, so finished our beer, and hailed another taxi.  Off to Aberdeen (about 20 minute ride).

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Beach at Repulse Bay

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Temple Disneyland like thingy on the beach. . .

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Looking back towards Aberdeen at mountain Ocean Park is on

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Losing daylight. . . better get moving!

Not much to see or do in Aberdeen that we were aware of or that the Lonely Planet told us, so we had the taxi driver drop us right at the harbor where the Sampans are.  Of course, we knew we were going to get ripped off, we just weren't sure how much.  Nor did we really know the going rate for what we wanted to do, and we weren't even quite sure what we DID want to do.  So, the hustler at the pier is talking to us very fast, "you want sampan?  sampan?  harbor tour", and I needed to pee, and Mike and TJ wanted to get some beer for the cruise, so we tell him hold on.  He says, "beer over there, toilet in there, hurry hurry".  He was hilarious, and a hustler. . . I'll tell you later what we paid.  We tried to negotiate, but he was having none of it. . .
 
Grabbed a bag of beer, hit the restroom, and decided we might as well head over to Lamma for dinner (seems all roads lead to Lamma in Hong Kong!). 

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Three Chinese people getting on the Sampan

Now, we tried to skip the harbor tour, but apparently that was not an option.  Little did we know it's actually illegal for these sampans to transport people to Lamma (although they do it all the time, usually under cover of the night, when drunk Lammanites miss the last ferry), but we were cutting through a very busy shipping lane in a little bitty sampan.  Oops.
 
Another thing, this was definitely not a "green" tour, as we were pumping out black smoke all the way.  Our wizened old boat driver with his white plastic shades did not speak a word of English, the ride was VERY bumpy, but it was definitely an experience we couldn't have missed out on. 

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This is just LOVERLY!

This is a big ole floating seafood restaurant in the Harbor at Aberdeen.  Mostly attracts Japanese tourists, and is quite tackily ornate from the front. . . I wish I would have got a picture of the back, looked like a Mumbai slum. . .

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Now, that's a BIG BOAT

Just missed this dude. . . I'm sure he never even saw us go by. . . What are we doing out here????  I'm getting a little green around the gills. . .

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AMAZING!

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Never saw anything like this!

Witnessed an obviously breath-taking sunset on our way into port, made it just before dark, disembarked and bid our sampan goodbye and headed directly for The Island Bar.  A little quiet in there, only Rajen and the village idiot we witnessed the first time we were there, sitting in the corner talking to himself.  Apparently he is some American Vet who thinks he has a direct line to George Bush. 
 
Anyhoo. . .had a drink with Rajen, got directions to eat at the Lancombe Sea Food Restaurant, walked down the waterfront to there, and saw a couple more people from the Treasure Hunt last Sunday.  Amanda, who organized it (and is from San Francisco) and her boyfriend who's name escapes me at the moment. 
 
Ate a very nice and reasonably priced dinner on the sea.  But, then at the very end, we decided we really should try the pigeon (we might have skipped that last beer and not decided this), so ordered one for dessert.  It can now be added to the list of odd things I've eaten and will never eat again. . . Didn't go over well with any of us.
 
Jumped the ferry home and hit the hay!  What a weekend!

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The uneaten flying rat

Saturday, December 16, 2006
 
Cold today, but so far no rain.  Off to investigate a couple areas of the New Territories.  Walled City and the Seafood Central!  Yum.
 
Out with Rajen and some friends of his as well as some of Mike's workmates last night.  Planned our three day weekend trip to Macau yesterday, leave Friday the 22nd at 7pm, return Christmas evening at 5.
 
Ran into Andrew at The Globe Thursday night, was funny. . . we didn't know he hung out there!
 
Just read in the International Herald Tribune that Hong Kongers are officially the richest people in the world, bypassing Luxembourg for the first time.  Average wealth per capita, $212,817 US.  Wow.  That's about the average American's debt, ain't it? heehee.
 
Will report on New Territories tomorrow with pics!

Friday, December 15
 
Just so you don't think it's all fun and games, it's been steadily raining for the last three gruesome days.  I have become intricately introduced to the malls of Hong Kong.  Besides the boot purchase earlier, I've been trying to be good.  Even found a few Christmas gifts and will be sending some home shortly (although I doubt they'll make it in time, I'm sure you'll still want them!).  So, not a whole lot to report besides we found a nice neighborhood bar called The Globe that has a dart board. 

Addendum to 12/13/06
 
Pics from the very cold Ice Bar at the Russian Restaurant.
 
Rained most of the day today, but was quite humid (as it is when it rains, but it was only about 70 degrees, so weird).  Went to the dangerous IFC mall (dangerous because there are so many expensive stores there), and bought me some knee high, kiss-a$$ boots at the GEOX store. . . just because they fit me and I can!  heehee.  Also found a cute cinch bag purse for about 1/100th of what the boots cost!
 

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The vodka shot does not warm you up enough to take off the fur!

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The boys go for one more

Wednesday, December 13, 2006
 
Having an awful time . . .  wish we were home. . . NOT!  (that was for you, Scotty!).
 
A couple strange things.  Saw an Asian dude and his wife and two kids in strollers walking around with a T-shirt on that said "I'm looking for treasure, can I see your chest?"
 
Also, we made the Lamma-zine on line blog!  Look in the back row of the second picture for us!  www.Lamma.com.hk (NOTE:  It's not on the front page anymore, as it is a blog itself, but scroll down and you can still find us).
 
Opened up my coin zipper on my wallet yesterday to have a whole wad of $HK20 dollar bills jump out at me, seriously, like 12 of them!  Took me a couple minutes to remember that on Tuesdays at The Island Bar on Lamma you can get any drink for $HK20 printed by the Standard Chartered Bank as opposed to the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited (and that's not a typo on the Hongkong, that's the old-time spelling!).  Well, that's a darn fine deal, and apparently I was buying them off Rajen (who, by the way, had an entire wallet full of them!) and the barkeep before we left Lamma Sunday night. . .
 
The Hong Kongers, and probably the Chinese, are obsessed with cleanliness these days.  Ironically, the disease that has led to this obsession, SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) matches up well with Hong Kong's designation of Special Administration Region (SAR).  But anyway, I digress.  It is now worth a $HK5000 fine it you spit in public (which, as in most Asian countries, is as common place as breathing).  Elevator buttons are covered with a type of laminate with signs saying they are disinfected regularly, signs everywhere reminding you to wash your hands, cover your mouth, etc. . .  It makes perfect sense of course, it's just something "new" to HK. 
 
In their defense I can imagine how an infectious disease could rip through this town like a tornado through a trailer park.  As a sheltered girl from the mid-west you think, fine, just stay inside.  But when you live in a city of this size (or NY, or Tokyo, or Chicago, or wherever) you HAVE to go out.  They say this place was like a ghost town during the outbreak, and of course for a long time afterwards tourism and travel to the area was very sparse.  They also did an anti-rudeness campaign to help welcome back the tourists.
 
China is going to run the world, probably in my lifetime.  You can see their industriousness and productivity everywhere.  They are working very hard on alternative energy matters and "going green".  They have to.  People are dying from the pollution in extreme numbers, forcing the new technologies to happen immediately.  It truly is amazing the amount of pollution you can see in the air here.  They say it's only about 6 years old.  It's affecting their economy, many large international investors in HK have pulled out in the last couple years, claiming the quality of life in HK is not what it was and they are having trouble staffing offices.  It is an immediate problem, one that could blow up quickly as more Chinese make middle-class livings and have the "Chinese Dream" of two cars, and A/C, microwave, big screen TV.  I think their economy will rise as ours falls.
 
On a brighter note, rode the world's longest escalator up to the top yesterday, to the mid-levels.  Comes out just a little higher up the peak than where our first apartment here was.  Walked around a little (not much to see, just residential living and grocery stores), decided I would hate living up there except for the view, and walked over to the zoo.  It is cool to be standing in a very green, park area and be surrounded by towering skyscrapers.  Wandered back down the hill, back in through Central, bought Mike a few articles of clothing, and got some really cool pillow cover souvenirs, hit the drugstore for some toiletries, and beat Mike home by about a half and hour. 
 
Last night we went over to Kowloon, as TJ hadn't crossed the harbor yet.  I had heard/read about this new area called Knutsford Terrace, about a 10 minute walk from the subway station at Tsim Sha Tsui, but decided to do a small pub crawl on our way.  First stopped at Tony's Bar, then the New Wally Matt Bar (which was recommended by the Lonely Planet), however I forgot to remember that this was a GAY BAR!  Was funny, but no incidents to report.  Just downed our beers and skadadled!  Made it up to Knutsford and were very impressed.  A strip of about 15 different restaurants and bars of various nationalities.  After perusing the entire selection, we decided on CHINESE and had some great food, my personal favorite being the wasabi shrimp. 
 
Afterwords we fell into the ice bar at the Russian restaurant next door.  You do into this 5 x 4 room that is literally a freezer with vodka bottles.  They have mink coats and hats to wear before you go in, then a little window opens and takes your order, closes while you stand there and freeze, reopens with your vodka shots.  And the front of it is glass so every other patron in the restaurant can see in.  I had one shot, the boys had two, and we were off.
 
Next stop was Observatory Lane, which is one block behind Knutsford Terrace and is probably the up and coming next area, as they had TWO Irish Pubs, Spanish Cantina, Japanese Bar, and a few others I just can't seem to remember right now. . . We picked one of the Irish Pubs for our last drink, stumbled back down to the subway and were home just before midnight, so no one turned into a pumpkin!
 
I didn't have my camera last night, but TJ got a couple good ones of us in the ice bar, I'll post them when I get them.
 

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Another view. . . in both, the green area is the zoo

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View from zoo, obviously we are still higher than the city, and those are pointsettias...falalalala

Monday, December 11, 2006

I can't believe it's been almost a week since I've posted. . . we've been partying like rock stars since TJ arrived, haven't hardly even had time to get my pictures off the camera! 
 
Wednesday I spent the day finding Secret Santa gifts for the Christmas party we were attending in Lan Kwai Fong on Thursday night with Rajen and the Lamma Island gang.  We had a spending limit of $HK100 (about $13 US), so was interesting to try and find something that wasn't gender specific and slightly original.  Ended up with three presents (TJ was going with us, I offered to do his shopping since he'd only been on the ground for about 12 hours!).  One was a six pack of Guinness with two beer mugs, some peanuts and pistachios, and a Rock 'n Roll Christmas CD, one was a bottle of wine in a "magic" wine holder with two glasses and a jazzy Christmas CD, and one was two coffee mugs, some gourmet coffee and a tin, biscotti, and a reggae Christmas CD.  Of course, all but the food and drink items came from the $HK10 store, so I did okay and they seemed to go over well with the crowd.  I ended up with some great pink Esprit slippers that I wear around the house all the time now, and Mike got some teas fresh from Beijing.  John had just flown in that afternoon. . .
 
Wednesday night we took TJ for a couple pints after work down to SoHo, then up to the roof top of Milano's for pizza.  Stopped and had a couple more on the way home at The Spot.
 
Thursday morning I finally did laundry in our apartment (we have multiple machines on the 4th floor, like to do more than a load at a time, plus its that European style washer/dryer combo that takes forever and never really dries anything), but I had some bleaching to do, so thought I'd try it out.  Went out walking around the neighborhood later in the morning, saw some pigs being delivered to the butcher, very interesting (picture below).  It's an interesting place, never know what you're going to see, seems I'm always digging my camera back out of my bag!  Picked up a few things for wrapping presents, came home and got cleaned up for the party!
 
Walked down to Lan Kwai Fong and had a couple beers at Al's Diner before going upstairs to the Deli Lamma for a HUGE delicious dinner, about four courses of good Indian food.  Ate WAY to much, and probably drank too much, too.  Very nice diverse group of people at the party, and they invited us over to Lamma on Sunday for a charity scavenger hunt.  It was for Operation Santa, which I believe is like Toys for Tots, from what I could tell. 
 
After dinner, the four of us that didn't need to catch the ferry back to Lamma went across the street to Bulldog's where we bought a "tower" of beer before going home. . .
 
Friday morning was beautiful out!  Decided to go out and get some breakfast and take it to the park after stopping at the Post Office to mail Christmas Cards back home.  Walked down, grabbed a muffin and some coffee and the crossword and sat in statue park for about two hours.  I actually got my shoulders pink!  Stumbled around Central for a little while longer, did some more shopping, bought a cool pair of corduroy shorts and a nice weight sweater-jacket thingy.  The weather report said that by next week it would be down in the low 60's during the day, but it's sure been nice for the last week!  Lovely weather. . .
 
Friday night I made Mike, TJ and I a quick stir-fry, than down to Wan Chai for the nightly activity.  Trying to get TJ acclimated with all the good party spots. . .
 
Saturday morning we were off to Cheung Chau, another outlying island of Hong Kong.  This island is WAY smaller than Lantau or Lamma, so we thought it would be interesting.  Looked like from the guide book and map it wouldn't take long to see everything there, so decided to go from there over to another bay on Lantau called Mui Wo for dinner later.  Left about 11 AM on the ferry, did our walk around Cheung Chau via the Lonely Planet's walk.  Ended up getting turned off the path a couple times, but still managed to see most of what we wanted to.  Even had our fortunes told in the temple for a mere $HK20 apiece.  Found out Mike is a very kind man who will live a long time with much vitality and that he has a strong chin like a bean. . .  I will have great carreer success starting at 41. . .  Hope I have a career by then! 
 
When we walked back into town we realized that the next ferry to Mui Wo wasn't until 4:50 (it was about 3:20), so wandered down the main street to have some dim sum and liquid refreshments in a cute little Bistro place.
 
Grabbed the ferry to Mui Wo, arriving just barely before dark, so hustled over to the beach, as that's about all there is to see there.  Beautiful, but a bit out of season right now. . . although I probably could have done it Friday during the day!  Had a leisurely dinner at a local seafood place, however, we had the very limited English menu. . . looked like we might have missed out on a few dishes.  But, it was good.  Walked back into town and had a beer at the China Bear while waiting for the ferry.  Rick, another guy on the job with Mike, called while we were sitting there and said he was in Wan Chai, we told him we'd call him back from the ferry, but when we tried to there was no answer.  We jumped in a cab and headed down there, but never did contact him.  Had a couple at the Devil's Advocate headed home about 1 AM.  What a day! 
 
When we got in there was an email from my Dad.  They have bought their tickets and will arrive in Hong Kong on January 3!  Will be fun!
 
Woke late on Sunday, but knew we had to be on the 11:30 ferry to Lamma in order to make the scavenger hunt.  Had time for a quick shower and a cup of coffee, but showed up with empty stomachs only to have to face a pitcher of bloody mary's.  Well, there ARE some nutrients there. . .   We quickly named our team "The Bloody Yankers", paid our entry fee, reviewed the rules and took off on the hunt.  It was a rhymey-poemy clue tour, answer these questions about where you are, try to stay on the designated path spelled out by the rhyme, pick up a few things along the way type of scavenger hunt.  Now, Saturday we were unable to stay on path with a map and directions, but for some reason today we pretty much never got lost (unlike some people who ended up totally in the wrong place - and they were Lamma Locals!).  We didn't beat anybody up on points or time, but we did win a prize for best name!  $300HK gift certificate to the Brittany Bay Cafe on Lamma. 
 
Our friend John was Santa for all the kids, and there was quite a showing at The Island Bar, were we officially became members (you just have to sign the guest book!).  Saw a lot of familiar faces, stuck around until about 8 pm (after finally grabbing a quick bite around 3:30 at the bakery) and jumped on the ferry.  I was a little hungry, so I called Pizza Hut on the way home for some delivery. . .
 
What a weekend.
 
Today I decided to lay low, although it was very nice out.  Walked over to the Three-Sixty to get some coffee and some beautiful tuna steaks for dinner, plus the walk to help clear my head a bit, then hit a few other shops on the way back, needed a pan scrubber and some batteries, some fruit, a little this, and little that. . .and basically sat around for the rest of the day (in my defense I did do two loads of laundry and make sure there was beer in the fridge).
 
I think we might have a quiet night of dinner at home.
 
Here's some picks from the above adventures and also a pic from the peak when I went back when it was sunny.

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View from Peak on the clearest day we've had yet. . . a little pollution problem in this town. . .

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How the piggies get to market in Hong Kong

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Christmas Party at the Deli Lamma in Lan Kwai Fong with 13 of our closest friends in Hong Kong :-)

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Andrew and I in the holiday spirit!

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Junks at Cheung Chau

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Temple at Cheung Chau

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Windsurfing Beach on Cheung Chau

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The dead can have a sea view of city view here on Cheung Chau

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On the ferry to Mui Wo

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Beach at Mui Wo. . . walked along it, very nice

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Santa arrives at The Island Bar on Lamma

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Me asking for a good present this year. . .

Tuesday, December 5, 2006
 
Just a quick post, but I had to tell SOMEONE - Last night I stopped at a gelato place on the way home called XTC (in SoHo directly across from Cochrane's Bar, if anyone is here and cares) and they had Spicy Hot Chocolate Gelato.  Spicy as in peppery spicy!  So, I had to try it and it was AWESOME.  Had a two flavor cup, mixed with coffee.  Recommended.  Makes your throat burn. . .
 
Did a little shopping today, wrecked my white sweater the other night.  I spilled a bottle of water off my nightstand onto it in my sleep, when I woke up it looked tie-dyed purple and yellow.  Bleach did not take it out.  Must have been something from the wood floor.  Anyway, I found a little discount place today, bought a new cream sweater and a pair of pants.  Good deals!  AND - they FIT!  :-)
 
Our friend TJ is due in tonight.  My folks are talking about coming over the first part of January, and our dear friends Sean and Rob are coming in early February!  YEAH!

Monday, December 4, 2006 (WOW - is it really December???)
 
Ah, what a nice weekend.  Before that, though, I'll let you know a few cool things we found and did in Hong Kong late last week. 
  • A roof top pizza joint/Italian restaurant in SoHo, right above the escalator on the 9th floor.  Nice views, up off the street and WONDERFUL pizza!
  • A Hot Dog stand!  Mike had a Kraut dog and a Miller Genuine Draft and I had a MILLER LITE!  Tasted rather odd, though. . . .
  • Went to the movies on Wednesday, saw Scoop with Scarlett Johanessen and Woody Allen in perhaps the smallest movie theater I've ever been in (besides Bulgaria, which I'm not sure really counted as a movie theater), possibly 50 seats.  No wonder you have to buy them two days ahead.
  • That I will NOT be able to buy shoes here in Hong Kong, despite my beliefs to the contrary that they may be more accustomed to Freakishly Oversized Foreign Women Feet here than in other Asian cities.

Hong Kong feels crazily like Disneyland in many respects.  I have never been in any large city that was so avidly marked with signposts, maps, information, all in English, making it almost impossible to get lost, miss something, or not know how to navigate whatever adventure you're on.  Also, with all the new buildings along the harbor built on reclaimed land both on the Hong Kong side and the Kowloon side, and the propensity to knock down older architecture without a care, the Hong Kongese's desire for the latest and greatest, even in buildings and design, is beyond compare.  Even the parks feel "fake", for lack of a better word.  Everything just seems to be built as a tourist attraction.  One of the most famous streets for discount/flea market type shopping that I had heard about and read about is called Cat Street.  Followed the signs through the warren of streets above SoHo, climbing and re-climbing stairs trying to find this one stretch of street.  Finally got there to discover nothing but junk, junk, junk. 

However, other things are beyond description.  Saturday we returned to Lantau Island (where Discovery Bay and Scott's friend Maria is), but to the other side where, believe it or not, they have created another tourist attraction in the way of cable cars.  This is a very long, very steep journey up the side of the mountain to the peak of Mount Lantau, where originally there was a monastery (still there), but now there is "the biggest sitting, outside, bronze Budda in the world" (as opposed to standing, reclining, inside, made of other material. . . whatever.  HK loves to claim to have the biggest/longest/smallest whatever).  They apparently put this Budda up there a couple of years ago, just so there was something up there to be considered a destination for the cable cars.  Plus, they built a village that looks VERY Disney like, with A Monkey Theater, Budda Theater, eateries of every nationality, a Starbucks, and even a Haagendaz.  All of this so new that my 2006 Lonely Planet does not have the information, says the only place to eat up top is the Tea Garden (which, funnily, we didn't even see).

But, Saturday we set out for this destination by subway.  You take the subway all the way out to the end, it exits into a MALL (of course), and you walk out the back and to the line for the cable cars.  Much like Disneyland, again, there is a very long line.  The sign posted there says it could take 2 hours from where we are.  !!!  Wait.  Wait.  Wind through cattle lines.  Wait.  Buy ticket.  Get on cable car.  Only took about an hour and twenty minutes, though. 

The ride takes 25 minutes and goes through a series of turns to get you up to the mountain.  It is also right next to the airport, so you get a pretty good view of all the planes coming and going.  This area used to be mostly agricultural, but thanks to the new airport there, and now the cable cars, has become a little enclave of skyscrapers and housing. 

Not looking for sympathy here, but it was a little cooler than we imagined it would be.  The car is not exactly sealed off, so we got quite the breeze up the backs of our shirts, and on one stretch is was pretty windy.  I had a scarfy pashima type thingy that probably saved us from having to buy a $25US jacket at the top from the Monkey Theater. . .

At the top, we walked through the "village" and headed for The Wisdom Path, which is past the monestary and the Budda.  It's on the far side of the mountain and consisted of a stunning view of the peak and sea, and some very large tree trunks split in half with Chinese writing on them, stuck horizontally in the ground in a circular pattern.  No explanation here of what it was supposed to be/represent or what the tree trunks said in English, but was nice to be outside in the fresh air in the sunshine at the top of a mountain.  No concrete in sight.  Next we walked back and climbed the 260 steps up to the Big Ole Budda statue, admired the views from up there, and decided we needed some Linner (combination Lunch and dinner).  Chose the Oriental Cuisine place and had Cambodian soup, Indonesian Steak, and Huinan Chicken, none of it very spicy or very authentic tasting, but adequate for what we were in need of.  We had opted not to take the round trip cable car ride, instead planning on taking the bus down for a different view of the island and terrain. 

What a trip that was.  We lucked out and had the front two seats opposite the driver, so a clear bird's eye view of the descent through the five feet high glass windows on the front of the bus.  And Mario Andretti behind the wheel, screaming through hairpin turns on a one-lane but two-way traffic street.  It was as thrilling as the cable car ride at a fraction of the price. . .

As there was nothing else to see in Tung Chung besides the mall and the cable cars, we jumped back on the subway and headed home.  Had a brief nap and went into SoHo to Cochrane's Bar for a couple, then Mike had a hot dog at before mentioned hot dog stand.  Tried to go to The Spot again, but it was packed, so settled for down the road at 1911 bar.

Sunday we were off to Lamma island, the third largest island in Hong Kong, but least populated and has no cars.  It has been described to us as a hippie outpost, so we were curious to what we would see.  Most people take the ferry to Yung Shue Wan then walk to Sok Kwu Wan for seafood at the very commercially sat seafood restaurants just off the ferry ladning.  I, however, wanted to do it backwards, so we did!  About a 45 minute ride over to Sok Kwu Wan, then a paved path about 4 km's long up and over the island to Yung Shue Wan.  Stopped about 3/4 of the way to admire a very nice beach area called Hung Shing Yeh, with a remarkable view of a HUGE POWER PLANT.  Had a Coke and wished we had our swimming suits. 

SIDENOTE:  Like so much other stuff in Hong Kong, it would appear that the Hong Kongese are trying to "make" 4 seasons out of their weather.  Now, I'm sure in comparison to summer here, this weather is a little chillier, but I have to laugh when it's approximately 74 degrees and sunny out and people are wearing parka's, ski hats, scarves, boots, etc.  Bunch of whitey's at the beach swimming, laying out in the sun. . . Plus, you go to restaurants that are open air so you have a nice breeze and that "chilly fall air" coming inside, and they are running their STINKING AIR CONDITIONERS!!!  WHAT!?!?  Crazy. . .

The entire walk took about 75 minutes and was pretty graded, and it actually looked like we did it the "right" way, as coming up out of Yung Shue Wan looked pretty steep.  Probably easier to walk down than up.  The town itself is small and quiet, with a lot of restaurants and bars along the seafront.  Stopped and had a delicious seafood lunch at Sampan Restaurant - fresh scallops with broccoli and fried whole red snapper.  Yummy.  Made short work of that, we had built up an appetite coming over the mountain.  Walked around a bit, took in the sights, had a couple after lunch drinks, and decided to wait until dark to take the ferry back so we could see Hong Kong at night from the water.  Fell into a place called The Island Bar (very original) and met a zany and wild group of fellows who kept us entertained until we almost missed the 8 PM ferry, we were running down the gangplank. . .  These guys were great!  They live on Lamma Island!  Mostly Brits and Scot's, one guy from Chicago.  A couple were photographers.  One guy, Rajen, was born in Hong Kong, lived in NY for 18 years, and now lives in Lamma.  He invited us out to dinner with "15 or so of his friends" on Thursday night.  His office is right around the corner from where we live.  Amazing.  They were great.

Ferried back and stopped at McD's for dinner in the IFC mall at the ferry terminal.  I had a chocolate sundae!  Home early to relax from a fun and stressless weekend of seeing the sights outside of the city.  Weather was awesome both days, lots of sun, and looks like it's nice again this morning.  Some pretty intense sun shining down on my terrace.  Maybe I'll go back up to the peak today, see if the views are any better (they would have to be).

Just checked the weather report, says it's going to be 80 later this week!  Wow!  Hopefully I won't see any parka's that day. . .

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Looking down at "The World's Longest Outdoor Escalator" or whatever from Milano's in SoHo

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First glimpse of the Big Guy

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Wisdom Path - I feel so enlightened and wise

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Anyone read this? I think it says, "Beware" "Keep Out"

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View from Wisdom Path down toward the sea

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Getting ready to make the ascent

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He is quite the Big Guy

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View looking down from "Budda Mountain", cable cars approaching in the background

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'Lil Pagoda hanging out on side of mountain

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View from ferry landing at Sok Kwu Wan, Lamma Island

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Big Power Plant - this power plant services ALL of Hong Kong; ugly, though!

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Hung Shing Yeh Beach (translation: Ugly view of powerplant here)

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Old gal fishing off the pier in Yung Shuw Wan, Lamma Island

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Yung Shue Wan from pier - not a skyscraper to be seen!

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Messing around with the boys at The Island Bar, Lamma Island

Tuesday, November 28, 2006
 
Saturday night we crossed back over to Tsim Sha Tsui on the Kowloon side and crawled around in quite a few bars, we saw some interesting sights, and met a bunch of drunken sailors from the US Kittyhawk.  Went to an Irish pub called Delaney's and found an interesting looking dart board, fell into an area were there was a bar called "Ned Kelly's Last Stand" and about 25 Navy guys and gals and a live jazz band.  Strangely enough, a couple joined our table late in the night, and they were the same couple we had saw on the tram going up to the Peak on Thursday (there was no missing this dude's hair-it was them!).  Bizarre chance second meeting.
 
Sunday we caught the 11:40 ferry to Discovery Bay, Lantau Island to meet Maria.  It was WONDERFUL!  Just a half hour off the island of Hong Kong is this beautiful beach, and very quaint little town.  We had lunch at a place called Hemmingway's on the Bay, and it totally felt like we were on vacation.  Maria was really nice, but her husband was in San Francisco, he's a pilot for Cathay Pacific.  Hopefully we will met up with them again.  It was really nice, the ferry ride was cool, and the sun actually came out for a little while during the afternoon.  The ferry runs 24/7, which I find amazing.  It was all so enjoyable I can't wait to go and just jump on boats to outlying islands and other points of interest.  Decided I could go someplace new everyday for at least a week.  Plus, I have to go to Macau for a day to do a recognizance trip!
 
Monday I went and worked out in the gym at our new apartment building for the first time!  Then I jumped on the subway and went down to Causeway Bay, did some shopping, and went and saw the Noonday Gun thing.  Everyday at noon for over 150 years they set off this gun.  Apparently, they're not real sure WHY they do this, but they do it.  Okay. 
 
Checked out Victoria Park, but it started raining like crazy and I forgot my umbrella.  Jumped into a $10HK store (about $1.30) and bought an umbrella, as well as a bunch of other stuff we needed, hot pads, dish towels, soy sauce, socks. . . the usual, heehee.  As I was making my way back to the subway I walked by an Irish Pub called Dickens, so I walked in to check out if there was a dart board.  And, there was a DART ROOM!  Not really a room, but a whole walled off area.  Looked promising.
 
Hit the City Super (grocery store) on the way home, which is AWESOME and I could spend a ton of money in there.  They have all kinds of "normal" foods (Old El Paso, Kraft, Top Secret Microwave Popcorn, Bagels, Cream Cheese, Cottage Cheese, Heinz Dill Pickles).  Of course it all costs a ton, comparably.  They have an incredible deli and meat market.  All there meat tells you where it's from, what it was fed, it's insane.  A bit overpriced on some items, but could be addictive.  I really shouldn't cook too much, there's so much good food out there to eat.  Even cheap food, like Ebeneezer's Kabob's and El Taco Loco!
 
But, I cooked dinner anyhow, just for fun.  Made Teriyaki Pork, potatoes and corn on the cob, with strawberries for dessert.  Decided to head back down to the Irish Pub (Dicken's) I was at earlier and see if we could throw some darts.  We did, and we could.  Spent a few enjoyable hours tossing back beers and darts.
 
This morning I was back in the gym, then off to buy movie tickets for "Scoop" tonight.  However, by 11 AM the 7:25 PM show was already sold out, so I bought them for Wednesday night.  You get to pick your seat, and we are in row H, seats 8 & 9.  These people are serious.  Had lunch at MIX again, then HAD to stop into Ben & Jerry's.  Wish that wasn't so close.  Next, out on a walking tour from Lonely Planet Hong Kong in our very neighborhood.  Dried fish market, Chinese medicine and bird's nest market, Cat Alley (which is like a flea market), antique row.  Not overly interesting, but gave me a better feel for where we are, and found a few other closer groceries.  Also saw a Pizza Hut!  I'm sure we will go there at some point.
 
Headed back to the City Super to buy salsa Ceaser Salad makings.  Had surf 'n turf and salad for dinner tonight, but decided to stay in and hang about.
 
Dogs have been barking quite a bit, guess I'm not used to doing so much walking.  Four lazy months at home has left me out of condition for big city life.  So, quiet night.
 
A few pics from ferry ride, Discovery Bay, and neighborhood.

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Star Ferry (which we ride to Kowloon, not Discovery Bay)

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Cutie cutie little junk out on the harbor

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Bridge from Lantau to Kowloon

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Sun & Beach at the same time! Doesn't happen often with the Stout's

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Hong Kong in the somewhat sunshine

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Kowloon in something other than haze

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Noonday Gun at Causeway Bay (in the rain)

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Bored vendor at the dried fish market

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Dried turtles. . .

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Tram running up and down our street

Saturday, November 25, 2006
 
Hope everyone has recovered from their Turkey Coma's and Pumpkin Pie Belly Aches.  Needless to say, we did not get a traditional Thanksgiving dinner here in Hong Kong (although I'm sure we could have, had we tried).  Got up like normal, and THE SUN WAS SHINING, so we got all excited and raced around so we could go up to The Peak (the number one tourist attraction in Hong Kong is to take the tram up to the top of the mountain, then take pictures of all of HK and Kowloon).  We haven't went up yet, as its been so dang cloudy we knew it would be a waste.
 
Of course, by the time we got down to the line to get the Tram, it was really cloudy again.  So, we decided to go have a cup of Joe and a bagel and played weather wait and see.  Did that, and it started to rain, so we bagged it and went back to the apartment, worked on some crosswords, lazed around.  Mike helped some of the guys get some of their information together for expense reports until about 3 PM, then it looked like it was clearing off a bit, so we decided what the heck, let's just go up there (it ain't like it's expensive or anything, about $8 roundtrip).
 
So.  This is a pretty steep tram, seems pretty much almost vertical.  It was built about 120 years ago, has never had an accident, and was only shut down once due to the track being washed away during a mud slide.  The Peak is where the rich people who live on Hong Kong Island live.  Not very many of them, either.  It is very quiet (except for the noisy shopping center that the tram lets you off at, and the one directly across from it), green, and serene.  There's a nice mile and a half walk around the peak that we did, giving you views of the other side of the island as well as HK.  We went out on the observation deck, looked at the clouds and smog, took some pics, then went on the walk (best part).  South side of the walk you could totally forget you were in HK, think you were in the rain forests of Costa Rica or something. 
 
But, before we went on our walk, we had our Thanksgiving dinner. . . at BURGER KING.  You know who's idea that was (HINT:  Not mine).
 
Weather turned a bit threatening, started to spit on us, so we jumped back on the tram and went home.  Mike's stomach was a little upset (he started taking the Chantix non-smoking pills that I've been on, sometimes they cause a little nausea), so we stayed in and watched "Good Night and Good Luck".
 
Friday was MOVING DAY.  We got up, I called home from 6:30 AM to 7:30 AM, jumped in the shower, packed our stuff, grabbed a cab, went cross town, and moved into our new digs.  It was a busy day.  Did three loads of washing/ironing, went to the grocery store, stocked us with beer and water, shopped for extra hangers and Bounce dryer sheets, looked for a coffee maker (found later that evening).  Sounds like very little, but on foot in a strange part of town, took all the day.  Was exhausted by the time Mike got home from work.  Had planned on making dinner, but opted to go out.  Walked 10 minutes over to SoHo, had some chow and a bucket of Sol beer, then stopped at a little neighborhood bar where they have $12 Happy Hour beer (about $1.75 US - great deal), had a couple more, and was sleeping by 11. 
 
Side note:  When I was moving into the new apartment, I asked our leasing agent if the weather lately was normal.  She said it had been a little warmer than usual.  I asked her, "What about the sun, it's been quite cloudy," and she looked at me really strange and said, "Oh no, it's winter, there's no sun anymore.  It's just colder and windy, but no sun," and I said, "NO sun???" and she said, "well, maybe, for a few minutes everyday, but not whole day of sun! IT'S WINTER!".  Huh.  Lovely.
 
Saturday morning found us waking up for the first time in our new apartment.  Out early to buy coffee, filters, and our new coffee maker (this is probably the 10th or 11th coffee maker we've bought around the world).  The apartment furnished us with a couple extra pans, a toaster, and an extra pad for our bed (these beds are HARD over here, although this one was better than the first one).  We are getting situated!  Found out my local grocery will deliver for free if I spend over US$50.  Easy, just throw a case of beer on there!  That will make life a little easier, as it's just far enough I don't want to walk it with a lot of stuff, but too close to take a cab and not feel embarrassed!
 
The grocery is called "Park 'n Shop" and has lots of western goods and familiar items.  The one by our old house was better, had a nice fresh fish and meat market, but I'll have to find something similar in this area.  The old one was also two floors, and had an escalator between them, with a special escalator for the shopping carts (see photo below).  I found it to be quite funny.
 
The Hong Kongian people seemed to be enamored with anything foreign.  Of course, there are plenty of Chinese and noodle restaurants around, but this town is sooooo INTERNATIONAL, and you can eat your way around the world in about four blocks.  They tend to eat dinner fairly early, around 6 or 7, and the restaurants seem to be packed to the gills with foreigners and locals alike.  Although you see a lot less foreigners in the noodle shops. . .
 
Relaxing afternoon, planning on going over to Kowloon tonight.  Made spaghetti for lunch, will grab a light snack at one of the bars across the way.  We have to go check out the Irish Pub we found last week, the only playable dart board we've seen so far, and find out how busy it is on a Saturday night.  Maybe we can throw a few games.  Couple other places I want to check out, too.
 
Oh, I keep forgetting to tell you that every night at 8 PM there is a night light show on the waterfront with all the major buildings on either side of the Harbor.  I guess Hong Kong is famous for this.  Never heard of it. . .   We haven't seen it yet.  Heard it is best seen from the other side of the water (Kowloon), so maybe tonight.
 
Tomorrow we are taking a ferry to Lantau Island to meet up with a gal named Maria (from New Mexico) and her husband.  She's a friend of our friend Scott.  We are having lunch, then going to some multi-cultural celebration.  They live about 2 miles from HK Disneyland. . . in a very posh ex-pat enclave.  Should be interesting.  Ferry ride is about 30 minutes.  Area is called Discovery Bay.
 
All for now, here's some crappy pics from the peak and a few other things.
 

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IFC (tallest) Building and view of HK. IFC is very near our new house

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Shopping cart escalator

Wednesday, November 21, 2006

Funny and true story:
 
The day before I left to come to Hong Kong (last week Wednesday), I talked to Mike on the phone.  He was upset about how things were wrapping up on the job in PNG, and was venting a little bit.  At the end of our conversation he happened to mention that he was concerned because his fingernails were turning orangy-brown, and so was the skin between his fingers. . .
 
I questioned him if he was using anything different, cleaning products, chemicals, etc., but he SWORE nothing had changed in his regime. 
 
I researched the problem briefly on Google, finding nothing about orange or brown nails and skin, but yellowing could be a sign of liver damage, so I figured he'd either contracted some strange tropical nail/skin fungus, or had finally just rightly done his liver in.
 
Upon our arrival in Hong Kong, I closely examined his Johnson & Johnson "Holiday" lotion that he had bought on his weekend jaunt to Cairns, Australia (when he had to renew his visa).  Seems it "gradually builds a beautiful, light tan" and has firm instructions to wash hands vigorously and thoroughly after use. . .
 
Guess who didn't read the directions.  Or even the front of the bottle.  Hence, his strange discolorations.  It was also in his eyebrows and along his hairline. 
 
Quite funny.
 
Okay, back to HK.  Went out in the rain to SoHo district for dinner last night, hit Uncle Willie's deli for pizza and Banger's and Mash.  Walked back to The Spot bar where we were the night before.  It's directly across from a Nepalese restaurant I want to try, and an Italian restuarant that does a BOOMING business.  Home early, I was sleeping by 10 PM, on top of my book.
 
Mike's co-worker called us at 1 AM to let us know he had arrived.  Thanks.  Now we both slept very little and very restlessly until morning.  Got up around 7:15, went down and had coffee at "our shop" with Mike, then went off to explore the park and try and get a run in (nobody faint, but I've QUIT SMOKING and as part of my inspiration to not smoke and not gain weight I've been JOGGING!  It sounds scary, but don't worry, I'm still eating bad and drinking a lot. . . ).  Park was small, lots of stairs and uphills (severe uphills, I'm not ready for those yet!), but managed to keep the bulk moving for about 40 minutes.  Came back to the apartment, cleaned up and headed back across the Harbor to Kowloon.  Mike and I walked around over there a lot on Saturday, but after reading my lonely planet on the area, seems we missed a few things by just a few streets, so wanted to re-investigate.  It was a "Market Run".  Did the Flower Market, the Goldfish Market, the Ladies Market, the Temple Night Market (which of course, wasn't happening as it was DAY), and tried to find the Jade market, but missed it.  Didn't care by that time, as I had been walking around in the rain for a couple hours already.  Jumped on the subway and came home. 
 
All the guys have finally made it here and we are planning to walk them down the hill to show them where the action is in a couple hours.  Here's some pics from the markets in Kowloon.

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SoHo garbage truck. . . waiting for load from Staunton Bar

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Nepalese and Italian restuarants across from The Spot in SoHo

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Odd but pretty flowers at the market

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Fish at the Goldfish Market. About 5 blocks of stores with fish in bags!

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Looking down the street at the Ladies Market, mostly cheap clothes and junk. . .

Oh yea, a little more Hong Kong facts and figures:
 
Money is the Hong Kong $.  One US$=about 7.8 HK$.  Beers start around HK$40 at Happy Hour, but we've paid as much as HK$58.  Dinner usually starts around HK$120/per person, but we've been eating lunch pretty cheap.  Sure I'll do some cooking to save beer money once when get settled in our new place this weekend. 
 
The only Chinese beer we've even SEEN on a menu is Tsing Tao.  Mostly everyone drinks Stella Artois, Carlsberg, or Heinies.  How exotic.
 
Dim Sum is almost the official Cantonese/Hong Kong food.  Haven't had any yet. . . enough said, don't yell at me.
 
There's a Ruth Chris Steak House here.  And a TGI Friday's, Hard Rock Cafe, McD's, KFC's, Pizza Huts, 7-11's, Starbuck's galore, many familiar Japanese fast food joints. . . ah, globalization, it's a beautiful thing. . . maybe.
 
Enough for now.  No plans for Thanksgiving tomorrow.  Heard it shouldn't be hard to find some bird around town.  Mike, of course, is not working.  Will be off and wandering somewhere, I'm sure.
 
HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A little Hong Kong background:
 
Hong Kong is an island off the coast of mainland China.  It was a British territory from 1843 until 1997, when it was "given" back to China.  It is considered to be part of China (along with Kowloon and the New Territories across the harbor on the mainland) but is operated under a very different government than mainland communist China.  It is not quite a democracy, and is still susceptible to mainland influence, but for the most part is allowed to be self-governing, giving the residents of Hong Kong much more freedom.  They consider themselves to be "better" than their mainland cousins, or at least more sophisticated (and they probably are).
 
The island of Hong Kong is quite small, maybe around 10 miles by 10 miles, and most of it is mountainous and uninhabited.  Only 10% of the actual island is the city of Hong Kong, and is home to almost 2 million people.  A very interesting fact that we just found out is that Hong Kong is "growing", almost on a yearly basis, as land reclamation projects have considerably narrowed the channel between Hong Kong and Kowloon on the mainland.  What used to be waterfront is now high rises, roads and ferry terminals. 
 
Kowloon and the New Territories, just a 7 minute ferry ride across the channel, are considered Hong Kong as well, and more than 70% of the population lives on that side of Victoria Harbor, making the total population of what is considered Hong Kong (the island, Kowloon, and the New Territories) 7 million people.  There is no bridge connecting the island to the mainland across Victoria Harbor, but the subways run underneath.  I don't know if there is a tunnel for cars, though. . .
 
The city is extremely navigable by foot, subway, trams, busses and very cheap taxi rides (at least in comparison to the other costs of the city) and we've managed to see quite a bit of it already.  Today was the first day Mike actually had to go to work, and that was only for about an hour, so we've had a nice mini-vacation together to discover and explore Hong Kong.  A little different than biz as usual, when we land and Mike goes to work and I try to get my bearings, then teach him. . .
 
Friday night after Mike arrived we jumped into a taxi and scooted to our Consulate arranged apartment, getting in about 10 PM.  We were a little disappointed in the size of our one bedroom apartment, and the location offered nothing in the way of a local pub that we could pop over for a nightcap before bed, but next door was a grocery store, so we went and grabbed a couple beers to aid us on our way to sleep.  That didn't take much, and we slept real good, if not a bit uncomfortably on our very hard bed. 
 
Woke up feeling great on Saturday, walked down about 10 minutes to the Consulate, grabbed coffee at a Pacific Coffee Company right across the street, and decided to jump on the subway and go across to Kowloon to look at a very cheap 2 bedroom apartment that I had found on the internet.  It was very small, although it was supposed to be almost 900 sq feet.  They must have included the elevator and hallway as part of the measurements for the apartment.  Plus, it was a bit of a ways out, and pretty nasty looking.  We surprised ourselves walking straight out of the subway station and right to the building, without a map or anything! 
 
After putting the mental nix on that place, we decided to see how long it would take to walk from there to the Harbor, so we set off on an adventurous walk through Kowloon.  It started out as a pretty local looking area, with outside markets of live fish and vegetables, all the signs in Chinese, and not another white face to be seen, and ended up with fast food joints, the Hard Rock Cafe, camera and mobile phone stores, and an Irish Pub that provided us with our first beer out in Hong Kong (sorry Dad!).
 
From Kowloon, we jumped the Star Ferry back across the Harbor and called and made an appointment to look at another apartment on Monday morning.  Walked around a bit, accidently discovering SoHo (an area SOuth of HOllywood Road) famous for its eateries and bars, and also for the world's longest escalator, which runs about 1/2 mile up from Central Market to the Mid-Levels, through SoHo.  Strange.  It's reversible, and it runs down from 6 AM to 10 AM for people on there way to work and school.  And, amongst the plentiful shops, bars, and restaurants along it is the EL TACO LOCO!!!  Hong Kong's version of Taco Bell. . . YEAH!
 
Saturday night (after I made dinner!!!  Pork chops and asparagus) we ventured out to a well known area of town called Wan Chai, which reminded us a lot of Roppongi Dori in Tokyo.  Lots of Westernized bars and westerners drinking it up through the night.  We made it until 2 AM.  Slept great (of course) and got up Sunday with the intention of exploring an area of town called Causeway Bay, where there seemed to be many serviced apartments.
 
Walked down to our local coffee house, had a couple cups, then down to the subway and over to Causeway Bay.  Exited and walked around a bit, had quite a different feel than Central (where we've been basically spending most of our time).  Walked through a local market where they were literally butchering fish.  This gal cut the head of one and the body continued to squirm and writhe for about ten minutes.  It was gross.  Also where we saw the pig snouts pictured below.  Most famous destination in Causeway Bay (or anywhere in HK it seems) is the mall, which is Time's Square in Causeway.  We decided to see how long it took to walk from Causeway Bay back to Wan Chai, where we had spent Saturday night.  Took about 25 minutes, and we had enough and jumped in a taxi home (so far we haven't paid more than US$5 to get anywhere in a taxi, besides our ride in from the airport)! 
 
Off to explore another popular drinking/eating/congregating area of Hong Kong on Sunday night called Lan Kwai Fong.  Very small area, lots of bars and restaurants.  A little swankier than SoHo, a lot swankier than Wan Chai.  Had some grub at a pub, walked around a bit, had a couple more beers and decided to see how long it took to walk over to SoHo from there.  Not long, and popped into a place for a quick nightcap before grabbing a cab home.
 
Monday morning we went to look at another apartment (one subway stop west of Central), that was a two bedroom with washer/dryer and a gym in house.  Not as nice as far as furnishings as where we are, but WAY more space.  Plus, they have a roof top terrace overlooking the harbor.  Price was a little less than what we are paying, so we took it.  Mike can walk to work almost the entire way on an elevated walkway that winds through the buildings of Central Hong Kong.  Takes about 25 minutes, keeps him out of the weather and the traffic.  Very convenient to SoHo and Lan Kwai Fong by foot or taxi.  And we booked one for young TJ as well, who arrives on the 5th of December.  Or, I think we did. . .
 
Had lunch at El Taco Loco, hung about the apartment most the afternoon, and walked down to Lan Kwai Fong for dinner.  Took about 15 minutes to walk there, we thought it was a lot further when we had been taking taxi's.  Home fairly early and to bed.
 
Mike went to work today for about an hour, still waiting for the rest of the crew to get here.  They are due in tonight, I believe.  Real world starts tomorrow with Mike going into work.  We move to our new apartment on Saturday (or maybe Friday if I decide to do it while Mike's at work).
 
Weather has been overcast and threatening rain with the exception of about twenty minutes total of sunshine since we've been here.  Today we are getting rain and thundershowers.  Not doing too much.  Went and had some Chinese food for lunch, Mike's doing some "homework" and I'm getting ready to read a book (haven't read a page since I've got here!!).
 
Enjoy a few pics!
 
 

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Pig snouts at wet market near Causeway Bay

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Me in Lan Kwai Fong, looking down the hill

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Clock Tower near Central

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Big Ole Building

Friday, November 17, 2006
 
I must say, that is a long time to sit on an airplane. . . or anywhere for that matter.  I was fortunate, though, and had a set of three seats on the window all to myself.  It wasn't a full flight, but I think I was the only one with such a luxury.  I probably slept a good 9 hours of airtime away!  Head feels a little thick right now, having some good ole Chinese Tea to try and clear the cobwebs. 
 
Still at the airport.  Decided to wait until Mike arrived.  My flight came in a little late, but it looks ike his is too.  Hopefully, he didn't change his flight in Australia and is actually on it.  Or, he's sitting at the hotel wondering where the heck I am!!  :-)
 
Good to finally be somewhere!