I live in DC, which is a great place to live and visit. I try to make the most of it. However, I also love to leave my home and see what the world has to offer. Come and join me!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hong Kong Walk of Fame and On to Saigon, Sunday, 23 March 2008

I had no trouble falling asleep night but jet lag woke me up at 3. I tried to fall alseep on my own for about half an hour then took a melatonin. I don't want to hear that it's a placebo because it totally works for me. I went back to sleep and then made myself get up at 8.

For breakfast I ate the yogurt I bought in the Chicago airport (I have a casual attitude toward refrigerating yogurt) and an apple from home while sitting at the little table in front of my picture window with harbor view. It's another gray day, but it doesn't seem to be too cold.

I headed out around 9, walking along the water in a southerly direction. It wasn't too chilly and the view of the Hong Kong skyline was spectacular.

My walk along the boardwalk soon brought me to the Walk of Stars, Hong Kong's answer to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. There were lots of tourists and they were going crazy for the photo ops! In addition to the stars in the sidewalk there are also bronze still-life statuary groupings, such as a director's chair, someone with a megaphone, and a light. People were having a blast posing in the still lifes. I didn't know most of the actors, but I got Jet Li and Jackie Chan, just for fun.

I arrived at the pier/harbor at the end of the boardwalk where there is a lovely clock tower and these awesome huge lanterns/balloons of the olympic figures just stacked up in front of the tower all topsy turvy. Another girl and I take pictures of one another in front of them. To horribly generalize for a moment, I love that Asian tourists are so into picture taking, because she felt no compunction about telling me exactly where to stand and exactly what she wanted included in her picture, and she did the same for me. Since I am generally traveling alone I rely on the kindness of strangers to take photos to prove I have conquered something, and Western tourists usually just snap and go without thinking about framing or scale or composition or what have you.

I headed up to the observation deck and asked another girl to take a pic of me with the skyline. Quel surprise, elle parle seulement le francais. I really need to work on mine. And after insulting Western tourists' photography skills in the previous paragraph I should say the she asked me if I wanted a face shot or "entiere," and she did a great job with the full length photo.

It's a little before 10 and nothing is open yet, so no shopping for me. I wasn't that keen on it anyway, as I don't buy expensive clothes at home and am unlikely to do so abroad. If I want something expensive-style I'll make it. The Hong Kong Art Museum is nearby and opens at 10, so I hang out on the observation deck for another 20 minutes. More French tourists, this time a dad with two little kids. I wondered if the mom was off somewhere or if he'd brought them to Hong Kong by himself.

Entrance to the art museum is $10 HKD, less than $1.50 and a small price to pay for the bathroom alone. I went first to the Hong Kong artists contemporary art exhibition, including a large installation piece by Kwok the Frog King. It's fun--very colorful street art style and I like that the museum is open to that kind of thing. The rest of the contemporary art was also interesting--lots of men leading lives of quiet despair. There were also displays of Chinese calligraphy, Chinese painting, Chinese ceramics, Chinese jade, and Chinese gold. As I wasn't heading to China, I appreciated the chance to see some of the artifacts. As would strike me again and again throughout the trip, I loved that I had gone so recently to Greece and could compare what was going on in the different civilizations at different times. The technology and even the motifs and some of the styles were remarkably similar. There have always been people with itchy feet, I guess. It is a nice space and the collections are not overwhelming. I highly recommend a visit.

In the courtyard of the museum there were the five Olympic figures representing the five Olympic rings. These girls were going nuts over them and I kept waiting for them to move aside so I could get a clear picture. But then I decided their enthusiasm was kind of cute and just took my pics with them in them. Olympic fever is definitely sweeping China and its possessions.

After about an hour at the museum I headed back down the boardwalk to the hotel. As I was crossing the pedestrian bridge I was greeted by an Indian man. Not wanting to be unfriendly I said Hi back and he then proceeded to tell me my fortune. I was annoyed that I had gotten taken in--it's not like me to be so gullible--but I listened. He wrote down something on a scrap of paper and had me hold it. He said that 8-8-08 would be lucky for me. Well, I assume it will be lucky for everybody if it's lucky at all. He looked at my palm and told me I was lucky in love. If you call 33, hopelessly single, and childless "lucky," well I suppose he's right. It is not, however, the conventional definition of lucky in love. Then he asked me my favorite color. I said "Blue, I guess." I unfolded the paper, which said blue. Considering I was wearing a blue dress and blue glasses, it was not too much of a leap. I thought he was saying something about I should go stay with his sister, but then I think he was calling me "my sister." Anyway, at the end of course he told me to give him money. I said I didn't have any local currency. He said my currency was fine. I gave him a dollar. He was pissed. I was like, whatevs. A dollar for a wholly inaccurate unsolicited fortune seems fair to me.

I went to a bakery and picked up a custard corn bun and strawberry cake for lunch, each about $15 HKD ($2.50). The bun, unfortunately, was gross--the only corn kernels were on the outside, about give of them, and the custard was a sweet orange paste. I was hoping it was a savory cheese bun. The strawberry cake was pretty good--it was filled with a thick strawberry jam-like substance that tasted like real strawberries. In fact, when I was first eating it I thought it was real strawberries until I looked. I also picked up a mango sago, which was just as good as the coconut and the same $6 HKD.

Checkout at the Nikko was easy, but I had a 20 minute wait for the shuttle bus. At the Airport Express station you can check your bags! It was fantastic! I had no problems checking in at Vietnam Air with my paper ticket and they took my bag and tagged it through to Ho Chi Minh City. It was great not having any baggage wrangling on the train and at the airport.

The train ride was quick and easy. Once I got to the airport passport control took a bit of time, but I still had plenty to buy a fashion magazine (only about $2 US) and get lunch. After checking out all the food court options I got a mushroom rice bowl and a bottle of water from one of the places for $85 HKD ($14, your typical airport markup). It was more greasy than it appeared in the photo, but I appreciated the mushroom variety and soy chicken (?-it wasn't animal, but it wasn't vegetable either). There were like 2 cups of rice in there! I don't care for rice so I didn't eat much of that.

You can see all my Hong Kong photos, including lots of Olympiana, and all photos from this trip if you'd like.

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