Friday, April 11, 2014

Hong Kong Holiday

     I recently had the chance to do some traveling on this new side of the world I call home. So why Hong Kong, you may ask? Well there are currently three people with the church working there, a sorority sister of mine lived outside the city teaching English, and another friend from college is living there with her husband , so I decided I would be stupid not to visit with all the people I knew there. Kiyosato is about three hours by train to the airport, so I decided to stay the night at the airport because my flight was at 6am--which is also 15 minutes after the trains started running, so I actually didn't have an option. Totally the best decision ever! At the Haneda airport they have one of those capsule hotel--the ones Japan is so famous for. It was a really great price,too, for a hotel that wasn't just at the airport, rather actually IN the airport, as in when the shuttle came to get me to take me to the international terminal a hotel employee had to walk all of us out and unlock the doors to the terminal. So if you ever have a layover at Haneda in Tokyo, I recommend the First Cabin Hotel. They rent for the day, too!
Bags all packed! Ten days in one suitcase--I was impressed! Unfortunately, I left my camera on in my car, lucky I brought my iPhone.
Entrance to First Cabin Hotel.
My little home for the night--that's a shade that comes down and acts as the door.
So much easier to wear the provided pjs than to dig through my suitcase that was in bed with me.
Looking out my capsule to the rest of the ladies' area.
Yepp--that's how big it was!
From this point to my gate, it took me about thirty minutes--only because my gate was at the end of the terminal. The Japanese airports are so much more efficient---as with everything else Japanese.
World Traveler!
Was at the airport early enough to see the sun rise over my plane.
Everything is Asia is so much cuter!
Outlying island on the decent into Hong Kong.
          The first half of my trip I stayed with Sara Lowery, a fellow YASCer, at the Ming Hua Theological College where she lives right in the middle of Central Hong Kong. Sara is in Hong Kong working for The Mission for Migrant Workers. We even were able to have some time to visit with other YASCer Will Bryant who works for The Mission to Seafarers. Sara took me around to see the sights and taste the food and was nice enough to introduce me to her coworkers who are missionaries for the Methodist Church. Just to tell you how small of a world this is, while sitting in a tiny little dim sum restaurant off a side street, I found out one of the girls is from Noblesville--the town over from my hometown of Fishers. We all actually went to see Captain America together there. Definitely not something I thought I would be doing in a foreign country, but I felt very aware of how people perceive America after that and wanted to turn around at the end of the movie and tell everyone that "Yes, indeed, we do blow up everything back in the States." My trip ended up happening at the perfect time because one of the the days our big boss man for all of the YASCers in Asia, Peter Ng, was in town along with Bruce Woodcock who is with the Church Pension Group. We explored a little bit of Hong Kong, including the Chi Lin Nunnery, and then had a really great dinner followed by an even more amazing dessert. With Sara's help, I now feel like I know that little side of the world like the back of my hand. I was an expert at the trains by the time I left--NOTHING compared to Tokyo's impossible train system. It probably helped that Hong Kong's British influence is very much noticeable and most things are in English. I had a really great time, but Hong Kong is just so completely different from what I am used to in Japan, so it was all a little overwhelming. It's odd getting to an intersection and have Louis Vuitton on one corner, Chanel on another, Tiffany's on yet another corner and behind you was the church where Sara works for the migrant workers. To get to Sara's apartment you pass a Louboutin store and Gucci stores were like Starbucks. I did find a little oasis in the chaos one day when I was on my own. I visited the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens. When you get into it far enough you can forget that you are in one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Later that day, I also ventured out to the "New Territories"--which funnily enough are actually over a hundred years old. I trekked out there to visit the Hong Kong Cultural Heritage Museum in Sha Tin. I went through their whole history exhibit and still don't understand exactly Hong Kong's distinction in regards to China vs. Britain. I'm wondering if anyone actually knows. That Sunday, Sara took me to St. John's Cathedral. She usually goes to the early service before she goes to work, which is the 8:00 service. It was the most basic service you could have, no hymns, just in and out and get on with your holy day. It was the first time in months that I've been able to hear a church service in English, so I really appreciated that. This part of the trip was just a nice time getting together with Sara and hearing about how her placement was going and talking about things we both are familiar with, the YASC program as well as being away for so long. Sara is actually making a trip here to Japan soon and hopefully I will be able to meet up with her at some point. They really do encourage us to travel and see the world.
The outside of Ming Hua.

My home for a few days.
Once you get right inside the gates of Ming Hua...

And then if you turn around and look toward the gate you just came through---you're in a sea of city.

The Mariner's Club where Will lives and Peter and Bruce stayed while they were in town.
Sara and I fed our inner bookworms and visited the Hong Kong Central Library
First dim sum experience--and I LOVED it! 
Gates to the Buddhist temple in the Chi Lin nunnery--amongst high rises
Part of the Nan Lian gardens

Sara and Me
Bruce, Grace and Peter--our guests and guide for the day

Peter with all the delicious desserts that were to DIE for.
Little oasis in the chaos.
Entrance to the Zoological and Botanical Gardens.
Plopped right in the middle of the city.
Very peaceful place amid craziness.
Hong Kong Cultural Heritage Museum.
Replica of part of a fishing village that Hong Kong evolved from.
A most impressive exhibit on Cantonese Opera.
Whenever I say I am apart of the Episcopal Church, people look at me like I have six heads.
St. John's Cathedral-Hong Kong.
Sara told me the later services are standing room only.
That week we prayed for my church in Japan!!

     The last two days of my trip I met up with my sorority sister, Lauren, who was passing through Hong Kong after just finishing up teaching in Guangzhou and was kicking off a two month trek through South East Asia before heading to Spain to teach English again. This was my first experience with a hostel and I have to say we were quite spoiled. We had a lovely British couple in our room with us that were very nice, as well as some people that were kind of odd and never left their bed, but that's to be expected staying with strangers. Lauren's friend from Guangzhou, John, also joined us on our excursions through Hong Kong. Our first night we visited Lan Kwai Fong, which is the large party district, which I have been told cannot be missed. The next day we visited the Big Buddha on one of Hong Kong's outlying islands, Lantau Island, and our bus only hit another bus once, so I considered the trip out there to be a big success. The funny thing about Hong Kong is everything is brand new. Sara told me once something starts to show wear, they tear it down and build something new. So it came as no surprise that the Chi Lin Monastery and Big Buddha were actually built fairly recently. Big Buddha was finished in 1993 and is considered to be the largest, outdoor, seated, bronze Buddha--guess you can be the biggest and best at something if it is obscure enough. To get to Tian Tan, or Big Buddha, you have to climb 268 steps, which doesn't seem like a lot, even when you look up and see all those steps. Even about half way up, it still seems like a good idea, but that last probably fifty steps were MURDER. I will have to admit after I caught my breath and my thighs and calves stopped burning, the view was pretty amazing. We had picked a perfect day to go. It was kind of rainy and gloomy, which didn't lead to being able to see very far, but the mountains were covered in clouds and mist and was very serene. Later that night we just explored Hong Kong and went to the harbor to see it lit up at night. The next day was when I was flying out, but had an 11pm flight, so I took that chance to meet up and have dinner with my friend from college, Aleena, and her husband, Mark, who moved to Hong Kong for his job. I am so upset I didn't have more time to visit with them, but hopefully I'll have another opportunity in the future because they were great hosts even for the few hours I spent with them!
Our night out in Lan Kwai Fong---everyone wanted their picture taken with us, but these guys were the only ones WE asked to take a picture with.
John and Lauren getting street food before we head to see Big Buddha.
Gates to the monastery near Big Buddha
Lauren and me before the climb
It doesn't look like that big of a hike, does it?
Blending in with the locals
The view down the stairs---can't believe we made it!
Last night in Hong Kong visiting the harbor
      It was such a great escape to see people I hadn't seen in months and years and catch up, but I was ready to get back to the place I weirdly call home now. Japan just has this calmness that has completely transformed me into someone that values order and quiet. 

Until next time,

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