Hong Kong

A Trip to Macau!

Our trip in Hong Kong is winding to a close, and before we left we wanted to check out the nearby city of Macau. We had heard that Macau is basically a bigger and cleaner Las Vegas, and that’s pretty much how I would describe it. After we very nearly missed out ferry off the island (who knew we’d need to go through customs?!), we arrived and took a shuttle to the Venetian. It was the most modest of all of the casinos we passed, at least on the outside, but it was still very much over-the-top and every bit as Vegas-y as you might expect. Decorations and gold coloring filled the building, the entire thing was a giant shopping mall for the most expensive brands you can think of (and everything was marked up a solid 2x), and of course the casino itself was massive and occupied the heart of the building. It was a very cool experience to walk around and see everything, and of course the interior recreation of Venice is pretty fun to see.

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After the Venetian, we went over to Galaxy, which was a larger and golder casino next-door. Pretty much what you’d expect, again. Extravagant decorations, courteous wait-staff guiding us towards the casino, and restaurants and shops trying to rob you blind.

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After walking around and trying our hands at a slot machine (Lexi won a whole $23 HKD…so about $3 USD), we shuttled and ferried back to Hong Kong. It was a pretty crazy city, and I feel like I definitely would have enjoyed a longer stay. Or at least, I enjoy imagining a longer stay. Upon seeing the cost of such a venture, I would likely decide it wasn’t worth it for a trip to adult Disneyland.

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Hong Kong

Happy Chinese New Year!

February 8-10 is the festival of the Lunar New Year here in Hong Kong, and each day has a different celebration. The first day is the parade, which runs along a few blocks in the Kowloon side of the city. Lexi and I got there a couple of hours early, and got a decent spot along the end of the parade, and got to see all of the groups and floats go by. Before the parade officially started, many of the groups walked along the parade route and performed for the crowds. Performances ranged from dances and songs to drum routines and athletic displays. It was a lot of fun, and really the only strange thing was that the crowd didn’t seem to enjoy it. Performers would ask for cheers or the crowd to put their hands up, and nobody would do anything! It was weird and felt a bit awkward, but the show itself and the floats were all a lot of fun.

The second day is dedicated to the fireworks show. During the day we just walked around and visited a couple of temples (which were overflowing with incense and smoke) and waited for the fireworks show. Once night fell, the fireworks show began over the harbor. It was amazing! The crowd also seemed to enjoy this particular event, which made it even better. After an incredible fireworks display, we followed the crowds back into the city and went over to the touristy bar area of Lan Kwai Fong. We went to the 7-Eleven to get cheap beer, and walked around for a while watching the crowds and the bars. It’s definitely a fun area! Oh, I also tried some street food for dinner. I just ordered what the guy in front of me ordered, since the vendor didn’t speak English, and I ended up getting curry flavored fish balls. It was… interesting…

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Finally, today we went to the horse races. Apparently horse races are big on the last day of the new year celebration, so we decided to check them out. Unfortunately, there are two race courses, and we went to the wrong one on accident. There was still a full crowd gathered and watching the races on large screens, cheering as the horses came down the end of the race and holding onto their bets. I tried out some racetrack food, and we left to go to the right ground.

The right ground ended up being massively more exciting. The whole area was overflowing with people, and everyone starts screaming together as the horses come around for the end of the races. The interior of the stands was filled with spectators placing bets and ordering foods, and the entire event was pretty incredible. Even as someone who has never seen horse racing before, I had a great time watching everything and cheering for the worst horses to make comeback victories.

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Hong Kong

Victoria Peak and a Giant Buddha

The past few days we’ve stepped up our Hong Kong tourism, finally overcoming the jet lag and managing to stay up past 3PM. We hiked up Victoria Peak, an overlook for the entire city of Hong Kong, we explored the neighborhood of Central and saw the world’s longest outdoor escalator (how exciting), saw some giant New Years markets, and took a cable car up Lantau Island to see the Po Lin Monastery and a giant Buddha.

A couple of days ago we hiked up Victoria Peak. It was a ridiculously steep hill, at times I felt like a slight lean forwards would have me laying down. Just as my knees were recovering from Patagonia, I went ahead and destroyed them again. It was worth it, as we got to see an incredible view of Hong Kong from above.

On our way down, Lexi wanted to go see the world’s longest outdoor escalator. We went well out of our way to go find this famed mechanical marvel, only to find that it was a one-way escalator that was going up (as we were trying to go down). So instead of riding the longest escalator, we got to walk downstairs alongside the world’s longest escalator. And it definitely feels like the longest escalator when you have to walk down stairs alongside it. We wrapped up the day by going to Wan Chai to hang out in an English pub and watch soccer.

Yesterday we went out to Lantau island to see the Po Lin Monastery and the giant Buddha. We rode a 20-ish minute cable car up the island and got to see some great views of the island. And watch some planes take off at the airport, which was fun to see from above. In the final few minutes of the ride, the giant Buddha comes into view in the distance. After a short walk off the cable car, we walked up to see the Buddha closer. It really was massive, and afforded some beautiful views of the ocean from behind the statue. We descended from the Buddha to check out the Po Lin Monastery, and get some vegetarian lunch. It was surprisingly delicious, though I’m still not totally sure what we ate. I think some of it was sweet and sour lily flowers, some cinnamon flavored tofu maybe, some noodles, a pineapple roll, and other foods I’m still not sure on.

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The last thing we went to see on Lantau Island was the Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The walls were filled with porcelain Buddhas, the ceilings, walls, and floors were decorated in gold, and the center of the room was full of gold statues and decorations. Photos weren’t allowed, sadly, but it was just incredible. We tried out a new food, Dragon Beard candy (Chinese cotton candy, which is not nearly as good as the cotton candy I’m used to), got some chrysanthemum tea, and headed back. It was a pretty amazing day overall!

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Hong Kong

Life 13 Hours Ahead

At long last we’ve arrived in Hong Kong! Well, we’ve been here for a couple of days now actually, but it’s quite a struggle adjusting to such a big time change. A full 13 hours ahead of EST, I find myself getting sleepy at 2PM and waking up around 10-11PM, sleeping again until 4AM, and then being up until 2PM again. It’s difficult to adjust to, and with great effort (and the help of the Sun coming out today) I’m finally getting adjusted to life on this side of the world.

Hong Kong so far has proven to be a huge change from South America. Obviously the language barrier has gotten much more significant, going from Spanish to Chinese. There is a good bit of English in Hong Kong, fortunately, but I am completely unable to make an effort if somebody starts speaking to me in Chinese (whereas in Spanish I could ask them to slow down and eventually get their point).

We’ve also seen that much of the city is preparing for the lunar new year, with strings of lights up on skyscrapers, lanterns hanging from buildings, and golden monkeys all over the place. The new year starts on the 8th (I think) and I am very excited to see the city over the course of that particular event.

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Other than adjusting to time zones, we’ve spent much of our time getting lost (thanks, Apple Maps. Never listening to your walking directions again) and wandering through various neighborhoods of Hong Kong to see what the city is like. So far it’s been really cool, and I can’t wait to get to see more of the city once I can keep myself awake for a normal day (rather than 4AM to 2PM)!!

Also, as mentioned above, the lunar new year is the year of the monkey. Which happens to be my year! Hooray monkeys!

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