Friday, November 26, 2010

Last Day in HK

Since it's traditional to stand in long lines on Black Friday, we did. Except the line we stood in wasn't to get a great deal on a DVD player at Best Buy; it was to ride a glass-floored cable car for 3.5 miles. Up the side of a mountain. To see a giant Buddha (and a Starbucks!) at the top.

Scroll through the pictures and say, "Whoa!" a few times. And, yes, it was awesome!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving - this is how to spend it

Our morning routine stayed the same as it has been all week; get up, eat a small breakfast here in the hotel room, get cleaned up and then head out on the MTR somewhere. Today, back to Central on a rush-hour train.
Next, we switched modes to double-decker bus for a cross-island express (the subways don't extend to the southern part of Hong Kong Island.) We got to see a bit more of "downtown" HK; the Admiralty, Wan Chai, and Happy Valley neighborhoods.
We went through a tunnel for several minutes that punches through the mountain ridge we stood on yesterday. We emerged into a completely different version of HK...
Suddenly we were out of the built-up city and hurtling on narrow two-lane cliff-face roads through tiny little harbor towns. Glad we weren't the ones driving... Within 20 minutes of leaving Central we were at the end of the line, in a little town called Stanley.
Stanley is a laid-back little market town / artist colony / rich-folks getaway / old fishing village with a take-your-time, no-haggling ethic. Several blocks of the town are a rabbits' warren of little shops and stalls - the same kind of merchandise we saw at the Ladies' Market a couple nights ago, but some much better-quality items too, and none of the chaos.
We had a little brunch at the Delifrance and wandered out to the waterfront. There, we finally got down to the Pacific Ocean beachfront - we've been near the ocean so many times (Seattle, Vancouver, Tokyo) but never actually at it. So this year, we've stood on the beach for our first times on both the Atlantic and Pacific.
Here's the beach. The water actually looked inviting; the sand was rather coarse with lots of broken shells - and broken glass. This wasn't a swimming trip, though. (We got our pool time later this evening...) The temperature was in the low 70s today with gentle breezes from the ocean and light haze.
We did some shopping, sat for a while in town and watched people go about their daily lives, and Ann got cornered by some more middle-schoolers on assignment to practice using English.
We had pizza at a place called Pizza Express - which was actually a pretty classy restaurant with really excellent thin-crust pie.
As we looked around during our "Thanksgiving Dinner," we thought back 10 years ago to the frustrations we had trying to have children and the troubles that were just around the corner. We would never have imagined how our lives would change, or the places it would take us as we became parents.

We are thankful for Wynn and the honor of being the parents who raise her. We are thankful for the ability to take her around this world and show her how all sorts of people live, to keep her connected with her Asian roots - and to grow new roots ourselves. We play the "what will she grow up to be?" game often - this trip is showing us some of the people she may become, and we're thankful for that, too.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hong Kong Has Its Ups & Downs

One of the things we've noticed about Hong Kong is the unbelievable number of escalators you end up riding every day. All the buildings are tall, so you're always going up a floor or down a floor, and most of the subway access points involve getting on at least two escalators.

Today we decided to keep count of the number of escalators we rode. The answer is written under the pictures. Formulate your best guess before taking a look!


The View from the Top

Even though it's kind of a hazy day, we decided to take the tram up to the peak and check out the view. It was, in a word, spectacular.

The Visitors' Center

Smiling on the Plaza

A Nice Couple Stopped and Took a Family Picture for Us
(So, of course, Wynn stuck out her tongue.)

Wynn found the playground!

The middle school kids found Ann to
interview/practice their English on.

Just to get a sense of perspective of the height ...

The city below us

On the ride to the bottom, you go backwards !

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tuesday: Jet Lag Eases Its Grip

As I looked over our last few postings, I realized that we talked about sleep a LOT and only posted pictures of Wynn passed out. Well, we've gotten our internal clocks more or less synced up with the time zone, so we can talk about experiences beyond who got how many hours of sleep. And we can post and actual picture of Wynn in fully-awake mode:

See? There she is, with Hong Kong Island in the background.

We took the train to the south end of Kowloon this morning and had dim sum at a lovely little restaurant that Scott had read about. VERY different from yesterday morning's experience at the hole-in-the-wall congee shop. Today was all fine china and linen table cloths. The entire meal was only about $25 for the whole family, and they even made the food into cute little shapes: tiny hedgehogs filled with egg custard and homemade coconut/marshmallow desserts shaped like bunnies (the most sophisticated take on a Peep you'll ever find). We had bao, spring rolls, jasmine tea that tasted like flowers, and a steamed flour roll with pork (basically, thick-cut bacon wrapped in a thin layer of gluten - yummy!).

The "grass" by the bunnies is actually cotton candy
formed into tiny little filaments.

After dim sum, we rode the Star Ferry across to Hong Kong Island. Wynn liked riding on the ferry but started to complain that her stomach hurt; we soon found out why as we stood in an extremely ritzy shopping center and she proclaimed, "I really need to poop." Scott whisked her off to the restroom, and business was attended to. She felt perfectly fine after that.

We rode the tram across Central Hong Kong - a cheap and efficient way to get a look at all the little shops and neighborhoods. (We were on the tram for almost an hour, and it cost about $1.50 for the whole family.) It's funny to see how the streets are arranged by the products they sell; one whole block will be dried seafood products, the next will be nothing but tires, then a block of cooking oil shops, and finally a street filled with pet products. Even the top-notch malls are arranged this way: Clinique is across from Origins and next door to Shisedo and L'Occitane.

The view from the tram was fascinating!

After resting back at the hotel for a bit, we went across the street to the Langham Place Shopping Center. It has about twenty different restaurants in it; tonight we chose MOS Burger (a Japanese chain - really tasty with thick-cut fries) and Haagen-Dazs for dessert.

We'd heard so much about the night markets, and since we finally reached the point where we can stay awake past dinner, we strolled over to the Ladies Market. It's kind of like the most crowded day you've ever spent at the State Fair. A lot of people love shopping at these markets, but we agreed that it was mostly stuff we weren't interested in... knock-off designer hand bags, souvenir t-shirts, etc. We didn't buy anything there. We did, however, walk up to Pioneer Centre, which Scott had read about on the internet. They had three shops specializing in (surprise!) airplane models and other merchandise. We settled into one little mom and son shop; they were extremely helpful, and Scott was completely knowledgeable about what he was and wasn't interested in - and what constituted a fair price. Let's just say Scott was elated with the things he found, and the mom & son probably high-fived each other when we walked out the door.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Like a light, part 3

Trouble with lights is they switch on as easily as they switch off.

Wynn was up at 1:30 this morning.

We got her back to sleep sometime around 3:00. Here's hoping that it bodes well for the day...

Like a light, part 2...

The haze which had covered the city all day broke right after we had dinner. Our hotel room has a very nice view to the other side of the harbor (although we can't actually see the water from our floor.)

Every night at 8 pm, the various buildings along the harbor run a laser-light show. Took a while to build up, and it looked better through our own eyes than through a camera's lens. I fiddled around with the exposure settings and ended up with a few neat photos:

Wynn slept through the whole thing, of course. Ann crawled into bed about 8:15 and promptly began sawing logs. I hope she's not awake at 4:30...

I popped across the street for some shelf-stable milk for breakfast just now while everyone else was asleep - and the mall is packed at 8:30 pm. I imagine the "night markets" are also in full gear, but we will have to wait until we can keep conscious into the evening.

Still, we've held up much better at this point on the trip as compared to our Tokyo trip last year. I'm nodding off as I post this so perhaps I'll get a full night's rest (it's almost 9: 30 pm here right now...) --Scott

Like a Light

Even Wynn eventually has to give in to the power of jet lag. She's been vacillating between tons of fun and weepy/sleepy most of the day. She took a two-hour power nap this afternoon, and roused herself enough to go on the subway to Tsim Sha Tsui so we could get a look at the harbor. She passed out on the bed at six o'clock; we're hoping this doesn't mean she'll be up and ready to go at 3 AM.

The Lit Up Streets Outside our Hotel

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Monday in Mong Kok

Sleeping, all the way from Tokyo to Hong Kong

Our first morning in Hong Kong was spent walking around our neighborhood, getting our bearings, and starting to adjust our internal clocks, which are running about 14 hours off from the clock on the wall.

We're staying in Mong Kok, on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong. The neighborhood's claim to fame is its population density - about 360,000 people per square mile. To say that it's a lively place is definitely an understatement. I'm glad we did a trip to Tokyo last year; coming here first would have been overwhelming. But we're familiar and comfortable enough in big Asian cities that we can handle this. Actually, my initial reaction is that I absolutely love this place.

Mong Kok at Midnight

The Congee Shop Where we Ate this Morning

Don't ask us what it's called, because everything was in Chinese. It was packed with locals and tourists, which is typically a sign of a good place to eat. It was yummy. :-) Wynn liked when one of the cooks walked by with five roasted geese to hang in the window - and when the dishwasher lost control of the hose and ended up giving a shower to half the dining room. Everyone just laughed, and the owner got the mop.

Simple, but Delicious

Hello Kitty Christmas Display = Wynn's Happy Place

We're Here!

Wynn slept pretty much the entire trip from Tokyo to Hong Kong, and Scott and I got a few more hours sleep as well.

Our hotel is gorgeous and very conveniently located. I just took a shower (in the marble bathroom), and we're looking out the windows to see the view. Of course, it's 1 AM here, so the view is mostly of the city lights, but we can tell it's beautiful already.

Here's to winding down and getting some more sleep - laying down this time.

Pictures tomorrow ...

2/3 There

We are on the ground at Tokyo/Narita.
The flight here was uneventful.
As usual, Wynn was a good little sleeper, once we told that she WOULD be napping. She probably got a good 4 - 5 hours sleep on the flight.
I got about 2 - 3.
Scott got none.

She was charming for the flight attendant and the folks in security and, of course, made friends with the people behind us by playing peek-a-boo. She's such a good little traveler. :-)

Our flight for Hong Kong leaves in a little under two hours, so we're free to roam the familiar halls of Narita: vending machines that sell a drink called "Sweat", toilets that play music when you flush, wasabi-flavored Kit-Kats... Japan is just so stinkin' charming.

Here's hoping we all get some more good sleep on the next leg of our journey.

BTW: The last thing I did this morning before I left our house was lay flat on my back on the living room floor. When Wynn asked me why, I told her I wasn't going to get to be flat again for about twenty hours, so I was enjoying it while I could. Let's just say I can't wait to get to the hotel.

Friday, November 19, 2010

And the next destination is...

Hong Kong!

We leave tomorrow & will spend Thanksgiving week there.

As usual on these journeys, we'll try to post daily.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Another Random Video

We're getting into "training" for the next big trip...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Random Wynn Video

She's simply doing random things. And she could go at it like this all day, too...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Trick or Treat!

Goin' to Kowalski's to Score Some Treats

Halloween Costume Party at CTC

Less than Happy

Baba to the Rescue

Ready to Hit the Road