Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hong Kong

For the rest of my holiday break after Harbin, my parents came to visit. Our trip itinerary was this:

1. Hong Kong and Macau
2. Bangkok
3. Koh Samed, Thailand
4. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
5. Shanghai
6. Shijiazhuang
7. Beijing

The first leg of our trip started with me flying to meet them in Hong Kong. I was flying from Beijing and was supposed to get in about an hour and a half before them. I figured this would give me enough time to collect my baggage and be waiting for them at their exit. I knew I'd be at a different exit because I was coming from the mainland and they were coming from the US. My plan was ruined, however, when my flight was delayed by almost 45 minutes out of Beijing. I still don't know why. It just was, because it's China.

I got to Hong Kong and collected my suitcase, which thankfully was one of the first on the belt. I headed out "Exit B" to the main part of the airport. I then realized that the ONLY things I knew about my parents flight were the time they were supposed to arrive and what city they were coming from. I had no idea what airline. I rushed over to the information desk to ask about flights coming in from Chicago at that time. He told me there were no flights coming in from Chicago at that time, but told me there was one coming in from Chicago that was a half hour earlier than what I expected. I assumed that was the correct one and headed to "Exit A" to wait for them.

I still had some time to wait for them, so I waited nervously by the exit, watching to see when the stream of Europeans ended and the Americans started coming in from Chicago. In reality, I wasn't really waiting for them that long. In my heightened sense of excitement and anticipation, however, it felt like I had been there forever. Immediately, all of the worst possible scenarios started flashing through my mind. I was torn in indecision. Shanghai had two airports - why hadn't I checked to see if Hong Kong did, too?! I could see in my mind my parents arriving at the other airport, and I was nowhere to be found. But, what if I went to the information desk to ask if there was another airport, and meanwhile missed them walking out the exit I was standing at currently? I decided against leaving and stood my ground outside Exit A. Thankfully, that was the correct choice, and I found my parents. Of course, I started crying as soon as I saw them and mumbling something about them actually making it.

We waited for an hour for our hotel shuttle, and I was pleasantly surprised at how nice it was. I had booked everything online on Expedia, and my only criteria for booking was that it was the cheapest option available. After dropping our bags off in our room, we headed down for hot pot in the hotel lobby.

We only had two full days in Hong Kong and Macau, and it was quite dreary the whole time. It rained or drizzled the entire time we were there, which made it difficult to take pictures at some of the tourist sites we visited.

Our first day in Hong Kong, we visited the Big Buddha. To get there, we had to take the most terrifying cable car ever up to the top. It took almost a full half hour to get there because it was so high in the mountains. We spent the day walking around the city, stumbled upon the Jade Market and just a few street markets, and then headed to Macau for the evening.

We didn't have a plan for how to get around the city, so once we left the ferry, we just climbed on a bus headed to a casino. We chose the Galaxy casino mainly because their workers were the only ones who spoke English well enough to tell us that the shuttle was free. It was much further away from the ferry than the other casinos, and we were a bit worried that we were heading to a sketchy place. When we arrived, though, we found that we had inadvertently chosen the shuttle bus to the newest casino in Macau - that also happens to currently be the largest casino in the world! Hooray for us!

We had a few drinks and walked around the casino for a while. The only table games they had were Blackjack and Baccarat. Dad ended up playing Blackjack for a while, and we got quite a crowd at our table. We ended up staying in Macau for a long time, and ended up getting back to Hong Kong so late that the subway had stopped running.

The next day, we walked around the city again, and took the Star Ferry around so we could see all of the big buildings, which was really beautiful. That night, we took a 9pm train to Bangkok to continue our adventures.

Link to Hong Kong and Macau pictures:


Oh, man. I can't believe I forgot to write about this the first time. Hong Kong is so drastically different from mainland China. I could hardly believe it. I felt extremely awkward a lot of the time as I realized how some of my mannerisms had changed to accommodate the mannerisms of the people I interact with in China daily. First, I couldn't believe how clean Hong Kong is in comparison to Beijing (and the Shiz, haha). It's the only place where I think people actually abide by "No Smoking" signs. There are also "No Spitting" signs, which I found wonderful. A small, but much needed, break from the constant hacking and spitting that haunts me on the mainland. Other things I also didn't see in Hong Kong: people using the outdoors as their personal restroom and babies with slit pants. Heaven.

The other thing that is worth mentioning about Hong Kong is that lines and rules exist in this place. One example is how people use an escalator. So, in most of the world, if you want to stand in place, you stand on one side of the escalator, to allow for people who want to walk to use the other side. This concept does not exist in mainland China. Everyone will rush to get on the escalator and then just stand there. Just stand still. Oh, you wanted to walk up the escalator to go quickly? TOO BAD. China doesn't want that for you. You must hurry up to wait. Well, in Hong Kong, people actually abide by this rule. I had the hardest time remembering to do so. Every time we would get on an escalator, my dad would have to remind me to stand behind him to allow people to walk around me. It was this one small example that made me realize how I am so used to just having to shove my way through crowds and ignore certain social cues that I grew up around. Another problem I had was waiting to get on the subway. In Beijing, you shove and elbow your way onto the subway any way you can. In Hong Kong, people actually wait in lines on either side of the door. They allow people to exit the subway car before they start boarding. It was very, very hard for me to remember to wait in line and not shove people out of my way.

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