Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is another city I could see living in for a while. Of course the pollution is horrible, but I think that's par for the course if you're going to live in a city in Asia. Hong Kong reminds me a bit of Manhattan...if Manhattan was in Asia. It's very cultured, everyone wears black, the buildings are really tall, and it's expensive as all get out. Hong Kong is the place where we spent the most money on a hotel...and it definately wasn't the nicest. However, the people who owned the place were wonderful and that more than made up for it.

The highs in Hong Kong were eating dim sum - the pork buns were super yummy, scoring an awesome grey wool jacket that must have fallen off a truck somewhere, and seeing the skyline in person that I'd seen many times on CNN - their Asian headquarters are in Hong Kong. But in general, everything we did in Hong Kong was fun. The only thing I regret about Hong Kong was the fact that we didn't take the tram up to Victoria Peak. The weather was kind of yucky - it rained quite a bit. It did give us the chance to check out some nice pubs though. ;)

Bruce Lee is the king of Hong Kong.

View of the skyline and Victoria Harbor with storm clouds covering the mountain.

Much prettier once the sun goes down.

We wandered around the markets but never found the mahjong set I had my heart on.

Strange fruit.

Nan Lian Garden was a beautiful spot for a tranquil afternoon stroll.

The garden is filled with pagodas, ornate bridges, and gorgeous landscaping.

Not quite templed out...we stopped by Tin Hua temple in Yau Ma Tei.

Devotees bowed with incense sticks held in their hands as they said prayers. It was as smokey as a bar on New Year's Eve there.

Jason and I were both excited to see the Bank of China building. It's a I.M. Pei building for all you architecture enthusiasts out there.

Cool picture of a double decker bus flying by.

Jason in front of some funky buildings.

We decided to walk into the Bank of China building to see if they had an observation floor/deck. They didn't have anything like the Empire State building, but we were allowed to visit a small observation area on one of the upper floors.

View from the 43rd floor.

Yay! It was wild to feel the building swaying - enough to make my feet itch.

I think this is an artistic performance piece. They're trying to say something about homelessness. What do you think?

I loved the double decker buses.

This is for you, T.J.

They were everywhere in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Marina

The rich weekend boating side.

And the everyday side.

Street scene.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Bangkok, Thailand

Although my love of train travel has been well documented...I wasn't sure what to expect from Thai trains. From what reading I'd done beforehand, I gathered they were either heaven or hell depending on the individual. Since I have an aversion to flying, we decided to take the night train from Trang to Bangkok, and hope for the best.

The best, it turned out, was really frickin' good. We left the station in Trang around 4:00 in the afternoon. A few hours later, dinner was served. Jason and I brought our own food, but the other options looked decent. We passed a few hours by playing cards, talking, reading, and looking out the windows at the landscape. Around 10:00 pm, the train stewards came around to put the bunks together for everyone. I got the top, and Jason slept below me. The beds folded out from the walls, they were long enough for me to stretch out, and had a little reading light - they were perfect. They also had clean sheets and blankets that they removed from sealed plastic bags. For some reason, those plastic bags made me feel so secure and happy. Once I was tucked into my bunk, sleep came almost immediately. The rocking of the train was better than a sleeping pill.

When I awoke in the morning, we were only a few hours from Bangkok. After cleaning up in the bathroom, having a small breakfast and coffee, we were ready to disembark.

The only downside of the whole trip happened the next morning. As we were canvassing the other people on the train for information on hotels, we found ourselves stuck in a long conversation with some "travellers" from New York city. They were professional artsy folks in their late twenties to early thirties - people I thought we'd like from the outset. We were wrong. They were also pretentious.

I was forced to listen to the traveller vs. tourist spiel for the umpteenth time. (I cringe just wondering if I ever espoused such twaddle). We were informed that Laos was so overtouristed it wasn't even worth going to anymore. (Really? Laos? Yes, I've heard it's all Holiday Inns and KFC restaurants nowdays.) That the airport hotel in Bangkok was the best place to stay. (That must be where all the authentic Thai culture is.) And that the place to go these days is Central America. (Not sure why they weren't there.) I pasted on my old waitressing face and politely nodded when appropriate. I was glad we hadn't struck up a conversation with them the night before.

Bangkok though was another nice surprise on our trip. I'd only ever heard terrible, nasty things about the city. Maybe I'd been expecting the worst (i.e. Guatemala City), but we were happy with it. The weather was beautiful while we were there. The city is full of interesting sights to see and the markets are incredible. We also found a super swank place to stay for a pittance. Score!

We'll get better at making videos...I promise.

Bangkok Train Station

Another view of the Station

The king! He's everywhere. It's the law that every home and business displays a picture of him. You can also be arrested for insulting the king or his family. He means business!

Elephants are a symbol of Thailand. The royal family keeps several elephants on the grounds, including the famed white elephants.

The Emerald Palace.

This guy, literally and figuratively, took us for a ride.

Their building are so dang decorative.

Long eared Buddha.

more decoration...


I think Jason trailed him for a while.

Thailand...not England. Promise.

Khaosan Road is the backpacker's ghetto in Bangkok.

Now I know where to go for a TEFL certificate - no more studying for me! ;)

Street Food.

Bangkok Market...just like Portabello Road.