Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Troy had to go to Sydney several weeks ago so Shelly went with him and had a blast. To read a story Shelly wrote about Sydney, click here.
Sydney was an absolutely beautiful city. It was nice to see clear, blue skies again! We really miss those Colorado blue skies! It was a very expensive city though. Meals and cab rides were really high priced. In HK, we could split a meal for $10USD including drinks. In Sydney, we would easily spend $35 on a very similar meal.
Sydney is also the first place we have come across where there was some animosity towards Americans. We were flat out told Australians don’t like Americans. Of course those are the Australian's that have never been to the US. Those that had, for the most part, liked America. Obviously this is the first place it was apparent to us because the people here spoke English. People in Shanghai may not have liked us, but we had no idea because of the language barrier
Our taxi driver from the airport to the hotel was a Palestinian. The conversation started out with him telling us how he lost his home to the Israeli’s, etc. etc. The discussion then turned in the direction of him telling us that LA, Washington and New York are going to get blown off this planet. He says to us “Many, many people have told me this. I have read in many, many books that these places are going to get blown to smithereens!” We were a little freaked out to say the least. There were a lot of things we wanted to say back to him but we decided to keep our mouths shut. After all we were in a strange city, it was late at night and no one knew where we were! Can you say “smart move?"
Back to the great things about Sydney… There were a lot of things to do here. You could choose from harbor dinner cruises, Sydney Opera House tours, helicopter tours, wine tours, jet boating, you could even climb the Sydney Bridge!
A few of the things we did was a full day tour to the wine country. We visited little boutique wineries so we didn’t get to see the places that produce wine we are familiar with. Our tour guide had the “inside track” to one of the wineries so we got an in depth lesson at wine tasting. Shelly discovered she did NOT like American Oak Chardonnay. She disliked it so much she actually poured it out! Imagine that, Shelly wasting a dring!!!! We also did a full day tour to the Blue Mountains. We also stopped at a wildlife park and were able to pet Koalas and feed kangaroos! (Some of those guys have big nuts and I don’t mean the kind of nut they eat!)
We even learned to throw a boomerang. Shelly was awesome at it! Troy said this can be the one sport she’s good at! (Ass!) We also learned to play the Didgereedoo (which was not so easy). It’s the long tube thing that looks like it’s made out of a large piece of bamboo. You will recognize the sound as being part of the music in the opening credits for the reality show “Survivor!” (Oh how we miss that show!) - btw, Troy was good at that :-) (Troy wrote that).
We will be going to New Zealand in May so we will let you know how different that place is from Sydney.
Sigh…. So many places to go, so much to see, but somebody has to do it!
Saturday, April 16, 2005
Lantau Island Hike
We are slowly making our way to some of the outlying islands. Yesterday, we went to Lantau Island. It is the largest outlying island and twice the size of HK and is an hour ride by ferry from HK. It has the airport on one edge and also has the new Disneyland that will be opening in 2005.
This island amazed us. We came from HK with 7 million people, rode the ferry for one hour, took a small bus for 10 minutes, got dropped off and the only things we could hear were tree locusts, birds and the breeze blowing through the trees. It was crazy the difference from where we had just come from. You could occasionally hear a bus drive by, but that was it. There was also nobody on the trail.
We are finding our hikes to be similar with the surrounding environment. Very jungle like, with dense undergrowth. As we gained elevation, the jungle thinned out and we ended up in tall grass. We also ended up in the clouds with a massive wind coming over the ridge. The wind was probably 50mph. At times I thought I was going to get blown over! For about an hour we could maybe see 75’ in front of us. It was kind of crazy! The good thing was it was kind of cold, so we didn’t sweat and get so stinky
After we made it down the hill, we took the bus to the Po Lin Monastery. This has the worlds largest outdoor seated Buddha and is a BIG ASS BUDDHA! He sits on a hill at an elevation of 1700’ and can be seen for miles. He is also 84’ tall and made out of bronze. It was an amazing sight to see. We had seen a big Buddha in Kamakura, Japan but this guy was bigger! What I found interesting is everything about him had a spiritual meaning. His smile, how he sat, the placement of his hands, where his fingers pointed to, his long ear lobes, etc. I still am not comfortable going to these tourist places and “playing tourist” while people are praying!
It was a great day! That evening we ended up going to this new area we found last weekend that has a lot of bars, brewpubs and restaurants. For some reason I found it necessary to drink myself silly and then on our way home have the taxi driver teach me how to count in Catonese!
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Several weeks ago Troy had to go to Shanghai for work so Shelly went with him. When we moved over here, part of the plan was for Shelly to travel with Troy as much as possible and she is certainly doing that. To hear details of our trip read the Shanghai Story on TSPAdventures.
Shanghai is crazy!!!! We have never been to a city where the bicycles, motorcycles, cars and pedestrians were so insane in their lack of organization. Everyone felt they had the right of way whether that person was walking, riding a bike or driving a car. We would be in a taxi and asking ourselves “Why are we not getting hit, why is our driver not hitting other cars”? It’s as if they make up their own driving rules as they go and everyone’s rules are different from each other!
The other thing about Shanghai we didn’t like is everyone spits! Doesn’t matter how young or old they are. If they’re a teenager dressed in blue jeans or a business man in a three piece suit! They all spit. They also fight. Not fist fight, but they have yelling matches that attract large groups of people. It was times like these that we wish we spoke Mandarin so we knew what the fight was over. People were even fighting in the airport when we were leaving!
They also freely pee on the side of the highway! As we’re leaving the airport, there was a man dressed in a suit peeing next to his car alongside the road. There were several instances we saw that happen.
The taxi had posted a sign that stated what types of people were not allowed in the cab. Evidently schizophrenics and drunkards can’t ride in the taxi without a guardian!
In HK, signs are in English, such as street and store signs. For the most part people in HK speak some English. In Shanghai, there are almost no signs in English and people don’t speak it at all. We would be looking for a restaurant and have no idea what to look for because all the signs were in Chinese. It could bite us on the ass and we would have no idea what bit us! The only way we found a restaurant is by the guy standing on the street with a menu.
For Shelly, the first impression was that it was a dirty city. Not just with trash, but with the spitting and peeing. That’s just gross. Troy is getting a little more used to it which is good because he will be doing a lot of business there. We met several people that live there that absolutely love it! We both think it would be a difficult city to get used to.
We also did do some fun things! So don't forget to read Shanghai Story!
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Started Divemaster Training
We started our Dive Master training last night. The first step for us was that we had to complete a 400 meter swim; 800 meter swim w/ mask, fin and snorkel; a 15 minute treed water with hands up for the last 2 minutes; and a 200 meter tired diver tow - all of which were timed. Fortunately we both passed so we won't need to do that again. I think that we are going to be getting in some good shape with this and all the hiking we have been doing :-)!
Monday, April 11, 2005
Burning down the house...
Shelly tried to kill us today buy burning down the kitchen…okay, okay, it wasn’t that bad, but still. She decided to burn the fringe on some rags and laid them on the sink to cool. When she went back into the kitchen, they were on fire. Sorry Jim, but I thought you would have taught her better then that being a fire man and all. Of course, the kitchen has a fire door, so I don’t think we would have burned down the complex (I hope not!). She did managed to blacken as small section of the sink and counter pretty well. The funny thing is she wasn’t going to tell me. Like I wouldn’t notice. Too funny. Fortunately, she caught it in time, and the counter and sink is high quality so I was able to sand out the burn marks.
Dragons Back Hike
On Saturday we did another hike. We are trying to get in as many hikes right now as we can. The summer is going to be hot and even though we have every intention of hiking in the summer, there is a good chance it won’t happen unless we get some amazing heat and humidity stamina built up.
We wanted to do Dragons Back which is part of the Hong Kong trail that extends over the entire island, but we missed the turn to the “Back” and ended up walking along the Dragons Side. From the hillside we hade great views of the bay near Shek O. Shek O is about as far southeast as you can get on HK Island. It is a very beautiful area, not to mention how quiet it is. We could see large catamarans and yachts docked in the bay. There were also a few water-skiers.
As we continued our hike, we came across a grave right next to the trail. Even though it was uncared for, it had a big grave marker considering where it was located. It was a very unusual place to find a grave.
The hike was very tropical. Dense trees, bushes and undergrowth accompanied us throughout the entire hike. It was nice because there was no city noise, only the sounds of birds and the breeze blowing through the trees. We are very excited about the fact that there are places here to escape the craziness of the city.
After a few junctions and turns and lots of hemming and hawing about which direction to go (our hiking guide book is horrible and the parks and recreation map board was no better) we ended up in Big Wave Bay.
It was funny because the hike ended right in the middle of a small village neighborhood. We could walk by peoples kitchen windows and look in and see what they were doing. There was also plenty of clothes hanging out to dry. Evidently Chinese men prefer Speedos for their choice in underwear. There was a nice quiet beach and several shacks to rent a surf board or boogey board.
Instead of staying here and finding a burger to eat, we decided to continue on (bad decision).
The trail, once again, turned into steps that proceeded up and over the mountain. I think we counted over 1000 steps. We have come to the conclusion that the Chinese Parks and Recreation people have a cruel sense of humor, putting in steps to get you up the mountain instead of gradual switch backs.
We finally made it over the hump and ended up in Chai Wan which is as far east as you can get on the MTR (subway) line.
It was a good day and we enjoyed the hike. It was probably by the far the worst Shelly has ever stunk!!!! It was very embaressing sitting on the subway home!
Saturday, April 09, 2005
Dinner in Sai Kung
Tonight for dinner we took about an hour train ride to the sea town of Sai Kung. They are famous for their sea food restaurants where you pick out what you want to eat. Being the sea creature lovers we are, we ate at an Italian restaurant and had pizza and beer. This turned out to be fun because they also did karaoke. It was lound and annoying, but fun at the ame time. We didn't participate, but it was funny to listen to - a lot of 80s hits.
Ching Ming Festival
April 5th was a holiday for the Chinese. It is called Ching Ming Festival or otherwise known as “Remembrance of Ancestors Day” or “Grave Sweeping Day”. It is a fairly major holiday here. Banks, government offices and many business close. The filippino women, who are domestic helpers, also get the day off. We mention this because it is very obvious when they have the day off. They congregate in large public spaces in the center parts of the city. They basically have an all day picnic on the sidewalks. They lay out blankets, set up stools and proceed to talk on their phones, gossip with each other, eat and even do needlework. In any one area, there could be at least 100 women sitting together. Outside of holidays, the only day of the week they get off is Sunday. It is on these days that you will find them congregated around town!
Anyways, Shelly had heard of the Ching Ming Festival through the AWA and we wanted to see how the Chinese celebrated it. We knew there was a cemetery close to our place so we got on the bus and took it to the bus stop right across from the Chinese Christian Cemetery. Talk about masses of people! There were police directing traffic, sidewalks were blocked off we even had to wait in line to cross the street. Everyone was carrying flowers and small bags of drinks and take-out food.
Once inside the cemetery there were stands to buy more flowers, soda and bottle water. We tried to look inconspicuous as possible but I don’t think we did a very good job. We were not carrying flowers and everyone knew there was no way we had ancestors buried there! As we made our way through the cemetery we saw people washing the headstones with soap and water and brushing leaves and dirt from the graves. Large gatherings of family would hang out at the graves and spread out a picnic including 12 packs of beer! (Bert, sounds like your kind of party!) We found this to be a very interesting part of their Chinese culture. We have learned that funerals are a big deal with the Chinese. It is not uncommon for $500K to be spent on a funeral.
Thursday, April 07, 2005
Troy Graduated - Finally!!
For those of you that don't know, I have been going to school to get my BSB/EB degree for the last few years. Yesterday I graduated!!! It is really strange to be done with that part of my education. But, no time to rest, Shelly signed us up for Dive Master training yesterday.
As a surprise for my graduation, Shelly took me for a walking tour of Kowloon (across the harbor from Hong Kong), culminating, after a great dinner, in a walk along the harbor while the Hong Kong Symphony of Light show played across the harbor. It was a surprise, so no pictures this time because I didn't bring my good camera. However, it was really fascinating to see the Hong Kong skyline at night during a light and laser show. It is the first time we have made it to Kowloon at night to see the skyline. Really beautify. It was a great night (thanks Shelly).
Talk to you soon!
Picture taken from http://www.laservision.com.au/hongkong/
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Hiking and Exploring around Hong Kong
You can best view and comment online at http://blog.tspadventures.com/
Just like I said, there will be multiple postings of blogs coming over the next few weeks. I apoligize if you received the last one twice.
Over this past weekend we had an opportunity to do some exploring around HK Island. When we first arrived here the weather was really bad and cold and then as soon as the weather turned good, we traveled out of town.
One of the things we did on Saturday was go for a hike in the Tai Tam Country Park. It was really enjoyable with awesome views of the South China Sea. It was great until we came to the bottom of a hill. As we looked at the trail carved into the hill before us, we though “Piece of cake, we’re from Colorado, this is easy! We’ve done harder hikes then this!” It ended up being very steep steps up the hill, 1235 to be exact. Oh, and then there was the humidity! That was our first taste of exercising in humidity. We absolutely poured sweat! We think we got rid of all the toxins we still had from our drinking days in college! Once we got to the top, we had to go down 1000 steps to the street below. Both of our legs were shaking when we were done. Shelly is not the most graceful hiker so she was afraid that at any minute she was going to trip on her own feet and go tumbling down the mountain. That would have been bad because she would have tumbled a long way!
Saturday night we went to Kowloon for dinner and to go to the Temple Street Night Market. (Kowloon is across the harbor from HK Island). There was so much junk for sell at the market. Toys, clothes, electronics, jade, jewelry even dancing vibrators! Yes, dancing vibrators!
There were also fortune tellers. Troy thought we should get our fortune told, but Shelly didn’t want to. She was afraid the fortune teller would see something she didn’t like.
There was also the worst karaoke on earth. Normally when you think of karaoke, you think of music piped through speakers, singers dancing and the music being some sort of top 40 or other recognizable song. Not this one. It had a 5 piece band and the band members were ancient and played badly! The guy singing was even worse then the band. He was singing some sort of Chinese song that was hardly top 40. It was a very pathetic thing to witness!
Sunday we went to the southwest side of the island to the Aberdeen fish market. A huge variety of fish and shellfish from the China Sea was represented here. It was sad for us to see since we are divers and enjoy diving with the marine life. It was hard seeing parrotfish, red snapper, squid and octopuses in containers getting ready to be shipped to nearby restaurants.
We then had lunch at this huge floating restaurant. It is called the Jumbo and is known as the most luxurious floating restaurant in the world. It was nice but the food was not the best. When we sat down at our table, Troy proceeded to eat the table decorations. As he uses his chopsticks to pick up these little pieces of green glass he tells Shelly “It’s candy! You’re supposed to eat it!” He quickly found out it wasn’t candy and spit it right out! I think he was trying to find something that he actually tasted good.
We’re having ok food, but some meals are just not very good! I know Hong Kong is known for the fabulous food, but we guess we are not finding those world famous restaurants - maybe we don't want to becuase we are eating cheap too. Saturday night in Kowloon, we ordered a “set” for dinner. Normally it is a three course meal. Drink, main meal with rice and dessert. At this place we were at Saturday night, we had a 7 course meal. The first several dishes came out quickly, then they stopped coming. We thought we were done so Troy asked for the check. Our waitress told us we still had more coming! Even though it was 7 courses, we both left hungry because we didn’t really enjoy what we had! We both agreed that what is sad is that we just can’t go across the street to a Taco Bell or Qdoba to get food we enjoy! We just keep telling ourselves “It’s all a part of the experience!”
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
More Hong Kong News...
Best Viewed Online at http://blog.tspadventures.com/
Hello again everyone! We have had a very busy few weeks so we have a lot of news and stories to pass along. There will be several more blog e-mails coming after this one so don’t assume they are all the same! Shelly is slowly understanding the best way to post blogs so bear with her until she finally gets it. We (actually Shelly) apologizes for sending out so many at one time. It won’t always always be like this.
We settle into HK more and more everyday. Shelly has joined the American Womens Association and so far has been a huge source of information for her. She has been able to find out where the best pharmacy is, places to buy American books and magazines, how the postal system works, etc. Things that were so obvious in the states have to be figured out here! The main reason she joined is they have many activities for her to participate in and is a great opportunity for her to meet other women. There will be times where she won’t travel with Troy and Troy and her both know the best way for her to be happy is to stay busy!
We find riding on the bus a constant source of entertainment. We are constantly amazed at the old men on the bus who pick their nose. They must hide something in their nose because at times, they are just going crazy picking it. We also secretly laugh at the people who fall asleep on the bus and then drool on themselves! They wake up, wipe their shirt off then look around to see who saw them. Of course, we look away and pretend we didn’t see!
Shelly has also embraced the Chinese lifestyle: she now hangs the laundry out to dry! She lost one of Troy’s shirts though. Not because she dropped it, but because the wind caught it and pulled it from the line. She did learn it’s not a smart thing to try to hang the laundry from her 35th floor window after she has had several glasses of wine!
The weather is starting to warm up here and the humidity is kicking in. It’s going to get ugly here rather quickly.
Like I said there are many more updates to come over the next several days. We just went to Shanghai and Sydney so we have stories and pictures to share from there!
We miss you all!Shelly and Troy