Wednesday, November 14, 2007


This was Halloween night in Lan Kwai Fong. People tell me it didn't get big in Hong Kong until just a few years ago. It took about an hour just to walk a short distance down a street.

After some very confusing emails with, I'm coming home January 15.

My itinerary is as follows:

Jan 15 United Airlines UA 856
Depart Hong Kong (HKG) 12:20pm
Arrive Los Angeles CA (LAX) 8:35am

Jan 15 United Airlines UA 110
Depart Los Angeles CA (LAX) 10:00am
Arrive Chicago OHare IL (ORD) 3:53pm

Jan 15 United Airlines UA 248
Depart Chicago OHare IL (ORD) 5:55pm
Arrive Detroit MI (DTW) 8:06pm

Three flights = guaranteed fun?

In other news, I've officially had my cough for over a month now. I'm not going to lie, it hasn't been pretty. I've been through two cycles of antibiotics. But I think it's slowly getting better slowly... slowly.

Mom and Aunt Cyndi came today, it was so great to see them...I took them to the laser show of the skyline (above) and we walked around Temple Street as the night hawkers began to open their shops. Tomorrow we'll go to Lantau to see the Big Buddha, one of those touristy things I've been holding off until they come. As for their stay in Beijing, it sounds like they had a superfly time, hopefully they will send me their itinerary so that I can do the same things.

Plans are kind of messy right now. I'm not sure if I want to leave for Mainland right away after finals or wait until after Christmas and do Vietnam/Cambodia first for a week. A lot of the problem has to do with expenses (Cambodia and Vietnam flights aren't that cheap) and coordination of travel companions. I also really want to visit the Phillipines for at least a weekend-- although similar to Thailand scenery, everyone that has gone tells me it's a must. Time + money, we always need more...

But really, not a day goes by that I don't think about how lucky I am to be here. In the grand scheme, this experience is a tiny fragment of my life that I'll never forget. I've learned so much about life, people and places that other may never know and I love all of it-- I'm going to miss it like crazy when I leave.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Hey, it's been awhile.

I couldn’t be happier with my trip to Thailand. Sure, there were the bad times…wallets were stolen, nights were sleepless, the group got crabby, people tricked us on multiple occasions, two friends got eye infections and I encountered desperate, demoralized women. At the same time, I think that’s all a part of what makes a fulfilling experience. Overall, the trip was surreal.

We left Hong Kong on a Saturday afternoon and would return 9 days later. For most of us, it was our first time leaving Hong Kong since we’d arrived in August. For me, it was my first time taking a plane to any other location in Asia-- and thank goodness. Thailand and Hong Kong may as well be two different planets on opposite sides of opposite galaxies on opposite sides of the universe. I’m so thankful for the experience.

Our first stop was Bangkok, where we stayed for 2 nights. The place we stayed was livable and nothing more. I chose it for the location on Khaosan Road and I can’t imagine having stayed anywhere else. The whole area is full of backpackers and some of the most interesting people I’ve ever seen. It was a laid-back atmosphere with loads of cafes, great music, and shops. The street food was incredible. Everyday I bought fresh pieces of half a pineapple for about $0.30. Fried Thai noodles with chicken that tasted like amazingness I could get for $0.60. Bangkok was by far the cheapest place we went in terms of souvenirs and food.

I also went to Chatuchak weekend market (best flea market ever, in my opinion), a night bazaar, Siam Square, the Grand Palace (where the king lives), got a Thai massage (about $8 USD/hour), took a dragon boat down the canal, spotted lady boys, and visited Jim Thompson House…except Jim Thompson’s house was closed. Three of us took hours trying to find this place, hours! We built it up so much and still didn’t even know who or what Jim Thompson is. In Bangkok, I learned: Don’t trust anyone. Bargain for everything. Don’t go to a Ping Pong Show, it will just make you feel sick and slightly sad. Buy a lot and eat a lot.

From Bangkok, we took an overnight bus to Phuket.
What a trip. Our bus pulled over in Surat Thani (our Bangkok agency failed to tell us this would happen) in the morning when it was still dark. I didn’t have a watch the whole trip, but I can assure you it was a pretty ridiculous time. Our group was then shuttled in a cattle car to a room where we had to wait hours for our transfer bus that never came. The woman behind the tattered desk told us we could take a VIP bus for 200 baht each or wait additional hours for our free transfer bus. The whole thing was seedy but time was of the essence. Phuket was worth it. The beach was gorgeous, although it was nothing compared to the beaches on the surrounding islands. Phi Phi Island is where the movie The Beach was filmed. Another island we explored was James Bond Island, I’m not going to bother saying what movie was filmed there. We snorkeled, sea canoed, rode elephants, went on a cart pulled by oxes, and fed wild monkeys. I even got a massage by an elephant! Seriously...I had to lie down and the elephant lightly stepped on my back. It actually felt pretty cool, it even massaged my tush. If someone told it to give me a kiss, it would slobber me with its trunk. One night, we went to Simon Cabaret, a big show with men dressed as women. Cross-dressing is huge in Thailand, it was really hard to tell between real and not real girls everywhere we went. Needless to say, there appear to be a lot more women in Thailand than men at first glance. In Phuket, I learned: “Lemonade” is not lemonade, it’s Sprite. Tour guides are trustworthy. You can bargain for tequila. Don’t tease the wild monkeys.

From Phuket we took a 5-hour bus and a 3-hour ferry to Koh Phangan, an island on the opposite side of Thailand. We stayed there 2 nights, although I wish we could have stayed an extra week. It’s a somewhat remote island with a huge backpacker party scene, although I don’t recall seeing anything touristy when we were there. We stayed at a nice hotel (I chose it because I heard all of the cheap ones steal your stuff when you’re gone…). Everyday we ate at the same restaurant, which was a little more like an open living room considering the people lived there. The food was amazing and homemade. Lots of curry I wish I could eat every day... the woman who made our food also offered cooking classes, which I’m sure we would have done if we’d had more time. At night, we went to the Half Moon Party and Haad Rin beach, where some friends were brave enough to jump rope with fire and through hoops of fire. In between our two crazy nights, the girls and I (actually one of the boys joined us too) got a body scrub, oil massage, foot massage, pedicure and manicure. I cut myself up on some coral on Phi Phi and had some scrapes from the night before, so the body scrub portion was actually pretty painful. But I honestly had to laugh when we got pedicures and manicures. Between 3 of us we had about 5 masseuses in a room, so spoiled! In Koh Phangan, I learned: Keep your wallet safe.

From there we took a long ride back to Bangkok and hopped on a plane to Hong Kong. Although peeing in a hole in the ground and carrying toilet paper everywhere wasn’t the best, I was sad to go back to Hong Kong. Part of it is because of the food. While dim sum, dragon fruit and dumplings are pretty good, Hong Kong food sucks. It’s bland and greasy and full of grit and fat. Whenever I buy a meal there’s usually only a 45% chance I’ll eat all of it, no matter how hungry I am. And you can’t avoid meat here, you just can’t. Thai food, on the other hand, has so many options and it's fresh and flavorful.

Traveling has also made me realize that Dec. 24 is just way too soon to go back home. I checked with my tickets and the earliest date I can switch to is January 20 if I pay a little more. School at Mizzou starts the 22, meaning I'll have virtually no time with my family and friends in Michigan. It's a lose-lose situation and I'm torn up about it, I'll update when things are definite. There's just too much I have yet to explore....

Saturday, September 29, 2007

I got an internship!

FINALLY! I got a call yesterday and it turns out I'll be interning at DDB Worldwide Ltd., an advertising agency. Im not sure exactly what I'll be doing yet, but I'm assuming (err hoping) it will involve their creative department. To get a better idea of who they are, check out their fresh stuff, it's actually quite entertaining. I start work this Tuesday (Monday is National Day)...finally I'll have a routine. I'm not going to lie, having classes only on Wednesdays was nice but it probably isn't the best for one's health. I'm really crossing my fingers for it to be paid as well, money here is like water through my hands. Of course, I'm not going to hold my breath.

In other news, Katy and I are going to see Armin Van Buuren tomorrow night and I'm totally pumped. It would normally cost $60 USD to get in, but because she's reporting on a story for JUICE we are getting in free. I wish I got paid to report on big parties...although being friends with people who do isn't so bad either.

I also booked my tickets for Thailand yesterday. It will be from Oct. 13-22. We fly into Bangkok, stay a few days. Then we'll take a train to Phuket. From there, we will probably take a trip to Phi Phi Island and Koh Phangan (possibly for the Half Moon Festival?). If anyone has been to Thailand or has any suggestions, please let me know! I heard the beaches are beautiful.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mid-Autumn Festival

I took this picture in Victoria Park, where lanterns like these hung everywhere for the Mid-Autumn Festival. Considering I got a day of classes off for it (coincidentally I only have classes on wednesdays right now-- the day we got off), I'd say the Moon Festival is a pretty big deal in Asia. From my point of view, it essentially involved lanterns and mooncakes (I tried a mooncake, it's not exactly on my list of reccomendations). Things we saw included the Tai Hang Dragon Parade, lanterns and entertainment in Victoria Park, and a trip to Repulse Bay for a better view of the moon. Honestly, we couldn't have planned it better.

The first thing we saw was the Tai Hang Dragon Dance. This was my favorite part of the festival, partially because I find the story behind it so interesting. It's basically a 220 ft dragon that the townspeople march around with. They stick incense all over it, so it actually looks fiery...or at least smoky. The video below is when the dragon first took off-- I was at the tail. I didn't edit these videos, so apologies ahead of time for the lack of asthetic appeal.

After that, we ran to another location so we could see the whole thing paraded through. Despite the mass amounts of body heat surrounding me, I got a pretty big kick out of it. Check it out:

After that we walked over to Victoria Park. Random decorations were everywhere. Example:

What a baller! While I'm in the habit of posting videos, here's one I took of some of the entertainment that went on:

I read online that young people traditionally go to the beach on the night of Moon Festival to get a better view of the full moon, so that's where we went next. On the way, I noticed the city lights were so bright they looked like day...I'd post a picture but I think you've seen enough.

The beach was fun. We played games to keep ourselves entertained and it was a nice change from what I'm used to. There were lots of people there, too. Everyone had glow bracelets that they stuck in circles in the sand to represent their group and we did the same. Even when I left at 4am, people were still there. Overall, the moon from Repulse Bay looked good considering how smoggy Hong Kong is...We even caught sight of a star or two.

Have I mentioned I have yet to take a breath of fresh air here? I think that's one of the things I miss.

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Trip to Lamma Island

Last weekend, three friends and I went to Lamma Island, the third largest island in Hong Kong (if you click zoom '+' twice on the map from my last post, Lamma should be visible). The picture to the right is one I took on our hike back from one of Lamma's beaches (I wish I could remember the name). I chose it because this is how I like to think of Lamma-- raw, natural beauty. It's not very often that I see such mass amounts of untamed vegetation (before I came to Hong Kong, at least), which is sad-- it takes my breath away.

Our trip began when we reached the Aberdeen ferry port around 9pm on friday night. It isn't the most obvious of ports, so when the taxi dropped us off we were a little nervous. Upon entering the nearly empty terminal, we were greeted by an older man who only spoke Cantonese. He kept saying something about "9:30", when the next (and last) ferry was scheduled to arrive. Upon sheer and utter confusion, we ended up climbing into an empty taxi boat with this man (consequently paying quite a bit more than if we had taken a ferry).

The ride was satisfying nonetheless-- it was nice to have a little boat to ourselves. When we were about halfway, it looked as if we were heading straight for a large cargo ship. We missed the ship, but we did catch a huge wave that caused our bow to dip under and flood the boat.

A lot of soccer was played on this trip...the soccer court was one of the first places we stopped. After an hour or so, we walked through the dark until we came to a beach (we heard it's okay to camp out on beaches in Lamma).

I think four people was the perfect number for a trip like this. We ate food, played music, istop (a turkish dodgeball game), chicken fight and card games (I even got everyone to learn Euchre!). The water was perfect...I'm pretty sure we were in it for hours.

At 6am, we tried to sleep. Unfortunately, we were attacked by swarms of viscious mosquitos...I still have bruises (yes, bruises) from the encounter. The sun rose within minutes anyway and I soon made it my mission to get a picture of the crabs that skuttled the beach (the gray dot in the picture above is the best I could do).

The people on Lamma Island were more than friendly. Everyone we passed on the walk back greeted us with "jao sun," or "good morning" in Cantonese. We stopped at an open restaurant for coffee, where we met a local named Barry.

This is Barry (playing soccer, of course). His ancestry goes back for hundreds of years on Lamma Island. Although he went to college on Hong Kong Island, he came back when he got his degree to help his family with the seafood restaurants they own and run on Lamma. He told us all about the upcoming Tin Hau festival, which celebrates the goddess of the sea (Lamma is traditionally a fisherman community). It occurs in May, although I believe he said another celebration may take place in late September.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

A Better Scope of Things

I meant to do this earlier.

In case you're still wondering where I am in the world, I've embedded a Google interactive map, with the exact address of my residence hall (Wei Lun) in Hong Kong. Feel free to zoom, drag, or change it to satellite.

View Larger Map

Have I mentioned I love Google? Seriously, go ahead. Give it a whirl.

The Peak

Hey, it's me and Jackie Chan! Or at least the wax version of him...I swear Jackie Chan is everywhere. He's on the sides of buses, billboards and even at the bottom of the tram to Victoria Peak (where this picture was taken).
If you're looking for another anti-climactic touristy event to experience, go to the Peak. There's two ways to get there-- you can take a 30-minute walk up a mountain (there's walkways, I heard it's pretty easy) or if you're really lazy like me, you can take the tram. At the top is probably one of the last things I would have expected-- a mall. No museums or informational pamphlets, just a mall with name-brand stores and restaurants with a view at the top.

Of course, I'm an American so I didn't exactly complain.

In fact, I decided to make the most of it by getting a whopper from Burger King.

The view, however, was still probably worth it. To the left of my head is the IFC tower, the tallest skyscaper in Hong Kong.

I heard the view is better at night.