Friday, February 14, 2014

Last Strech! Hong Kong and Shenzhen (my favorite Chinese city!)

We made it back to Hong Kong on Feb 6th around 2pm and checked into our hotel (which was pretty crappy for the price we paid) 

There were soooooooooo many Chinese people there checking in/out for the final days of New Years. (Actually it official ended today I believe but some people may have had to go back to work sooner) 

Exhausted, we went and just relaxed at Starbucks. We decided to have our "last supper" at Outback. YUM. 

This was a sign in our hotel--if you haven't heard of Durian google it--its not allowed to bring into some restaurants, schools, or hotels because of its smell

Ahhhhhh so good. 

My mom left the next day (I think she was ready to head back to America, my dad, and her normal routine) but it was so good to see her! 

I spent the day walking along the harbor (there is a walking/running path) the marathon in Hong Kong is tomorrow (2/16) so there were a lot of people out and about training. (Makes me miss running and being in shape!) 

The following day I set out to see the Big Buddha. My last two days in HK were plagued with bad weather. 

I had to take a picture of this outfit--a typical Saturday afternoon. In America if someone wore this you would assume they were just getting back from a night out, they work a street corner, or they were heading downtown for the night (maybe even a frat party) in HK/China this is acceptable Saturday casual wear. 

The cable car to see Giant Buddha

Once we got a little higher up, we didn't really get to enjoy the typical scenic views…

Not to mention it was SO COLD!

The cute little "town" on the island

The temple had beautiful landscaping 

It was so foggy out it took me a while to figure out where exactly the famous Giant Buddha was…

A little disappointing but still neat to see

Giving offerings to the Buddha

A random cow looking for food

The next day I just relaxed--I was going to go to Macau but the rain and cold weather stopped me--instead I did a lot of shopping and caught up on all my TV shows. 

I ate at this cute cafe--I had to take a picture of American icon gone Chinese…

And had to laugh at this--couples here are either all over each other (hugging, cuddling) or they are both on their cell phones and don't say a word to each other. 

Gloomy street view

This was extremely convenient--instead of paying in cash at 7-11's which are all over and in every metro stop you can simply use your Octopus/metro card 

In China all delivery is done by bike. Hong Kong--one step up--Motor Bike

Next I crossed the border into Shenzhen--When I crossed the border I realized I had a huge smile on my face--so happy to be back! 

Back in mainland China--no metro manners. This is at the busiest station. Instead of lining up on the side of the doors, people just stand right in front so people coming out have to dodge them. 

Dongmen--my favorite shopping street! (new glasses, cell phone case, and movies!)

The air in Shenzhen felt so clean (it reminded me when I was in Switzerland up in the Alps) 

Monday night I met friends for hot pot (I had been craving it)

Then the next day I did lunch with a friend, played badminton for the first time since being in China (its so much harder than it looks!) 

And then went to a fabulous Yunnan vegetarian restaurant. 

And spent the night at a friends house just catching up--it made me realize what inspirational and interesting people I have met while living in Shenzhen and how much I miss spending time with them!

The next day I ran errands all day

Coco Park by day!

And then went to Quiz night and Ladies night (per usual)
Our favorite DJ!

Miss these people so much! It was nice to see a lot of old friends but at the same time crazy how many people are in and out! Its a pretty transit city especially because many people teach English and have 1 year contracts. But still so many more foreigners and opportunities than many other cities in China. I miss life in Shenzhen! 

The next day I went to HK for the day to get highlights. It was an all day event. 2 hours to get in, 3 hours to do my hair, quick dinner in HK and then 2 more hours back. 

Many mainland Chinese people go into Hong Kong just to grocery shop and buy clothing/electronics. 

This is in the HK metro. You can see many suitcases--most filled with food, milk powder or clothing. Many people have their new apple electronics out

There is a serious fine (I think about $5000 HK dollars) if you bring more than x amount of milk powders in. A few years ago there was a serious food corruption case dealing with milk powder in mainland China so many people do not buy it in mainland. 

I picked up my luggage and checked into the Airport Hotel. I got in about 9:30--long day. 

I had to laugh about my "non-smoking" room (I did notice that in Shenzhen a lot less people smoke than in Jinan) (Also in Shenzhen many families consist of more than 1 child--either both of their parents were only 1 child so they can have 2 or they pay taxes for extra children) (In Jinan most families only have one child) 

My continental breakfast-- I was debating if this is more healthy or less healthy than an American continental breakfast (fried rice, tea egg, sweet potatoes, and a small bun)

And then made it to the Shenzhen airport, which was recently reconstructed and is probably the nicest airport i have been in in a long time. It is crazy how the quality of the airport gives off such a different perspective of the city. In the airport there were signs that said "Working towards making Shenzhen a world city" Making good progress 

Western magazines! Last "I'm on vacation" splurge! (about $13 USD eek) 

Back to work--eating healthy again--and being financially responsible :( 
Planning out my next vacation

Beachin' it and the rest of Bangkok

After doing a little bit of everything on this vacation, I can say that the beach is definitely my favorite type of vacation. We got into Bangkok pretty late, stayed at a hotel near the bus station and headed to the bus early the following morning (Feb. 1st).

Coming from a Western country, when a hotel says "Continental breakfast" you know what to expect: maybe eggs, bacon, sausage, fruit, yogurt, bread, jam, and cereal. 

This is what "Continental Breakfast" looks like in Thailand. A little different but pretty good. 

We decided to go to Koh Samet, a beach that is about 3.5 hours by bus from Bangkok. Thailand is known for its beaches and islands--particularly around Phuket and Karbi. (As seen on Seans season of the bachelor) I had already been to Phuket and it was much much cheaper for us to go somewhere closer rather than fly to Karbi. 

The bus was pretty comfortable and air conditioned (and about $10 for a round trip) 

The resort that we stayed at had a ferry service to the island

After the short ferry ride, we drove about 5 minutes through the "town" to our resort which was right on the beach

Fabulous beach resort!

The view from the bar/dining area

Sunset on the beach

Walking around town

Some "medicine" wine or tea? 

The next day we did an island tour in a speed boat which was really nice because my mom wanted to snorkel and the other beach was so crowded (I think it was a Saturday or Sunday) 

The beaches weren't as clean and beautiful as in Southern Thailand but it was still very beautiful and relaxing. On our boat we met a lot of poeple--none were from America. They laughed at me when I told them about the Superbowl and went on talking about Football (Soccer). 

A guy on the boat found this snorkeling and felt the need to bring it on the boat--its extremely sharp!

Dinner--back to the oily stir-fried dishes 

At night on the beach there were fire shows. There were a lot of bars and places to drink but not much socializing or dancing 

The next day we just layed out on the beach all day. One of my friends from Shenzhen was in Koh Samet too so she layed out with us and then we had a nice dinner at the resort's restaurant. 

I went with the Western food 


Our time in Koh Samet went by wayyyy to quickly! 

Next to Europeans, there were SOOOO many Chinese people on vacation for CNY. It interests me what they do when they come to the beach because in Chinese culture, being tan is seen as a bad thing; the whiter your skin the "higher class" you are (for this reason I have to be really careful when buying lotion or facial moisturizer because many are "whitening")

Ferry ride back to the bus

After a 3.5 hour bus ride, and a longgggg taxi ride we made it back to Bangkok. This time we stayed in a more "back packer" young person area which is near most of the tourist sights but kind of far away from the airports/metro/skytrain 

We dropped out stuff of at our hotel and then found this Indian restaurant to eat at. 

My mom had never had indian before so we ordered a sampler tray of chicken curry, 

It came with freshly baked Naan bread, chicken curry, either a pear or piece of fried bread in syrup (the dessert of the day) Dal (lentils or chickpeas--there are many varieties I'm not sure which one we had), Raita (which is a yogurt dip, it was similar to the cucumber yogurt that is on Gyros), and then stewed vegetables (i don't know what this dish is called) and finally rice with vegetables and spices. 

Overall it was good--different-but a little too spicy for me. They put different dipping sauces on our table--mint, a mango chutney, pickled mango and one more i can't remember. 

Overall it was good and interesting to try everything. My favorite Indian dishes are chicken curry and a spinach dish with cottage cheese (sounds gross and it looks like green mush but its very savory and not too spicy) 

The next morning we got up really early to go see the Temples or Watts of Thailand 

There were street vendors everywhere. Popular breakfast: grilled bananas 

We took a Tuk-Tuk to the first place--you realllllly have to bargain with these guys! They all work together and try to scam you. 

First stop: Grand Palace. Scam #1--the driver dropped us off at a side entrance and told us it was closed for CNY. So we went to a pier on the river to go to a different Wat. At first they told us it would be a hugggge amount of baht to see this Wat as part of a tour. Finally we asked how much the boat at the station was--only 4 baht (which is 16 cents)

We crossed the river and found our way to the first Wat

The first Buddha of many! Once again because of Chinese New Years many people were getting blessings and making offerings to Buddha

We had to go through some back roads to get to the next Wat 

All around Thailand there are pictures of the King

The Wats have strict rules about coming into a place of worship and your appearance. Once again it was so hot and humid but we had to wear pants and cover our shoulders

Wat Arun (The temple of Dawn) the motto is peacefulness--here people pray for a peaceful life. This temple contains the ashes of King Rama II 

It was very ornate and different from the other Wats--there was no gold instead little pieces of China

A view of Bangkok from the top

Clothing rental

CNY decorations! 

Many highways or roads are lined with pictures of the King 

Onto Wat Pho! The motto of Wat Pho is for success and fulfillness. It is known for the four pagodas that are surrounded by a white wall in "Sino-Thai" style (and of couse for the giant reclining Buddha!)

This Buddha was HUGE

The coolest part was getting to the end and seeing her feet

There are places to give offerings to Buddha everywhere. This is a money tree

Beautiful architecture

And of course so many Buddhas

There was a school on a field trip. The uniforms were very different from China (which sometimes look like sweat pants) instead they wear a blouse and dress pants or long skirts. 

Next up--The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (which is regarded as the most sacred temple in Thailand)

The dress code was especially strict here. They turned down a lot of people at the gate for leggings or sweat-soaked white shirts

There were soooooo many chinese tourist groups

Wat Phra Kaew was amazingly beautiful. So much gold decoration and detailing. The walls were all painted with beautiful scenes

Here is a woman retouching a painting

There is so much going on at this Wat that it is hard to get a picture that truly justifies the beauty of the place. I don't really feel like these pictures show what we were seeing. 

Some Chinese influence 

Sri Lankan influence

This is the building where the famous Emerald Buddha is--unfortunately there was a private ceremony so we did not get to see it

There is a mini model of Angkor Watt which used to be occupied by the Siamese people before it was colonized by France

This was my favorite structure--I love the purple!

This pastel "railing" seemed out of place and very preppy

So bedazzled!

There was a gate that did not let us enter--I believe this is where the King and Queen live

Gaurds eveywhere

This is a building that holds the Kings' ashes and where ceremonies with the King take place

The landscaping and architecture is unbelievable. 

After being kicked out at closing, we went into the Textile Muesum (which didn't allow photos) but was reallllllllly cool to see. Basically it showed the dresses and fashions of the Queen. In the 60's she did a tour all over Europe and America so it documented the preparation of the dresses and looks that she would wear--which has had a lasting impact on women's fashion in Thailand. The 7 looks that she wore are now iconic and remain a part of Thailand's fashion today. All made from Thailand silk

(the following day we flew out on Thai Airway and all of the flight attendants were wearing traditional Thai dress--so beautiful!) 

Back to Koh San Road (where we stayed)

We did some shopping, mom got a foot massage, and of course some Pad Thai (which is amazing!)

The next morning we flew out realllllly early. We took a private mini bus to the airport for only 120 Baht each (which is about $5) the bus driver drove like a crazy person. It was 5 AM so there weren't many other cars on the road, but we would go over minor bumps on the highway and get air. We got to the airport really early and just hung out until our flight back to Hong Kong. 

If you are ever traveling in Thailand I would recommend flying with Thai Air. The flight was amazing-they pride themselves on the food, which was a complete western breakfast with a personal TV set--very comfortable. 

There are SO many things to do in Bangkok. It is definitely an international city and is a little crazy because there are so few Americans there--a lot of other Asians and Europeans. A few South Americans too. 

I would love to travel back to Bangkok for a few days and then head up North to Chang Mai which is a lot more peaceful with beautiful scenery (I have heard) 

But for now-back to Hong Kong!