#joaninHK2013: Reflection

It’s crazy to think that it’s already been a week since I last blogged, but the nature of my visit to HK didn’t warrant frequent blogging to document things as I did in Taipei. My week-long stay in HK was 50% spending time with  family and friends, 40% shopping, and 10% doing touristy things. Tonight is the last night we are spending here, and I am definitely looking forward to returning to Vancouver, in more ways than one! That is not saying that I did not have a good time though, because I did.

Hong Kong is truly a unique city, where old and new coexist symbiotically. All over the city, you see old, stained buildings with protruding air conditioners juxtaposed against new, shiny glass office buildings and malls. The bus systems are old but convenient and intimate (you have to call out to the driver to request a stop), and the MTR system is well-developed and quick to the pace of a HK lifestyle. There is an abundance of street markets where you can barter with the shop owners for a bull’s horn comb or a few dragonfruit, as well as modern supermarkets and convenience stores to run your everyday errands. Just a half hour drive away from the busy city core, you can get to many fishing towns which are still very active and undeveloped.

Grandma <3

Grandma ❤

The best part about this trip was seeing my family over here, especially my grandma. The last time I saw her was over 2 years ago, and she is much different and much unchanged at the same time. This time I spent time with my 85 year old grandma, she is more frail and weak, less in tune with her memory and hearing, but still has the same fiery personality that I remembered. I wish that I could spend time with her more often than every couple of years, but living halfway around the world, I can be content with knowing that she is well taken care of by my aunts, uncles, cousins, and her neighbours.

My mother’s old highschool and work friends have all been so gracious, and we have not been without activities during our stay in HK. Auntie R took us shopping and eating at 又一城, Auntie D invited us over to her place for hotpot to celebrate Christmas, Uncle K not only picked us up from the airport but drove us to see places away from the bustling city, and a hoard of my mother’s old highschool friends (who they insisted I called them by their first name only or 姐姐) took us out for lunch. We are so lucky to have so many people spend time with us, and I’m sure that my mother is especially happy to see all these familiar faces.

Mmhmm

Mmhmm

The shopping never fails to disappoint me in HK, especially the street markets on 鴨寮街 (Apliu Street) and 花園街 (Fayuen Street). There, we pretty much swiped every stall for their phone cases, cute things, and more random cute things. My allergic rhinitis started after we went to those busy and congested areas, but it was all worth it. The malls also had some pretty awesome amazing deals. G2000 and Giordano are among my favourites, as well as Uniqlo, which we visited at least 3 times at different malls. I stalked up on winter coats x2, sweaters x4, work pants x2, and leggings. 東薈城 (Citygate Outlets) also has a whole new floor for shoes, and I bought a pair of Dr. Kong flats and a pair of Geox flats, as well as a pair of adorable bunny flats…all work appropriate. All in all, I had a pretty satisfying retail treatment period.

I’ve definitely gotten fat from this trip, despite all the walking, and my favourite meals are definitely breakfasts at the local cafes, and any meal with a HK style milk tea. I was unfortunately hit with a bout of GI upset near the middle of the week, but I recovered in time to enjoy my last few days.

On Saturday, my mom’s old work friend, Uncle K, drove us away from the city to visit fishing towns and sight-seeing spots. This is the beauty and diversity of Hong Kong; it’s sometimes hard to believe that a short 30 minute drive can remove you completely from the crowded, hazy, busy city to the quiet, fresh-aired, leisurely suburban-rural areas. We visited 清水灣, 布袋澳 ( Po Toi O “Sack Bay”), 西貢 (Sai Kung), and 流浮山 (Lou Fou Shan). These fishing towns are very much still full of activity, with Sai Kung becoming more and more busy as a tourist attraction, and Lou Fou Shan continuing to be fruitful in oyster farming. Walking down the street of Lou Fou Shan and seeing all the seafood stalls, neighbouring seafood restaurants, and golden oysters on bamboo baskets left out to dry, it would be quite the hellish experience for those who find the fishy smell revolting. I, on the other hand, don’t mind it at all, and it was definitely an olfactory and visual party. A pitty I couldn’t have a tastebud party as well, but I couldn’t risk worsening my bowel issues and ruin the rest of my trip.

from Sky100

from Sky100

We also paid a visit to HK’a newest landmark, the ICC, world’s 5th tallest skyscraper. We went to the very top, Sky 100 Observatory Deck, and luckily it was quite clear that day so we could easily see quite far and admire the city. The elevator that goes to the very top has no stops in between, and took around only 30 seconds to complete the trip. I’m sure that the night view will also be lovely, but either way, it is definitely worth it to visit Sky100 at least once when in HK, as it offers a one-of-a-kind perspective of the city.

This has been a very nice trip and getaway from residency, but I am now more than ready to be back. I didn’t realize how much I missed my dad and brother until we spoke over the phone today as we were packing up our room. I miss white food (there! I said it!), I miss my friends, I miss work, and I miss Vancouver. It’s funny how I always feel at home whenever I come back to HK, but I’ve realized that my heart lies in Vancouver with all my family, friends, and life there. It’s been a great time in Asia and we have enjoyed such hospitality in both Taipei and HK, but I can’t wait to be back home. 🙂

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#joaninTW2013 Day 4 Final Reflection –> #joaninHK2013

It is now Day 4 of our trip, and after a slight fiasco of having to call our travel agency for the car to get to the airport (they forgot about us!), we are now sitting patiently at our gate at TPE awaiting our flight to HKG. I have just eaten my Japanese style rice ball with honey fried chicken that I picked up from Family Mart, and am sipping on some Lipton Milk Tea and munching on some chocolate-covered dessicated fruit (WAY better than Brookside!) while typing this post. It’s quite hilarious to think that I have decided to do this post at all – I guess residency is really getting the best of me. But in all seriousness, our short trip to Taipei has been such a blessing, and it wouldn’t feel right without a final reflection to document all of my deepest thoughts about this wonderful city in a wonderful country.

The people

The part of the trip that has touched me the most was definitely the people of Taiwan. Everyone we have met, whether they were airport ground staff, hotel staff, drivers, restaurant owners, waiters, tour guides, or shopkeepers, have been so warm, friendly, and helpful in every way possible. It seems that the whole city of Taipei is filled with kind-hearted souls who welcome all with open arms and hearts, so much so that I would not be afraid as a single foreign traveller to return as I would not be without aide, ever. Even people who we have not met, those who are just random citizens who I see and observe on the streets, exude a considerate, conscientious, and good-natured aura, which was quite a change of scene from Vancouver. There are no absent-minded youths crossing the streets with their eyes glued to their cellphones, nor are there grumpy, self-righteous business people clacking their ways to work. Driver, pedestrian, and cyclists alike are well aware of their surroundings, and always make way for others whenever necessary. I love the people of Taiwan.

The lifestyle

Maybe it was where we stayed, but living in Taipei is so convenient – all daily necessities are literally within arm’s reach. You just need to head down to the street, turn the corner, and there are an abundance of 7-Elevens, Family Marts, and various markets for groceries and shops for food. If you ever needed anything more, the convenient subway station could take you to wherever you needed to go. With so many restaurants and small family-owned food shops in every alley and street, it is not surprising that most people don’t cook at home. Why cook yourself after a long day at work when you can get a cheap, warm meal of whatever you desire just a minute’s walk from your home? One could easily make many friends with all the nearby food stall owners; these women not only cook a mean meal, but they are also the sweetest beings ever and genuinely care about you and want to get to know you. It’s like having many “mothers” to take care of you and your tummy! I love the lifestyle in Taiwan.

The food

I already alluded to this earlier, but the food in Taiwan is amazing. Not only is it cheap, but pretty much anything from any shop or restaurant is legit. Amazing bakeries are everywhere, simple yet hearty local cuisine at every street corner, and dainty specialty cafes all over the city. I wish we were here longer as I didn’t have a chance to have Din Tai Fung, nor did I have bubble tea, believe it or not! But still, everything that I have had was so satisfying and delicious. I love food in Taiwan.

In summary, I love Taiwan, and I would come back again in a heartbeat.

Onwards to HK, my home away from home! Blogging may be more sparse as we have less planned, but we shall see. 🙂