Sunday, October 2, 2011

So Long Hong Kong, So Long China

We took the train to Hong Kong yesterday from Guabgzhou. It was a beautiful ride through the country very spacious (we even had a little table where we could play cards). After 36 hours in HK, we are absolutely ready to come home though. It has been an amazing 3 weeks in China that will stay in our hearts and minds for the rest of our lives, but we couldn't be more eager to see U.S. soil!!! I just may make a scene at the Detroit airport and get on my hands and knees and kiss the ground. ;o)

Hong Kong has been an interesting stop on our journey, but after a 3 week tour of mainland China, and a little person who is brand new to our family, I would forego the Hong Kong stop if I were to do this again. The weather here has been less than ideal (typhoons off the coast), and it is confusing to get around if you're a newbie. To get where we need to go, there are subways and ferries and trams and taxis, and it seems there are at least 2 (if not more) transitions between different transportation modes for each trip out the door. To go to Victoria's Peak, we left at 10 a.m. and got back to our hotel at 4:00. Our day consisted of a taxi ride, a ferry ride, a bus ride, and a tram ride up to the peak. And, then the same thing back to the hotel. Masses of people everywhere! And, standing in line for the tram was pretty rough. The weather is steamy and the air was still and people were "wall to wall". It was hard to breathe. And, the line didn't move "at all" for probably at least 20 minutes. Anna Grace and I both began to feel dizzy standing in that mass of people. I'm sure it was a lack of O2 and all the carbon dioxide we were breathing in. Once we moved through, it got better.

I think Hong Kong most certainly has MUCH MORE to offer than we had the time or energy or resources to discover. If you choose to do Hong Kong, my suggestion is (especially if you have little ones who have bathroom emergencies or motion sickness), it is worth the extra dollars to pay for a taxi to get where you need to go instead of the "el cheapo" subway (which is much less $$, but if you are not familiar with subways and their system, can lead you on a wild goose chase and take MUCH longer to get where you need to go. . . and if you get lost, good luck finding someone who speaks English to help you). Without children, it probably is not so bad trying to figure out the subway. If you have a tour guide, I'm sure you will see and experience the very best of Hong Kong, with much less drama ;). And, if you can manage, try to go when there are no typhoons in the vicinity or it isn't a national holiday (this week second in folks traveling only to Chinese New Year we're told). This is the only city we haven't had a guide. And, I'm sure that's why we struggled more here.

Yesterday, after arriving in HK, we went (blindly and without a plan) out to find the Outback Steakhouse. Yes, I said Outback!!! ;) Haha!!! After 3 weeks in mainland China eating every form of Chinese food possible, a good steak from back home sounded like HEAVEN!!! In a city that has an Outback, surely it will be easy to find!!! HA!!!!
We decided to take the subway (how hard could that be?? Right???) Well, I'm sure all of my NYC and Chicago friends will laugh at us, but for those of us who don't use the subway regularly (or ever), it is a learned art form! :D And, we had to learn it on the spot where most everything was written in Chinese!!! So, we stood at the ticket machine trying to figure out how to purchase tickets for the 4 of us, and how much HK $$ for an embarrassing amount of time. Finally, we figured it out (after several attempts). Then, it was time to put our tickets in the turnstalls. I put mine and Mei Li's in and went through (with Mei Li in her stroller)---bad idea!! We got stuck in the turnstall. I'm horrified and embarrassed, and Geoff had to come around and help unstick us. ;) Haha!! Then, it was time to go down to the trains. The signs are in Chinese and there are two different tracks. Which way to get to the area of town we needed to get to??? Thankfully, a very nice Chinese man who spoke English helped us to know which train to take. We got on and rode a while, had to get on another subway to get to our destination. Then, the hike began to come up to street level and find the Outback. Masses and masses of people!!! We walk and walk and no Outback. We're looking at our map and trying to read street names and figure out where to go. And, between the crowds and our cluelessness about where we where, we were just wandering for a good little while. We asked several people for help, but no one seemed to know how to help us. And, apparently, Outback is not a place the Chinese people of Hong Kong frequent much!!! Go figure!! ;) Finally, we ended back up at the subway and went under the road to come back out the other side. The winds are HOWLING!! There has been a typhoon that has passed Hong Kong about 24 hours before we arrived, and another one off the coast. So, our hair is literally standing on end as we're walking the streets on our Outback quest. OH!!! And, along the way I get pooped on by a passing pigeon. Yes. . . I wasn't even aware of it until Anna Grace came up to me and rested her cheek on my arm and pulled away saying, "GROSS!! What is that on your arm?" Poor child put her face in bird poo!!!! Hahaha!!! After what seemed an eternity of walking, and howling winds, and bird poo. . . we FINALLY came to the Outback. Let me warn you, it is more expensive than in the U.S. The Victoria's Filet is about $28 U.S. dollars at this one (about $10 more than back home). But, as tired and exhausted and frustrated and STARVED as we were, it was the most delicious food we had tasted in weeks and worth the extra $$.
While we were eating our dinner and watching the trees bend sideways out the window in the gale-force winds, we made the decision to say "to heck with the subway!!" on the way back. We hailed a cab!! :) The cab driver was an interesting man, as soon as he began to speak, he reminded me of a cross between the laughing hyena from Lion King and a Chinese Jeff Goldbloom look-alike!!! He had very thick glasses, had bad acne scars and had a hard time reading the address of our hotel we handed him. He looked at it and said "Sorry, know little English...hahaheeheeheeheehee!". He was truly a character, and at first I thought, "What have we gotten ourselves into?? Is this guy going to get us back to the hotel?" But, he did!!!! And, he was a happy soul. . . and I was SOOOOO thankful for him and his cab!!

SO, the take-away for all of my friends to follow in our steps to Hong Kong:

1. In our opinion, the taxi is worth the extra money if you're a newbie to subways and if you are traveling with small children.
2. Hiring a tour guide OR travelling in a group will be less stressful and less confusing if you can manage
3. If you do venture out on your own, do some homework and have a plan before you just step out into Hong Kong! :)
4. Guangzhou is a "kid friendly" city with much to do with children. Hong Kong is a big city and doesn't seem to cater as much to little ones, at least where we went.

Okay. . . gotta get some mouths fed!! And pack for tomorrow morning's flight to the U.S!!! Woohoo!!!

China, you have been a beautiful blessing to our family and we have loved meeting you, but our own homeland is calling to us and awaits us. We are very ready to be back home again. :) Geoff said he hears Dr. Peppers calling his name.



wow, what a hong kong adventure to end up the trip of a lifetime! y'all are troopers. typhoons. transportations-a-plenty. and pigeon poo poo. you will most certainly never forget that day & a half. these are some memories and your girls will cherish forever. thank you for so generously sharing this most special chapter of your life with all of us. happy homecoming and big dr. pepper cheers to the white family.