Hong Kong and Macau

James here for a guest post! The “Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China” wouldn’t stamp our passports with Chinese stars, but the city of just over 7 million people has heavy Chinese influence. British influence too. Their people speak Cantonese and English.

We left Tokyo early that morning, and the train ride from Hong Kong Int’l Airport to the city was only about 25 minutes. We overshot our cheap rental unit by a block or two, and found ourselves in a local meat market shaded by huge global banking firms. Looking at the low priced fish and fruit being sold to locals for pennies to the dollar, I remember thinking the wage gap between rich and poor must be pretty huge.

The other thing was that it was hot! Not the dry kind of heat we get in the western states, but the kind of heat that makes the air weigh twice what it ought to. Our clothes stuck to us like glue.

Anyways, we got our things sorted, took a nap, and went on a pub crawl! The roads actually have a series of moving walkways and escalators elevated above the traffic, and all the bars were pretty much accessible via this engineering. We met a Spaniard wearing an Oakland Raiders hat and a couple from India living in Dubai. It was fun!

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The following day consisted of riding an old trolley the top of Victoria’s peak. The views up here were so good that we decided to spend the entire day up there. We ate dinner at none other than Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co. and watched a sunset over fried appetizers (sorry, Crystal) and Caesar salad.

Here is a picture from Victoria’s peak during the day….

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… and at night. Pretty spectacular.

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Now, if you were to ask me what I wanted to do the next day I don’t know what I would have said, I probably would have just wanted to wander the streets and take pictures of Hong Kong from below. What our friends Cher and Mike suggested was that we instead grab a ferry to Macau for the day. Macau is a Portuguese colony that claims itself as the “Las Vegas of Asia”. We totally went. It was only 45 minutes on a boat.

Macau and Hong Kong bore similarities, except rather than the locals living in the shade of global banking firms, they host big casinos instead!

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We made our way to the old town, the Portuguese part. It was like jumping into Europe for an afternoon.

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They had old forts, cathedrals, you name it.

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We clamored up to a viewpoint and met some women in traditional garb on the way.

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A view of residential Macau.

resizedThis city was packed!

Macau’s casinos were a little anticlimactic, only because they lacked a certain bustle of a Vegas casino. It didn’t stop Mike and I from playing the penny slots though… Too bad the house always wins. We went back to Hong Kong 40 HKD poorer, the price of a day’s supply of bottled water. (Sorry fellow hippies, can’t drink the tap).

Our friends caught a bird back to the states, but my travel buddy and I had one extra day to kill. We rode a ferry to the other side of the bay, Kowloon, and looked back at the city. If you like cityscapes, Hong Kong is a must see.

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They also have these traditional boats called “junkers” that will take you up and down the bay for cheap. They light up at night and add a lot of flavor to the hazy atmosphere.

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That’s pretty much it! This leg of our travels was pretty great. I think a lot of foreigners live in Hong Kong, so it was easy to find non-traditional cuisine and shopping. Maybe next time we’ll spend a little more time sampling local food and even try and find some shrines or temples. Apparently there is even a big Buddha nearby, similar to the one we found in Seoraksan. The fun thing about these stops is you can’t see it all in one trip, all the more reason to come back some day. Thanks for reading guys!

There IS a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it’s dim

Imagine being blind-folded with your wrists tied behind your back. You try navigating your way around an unknown, new area. You start slow until you feel comfortable and in control and once you feel empowered your faced with a new barrier. You ask for help only to receive answers in a language you don’t understand.

I know I’ve hinted before about my frustrations from my past year and I don’t want make it sound like it was oh so horrible but it was an intense year. Continue Reading

The Journey Begins: Tokyo

“Blink and you’ll miss it” they say. Well that’s the truest words I’ve ever heard. Our year teaching in Korea, that’s South Korea for those still asking, has come to a conclusion. I can’t really believe it. We’ve been traveling three weeks and it’s barely starting to sink in that we’re not going back and our time teaching and living there is finished.

The last week in Korea made my head spin. There was too much going on from packing, mailing stuff home, rushed bank trips, saying goodbye to all the students, and squeezing in quality time with friends.

Continue Reading

Dear South Korea

Dear S. Korea,

I’m leaving soon. So I am reflecting on the memories we’ve had together. I was with you for nearly 380 days! Yes, I left you for a short vacation here and there but we basically spent an entire year together.

Spend enough time any where and there will be good days and bad. You made me laugh, you made me cry. I felt bliss and frustrated, thrilled and bored, I suppose all the average feelings someone has in a typical amount of time.

To be honest, I’m not sure if we ever completely understood each other. I felt like I tried. I gave an honest effort to understand your side of things. To look at your past, your trends, and not judge too quickly. It’s just at the end of the day we’re too different. I felt too much of myself slipping away to continue on. Continue Reading

What Happened When I Did 30 Challenges For 30 Days

There was a lingering cloud of blah hovering over me for too long. I was making too many excuses, had a terrible attitude, and was playing the pity me card far too often. So I knew I needed to make some changes and also have a good push to finish the last month teaching in South Korea.

When I stumbled across the 30 challenges for 30 days and read the pitch I was completely sold. At $20 I do believe it’s a bit overpriced but it’s a 100 page document filled with detailed information about the 30 challenges, the benefits of the challenges, and a spreadsheet to keep track of your completion.

Twenty dollars could easily be spent on other things that wouldn’t help change habits … restaurants, new clothes … Plus, thirty days is the perfect amount to build some new habits. I was ready. Continue Reading

We’re Walking Like Fools Because Our Legs Still Ache!

Although it was a Saturday we woke up with the sun, pulled on our shoes, and walked towards the GS convenient store to meet our friends. Lucky for us one friend owns a car that fit all seven of us. I was feeling ambitious, my legs antsy, ready for some activity. After two hours in the car and a breakfast of bibimbap, we made it to Jirisan National Park. Continue Reading

newPeople

It’s about that time. Time for another change. A new chapter. The next adventure. Change of scenery. I claim to have location ADD because I can never seem to last in one place very long. I think the only way I graduated from one university without transferring was leaving every summer for the needed change.

The more I succumb to my location ADD the more I’m understanding the pros and cons. Pros being I’ve been able to live in some incredible places and meet amazing people. Cons: I have to leave my nook and say goodbye to dear friends. Continue Reading

Another Beauty: Boriam Temple

Whew. It’s been awhile since I’ve written. I’m not very consistent but I’m working on it. You’ve all been busy with summer fun festivities anyway, right?

A few weekends ago James and I hopped on a bus and headed to a little island southwest of Gimhae called Namhae. We were welcomed with our very own Golden Gate bridge as we crossed onto the island.

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From the bus terminal we started our jaunt towards the beach. When a taxi passed us we didn’t hesitate to wave it down. It wasn’t long until we realized how quickly the meter was ticking and the starting price was a whopping 4,000 won! That’s like $3.50! I know, I know you all are laughing at my “face” and screaming, Yeah, what a rip off! Well, in my defense we’ve been completely spoiled with starting fees of about $2 and I honestly can’t remember ever paying more than $10 for a lengthy ride.

The taxi fiasco and scarcity of buses caused us to arrive at the beach a bit later than expected. It turned into one of those moments we really wished we had a car. So enjoy those drives most of you get to take! Continue Reading

The Meaning Behind the Motto

I don’t remember the exact moment I created this motto but I do remember why. I was working at a dry cleaners in Logan, Utah as a freshman in college.

This was not a pleasant work environment. I swear everyone walked around with scrunched eyebrows and a permanent scowl on their face. The steam made everyone sweat. I was one of the lucky ones that got to work near the opened front door that welcomed any form of a breeze. Continue Reading

Why Fears Shouldn’t Stop You From Traveling

Once my plan to teach English in South Korea became more finalized I started sharing the news with others. I never knew what kind of response I would receive. I honestly expected to have the same level of excitement I was feeling returned, but that certainly wasn’t the case. I tried to refrain from eye rolling and produce a polite laugh when I got the all too common, “Well, you’re not going to North Korea, right? … Hehehe”.  Continue Reading