Hong Kong is partly on a mountainous green island and partly on the mainland. Fun ferries that cost 30 cents a trip whisk you back and forth between the two. It's all skyscapers, basically. The city is incredibly pedestrian-friendly as well, with footbridges, underpasses, and outdoor escalators everywhere and an extremely clean and convenient subway system. But the best part of the trip was our hotel, Jen. I found it quite randomly on the internet as the only remotely affordable hotel with a rooftop pool open past 4pm, which I decided was a major criteria when I recalled the extreme heat and humidity from some childhood trips to HK. We swam almost everyday, it was great. The hotel was super-modern design and in an older part of the city with lots of herbal remedy shops.
the view from the pool - victoria peak hong kong island from the star ferry
at 'ladies market'
Besides shopping, I also visited the Hong Kong Museum of Art which had an extensive ceramics collection in addition to a contemporary art exhibition of digital art by Chinese and Taiwanese artists. And in the fine arts section, they had a program where musuemgoers could write their own story inspired by a few of the paintings, then posted for others to read. That day I also visited the jade market (unimpressive) and the goldfish market (scary - fish are kept in tiny plastic bags). That night we checked out the "Symphony of Lights" - laser/light show on Hong Kong Island's skyscrapers from the Kowloon side at the Avenue of Stars. The show was set to cheesy music and was unfortunately just not as spectacular as I had hoped. I would go as far as to say that it is a waste of energy to put on every night.
photographers were hawking shots like these, we enjoyed checking out the samples
the clock tower in kowloon
in our room at the awesome hotel
The other great thing about Hong Kong was the food, both Chinese and foreign. The selection of foreign food was excellent, and much missed, and even accurate - we went to an Italian place that I swear rivaled Carmine's. I got emotional over a delicious rosemary roasted chicken. There were places that sold smoothies, sandwiches, etc. everywhere, a real treat coming from Japan, where basically there are none. We also stumbled upon an international beer festival which got quite rowdy, and a bar that served Brooklyn Lager.
Of course, my original purpose for this trip was to meet up with my friend from NYC, Iris, which worked out quite well - this was a scouting trip for her as she, originally from Hong Kong, is thinking of moving back to China. I was happy to be able to hang out with her for a couple nights after her various appointments and family visits, exploring HK's nightlife areas. She even brought me Annie's Mac n Cheese from my former roommate - thanks guys! I really appreciated it.
nightview from the roof
Iris and I supermodel-posing by the pool
Our last day Edel and I went to Ocean Park, a theme park - I usually spurn these when traveling but this one had giant pandas, an aquarium, and a super-long cable car with supposedly amazing views, so I was sold. It was really fun - they also had a log flume ride, and flying swings - unarguably the BEST amusement park ride ever made, which made me giddy. The pandas were very sweet and my TimeOut guide was right again, they seemed happier than average zoo tenants. The views from the cable car were stunning, although on one trip we shared a car with a woman clearly afraid of heights, trembling with her face in her hands. The aquarium was great, in particular the shark tank and "sea jelly spectacular" with jellyfish lit up in tanks surrounded by complete darkness, and my favorite crazy sea creatures, 'leafy sea dragons'. They even had a giant pool of manta rays you could reach in and touch.
Edel had to help me decide between LeLe and Jia Jia
view from the cable car
leafy and weedy sea dragons!
That night, our last night in the city, we went up to "The Peak" - a complex of buildings about halfway up Victoria Peak, with great views of the city. Despite the ever-present smog haze, we got a few good shots and ate at a chinese restaurant there with windowed walls overlooking the city. I was sad to leave and wish I had more time to explore, but maybe I'll be back again...
at the restaurant with a view
Bank of China Tower
These last few pics are of a tiny, tiny amusement park called Hanayashiki in Tokyo, which Edel and I decided to visit before we had to leave for the airport. It was slightly decrepit and pretty cheesy, Coney Island-style. My favorite moment there was after one of the tame rides, a group of Japanese JHS girls asked to take a picture with us, but apparently 2 gaijin weren't enough - they asked a middle eastern man to take the photo while they grabbed his toddler son by the hand to be in the pic as well. Sadly, I didn't get a copy of that.
view of asakusa from one of the rides
folks enjoying some mild fun on the small-time rollercoaster
getting to know some bumper pandas in preparation for meeting Hong Kong's
at a garden in Asakusa