Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Welcome to Hong Kong

I have now been in Hong Kong for about a day and a half.  It has been quite interesting so far.  I am currently at the YesInn hostel as Causeway Bay on Hong Kong Island.  I will be spending one more night here before heading to my new apartment that I will be calling home for a year.

My indirect flight to Hong Kong was long, but surprisingly enough it did not feel as long as the twenty plus hours it was.  I think the fact that for the main flight to Manila we essentially chased the sun, meaning for the vast majority of those hours we were in darkness, helped me trick myself into thinking that it was actually still night and time to sleep.  I was fortunately able to sleep on the plane, mostly they were hour or two naps at a time.  Since the meals were a few hours apart I could only take naps.  And there were plenty of meals!  A little while after leaving Toronto, at around midnight, we were fed dinner.  Then after stopping in Vancouver to pick people up and change our crew, we were fed a second dinner, this would have been around four or five in the morning Ontario time. A few hours later we were given lunch and then a few hours before landing in Manila,
Philippines we were given what was my first breakfast.  On the short flight from Manila to Hong Kong I had my second breakfast.  I certainly did not starve, and the food was rather good for airplane food.  The decent into Manila and later the ascent were spectacular.  It was so neat to fly right down through the clouds.  The pictures above are of the Philippines on after transferring in Manila.   I just thought it was so cool how the clouds seemed to gather like flocks of sheep at the tops of the mountains.  Descending over Hong Kong was an amazing sight, I wish I could have taken pictures, but I didn't want to get in trouble.  The amount of green on this island is startling.  One would think that Hong Kong should have turned into a complete concrete jungle with the amount of people crammed into such a small space; there are about seven and a quarter million people living in 1,104 square kilometres of land.  However, the Hong Kongers obviously seem to greatly value their forests and green spaces, and have instead of wide, sprawling houses and condos, or even stores, everything is built up, up, up.  My hostel shares a nine story building with a bank.  No space is wasted here.   

After landing in Hong Kong  and retrieving my luggage, I sat down to gather my thoughts and put a plan into action.  I decided I wanted to get an Octopus card right away, which is similar to Ottawa's Presto card, it is simply described as a public transportation gift-card that I can refill with money.  Fortunately there was a place in the airport I could get my Octopus card.  After that I headed over to the bus terminal just outside of the airport and waiting for the airport bus that would take me to my hostel.  The bus trip was scenic and quite pleasant.  After finally finding my way in the rain from the bus stop to the hostel I checked in, but couldn't get into my room for another hour since I was a bit early. I stored my luggage in the space the hostel has set aside for that and headed back out to look around a bit.  Was that overwhelming!  My hostel is in the city there can be no mistake of that.  There was a new smell to experience every three steps along with new sounds, topped off with brand new people with a whole new language.  I got back to the hostel and settled into my room.  I showered away over twenty-four hours of travel time and then after meeting some of the other girls in my room, I got up the courage to head back out and find something not too intimidating to eat.  I picked up some cucumbers and kiwis from a little grocery store down the street.

When I got back to the hostel I needed to just sit quietly after the craziness of the city.  So I spent the next little while keeping myself awake until my some of my friends and family were awake to chat with over facebook.  I managed to keep myself awake until about midnight, which certainly helps with the jet-lag.

In the morning, I spent an hour or two getting ready and planning my day and chatting again with my mom.  I wanted to get out, but I didn't like walking around Causeway Bay so I decided to walk over to Central, another section of Hong Kong Island, and visit the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens. The walk was about forty-five minutes.  It was pouring rain.  It is monsoon season in Hong Kong right now, so rain is to be expected, but I was sincerely hoping the rain would stop for a little while today, unfortunately it would not be so.  The rain seems to have petered out now, but all afternoon and early evening it was going strong.  I put on my purse and then my rain jacket and set out a little after noon.

The walk was fine and I was quite happy I didn't get lost on my way there.  I ended up going to the Hong Kong Park first, which happened to be on the way to the Gardens. Both the park and the Gardens had completely free admission.  The Park was beautiful.  Since it was raining so much I couldn't take as many pictures as I wanted, but I did risk taking a few.  The park had ponds filled with gold fish and turtles and there was a huge aviary with around six hundred birds in it!  There was also a look out tower where I got some great pictures of the city.

The Gardens were a little bit further and by the time I got there I was quite wet and had realized the reason I hadn't seen nearly any national people wearing rain jackets, but instead had umbrellas.  That reason of course would be sweat. In Ottawa it get cold when it rains.  Hong Kong doesn't understand this concept and stays warm while it is raining.  By the time I got home I was wet through with rain and sweat. I am on the look out for a good umbrella now. 

The Gardens were basically a little zoo with a few different bird, reptile, and mammal exhibits.  The most famous exhibit was the orangutans because in 2011 twin orangutans were born and are being raised by zookeepers since their mother would not take care of them.  After being tired of the rain in the zoo I decided to go be in the rain in the rest of Central.  I wandered around looking at the buildings and shops, simply trying to take in everything.  Finally I decided to stop and get something to eat at a little Turkish kiosk.  I sat outside to eat, it was a covered area thankfully.  It was a very nice vantage point to do people watching.  A bit later I was joined by a guy who was clearly not Asian.  He asked me if I was American, which he was, and we chatted about what we were doing in Hong Kong and our programs at school. After that I decided to make my way back to the hostel.  It took me a while and a few wrong turns to finally figure out which way I was supposed to be going according to the soggy, gradually disintegrating map I had.  I stopped in at a health food store because I saw brands that I recognized such as Bob's Red Mill.  Understandably so, it was all fairly pricey, but I did buy a bottle of handmade organic soyamilk.  It is unsweetened and it is nothing like the soyamilk in the grocery store.  I finally made my way home.  I could have taken the subway, but I felt I could keep walking so I did.  When I got back to my room it was seven!  I had spent nearly seven hours just wandering around Central Hong Kong.  I hopped right into the shower to rinse away the rain and the sweat.  I would say it was a fairly successful first full day in Hong Kong.