Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Losing in Happy Valley (again)

We went to the Horse Races in Happy Valley (Hong Kong) last night for the second time. This time we went to the public part of the stands. It was cool because you can get right next to the track against the rail. A couple of the jockeys talked to us while they were walking their steeds prior to the race.

It is always a good time, but I am the worst at picking horses. There were two of us guys and about 5 women. I look at the horse statistics, winning history for this type of race, winning history on this track, etc prior to picking a horse. Most of the women pick the horse whose name they like best. They win, I lose. However, by lose, we are only talking pennies here. I bet a total of HK$10 per horse and an average of 2 horses per race. I stick to easy bets mostly like place or win. I didn't lose every race (okay, I did, but I let Shelly pick a horse - by name - and she wins), so I think I was down a whopping HK$40 which is about US$5. Oh, and it cost us $10 to get in. The biggest expense of the evening was of course the beer.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


Drugs, beaches and monkeys!

It's hiking season here again! Troy and I decided we didn't want to torment ourselves by hiking in 90 degree heat and 90% humidity!

A lot of trails around here are really long so they are divided up into stages. About a month ago we did stage 1 and 2 of a trail called Maclehose Trail. It was nothing special, although it walked along an incredibly beautiful resevoir. Of course it had the obligatory Hong Kong torture steps up the steep hills. We did come across an amazing discovery: an absolutely gorgeous beach called Long Ke. It had incredibly soft sand, clear and clean water and great views of the South China Sea. One of the best things about it is that the only way you can get there is by hiking or by boat. The closest taxis can get is still a 20 minute walk away and private cars are not allowed along the road. So that pretty much guarantees that the beach is desserted most of the time.

Two weeks ago, Troy and I took advantage of the warm weather in November, packed up our towells and sunscreen and spent the day there doing absolutely nothing except reading, sleeping and hanging out in the water. I told Troy I never had such a great tan in November!

Funny thing though, the property is right next to the beach is a Christian run drug rehabilitaion center. We found it interesting that the best beach in Hong Kong is saved for the druggies.

Farther along the trail is stage 6 and 7 which we did this past weekend. More tortuous steps involved (just look at that steep profile). The parks and recreation department here is just sadistic.

Anyway, friends had told us there were monkeys along this trail and they were not kidding. When we got off at the bus stop, there were countless macaques monkeys hanging out right next to the busy road. Some of them were actually very cute where as others were just nasty. Red, swollen bottoms, cuts, bites, missing chunks of hair. You definitely did not want any of these approaching you, not to mention scratching or biting you. It would probably mean instant death. The first part of the hike was not very pleasant because there was monkey shit everywhere, not to mention the overwhelming smell of it.

Throughout the rest of the hike we intermittenly came across groups of them. Some would be in trees throwing seeds down at us or they would be digging in trash cans having a feast on what they were finding.

At one point on the hike, Troy sat down to rest when a group of cows came down the trail toward us. A large female made a beeline straight for Troy where she proceeded to rub her nose against his face then started to lick him. I guess she thought he was a giant salt lick. (Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me). I was terrified that she would get spooked or something and would hurt Troy. We were miles from help and there was no one around if something happened.

We thought the hike was going to be 6 or 7 miles but ended up being 11.2 miles. The guide book failed to tell us that to get from the end of stage 7 to public transportation is a 4.3 mile hike around a reservoir. The entire walk back I'm looking through the guide book for an address or something so I could send hate mail to the author.


Thanksgiving Hong Kong Style

A lot of people have asked us how we spent Thanksgiving in Hong Kong so we thought we would share with you how we spent the day. A surprisingly number of restaurants around town had Thanksgiving buffets or sold turkeys to be cooked. Even though the number of American expats in Hong Kong is small compared to other nationalities, restaurants and grocery stores definitely cater to this holiday for us.

We have become really good friends with a couple from Portland, Chris and Stephanie. They decided (along with their Irish next door neighbor, Marion) to have Thaksgiving dinner for about 20 of their friends. Now keep in mind, unless you make a lot of money, the flats we live in are really small. Stephanie's and Marions flats are both around 900 sq. ft. So Stephanies flat turned into one giant dining room. There was literally no room for anything else once the dining table for 20 people was set up. The food and drinks and socializing was in Marions flat.

A few days before, Stephanie put me on costume detail. She had in mind the pilgrim hats that you used to make when you were in grade school. I decided to design my own kind of pilgrim hat. When Troy saw what I made for everyone to wear he said people would have to be insane to want to wear them. The funniest thing, everyone wore them all night long, way before they even started drinking. People even wore them afterwards to get foot massages (obviously at this point they have had way too much to drink). Stephanie also wanted everyone to make a hand turkey: tracing your hand to make the turkey then decorating it with construction paper feathers. She then had everyone write on it what they were thankful for. Even though this was a US holiday, there were only about 5 Americans there. Everyone else was Britsh, Scottish, Irish, Philippino, etc. So a few of the people wrote they were thankful for their spouses, jobs, health, etc. Everyone else wrote they were thankful for gin, shoe sales, business class, expandable pants! These people now also think that hats and turkey hands is what all Americans do for Thankgiving.

Stephanie and Marion put on a full out tradtional meal: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, the works. The amazing thing is the kitchens are tiny, tiny, tiny and they cooked everything in two small toaster ovens. The turkey was pre-cooked but they heated it up in the small oven. To make it feel even more like Thanksgiving, they had American football on the TV. Ok, so it was a DVD of last years Superbowl, but it was a nice touch. It was one of the best Thanksgivings Troy and I have had! In fact, Chris and I even had to do a dance it was so much fun!

You can aslo visit our friend's blog if you want to see more information and pictures.

(I have to make one gripe here. I love Hong Kong. There is nothing about it I don't like. But because there are so many European's here, everyone has become accustomed to greeting each other like the European's do. I'm talking specifically the double kiss. You know, where they do the kiss on each cheeck. I so don't like it. I understand it when a European does it but when an American does it to me - another American - I just want to slap them. I want to stop them as they're leaning in and grab their hand and shake it or give them a high five! I have yet to figure out how to handle this when people give me the double kiss.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Sunnin' and Cruisin' in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

You can view more photos at our SnapFish Photo Album (please let us know if you have any problem viewing the photos). You can also view the photos on this page larger by simply clicking on the picture...

Troy's boss is the best! For a Christmas bonus/party he told Troy and his co-worker, Shaun, that they could take their wives and go on a weekend vacation. It was a restrictive budget and this is the first time Troy has gotten any kind of Christmas party in 5 years (so don't worry if you are reading this and are from Motive), and fortunately there are some great inexpensive packages in Asia. So the four of us saddled up and headed to the best beach resort in Malaysia. I could say "the best beach resort in Asia" but we have a lot more places to explore before I can give any destination that honor!

This was an absolutely beautiful resort with gorgeous grounds and a huge beach that had the best sunsets we have ever seen. This was one of those places where you did nothing but relax, swim in the pool and the ocean, walk on the massive beach and make the waiters run relays ferrying drinks to you.
It also had a lot of activities you could do: horseback and ATV riding, helicopter ride, boat charters, deep sea fishing, etc. There is also an Orang Utang sanctuary at the edge of the property. Right now they have 6 Orang Utang's that they are putting through rehabilitation phases to release them back in the wild.

One activity the four of us signed up for was the ATV ride. We kind of laughed when we were given laundry vouchers to get our clothes washed when we were done. We thought there was no way there was going to be enough mud to get our clothes dirty. Oh we could not have been more wrong. I have not been that muddy since I was in junior high and me and a friend rode our bicycles through mud and then had a mud fight afterwards. When Troy and I saw the amount of mud available to us we continuously tried throwing mud at each other by gunning the engine then peeling out when the other one was near.
The swamps were so deep and thick that they challenged us to not get stuck. It was a BLAST!!!! The funniest thing, they gave us no idea whatsoever what kind of muck we would be going through. I can only guess there are a few guests that signed up for this and were not too happy at the end. But you know what, that's what the bar is all about!

We also did a half day boat charter to take us to some outer islands to do some snorkeling. We had thought about diving but had read that it was not very good in this area. We had a casualty this day though... Troy got stung by a jellyfish. We had not even started snorkeling, he was only standing in shin deep water when he got stung. He was in sooooooooooooo much pain! He couldn't even walk. I actually had to give him a piggy back ride to the beach where I proceeded to pee on his sting! Ok, so he was not in that much pain and I didn't give him a piggy back ride. But I was more then willing to pee on him! I mean the sting!!!! For those of you that haven't been stung by a jellyfish, imagine stepping on a big beehive and every bee that touches you stings you. The boat had some anti-sting stuff that did nothing, but when we got back to the hotel we went to the clinic and the Dr. there took care of him. He tried to milk it for a day or two saying that he was still in pain but I wasn't buying it.

Friday, November 11, 2005


People of Hong Kong

Living in Hong Kong, we come across some interesting people. I thought I would share some of the unique characters we have found! You can click on them to see larger versions.

We always see people walking around with towells on their head! Very fashionable.

Hefty's new line of rain gear.

This guy is always sleeping here when I pass by. Even though he is wearing the same clothes, this is a different day!

The guy Troy buys his pot from. Troy is angry because the guy raised his prices! (Coleen, Troy wanted me to let you know this is a joke!)

This model is in a beer drinking district called Lan Kwai Fong. Brides & Beer...sounds about right!

The original "Melvis"

This lady was one of the friendliest Chinese we have met.

The guy on the right is drooling. Nice!!!!

Troy wants to grow his hair out like this.

He may not have shoes, but he sure is happy!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Beijing and the Great Wall of China

You can view more photos at our SnapFish Photo Album (please let us know if you have any problem viewing the photos). You can also view the photos on this page larger by simply clicking on the picture...

Troy and I knew that while in Hong Kong the one place we absolutely had to visit was Beijing and the Great Wall of China. The summer passed before we could get there and we knew we had to go before it got too cold. Beijing gets these fierce winds that come down from Mongolia that make it unbearably cold. We went last weekend which just happened to fall on our 9th wedding anniversary. So it was a nice little present to each other.

We were not overly impressed with Beiijing. It didn't have a spectacular skyline and it was just your average Chinese city. The few things that absolutely astonished us was how clean it was and how blue the sky was. I don't know if it had to do with the weather, maybe factories were on vacation but there was almost no pollution - perfect blue skies and believe it or not, somewhat fresh air. This in a city of over 15 million people. 15 frickin million people! Unbelieveable! The other thing we noticed was how weather worn the local people were. I personally find it difficult to be able to tell the difference between a Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Hong Konger, but in Beijing you knew a Chinese person by their red, weathered cheeks. These people have definitely had a hard life. Living through the tyranny of Chairman Mao and the Cultural Revolution. You have to admire them though for all they have been through.

One of the "must" places to visit was Tiananmen Square (the worlds largest public square) and the Forbidden City. Everyone remembers Tiananmen square: in 1989 when students peacefully protested against the Chinese government, with the government calling for martial law because they felt the students were plotting turmoil. The Peoples Liberation Army were confronted by Chinese workers and students when violence broke out, resulting in hundreds of army and civilian deaths. The exact numbers of deaths has never been known. It has ranged from 400 to over 7000. That is typical China. Keeping bad things as a "state secret".

There are Peoples Liberation Army soldiers throughout the square today. They are a little imitating though, mainly because of who and what they represent. You know how tourists in London get their picture taken with the guards with the tall hats and try to do anything to get the guards to smile? Here it's a little different. I think if you tried to make these guys laugh, they would probably turn around and beat the crap out of you. I had Troy take my picture next to a soldier, but I am acutally standing behind him. I was too chicken shit to stand right next to him.

The Chinese flag is in the square and is guarded by 8 PLA soldiers. We were told to watch the flag lowering ceremony at sunset. At 5:20pm, all the traffic in the 6 lane street is stopped and about 20 soldiers carrying rifles, come marching across the street and take up their position around the flag.

A very short but very precise ceremony then takes places, with the flag being lowered, tied in a knot (I'm curious why it was not folded), then all the soldiers march off back across the road. I commented to Troy afterwards that I wondered if such a ceremony took place at the White House.

Before this, we went across the street to say howdy to a giant picture of Chairman Mao and then to visit the Forbidden City. This is the worlds largest palace complex, consisting of 9,999 buildings. Construction was started in 1407, took 14 years to complete and housed emperors for over 500 years. It was a bit overwhelming because it was so huge, and personally, all the buildings looked the same to me so it kind of got boring fast.

The other "must see" was the Great Wall of China. Without a doubt this was the most phenonmenal thing we have ever seen. It was almost surreal. Pictures doesn't do it justice. It just goes on forever. It extends for over 4000 miles and was built over a period of 2000 years beginning in the 7th century B.C. At any given time between 30,000 and 1.8 million people were working on the construction of the wall.

We arranged a taxi to take us to a section called Jinshanling then to pick us up at another section called Simatai. To get from our starting point to the end was about 4 miles of walking on the wall, following it as it contoured up and down the ridge of the mountain. The first mile or so was restored so the walking wasn't too bad, although there were alot of steep steps and steep inclines. After that the wall was no longer restored, so there were a lot of loose rocks and stones. We had no idea the hike was going to be as difficult as it was.

We thought we would get to the top of the wall and it would be this casual stroll on the wall. It was anything but casual. The stairs were tall and steep and there were a lot of them. Not to mention the steep inclines with rocks jutting out to trip you up. It really was fun and worth it though! Bets being at a "commercial" part of the wall with 10,000 other tourists.

We were constantly met along the way by locals selling books, t-shirts, water and beer. Sometimes they would just follow you, saying nothing and not even trying to sell you anything. They stopped when you stopped and continued on when you did. We couldn't figure out what they were doing. We don't know if they thought we would pay them to go away. They definitely were not trying to be a guide because they were not telling us stuff about the Great Wall. We could only get rid of them by firmly telling them no and to go away.

When we got to Simatai, there was a zip line that we could pay $4 to ride to cross the river. It was something that was very out of place being near the Wall. We decided "what the hell", we were tired of walking, so we paid our $4 and rode it together.

There is an area of Beijing considred the Old City of Beijing. It consists of several thousand "hutongs" which are ancient city alleys. Many of these were built in the 1200's so the buildings in these alleys are old and drab. We knew we could hire a rickshaw but we wanted to rent bikes instead. Troy made sure he had his GPS because we had a feeling we could get easily lost in them.
It was a great way to see where the local people lived and to see how modern day streets and buildings are built around the hutongs. There were a few times I almost ran into an old lady, a dog or a pole because I could not control my bike going down the alley.

As we were walking to dinner that night, (Troy is walking a few feet in front of me) I feel something at my right pocket. I turn around and realize a guy is trying to pick pocket me. At that same instant I yelled at him, and for some unknown reason, I decided to punch him in the chest. I guess I was angry. Troy turned around just in time to see me punch the guy. I casually turn to Troy and said "this guy tried to pick pocket me." They guy is standing there, stunned. He then says something to me in Chinese (somehow I don't think he called me sweetheart) then walks away. Of course, no one around us paid any attention including the 3 Buddhist monks walking behind us.

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