A Travellerspoint blog

The Motorcycle Diaries

In Hanoi

sunny 22 °C
View Forever Summer on chang2n's travel map.

I like choosing the road less traveled. It generally takes a lot more time, but you become hyper aware of your surroundings because you have no choice. My flight landed fairly close to midnight at Noi Bai International Airport, a 45km trek to the city of Hanoi, my true destination. I pulled my 2nd ghetto airport sleepover (first was the long layover in South Korea) as it was much safer for me to travel in the morning (I unwillingly admit that being a solo female traveler, there are just somethings I shouldn't undertake - even if I'm Mr. Chang). The hostel offered to pick me up from the airport for $15 US, but what's the fun in that? It took a bit of research, but the #17 bus would take me less than 3 km to my accommodations, AND at the ridiculous cost of 25 cents (but also 3 times as long; no need to make it sound amazing)!

My next 10 minutes of exiting the airport and walking to the #17 bus garnered me no less than 4 men on motorbikes asking if I wanted a ride. The first 2 were parked just outside the airport so I get why they asked. The next two were actually driving down the road, 1 skidded to a halt to ask, the other made a U-turn and drove back against the traffic to ask. You quickly learn to gesture the walking motion with 2 fingers on how to reply what you'd rather do than hop on a stranger's motorbike.

Curious things noted when taking the public transit bus. There is the driver, who is in charge of more honking than driving. He also only does "rolling stops" for passengers getting on/off; I witnessed a few people making some running jumps, for stops where there were more than 10 people waiting. Then there's who I call, the "Master & Commander". He takes the money & provides change, he also barks order to people to give up their seats for the elderlies.
Master and Commander

Master and Commander


There was plenty of standing space, but this woman, without asking the other woman in front of me, sat in the miniscule corner bit of the seat. The odd part was that, it was just ok. I know this because I saw it happen again & again with others, but only with women.
Intimate Sharing

Intimate Sharing

My walk towards my hostel took some effort, mainly because I didn't have a map (Lesson 1 - always have a map; what the hell was I thinking?) I took a picture of this map from a bus stop, only to realize that I had walked North for the last 15 minutes, rather than South. Brains, I'm all brains. Sadly, it's still the only map I have.
Map of Hanoi

Map of Hanoi

The streets were wide (the one I started my trek on had 4 lanes for one direction and 3 lanes for the other) busy and hectic with no signs of traffic lights after walking for 10 minutes. I needed to cross the street and didn't quite dare to step out into the traffic, especially with my bags that weighed me down. Witnessing the following gave me the confidence I needed:
1. Old grandma strolled across the street.
2. Man on bike carrying a mega load rode slowly across the street
3. Dog walked calmly across the street.
The only way to do this is pretend you're blind and just stroll across. The scooters will very quickly swerve around you, cars and trucks are less likely to swerve but will generally slow down to accommodate you. Honestly, thinking about it will only guarantee you an accident. Traffic lights don't seem to matter in Vietnam... so I'm not sure why those few exist because at every red light there are many who act as if it's simply a stop sign then continue on.
How to cross the streets

How to cross the streets

Along my walk I saw some other interesting bits:

There were many of these "barber shops" along the side of the road. You can pretty much find set-ups of any & every kind imaginable, the minimum that is required are mini plastic stools and perhaps a mini plastic table to display the goods you're selling.
Road Side Snip-snips

Road Side Snip-snips


Work Station

Work Station


Street Vendors

Street Vendors

I think these may have been Pets? Not too sure, they were not scraggly like some of the others I had seen roaming about.
Rock out with your cocks out!

Rock out with your cocks out!


Old Quarters

Old Quarters


Glamour shots. Remember those from the 90's? I'm sure they still do exist somewhere in surburbia. In most of Asia... This is a definite MUST! Girls live & die for this! I also had pics of Taiwan Glamour Shots, but it was part of the accidental deletions. Not even joking, I see this everyday and everywhere!
Glamour shots for you!
IMG_0565.jpg
aaannnnnddd Glamour shots for me!
IMG_0564.jpg
Here's one where the photographer asked the bride & groom to be to stand in the middle of traffic and spent a good 5 minutes detailing before taking their photos. The worst is when I get up close & personal with these brides; stunning from afar, but caked with an inch thick makeup when I get near. Ignorance is bliss, I wish I could unsee. UNSEE.
Traffic glamour shots

Traffic glamour shots

So I checked into my room at Golden Time Hostel, reviews on it were not numerous but all great stating how kind and sweet the employees were. I walked in and was greeted by the owner who apologized immediately but unfortunately my room wasn't ready. ALL conversations with any strangers so far involves the following 3 questions:
"Are you married?"
"Do you have a boyfriend?"
"Where are you from?"

Shuffle it in any order you like but it's certain every time! So within moments I was asked if I'd like to join him with the other employees for lunch while we wait for the travelers to exit my booked room. I unfortunately don't have any photos of the lunch, but it was quaint. The 4 of us sat on the floor on a large thin mat, the dishes were laid on the floor in a very tiny space that contained a bed, the entire room was approximately 5'x8'. We attempted to communicate, and without much success ended up in laughter instead mostly on my account. I was very happy to have been given such an insight. The owner then said that the room won't be ready for another hour or so, and offered to show me around Hanoi on his motorbike free of charge. The other employees then affirmed that he was a safe driver and that I would have lots of fun... so why not?! It was thrilling to be amidst the traffic but I had to surpress the urge to throwing my hands up in the air and shout at the top of my lungs. Why you ask? It was like eating bits of sand, so I had to settle with a big closed mouth smile the entire way.
Still alive!

Still alive!

He asked if I wanted to go anywhere special and I told him that I wasn't really interested in the tourist destinations and the drive itself was already above & beyond my expectations. He then suggested to go his sister's for a little bit. This is where we went, in the middle of nowhere (I got what I asked for...) that was being developed with many expensive homes.
Expensive new homes being built

Expensive new homes being built


Stretch of dirt path that ran parallel to the actual home land lots

Stretch of dirt path that ran parallel to the actual home land lots

Hut/Home/Convenience store

Hut/Home/Convenience store


Make shift stairs.

Make shift stairs.


He told me that the workers here get paid $5 US per day. These little huts occurred frequently, some with tarps others just stools & tables (like I said, it's all you need). They generally have people taking a quick stop & drink especially when you're in the city centre, but it was surprising for where we were because it appeared so desolate. Due to some inabilities to communicate I am led to believe that this is someone's home, not just a little hut for convenience goods. I saw a heavy blanket, some used toothbrush and a small mat kept all folded away in the corner. At one point, the owner & I were left alone and this was where he professed that he loved me and wanted me to be his wife. Total time since first meeting: 2h25m.

I was then invited to a lunch trip the next day to meet his sister, which was about 1 hour away. I graciously declined, but he reassured me that there were lots of people because it was a party in honour of his sister's new house. It will fun and won't take much of my time. I stressed that my going with him only meant as us being friends. I genuinely found him to be a kind person and it would have been silly to say no to a friendship.
The next day, after having a quick breakfast we parted for his sister's at 9am. I was elated to be back on the motorcycle once again. LG! So exciting because no one obeys traffic, take a look at the signs posted below. There was no order to each lane as specified.
Traffic Signs

Traffic Signs


We meadered further and further into the country side crossing rivers and streams continuously and finally came to a stop.
Dirt stretch road accompanied with a stream in sight.

Dirt stretch road accompanied with a stream in sight.


I wasn't told where we were, other than this was our stop. My head rang alarm bells of "where's the party? and where's this new house?".
New House

New House


I was welcomed into the kitchen by 3 other men to have some tea.
Tea

Tea


I was asked what I thought of this house (what house?!), they were easily pleased when I replied to them that it was immense and beautiful. Before we left onto our true destination, the owner of the house took some time to "lock" it up. I was the only one among the crew who found this amusing... what was the need? He barely had walls to contain anything, let alone a door. The blue tarp was all that prevented anyone from barging right in.
IMG_0581.jpg

I met nearly 40 members of his family. I was immediately welcomed with ample food & drinks. It took me another 30 minutes to realize that there was an obvious gender divide. The women sat together on a couple of tables and the men at the rest.
The ladies table

The ladies table


The other ladies table

The other ladies table


Mr. Chang obviously sat with the men and participated in the multiple drinking and cheering sessions they conducted throughout the meal.
Mr Chang eats with men!

Mr Chang eats with men!


Any garbage, tissues, bones, fruit peels were tossed straight onto the floor - this was the norm.
I became referred to as "Canada" and kept hearing it often, in particular when more family members arrived. My ego became enormous when they kept telling me how pretty I was and then insisted on taking photos with me. I'll spare you most of it, but the following is just sampling of what I endured. As you can see, my smile was well practiced. And if you haven't already noticed, I was the tallest of them all at 5'4"! A giant! A freak!
Forced Posing 1

Forced Posing 1


Forced Posing 2

Forced Posing 2


Forced Posing 3

Forced Posing 3


Forced Posing 4

Forced Posing 4


I essentially became kidnapped for the day. At 1pm rather than heading back to Hanoi I agreed to go with them to a karaoke session. It was difficult to refuse all these faces who kept urging me to come along. Karaoke was maybe a 10 minute motorbike ride away, and there continued the drinking, eating, smoking and laughing. It took place at a stranger's home, essentially a room that was set up for karaoke. When we arrived one of the residents was lounging on a hammock, one was feeding the ducks and another was washing his motorbike. This was their duck pond.
Pond of Ducks

Pond of Ducks


At 5pm when leaving the karaoke house, I was once again coerced into going back and having dinner with them. It was fun helping out preparing the meals and watching them work away so naturally in their environment. It was mostly women, with a couple of men pitching in here and there (they handled the meat). All the food was prepared outside, from washing, chopping, cooking and preparing portions.
Cooking outside

Cooking outside


Food rack

Food rack


This time around, they catered to my vegetarian diet. Can you tell which of these platters of food was for me? Let me give you a hint, it's a white mound of tofu.
5 of 9 trays of food

5 of 9 trays of food


I then was dragged up to the unfinished roof to play with the kids. It was crazy watching them running around and screaming at the top of their lungs. The pictures don't quite tell the full story, but there were these large foot high spikes that were cemented into the roof. The actual wall railing along the roof was less than 3 feet in height with a drop at the front end. There was also men working on some sort of spiky metallic antenna, along with a giant bamboo sticks laying here and there.
Playing on the Roof

Playing on the Roof


Crazy Times

Crazy Times


Everyone was ok with the furious running admist all these obstructions. This led me to wonder, do we truly need to baby proof? Evidently their norm was just fine. Dinner was held with all doors open and everyone wearing multiple layers. The entire time I was with them there was never an empty cup of alcohol. They drank the entire day! Upon leaving, the entire clan came and bid their goodbyes. I felt ashamed that I couldn't fully express my gratitude for how well they cared for me and welcomed me into their home. Many big smiles, bowings, hands to my heart and the gramatically insufficent English of "Me - Happy!" was all I could offer. Motorbiking home once the sun sets is much less fun, in fact it was painful as speeds upwards of 60km/h makes it feel much, much colder than it already was. Overall, even though I kept getting unwanted love affirmations from the hostel owner (as of this writing I still do not know his name) I am still profoundly happy to have experienced such a lovely day.

Here are just some bits of Hanoi and it's beautiful culture and I'll keep the comments shorter from this point on.
Colours

Colours


Fear and Love of Secret Alleys

Fear and Love of Secret Alleys


I love the cone hats and the traditional use of these bars. One lady actually asked me to buy something, which I said no. Then she put her heavy bar onto my shoulder and asked "take picture?" I also said no. She took a bit of a rest while she kept asking "take picture" for a third time as the heavy bar still sat on my shoulder.
Best Friends

Best Friends


This was Hoan Kiem lake, at night it has very flashy Christmas neon lights. I preferred the look of the day.
Liquid Emerald

Liquid Emerald


Would you believe me if I told you that these ladies were dancing to "I like to move it, move it!" FULL BLAST? I watched for quite sometime.
IMG_0641.jpg
Men At Work

Men At Work


And finally my new found fascination of Hanoi, the crazy bundles of electrical cables and the hazard it proposes.
New fascination

New fascination


Wired up

Wired up


Safely contained

Safely contained


Around the bend

Around the bend


Wires and Internet Sign

Wires and Internet Sign


This last one makes me believe that the internet connection must be REALLY good.

ps All the Christmas songs I've heard thus far (and there have been many, they start at 7am in the morning until about 10pm at night) are techno versions... except for Silent Night.

pps I just booked a open ticket from Camel Bus company through my hostel. Then only afterwards, read horrific reviews online about these buses and the company. Fun times ahead!

ppps I've never even seen The Motorcycle Diaries.

Posted by chang2n 07:14 Archived in Vietnam Comments (6)

HK Final Thoughts....

And my first taste of Vietnam!

overcast 23 °C
View Forever Summer on chang2n's travel map.

So I thought I'd start off by reiterating that which still baffles me... the bamboo scaffolding. I came across them setting it up in and I still can't quite see the logistics behind it, where's the organization? It wasn't even divided up into varying lengths.
Alley way scaffolding project

Alley way scaffolding project


And then, here's the black plastic "ribbons" they wrap it up with. I've examined quite a few, and that's the standard grade; just no standards for the bamboos...
Closer look

Closer look

I also found a bird garden in one of the many quarters of Kowloon. I don't understand why it was given the pseudonym of "garden", when in fact it was just a market full of birds, feed & cages. I couldn't quite get an overview as I was getting some intense stare downs. Take a look at the pics below and you'll understand why I complied. They had some crazy ammunition that made my skin tingle.
Yuen Po Bird Garden

Yuen Po Bird Garden


Do the Free taunt the Caged?

Do the Free taunt the Caged?


Parrot

Parrot


They were squirming!!!
Live maggots

Live maggots


These were loud & HUGE!!! I was disgusted. But couldn't turn away.
Live grasshoppers as feed

Live grasshoppers as feed

Near by was another market that I pass by almost on a daily basis, as there was a good snack that I'd get. It resembled a giant waffle bubble wrap. Drool. Then I realized only a couple of days into it, that a serious fire took place. 9 people died and the wreckage was still intact even thought there didn't appear to be any true police quarantine.
Camera crews filming the damage

Camera crews filming the damage


Lost in flames

Lost in flames


Fire wreckage

Fire wreckage


Fire wreckage continued

Fire wreckage continued


Palpable - both the scent and the pain

Palpable - both the scent and the pain


Memorial

Memorial


It was quite the sight. I felt the pain & sorrow over this tragedy, yet at the same time extremely happy & lucky to be alive. LG!

So on behalf of those lives lost, I went and sent them a few prayers at 2 lovely temples. The cultivation of the lovely surrounding gardens is an ancient Chinese style. I saw a lot of personnel hovering, pruning, working on individual trees and plants. A whole lot of upkeep that I just don't have the patience for... nor a true appreciation? (still undecided)
Temple in the midst of an urban jungle

Temple in the midst of an urban jungle


Lotus garden at Chi Lin Nunnery

Lotus garden at Chi Lin Nunnery


Taoism

Taoism


Sky full of lanterns

Sky full of lanterns


All aboard!

All aboard!


Smokey incense

Smokey incense


The Chinese, well most Asians are very into Fortune telling, the stalls curved right around! I actually have a personal bit to add to this later.
Fortune teller stalls

Fortune teller stalls


Nan Lian Gardens
IMG_0441.jpg
A peep

A peep


Garden treasures

Garden treasures


Bridge to Golden Temple

Bridge to Golden Temple


I couldn't capture it, but the pond was full of Koi fish.
Nan Lian Garden Pond

Nan Lian Garden Pond


One of the main restaurant views looked peeped from under these falls.
Falls of secret restaurant

Falls of secret restaurant


Truly an oasis. This was nestled between huge road underpasses and you could hardly hear the sound of city as it was either overpowered by silence or birds.
Nan Lian Garden an oasis in land of concrete

Nan Lian Garden an oasis in land of concrete

So final random observations of HK is that
1. It's not meant for vegetarians, although I did serendipitously come across 3, all in one day! That was a day I'll never forget, as I saw 2 Asian Albinos less than 5 minutes apart from one another, followed by my first Asian midget. I thought I had stumbled into some sort of twilight zone. They were all female... just another side fact.
2. Buses dominated the roads in HK. I hardly saw a handful of scooters/motorcycles during my 10 lovely days.
Buses are the majority

Buses are the majority


3. I didn't really comment much on HK fashion, but they obviously love their brands and highly colourful footwear, but this one really offended me. Perhaps it was also the pairing of an entire leopard print outfit. I need your inputs!! Seriously?!
Oh.  Sweet.  Baby.  Jesus.

Oh. Sweet. Baby. Jesus.


The owner of this dog was an elder man, I like that he chose to express himself through his dog.
Little Rebel

Little Rebel

I already have so much to share about Vietnam, but I'll safe it for next time. But to keep you hanging on for more... a few months ago my mother had the fortunes of herself & her 3 daughters revealed to her. I usually dismiss these cray-cray nonsense, especially when I hear "my upcoming year was to be full of unwanted 'molestations'". She recently clarified that she actually meant "suitors". Bahahaha! Well, Day 1 in Vietnam = 1 marriage proposal. You wants details? Oh I'll give you details! Next time.

Posted by chang2n 07:38 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (4)

Little Surprises...

& Hidden Gems of Hong Kong

overcast 19 °C
View Forever Summer on chang2n's travel map.

First off, I'm freezing my ass off. I did not sign up for below 20 degree weather! Since my arrival the temperature has dropped, generally hovering around 21 during the day, and dropping to 14-15 in the evening, and even cooler at night. I've now purchased a long sleeve button up, a toque, AND a down vest. My favourite purchase is the vest... for it's 4 additional pockets! Who would have thought I'd come to appreciate pockets to this extent? It's been a month since I start my voyage and I know now, that you're always in need of more pockets. That's the truth.
My new love!

My new love!

Anyway, I shouldn't complain. LG! LTD! (Abbreviations for "Life's Good!" and "Living The Dream"... you can't just say it, you must shout it!) Let me take you on a little journey to Ngong Ping and the stunning island of Tai O.
Waiting and being herded through blocked off lines is not my forte. Thankfully we left early and beat the majority of the crowds, this allowed us only having to wait 30 minutes in line for the gondola.
Riding the gondola.  The entire trip was surprisingly long.  25 minutes of hypontenuse trek rather than the winding mountain road.  (perhaps the wrongful use of the word, but you get my meaning)

Riding the gondola. The entire trip was surprisingly long. 25 minutes of hypontenuse trek rather than the winding mountain road. (perhaps the wrongful use of the word, but you get my meaning)


Looking down from the gondola I noted some people below, I wish I knew what they were doing.

Looking down from the gondola I noted some people below, I wish I knew what they were doing.

I zoomed in a billion times and still couldn't determine what was going on. They were truly in the middle of the waters on a small sand mount, with no visible mode of transport near by.

A sea of islands.

A sea of islands.


Giant Buddha.  At 85 feet tall, this bronzed Buddha is one of the largest in the world.

Giant Buddha. At 85 feet tall, this bronzed Buddha is one of the largest in the world.


A closer look at the Giant Buddha.

A closer look at the Giant Buddha.


And to honour the Giant Buddha, you need to obviously use Giant incense!
Giant incense.

Giant incense.


I was told that in China there were even larger incenses found in most temples. That's what I call a work out.
This should give you a point of reference to the size of the incense.

This should give you a point of reference to the size of the incense.


I didn't linger long, it looked like an run-down abandoned hut.

I didn't linger long, it looked like an run-down abandoned hut.


Right near the hut I found numerous mini scarecrows. Set up in very close proximity to one another that they could have been having a tea party.
A miniature scarecrow.  The size of a child.

A miniature scarecrow. The size of a child.


We suddenly came upon him, untethered, on our walk to the Path of Wisdom. Perhaps it was a test similar to encountering a Sphinx. Oddly enough on our return, the cow disappeared. A black dog sat in the exact same spot.
Lounging cow.

Lounging cow.


The Path of Wisdom.  These were Chinese scriptures from an ancient time transcribed onto giant wood planks.

The Path of Wisdom. These were Chinese scriptures from an ancient time transcribed onto giant wood planks.

I didn't comprehend the scriptures, as I have the same level of knowledge of a 9 year old (probably even less)... but I did feel more at peace and enlightened.

We then took a quick 20 minute bus ride to Tai O, a true gem. It's a well preserved fishing village built on stilts, even though it was a tourist spot, there were many side paths that strayed from the crowds. Half way into our bus journey, I saw another cow, lounging part-way in the road. Strange. I felt like I experienced a the glitch in the Matrix.
A completely different harbour front than that of HK island

A completely different harbour front than that of HK island


Luxury cruises in comparison to the other boats.

Luxury cruises in comparison to the other boats.


I wonder if anchors look new for longer than a minute?

I wonder if anchors look new for longer than a minute?


Bundles of what I believed to be fishing nets.

Bundles of what I believed to be fishing nets.


A loner in murky waters... oh wait, that's me.

A loner in murky waters... oh wait, that's me.


Bikes were everywhere, unlocked.  Don't you love the idea of trust?

Bikes were everywhere, unlocked. Don't you love the idea of trust?

All on stilts.

All on stilts.


More boat pics.

More boat pics.


In the nook of the mountains and the sea.

In the nook of the mountains and the sea.


More "dirty" laundry pics... I couldn't help myself. I love guessing what the household composed of.
IMG_0335.jpg
Imagine this was their form of graffiti?

Imagine this was their form of graffiti?


Very little noise pollution, as still as the image suggests.

Very little noise pollution, as still as the image suggests.


The sun, the colours... I'd happily spent days here.

The sun, the colours... I'd happily spent days here.


I loved this place.  Tai O, one of the many outlying islands surrounding HK.  What a discovery!

I loved this place. Tai O, one of the many outlying islands surrounding HK. What a discovery!


The biggest stilts I found, most were small ones like the one in the middle.  I also like the mineral growth... or whatever it is at the bottom.

The biggest stilts I found, most were small ones like the one in the middle. I also like the mineral growth... or whatever it is at the bottom.


Quintessential look of an old fishing village.  Surprisingly the scent of the sea and fish was barely noticeable.

Quintessential look of an old fishing village. Surprisingly the scent of the sea and fish was barely noticeable.


Baby Cart.  I guess this is the most convenient spot for storage.

Baby Cart. I guess this is the most convenient spot for storage.

I've now made 2 trips up to the Peak which gives you one of the best views of the famous HK skyline. First trip was with using the Peak tram, which is always packed full.
View of HK skyline

View of HK skyline

View west of Victoria Harbour

View west of Victoria Harbour


The second trip was blindly meandering through random streets trying to reach the top. The streets of the island of HK are quite steep, hence the numerous stairs and escalators. I noticed many people pushing around carts and always wondered how such a method exists in this hilly city.
Problem solved!

Problem solved!

Doors as planks

Doors as planks


My question here is, who then carts the doors & planks necessary for the going up & down of these stairs?

This is another oddity I've noticed in HK. They use a different type of scaffolding method than what I'm accustomed to seeing. Bamboo and "industrial" black plastic ribbon. I'm talking about plastic roping that's just mildly thicker than the sparkly ribbons most of you will be wrapping your Christmas gifts with... not even joking!
Safety first!

Safety first!


My mouth dropped when i first witnessed men working on bamboo scaffolding. One of the photos I accidentally deleted were of 10 men working at the upper most point of a building that was probably 40-45 floors in height. No planks to catch their fall, just wrapping their legs around the bamboo for caution. I've been fascinated ever since.
More brave workers atop bamboo scaffolding

More brave workers atop bamboo scaffolding

Another stop along my climb up to the Peak just happened to be the Hong Kong Zoological & Botanical Garden. They have animals on exhibition everywhere here in HK.

Be happy that I'm showing you a pic where you can't see their faces. Look it up if you'd like, but I'm sparing you the shock & disgust of what I experienced. They be uuuggggllly!
Black and White Ruffed Lemur.

Black and White Ruffed Lemur.


I thought this was such a weird plant and snapped a quick photo. Upon writing this blog, I asked my BFF Google "holey plant" and aside from the first few "Holly" search results, BFF Google never fails. Look at the name of my plant, I'll never forget a name like that!
Monstera obliqua 'Leichtlinii'

Monstera obliqua 'Leichtlinii'


Here was my favourite little guy... not much larger than a man's hand.
De Brazza’s Monkey (baby)

De Brazza’s Monkey (baby)

Going apey.

Going apey.

Still not done.

Still not done.

Continuing on with my climb, I knew I was getting close. I was even higher than these cranes.
Up in the clouds with skyscrapper cranes

Up in the clouds with skyscrapper cranes


And I caught a glimpse of my destination.
The Peak Tower

The Peak Tower


I was taking a photo of this nonsense (was this floating door AND lock really necessary?), it actually read "NO UNAUTHORIZED ENTRY", when a man shouted at me. Cantonese can at times sound a bit abrasive, he was actually only asking me whether I intended to go up or down the mountain. I pointed my thumb upwards, and after a brief struggle we decided to communicate in English. He worked as a security guard in one of the nearby buildings and asked to accompany me and be my guide for the final stretch. It's was actually very pleasant, we shook hands upon our goodbye at the Peak Tower.
IMG_0382.jpg

I continued to comb the paths around the Peak as they were supposedly very scenic and I had unknowingly chosen one of the longer routes when I realized that the sun had already set. It was a cold and rainy day and I encountered a total of 5 people on my hour long circular trek. At one point, I was allowing the darkness to generate some pretty scary thoughts in my head when a jogger ran past me without my hearing his approach. I screamed, or maybe even howled. I immediately laughed and cried out "SORRY"! He didn't lose his rhythm nor did he turn around, but held out his arm and gave me a thumbs up. Classic.
Lugard road trail

Lugard road trail

Dark trail on the peak

Dark trail on the peak

An opening along the trail

An opening along the trail

HK Skyline at night

HK Skyline at night

HK skyline

HK skyline

A note to celebrate!!!
Veggie Sandwich

Veggie Sandwich

Lastly, here's another form of transportation, the famous Ding Ding Trams! Only 30 cents per ride, and it'll take you quite far along HK Island. It's extremely narrow, maybe 3 meters in width. I like how the caption of this Ding Ding as it's very true to HK.
Ding Ding Trams

Ding Ding Trams

Posted by chang2n 23:02 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (3)

Hello Hong Kong!

sunny 21 °C
View Forever Summer on chang2n's travel map.

I still can't believe I'm here. It's been such an adventure discovering this metropolis. Completely different feel from that of NYC, one of my all time favourite places in the world (but I think with this around the world trip... NYC has some tough battles ahead).

Let's start with a BIG thanks to my hosts! Below are easily the 3 most sweetest, kindest and most generous people I know. I have never met them in my life before I step foot in HK. And I've been received as if I were their own flesh & blood. Rubee & Max provided me a luxury room in their 46th floor apartment. All small details were 100% thought of on my behalf (comfort, local HK cell phone, keys to the house... you name it, they had it all prepared). Steven always made time in his busy days to ensure I was shown amazing sights and that my belly was fed. I am forever grateful.
BFFs!  Steven, Rubee and Max (L-R)

BFFs! Steven, Rubee and Max (L-R)


A view of Kowloon from my sweet little room.  This used to be the most densely populated area in the world.

A view of Kowloon from my sweet little room. This used to be the most densely populated area in the world.

It is impossible to get lost in Hong Kong. It caters completely to tourists and directional signage are posted every where. So my dreamy idea of losing myself in the streets of HK are a bit of a fabrication.
Totally stumbled in here.  Just street after street of vendors.  What a lovely way to be lost.

Totally stumbled in here. Just street after street of vendors. What a lovely way to be lost.


And on and on and on.

And on and on and on.


Fresh fish market in HK.  I walked towards it and one of the fish whipped its tail and lucky me... got a lovely sprinkle!

Fresh fish market in HK. I walked towards it and one of the fish whipped its tail and lucky me... got a lovely sprinkle!


Please believe me when I tell you that these fish heads were still breathing!  They were fanning their gills in and out like accordions.  Level of disgust: 12 out of 10

Please believe me when I tell you that these fish heads were still breathing! They were fanning their gills in and out like accordions. Level of disgust: 12 out of 10

Below is Langham Place. Giant stretch of escalators (I think they actually call them expresscalators) that takes you up 4 stories in one shot.
With the intent of getting myself lost in the streets of HK, I exited from the street market into this.

With the intent of getting myself lost in the streets of HK, I exited from the street market into this.


Coolest little grandpapa from another era.  I totally have a crush!

Coolest little grandpapa from another era. I totally have a crush!

Juxtaposition of new and old... everywhere in HK

Juxtaposition of new and old... everywhere in HK


I'm totally intrigued!

I'm totally intrigued!

One of my newest obsessions in HK.
My favourite!  I have an odd fascination for checking out other people's laundry.

My favourite! I have an odd fascination for checking out other people's laundry.


I like the fact that the street front has beautiful expensive shops or restaurants and literally 20 feet above, grandma's panties are out on display.
I don't know what's wrong with me, but once I find fascination with something, it's full throttle ahead.

I don't know what's wrong with me, but once I find fascination with something, it's full throttle ahead.


I'll spare you guys from seeing the dozens of these that are snapped daily, I think you get my drift.

Not sure why it's named this, as it was neither restricted to women nor did the goods cater to women.  Confusion much?  Just imagine stalls of stalls of goods that you wouldn't care for.  Or at least for me, I couldn't care for.

Not sure why it's named this, as it was neither restricted to women nor did the goods cater to women. Confusion much? Just imagine stalls of stalls of goods that you wouldn't care for. Or at least for me, I couldn't care for.

What does interest me is the daily set-up and dismantling of these trinkets and goods! I, yet again, stumbled into another street market. Entrance to the Temple Street Night Market.  I like how it sits in the nook of these giant buildings.

Entrance to the Temple Street Night Market. I like how it sits in the nook of these giant buildings.


It was quite early in the afternoon, the calm before the storm.
I loved seeing behind the scenes!  It's kind of the same concept as the whole dirty laundry pics.

I loved seeing behind the scenes! It's kind of the same concept as the whole dirty laundry pics.


Setting up shop.  Can you envision the amount of patience to do that daily?  Twice?!  Since you also have to dismantle.

Setting up shop. Can you envision the amount of patience to do that daily? Twice?! Since you also have to dismantle.

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If you can't read the fine print, you're missing out. "The Forbidden Legend: Sex and Chopsticks" Wow. I know. This is not to be missed!! Everything you desire at these markets...

This was just hanging outside of the shop.  Shouldn't it at least be contained?  Your thoughts please.

This was just hanging outside of the shop. Shouldn't it at least be contained? Your thoughts please.


Mini prayer spot, at the foot of the door.

Mini prayer spot, at the foot of the door.


HSBC building.  One of my favourites.  I can't articulate why, it simply just is.

HSBC building. One of my favourites. I can't articulate why, it simply just is.


One of a multitude of public transport in HK.  This one refused me entry... I still don't know why to this day.

One of a multitude of public transport in HK. This one refused me entry... I still don't know why to this day.

This is a small capacity bus, which once all seating room is filled (16 seats) they continue to drive on by, and you just have to wait until another comes by. The first time I took it, 5 drove by before the 6th had room for me. The next day at the exact same bus stop, there were a total of 5 people on the mini bus, 2 were exiting and when I stepped in, I was shooed off. One of the remaining 3 people asked me in English where I was going, "the Harbour", he nodded his head as this was in fact one of the stops. I was still told by the driver, who kept waving his hand wildly to get off. What can you do? You can't win everything in life.
A billion strands of lights (well, perhaps a bit of exaggeration here)

A billion strands of lights (well, perhaps a bit of exaggeration here)


Just above this building of lights was Kowloon park, and I mean starting from it's roof top. In HK there's a need to utilize all vertical space, both above ground and below. At all levels there's a constant stream of people.

There was an aviary in Kowloon Park!  What a delightful discovery.  This guy was wearing a dashing scarf - Ich wants!

There was an aviary in Kowloon Park! What a delightful discovery. This guy was wearing a dashing scarf - Ich wants!


Mandarin duck.  He knows he's a beauty.  Wouldn't hold still for a shot.  Evidently patience is still a virtue I need to work on.

Mandarin duck. He knows he's a beauty. Wouldn't hold still for a shot. Evidently patience is still a virtue I need to work on.


The Black-necked Swan (Cygnus melancoryphus - Thanks to my BBF Google!).  Accidental shot that made the water look like liquid gold and silver.

The Black-necked Swan (Cygnus melancoryphus - Thanks to my BBF Google!). Accidental shot that made the water look like liquid gold and silver.


The pictures might suggest they were fond of one another, but in truth they were fighting.

The pictures might suggest they were fond of one another, but in truth they were fighting.


Rush Hour in the MTR.  This was when it became a bit less traffic so that my arms became mobile to take the picture.

Rush Hour in the MTR. This was when it became a bit less traffic so that my arms became mobile to take the picture.


Any of you familiar with the HK director Wong Kar Wai? One of my favourite directors and "Chungking Express" was my introductory film to his work. WKW doesn't ever work with a script and the whole point is for you to get lost in the imagery & emotions of his films. I never understood why in the first story, Brigitte Lin was dealing with so many Indian people with drug smuggling. Upon entering Chungking Mansions (where portions of the movie was filmed) it all made sense!!! This was essentially Little India in Hong Kong. Many Indian men & women stared at me as I walked by. I felt like I was in the film, preparing for a drug heist of some sort. I left after 5 minutes with an over elevated heart rate. I also visited the iconic scenes of those outdoor covered escalators that were shot in the movie. Then found out that it is the world's longest. Then I accidentally deleted all my photos of the event. WAAAHHHHHH!

Chungking Mansions!  I can't believe I just stumbled onto this!

Chungking Mansions! I can't believe I just stumbled onto this!

Inside the Chungking Mansions

Inside the Chungking Mansions

So much to see & do in HK, even for those who aren't interested in shopping! I already have another stream of pictures to highlight. The only complaint that I have is the absolute lack of vegetarian food. In most Western restaurants, even in a steak house I can find something to eat. In HK... impossible! So I'm surviving on egg tarts (always hot & fresh in HK), specialty breads & pastries and dessert! There's always a positive side to everything.
What would Mr. Chang do?

What would Mr. Chang do?

Posted by chang2n 19:09 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (3)

Good bye Taiwan...

sunny 26 °C
View Forever Summer on chang2n's travel map.

It's been a while and the pictures have accumulated.... here we go.

I went to the zoo.
Albino frogs!  Whhheeeird non?

Albino frogs! Whhheeeird non?


Everytime I see snakes I think I'm Harry Potter and can speak Parseltongue.  Baahahahaha!

Everytime I see snakes I think I'm Harry Potter and can speak Parseltongue. Baahahahaha!


Such strange, delightful plants in the subtropical climate of Taiwan

Such strange, delightful plants in the subtropical climate of Taiwan


He was just hanging out.  We had a staring contest that only I was taking part of.

He was just hanging out. We had a staring contest that only I was taking part of.

Monkey conspiracy... perhaps there's a Ceasar in there somewhere.

Monkey conspiracy... perhaps there's a Ceasar in there somewhere.

Any of you familiar with this Japanese Panda Character? Tarepanda? Tarepanda.png
I think I've captured his essence. Well, at least from the behind.
He was beyond being relaxed

He was beyond being relaxed


Play time!

Play time!


How.  Cute.  Is.  He?!!!  Night and day from sleepy town to crazy town.

How. Cute. Is. He?!!! Night and day from sleepy town to crazy town.

Slow Loris!

Slow Loris!

My first introduction to Slow Lorises

Can somebody explain the explosive red butts to me? I read some badly translated info about how it's due to them being in heat and there fore have the look of "baked bread"... obviously that where the info became discredited for me.
Nasty butts!

Nasty butts!

Small, furry, cuddly... how can you not love it?

Small, furry, cuddly... how can you not love it?


They were all at rest.

They were all at rest.


I was pretty darn close to the hippo, and it was making a sound somewhat similar to the trumpet of an elephant.  Beastly.

I was pretty darn close to the hippo, and it was making a sound somewhat similar to the trumpet of an elephant. Beastly.

Then I went to the science centre. I was utterly surrounded by screaming kids. I don't care. I have no shame.
Nerd alert!  Look at how the colour of my shadow changes?

Nerd alert! Look at how the colour of my shadow changes?

Now it's yellow!  Not magic, but science... you guys will have to look up the reason on your own time.

Now it's yellow! Not magic, but science... you guys will have to look up the reason on your own time.

I also saw a little sanctuary of butterflies
I don't fear them, but yet when I got up front and personal I started to like them less.

I don't fear them, but yet when I got up front and personal I started to like them less.


My sister Winnie has a supreme fear of butterflies... I think we all should learn to conqure our fears.

My sister Winnie has a supreme fear of butterflies... I think we all should learn to conqure our fears.


This one's for my mom!  She just loves caterpillars!

This one's for my mom! She just loves caterpillars!


I believe this is an alien in disguise.  Look super close, it's wearing sunglasses, has a blue face, nose and a cocky smile.  In fact, I think he's waving at me.

I believe this is an alien in disguise. Look super close, it's wearing sunglasses, has a blue face, nose and a cocky smile. In fact, I think he's waving at me.

A sea side viewing of windmills & sunsets. This place also had a trail that led to an unused rail track.
Windmill

Windmill


I think I'm a photographer... bare with me for the next few.

I think I'm a photographer... bare with me for the next few.

Sunsets... are they more beautiful than sunrises?

Sunsets... are they more beautiful than sunrises?


Sunset

Sunset


This old rail track tunnel was very long, not quite 1km, but completely unlit.  It was SO eerie.  With no one else around, your mind starts playing tricks.  Thank god I had my cousin and aunt.

This old rail track tunnel was very long, not quite 1km, but completely unlit. It was SO eerie. With no one else around, your mind starts playing tricks. Thank god I had my cousin and aunt.

A couple of steps into the tunnel of death

A couple of steps into the tunnel of death

I accepted the end at this moment.  No more light.  No more life.  Ich so scared!

I accepted the end at this moment. No more light. No more life. Ich so scared!


An oddity I noticed in the tunnel of death that occurred along the tunnel walls.  Explain please?  Anyone?

An oddity I noticed in the tunnel of death that occurred along the tunnel walls. Explain please? Anyone?

Here are some final glimpses of all things Taiwan. Can't wait for my next visit!

This is a brand of toothpaste I grew up using. Direct translation is Black Person Toothpaste. I think there's a note of envy in saying that black people have very white teeth... but racist much?

Toothpaste

Toothpaste


Seriously?  How was I going to say no to a happy faced pastry?  Yum yum yum!

Seriously? How was I going to say no to a happy faced pastry? Yum yum yum!


Fishy themed toilets.

Fishy themed toilets.


Fishy scented squatting toilet

Fishy scented squatting toilet

This looks like a bloody crime scene but is in fact the red spit from chewing the Taiwanese Betel Nut (it's been coined as the Taiwanese Chewing Gum, heavily used by 20% of men, and deemed low class). I was told that Westerners thought the Taiwanese to be extremely tough and hardworking due to the fact that they kept seeing their taxi drivers spitting out blood.
Crime Scene

Crime Scene

This was on display at a car wash.  Not sure if you can smell what I captured.

This was on display at a car wash. Not sure if you can smell what I captured.


I made this!  I visited the passing of my aunt's mother in law, and helped made these lotus flowers for burning.

I made this! I visited the passing of my aunt's mother in law, and helped made these lotus flowers for burning.


Parking for your scooters!  Good luck finding yours!

Parking for your scooters! Good luck finding yours!


Passport/Visa pics

Passport/Visa pics


The story here is that I needed photos for visa applications. My aunt & I both stressed to the shopkeeper what it was for and then emphasized passport. I got my pics back photoshopped! WTF? He removed my prominent freckles and made me look like I'm 12. I'll keep you guys updated on whether I can somehow scam my way on using this pics as documents. Also, my mother complained that she wants to see more of me in the blog.... so here are 4.

Update: Dearest babe has found a home! I cross my fingers and hope that they treat her well. "Annnnd IIIIIIIIIIIII will always love you!!" (a la Whitney Houston)
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Posted by chang2n 21:52 Archived in Taiwan Comments (4)

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