Gary and Sarah Girotti/Jones|
Southeast Asia, here we come!
The arrival: LHE/H very high
We flew into Hong Kong airport at about 9:00 pm and started to make our way to Steve and Claudia’s place. For convincing them the spend their only holiday this year machete-trekking in the Thai wilderness, they agreed to put us up--what a bargain! (All I could think about on the way to their place was Steve’s face when he found out 1 hour into a 6 hour trek that that we only had 1 bottle of water between 4 of us and Mr. O's answer was "Don't worry. We'll cross plenty of streams". We were really hoping he was over that moment).
They told us that their apartment was very convenient to get to from the airport--that was an understatement! We put our bags on a wheelie-cart as they came off the carrousel, wheeled them though customs and on to a city-bound train. After a 20 min. ride we exited the train and plunked our bags onto a waiting wheelie-cart. We made our way to street level, where a series of very pleasant security guards waved us though terminals and doors, across the street and into a building. Next thing we know, we had wheeled our wheelie cart right to Steve and Claudia’s apartment door. Try that in Boston without getting arrested...
The lack-of-water incident was a distant memory for Steve, so we actually got our own room. As usual, Steve and Claudia were the perfect hosts and we would like to thank them greatly for there hospitality. We can not wait to see agian at wedding in the Fall.
The City and the Peak
Hong Kong consists of the mountainous island of Hong Kong, a chunk of mainland and several smaller islands. That being said, we only had a 2 days there, so we decided to focus on Hong Kong island only. I am sure we missed a ton of interesting site but…next time.
We spend our first day walking and riding the streets, overpasses, underpasses, escalators, subways, busses and ferries of Hong Kong--their public transportation system is fabulous!! The orderly traffic of the city was a striking change from the chaos of our past haunts.
Hong Kong island is a curious mix of British urban efficiency and Chinese no-holds-barred entrepreneurship. Endless high-rises cling to the sides of hills that would deter a Billy goat. The government must have gotten a discount on spray-on concrete: from the water to midway up the mountain of Hong Kong island, it is totally concreted. At night, the neon here would, well, put Vietnam to shame :o)
In the morning we strolled/rode up the Middle-levels Escalator. This is a set of escalators linked by walkways that take pedestrians up to the fashionable residential district of the “Middle-levels”. The system is uni-directional at any given time, i.e. either up or down, not both. Apparently, it runs up hill for most of the day except for the morning rush hour when to runs downhill. (poor suckers who work the night shift!) It a very cool and ingenious system.
After lunch we caught the Peak Tram to the Peak Tower. The tram is actually a funicular that ascends 1000+ feet to the peak of the mountain overlooking Hong Kong. The ride is little freaky, as in parts the tram is ascending (and descending) at a 23 degree angle. If you are not good with hights it is suggested that you not sit at the front of the downhill end.
At the Peak is the Peak Tower complex--a classic tourist trap place with a lot of shops, restaurants, Ripley’s “Believe it or not” and (as Claudia pointed out) a great Haagen Das outlet. Despite the tourist-ness of the place, the views of the city are stunning. The most striking aspect is the way the city just ends at a point half way up the mountain, and very lush forest starts.
To work off our Haagen Das, we took a 7 km hike around the peak, which afforded us views of Hong Kong from all sides...not to mention peeks into the fabulous homes there!
The Zoo... Oh Baby, What a Zoo
As we made our way back from the where the peak tram let us off, we happened opon the Hong Kong Botanical Garden and Zoo. The is an incredibly cool place that is literally right in the middle of the city. As we walked down hills through the beautiful gardens, we were able to see monkeys, flamingos and loads of other animals. There were also signs for the "Jaguar Enclosure", which Claudia swears is the attraction, since she´s never actually seen a jaguar there.
As we approached the enclosure, all we could see was a single paw way in the back behind the rock façade. We stood there for a few minutes and all of a sudden, as if on cue, a spotted jaguar walked out from behind the façade and laid down in front of us, as if on stage. Then a second one came out--black this time, and somewhat larger.
The second jaguar came over the first one, apparently the female, and started pawing at her. Sarah said, “It´s like they´re putting on a show for us!”. As the pawing and growling continued, Claudia murmered, “This show is starting to look a little alternative!” To which Gary replied, “Ya, it looks like a show I saw many years ago in Amsterdam!”
I know that Jaguars are nocturnal, but I thought that only meant they did day time things during the night--apparently it also means they do night time things during the day. It was quite and show, but in the interests of keeping this a Family-style journal we’ll leave the descriptions at that.
The Last Night
On our final night in Asia we wanted to do something culturally Chinese...so we went to the horse races. Sarah and Claudia still contend that this was a plot by Steve and Gary to continue the endless streak of MBA vacations that involve gambling. But honestly, the thing to do on Wednesday night in Honk Kong is to go to the races. Right, Steve? That’s our story and we’re sticking to it!
We met a few other friends and headed to Happy Valley Raceway. The very helpful staff helped us confused "gaulos" on how to place a bet, and we had a blast. Special thanks to Betty’s friend, who gave us the tips. This guy it good! Sarah made several bets of 10 and 20 HK$ (she was feeling quite saucy, until she figured out this was only about $2 US...) each race, and Gary bet a little more (Editor´s note: a LOT more!) We ended up even for the night, thanks to dark horses and incorrectly filled-out betting slips.
Thanks again, Steve and Claudia, for all you hospitality. We promise to have plenty of water available for the next vacation!
The end...For this leg anyway...
Join us again as we take South America by storm!