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Friday, June 18, 2010

Hong Kong Island

I've done and seen so much in the past day and a half, I feel overwhelmed at the prospect of trying to recount it all. So I won't. Instead, I'll just say that Hong Kong is HOT and FAST. When I arrived by the Airport Express to the Central MTR Station, I had to jog (with my extremely heavy and bulky backpack) to keep up with the commuter rush. I was awed and how quietly and quickly these folks walked from train to train, with their
shiny black heels clicking and their smart outfits pressed and perfect. I felt like I was in some other world... some alien world a million miles from Berkeley, where no two people ever match each other. Since then, I've found that Hong Kong-ers DO talk, but I was right about the fast walking.

Today I went to Lantau Island with my hostel roomates (Jane and Nula) to see the big Buddha, and every minute was incredible. I couldn't soak in all the amazing maritime scenery fast enough, as our ferry sped through the bay away from the skyscraper-crowded skyline. The bus ride was even more scenic, we wound our way from the ferry dock bus station up through lush green tropical rainforest, past secluded white sand beaches, past cows and bulls, past little huts and stores on the side of the road. On our breezy bus ride, we ran into some British guys I had met last night dancing in Lan Kwai Fong... it's a small world in the tourist places. The Buddha was incredible. Mystical. Fog swirling around his head and feet, and the mist so thick it at times concealed him completely... only to drift by moments later revealing his majestic figure. We climbed the stairs to the base of the statue, and our voices seemed to shatter the silence of the Great Buddha. And I'm told that it's not even the biggest-- there's one in China whose head alone is the size of Lantau Island's.

Yesterday, my first day, was a blur. It's amazing how quickly you can learn a city and how to get around it in just one day, but when I first arrived I couldn't tell up from down or right from left. I got severely lost and flustered trying to find the hostel, and when I arrived the front doorman held up a sign in English saying "I cannot help you." Uhhh.... great. I didn't know which floor the hostel was on, and there were signs everywhere claiming that the hostel was run illegally and that the building owners were not responsible for any trouble a traveler like myself might have with the hostel. Sketchy! As I'm pacing the front hallway, sweating bullets and feeling desperate, a casually dressed woman in a long ponytail comes out of the lift and says, "Hong Kong Hostel?" in a thick accent. I nod, and she beckons me into the breadbox sized elevator... I had no idea whether or not to trust her. In the end, the hostel room is clean (like Lonely Planet promised), and I have 2 awesome roommates who I already feel like I've known for weeks. But it is not glamorous, and I had to stop myself from giving into my princess side and renting a hotel room with a private bathroom and a swimming pool for 200 some odd bucks a night.

Even so, living on a budget here does not mean not spending money. It seems like all there is to do here in Hong Kong Island is shop. Even though there are thousands and thousands of stores (everything from a Cartier on every block to the tiny herb stores that smell familiar only because of running errands with my mom the acupuncturist), none of them seem to be struggling from the competition. People teem in and out of every doorway as if their life depended on exercising their capitalist rights-- as non-mainland Chinese. I haven't bought much yet except a few postcards and a small coin-purse, but my eyes get bigger and bigger at every jewelry booth and watch-boutique I pass by. Not to mention the food-- you could eat every five steps here, it seems. Today, we had an elaborate dim-sum meal in a beautiful air-conditioned room compete with chandeliers for close to $10 US... Everything here seems to be cheap except real estate. Last night, though, I did drink a pricey daiquiri at a bar in SoHo, but it was worth it as the strawberries were fresh, the glass was the size of my head, and the rim was dipped in chocolate and frozen :) Yum.
Tomorrow I may head to Macau with Jane, but I also feel like there's so much here to do! I haven't been to Stanley Market (though maybe that's better... I don't really want to buy anything I'll have to lug around in Vietnam) or a million other places here on HK Island-- and I haven't even set foot in Kowloon yet! Might just go to the beach to relax and fight the jet lag. My god, for a place so small, there sure is a lot to do... and so many people!!!!! Riding the tram up Victoria Peak yesterday was also awesome, and unfortunately I don't have pictures because I didn't intend to end up there... I just kinda wandered into it when I ran into another girl staying at my hostel on her way up from Hong Kong Park (which is very pretty). Stunning view, from the top, I got vertigo it was so high. And the tram ride up is almost a 90 degree angle, I felt like I was on a roller coaster!
More to come...

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