Going Vertical in Hong Kong

Jumping from Vietnam to HK is a jump indeed. HK is the New York of Asia, a bursting vertical city of towers, shipping containers and people.  7.2 million Chinese and foreign residents crammed onto a tiny island and nearby peninsula.  HK ain’t cheap either. Our friend’s nephew rents a 2 bedroom 1400 sq foot apartment with his wife and two sons for $14k per month.  Ouch!

It could be worth it if you don’t need a lot of space.  There’s a lot going on here.  But if you want to open a business you better have an “in” with one of the three families that own and run the city.  The HK mafia won’t break your legs, theyll just shut you down.

You do a lot of up and down in HK because every building is a tower and the terrain is hilly.  Our place was tiny, basically a bed and desk, and yet twice as big as most of the places we saw available.   But it had a nice rooftop bar that we sat at to watch the nightly harbor laser show blasted from the tops of the buildings around Victoria Bay.

Victoria Bay is lined with giant buildings, all lit up in neon and dazzling lights.  The rooftop view was great, but taking an evening boat tour on a junk was even better.  It was a loungy and romantic, a lovely jaunt around one of the busiest bays in the world.

The buildings are like their own light show!

Small rooms force you outside early so we ventured to the Temple of 10,000 Buddhas, a rising path lined with literally 10,000 unique statues of buddhist monks. Whomever dedicated their life to that pursuit was either zealous or high, but it’s an impressive feat either way.  Each buddha is unique – trust me, Courtney checked.  We have no idea how they made sure of that, but it’s true!

Seriously they’re all different…..

After the buddhas we bounced off the hordes in the Temple Street Night Market shops and in keeping with our tradition had street food: fried shrimp and mushrooms.  Edward also had chili scallops and Courtney ate what amounted to the lovechild of a waffle and a funnel cake.  Yummmm.   HK was the first place we really did any shopping,  loading up on well-priced Polo shirts, sweatshirts and a few trinkets. Packing is a challenge!

Edward sure does like his street food!!

It was in HK that Edward made a huge mistake – he introduced Courtney to a new sport that not only did she like, but also looked like she might be good at:  GOLF!  The problem?  It requires clothes and shoes and accessories and all kinds of things Courtney doesn’t own.  Looks like someone needs to do a little shopping!!

We also let loose one night in HK with our new friend Raof, the nephew of Bashir , Courtney’s family friend who we had dinner with in Kuala Lumpur. Raof treated us to spicy sichuan dinner that numbed our tongues with chili heat and killed any adverse bacteria in our bellies. Then we climbed up the main drag of bars and restaurants in the Central district, starting at Stormies and finishing at Feather Boa, which specialized in chocolate mixed drinks that made Edward’s world spin later that evening.   Ooops.  It’s also an “exclusive” bar for expats only.  Locals aren’t allowed unless they either pay a membership fee or are accompanied by an expat.

Those drinks are dangerous……

Our last day in HK was a toss-up between Disneyland and Vegas.  Seriously.   HK has a huge Disneyland and Macau, 60 minutes by boat, is the Las Vegas of Asia. We chose  Vegas largely because Edward loves boats and Courtney wanted another country in her passport.   Turns out we chose wisely, and not because of the casinos, which were as large, impressive and horrible as Las Vegas.  Rather because we tested our height phobias and went to the top of the Macau Skytower to watch the nut-jobs jumping off the highest bungee jump in the world: 61 stories.  Edward even got Courtney close enough to the edge to take photographs. We enjoyed the view so much we stayed for dinner in the rotating restaurant, a smashing cornucopia of seafood and chocolate fondue.

People actually bungee jump off this building. And those are really people sitting OUTSIDE on the ledge.   See those little white things at the bottom of the picture?  Those are tour buses!

HK is alive to be sure and you’d need to earn millions to live there.  But we wave goodbye fondly as we board for our final destination together : Chiang Mai, Thailand where Courtney will volunteer at the elephant nature park for a week and Edward will take a Muay Thai boxing course before taking leave of Asia.

Da Nang Me!

Da Nang is going to be the Miami Beach of Vietnam, maybe of SE Asia.  Everywhere you looked were cranes in the sky: companies building hotels.  And given the year-round warmth, the crystal clear bath-warm water, the sawdust-fine sands…it’s no wonder everybody wants to build a vacation wonderland here.  Apparently foreigners can own homes and condos but you can’t purchase land. Otherwise it’d be a no-brainer to get in now.  The infrastructure is growing and the streets are clean, relative to other developing countries we’ve visited.

In addition to the beach though there are other wonders here. Our first excursion was to the “Marble Mountains”, a religious site carved into and around caves created millennia ago by receding icebergs.  We were floored by the Big Cave temple and the labyrinth of passages one could follow through the rocks to discover hidden alters.  Courtney even braved a climb down through a hole only 4 feet wide into a cave with Buddhist relics. We agreed that this was one of the most impressive sites we’d seen in Asia so far, an unexpected surprise.

The entrance to the Marge Mountains. One look at that and we knew we were in for an incredible experience. 

Inside one of the caves. The Buddha behind us was carved out of stone inside the cave.  And it was at least 20 feet above us!

The Lady Buddha that overlooks Da Nang shouldn’t be missed either.  She’s only a decade old but she stands tall over stunning views of the city. It says something that the city erected a female god to protect it.  When speaking with some locals, they even said that in Vietnam, it’s the women who work more often than the men do.

Quite a majestic lady

Her gaze reaches to Hoi An, a decidedly touristy but simply lovely, quaint town a mere 25 minutes by cab from Da Nang.  This is where you go to have clothing tailor made for peanuts.  But we loved Hoi An for the romantically lit Old City with its ornate foot bridges and Venice-like gondolas. Of course there was the  myriad market vendors peddling anything and everything from ice cream to T shirts to worthless trinkets as well.  We spent two evenings in Hoi An, one with Courtney’s friend Kristyn who is also traveling Asia, and a second alone.

Everyone kept telling us Hoi An was the city of lanterns. We didn’t understand why until we got there. These beautiful lights are strung across the entire town!  

Date night 🙂

Originally we were only going to stay for a few days but we ended stayin for two extra days in DaNang so Courtney could recover a bit from getting a crappy cold.  Which meant Edward was forced to play two days of golf at the very nice resort courses in town.  Oh darn.  Both days he had a blast playing with locals who spoke great english – one playing companion even drove him back to the hotel and they chatted about the political mess in America.

Speaking of political messes, one unnerving moment was when our first hotel in Da Nang asked to surrender our passports while staying with them.  They said they had to take them to the local police station and register us.  Apparently the law is that anyone sleeping anywhere other than their own home must register.  We politely informed them we would not give up our passports and they’d have to use photocopies.  It was a little tense.   They looked genuinely worried about using photocopies, but we were firm.  In the end they relented.   And our second hotel made no such demand.   Huh.

We’re supposed to hit Hue and Hanoi next, but because we extended DaNang we decided we were done with Vietnam.  However that left us with almost an extra week of time before we needed to be anywhere.  Where could we jump to next before heading back to Thailand?  Why not China?  Why not, indeed!!