About Me

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Yilan, Taiwan
I'm a Social Studies teacher and single mom from Colorado and have lived here for 9 years. Taiwan is an excellent base for us explore Asia, while living in relative (gun free) safety, while benefiting from a cheap and efficient national health care system. The people are amazing too. I have friendships that are 14 years old and I'm always making new ones.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

New Years Weekend in Hong Kong





After work on Thursday, a van from Kaohsiung Airport picked us up at my front door and we with my workmate Steve and his girlfriend Candy took a 2 hour drive (traffic)to the airport, checked in with Dragon Air (what a cool name for an airline) and waited, starving for our plane (there were no places to eat at our terminal). The flight took an hour and we were served dinner.

We arrived at HK Internat’l airport at 10pm New Years Eve, quickly got our luggage and stayed in line forever at immigration. It was a bit difficult w/ Z, she was restless and it was very late past her bedtime, plus we had dressed for the forewarned HK winter and were wearing layers and my hands were full of bags and big jackets and she wanted to be held (the theme of the trip). Thankfully my workmate Steve and his girlfriend Candy were there to keep an extra eye on Z and provide her with some other entertainment as mom can be too boring sometimes. Z and I took an extra 5 minutes, as checking twice a child’s info, especially in HK (human trafficking hotspot) was just fine with me. And then Candy got into some trouble and the HK immigration man told her to step aside she wasn’t allowed through and he didnt bother to help her. Steve wasn’t going to leave her there, so on the other side, praying a silent prayer I saw a reasonable looking immigration man and told them she didn’t have a visa (who would of thought a Taiwanese person would need a visa to HK for 3 days? maybe since the takeover by Beijing?). Steve told me not to wait and go to the hotel so I did. I got the last free hotel shuttle bus at 11 and after check in, watched the fireworks display over the harbor from local TV. It was a late night for little Z.

The next morning got a call from Steve and they had made it back to the hotel at 2 something after buying an expensive emergency visa and taking some other kind of free bus to our hotel in Kowloon City. I had brought a whole stash of organic instant oatmeal and used this as a small filler until we found something in the city proper. Thankfully this saved me some money and convenience, as the hotel breakfasts were too expensive and breakfast shops a walk down the block (Z literally had to be carried the whole time).

Did I mention 15 kg Z needed to be carried the whole time? I didn’t mind that much the first day. I brought my handmade reversible red kid wrap I made in CO when I was 8 months preg. I could wear her on the front back or side and my backpack full of camera, water, map on the other side. Anyway, we met Steve and Candy in the lobby around 10 and took a local bus into Kowloon’s tourist district found a cheap noodle and rice porridge place for brunch, filled up and parted ways. Z did not want Steve and Candy to leave and well, honestly I didn’t either. Its challenging enough navigating one’s way in a brand new intense city and that is fun for sure, but with a kid, I’d like to be more careful. Still I just had a vague plan, a map, some money and the whole day.

First I went down to the harbor and bought a ticket on a double-decker bus and then walked down the along the harbor at the Avenue of the Stars, took some photos, bought a coffee and snack at Starbucks, and took the bus tour. Z liked to be on the bus and after the hour tour was over (Kowloon tour), she fell asleep in my arms and I didn’t want to wake her or carry her walking, so I went on the next bus tour and just held her in my arms. It was warmish, the sun was shining I got some sun on my face, took off my coat and settled in. When she woke, we walked back along the harbor and took the famous Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island, took the double-decker tour of Hong Kong island, then got off to take the tram up Victoria peak. By now the sun just went down and the line for the tram (well not exactly a line, more like a throng that spilled onto the streets and around the corner down the block). I didn’t know where to start, so I accidentally found a sign with my double-decker bus company logo and from there (at the front of the line off the street) lined up. The throng from there was packed like sardines, I held Z in my arms for a good hour before we got into the tram and I was tired. We had walked a lot, despite the buses and standing in line carrying her exhausted me.

Inside the tram, I at least got a seat. The ride was short, 10 minutes and very disorienting. We were going up at such a steep angle, all the apartment buildings looked like they were the leaning tower of Pisa. At the top was a little shopping mall and we caught a bite and some water and headed back for the bottom. The line down the tram was just as crazy so I opted to take a bus down. I had to walk outside and around the corner and it was freezing and windy. Once I got to this big bus depot, I had no idea which one to take and just walked to a line, and basically was in the front, talked to some people from India and waited for 10 minutes. They all had waited for an hour and when I was boarding this little shuttle bus I missed a step, twisted my ankle, pretty bad and fell on my knee and elbow. I was carrying Z on my front and she was unhurt, I had somehow taken the fall and had to pull myself up to the stairs to the closest seat. When we got out I had to limp to the Star Ferry terminal and waited for the next one, then on the Kowloon side I didn’t know which bus to take back to the hotel, so I walked to the Metro and the signs were so unclear I kept hobbling in circles and decided to walk to the next Metro stop, and that was closed and somehow ended up in a seedy area with lots of police and Nigerian men standing around and finally took a taxi. It was a late night and I was exhausted.

The next morning my ankle was swollen and I couldn’t even bare any weight. I thought it might improve after my body wakes up a bit, but it only improved slightly. I went into Kowloon’s tourist area with Steve and Candy and by chance, (Steve asked a newspaper stand guy for a typical dim sum place and he pointed to the door right behind us) found the Dim Sum place we were dreaming about on the flight over). We sat down and stuffed ourselves with different dumplings, pancakes with rice flour, ending with a red bean pudding and lots of tea. After splitting the bill we parted. What a treat to be in the middle of the most touristy area and the only tourists in the Dim Sum place full of locals. Just this food in this place, relaxed, made my trip. They didn’t even speak Mandarin or English, it was phenomenal.

Since Z didn’t really like the crowds we headed north to the Diamond Heights district and enjoyed the peaceful, uncrowned serenity of a Tang dynasty garden (free) and the adjacent Buddhist nunnery. Z could walk and run and she enjoyed the nature. When she began to be fussy and ready for her lunch and nap we went to the nearby shopping mall which has the biggest cinema complex in HK and Z watched her first big screen movie. I thought she might sleep through it. Unfortunately, there were only tickets to Alvin and the Chipmunks (could any kid movie possibly be more annoying) row 4 and she didn’t sleep. She got a second wind and loved it. That shopping mall also has the biggest English bookstore in HK, so of course I had to go there and bought so many books for Z. (Of course when Mommy wants to buy books for herself, Z thinks its time to go). I really wanted to take her ice-skating there, but with the state of my ankle and how I continued to abuse it, that wasn’t possible. I had made plans to meet Candy and Steve on the opposite end, in Hong Kong island for dinner, and with the great Metro system, with one transfer was on time. We found this little place that sold Middle East food and Indian curries and the feta cheese was the best Id ever had, its was creamy and rich. We went for a beer in a nearby empty, bar (Sam Adams my home favorite) and then I went back to the hotel around 8pm (Metro + taxi this time no star ferry and subsequent madness like the night before). After our night shower I packed for the return back to Taiwan. ON our flight back we had female pilot which I thought was pretty cool. In the airport we met another co-worker Megan and her boyfriend who also returned from HK/Macau.

I think Hong Kong would be an exciting place to live. I was surprised how many people spoke Mandarin, how many dance and yoga studios I saw, the variety of international food, the number of these insanely large shopping mall complexes, like gigantic temples to capitalism, (“mall” just seems like such a small word for these places) and these in your face elite, shopping boutiques, and 7 star hotels for the stinking rich. Id like to go back and explore the islands, this time stay on Hong Kong island, see the view from the Bank of China, do the tram again and take some photos and take a junk boat ride. I asked myself the same questions I usually ask myself, I wonder if I will ever make it back there again?

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