Sunday, August 8, 2010

China: Day 33: August 6, 2010 Friday

It was a terrible night trying to sleep, and when I woke up and talked to Dick on Skype he suggested that I see if I could change my plane ticket and come home today instead of late on Sunday. I spent an hour on hold with EVA Airline trying to figure out if this was possible (actually, I taped the phone to the computer microphone so Dick could listen to the recording while I frantically packed.) When we never got through, Jenny suggested that I just pack up and go down with her and several others who were flying out today and see if I could change the ticket. This was a frantic two hours of changing arrangements, who would room with who, who was planning on getting a ride home from the airport with me, etc. but I was ready at noon for the hotel check out.

Five of us then undertook one of the silliest processions anyone had seen, with each of us having at least 4 suitcases and backpack, and couple hats.

We went through five subway lines, many escalators, a few elevators, and many times of bags falling over, nearly knowing people off escalators….several times nice people offered to assist us getting bags

off the subway train.

By the time we had made the hour+ride and arrived to drop off our bags, it was ridiculous, but we did it! (And saved about $12 each…WHAT a deal!).

I held my breath at the express airline counter for check in. At first they couldn’t find me in the system, but then they did and was a able to make the change of flights without it costing me any more money, and I ever got on aisle seat on the exit row for the long flight home.

I was thrilled! I was going home. My coughing and sinus headache were getting worse, but I was headed home to recover.

We spent some time in the afternoon going up one of the world’s longest escalators (strange! And we were VERY glad to have checked our bags!!!!) Then we went to a bookstore. Everyone, it seems, in Hong Kong speaks English and so the books store had nearly exclusively books in English. What a chance form the store in Mainland China, lonely about 20 miles away where we could hardly find an English book at all!

We had some little treats and then on to the airport for the flight home.

I had a slight scare when, once we were on the plane in Taiwan, I had a coughing fit and the woman next to me went to tell the stewardess that I needed a glass of water. Immediately after that, they made an announcement that there was seriously ill person on the place, and were there a doctor or nurse on board. I froze, imagining that I would now be in quarantined limbo in Taiwan… wasn’t me that they were referring, to, however, but someone who was indeed seriously ill. Whew! We took off and I was sooooo glad to be heading home.

I slept most of the night/day on the plane, and was really happy to arrive in LAX at around 10pm Friday evening with a very happy husband there to pick me up.

I am home. It was fabulous! But indeed, there is no place like home! I’ve been to China…and now back again. What a trip!

China: Day 32: August 5, 2010 Thursday

Today we had the chance to do some serious sightseeing in Hong Kong. First, a large group of us took several subway lines to get to the Tram above the city. Then we rode about 30 minutes on the tram. This gave us a view of how Hong Kong is many small islands.

Once we got to the top, it was the funny combination of tourist mall and monetary. It featured one of the world’s largest sitting Buddhas at 85 feet tall on top of a hill. This was stunning. Jenny and Holley decided to use the opportunity of being in front of these beautiful sculptures to do a little acro-yoga.

We wandered around, having had a delightful lunch in a Japanese restaurant.

Then we went to a truly lovely monastery, the Po Lin Monastery. I bought our group some incense and we all had the chance to light incense for our prayers.

It was so peaceful there. Then we were invited into the lovely grounds inside the temple. A high quality recording of chanting played which just filled the room with sounds equally as beautiful as the art. “Besides as the must-go destination for prayers, Po Lin Monastery is also a top destination for tourists to experience the natural and cultural side of Hong Kong.

The Monastery was initially a small temple constructed by three buddhists in 1924. Over the years, more structures have been added, such as the big temple) and the world's largest Big Buddha.”

After this lovely time above the city, we caught a bus to go to the small fishing town of Tai O. Here is a description:

“This little place is sometimes called the "Venice of Hong Kong," though it is just a little village with many houses built on stilts over water. People get to their houses by walkways or by boats. Unlike Venice, few people would travel far to visit it.. But a lot of Hong Kong urban residents make a short trip to visit it for an excursion and a break from the norm. People go there as part of a hike on Lantau Island and can eat there cheaply, or they take motorboats. Dolphins are seen in the area, and tourists ride out in motorboats hoping to see them. It is unusual to see Hong Kong people living in houses on stilts.”

We took a quick boat ride, which included being able to see many of these houses on stilts and a very quick glimpse of the endangered pink dolphins. Then we shopped in the market. It is amazing that such a tiny village is so close to the mega city of Hong Kong.

Going back by bus and ferry, we hit a spectacular lightening storm, which was really stunning as we drove along, a long with a heavy rain. (Of course, I didn’t bring my umbrella, again!)

For dinner, we wandered around a VERY fancy mall looking for a moderately priced place. This mall could have been in downtown Dallas or Los Angeles. VERY nice and VERY pricey.

We finally settled on going to a Subway sandwich place, where we all truly enjoyed eating subways just the way we do at home.

By this time I was getting pretty sick, coughing like crazy. Several of us decided it was time to head back to the hotel, while others stuck around for the night market. It was a really nice day around Hong Kong.

China: Day 31: August 4, 2010 Wednesday

Last day in Mainland China. It took some serious doing to get everyone packed and pried out of their hotel rooms this morning.

Chaos reined with some leaving, some staying, different buses at different times. Goodbyes and tears from many.

We are leaving friends in China, for sure.

Then a MOUND of luggage went with 11 of us to go out of customs in China and into Hong Kong. Hong Kong has the unique status of no longer belonging to the UK, but not exactly belonging to China. The pile of suitcases was daunting as all of us had done some power shopping in China (although no one had managed to spend more than $600 or $700 dollars so far. This is really a cheap trip as nearly all of our food, transportation expenses, and hotels have been paid for. (Of course, we worked our hind ends off!!!!)

Anyway, we made it through customs, onto the subway, where three of our people didn’t make it off at the stop with their luggage in tow. They had to take it further on, get off and come back, but we were united again. Then we got the shuttle from the Universality of China at Hong Kong, where we are staying at their onsite guesthouse/hotel.

After arriving, I decided that I needed to stop, regroup and catch up on my blog posts…Jenny stayed back with me. We wrote and checked in with FACEBOOK (which you can access in Hong Kong!!!!!) I got nearly a week’s worth of posts up. Sorry for the people who got worried that I was super sick or something. The Internet was pretty iffy in Yangshou.

Walking around the campus was very interesting.

Could have been a major university anywhere. And the people pretty much all speak English. Yah!

AND they appear to have Western toilets in the bathrooms (complete with directions on how to use them….we might have forgotten since being in China.)

Resting while others went into the city was really fine. Tomorrow will be time enough to explore Hong Kong.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

China: Day 30: August 3, 2010 Tuesday

Up today and plans were made. We ran over to the market to pick up an additional suitcase for me. I’ve got to get all of my shopping purchases home SOMEHOW.

Then first five of us and then an additional five road bikes over to the Moon Hill Water Cave.

We are getting to know this really very well, feeling almost like locals. While we waited for the rest to arrive, we ate some lunch ad chatted at the Moon Hill Café.

These water caves are like nothing you have seen in the States. The geography in this area is the aftermath of ancient seas retreating, leaving these mountain formations and many caves.

The cave tours they do are part normal tour and part going to the spa or the hot springs for a mud bath. We changed into our swimsuits and then were taken inside by boat. Then we walked (in flip-flop shoes) up and down and around and through the cave. It was full of crazy dangerous stores with some railings, some lights and lots of muddy floors.

The one concession to safety was we had to wear construction helmets (which we kept bumping when we ducked under low places in the cave.)

I didn’t bring my camera along because I was worried that it would get dirty, but they took photos of us especially in the mud baths. These were hysterical. It was very dirty and the water quite cold. We ended the trip with a soak in a natural hot water pool. We got out dirty but really refreshed.

In the pool outside there was a whole group of Chinese young boys swimming in their underwear.

We rode back to the hotel, showered and went out for diner.

Tonight Indian food was the food of choice. Very good food. Then our bus to the airport was delayed so we all hung out in the hotel lobby until the bus arrived at 8pm, exchanging info on our various adventures. Some people went kayaking, some went and toured an area with terraced rice fields, others went down the river on whitewater rafts. This whole area is really an outdoors paradise and very, very fun.

We then sat at the airport until we finally got on the airplane to go back to the city we were in before Shenzhen. We said goodbye to the first of our colleague who are now on to Beijing.