This blog is a long one, but I figure since it's been awhile since I've posted you all wouldn't mind :o) Also, I am now having trouble with my Flicker account, so there are no links to albums. I tried to create a link for the albums from my iPhoto, but I can't figure out how. I'm not very computer savy, lol. If anyone has suggestions on an easier way to upload albums let me know! Oh and after this post I am not going to have access to Face Book anymore b/c you can't get FB in China. I've had it up to this point b/c my friends have the Astrall VPN on their computer, but they are leaving tomorrow. So, if you've been reading this through the FB posts and you want to keep reading then you'll need to subscribe. Enjoy!
Lamma Island is located south of Hong Kong Island. The woman we stayed with suggested we go there and we're glad she did! We had to take a ferry which was interesting in itself. First, we couldn't figure out how the ferry was going to get out of the pier b/c it
was surrounded by other boats and sampans. Well the ferry driver was amazing! He backed out and pulled in maneuvering his way through the sampan maze until he was in the clear. We're starting to understand that there are not many rules of conduct with the transportation here. It's whatever goes goes.
On the ferry there was a large blue drum of water with a pitcher next to the bathroom and we weren't sure what it was there for. At first I thought it was to wash down the ferry. Then I noticed a woman come out of the bathroom, go to the drum, scoop up water and toss it into the squatter. It was toilet flush water! Good to know. Luckily, no one had to go to the bathroom, lol. Actually, come to think of it… have I mentioned the squatters yet?? Most public restrooms in HK are squatters. As in, a toilet in the ground that you squat over and do your business. Nine times out of ten there is no toilet paper either. Raelynd is not a fan. We learned quick to use the bathrooms in the malls b/c they usually have regular toilets and they're
The ride to Lamma Island was peaceful. We passed small islands that reminded me of Morla, The Aged One, from The Never Ending Story before he showed himself to Atreyu. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pics of them b/c there was a lot of spray coming from the ocean and I didn't want to get our camera wet. We arrived at Sok Khu Wan pier and as we pulled up we could see a strip of restaurants about a quarter mile long along the coast. We walked through the village, but it was a ghost town. Apparently we were too early b/c nothing was open. No worries, we decided to follow a map to do a tour of the island.
It was a nice change to go from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong to the stillness of deserted Lamma Island. We followed the trail to Tin Hau Temple, it was very small compared to the Ten Thousand Buddha's, but beautiful nonetheless. The design and decor of the temples here are marvelous. We then came to some stone stairs that led to a cemetery. We hadn't actually been to a cemetery yet, but have seen them
from a distance in HK. This one of course was at a much smaller scale. Each grave was like a little shrine with a picture of the deceased surrounded by pots (that once had flowers) and the ashes of incense.
After browsing the cemetery we followed a trail to Lo So Shing Beach. What a pleasant walk this was! We passed tropical rolling hills with many varieties of shrubbery that reminded us very much of Tahiti. A bamboo forest that was so thick and tall the sky almost disappeared. Vines that grew so uncontrollably they must have killed everything in it's path, so now they can only intertwine each other. And so many butterflies!! Butterflies we've never seen before with all different colors of the rainbow. We even saw a caterpillar that resembled a dragon in a Chinese New Year parade!
As we followed the trail we came to some caves. There was a sign that said Kamikaze Grottoes. During World War II the Japanese took over Lamma Island as a naval port where thousand of soldiers were stationed. It is said that the Japanese had a plan to hide speedboats in the grottoes and launch suicidal attacks
on the Allies' warships as they passed by. Hence the name Kamikaze Grottoes. But the war ended before the work had been completed.
The trail then started along the coast where there were tiny villages on the water. Small boat shacks in clusters connected by nothing but rope and planks of wood so they could get from shack to shack. We could see people walking on these planks without flaw as if they were walking across paved streets. How they got to and from the island was by gondolas (I'm sure this is not what they're called, but it's the best description of them). We watched one woman on a gondola, who had to be well into her nineties, glide through the ocean with the greatest of ease.
Finally, we reached Lo Sho Sing Beach and to our surprise it was very touristy. It had a strip of gazebo style benches, some stores where you can buy souvenirs and life guards, lol!! The beach was pretty with white sands and blue water. It wasn't a very sunny day, so I'm sure it's even prettier then. The water was too cold to get in, so Raelynd played a little
time in the sand while we rested our feet. We started feeling hungry, therefore headed back to the pier.
It was about 11:30am by then and the village was now alive! All the stores and restaurants were open and a whole ferry full of tourists had just arrived. What a difference from what we saw when we first came through. The restaurants had lifted their roll-down security gates to reveal tanks of live fish, lobster, crab, shrimp and other sea creatures that you can choose to have cooked for you. This is for real fresh seafood! We stopped at each restaurant viewing the menus. They all had set meals for two or more offering different options for the first, second and third course. Some more expensive than others, but all at a reasonable price considering. We chose a restaurant not only based on the menu and cost, but also b/c the owner was very nice. Everyone else was very pushy to the point they were practically forcing you in chairs. Well, we made the right choice! We got the fried squid, salted prawns, garlic scallops, sauteed baby bok choy and fried rice. Everything was excellent and nicely presented and
as if we were at a five star restaurant! And all for $200HK, that's only $26US! What a great end to our lovely morning at Lamma Island!
Since we still had a whole afternoon left in our day we decided to explore Aberdeen some more. We found the Aberdeen Market! As I have said before, we're big fans of markets, especially not the touristy ones. This one had more diverse seafood options then the one Logan took us to, which made sense seeing as Aberdeen is near the water. It also had more produce and more clothing, shoes, etc. It is amazing how much apparel and miscellaneous items the Chinese can pack into one small little area. It personally gives me anxiety to think about searching through all that stuff to find what I need.
After the market we decide to go back to the boat to rest and then back to Aberdeen for dinner. We got very lucky on the sampan ride back to Aberdeen b/c our driver took a different route that passed in front of the Jumbo Kingdom Floating Restaurant. It was about dusk, so all of it's lights were on. All though not as
bright at night, it was still gleaming. What a monstrosity this thing is!! I looked it up and it can accommodate up to 2,300 people! I can't even imagine what the electric bill must be, lol.
At Aberdeen we chose a ramen restaurant. This place was awesome!!! It was not the typical style of packaged ramen. The noodles were long and you had a choice of broth, meat and veggies. Yum!!! And the portions were huge! This was our last full day in Hong Kong and I have to say I think we went out with a bang!
Last Day in HK:
We had to catch a train to Beijing at 3pm, so we packed in the morning and then met Logan for a farewell lunch. Our last sampan ride back to the pier was a little sad. We truly enjoyed our stay on Boat Moshka and would do it again in a heart beat! Logan had mentioned the french toast in HK is incredible. French toast was the last thing I thought I'd be eating here, but if Logan says it's good it's definitely worth a shot.
We met him in Sham Shiu
Po, luggage and all, and went to the spot he said had the best french toast. We ordered 3 french toasts, a noodle meal and a red bean drink (another suggestion from Logan). The red bean drink was strange to say the least, but shockingly tasty! The beans are at the bottom of the drink, so towards the end you start to suck them up through your straw, which is a weird texture after drinking a cold beverage. Again, it was actually good! Kind of like cold sweet milk. Logan got the green jelly drink and that was good as well. I still don't know what makes the jelly green though, lol. Our french toast came out and it was huge! It looked like a large fried sandwich. Turns out, it was a large peanut butter sandwich tossed in egg and then deep-fried. And instead of syrup you use honey. AMAZING!!!! By far the best french toast I've ever had. Our noodle meal was good to, instant noodles with chicken and black bean sauce…delicious!
After stuffing ourselves senseless we had to say our goodbyes :o( Our trip to Hong Kong would not have been as memorable as it was
if it wasn't for Logan and Abra. They were so awesome to show us their favorite spots especially since they were right in the middle of finals. We could not thank them enough, but I'll say it again…"Thank you Logan and Abra!!! You both rock!".
Overnight train to Beijing:
Next we were off to Beijing to visit my friends Victor and RiAnn. They both are teachers at the Western Academy of Beijing, which is an international school. More about that later. They have two kids, Denali who is eight and Khi who is five. RiAnn and I use to be college roommates, so we've known each other for a long time. We were very excited about the train ride b/c it was our first overnight train.
We booked a soft sleeper suggested by RiAnn, which is 2 bunk beds in a private room. Boarding the train was a little confusing. We couldn't tell where to line up to board and the station was packed. We saw a sign that said, "Waiting area for Train T91 to Beijing", so that's where we waited. About ten minutes later a man came out with a megaphone calling out
in Chinese and a large crowd started filing towards him. Some people from our section got up, but some didn't. Was this for our train?? I made John go ask the man hoping he spoke English, lucky for us he did and he was not calling for our train. It was kind of nerve racking not knowing what the heck was going on. 20 minutes later, the same man got on his megaphone and in Chinese started calling out, but this time he looked at us and waved his way. Everyone is so nice in Hong Kong!
Now we were boarding our train! By the way, the train ticket was all in Chinese, so it was pretty funny trying to figure out which car was ours, lol. In our car we came up to our room and….there was someone in it! The soft sleepers have 4 beds and we are 3. It never dawned on us that we could possibly share a room with a stranger, which was silly on our part. It was kind of a bummer b/c we wanted to be able to sprawl out as we pleased. Oh well, it's all part of traveling! On the other hand, we were most grateful that RiAnn suggested the soft sleeper b/c John walked over to the hard sleeper car and he said it was open rooms with 6 beds, 3 beds to each wall! Don't get me wrong, we're not high maintenance travellers, but b/c we have a child we try to make our commutes as comfortable as possible within financial reason. If it was just John and I we would totally do hard sleepers, no problem.
So we were Beijing bound! Raelynd was ecstatic about the train situation! She was going from bunk to bunk, checking out all the nooks, crannies and buttons. The train itself is not in the best of conditions, especially the bathrooms, but RiAnn had also warned us about that, so we had wet wipes and toilet paper handy. Our rooms were decent and our sheets were clean, which was good enough for us. It was sort of like being at summer camp if you ever did that as a kid.
About an hour into our trip a train worker knocked on our door started to converse with the man with us. When she left he started packing his belongings. We were curious as to what the deal was, but then he looked at us and in broken English said, "I must go because at night I make a BIG noise!". Translation: he's a loud snorer!!! He was concerned about keeping Raelynd up all night. What a nice man!! We chatted for a moment and it turns out that his daughter went to college in the states. She got her bachelors at BYU and got her law degree at Penn State. She is now currently working for the Hong Kong government. It was hard for him to explain what her job entitles b/c of the language barrier, but it was very clear he found his daughters accomplishments strange. Not to say that he wasn't proud, b/c he was. He just kept saying, "She has many ideas, I don't know why all these ideas.". He is actually from Beijing although he now lives in HK, so he grew up in a very different environment than his daughter.
Now we had the whole room to ourselves! This made for a more comfortable 24 hour ride. Raelynd was like a little monkey climbing up the bunks and hanging her head upside down giggling at us. We watched movies not worrying about the volume. Although we were fine with sharing we were happy to not have to :o)
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