Posts/December, 2008/

Three Cheers to an AMAZING 2008

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

As 2009 begins, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at 2008…and what a year it has been!!

In January…

I lived in the best 1 bedroom apartment in Portland

I lived in the best 1 bedroom apartment in Portland

My favorite jeans couldn't take it any more

and my favorite jeans decided they couldn't take it any more

In February…

I walked to work every day

I walked to work every day,

Nik and I spent a weekend on the Oregon coast

Nik and I spent a weekend on the Oregon coast,

and laid down in the beach grass

and he laid down in the beach grass.

In March…

The first building I ever worked on was dedicated

The first building I ever worked on was dedicated,

Spring started in Portland

Spring started in Portland,

and my Dad had heart surgery, so I mowed the lawn.

and my Dad had heart surgery, so I mowed the lawn.

In April…

I met my neice for the first time ever

We went to Denver to meet my niece for the first time ever,

Nik and I celebrated our 2 year anniversary

and Nik and I celebrated our 2 year anniversary.

In May…

We stayed at a lovely B&B in...

We stayed at a lovely B&B

Nik's favorite American city, San Francisco.

in Nik's favorite American city, San Francisco,

Then I said goodbye to so many good friends.

then we said goodbye to so many good Portland friends,

and packed our life into one of these little rooms before saying goodbye to Portland, not knowing if wed ever return.

and packed our life into one of these little rooms before saying goodbye to Portland, not knowing if we'd ever return.

In June…

I took a solo roadtrip to Atlanta

I took a solo road-trip from Tennessee to Atlanta,

Attended the family reunion with our little Sinz extension

Attended the family reunion with our little Sinz extension,

And hopped on a big plane the very next day to go to...

And hopped on a big plane the very next day to go to...

Thailand!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thailand!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In July…

We climbed a big hill in Krabi to see a big Buddha,

We climbed a big hill in Krabi to see a big Buddha,

We watched soccer at sunset on Rai Leh Beach,

We watched soccer at sunset on Rai Leh Beach,

We rode a longtail boat to Koh Phi Phi,

We rode a longtail boat to Koh Phi Phi,

We found an apartment in Chiang Mai,

We found an apartment in Chiang Mai,

and we took our first long distance motorbike trip for my 27th birthday.

and I turned 27 so we took our first long distance motorbike trip to celebrate.

In August…

We discovered the best boiled chicken restaurant in town,

We discovered the best boiled chicken restaurant in town,

We visited the Reservoir for the first time,

We visited the Reservoir for the first time,

we got lost on our way to Pai,

we got lost on our way to Pai,

and we wandered around town on foot....A LOT!!

and we wandered around town....A LOT!!

In September…

We spent some days at the top of Huay Kaew Waterfall,

We spent some days overlooking Chiang Mai,

We took a trip to Doi Inthanon,

we took a trip to Doi Inthanon,

and then we went to India.

and then we went to India.

We started out in Delhi,

We slept at hawk level near Jama Masjid during Ramadan in Delhi,

and then we went to India,

we walked to Shey to see a monastery in the Himalayas,

and saw the Indus River,

we rode a local bus along the Indus River,

we fought off touts in Varanasi,

and we fought off touts

while we admired the bathing ghats in Varanasi.

while we admired the bathing ghats in Varanasi.

In October…

We joined the masses at the Taj Mahal,

We joined the masses at the Taj Mahal,

took an Indian cooking class,

we took an Indian cooking class

we walked through the streets of Jodhpur,

and walked through the blue streets in Jodhpur,

we slept under the stars in Osiyan,

we slept under the stars in Osiyan,

We dined on the rooftops

we dined on rooftops,

witnessed the celebrations

witnessed celebrations,

and paddled through the lake of Udaipur.

and paddled through Lake Pichola in Udaipur,

we looked at books,

we looked at books,

watched the sunset at Chowpatty Beach,

watched the sunset at Chowpatty Beach,

joined the morning commute,

joined the morning commute,

and drank sugarcane juice in Mumbai,

and drank sugarcane juice in Mumbai,

and then went to Goa and Bangalore and got sick.

Nik caught a cold in Goa,

I got food poisoning in Bengaluru,

I got food poisoning in Bengaluru,

and then we saw the King of Thailand in Bangkok.

and then we saw the King of Thailand in Bangkok.

In November…

we made it back to Chiang Mai just in time for Loi Krathong,

we made it back to Chiang Mai just in time for Loi Krathong,

and then left Thailand for good (at least until next year).

and then left Thailand for good (at least until next year).

But we didn't go home.  Instead we went to Beijing to meet some friends,

But we didn't go home. Instead we went to Beijing to meet some friends,

ride some bikes,

ride some bikes,

and hike along the Great Wall,

and hike some km's on the Great Wall.

In December…

we acted like we had money to spend

we acted like we had money to spend

and climbed to the top of the Lulu bridge in Shanghai,

and climbed to the top of the Lulu bridge in Shanghai,

we went to a bonfire with Chinese college students,

we went to a bonfire with Chinese college students,

ate lunch at a long-haired-lady's home,

ate lunch at a long-haired-lady's home,

and hiked along the rice terraces in Longji,

and hiked along the rice terraces in Longji,

we biked through the countryside

we biked through the countryside

and ate citrus fruit in Yangshuo,

and ate citrus fruit in Yangshuo,

and then we were amazed by Hong Kong.

we were amazed by Hong Kong,

and then we came back to America.

and then we came back to America.

2008 truly was an amazing year, and I am thankful for the opportunities I had.  Most of all, I loved doing all of this with my one true love.  This year was like a year-long honeymoon, only there was no wedding.

pai_45sm

HIP HIP, HOORAY!!!  HIP HIP, HOORAY!!!  HIP HIP, HOORAY!!!

Choo Choo Trains and Hong Kong

Sunday, December 21st, 2008
Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Friday, Nik and I took a casual morning at our Yangshuo hotel to catch up on emails, blogs and general news on the internet.  I also logged on to Skype, and was able to talk to my sister and her family for one last time while we were in Asia.  It was nearly 10pm her time, so I didn’t expect to see my oldest neice, Aubrey, because her bedtime is normally around 8pm.  So you can imagine how excited I was to hear, “Mommy, make it bigger” in a little 3 year old voice as our webcams connected for the first time.  (She was talking about the camera display of me on her computer screen)

Aubrey, from a previous conversation on Skype

Aubrey, from a previous conversation on Skype

Aubrey and I chatted for a little while.  I asked her how her day was and she gave me all the details.  Then I learned that they are now calling me “Toot” because of a children’s book I gave to Aubrey a few years ago called “Toot and Puddles” where Toot is a little piglet that travels all over the world while his best friend, Puddles, is happy to stay at home.  Of course, they correspond with postcards so that Puddles knows what Toot is up to…and that is one of the many ways I have found to talk to Aubrey, so it’s appropriate that I am now nicknamed Toot.

Then I told my niece that I was going on a Choo-Choo train tomorrow, and she was very excited.  Of course, my sister explained that my train probably won’t look exactly like the trains she is used to, but I still promised to send Aubrey pictures of my adventure, so here they are, beginning with one of many Choo-Choo trains.

The prestine platform at the Guilin Train Station as our overnight train waits for departure

The prestine platform at the Guilin Train Station as our overnight train waits for departure

The interior of the overnight train: Windows to the right, private cabins to the left

The interior of the overnight train: Windows to the right, private cabins to the left

Nik and I arrived in Hong Kong on the overnight sleeper train from Guilin on Saturday morning around 10:30am.  Wait, I take that back.  We arrived in Schenzhen, a town in mainland China that hosts the border between China and Hong Kong, at 10:30am.  We didn’t actually arrive in Hong Kong until 2pm after a torturously long procession through customs.  I will never complain about the customs lines at the airport any more after this one.  Not only was everything being conducted in underground subway stations where every check point was a mile away from the previous one, but we were also carrying all of our luggage AND there were about 50,000 other people trying to get into Hong Kong at the same time.  Luckily we had slept a little bit on the train because we had our own 4-person cabin to ourselves, and we were smart enough to bring some snacks with us.  So it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but we still arrived a little tired and very hungry.

Carrie Chau's Indigo Child Art Exhibition at Times Square, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

Carrie Chau's Indigo Child Art Exhibition at Times Square, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

Carrie Chau: Indigo Child collection

Carrie Chau: Indigo Child collection

Once we were through customs, we made our way to the Lo Wu MTR station and boarded the East Rail Line train that took us into town.  Three connections later, we arrived at the Causeway Bay station on the Island Line and made our way through the upscale underground shopping mall before emerging into the Times Square plaza that was filled with this beautiful art installation by Carrie Chau.  We whizzed past all of the Chinese teenagers taking photos of themselves, and found our hotel, The Causeway Bay Guesthouse.  As expected, the alley was narrow and the room was teeny tiny, but it was impeccably clean and the manager that greeted us was extremely gracious.  We set down our bags, relaxed for a bit, then took off to explore the neighborhood before dark.  We came back pretty early and called it a night to rest up for the next day.

Sunday morning we found pastries at a local bakery then stopped by McDonalds for good cheap coffee, and headed to Victoria Park.  Victoria Park is one of the largest urban parks in Hong Kong, just north of Causeway Bay.  We had hoped to see the morning exercises like we did in Beijing, but we were a little late so we only saw a few stragglers.  We were able to catch a few of the more Anglo weekend sports like bocce ball, tennis, swimming and basketball.

Bocce Ball at Victoria Park

Bocce Ball at Victoria Park

Sunday Foot Traffic

Sunday Foot Traffic

We also witnessed one of the most phenomenal things I have ever seen.  Around 10am on Sunday mornings, the women of Hong Kong and surrounding areas flock to the Causeway Bay, Admiralty and Central neighborhoods.  At first, I thought they were coming to shop because these areas are really just huge street level shopping malls, but no.  They were coming here to be here.  Sure, some were shopping, but most were sitting on the sidewalks, streets, stairs, park benches, overhead walkways and underground subway connections chatting and eating with their friends.  They were in groups of 4-15 and each group staked their claim by patchworking small plastic squares together, and some even built extravagant cardboard walls to protect them from the view of their neighbors.  It was like one huge city-wide pre-game tail gating party, only there weren’t any tails and there was no game.  They were all women, they all had delicious home cooked food, and they all took their shoes off before stepping onto the sacred plastic picnic cloth.  Absolutely fascinating!!!!  And if you happen to know more about this bizarre ritual, please let me know.

Sunday Ladies: Subway underpass

Sunday Ladies: Subway underpass

Back to Nik and I’s day.  As with most of the cities we have visited, our first day was spent wandering through the streets seeing what we could see.  After Victoria Park, we made our way to the water’s edge and around the exhibition center, and realized that this town really is amazing.  It has a huge, busy and beautiful waterway that is respected by the people that live here as well as those that travel here, and it works as a major international port.  We eventually made our way to the Central area to go to the IFC Shopping mall because Nik wanted to check out the Apple retailer to gaze at his new dream computer, the all-aluminum MacBook Pro, then we walked around the streets to find a camera supply store that no longer exists so Nik could look at the wide-range Nikon lenses and look into a camera cleaning kit.  After visiting 3 of the Apple retailers and no less than 8 camera stores, he decided he wasn’t ready to buy the computer and did purchase a small camera cleaning pen.  It was a successful shopping trip in his mind…to me, it was a little silly.  But I can’t complain because I did get to see the city, which was my only goal for the day, and there was a continuous stream of women tail gating on the sidewalks, so they kept me entertained!

Sunday Shopping

Sunday Shopping

Signs

Signs

Street Things

Street Things

Swimming near the Harbor

Swimming near the Harbor

Give Way

Give Way

Nik's Life Preserver

Nik's disobeying the "DO NOT LEAN" sign. At least there's a life preserver nearby.

Pacific Princess

Pacific Princess

Elevated Walkways

Elevated Walkways

50

50

24 Hour McDonalds Delivery

24 Hour McDonalds Delivery

We also made our way to the Central Mid-Levels Escalator, which is the longest outdoor escalator system in the world and spans over 800 meters.  It carries pedestrians from the commercial center up the steep hillside into the “mid-levels” which is filled with residential towers, little boutique eateries and shops.  The escalator was opened in 1994 and we could tell that it has created a thriving vertical main street that would not have been possible without it.  No one would have ventured that far away from the subways and streetcars on foot just to go to a little Italian restaurant.  But now, they take a leisurely fifteen minute ride on the escalator, and they’re there.

Looking down on the Central Escalator

Looking down on the Central Escalator

Costume Market near the escalator

Costume Market near the escalator

Residentail Tower

Residential Tower

Amazing Color

Amazing Color

More Color and Texture

More Color and Texture

Unfortunately, the highest point of the escalator was beyond the scope of our little tourist map, so we had to wind blindly through the midlevels hoping we were going the right way for at least an hour.  Luckily, Nik has a pretty good sense of direction and we made it to Hong Kong Park around 4pm.  This was not a specific goal, but it turned out to be fantastic.  Hong Kong Park has a pretty large walk-through aviary that houses over 600 birds, and we walked in around 4:15pm, which is about an hour before sunset, so the birds were very active.  They were so beautiful and colorful that we sat there until they closed at 5pm.  It was getting pretty dark, so Nik wasn’t able to take many good photos, but the ones he did are beautiful.

Hong Kong Park Aviary*

Hong Kong Park Aviary*

White Birds*

White Bird*

Red-Eye Mohawked Dove

Red-Eye Mohawked Dove*

After that, we headed back to the hotel and Nik did some work on his computer, and I went back out to wander through the bustling late night streets of Causeway Bay.  I window shopped and people watched until 10, but I had to retreat to get my beauty sleep for the next days’ adventures.

Subway Station Tunnel

Subway Station Tunnel

Monday, after pastries and coffee, we took the subway across the bay to Kowloon peninsula to wander some more.  We started out walking through Kowloon.  It was nice, but I couldn’t completely appreciate it because I had the worst headache I have ever had in my entire life.  I finally stopped at the restroom to blow my nose and to my surprise, while blowing, my ears popped and the pressure behind my temples subsided.  Sorry for the gory details, but I never knew that mucus could clog my head so badly.  Needless to say, I was blowing my nose every 20 minutes for the rest of the day.  It seems like my body likes to break down after a month of constant travel.  I couldn’t keep anything in my stomach after a month in India, and now I can’t seem to keep stuff out of my head in China.

Around Town on Kowloon Penninsula

Around Town on Kowloon Penninsula

Empty Pool...wish my head was

Empty Pool...wish my head was

Flamingos in the Park

Flamingos in the Park

After the park, we wandered through the neighborhoods, which were a bit more work-a-day than island, and once again, went to a shopping mall to find a decent lunch.  Then we tried to find the industrial harbor, but were unsuccessful and instead found Toys-R-Us.  Neither of us had been to one in several years, so it was like time-warping back into childhood.  I was disappointed because the entire place was divided by brand, gender and color, and nothing was uniquely Chinese.  Oh, and the entire lower level of the shopping mall where the Toys-R-Us was, was filled with designer kids stores.  It was ridiculous.  Who in the world would pay $2000HKD ($250USD) for a kids pair of jeans?  Not me.

The Harbor

The Harbor

The Star Ferry

The Star Ferry

Passengers

Passengers

Bouy

Buoy

Finally, we made our way back to the surface and boarded the Star Ferry boat to cross the bay back to Hong Kong Island, and back to the hotel to rest.

Our goal for Tuesday was to get out of town to see the old walled villages.  Of course we didn’t know how to get to them or what they were called, so we simply boarded the train in the direction we assumed would be right, and got off at a station we thought we recognized.  From the train station, we saw what looked like an old village, so we left in that direction and found the Shan Heritage Trail.  It took us through a bizarre makeshift old/new neighborhood where the only access was by foot, and the distance between structures was less than twelve inches (and this is where all the electrical wiring and plumbing was organized…how did they maintain it?  who knows!).

The Outdoor Stove of an amazing old building in the middle of the old walled village

The Outdoor Stove of an amazing old building in the middle of the old walled village

Window Detail

Window Detail

Inside the building I mentioned above.  One day, I would love to have a photo shoot in this building.  The wall, floor and ceiling textures and color were amazing, and daylight just poured through holes in the ceiling.  It was so beautiful!!

Inside the building I mentioned above. One day, I would love to have a photo shoot in this building. The wall, floor and ceiling textures and color were amazing, and daylight just poured through holes in the ceiling. It was so beautiful!!

From the Top

From the Top

Umbrella

Umbrella

Awning

Awning

Twelve Inch Utility space

Twelve Inch Utility space

Cracking building

Cracking building

We wandered through there for over an hour and received several strange looks, but were generally left alone.  Then we crossed through the train station to a new residential tower complex that was the complete antithesis of the one we just left.  Here, the entire old neighborhood would have fit on a single floor of one tower, but there were eight towers with over thirty stories each…which means 240x more people live in the new complex than lived in the old.  Pretty insane.

Suburban Train Station

Suburban Train Station

Chinese Suburb

Chinese Suburb

The park of the Chinese Suburb

The park of the Chinese Suburb

And then it was Wednesday.  The last full day of our Asia trip.  The last day of completely new things.  The last day in Hong Kong.  The last day of just me and Nik for a while.  The last day of life as we knew it.

I was sentimental, Nik was not.  Well, not as much as me anyways.  For him, it was just another day of travel.

Me on the Streetcar

Me on the Streetcar*

We had saved the best Hong Kong adventures for last day, the streetcar and the Peak Tram.  Lucky for us, the man upstairs had also saved the best weather for our last day.  The temperature was warm and the skies were clear, so when we made it up to the top, we were greeted with an amazing view of Hong Kong.

These are the trains that Aubrey will love and recognize!!

Hong Kong Streetcar

Hong Kong Streetcar

The streetcars here are double deckers, so to get to the top, we climbed these little spiral stairs.

The streetcars here are double deckers, so to get to the top, we climbed these little spiral stairs.

The Top Level

The Top Level

The Peak Tram

The Peak Tram*

Last bits of Daylight on Hong Kong

Last bits of Daylight on Hong Kong

Looking the other Direction

Looking the other Direction

Sunset over the Pacific

Sunset over the Pacific

Hong Kong at Night

Hong Kong at Night

*Photos by Nik.  And here are his Hong Kong blog posts:

First Two Days in Hong Kong

Last Days in Hong Kong

Home for the Holidays

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Nik and I will be flying home tomorrow to spend Christmas with our families!!!  I still need to do a post on what we have seen here in Hong Kong, but wanted to send a quick update anyways.

Happy Holidays.

Archives for December, 2008
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