Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 7

This morning got up and made it to breakfast, this time with my camera!

Today Michelle had a "casting appointment" with a modelling agency, so she was frantically getting ready for that while I started planning out how to spend the rest of our time here.

The time is going by so quickly and there is only about 5 days left! So I wrote a list of the things left to do and see and made a rough schedule to maximise the last of our time.

I saw Michelle off to a taxi and I headed to the HK Botanical and Zoological Gardens. Perfect time as Michelle isn't keen on this sort of thing :P
I caught a train to Central and walked to the gardens. The walk was all up hill and quite steep, by the end of it I needed a drink and then started walking through the park. It is all very scenic, even the surrounding area, but I wasn't as impressed with this as the parks in KL.

Most of the animals were behind bars and we couldn't walk in to any of the cages or aviaries, so no great shots there. The big water feature in the middle was turned off and reptile cage was pretty empty. That said it was still nice to walk around and take in the scenery.

By this stage Michelle had finished with her appointment and I met her at the gardens. From there we headed towards Central station to get some snacks before heading back to Kowloon.

We got back to Kowloon and I spoke to a couple more tailors to compare the prices of getting a suit made. The first guy I spoke to was near our hotel, and he charged $350 AUD for the suit jacket, pants, shirt and tie. I paid around $150 AUD in Thailand and was very happy, so I thought I would compare with a few others. The next tailor was pretty good, friendly and had good prices (around $230 AUD for the suit, plus about $35 for shirts). The next one was dodgy! Wouldn't answer our questions directly, so we took a card and ran out of there.

After getting some Haagen Dazs we headed back to our hotel. We actually got lost! Couldn't work out where we were on Nathan road. This confusion was basically because we were on the wrong side of the road and didn't recognize anything, haha.
We eventually got home and Michelle was ready to cark it, so I called home for a bit and headed out to have a chat with tailor number 2.

As I walked past tailor number 1, I got pulled in by the salesman, who was now actually promoting another tailor next door! I asked him to beat the price I was given from tailor number 2 and he did, so I checked out some examples, picked my materials and he measured me up and took my money. I now have an appointment tomorrow to get a first cut measurement.
This guy, although not really enthusiastic, is the most convenient as its only a couple of door down from the hotel.
Unfortunately he is located next to a tailor I turned down, but apart from the guilt trip it seems alright.

On the way back I got a half hour back massage, which was not the greatest massage. I think the massage person specializes in another sort of massage, which I was NOT in the market for, but I guess thats the sort of quality you get for a $20 massage. Thailand is better for massages and suits so far :P

When I got home, Michelle and I headed to the harbour to check out The Symphony of Lights display. It was alright, but not as good as I was expecting. From what we could see was nice, but it seemed like there would have been alot more from the photos and descriptions I've seen elsewhere. When our taxi driver took us there, we went over some bridge, so Michelle and I both thought we were on HK Island, turns out we were actually in Kowloon, which is meant to have the better view, so I guess we just had high expectations.

Along the harbour there are heaps of photographers that will take a shot of you in front of the water and city scape and print in on the spot. So we had to get one!

After realizing we were actually on the Kowloon side, we went to find somewhere to eat. We ended up at "Cafe de Coral", where you buy your food at one counter and pick it up on the other side of the food court - a bit weird, but it was alright.

From there we wondered around the harbour for a bit and walked back to our hotel with some stops along the way for photos, snacks and stalls. Michelle bought a Kimono and a bunch of girly make up stuff from Sasa.
Sasa is like a massive priceline, but they are on every corner! Just from the station to our hotel (which takes less than 5 minutes to walk) there are 3 of them! Naturally Michelle was in heaven and spent a bit of time stocking up on eye lash curlers and applicators and all that other girly stuff :P

When we got back to the hotel, we caught up on emails and I started writing out this blog. Michelle has been trying to go outside to smoke because I complained so much :P (Thanks Mish) so I went out to keep her company.
The funny part was that she couldn't be bothered getting changed from her pyjamas so it looked pretty damn funny when we sat at a bar with people in suits! Got a good laugh! :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Day 6

We got to breakfast this morning! ...just.
The restaurant in our hotel is pretty fancy. Unfortunately I left my camera in the room, but I'll take some tomorrow. The selection was not as good as my last hotel, but it was alright. The atmosphere is pretty cool!

After breakie we got in contact with Julia. She wanted to meet up with us today, as tomorrow she is going to China and wont return to Hong Kong until Friday. The plan was to meet us at our hotel at around 4:00, so in the mean time, Michelle and I went down the street. Originally we thought we wouldn't have enough time to really do much, so we thought it would be best to keep it local. We had a walk up Nathan Road and headed towards Jordan to take a look at the market there.
They were still setting up and there wasn't too much going on. It was actually a little boring, so then we agreed on taking a quick train ride to Mong Kok.

Mong Kok was so much more alive and there were people, shops and stalls everywhere. There was quite a bit of electronics here too. I ended up buying a 16GB SD card for about $30. The streets soon turned into markets and there were stalls selling cloths, dvds, trinkets, "copy-watch"s (knock offs) and toys so we spent a bit of time wondering around.

It was getting a bit late, so we headed back to the station to go meet with Julia.
The train rides were pretty cheap, it was only a couple of stops, but each way cost about $4 - $5 HKD (55 - 65 cents Aussie).
Julia met us at our hotel and after some chit-chat we headed to a nearby massage parlour. This place was pretty professional looking and was apparently a 6 star place! It seemed like they only had one sort of oil though, which was a "woman's leg slimming oil" (or something like that) and so if I wanted a massage, because I'm a man, it would have been a dry massage - which I don't really enjoy, so I left Julia and Michelle there to get pampered and I headed off to explore a bit more.

There was a nearby shopping centre called "The One" - so I went in there and looked around, got a fruit crush thing, read my guide book, found the electronics floors, did some window shopping and played some xbox, then headed back to meet the girls.

From there we headed to Causeway Bay to meet Jillian for dinner. Causeway bay reminded me somewhat of Shibuya, alot of people and shops everywhere! It was a pretty nice area.

We wanted to go to a place where we could have some more traditional Hong Kong food, so Julia lead the way. We ended up ordering about 5 dishes to share between us, which were pretty good, but the one thing that stood out was the "Pineapple bun" for dessert - which doesn't actually have any pineapple :P
It was like a really sweet bread roll with butter! It got its name because the roll (supposedly) looks a bit like a pineapple with the shard bits on the outside.

After dinner we kept walking through the town and did a little more shopping before stopping for some really nice ice-cream. They had all sorts of flavours, including Durian, Black Sesame Seeds and Yakult! I got a Blueberry Cheesecake Yoghurt flavour and it was impressive!

After ice cream we said our goodbyes as Julia and Jillian were heading off to China tomorrow. We will get to see Julia again on Friday, but Jillian is flying out from there and wont be spending any more time in Hong Kong. So we parted our separate ways and headed back to our hotel.

On the way back I ended up buying an "Octopus Card" - a prepaid train ticket. It costs $150 HKD, which includes $100 of value to spend on the train and a $50 deposit which I can get refunded. I figured $150 is only about $20 AUD, so I might even keep it as a souvenir... maybe.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Day 5

I normally try not to sleep in too much on holiday, but this morning it was well needed, so we missed our included breakfast. Alot of late nights are catching up.

After doing some blogging in the morning our room service lady came in and I requested an iron so I could prepare my clothes for the wedding tonight.
I wouldn't call myself an expert at ironing, but I managed to make myself look presentable (I think).

With that aside, Michelle and I headed out for some brunch. Ended up at a pretty fancy Japanese restaurant near our hotel. Michelle ordered a Wagyu Beef Stir fry and I got a Tomato Soup with Udon Noodles with Burger Meat and Salad - which I really enjoyed! It hardly seems Japanese, but tasted good!

Michelle ended up finding a decent hair salon to prepare for the wedding tonight and I headed back to the hotel to finish my ironing (yes, im slow), shave, etc.

We were finally both ready to get to this wedding so we got our hotel staff to hail us a cab and headed through the tunnel to Causeway Bay on Hong Kong Island at The Regal Hotel where the reception was being hosted.

The Regal was a very nice hotel! Michelle and I both agreed that we looked posh enough to fit the part! :) ...for tonight anyway.

The reception was held in a function room in the second basement and was filled with family and friends. Although most of the people were family who live in Hong Kong, there were also a few people from Thailand, and Jillian (who is good friends with Henry - Julia's husband) and us from Melbourne.

The reception started with some speeches and photo slide shows and then onto a traditional Chinese Banquet.

I have to say it was pretty cool! The banquet consisted of about 10 courses of traditional Chinese food where every table had a staff member handing out bowls via a Lazy Susan.

I had never had alot of this food, and managed to have a taste of just about everything. Being typical tourists, every time a new dish would come out, the 3 of us would pull out our cameras to take some photos - this was pretty new and exciting for us :)

Below are the photos and descriptions of the dishes we had:

Barbequed Whole Suckling Pig
Sauteed Scallops and Elm Fungus with Vegetable
Sauteed Shrimps with Birds Nest and Vegetables
Braised Marrow Stuffed with Whole Conpoy (which is a dry Scallop)
Braised Shark's Fin Soup with Birds Nest and Shredded Chicken
Braised Whole Abalone and Sea Cucumber with Vegetables
Steamed Fish Sea Garoupa
Fried Rice with Diced Chicken in Abalone Sauce
Sweetened Red Bean Cream with Lotus Seeds and Lily Bulbs AND Chinese Petits Fours

In addition to all this food, there were drinks coming around constantly too. There were soft drinks and juices, which were surprisingly really popular, tea, red wine and some really strong cognac!

This cognac has a pretty nice smell, but as I tipped the glass to have a drink, the smell became so powerful it felt like the fumes were burning my nose and eyes! It's probably just because I don't normally drink cognac, but it was seriously strong!

All in all, I had a pretty good time, and I considered myself lucky to be part of a traditional Chinese banquet. I don't know how many Aussies would get to experience this very traditional family event.

Gan Bei!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Day 4

Today I got up and had breakie before going back to my room to pack my things. When I came here, I brought my luggage and a backpack, then I bought a camera bag at Plaza Low Yat in KL, so all together I have 3 bags, which has proved to be a bit difficult to pack. I was a bit worried, but luckily my luggage expands and I (just) fit it all in. I'm hoping I'll still have enough room for things from Hong Kong.

I eventually got a cab to KL Sentral, then the bus to LCCT to catch my flight to Hong Kong. I got there a bit early and ended up having a chat to a friendly Malaysian psychology student.

My flight to Hong Kong was pretty good. It took about 3 hours and I was lucky enough to get a whole row to myself. Just before take off and landing, cool air came out of the vents on the side of the plane, but it was visibly cold air (maybe part of a dehumidifier?). It looked like the plane turned into a fridge! This actually happened when we landed in KL, but not as much as this flight.

The only downside was the row in front and behind me had a group of incredibly loud Chinese guys. The whole flight they were yelling at each other and what sounded like trying to cough up flem! Is that meant to be cool? As we were taking off (and the plane was climbing) a couple of them undone their seatbelts and changed seats! The air hostess had to tell them to sit down, buckle up and quiet down a few times during the flight.

Finally got to Hong Kong and I had a pretty smooth run. When I got out I met up with Michelle who was waiting for me at arrivals. Unfortunately Michelle hit a couple of problems. We went to get some cash out so we could get a train into the city and Michelle's card wouldn't work. After jumping on the free wifi to check the balance, we tried calling ANZ with a payphone and about 30 seconds in, the call died. We eventually changed some Aussie money to get by.

So we got a train from the airport to Kowloon, then a free shuttle bus from Kowloon to our hotel. As the train was going through a tunnel (or something) all of a sudden Michelle and I got a pain in our ears! It was like when the plane takes off, but more sudden - really weird. The bus driver was crazy!! Some people say I accelerate and brake fast, this guy was way worse and the streets are smaller, and there are people everywhere! It looked like we had a few near misses!

Got to our hotel, The Luxe Manor, and checked in. Our hotel is really interesting. Its like a kooky little cottage! There are painted photo frames everywhere and a painted fireplace. Our tv (which has a wireless keyboard!) is in a massive old-school painting frame.

One down side is there is no easy place for Mish to smoke, so she is smoking in the bathroom... which doesn't have a fan... and really stinks!!
Deodorant is working a little, but I plan on buying some air freshener :)

We unpacked and Michelle's shampoo had leaked in her bag all over her clothes, hair dryer and straightener. Not having the best luck. We had a quick cuppa and headed out to explore.

Out hotel backs onto Knutsford Terrace, which is full of night life and restaurants. Pretty convenient!

We eventually got food from this little Vietnamese place. Which was nothing impressive, but hit the spot.

After dinner we bought some SIM cards and headed back to the hotel.

Day 3

Today was my last full day in KL so I wanted to make the most of it.
After getting breakfast I had a quick chat with the tourism person at my hotel and got a cab to the KL Bird Park.

The bird park is made up of many large walk-in free-flight aviaries. The scenery was spectacular - you share the paths and gardens with a wide variety of birds walking and flying in every direction. As you walk through the various zones the paths take you past ponds and waterfalls with informational signs at every main attraction.

Most of the birds are free to roam around the aviary with the tourists, but there are also quiet a smaller aviaries that are not available to walk through. These generally housed birds such as owls, eagles and hawks.

There were some speciality aviaries too, such as the Waterfall Aviary and the Flamingo Lake.

I also got to see one of the bird shows, where they had the smarter species, such as parrots and the Australian Cockatoo, to do tricks such as riding a bike, mathematics, races.

They also got volunteers form the audience to hold food up (on sticks) and let the eagles come swooping in and take the food - which was pretty impressive! They're really fast!

After that I headed to the KL Butterfly Park. They wouldn't let me bring my tripod in, and they charged me an extra Ringgit to bring my camera, but I'm glad I bought my macro lens - it was a macro playground!

There were butterfly's everywhere and like the bird park there were rainforest like environments with waterfalls and stone paths winding around dense gardens.

Around the park were feeding areas where there was sweet fruit left on stands which was the perfect lure to get get a good  shot.

Naturally in environments like this, butterfly's are not the only insects around, although they were the most common.

The rain was about to start, so ' I grabbed my tripod back of the evil gatekeepers and got a cab to Petalling Street (aka China Town). By this time the rain was quite heavy, luckily the main stretch of the China Town Flea Market in under cover.

This market had everything from souvenirs, bootleg DVD's and toys, to fresh produce, restaurants and massage parlours.

I did a couple of hours of walking around and shopping, got some food (~$3) and a massage (~$8) and got a cab to KL Tower.
Everyday at about 5:00PM it would start raining and the roads became a traffic jam, this sort of regularity is hard to believe for an Aussie, but it was pretty accurate. Due to this peak hour the taxi fares all go up too which is understandable as they dont really make much money.

At the top of KL Tower I was given a headset and video player to get an explanation of what I was looking at. This was pretty good, I'd recommend dong this early because they do give you an idea of what to see in KL. At the time I was here, it was quite foggy, but the view was still pretty good.

You can also get a pretty good view of the Petronas Towers from here too. The reflections and fog made it a bit hard to get a killer shot, but great to look at.

Because I bought an "Adventure Ticket" for KL Tower which included the tour of the tower, a pony ride (which I skipped), a Formula One simulator (which was a computer screen and keyboard sitting on a race car shell) and entry to the KL Tower Zoo. The Zoo was kinda lame after seeing the bird and butterfly parks, but they had quite a bit all things considered - and ' I got my photo taken with an Aussie Cockatoo.

After this I got another cab back to Jalan Alor (aka "Food street") - which is famous for its "Hawker Stalls". Its a massive night market where the tables fill the streets and there are way more people than cars! It was a pretty cool environment. I got some fried squid and really cold strawberry slurpy-like thing and walked back to my hotel.

As I did quite a bit in this day, I didnt get a chance to write this post until the next day. My flight to Hong Kong was the perfect time!