My Awesome Trip Part 3: Hong Kong

13 Dec

This is the third and final installment of updates from my recent trip to China and Hong Kong. For part 1 (Beijing), click here. For part 2 (Shanghai), click here.

As promised, I’ll start with my train trip from Shanghai down to Shenzhen and then ultimately Hong Kong (from here on out, “HK”). It was almost 20 hours long, and went through the night. The cheaper “hard sleeper” beds on a longer train trip are basically 3-tiered bunks, smushed very close together and with no privacy whatsoever. I found mine pretty quickly, and was pleased to see it was a bottom-bunk. Not realizing this train was a LOT slower than the one I took to Shanghai, I began to get a little worried that I’d end up in HK too soon. For some reason I couldn’t for the life of me remember when I’d arrive, and started questioning my travel-planning ability. Thus ensued the seven or so hours of worrying and wondering where I would sleep that night, should I arrive at nightfall (a worry made worse when you have no way of asking someone, just to make sure). But when they started selling packaged dinners around 7pm, and then when  they turned off all the lights at 10pm, I realized it was stupid to worry. Finally I was convinced that I’d be in HK at the proper time, and I was able to relax and enjoy the journey – well, for the most part. The anecdotes that bear mentioning:

  • When you have the bottom bunk on a train in China, people will use it as their personal bench while chatting with their friends, playing cards, or looking out the window. I was  never quite able to stretch my legs until lights out, because a woman was parked at the foot of my bed. 
  • Most bathrooms in China are squat toilets. Now imagine, if you will, using a squat in the middle of the night, on a clackety train car, in a room where the floor is covered in pee. All you have to stabilize yourself is a pretty unappealing-looking bar attached to the wall and covered with a  film of mysterious goo. And there is no toilet paper. Now imagine you’ve finished your task, only to realize there’s no flush, and the hole in the bottom of the squat isn’t open at this time. What do you do? March right out of there with your head held high, ’cause you’re in China, baby, and these things happen.
  • It’s the middle of the night. Finally no one is sitting on my bed. I’ve slept for a good four or five hours so far. I’m in that half-sleep state where every little noise wakes you up in between spurts of light sleep. And now the man on the sleeper next to mine is having what can only be called the “burp-ups.” Not really hiccups, because there’s definitely some force there; not really true burps, because they’re coming at a pretty consistent rate of about once per twenty seconds. And they’re not going away, folks. Does this man bother to close his mouth? No. To me it sounds like he’s deliberately forcing each one out, and after about half an hour of jolting awake to the sound of a new, very wet-sounding belch, I’m convinced he’s doing it just to keep me awake. I do not like that man. (To be fair, it’s quite normal for people in China to burp, pick their noses, and hork up large masses of spit in public. Maybe he found my silence suspicious.)

Once off the train, I walked underground from Shenzhen to Hong Kong. Long lines and confusion about what papers to fill out made the last stretch of my journey somewhat painful. But to be standing in a line, half-delerious from lack of proper sleep, wearing a hat to cover my greasy hair, and the same smelly, baggy sweater I was wearing yesterday, not even thinking about the fact that I haven’t washed my face or brushed my teeth, and to be right behind a group of modelesque and perfectly pristine Russian girls – that’s just annoying. This is how I exited the People’s Republic of China; the lowly peasant to their aristocrat.

It was Friday noon when I finally made it to my hostel. I stowed my luggage there for the two hours I had to wait till check in. Biding my time till the moment I was allowed to take a shower, I wandered around the area a bit, making my first impressions. 1) It’s humid here! It’s warm! There are tropical-looking flowers! 2) Wow, there are a lot of people here! 3) I’m STARVING. Where can I sit down to eat without drawing attention to my unfashionable train-self? 4) Okay, it’s really hot. I want to take off my hat, but I can’t. But it’s hot and I’m sweating. Why is it so hot?

True suffering, my friends. My first happiness was the chicken ceaser wrap I found at a cafe way up on the third floor of a shopping mall, where I could look down at all the people, but where they would never think to look up at me. My second happiness came at the 2pm check-in time, when I discovered how amazing the Yesinn@Causeway Bay hostel is. The shower was amazing, but so was everything else! And again I got a bottom bunk!

That evening I met up with an old friend, Samantha, and her boyfriend Nick. Fantastic people! I won’t be able to say enough good things about them, so I may as well start this off by saying how much I LOVED their showing me around and introducing all the HK foods to me. It was Friday night, so the natural thing to do seeing as I was in a new city was…to join their bible study! It was fantastic! I met all these people I’ll probably never see again, but who welcomed me with real interest and love. At the end of a good discussion, everyone decided to pray for me. The discernment some of those people had was astounding. Without realizing it, they prayed for all the things I’ve been struggling with on this year of service, and they affirmed that I am in the right place, at the right time. It was truly a God moment; more than a wink – it was a nudge. Hey, Deborah. This is God talking. I’m your Sovereign Lord, and everything’s in control because I planned all this out for you. So just. stop. second-guessing yourself.

The next day I cruised around Hong Kong Island in a Big Bus. These are double-decker, open-top busses that drive you to tourist points and allow you to hop on and off as much as you want. Instead of a human tour-guide, they provide you with headphones and a choice of 10 languages – then, as you pass by points of interest, you’re told of the history and given trivia about this and that. I highly the Big Bus company to any traveler! This was the perfect crash-course to HK.

I “hopped off” the bus at Victoria Peak, where you can take a tram to the top. This tram has been running since the early 1900’s (thanks, Brits), so it’s a neat little bit of history. You’re supposed to be able to see EVERYTHING from the peak, but alas, I went up on one of the worst possible days. It was foggy and I couldn’t see anything, but it was my only chance in such a short time there, so I took it anyways. It wasn’t a total bust – I bought a few fun souvenirs at the shops up there! (Lesson = retail therapy fixes everything?)

That afternoon I met up with Sam and Nick again, and they took me to a restaurant on Kowloon. There, we enjoyed all the typical HK dishes, cool fusions of Chinese and British food. Delicious steamed greens with butter and nuts, braised and crispy-fried pork belly, and baked rice were the order of the day. I even got in the spirit of things with a red bean ice drink.

In case you didn’t know or hadn’t caught on, I suppose now would be the time to tell you that Hong Kong was officially a British colony until 1997. Now it’s a “Special Administrative Region” of China, but it still remains somewhat of a cultural anomaly. On the one hand you have Chinese-looking people everywhere and you’re surrounded by the Chinese language. On the other hand, there are double-decker busses, trams, and European-style architecture. You’ll see signs that say Wan Chai, Sheung Wan, Tsim Sha Tsui; but you’ll also notice many very British-sounding names like Hennessy, Admiralty, and Queen’s [fill in the blank].

So after our British-Chinese food, Nick parted ways and Sam took me around Kowloon. We ate dessert at this all-mango place (the menu was very orange), where my concoction featured mango ice cream, chunks of mango, mango sauce, coconut milk, and tapioca balls. WOW! There was a lot going on in that bowl, but it was quite delish. At 8pm we watched the (somewhat overrated) light show that happens on the bay every night. Basically you listen to cheesy music while various buildings on Kowloon and Hong Kong Island light up or shoot out lasers. Sam and I finished the night with a trip back on Star Ferry, another HK gem that’s been around since 1880!

The next morning was, sadly, my all-too-soon departure date. I said goodbye to the fascinating Hong Kong with a classic style breakfast, and a walk through Victoria park. I’m sad that I didn’t get more time there, since it feels like there was so much more I didn’t get to see or experience. Still, I got a good initial feel for the city, and got to check off everything on my list. For those looking for a cool place to go on an Asia trip, Hong Kong is a definite must-see, even if only for 2 days!

There’s not much else to talk about except the flight back to Seoul. It was pleasantly uneventful, except for the mid-flight, steward-led exercise routine. Since I’m on a recommendations streak, I may as well recommend that you should try to fly JinAir at least once. It’s nothing if not a fun airline. Their colour is lime green, they give you lunch in a perfect little green box, their flight attendants wear baseball caps, and they actually blast exercise music and lead everyone in seat-aerobics in the middle of travel. And people like it! That’s the best part. I, the embarrassed foreigner, somehow still felt stupid about the arm stretches, hand-self-massaging and enthusiastic clapping, even though everyone else was doing it. But never again will I just be the observer. The next time I’m subjected to airline aerobics, I’m participating, darn it!

It may have been a vacation, but the Yes-Man approach will most certainly remain a fixture in my life. I’ve had way too much fun (and too many unforgettable encounters with God) to quit now.

The End!

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4 Responses to “My Awesome Trip Part 3: Hong Kong”

  1. Kaite December 15, 2012 at 2:46 AM #

    This was my favourite post yet. Felt like a little piece of HK. Too bad I wasn’t there to kick that woman off of your bed for you, but as I missed out on that bathroom, I’m not all that sorry.

    • Deborah December 15, 2012 at 1:01 PM #

      Haha. Thanks Kaite! Glad you liked it!

  2. Carol Wiens December 13, 2012 at 11:23 PM #

    I love you enthusiasm to try everything. You are very adventurous taking the slow train to HK and the description of the bathroom – brought back some pretty nasty bathroom memories. Makes you wonder how the locals can stand such a disgusting bathroom.

    • Deborah December 14, 2012 at 2:39 PM #

      Ugh. Terrible! Anyone who’s taken the train in a foreign or developing country knows exactly what I’m talking about.

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