Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Stanley


     I'm sure I mentioned before, but there are dozens of places to check out in the Hong Kong area.  Since we live kind of deep into Kowloon, we don't venture out as often as we should, but we have a short list of places to visit on the weekends that we plan to work on in the next year.  One of those is on the south-side of Hong Kong Island, in a little area known as "Stanley".  It takes a little ride on the MTR and a sizeable bus-ride to get there, traversing across the island in-between all of the green-covered peaks, but there are some nice beach areas and towns and Stanley is definitely one of them.  We took a lazy Saturday and had a lunch and an afternoon stroll along the pier, visiting a couple of temples, and getting lost in the market.  All we had heard was that there were a lot of ex-pats and/or tourists there and that it was worth a look.........both turned out to be true.

The pier, where at one time royalty and other dignitaries landed upon arrival to Hong Kong.

View across the bay at Stanley - heck of a beautiful day for November!

Many people still earn a traditional living as fishermen and I thought it was neat seeing the mounds of fishing nets in the little boats.

There are several different religions in China and amongst those, several gods that have temples around the city.  This is one of the temples for Tin Hau, which is a goddess that watches over sailors and fishermen.  There is some incense burning constantly just outside the door and it's tourist-friendly.

While there are multiple figurines of different people or gods, the central figure here is Tin Hau.  It is common to see fruit that is left as an offering for the gods.  Needless to say, Tin Hau won't be catching scurvy any time soon!

While not preserved very well (mangy might be a better word), this tiger skin has been kept in the temple for years after it was shot and killed just outside the temple.  During the bombing of Hong Kong during WWII several bombs hit the temple yet didn't explode.  They say that the tiger skin kept the temple safe, so here it will remain until fruit flies finish it off.

Larger view of the whole room, with some of the other gods hanging out - showing off their fruit collection.

We liked the design on the front doors.  The first line of defense is the tiger skin, and if you make it past that then you have to deal with the warrior doorkeepers, and if you somehow get through them.........banana peels!

View from under the pier.



     Not much else to say about that, but Stanley was a fun little destination for an afternoon.  It's great for a little lunch and market parousing if you fancy that.

--Justin

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Date Night at the Peak

     If you're only going to be in Hong Kong for a few days, the one activity that everyone is supposed to experience is a trip to "The Peak".  This is basically the highest point on Hong Kong Island, and it's been a hot spot for tourism since the Victorian era, when the British built a tram going to the top that is still running to this day.  While I visited the Peak on my first weekend in HK, Marisa wasn't able to go due to some schoolwork or something like that.  Needless to say, after a couple of months as a resident she was overdue to have a "peak".  We decided to go on a Saturday evening to try to get a glimpse of the "laser show" in the harbor below, which is probably the least intelligent day to pick for this event.  We took a bus to the tram station only to find a 2-hour wait to catch a ride.......plan B was an overpriced taxi (but not really overpriced to Western standards), which got us there much faster.  With a couple of hours before the laser show, we took in the views... 

View from the Peak looking toward the south side of the island - that is, not the Hong Kong harbor

What had been a fantastically clear day turned out to be a rather foggy evening, which was a bummer.  We checked out the two malls that sit up top and made our way back for the "laser show" at 8pm (nightly occurrence)

So this is the postcard view of the Hong Kong skyline with a slight fog/haze that makes a nice effect.  When you actually look closer, it starts to set in that they have hundreds of high-rise buildings packed into this place.  It really is unlike any place I've ever been.  I only wish that I had some speakers blasting a Journey song while we took in the view.

Oh yeah, here's a shot of the "laser show" that actually featured no lasers that I could tell.  It looked more like a K-mart parking lot during a "Blue light special".  In summary, the "laser show" isn't a big deal - at least from this angle (they say it's better from across the harbor in Tsim Sha Tsoi).  However, that doesn't mean that the view of the skyline is any less amazing.

To finish off the evening, we had a nice little dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.  I usually shy away from theme restaurants (i.e. Hardrock Cafe, Planet Hollywood, etc), but this one is legit.  Their shrimp is bangin'.

     So we checked the Peak off of our list of things to do and I suggest you do the same if you visit Hong Kong.

--Justin

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Section 6 of Hong Kong Trail

The past few weekends we have made it a point to go and explore all that Hong Kong has to offer. Surprisingly, Hong Kong is full of hiking trails and we decided to check one out after church. Trails are of all different levels and you can hike just a section if you want. We decided on section 6, only about 4.5 km called Mount Parker Road to Tai Tam Road, of the 50 km Hong Kong trail. We packed lunches and were on our way. From my calculations the hike should have been an easy two and a half hour hike while stopping to eat lunch. Well that 4.5km turned into 7.5km when we had to hike uphill for 3 km to get to the actual starting point. 

Just getting started on Mount Parker Road

Just as we were getting started they had an educational center in what looks like an old colonial home

This was pretty cool, it is one of those mosaic pictures with lots of little pictures making one bigger picture, but you could only see the scene when you took a picture with your camera

A view of the Hong Kong housing situation. This is how close people live here.

Still smiling even though my calves were burning by this point because I didn't know we would be walking uphill for 3km, but at least it was all paved

The actual starting point for what was thought to be a leisurely hike and it was all downhill or level ground from here

Tons of butterflies and Justin snapped this sweet photo- straight out of National Geographic!

Finally on the trail and it feels like we are out in nature. Crazy to think that all these trails exist in such a big city

Towards the end of the hike we walked past the huge Tai Tam reservoir

The trail actually had us walk right on top of the reservoir's dam

As we were walking across the dam we noticed all these fish swimming underneath us

Another view of the dam

A great day for a hike!

Near the end

Despite taking a lot longer than we thought (4 hours instead of 2) we really enjoyed getting out and seeing some nature. I am not an avid hiker, but I would love to do some more hikes while I am here. It was beautiful weather with the sun shining and lots of people hitting the trails. Make sure to pack a lunch, some snacks and plenty of water.

For anyone coming to Hong Kong I have included some great resources for hiking around here. The first is awesome for planning a hike as it gives you a map and what to expect. The second is the HK Tourism Board and they are actually doing free guided hikes from now until Dec. 9th. Last is a link to some of Hong Kong's best hikes. Happy trail blazing!




-Marisa

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Erdinger Oktoberfest 2012 - Hong Kong

Before moving to Hong Kong, we were elated to find out that there would multiple Oktoberfest celebrations there.  We made sure to ship our lederhosen and dirndl to make a splash in the Fall.  While the festivities in HK come several weeks later than the actual Oktoberfest, the wait allows the organizers to book real bands from Munich, which really helps with the authenticity.  As far as we know there are about three major festivals to choose from:  Happy Valley Racetrack, Marco Polo Hotel, and the Erdinger Oktoberfest.  This year we decided to check out the Erdinger Oktoberfest.

 Inside the tent

 Outside the tent at the Indian Recreation Club

The only picture that we took together.  Since not many guests were dressed up, we were often mistaken for people that worked there and several people wanted their picture taken with us.

     We rallied together some of our colleagues and came to the event with no expectations - keeping our fingers crossed (or thumbs pressed) for a good time.  We weren't let down as the menu was pretty authentic, the band was legit, playing many schlager songs that we remembered from Germany, and the beer was......well, from Erdinger and very expensive.

Most of our group, shortly after arrival.
Not a bad atmosphere inside the tent, on a much smaller scale than the real thing.



Marisa's favorite song involves all of these motions, much like a kindergarten or VBS song.  I still couldn't tell you the name of it, but it goes through several similes like being "strong like a tiger" and "swimming like a fish" and so on.  Needless to say, this guy got the party going.

I told you she loves that song.

One contest involved competitors trying to eat a 2 ft long sausage.  No way I was going to participate in that one for at least two reasons:  a) I would probably choke (damn narrow esophagus) and b) this type of thing just sets you up for all kinds of jokes for life.

There was an Oktoberfest costume competition, in which Marisa and I participated.  Unfortunately we didn't win because a late entry "Superman" character slipped into the competition.

There were plenty of games to be had, like this one where Erik is trying to play shuffleboard with a krug. 

The most popular contest was the mass holding contest, where they give you two glasses to hold straight out from the body.

With a steady hold surpassing 7 minutes, our friend Marcus set the record for the evening.......and only got a lousy, paper apron for his efforts!

I held long enough for a key chain, but that was about it.  I have a history of sucking at this game!  My highlight of the night came later when I went to buy food and the lady says, "Wait, are you staff?"  Without hesitation I jokingly replied (but with no facial expression, of course if you know me at all), "No, no.........I'm with the band."  For the first time in my life that actually worked and she gave me all of my food for FREE!!!  It's the least they could do for overcharging for drinks and not giving us the prize in the costume contest.

Prost!!
Good times were had by all and we'd definitely recommend the Erdinger Oktoberfest in Hong Kong - if you can't make it to the real thing, that is!

--Justin
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