Published: September 3rd 2011September 3rd 2011
Sup everybody, so last time I had a nice little detour to Ngong Ping where I got in touch with nature, saw the biggest bronze Buddha statue in the world, and translated like a boss (haven’t said “like a boss” in a while - for shame on me). And as unexpectedly fun as Ngong Ping was, it was time to get down to business.
So after asking the hostel guy which bus I should take, and being lucky enough to know where to get off - since it’s where I had to get off after I flew in to Hong Kong – I lugged my luggage (see what I did there?) down to the bus station, and hauled it onto the bus. After about a 40 minute bus ride, we got to the bus terminal, which very fortunately for me is the same place as the metro terminal (seriously – thank God). I got once of the city transportation cards (called the octopus card – and yes I know I’m repeating myself from my last blog – deal with it) and took it from Tung Chung to Sheung Wan.
Sheung Wan is on the far west side of Hong Kong island, but is still apart of the actual Hong Kong – so I could actually get into town and do stuff. I got off at the metro station and looked around for the shuttle bus to my hostel, which left around 11. Long story short, I called the hostel (on a random person’s phone – thank you random person for lending me your phone) and was told it was by the 7-11 underneath the mall. Sadly, I went to the wrong side of the 7-11 and then missed the bus. So I had to take a taxi (*sigh*) to the hostel, which is also on top of a mountain, and kind of out of the way of the city. Luckily, the shuttle bus schedule was reasonable, and the bus itself was free, so that wasn’t an issue.
Internet was another issue, as there was none – yet (to be explained later). I still had to download and print off some documents for my visa. So while they did have a computer where I could pay for internet, (which I used to pay my tuition bills and what not later that night) if I couldn’t print it, it was still useless to my visa solution. So I took the 2 o’clock shuttle into town to see what I could find. Also lunch. I needed lunch. I eventually paid for the smallest baked potato I’ve ever seen in my life (and overpaid, cause HK is crazy expensive – well, at least compared to Beijing, and everything is being compared to Beijing by the way). I then went wandering around the Sheung Wan area to see what I could find. And let me remind you that this is a Sunday so not much is open. However, I did find a Kodak, and since I still needed passport photos as well for my visa, I went in to take care of that. And then I had a crazy idea – if Kodak can print photos, can’t they also print documents? The answer was yes – a very pricy yes, but still a yes. However, I needed to put the files on a USB port, and going to Starbucks tomorrow and getting some internet there, since I wouldn’t be able to download documents onto a USB port at the hostel. But finally there was hope on the horizon, and with that (and two hours to kill before the shuttle bus came back) I wandered around Sheung Wan. I can’t say that I found a ton, as again it was a Sunday and the only thing that were open were food stores – and by food stores, I mean places that sold dried seafood (what a smell!). Oh well, I headed back to the hostel and unpacked.
I woke up bright and early to catch the 7:45 am shuttle bus into Sheung Wan. Got there with all of my Taiwan stuff + computer in my backpack, and went to Pacific coffee to get some free internet. Except it wasn’t free, and the Kodak people forgot to tell me that. So then I went to the Starbucks, where I only got internet for 20 min before I had to pay. I didn’t get everything downloaded in time, so I bought the extra bit of internet and got everything downloaded, and headed off to Kodak a tad after 9. And they weren’t open. I later learned that most stuff opens around 10 in Hong Kong, something that would have been useful to have known. So I went back to Starbucks to email a few friends, take care of logistics and what-not, and then went back to the Kodak. Got my documents printed off, and then off I went to the embassy.
I got to the Lippo center, which is just a huge office building, and went to the 40th floor to get my Visa stuff taken care of. I got ticket number 66A, and when I got there, it was at 33A. And yes, there were also B numbers being called. Awesome! But during the wait, I ended up meeting one of my classmates who will also be studying abroad at National Taiwan University (NTU) as well as someone else who will be studying in Taiwan, so I got their contact info, which is always good to have. After waiting an hour (and beasting at Angry Birds when the others left) I handed in my documents and was told I could apply for a resident’s visa! Meaning I wouldn’t have to do some other medical tests (cause I had no reason before to feel as if I needed an HIV test) in Taiwan. I was told to pick up my visa tomorrow after 4pm.
So happily, I left the embassy and went off to look at different hostels to stay at my final weekend, as I didn’t have a place to stay the 2nd and 3rd of September. I went to find two places I had looked up in my travel book, and didn’t find them. But I did find ChungKing Mansions, which I later learned had a ton of cheep hostels inside. I went back to the hostel, to learn that I did have internet in my room! Or I didn’t. And then figured out that my room was on the fringe of the wireless modem range – and if I sat near the door (far away from the power outlet) I’d have internet access for the most part. Also helped that I hacked the password (hint: just hit enter – that was a toughie to crack). So I booked a hostel in ChungKing mansions, ate a delicious dinner of instant ramen, and went to bed.
So I slept in today, and then caught the 11 am shuttle into town. I decided that today I was going to hit up the Peak and the “animal gardens” (aka: a zoo, but it’s too small to actually call it a zoo) and then go pick up my passport. So I took the metro over to the metro station closest to the peak tram, and followed the signs (thank you signs) to the tram stop. I paid for my ticket, and then onto the tram I went. I’m going to compare this tram ride to what it feels like when you are on a roller coaster, and you car is being dragged up that first bit – only a tram is heavier, and there is no fun part where you get to go back down and scream “WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!” and throw your hands up in the air like a monkey (or if you’re like me, have a death grip on whatever is strapping you in and forget to breath for the first 15 seconds). Then you get to the top, and it’s just a shopping area on top of a hill.
Now this is the perfect moment to talk about how I feel about Hong Kong: Eh. The two biggest appeals to Hong Kong are the shopping and the peak. I’m not a big shopper, and my biggest fear is heights. So while on paper it would seem like Hong Kong and I are a match made in heaven, I’m just not feeling it like I have other cities (aka: mainland China). Plus it doesn’t really seem like a fusion of culture. I get the feeling that there’s the westernized, British part of Hong Kong, where a lot of the high class shopping and business is, and then the more local culture which I can’t access because they speak Canto, not mandarin, and a lot of people aren’t big fans of Mandarin down here (fun fact: did you know that Canto lost being the official language of mainland China by 1 vote?) So between not being able to access local culture as much as I’d like, not being a shopper, and not being someone who likes high places (especially ones that are turned into shopping malls), Hong Kong hasn’t exactly been my jam. But I’m still trying to make the most of my time over here.
So back to the peak. Despite my fear of heights, I did get some decent pics of Hong Kong (though it was a bit overcast, so not everything came out swimmingly). I then ate some food, and then headed back down the tram. Then I went over to the “zoo,” which was actually a lot of fun, and I rather enjoyed the whole experience. They had a random collection of birds, monkeys, and tortoises. It was also nice to sit down and enjoy the monkeys play/almost steal the gardener’s shirt.
Then I went back to the embassy where they had discovered I haven’t had an HIV test (and another one that I forgot what it was) so I got the visitor’s visa as I originally expected, but it’s still a visa, and now I can go to Hong Kong and get a residence visa without having to leave the country.
I then went back to the station where the shuttle bus picked up hostellers, but then I had an idea. As I mentioned, where the shuttle bus picks us up is under a mall. This mall is also a ferry port between Hong Kong and Macau, so I decided to head upstairs real quick to buy tickets to and from Macau for a Thursday day trip. And then back to the hostel I went.
So I slept in really late today, and managed to miss all the morning shuttle busses. But getting a Visa really takes it out of you. I did manage to make it on the next shuttle (at 1:30) and grabbed lunch an McDonalds, because it was fast and cheep. I’d also like to note that the two times I’ve been to McDonalds in Asia has officially doubled the amount of times I’ve been to McDonalds. Congrats? Anyway, I then made it over to Man Mo temple, which was a lot smaller than my guide book made it out to be, but it was also under construction, so it is what it is. And as I’ve mentioned before, temples don’t take that long to look at (also, I walk rather fast, which cuts down a fair amount of travel time). So then I walked up (and by up, I mean parts of Hong Kong are straight up a hill – this is one of those parts) to the Sun YatSen memorial. I have to admit, this was kind of cool. They took a European sudo-mansion and turned it into a museum for Sun and devoted people to the Republic he wanted to create. It was kind of cool reading about him, and some of the people he declared heroes, as well how Hong Kong was a strategic place for him to hide/negotiate when needed.
I then had some free time, So I ran over to Causeway Bay area, and found two more temples plus Victoria park, which was interesting, but nothing much to comment on. Then instead of taking the Metro back, I decided walk back half of the way, and see what I saw. It was kind of cool walking along the bay, but sadly, nothing really of interest to report on. Made it back, and found a diner that served cheep food (finally!) and then headed back to my hostel.
And that’s it for this blog. Next Time we go to Macau where spoiler alert: I love Macau. Some thoughts:
Heights and shopping – how did this not occur to me that I wouldn’t really enjoy Hong Kong?
Why must they speak Canto? What’s wrong with good ole’ Mandarin? I know Mandarin! (well, enough of it)
*Victory Dance for getting my Taiwan Visa*