后期突破更新 – A Late Break Update

I’m sorry for my blog blackout.  The truth is, a lot has happened since my last post, work wise, sicknesses have been going around the school, and, truth be told, I’ve just been lazy.  But it’s time to update about at least part of the holiday break, especially considering we’re about to have another break for Chinese New Year in one week.

In 2014, I spent Christmastime relaxing in Bali, Indonesia, hitting up the beaches, enjoying the nightlife, and playing with monkeys.  In 2015, Christmas break was a tad more hectic, with a tour of 6 cities in 3 countries (and one “Special Administrative Region”).  So I figured that in order to fully parse this adventure, I would create a separate blog entry for each city I visited.

Except for this entry: Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

If you ever need to get from Hong Kong to Shenzhen (in mainland China) easily, I suggest taking a ferry (although, it’s a little pricey at 220 Hong Kong Dollars).  My Christmas journey began with one such ferry ride after I flew from Chengdu to Hong Kong.  Despite being on an “international” flight, I never actually went through customs in Hong Kong.  When I landed, I followed well-marked signs in the airport and boarded a ferry over to Shenzhen.  The customs line to get back into China was…non-existent as I just walked up to a counter, handed my passport over, and waited all of 30 seconds to have yet another China stamp.  (Make sure, of course, that you have the appropriate visa when visiting!)

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Welcome to Shenzhen

Once I made it through customs in Shenzhen, I met with my friend Melissa, who had worked in Chengdu last year.  We took a bus back to her place where I met her dog, Rocket.  She showed me the area she lived; about a block away from Decathlon and Walmart.  That night, Yang—another former Chengdu resident—invited us to Taps for drinks and dinner.  The beer was a bit pricey but tasty.  The food menu…left a bit to be desired.  But, never mind, I wasn’t there for the food or the drinks.  I was there to see Yang and her beautiful daughter, Ashley, who spent the entire evening being fawned over and passed from friend to friend.

We spent the remainder of the night in SeaWorld.  If you, dear reader, ever visit Shenzhen, I suggest you drop by.  SeaWorld is a large area of restaurants, shops, bars, and hotels built around a ship (that itself houses a hotel).  There is also a small water show every night.  That first night in Shenzhen, we caught the tail end of the water show, but over the course of my time in Shenzhen, I found myself at SeaWorld often,  whether meeting up with friends for drinks, going dancing, or even getting new visa photos near the metro.

After a few days in Shenzhen, exploring the city and seeing friends from last year, Melissa and I headed, via the Hong Kong Express bus this time (only 40RMB!), to Hong Kong.  

We made our way to the Empire Hotel Kowloon, where we were staying for one night.  The hotel was in a great location, only a few blocks from where the bus dropped us off.  When we got to the hotel, we asked if we could pay for the airport shuttle the next morning.  The front desk told us our flight was too early.  Ah, well, a taxi it would be.

Not wanting to hang in the hotel room all night, Melissa and I hit the town, eating at the wonderful little Koh-i-Noor Indian Restaurant.  It was in an old building and a little bizarre to get to, but the food was delicious and–this is always the test for me with any cuisine; do the natives like it–was being enjoyed by a number of Indian families as well.  After dinner, we walked down by the bay, saw part of the terrible laser light show that, for some reason is always advertised as being “splendid,” warmed ourselves up with some Starbucks, and settled in to watch a holiday light show.  I still don’t really understand what I saw, but the phrase, “Don’t forget the pink penguin” has seared itself into my brain.

At this point, Melissa and I were freezing and we knew that at 5am we had to get ready to head to the airport for our flight to Hong Kong.  So we returned to the hotel and stopped at the front desk.  Could they call a cab for us in the morning?  “No.  We don’t do that.”  Could we have the number of a cab company in Hong Kong?  “No.  Just go outside and hail one.”  Clearly, this hotel did not pride itself on customer service.  We asked if they could give us a wake-up call and that they agreed to.  Melissa and I were determined not to let frustration ruin the remainder of our night.  We returned to the hotel room, enjoyed unfettered wifi and uncensored news broadcasts and turned in early to be up in time for our flight to sunny and–we hoped–warmer Siem Reap.

中国的黄金周 – China’s Golden Week

Swtspontaneous recently asked me what China’s National (or Golden, as they say) Week is.  The official version, as I mentioned last year when I fled to Hong Kong, is…National Day (and Golden Week) celebrates the anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

But this really doesn’t give you a great depiction of how National Week is celebrated.  Basically, imagine a billion people…about 1/7 of the world’s population.  Now imagine them all living in one country.  Oh, hi there China!  Now imagine all 1 billion people going on vacation…at the exact same time.  Clearly, this is slightly exaggerated, but the government does mandate vacation days during this time, so millions upon millions of people travel.

To help explain Golden Week a bit more, I found this short video:

But again, that video shows you the official China version of the holiday.  This video, aired at the end of this year’s Golden Week, is what we get to see if we stay in mainland China:

Finally, one last video!  While some of it just gives you a view of the foothills of the Himalayas–where I have yet to see–the open shots of this video are all from around Chengdu during this year’s Golden Week.

So, I hope these videos help explain a bit more about China’s National Day!  Thanks for your questions!  Please, keep them coming!

民主,抗议和催泪瓦斯,噢,我的!- Democracy, Protests, and Tear Gas, Oh My!

Wow.  Okay, so when we booked this Hong Kong getaway in early September we definitely did not anticipate having to schedule our time on the island around protesters.  Although the protests have been, for the most part, peaceful, I’ve still seen way to many Locked Up Abroad episodes to want to get too close to any of that.  Kristen and I have done a good job steering clear of Central (except for driving by it at a quick clip last night), but sit-ins and demonstrations are popping up elsewhere as well.  Yesterday, we went to haggle at the Ladies’ Market and, as we neared Mong Kok metro station, buses were scattered and students were sitting, barricaded from the blinding sun by umbrellas, near signs that just read, in English, “Democracy.”  I took a few shots before we headed away from the area (in case there was another bout of tear gassing), but everything seemed fairly calm.  I think there were more Hong Kong citizens taking pictures of the protests rather than protesting themselves…

Sit-in Near Mong Kok by day…

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Start of Protests at Central by Night

IMG_1461Today we are taking it easy and trying to find a place to visit away from the crowds…

香港方向 – Hong Kong Bound

So, I’ve been effectively (I hope) teaching for a month now which means it’s time to take a vacation!  This vacation is made possible by National Day which gives us the week off!  National Day, my intensive research has shown, is on October 1 and was created as a memorial day to remember the founding of the People’s Republic of China.  The PRC was actually founded on September 21, 1949, but a grand ceremony wasn’t able to be held until October 1 in Tienanmen Square.  So now, every year, the Chinese get to celebrate the grand ceremony that celebrated the creation of China.

In layman’s terms, it means I’m leaving Chengdu!  Kristen and I are meeting in about 2 hours to grab a taxi for the airport and jet set to Hong Kong for a few days.  So now I have the perfect opportunity to break out a video by one of my favorite YouTubers: CGP Grey.  What, exactly, is Hong Kong?  And why, Katie, do you annoying talk about the 2040s every time I mention the island?

Well, watch and learn!  For now, I’m off to make sure I’m done packing and am ready to roll!  Happy National Day!