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An Unintentional Adventure: Hong Kong

Well, it’s now 6:30pm and I’m sitting on the floor in the Hong Kong airport…alone. To make matters worse, there is a creepy man that looks like the big teeth guy on Theres Something About Mary who keeps rubbing ointment on his fingers.

A safe is in fact a safe place, naturally. But with any safe place, you must always remember that something is stored there in the first place. After about an hours worth of metro stops and a near finished ride on the Maglev train, Robert only then realized that his passport was safely stored in the safe back in the hotel we checked out of about two hours prior. I wanted to panic at that moment, but instead found myself hiding so I could discretely laugh. For such a world traveller it really is quite amusing that he’d leave behind the one thing that couldn’t be retrieved later on. Needless to say, there were no later flights – all airlines were full from Shanghai to Hong Kong. So I went on alone so I wouldn’t miss my meeting. After a 45 minute wait in the customs line I realized that I had given all my money to Robert to exchange into HKD. So, I’m flying somewhere I’ve never been to meet a person I’ve never met, and I have no money. Fabulous!

I lucked out though – the duty free magazine had round trip Airport Express passes to Kowloon Station available – the very place I was heading. And they also accepted American Express, so double luck for me. I made it to my meeting solo, had a nice lunch with a new distributor, and headed back to the airport on schedule only to find my flight has been delayed twice now.

And that brings us to now…sitting in a terminal bored to death while constantly changing gates since Cathay Air likes to keep us guessing. Good times. Eventually I will make it to Taipei and hopefully luck is on my side again since I have no clue how I’m going to find my way to the hotel.

I’m a little sad I didn’t get to actually SEE Hong Kong. The 30 minute train ride was amazing and I can truly say that it was 10x more beautiful than anything I saw in Shanghai. China isn’t high on my repeat travel list but after a glimpse of Hong Kong I do believe I’d like to return to this area.

Tomorrow is a very important day – a big meeting that holds much possibility for us. I hope I can find someone who speaks English in Taipei who can point me in the right direction so I just might get a good nights sleep tonight. Or maybe I’ll sprawl out on the seats here in the terminal like the 5,000 others waiting for their flight.

Think happy thoughts for me as my travels continue – my passport is starting to look pretty darn cool with all these fancy stamps but it’s all useless if I can’t make it home to show off 😉

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Giving LA A Second Chance

Well, today didn’t exactly start out on the right foot and despite the fact that I was equipped with a map, gps, AND instructions from the rental car guy, I still managed to get lost in LA. Again.

Strike 2, LA.

That being said, I eventually found my way to Santa Monica & the day quickly turned into something exciting and memorable.

The photo shoot went great, without a single hiccup, and it was really wonderful to meet these people I talk with so many times a day. Plus I got to feel über important, flying out to LA for a photo shoot ;).

We enjoyed a nice lunch in a ridiculously loud restaurant, I got to see some homeless man flexing his guns for a dime, and wrapped up our meeting being hit on by a guy in Starbucks who so generously offered to let me go ahead of him in the bathroom line. And I quote “you won’t want to go in there after me anyway.”

Who said chivalry is dead?

Now I’m enjoying a quiet afternoon soaking up the sun, sitting on a park bench by the beach. Not a bad way to end my day and de-stress before I head back to take on the LA airport again. Not that I was really stressed to begin with.

Oh – I almost forgot to mention the lady who attached a cat bed to her walker!! California is packed with ingenious people:

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All in all I think LA has redeemed itself. Plus when I got lost I actually got to see the Hollywood sign – pretty cool!!

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Day 8: A Sad Goodbye

Unfortunately the end of our trip came too quickly – despite all of the fun we had while in Singapore, it inevitably had to come to an end. We spent the last day of our trip being lazy, walking around the malls and watching Matthew feed the fish at a koi pond.

We are home now, after a long flight from Singapore to Tokyo, then to Houston and finally home to Denver. It felt good to be home at first, but after less than 24 hours I’m already thinking about another trip. What can I say, being home is so boring 🙂

 

Day 7: Pulau Ubin & Clark Quay

Day 7 is, hands down, the best day we had during our trip to Singapore. Pulau Ubin is the second largest offshore island which site in the Johor Strait between Changi and the mouth of the Johor River. The island is a Malay and Chinese community that, according to my travel guide, hasn’t changed much since the 1960’s. Only about 200 people live on the island and is the the site of a traditional Malay fishing village. We took a small boat from Singapore to Pulau Ubin and then rented some old bikes to ride throughout the island. It was HOT to say the least, and I left with about 1000 bug bites, but it was well worth it just being able to see something so beautiful and basically untouched by the modern world. Singapore is so advanced and so architecturally developed, whereas Pulau Ubin is exactly the opposite. The homes and buildings are small, repaired with anything and everything that can be found, the main food source is anything that can be caught from the sea, and no one was wearing designer brands (very unlike Singapore, where everyone seems to have, at the very least, a designer handbag…men included).  I could have spent days there, just walking around and eating delicious food. Whenever we go back to Singapore, we will make it a point to go back to Pulau Ubin.

That night we went to Clark Quay (pronounced “Key”), which is right on the Singapore River and is completely covered by these massive umbrellas and is lined with bars and restaurants. The music was extremely loud & lasted well into the night – we stopped for dinner before spending the night at the Swissotel right there in Clark Quay.

Day 6: Buddah Tooth Relic Temple & CHILI CRAB!

Day 6 was a bit of a “down day” – we went back to China Town and walked around and did a little shopping. I bought a really pretty tea set from a little shop we found on a side street – the man also had a ton of teas, all in containers I couldn’t read (lol) but he helped me chose one to go along with my tea set and I took home a really nice Jasmine tea that I can’t wait to try out. Zach found some handcrafted bamboo chopsticks that are really nice – we might just have to try our hand at some of the amazing food we had during our trip so we have a reason to use the chopsticks.

While wandering around we came across the Buddah Tooth Relic Temple, a Buddhist temple right in the middle of China Town. Part of this temple is now a Buddhist museum, but the first floor is still an active Buddhist temple. In fact, we had a chance to witness the Chanting of the “Sutra of Golden Light” while we were there. In the front there were a number of Buddhist monks, lined up leading the chanting. There wasn’t a single plain wall in the entire Temple, everything was beautifully adorned and at the front of the temple were the most amazing (and MASSIVE) statues. I do regret that I am not familiar enough with the Buddhist beliefs to even identify these statues, although they are clearly very meaningful. Below are some of the photos from inside the temple. The photos of the golden statues are included below as well, although it is hard to see how incredibly large they were – hopefully you can see some of the people below to put everything into perspective.

In a Buddhist temple you are not supposed to have your legs or shoulders uncovered – Zach (who was wearing shorts) had to wear a sarong to cover his legs, and I (wearing shorts and a tank top) had to wear a shawl as well before we were able to enter the Temple. We wrapped Matthew up in a shawl as well, but its hard to tell in this photo since the little wiggle worm can’t sit still for 2 seconds lol.

We wrapped up the day with the absolute best meal I think I have EVER had. We went to a restaurant called Jumbo which was right on the shore, and had Chili Crab – the most amazing thing I’ve ever eaten. So amazing that I’m at a complete lack of words on how to describe it. We also had pepper crab, salted egg prawns, mini squids, little breads (dad called them “Man Toes” but no amount of Googling can confirm this for me lol) and finished the meal with some fruit – so delicious. Zach has taken photos of many of our meals, but until now I haven’t really felt compelled to WRITE about any of them. That’s not to say the food wasn’t amazing – I don’t think we had a single thing that I disliked while in Singapore. Everything was absolutely delicious and really makes the food here in the US seem, well, almost inedible… but the Chili Crab – THAT is worth a trip out to Singapore all on its own.

Day 5: Deepavali & Little India

Deepavali (Dee-pav-ali) is the Hindu festival of lights which marks Lord Krishna’s victory over Narakasura – a triumph of good over evil. To celebrate, homes and temples are decorated with lights and oil lamps to attract Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity. This celebration just so happened to be during our trip to Singapore (October 26th) and we had the opportunity to visit Little India to witness the celebration. There were lights and flowers all over Little India – it really was great to see and the photos really don’t do it justice, but here are a few from our day:

In Little India we stopped at the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, which was built in 1881 by Bengali laborers and is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali, who epitomizes the struggle of good over evil. The (long) name of the temple means “Kali the Courageous”. This temple was amazing – having the opportunity to not only see something so beautiful and meaningful, but also witness those praying at different alters was an amazing experience. I felt a little strange as an “observer” of their religion while they were praying and making offerings but the temple was open to the public as long as you respect those inside and abide by the rules (i.e. taking off your shoes before entering). Here are a couple of the photos from the Temple – although we took many many more:

More photos coming soon – we took so many on our trip (almost 1000…) that I’m weeding through everything we have and uploading to Flickr. Its taking a while though, but I will share the links once available.

Day 4 – Sentosa & Holland Village

Today we did the tourist thing and went to Sentosa, a small island off the coast of Singapore that is mildly ridiculous in my opinion, but we had fun anyway. Sentosa is like the Singapore version of Universal Studios meets Disneyland meets the beach. In fact, there IS a Universal Studios on Sentosa. Not necessarily my cup of tea – I prefer the more cultural destinations – but Matthew enjoyed the aquarium and watching the dolphin show, and afterwards we enjoyed having the beach almost entirely to ourselves.

For dinner we went to Holland Village and had Pho (delicious) and walked around a little bit enjoying the craziness.

Day 3: Raffles Hotel, Chijmes & The Fountain of Wealth

The Raffles Hotel opened in 1887 and while we didn’t have the opportunity to see all of it ( as we weren’t hotel guests), the parts we did wander around were beautiful. Certainly different from the architecturally “awe inspiring” buildings we’ve seen so far, the Raffles Hotel has a romantic quality to it, with the beautiful gardens and decor.

Some photos from our day:

Raffles Hotel Courtyard

Raffles Hotel - Garden

Zach & I Outside the Raffles Hotel

View from the 2nd Floor

Next on our trip we went to Chijmes, which was once the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus. Founded by a French Jesuit priest in 1854 and run by nuns, the convent functions as a school and a women’s refuge. However, now Chijmes is a public space with shops and restaurants.

Chijmes

Chijmes Stained Glass

Shops and Restaurants behind Chijmes

To wrap up the day we went to the Fountain of Wealth, one of the largest fountains on the planet. Unfortunately though the large part of the fountain doesn’t come on until after 6pm so we were too early to see anything. But, you can walk out to the center of the fountain, touch the water, make a wish and walk around three times. Still waiting on my fortune for now, but I’ll keep you posted…

Sam at the Fountain of Wealth

Day 2: Marina Bay Sands

Day 2 was quite the experience – we walked around Marina Bay, stopped in the Marina Bay Sands shopping center and hotel (amazing), and walked along the Singapore River. The architecture is amazing here – unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I don’t think there is a single building here that is just a plain ol’ rectangle – everything has something unique, if only the extreme height of the building.

This is a photo of the Marina Bay Sands hotel (the three towers on the left) and the art museum (on the right). The platform on top of the Sands has a viewing deck for us tourist types, and an infinity pool on the other side (for hotel guests). The view from up there was amazing – you could see all of Singapore.

This is the double helix bridge that takes you across the bay into the Shoppes at Marina Bay.

Not really the best photo of us, but a great view nonetheless. This is on top of the Marina Bay Sands overlooking the bay.

This photo doesn’t even do it justice, but I wanted to show some of the other buildings around the bay. Everything is so architecturally stunning – every single building would take your breath away.This seems to be a trend here in Singapore – amazing architecture.

We ended the evening having a wonderful dinner with a “new old friend” whom I talk with almost daily but have never had the pleasure of meeting until our trip here.

 

Day 1: Orchard Road & Chinatown

Yesterday we spent the day looking around Orchard Road in the morning. Its hard to describe – so many stores in such a small amount of space. And not just “touristy” type stores – Chanel, Gucci, Fendi, Yves Saint Laurent, and a million other top designer stores, most of which I’ve never seen before. As such, the vast majority of our time was spent window shopping and perusing the ridiculous number of overpriced retail stores (seeing as how none of us are big shoppers, it was more for the experience than anything).

The food down there was incredible though – we had to try very hard not to stop at every single place and try something new. We did however stop to try some juice from a stand inside of the mall. Sam had a Asian Pear & starfruit juice and Zach and I shared a passion fruit pineapple juice that was bright magenta colored:

Later in the afternoon we went down to Chinatown. I will admit that my stomach wasn’t feeling all that great, and the combination of heat & humidity with the intense smells of all of the food proved to be too much for me. Too bad though, since it really was a neat experience. I chickened out on the whole durian fruit thing… but I’m reconsidering. Maybe if I just plug my nose & take a bite.

We wrapped up the night with dinner down in Chinatown before crashing hard from exhaustion.

More to come soon – working on uploading the photos from the last couple of days but since we’ve taken over 300 photos so far Flickr isn’t really too excited about working fast. No worries though – I will share the album link once available!

In the meantime, I leave you with one from Chinatown: