Today we went to the beach! First, we stopped for lunch at a food court on the way into the beach park, which was pretty good. At the beach, we didn't really go in the water, but we poked our toes in, and it was surprisingly warm. The beach isn't that clean but it's not as dirty as the ones in LA either. We rented bikes and rode around the big beach park for a while, then stopped at an ice cream place where T had ice cream and I had a mango smoothie (yum! very refreshing).
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After that we wandered off to Suntec City (a gigantic mall with the world's biggest fountain), where I talked Tiffany into sitting through Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (I told you I'd see it in Singapore!). Movie tickets were surprisingly cheap -- $6.50 singapore, or about $4 US. Definitely an improvement over Japan, where we decided not to see a movie for the yen equivalent of $18!
After that it was getting late, and T called up a person from Harvard who had offered to show us around. He took us to dinner at a seafood place which just happened to be back at the park again, where we had crab and prawns (yes, even *I* ate it!) followed by mango pudding.
We have to get up early tomorrow to go to the airport for our flights to Taiwan, so that's all for today! BTW, I've been sending postcards at various intervals to various people -- has anyone gotten one yet?
We'll post again from Taipei!
The short version: shopping, museum, night zoo.
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The long version:
Singapore is really interesting because there are so many different ethnic groups, and as far as I can tell they get along perfectly. I have to say though that it's not quite what I expected. I expected it would be this big shiny metallic city with super-clean everything, and in fact it's not as clean as Japan was (Chinatown in Singapore, where we're staying, is about the same as Hong Kong, but then again it's Chinatown).
This morning we took the bus to Orchard Road, which is the big shopping area in Singapore. We hopped off when Tiffany saw a store called Topshop (which she knew from London) and we of course had to go in. First, however, we stopped for lunch at a place called Thai express, where I had noodles in a soupy broth that was good, and of course managed to splatter chicken broth all over my shirt. This is like the third shirt I've gotten stained since coming here! Bad luck.
Anyway, we went to Topshop, where I got four (plain, solid color) shirts for the equivalent of about $20 US. Singapore is having a nation-wide sale right now, so we have a lot of shopping opportunities! Apparently, shopping is the national passtime here. We wandered around a little more and missed the bus, so we had to waste another half hour shopping (oh darn). I bought the one thing I actually needed, a long skirt.
After that we went to the Asian Civilisations (sic) Museum, where they had a lot of interesting artifacts from all over Southeast Asia (and India and China). After the museum, we went down and wandered around by the river, where we ran across a Coffe Bean & Tea Leaf (there are more of those than Starbucks here) and stopped for a refreshing cold beverage.
After that it was getting late, and we made our way to the Night Safari, which apparently was the first zoo in the world to exhibit (nocturnal) animals at night. We grabbed some food in the zoo entryway (Tiffany had a churro, I had yummy steamed chicken and rice), then went on the tram ride.
The tram ride was certainly a Singapore experience, as Tiffany says. The tourguide person who was talking with a loudspeaker was really bizarre. She sounded like she was talking to a little baby the whole time ("Look! An ANTELOPE! Don't their horns look SHARP?? Oooooh!"), which combined with the interesting accent (kind of a combination of British, Chinese, and Indian) made the whole thing weird.
However, we did get to see a lot of interesting animals, and they were all really active (except a few who were asleep!). They had a really cute monkey-like creature, whose name I can't remember (it was like a lemur, but not a lemur). We also saw a bat and the leopards pretty closely. After the tram ride, we walked on the paths through the zoo.
Back at the hostel, we moved our stuff to a private room, so we won't have to sleep with the light on all night again. What a relief! I bought a bottle of water that had been in the freezer, so it was frozen, and when I opened it it exploded all over me. That's okay though because it's hot out there!
Tomorrow we're thinking about checking out windsurfing and trying a Singapore Sling (Tiffany's idea, not mine!). She says hopefully it doesn't contain durian! (Durian is a really disgusting fruit that seems to be really popular around here. It smells like rotting flesh or something equally disgusting, and doesn't taste much better, as Ben can tell you.)
Happy Father's Day!
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The short version: free karaoke!
The long version:
We got to the hostel using a taxi, which was funny because the driver stared at the map for a while before he finally put on his glasses, then he was like, "Oh!"
We're in a four-bed dorm for tonight with two other girls, but tomorrow and the night after we decided to spend the extra money for a private room. We wandered off to find some food, and ended up at this street that's closed to cars and has a bunch of food stalls selling local food. It's interesting to note that they grade the vendors the same way LA County does! I had chicken satay (Singapore style, not quite the same as Thai), and Tiffany's head exploded upon consuming five bites of mee siam (too spicy!). When she went to the counter to pay, the guy told her they didn't even put in the chili!
After a pit stop at 7-11 for candy bars and black currant pastilles, we wandered around and found a karaoke place that was having a Father's Day Special. Basically, three hours of karaoke plus one drink per person absolutely free! Since we had to be back at the hostel by 11:30 so that we didn't get locked out, we didn't have time for all three hours, but we made the best of it!
Now we are wasting time until we get sleepy, so that we don't bother the other two dorm people by bustling around.
Tomorrow, it's shopping, museums, and the night zoo!
We made it to Singapore and are currently using free internet at the airport! Nothing else exciting to report.
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(otherwise known as my -- not Jessica's -- writing).
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Last night we went on a quest for clothing on the way to food in Lan Kwai Fong because we were doing laundry and J didn't want to wear her pajamas to dinner. Eventually we found out that Esprit (in the World Trade Center) is cheaper in Hong Kong than in the US and ended up at this restaurant called "The 50's" which could best be described as Elvis and Marilyn Monroe meet guns, sombrero, and pirates. They had this live band that played classic hits like "Only You" and "Eternal Flame". In short it was very Hong Kong. And J had good Eastern Pakistan style chicken. But the minimum charge was 145 HKD per person which necessitated ordering drinks from a menu that promised such enticing cocktails as "Nothing" and other similarly mysterious drinks. After dinner we wandered around and sat down by this "California" restaurant and bar where they served such other enticing cocktails as "Long Sex on an Island Beach" and "Screaming Orgasm" and "Chocolate Monkey."
Then we went home and watched music videos until 2 am. (The English channels were broadcasting such entertaining fare as "Baywatch" and "The Worst Witch.")
This morning we woke up and the first thing we did was turn on the TV for more music videos. When we finally got out of bed, we wandered out for a breakfast of baked goods which was consumed in a nearby McDonalds. Then we decided to go to Lamma Island (like llama, except not). Thus began our thrilling adventure, which constituted our arriving on the island, walking about 50 meters to the nearest bench, sitting for about 2 hours, and craving good Mexican food and lottery winnings. There were some interesting birds flying and diving around the harbor. And one tree that was taller than the others which J had the burning desire to trim.
After that we got back on the ferry and headed home, planning to purchase a cold lunch of bread, cheese, and fruit. This was achieved at the Central/Hong Kong station, which boasts a sprawling grocery store as well as a mall with stores and sales that I had trouble resisting. But! J dragged me away from temptation kicking and screaming, whereupon we made our way back to good old Wang Fat and enjoyed a nice lunch in bed in front of the television, which finally showed the video for the new L'Arc~en~Ciel song. (J's note: yay!)
Tomorrow we leave for Singapore where we expect to sweat out all our toxins. It's like living in a sauna!
I'm back in Hong Kong, Ben is back in LA, and Tiffany is here with me, so we're all safe and sound where we're supposed to be!
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On our last day in Sapporo, Ben and I went to a really nice park where we rented a rowboat and rowed around a lake! Not much else, as we had to go to the airport.
Flight was fine, Hong Kong immigration let me in, I took the train to the hostel and met up with Tiffany, and here I am! Today we wandered around some shopping areas (didn't buy anything though) and we're back at the hostel right now waiting until it gets cooler at night to go out again. I saw a great Engrish shirt that had a very flowery picture of a gun, and said "Bang bang! Enough of this pretentious drivel. Elevator up! Elevator up!"
( Morioka, June 13, Hakodate, June 14Collapse )
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This morning we hopped on a train for Sapporo, finally made it to a bank, had lunch at an Italian place (better than the last Italian place), and here we are.
We`ll be here in Sapporo until the 17th, and then I am flying back to Hong Kong and Ben is flying back to LA via Hong Kong. Mom & Dad, the info for when Ben`s flight is getting in is in the first entry in this journal, and it`s Cathay Pacific. I bookmarked the Cathay Pacific web page so you can check the flight status. Ben says he really appreciates you coming to pick him up from the airport! I appreciate it too!
Since we have to pay for internet, I probably won`t post again until I`m back in Hong Kong with free internet. Hey Tiffany, do you still have the password so you can post? If not I`ll give it to you when I see you. According to my last email we`re meeting at the hostel, right? See you there!
Don`t worry, we`re still alive and well and on schedule! We haven`t had access to a computer for a long time though, and right now we`re paying at a cafe (200 yen for 30 minutes, about $2), so I`ll summarize. When we get back to free internet in Hong Kong I might add more details!
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( Kyoto, June 8Collapse )
( Kanazawa, June 9 and 10Collapse )
( Matsumoto, June 11 and 12Collapse )
More in next post!
This morning we had breakfast at Starbucks (of course), and were amazed by how expensive orange juice is! (about $3.50 for a tiny cup.) We took the train to Nara, where we got on a bus to Nara Kouen (big park in Nara that a lot of shrines and temples are in). There were lots of cute deer! They were pretty tame, but they still wandered away if you came too close.
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We went to Toudai-ji, where we saw the Daibutsu (giant bronze Buddha). The buddha was in a wooden structure, and apparently it was commissioned in like 700AD or something. Pretty neat! We wandered around the park after that and saw some buildings from hundreds of years ago, which was pretty cool. We had udon for lunch at a little place in the park. Unfortunately, it started raining (and thundering!), so I managed to get change from someone in a store and we found a bus back to the train station (after wandering out an exit from the park where we were totally lost).
Of course, by the time we got on the train it had stopped raining. We went back to Kyoto anyway, where we hopped on the subway to Nijou-jou, which is a castle built by a shogun in 1603. It was huge, and had a moat, rock walls, and expansive gardens. Inside the castle, there were paintings on the paper walls done by a famous artist of the time (trees, landscapes, birds, tigers, etc). The wooden floors ("nightingale" floors) squeaked on purpose, to warn the shogun of anyone sneaking in to assassinate him!
After the castle, we went to a Japanese candy store, where we bought something that`s made out of rice covered with molasses (Ben says it`s a Japanese rice crispy treat). We got back on the train and came to the Kyoto station, where we had dinner at a Japanese chain Italian place (not nearly as good as Olive Garden). We found our way back to the hostel, and here we are.
Japan is really strange in many ways -- the biggest problem I have with Kyoto is that the streets are not labeled. Only the really big streets are labeled, and sometimes the intersection is labeled but not the streets (for example, if in the valley we were at the intersection of Victory and Shoup, there`s just a big sign that says Victoryshoup).
Anyway, we haven`t gotten too lost yet. Let`s hope we`ll be okay tomorrow too!
Well, we made it to Japan! There were a few mishaps (like missing the first train, and getting lost on the way to the hostel from the train station in the rain), but we made it eventually. The hostel is nice and clean, and there is a shared bathroom but it is very clean as well. Ben says it looks like everything in the building was bought from Ikea!
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After we finally made it to the hostel, we went out to dinner. We ended up at a place where I could only understand about 10% of the menu, but we managed to get some tasty food! We got a "corokke", which is apparently some kind of potato thing, and rice and tea. At least the waitress understood my Japanese even if I couldn`t read the menu.
This keyboard is nearly impossible to type efficiently on because of the strange locations of some characters, and we`re paying for 15 minutes, so that`s about it for today. Tomorrow we`ll explore Kyoto!
Well, our flight to Japan is tomorrow morning at 10 am, so today is essentially our last day in Hong Kong. We made the most of it though!
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We got up early this morning (but not as early as we woke up yesterday!) and took the subway to Central, where we walked to the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens. The walk was really exhausting, because it was uphill (fairly steep) and it was hot and humid, even though it was only 8 in the morning. There were a whole lot of monkeys and apes, and Ben especially liked the gibbons. We also liked the oragutans (I took a picture of a big one!). We avoided the aviary (so we don't get bird flu or something) and washed our hands about fifty times.
After that, we took the subway to Lantau island (the island the airport is on). Aside from the airport, which is on land reclaimed from the harbor, most of the island is "country" parks (I assume the same as national parks). It's very mountainous and very green! We took a bus from the subway station up to Po Lin Monastery, which is where they have a huge buddha statue at the top of a mountain. On the way up the mountains in the bus, we saw the buddha from far away and it was really impressive! (I managed to get a picture on the way down.)
Before going up to the buddha, we went to get some lunch at a little place called Tea Garden Restaurant. It was outdoors, so very hot, but the food was good. Ben got bitten about 20 times in the space of the 10 minutes we were eating by who knows what kind of bugs! (I'm not exaggerating, he really got bitten all over.) The bites were pretty big at first, and we sprayed his arms with bug repellent so he wouldn't get any more, but after a little while the bites had faded to tiny red marks. The restaurant also had very good local tea.
We climbed up far too many stairs to get to the statue, and at the top they had a small exhibit hall where they had a relic of a buddha (I guess it's something like when the buddha was cremated, there were all these crystal-like objects left over, and they had two of them). Unfortunately, they didn't allow photography inside the exhibit, so I didn't get a picture of it.
We wandered around the area a little bit (they had a couple vegetarian restaurants and some altars and gardens and such), then headed back to the bus. We took the bus to the ferry terminal, and then the ferry back to Hong Kong island.
Once we got back to Central, we decided to try the walking tour listed in my guide book instead of just going straight to the hotel (it was only like 3:00). We ended up at the Museum of Teaware in Hong Kong Park. The museum was actually really nice, even though we only got there a bit over an hour before closing, so we were a little rushed. They had teapots and cups dating back hundreds of years, and really interesting videos on how the teapots are made. The gift shop had more teapots and also was selling interesting teas, and I ended up buying "Natural Sweet Osmathus (flower)" tea. It smells a little bit like chamomile, but sweeter. I haven't tasted it yet, I'm bringing it home.
We came back to Causeway Bay and had dinner at a Russian restaurant. Ben says the borcht didn't taste like beets enough. I just thought it was tasty. :) We wandered around a little after dinner, and ended up at a dessert restaurant, where I got green tea banana pancake with red beans, and Ben got durian pudding. He wanted to try durian because supposedly it smells really bad and tastes really good. Unfortunately, the smell was a little too much and he couldn't eat the whole thing!
Then we came back to the hostel, and here we are. Looking at the comments, we were just realizing that there are two "Mom"s reading this, so when you leave comments, could you maybe specify whose Mom is posting? Thank you!
Tomorrow, we're off to Japan! I'm not sure when I'll be able to post again, but I'm betting the hostel there has internet too.
Well, after we rested a little bit yesterday we ended up going up Victoria Peak. Victoria Peak is one of many mountains in HK, but it's got really great views of the city and there's a tram that takes you to the top (it's pretty steep). We took the subway to Central (the downtown area). The subway is surprisingly easy to navigate because it's basically exactly the same format as the BART. We walked from the subway station to the tram station, which took us through some of the interesting buildings downtown. At the top of the tram there is a big shopping plaza with lots of tourist-lure crap (like Citywalk in LA). Anyway, we got a really great view of the city from above, and then we walked around part of the loop around the peak. It was hot and muggy, and we got kind of grossed out by these weird caterpillars (with lots of fuzz on them and strange stripes) hanging from invisible threads from the trees. I walked into one!
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We came back to the hotel because we were pretty exhausted, grabbed a light dinner at Starbucks (Starbucks here has a whole lot more real food than Starbucks in the US), and went to sleep early. I tried to stay awake watching American Idol (they were advertising for Buffy and Angel after that!) but fell asleep around 8:20.
This morning, we got up early and went across the harbor (on the subway through a tunnel) to Tsim Sha Tsui (which is in Kowloon, as opposed to our hotel which is on Hong Kong Island in Causeway Bay), where we had dim sum around 10 (we walked around for a while before 10, when they opened). The menu was really confusing, but we managed to get some food. It was really good!
After that we found our way to more subway stations and took the subway and a train to Sha Tin, where we walked to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery (they have a website, it's like 10kbuddha.org or something). It was very pretty and I took a lot of pictures. After we came down, we went to the Hong Kong History Museum. The museum had sort of natural history stuff, which was pretty interesting. It covered from prehistoric times through the present.
After the museum, we walked along the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade, where there is a wonderful view of Central on Hong Kong Island (it's like looking at NY from the harbor). We went to the Hong Kong Museum of Art, where we looked at antiquities which were pretty impressive (especially the carved rhinoceros horns!).
We had dinner at Fruit Stop Health Food Restaurant, which was very tasty! I had pasta with veggies, and it came as part of a set meal with pumpkin soup, walnut bread, iced green tea, and mango ice cream. Yum! Ben had chicken with wild rice. A very nice bus boy suggested that we go see a big buddha statue on another island tomorrow, so we might do that.
After dinner, we went back to the promenade to wait until it was dark so we could see the night view. Definitely worth the wait! We took the Star Ferry back to Central and then the subway back to our hotel. Now we're probably just going to retire to our air conditioned room and get some sleep!
Well, Ben and I got to Hong Kong safely! The hostel has free internet, so we will be able to leave messages for the next couple days.
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Our flight was long and kind of cramped, but Cathay Pacific has pretty good service, so it wasn't that bad. Right now we're mostly confused about what time of day it is, because it's 2pm but we've been awake since about 3am (after sleeping on the plane). Our plane got in at 7:30 this morning.
We took a bus from the airport to the area our hostel is in, which was kind of nice because we got to see a lot of the city and surrounding area out the windows. I took a couple pictures of the mountains, but I don't know if I'll be able to upload any pictures or not. Hong Kong is very very humid and crowded, but the actual temperature isn't too hot (it's in the 80s, probably low 80s, and it's cloudy). On our way to the hostel, we saw See's Candies, KFC, Seven Eleven, McDonald's, Starbucks, Kenny Rogers Roasters, Outback Steakhouse, and fifty million other American stores.
When we finally got to the hostel, we felt really gross (we'd been in the same clothes in cramped conditions for far too long!), especially after walking in the humidity with our luggage. We managed to check in at the hostel even though it was only around 10am, and immediately took cold showers and changed our clothes. The room we have is very small (just big enough for the bed and a small TV) and has an attached tiny bathroom (lacking in shower curtain, but it has a ledge so the water won't spread, and drains all over), but it is clean and the people who work here are friendly.
After changing our clothes and showering, we went to get some traveler's cheques cashed, which took quite a long time at the bank. We managed to get our money though, so we could pay the hostel in cash. We stopped for lunch at a Thai restaurant (we couldn't seem to find anything else besides ramen shops), which was okay but not great. We were really confused because they didn't bring us our check a long time, until we asked about paying. Also, they stand there and wait for you to give them money after bringing the check, which is a little different. Next time we think we'll try somewhere recommended in my guide book.
Our current plan is to head back to our room and relax for a little bit while we decide what we're going to do tomorrow. Since the internet is free, I'll probably post again tomorrow.
The moral of the story is that we made it across the Pacific safely, our hostel is fine, and we're about to fall asleep even though it's only 2pm.