Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Little New Year Celebration from Hong Kong....once again

Just about every international school in Asia gives a holiday
for CNY, and the closer in proximity you are to China, the more time off you get!  Indonesia being south of the equator, and a 4 hour flight away from HK, we get a good 4-day weekend which happened to be just perfect for our adventure.

The day we arrived, Thursday, February 19th marked the official turn to the Year of the GOAT!  They also say it could be the SHEEP or the RAM!  Guess it depends on how auspicious the year is to one.  Since 2015 has thus been good to us, we're inclined to believe the Year of the Ram suits it best for us. Each day promises some celebratory event in honor of the new year.  Day 1 (19th) is the kick off CNY Parade over on the Kowloon side. We decided to spend the day on that side visiting the touristy Jade and Temple Street markets, which for me makes it a complete trip to HK!  What we didn't bank on was that in honor of the biggest holiday in HK, the Jade market would be completely closed and the Temple Street market would be operating at a quarter of the stalls.  Bummed, we journeyed back toward the parade route only to find loads of people already camped out at 4 pm claiming prime spots when the parade wasn't even starting for 4 more hours!   We pictured some nightmarish additional two-hour return path to take the Star Ferry or metro back over to the HK side.  A shared nod of 'let's just watch it on TV' led us all too easily to the longest escalator in the world (2,600 feet), en route our temporary home at "the mid-levels".

Here's looking down the midlevels.  The escalator is the structure on the right, and a much needed set of stairs along side.  Much needed as there was only enough room to build one escalator between narrow buildings.  As far as I recall it runs 24 hours a day; 6am to 10 am it carries the inhabitants and workers down, and from 10 am it carries them back home!  Of course our tourist schedule didn't match the escalator's and we found ourselves doing a lot of stairs! There are tons of shops and well-patroned restaurants fully aligning this path.  You can imagine we spent about half of our time here just in transit.

Of all the great restaurants on the central-midlevels system, this one advertised something unknown to Jakarta - Fondue - just can't get this awesomeness back home.  So forget sticking to CNY favorites tonight.  Good thing my phone kept track of our steps taken that day bc the heavy, delightfully sinful fondue was only countered by the 24,300 of 'em by the end of the day. That is 10.44 miles and a grand total of 30.8 miles for the weekend. Now that is a lot of steps. The only disappointment, no place to watch the parade.

Day 2:  Set out midday...after all it IS our vacation, and therefore, our chance to relax!  It's great being an international teacher as no matter where you go there's always someone who knows someone, IF you don't already know someone there yourself!  It's not surprising that the brother of one of our really good friends here in Jakarta would offer to meet up with us in his home city, HK.  A very lovely encounter, indeed, full of great conversation and healthy food at LIFE Cafe!  It felt so normal, just like talking to our Jakarta friend, Brian, but Cork knew HK inside and out, including bus numbers to help get us on our way to Stanley market where we would shop and enjoy the rest of the daylight!  Feeling a bit sheepish (pun intended) with having skipped over Day 1 without anything of CNY, we weren't about to miss the Day 2 event, the Fireworks show!  Feeling Victoria Peak offered the best views in town, we were set to depart Stanley Market and enjoy dinner and show up there.


Fortunately/Unfortunately no taxis were coming to help us get there, and no bus driver would even talk to us about taking that route.  The taxi stand line just kept building up, and finally we gave up after an hour of trying multiple locations for taxis, and took the bus we came in on back to Central.  Now I also add "fortunately" taxis weren't available since it was particularly cloudy by then and unlikely to see past it for the colorful sky explosion.

Along the harbor, we spotted the ferris wheel, and while thousands of onlookers for the fireworks display were filling up the wide sidewalks, they somehow weren't thinking getting above the crowd!  Score!


DAY 3: We did what ever good HK citizen does for day 3 of CNY...
headed to the races to test our luck!  
There's even a dedicated CNY race...this year it was race #7!  What horse would we bet on but Gurus Dream, of course!  (Guru means "teacher"!)  The Chinese might read into Gurus' loss to tell us that it is not an auspicious start to the year for teachers!  But then again, we're not as superstitious as the Chinese who would.

Feeling particularly Chinese that day, it was about time we do as the Chinese do and partake some DimSum!  Peking Garden back at TST came by recommendation!  Easy to find right outside the Star Ferry entrance in the mall-type building, and certainly worth passing on!

As I mentioned earlier, it's not so rare to find people all over the world with one or two degrees of separation. Indeed, from a Facebook posting I made a day earlier, our friend, Dawn, from Korea realized we were both in HK! A few messages later, and we're meeting up with her, her husband, and co-worker/friend for some live music at the Hard Rock Cafe! It was a great surprise reunion in a land far from our homes.

Our final day in Hong Kong included a lovely send off by the pink dolphins near Lantau!  Truth is, they're not really pink, they're actually white!  Since they're mammals, the blood rushing through their bodies as they move displays a pinkish tone...much like we do when blushing!

Some dolphin watchers return to port sans any sightings.  We think the luck that bypassed us at the track, doubled up this day considering seeing 1 or 2 is "lucky" as told by our tour guides, and we saw at least 10 that hung out all around our boat swimming at the bow, passing underneath, breaching, and even doing flips in the air!  I'd say THAT's an auspicious start to the CNY 2015! :)

There's so much to do and so many interesting things to witness in HK, it'd be easy to return time and time again even when it's not CNY.