Thursday, February 16, 2006

We made it home in one piece and arrived home 2P.

No problems in customs but it took about 90 minutes from the time we pulled into the gate until we were outside O'hare.

We left this morning (Thursday) Hong Kong time, and the weather was beautiful.

The flight was a little more tolerable coming home thanks to an Ambien. At least we both slept for a good 6 hours.

Though my first impression when I got off the airplane last week was that the flight was just too long, I have since changed my mind.

It was well worth the trip to see this part of the world and I am sure we will visit again.

Though I think on the first trip it would be great to have a full 10 days. The jet lag hits you after the second day and you really have to adjust your body to the time zone coupled with all the walking, you can get pretty tired.

We understand that the best time of year to visit is October-May. The summers can have temperatures well over 100 degrees with high humidity.

Time for a few loads of laundry and a short welcome home nap.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

On Tuesday, Valentines Day, we gad difficulty in getting reservations for dinner to the restaurant that we may have preferred. Every popular place was booked.
We finally decided on Harlans, recommends by the concierge located in the mall near the hotel.
It turned out to be a great dinner, though slightly pricey.

Yesterday was Jim's day of leisure and also our last full day in Hong Kong. The weather could not have been more perfect. Temperature was in the mid to upper '70's.

We started our day of adventure by taking the Tram (Jim's first experience) to Causeway Bay, where I had been the last two days.

Upon our arrival there, we walked and walked and observed as much as we could grasp.

Walking through the food markets was an experience. Live fish for purchase, more fruits an vegetables than you can imagine. To our surprise, chickens could be purchased and were still alive. Not quite sure what occurs at the time of purchase but at least you know they were fresh.

We ended our final evening at a Gaia ,an Italian restaurant walking distant from the hotel.

We are packing up now (it is 7A) and will be heading to the airport for out 11:30A flight back to Chicago.( Our departure will actually be at 9:30P Wednesday night central time and will arrive Thursday at 11:45A.)

I will do a final entry with some other thoughts and reflections once we return.

Next stop duty free shopping at the airport, then 15 hours of flying the friendly skies.

Live Chickens

Jim at the Fish Market


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Information not found in travel books on Hong Kong:

- Since we have been here in Hong Kong we have not ecountered one person in a wheelchair.
Those who may require a wheel chair refuse to be seen in one. They will do whatever they can to avoid the chair in public. Though a cane for balance is fine.

-Number of years you attend high School
The scheduled time is 7 years. If your grades are good and passing, you can graduate in 5 years.

-Hailing a Taxi
The only place that a taxi cab cab be obtained is at Taxi Stands. They will not pick you up at any other location.

-When asking directions from a local, I always ask if they speak English.
After doing this on 3 occasions, I found that though they were very helpful, but seemed to be insulted that I would ask. I have found out that English is taught in schools at an early age. Now, I just ask the question and hope for a response.

-Over all the city is very clean, cigarette butts are nowhere to be found.
A few years ago the local government decided that the city needed to be cleaned up, so they imposed fines for littering. The charge for throwing a cigarette butt on the ground if caught and ticketed- HK5,000.00 or $625.00. Looks like the program works.

-Toyota's everywhere
Though all the Taxi cabs are a Toyota model, they are not the only car driven here by the wealthy. I do not think we have ever seen as many high priced cars in one place. Mercedes, Lambroghini, Porche' and Rolls Royce are common cars on the street. Though we have seen the Mini Cooper darting around the city.

-Stairs width
No reason that we have found, but with all the climbing through the city, the stairs are narrow in width. I am thinking feet are smaller and my size 13 shoe is not the norm.

-Crossing on "Walk"
Crossing at intersections in the city on the walk signal must be obeyed. When green, a bell rings rapidly. Once the bell stops you had better have completely crossed the street. If you are half way or almost the curb when the bell stops, run like hell or you will be run over by any motor vehicle.

The Tram

Slight rain today

Monday, February 13, 2006

Today was my day to venture out on my own since Jim went to the office at 8A.

I started out the morning seeking out the corner newsstand where I could purchase a voucher to recharge minutes on my cellular phone. (Martha Stuart helpful Note: For anyone to ever has the need to travel outside the USA and has a world phone, (most of the cell phones now have the capability) you can purchase a SIM card locally or online before you depart. You swap out your SIM card from your phone with the replacement. This will enable you to make cellular calls to the US for calling card prices. I paid $8.00 USD for 350 minutes of use. When finished swap out the card)

The streets were quite busy as any large city is during rush hour. I am sure I irritate more than a few people stopping in from of shops trying to located the correct address. But I succeeded with my purchase and was thrilled that the voucher worked and was so convenient to obtain.

After I made my first call to my daughter Erin I thought for a moment on how amazing technology has made life so convenient and how much we take it all for granted.

Here I am standing on a busy street in Hong Kong, dialing my daughter in Dubuque Iowa and being instantly connected for pennies a minute. What happened to the postcard we sent years ago that arrived after we came back from our trip.

My next course of action was to get to Causeway Bay for a day of shopping. Since I was not entirely pleased with our few hours on Kowloon Saturday, I was not quite sure what to expect.

I chose to be adventurous and take the Tram. The Tram has been around since 1904 and is the oldest form of transportation. It is the streetcar version, which I have no recollection, of Chicago. The cost 2.00HK for a trip or about .25 USD. Such a deal.

The Tram gave me the opportunity to see the city from a different perspective. Traveling with people going to work or just crossing the city. The people are very helpful. Each time I have asked to directions from anyone they have been more than accommodating. On my Tram ride out the girl who I asked for directions was also on the same Tram. She went out of her way to ensure that I got off at my stop.

I spent the next 4 hours or so going to small street vendors and some excellent small local shops and department stores. There are bargains galore if you know what you are looking for and know your prices. I know that many of you who are reading this would have thought you had died and gone to Value City Heaven. This area is where locals shop and prices are slightly better.

I shopped til I dropped and eventually found the correct Tram to take back to Central, our area where the hotel is located.

Jim finished his day by 5:30, and we had a relatively early dinner at 8P. Our dinner choice tonight was Thai Cuisine. Not very spicy but excellent.

Below are some pictures of the Causeway Bay area.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Sunday a day of rest.

Jim spent most of the day working and preparing for his next few days in the office.

I relaxed a read by the pool. Though pleasant, it was cool and windy.

Late in the afternoon we walked left the hotel and walked around the area. On Sunday many of the shops are closed and the restaurants open in the evening.

This is one of many streets that will be overcrowded tonight with people from the bars/restaurants on both sides.

Typical street in the surrounding neighborhoods.

While we were crossing the pedway, there was a large number of women sitting/gathered along the rail. Some were eating, playing cards or just socializing.
Due to the stong winds today, they had cardboard erected to form a makeshift shelter.

I inquired to a local women as to what type of gathering was occurring.
She informed me that these women, very few men, were Philippine domestic, and Sunday was there day off. They have no place to go, so they gather throughout the city.

As we continued to walk, this same scenario occurred over and over again.

There were groups everywhere. In squares, on street curbs or the small parks.
We were amazed at what we had observed. The numbers had to be in the thousands.

One group had a decorations to celebrate one of the woman's birthday.

It was a Womens Club meeting, only outdoors.

This was an eye opening experience that made us stop and reflect how other people who are not homeless, but still have no where to call home.

Below a photos of the various areas we passed.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

On Saturday we tried to play catch up with the time change.
Our bodies were telling us to slow down just a bit. So we listened.
We spent most of the morning realaxing at the Spa in the hotel in the whirlpool and sauna.

Lunch was a typical American meal of McDonalds Value Meal #2.

After lunch we took the ferry, a 7 minute ride across to Kowloon to do some shopping. We walked for what seemed to be miles to end in an extremely crowded street markets. People jammed in small streets. We both decided that it was not the best day for shopping so we hailed a cab and returned to the hotel by 4P.

Dinner was at 9:30 at a great restaurant called At The Fringe. It is owned by a women from Australia who also has a sister restaurant in Shanghai.

Our first course was a Goat cheese Salad. Jim had Lamb and I had Suckling Pig, accompanied by a bottle of Hunter's Pinot Noir.


Kowloon Jim - Checking out our location

Friday, February 10, 2006

Today we set out to explore Hong Kong on foot.

We walked through the Central Area of Hong Kong.

Getting around can be difficult if you have limited mobility. Though there are bridges, pedways across the majority of the busy streets. Around every corner is another set of stairs to climb.

The streets and sidewalks are very clean and the residents seem to take pride in keeping their city clean.

We wandered through food shopping markets, displaying today's fresh pick of fruits and vegetables.

Jim at the market

We observed many school buses of young children being dropped off and meeting their parents. All the children were nicely dressed in their school uniforms.

One of the many stairs we climbed

No MayTag here

We decided since the weather was clear we would venture Victoria Peak.
We took the Peak Tram, that has been in operation since 1888.

As we were going up in the tram toward the Peak, the view of Hong Kong grew before your eyes. Once at the top the view was nothing more than breathtaking.

Lunch Break at the Peak

View from Victoria Peak

We had dinner at the Peninsula hotel at the restaurant Felix.

Jim had Rack of Lamb and I had a Fillet of Beef, which reminded me of London Broil.

We ended the evening back at hotel for our night cap.
Interesting people at the bar. A women who was world traveler and Angus who was born in London but resided in Singapore with his expecting wife who is a native of Canada. His parents move to the US and resisded in Rockford Il, where my sister and her family lived for 15 years.

Such a small world.

After our long day we retired for the evening.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Feeling totally refreshed this morning after a great sleep.

We had dinner last night at the Peking Garden. A recommendation from the concierge.
Walking distance from the hotel through Central Hong Kong and past many high end stores.

Dinner was perfect local cuisine. The menu was the size of a short story with many choices.
We opted for recommendations from our server who suggested,Dim Sum, Tempura Shrimp, Noodles, Chicken Cashew and seasonal spouts with garlic. All were perfectly prepared.

We are trying to master chop sticks, but after 20 minutes I was using a fork to pick up the noodles.
Half way through dinner I made a comment to Jim that this definitely NOT LaChoy.

After dinner we walked to a recommended area, Lan Kwai Fong, for an after dinner drink. The area was very lively, with bar/pub/club one after another. The area was very similar to SOHO in London. Narrow streets, winding from one establishment to another. We stopped for a cocktail and returned to the hotel.

One observation so far is that the city is extremely clean.

Our final stop of the evening, around midnight was at the Blue Bar in the hotel. Great atmosphere and very lively for that time of the evening.

Today, the weather is beautiful, around 65 degrees. We are heading out to start and explore the city.
Our hotel room view of Hong Kong

We made it here to Hong Kong.

The flight was smooth but was 15 hours. It seemed much longer than I had anticipated.
- Our flight path:
-Left Chicago
-Flew over Green Bay
-Northwest to Minneapolis
-Elizabeth Islands
-Arctic Circle/North Pole
-Arctic Sea
-Over Siberia
-Down over mainland China
-West of Beijing/Shanghai
-Landing over the China Sea
Fortunately, I switched seats, had a window and empty seat in between.

I finished reading my travel book on Hong Kong, read and completed Night, and started Memoirs of a Geisha.

Hotel, Four Seasons, opened in September is beautiful.

We are going to take showers and head out for a casual dinner at 9P.

Two bars are located in the hotel that I am sure we will visit for a night cap before a good night's sleep.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Our departure is quickly approaching.
All we have to do is pull out the suitcase and pack. Always planning ahead.
Limo is picking us up tomorrow at 9A. We have a noon flight from O'Hare on United non-stop to Hong Kong. The flight will be just over 14 hours and 7787 air miles.
We will arrive at 6:05PM Thursday. Our return will be Thursday 2/16.
This will be the longest flight that we have taken, so I am trying to prepare myself.
Weather in Hong Kong is spring like, with temperatures in the 60-70 degree range and very little rain.
Jim's schedule has changed slightly, so he will be able to explore the sights this weekend before his deposition on Monday and Tuesday.
I have changed the timestamp on the blog to reflect the current time/day in Hong Kong

Next Post: China