Saturday, September 4, 2010

Visit to Hong Kong - Mini UW ChemE Reunion

This past weekend I made my way to Hong Kong (HK) to visit my college friend, Claudia. Another college friend, Sophia, happened to be in HK at the same time so we all met up for lunch one day. Traveling to and from HK for my first time was just as interesting as the say in HK.

Travel to HK: I worked evening shift until 12:30AM Saturday morning for which I arrived back at the hotel at 1:20AM. My taxi left at 4AM to get me to my early morning flight on time. I had yet to pack so needless to say I did not sleep that night. Since the flights straight to HK were too expensive I traveled to Shenzhen and that is where the journey begins…

Flight to HK – check, went well
Find Bus from Shenzhen to HK – check, able to catch 1st bus
Arrival to Customs to Enter HK – check, waited in line for 1.5 hours
Find Bus after Customs to HK Railway stop – check, it happened to be the last bus I checked
Arrival to Correct Railway stop – check, luckily it was the last bus stop so I could not miss it but it did not drop me off right in front but I had a map to find my way.
Contact Claudia to tell her to come get me – fail, SIM card purchased in mainland China not able to call phones in HK since it is technically international.
Purchase HK SIM card to call Claudia – check and fail, able to buy SIM card but kept receiving a message stating Claudia’s phone was not registered so call failed.

At this point my mind is racing because I have no clue how to reach Claudia and no address to take a taxi to her house. Since HK is more westernized, I was hoping there was Internet cafes someplace close so I could email her. Ask and I shall receive – there happened to be free Internet stations inside the train station! I was able to get a hold of her and she came to the station to pick me up. Only waited an hour and half since I first arrived which I think it quite short.

Activities in HK: Saturday afternoon and evening Claudia and I went around to the shops of HK and I bought a bunch of things – all practical of course or gifts. We ate at this yummy Japanese place where we ordered pizza that used rice as the crust and no pizza sauce. It was delicious. I much rather eat these than American Pizza! She also took me to a place that makes the best dried meat I have ever tasted. I bought about 2kg worth of various meats (pork, chicken and beef) to take back with me and for my parents to try when they come.
Beef and Fish balls with noodles
Best dried meat place ever!!!
Sunday was a day of touristy activity of sorts. We took a bus to Kowloon which is across the harbor from HK and took in the sea line view of the skyscrapers. A ferry ride brought us back to HK and we went to the Victoria’s Peak to see HK from a bird’s eye view. It was somewhat hazy but the view was still nice. Actually the view from Claudia’s parent’s condo was just as nice but just lower down on the hill. After the peak visit we were walking back to take public transit back to the shopping area, we saw a large group of people walking across the road into this park area. It happened to be a peace walk for the HK tourist victims whose bus was hijacked in the Philippines. Tens or thousands showed up for this walk and the street was just filled with people dressed in black and white – quite the site. Claudia and I met up with Sophia for lunch and ate at another Japanese place – yum! That night, Claudia’s parents took us to a real local restaurant that served yummy seafood. It wasn’t a fancy place but the wait was out the door, literally. Luckily her Dad is friends with the manager so we did not have to wait long for a table. I tried for the very first time, squid meatballs and spaghetti with black ink as the sauce. Quite delicious actually but I did not want to eat too much and stain my mouth black. To avoid this problem I squished some beer around in my mouth.
Peace Walk
HK view from Kowloon.
Vitasoy drink keepin' up with the times!
Eating a squid meatball with ink as the sauce.

 Travel back from HK: I was not sure how long to plan for customs clearance on a Monday morning from HK to China so I assumed it might take as long as it did coming into HK. This meant I needed to leave at 5:30AM from her condo to catch the bus departing to the customs point 6AM to ensure on time arrival to the Shenzhen airport. Claudia’s mom arranged the taxi for me and her dad was kind enough to walk me down that early in the morning. The taxi driver dropped me off and I saw a bunch of buses so I assumed this was the correct spot since this location is different than that I got off at when I arrived. The ticket I bought was substantially less than my before and I did not see the company’s logo on the side of the buses in this depot. I asked how to find the correct bus to the Shenzhen airport and they said that they did not take me there. Come to learn that this location is not correct – not the fault of Claudia’s mom but the taxi driver who did not listen to her instructions. The man at the bus depot directed me and pointed in the general direction I needed to go. I reached the corner and there was no way to cross except under the street. I came up on the correct side I wanted – by luck, and started walking towards the building me pointed at. By this time, 6AM was fast approaching and I did not want to miss my bus so I started running. Soon came to realize I had no clue how to get to this bus station terminal. To my luck there was a runner passing me, and 99% of those in HK speak English, so without hesitation I said “Excuse me, do you know how to get here?” as I pointed to the map of the bus location. Without him I do not think I would have been able to easily locate the bus terminal because I had to go inside of a mall, up to the first floor, to the bus company’s desk. I had missed my 6AM bus but there was a 6:20AM so I was all good; I was even able to check into my flight there and obtain a boarding pass!
My timing for getting to the airport was a little overboard. There were absolutely no lines and I had to sit around in the airport for 2 hours. I did not get much sleep while in HK and prior to departing so 2 hours felt like forever! I arrived back to Nanning at noon and did not have to be at work until midnight so I took a cheaper mode of transport back – the bus. However, taking the bus adds an extra 1.5 hours onto the trip back so I didn’t get back until 3:30PM – which only gave me 5 hours of sleep after eating some dinner before going to work.

It was a great adventure and I was exhausted after it was finished but would not have change the experience!
Thanks Claudia for a great time!