Wednesday, September 19
Valerie: We arrived in Hong Kong on Wednesday morning after spending all night on a train from Yangshuo. Riding the train was a neat experience. We bought a sleeper cabin, with four bunks and had the very tiny space all to ourselves. It was a good thing we decided to buy the extra two beds because there would have been no room for our luggage otherwise. (Our suitcases shared the top bunks.)
Thursday, September 20
Valerie: We decided to hike Victoria Peak today -- the highest point on Hong Kong island (although not the highest mountain in the territory). You can take a cable car to an observation deck (and shopping center) which is advertised as a "the peak" but isn't really because the actual peak is still about a 30-minute hike away. I thought the trail to the summit would have been relatively busy but to our surprise it was empty -- we were the only ones around. Apparently everyone opts for the easy cable car ride to the observation deck and back. The trail (which was basically a road for cars) was very steep although by now we are used to China's steep climbs. After a quick 30-minute hike we made it to the actual peak -- a small hilltop with several radio telecommunications towers. The views from here were very good, and would probably have been spectacular had it not been for the haze.
Adam: One of the coolest features of HK's public transport system is that it is still largely anchored by ferries. HK is actually a series of islands - Hong Kong Island being the largest, but also Lantau, Lamma, Cheung Chau, and a whole bunch of others. So there are ferry terminals all over the city which are pretty efficiently connected to the subways and buses.
Valerie: We later visited Kowloon (via a very nice ferry ride) and saw some impressive views of the Hong Kong skyline.
Adam: Kowloon is to Hong Kong (island) what Brooklyn is to Manhattan. HK island is polished with lots of expensive shops; it's clean, touristy, and considered the power center of Hong Kong - but in some areas of the city, you'd hardly know you were in Asia. Kowloon is bustling and chaotic, a real large Asian city. Although we didn't spend a lot of time over on this side of Hong Kong, it had some of the best food around (served on plastic chairs at the Temple Street night market).
Valerie: Our final stop was the Graham street market. This was just one of many of China's open-air street markets. With only a few exceptions, every city we've visited has had at least one street market.
Friday, September 21
Adam: On Friday, we got up early in the morning and took the ferry over to Mui Wo on Lantau island, where we started the Lantu trail, which traverses the entire island. We had planned on doing the first three stages of the trail, which cover two of Hong Kong's biggest mountains - Sunset Peak (~857 m) and Lantau Peak (~940 m). We had been told that this hike would only take five hours - but this can only be accomplished by a person who was running the entire thing. After six hours, we had covered only Sunset Peak, and we were exhausted. As with other trails in China, the concept of "switch-backs" hasn't quite come around, and the trail was a series of steps straight up the mountain. If you can imagine hiking up the staircase of a building three times the size of the Empire State Building, you get a sense of what this was like.
Valerie: The hike was grueling, although not as bad for me as hiking the Great Wall. It was a very different experience from our prior hikes in China. Here, there are no Chinese woman trying to sell you water. Ironically, however, when we actually needed them (because we didn't pack enough water) they were not around. There were also not a lot of tourists. On the entire hike, we ran into only 3 people - two foreigners and one local who said he hikes to the peak once a month!
Saturday, September 22
Valerie: By this point on our trip we were both a bit tired of sightseeing so on Saturday we hit the shops instead. After all, Hong Kong's number one tourist attraction is its shops. The city did not disappoint. Because of all that we bought (it is all so cheap here) we ended up needing to buy an extra suitcase and an extra duffel bag. Before we hit the streets, however, we finally had some dim sum. Very tasty although quite expensive.
Adam: We ate the dim sum at this cavernous restaurant on the second floor of City Hall, which is supposed to be the best dim sum in the city - and we don't disagree. Between the shrimp dumplings, the vegetable buns, and the BBQ pork biscuits, we had a parade of hits which did not disappoint. As for the stores in HK, we particularly appreciated some of the HK designer boutiques - HK has got a real sense of style, and we enjoyed stores like Goods of Desire and A Bathing Ape - although we couldn't really afford to purchase anything in the latter store ($100 t-shirts!)
Valerie: Our shopping extravaganza led us right by the Man Mo Temple.
Sunday, September 23
Valerie: Our last sightseeing destination this vacation was a visit to the Tian Tian Buddha -- the largest bronze seated buddha in the world.
Adam: This trip was hilarious. We got up on Sunday morning determined to make the Buddha our last sight on the trip. We took a train out to Tung Chung on Lantau, which is about a 45 minute ride. We then got on a bus to the Buddha which is a half hour ride through some pretty scary looking curves, all navigated by a driver with a speed obsession and - we think - suicidal tendencies. When you arrive at the top of the 500 m mountain on which the Buddha is perched, you climb 256 steps to the base of the Buddha. By the time we finally got to the top, it was drizzling and threatening to rain a lot more, so we took 15 minutes worth of pictures, and did the entire trip in reverse. Total travel time: 3 hours -- but it was worth it.
Up Next: The big move to New York. The doog continues to chill in Miami.