Chuseok in Hong Kong

Only two weeks back at work after the Awesome Vacation, and it was Chuseok, Korean Thanksgiving/ Harvest Festival. My school gave us an extra day on either side, and Craig got an extra day at the end. Since most people would be traveling south to their ancestral homes, we headed southwest to Hong Kong.

I had Friday, 9 Sept, off, but Craig didn’t, so I made some further inroads on the slowest move in the history of man. For those of you keeping score, I’ve now paid four months of rent since I moved out, because I haven’t actually moved my stuff out. He ended up leaving work a few hours early, as did most of his coworkers, and we caught a cab to Incheon airport in the early evening.

The plane was nearly full, but before the flight, we found out that his frequent flyer card not only got us into the lounge, but also allowed us to board first. Sweet! It wouldn’t be much of a bonus at home, but Korean airlines don’t care how many carry on bags you have and Koreans think 8 is the optimal number of items they should each shove into the overhead compartment. Getting on first means we aren’t the ones playing “where’s my bag” at the end of the flight.

We stayed at the Butterfly on Wellington which was small (three or four rooms per floor, but 26 floors) and very quiet. It was a great place to return to after being out in the busy crowds. Despite our proximity to the water and being in such a tall building, we didn’t have a water view. We had a view of the tall buildings across the street. Oh, well. It was about midnight by the time we got checked in, so we pretty much just went straight to bed.

Saturday morning, we got up early and headed over to Victoria Peak, which now has a 360° view of the city. I last went in 2002, and that wasn’t there. The Peak has also turned into a shopping mall. We weren’t really in the mood for shopping, and since we had spoiled our appetite with a snack at a coffee shop before we went up to see the view, we weren’t even in the mood for lunch. We did stop by the bookstore and get some travel mags and postcards.

The view from the top.

From there we went to Stanley Market. We had gotten round trip tickets for the tram, but there were too many people and too few trams, so we took a taxi. The last time I went, I stayed in Kowloon and decided that Stanley was too far and didn’t go. I made the right choice. It wasn’t substantially different from an outdoor Korean market, except it was on the waterfront. I imagine there are waterfront markets in Korea, I just haven’t been.

Just like Korea, except next to the ocean.

We looked around, but didn’t buy anything. We decided to take a break at an outdoor cafe. When we saw they had sandwiches with proscuitto, goat cheese, and a host of ingredients hard to find in Korea, we realized a quick Coke Zero wasn’t going to satisfy either one of us. Thus, our ten minute rest turned into about an hour, until I could finish off the Dagwood of a sandwich I was given. It was too good to think of throwing any of it away.

Stuffed to the gills, we walked over to the pier, arriving in time to see the tour boat sail off. Oh, well. We went and looked at the miniature ships at the museum next door before making our way to the opening match of the soccer season. If you want to read about that, Craig wrote about it here.

We missed it by *that* much.

This was at Stanley Market, but these were all over Hong Kong, growing down the cement, where ever.

On Sunday, we took the ferry to Macau. We were able to get tickets from the machine, which made us feel pretty clever. I don’t know if only first (“super”) class tickets are sold by machine, or if the others were sold out, but we were whisked away to a sitting area before being allowed to board first. On board, we were given breakfast. It didn’t look too appealing, so it’s just as well that we had already eaten. Breakfast in HK was a bit of a bust all around, though.

Mmmm... baby pigeon. Actually not bad. We didn't eat the heads.

The last time I went to Macau, the casinos had only first started opening, and they weren’t on the island the ferry goes to. Not so anymore. The immigration line took over an hour to get through, and the taxi ride to the old square was just block after block of massive casinos. Not a change for the better IMHO. Much of what we saw of the island now looks like the opening credits of CSI.

We passed straight by the casinos in favor of the historical Portuguese part of the island. That has been somewhat gentrified, but still has most of its character. We wandered around looking at various points of interest– churches, old buidings, a museum, etc. until lunchtime. About that time, it started raining. I’m sure it’s a coincidence that we seemed to be in a no-restaurant zone. We finally got back to the square and found a Portuguese restaurant and set up camp there. We hadn’t really intended to make an afternoon of lunch, but the rain kept falling and the food was good, if expensive. By the time we left, the bill was HK$1550 (US$200). That’s a lot of lunch.

St. Paul's Cathedral. I imagine there will be a casino there in a year or two.

The part of Macau that hasn't changed. Much.

The old town square. There were a lot more Starbucks and make up shops here than in 2002.

The fancy schmancy restaurant where we had lunch only gave place mats to foreigners, except the ones who were Asian. Really.

Our tickets home were for the evening, but we felt we had had enough sightseeing wine for one day, and went back to the ferry terminal with hopes of changing our tickets. Korea has definitely spoiled us. We were directed from the ticket line to the stand-by line, which was about a mile long. People would stand in line for a certain departure time, but if they didn’t get on that boat, had to go to another line. Once again, our super class tickets came to the rescue. About 100 or so people did not get on the boat, but super class wasn’t sold out, so we did.

Monday we got up early with a plan of going on an ambitious hike on Lantau which we had read about in the HK travel mag I had gotten the day before. The fly in the ointment was that we took the wrong ferry and ended up on Peng Chau, a tiny island with no cars. It didn’t have cars, but it did have well-marked walking trails around the whole island. So, we changed our plans and spent the day wandering around. I think it all turned out for the best. It was a hot, sunny day, and the trail we had planned to walk was steep and had neither shade nor places to get water.

We had a very pleasant day, then came home and went to the Fire Dragon Dance after getting only slightly lost. The streets were incredibly crowded, so we  felt like we’d lucked out when we got a spot against the safety barriers. Thirty or forty minutes later, when “the dragon” got moving, we realized that we were about 10m from its tail, not its head. LOL We had gotten our fill of incense smoke in our eyes by then, so we cleared off in search of dinner.

Imagine your dorm full of incense smoke in college. Now multiply that by several thousand.

On Tuesday, we flew out at 2, so we just wandered around our hotel’s neighborhood all morning. We had gotten an ice cream from the grocery store on Peng Chau, and Craig saw that they had frozen lamb. So, when he saw the same chain in our neighborhood, he made a plan. We looked around and bought a small ice chest, then went to the grocery store… to find that they had two pieces of frozen lamb. Oh, well, we filled the rest of the ice chest with steak and called it a day.

A burger joint near our hotel. We didn't eat there, just to be safe.

Unfortunately, our bags were completely stuffed, so I didn’t notice that my little travel pouch of jewelry didn’t make it in any of them. None of the pieces were particularly valuable, but Craig had given me a beautiful set of silver rings for my birthday, and they were in there. He called the hotel the next day, but of course, they hadn’t been turned in.