Author: Host Bonjour
Date of Trip: January 2001
I never even thought I’d ever visit Asia but a colleague of mine accepted a transfer there and moved there, invited me to come visit (helped out with the accommodations as I got to stay in her lovely apartment in the Causeway Bay area on HK island). I did however have expenses when I went to Macau for my birthday night and splurged for a night at the Westin Resort on the South China Sea – showing my passport and proving it was my birthday got me an awesome room at a decent rate. Met some Aussies at dinner and had a fun evening.
Also, took a China tour that brought me to Guangzhou and then to two small country villages which were great. We stayed in one of those “Leading Hotels of the World” in Guangzhou. I booked the tour where my friend told me to, some place in Central – China Travel Service I think it was, and they arranged everything, including the visa etc and it was all VERY reasonably priced and a nice SMALL group, just 6 of us on the tour with a driver and guide in a comfy van once in China. We took a boat up the Pearl River to get to Guangzhou and a train home but rode through China via modern, comfortable van. When we were up into the more countryside areas, I was quite the novelty at a shrine to Sun Yat Sen, where lots of photos were being taken and everyone seemed to want a photo with the blonde! I felt kind of funny but my guide explained they sometimes don’t see too much of this! They were so very thankful and I didn’t even think I looked very good – shows you how much vanity really counts in the world. It’s all about just meeting people, that’s what traveling has taught me and also given me many wonderful friends around the world.
I made our driver take an unscheduled stop on our China tour because I was determined to have an Amber beaded bracelet like his. All the other stops are pre-planned, but as I tend to do from time to time, I was rather insistent about getting my bracelet and so Chang took us to a jewelry factory he knew of and lo and behold, we all got to go in and see the workers busy on the first floor and go upstairs into the shop and search for items, for me, that was my Amber bracelet – said to help with stress, which was why I was SOOO insistent upon having it! Ya think I needed it?? lol
I wasn’t too keen on the Stanley Market but should have gotten off at the beach exit before Stanley Market – and hang out there. I liked the Night Market at Temple Street more. Just a lot more action there and really intriguing, exciting and invoking all of your senses – quite an experience.
The Flower Market is just plain beautiful – so worth strolling through for the pure beauty of the colors and varieties of amazing, exotic flowers etc. The Bird market is interesting too. What’s a bit tough is the food market – but again, if you’re interested in another “sensory” experience, well this will surely get the job done but not for the faint of heart. People are there choosing their dinner from as fresh as fresh as food can be – that is, still alive.
I did high tea at the Mandarin Oriental at High Tea for my birthday (a few days before) and it was an incredible way to feel so posh and yet not have to spend such a wild amount of money (although I was treated) for a fantastic, age old experience. Also posh, having a walk down Hennessy Road and other gilded streets lined with some of the most amazing jewelry stores you’ve ever seen! Aside from Zurich, Switzerland I don’t think I’ve ever seen more elaborate creations in windows and while HK is known most for pearls and jade, there is a HUGE jewelry convention there every year and when you see the jewelry-stores-a-plenty resplendent with diamonds, gold, platinum etc, you will be dazzled.
The same can be said for going up to Victoria Peak. I think that was one of the first things I did upon arrival in HK. It so happened that another good friend of mine was also in HK on business so how lucky was I to be able to have dinner with two good friends at the fancier restaurant (there’s a more casual one) atop Victoria Peak AT NIGHT, overlooking all the glittering lights of the city’s buildings, the harbour etc. There’s a walkway to take a nice little promenade around the peak and have more of a look. It was a memorable start to my trip.
But the start was just such a sensory explosion – the sights, sounds, scents (and touch of SOOOOO many people bristling by me on their way to work; makes Manhattan seem like Cleveland) and everyone on their cellphones – this is 1996 – even on the metro!! I remember standing on a roadway overpass and looking down, up and around and feeling exhilarated at the fact that I was someplace so NEW, so DIFFERENT, so EXCITING – somewhere I never imagined I’d be and on that first day it was just that sort of wowee feeling one gets from traveling. I arrived sort of cautiously curious and left immensely fascinated and mystified – enlightened (i.e. I learned soooo much) and when I got home, I did a lot of reading about the places I had been. Sometimes the reading happens before the trip; this time, I voraciously went through books went I got home.
It was a great adventure and from that trip came the following year’s trip: a lovely farm couple I’d met from New Zealand and had gotten close to on the China tour I’d taken had invited me to come on “Down Under” to their farm on South Island and so there I went, into Australia as well. To this day, they are dear friends, and I was able to return the hospitality to most of the family and some of their friends. That relationship also led to my visit with a family in England not too far from Windsor (so I could visit London, which didn’t thrill me, but maybe next time) and who are dear friends now as well, and who also visited me. See what travel can do? You take trips, meet friends, get hosted, and in return, can host, develop lovely friendships around the world and feel more like a local than a visitor! You get better tips, often they’ll take you around to great places some folks don’t know about etc.
Enjoy Hong Kong – there are literally so many exciting things to do. If you go to http://aircourier.org somewhere on their website is a photo of me standing in front of the giant buddha out on Lantau Island. They have a mini version of my report – which isn’t even close to what I wrote here and the photo – I’m the blonde in front of the buddha. Don’t miss that! And leave room for so much more – get a good guide book to start to getting ideas; I like Frommers or Lonely Planet, and get a “Streetwise” brand map for getting around. They are laminated and very accurate, fold up, and normal size! I’ve got quite a collection of them as they seem to be spot on in just about every city I’ve used them for. You can usually find them in the bookstore, same where you’ll be buying your travel guide to prepare (and bring with you) for your trip. I also love the DK Eyewitness guides because they are filled with culture and history etc but they tend to be a bit heavy to actually carry along on the trip with you but great for prep. Bring one of the other books with you for planning and reference; they’re just lighter and have the practical stuff you need like sights, eats and such.