Shang Gang tai gui le! (Hong Kong is too expensive!)

Our visit to Hong Kong was a successful one.  There was an Asia Women’s conference for our church that Tenille wanted to attend, so we packed up the whole family to visit Hong Kong. 

My first impression was that it was busy!  It’s like the Manhattan of China.  Buildings reach skyward all around you so that you can sometimes only see a sliver of sky.  It’s also expensive like Manhattan in terms of hotel costs.  My wife got the cheapest hotel (just shy of $100/night)  that seemed like it was walking distance to the church.  We gave the address to the cab driver and when we got there, we were a bit concerned because it was just a street full of stores.  No Hotel!  Where’s the Hotel?  We did another lap around block thinking that perhaps it was tucked away in some side street.  No luck.  We then came back around and started paying attention to the numbers on the stores.  The Hotel – Mingle by the Park – was located at 143 Wan Chai Street.  This time we found it.  It was a small doorway squished between another doorway and a Doctor’s office marked by a small plaque next to the opening.  We got off at the corner and went into the doorway which led to stairs.  We went up 3 flights of stairs and found a small reception desk where we checked in.  We got a room on the third floor which is worse than it sounds because the first floor starts at the reception desk.  Luckily, we had some help carrying up all of our stuff another 2 stories of stairs.

The Peak Tram 2009-03-15 043

Now Tenille and I don’t often argue about much, but we did have a slight disagreement about the number of luggage we were taking to Hong Kong.  I am the type of person that can wear the same pants for 3 days without thinking about it, and Tenille likes to prepare for every eventuality (which in general is a wonderful characteristic to have in a wife).  Being reminded of our experience coming into the Beijing airport, where I had to push two different carts full of teetering bags across the airport like a maniacal cartoon character, I asked Tenille to try and reduce our number of bags.  She didn’t like this suggestion, which I can somewhat understand because the weight limit in China is 20 kg (44 lbs).  She said, “How hard could it be to carry an extra bag!  We get on a cab outside our door, carry it to check in, then carry it to a cab in Hong Kong, then carry it inside!” 

This conversation happened to have taken place right after I was tasked with borrowing a Graco Pack and play from friends that lived in a resort like complex.  If you’ve ever had to carry a pack and play across a cruise ship, you might be able to relate to my state of mind.  There is no easy way to carry a Pack and Play.  It’s a big rectangle that’s awkward to carry.  And there’s a small handle in the middle which feels like you’re getting a rope burn after a few minutes of carrying it.  Needless to say, I was not a fan of taking the Graco, but Tenille was insistent because she wanted a place for Andrew to sleep.  I pleaded that I would rather stay up all night with Andrew in the bathroom rather than take the Graco.  She would not back down.  Then, I asked her to reduce our bags down to one.  She didn’t like that suggestion either, but eventually agreed under threat of a luggage audit.  Since my wife is Awesome (she told me to write this), she got down to a single bag that weighed 19.9 kg.  The problem is that one person has to take the kids, which means the other person (usually me) has to take ALL of the luggage.  Tenille usually has some scheme to assemble and stack all of the bags in some complex fashion so that one person can somehow manage an unnatural number of bags, but only in ideal conditions.  For instance, it wouldn’t work on stairs or be extremely difficult through the security check. 

Hong Kong 001

On the day of the trip, Tenille was pulling our big bag with the Graco on top of it probably due to my whining and to show me “How hard could it possibly be?”  We went all over the airport before we figured out that the taxi took us to the wrong terminal.  We walked around until we found a bus terminal to take a bus which took about 20 minutes to our terminal.    With this incident and how crowded it was in Hong Kong and having to take our luggage up 4 stories of stairs, I think Tenille was ok that we got down to a single bag, although she might not admit it.

Enough on bags, back to Hong Kong.  We thought we had gotten used to being in tight quarters until we saw our Hotel Room.  The room was a King size bed with about 2 feet on 3 sides of it to walk around.  There was a flat screen TV on one wall.  It was a bit tough with the 2 kids, but we managed ok.  They also had a movie system which had something like 2000 movies.  When I turned it on, it said that they can only be played one at a time, so some movies may not be available.  That was enough for me to think that there was some respect for anti-piracy laws, and we watched Kung Fu Panda.  3 times…

On the first day, we went to see a giant Buddha statue on top of a mountain.  We went on a 20 minute cable car ride to get to the top.

Hong Kong 004 Hong Kong 008 Ngong Ping - Buddha - Tai-O 2009-03-12 051 Ngong Ping - Buddha - Tai-O 2009-03-12 060

We also went to a fishing village called Tai O.  Many of the houses were built upon stilts.  We were there during low tide, so we didn’t get to see the houses as if they were floating on the water.  Just by chance, a lady offered us a ride in her boat around the village and we accepted her offer.  We road in a small boat with two other couples.  One couple was from Hong Kong and was taking another couple around.  The lady from Hong Kong spoke English very well and fell in love with Andrew.  She ended up giving us an English tour as the boat drove around the town.  Even after the boat tour, she stuck with us and explained about the town.  The others in her party seemed a bit annoyed with her as she stayed behind with us.  Ends up that the town has changed a lot over the last 5-10 years.  The government had built housing inland for the inhabitants.  However, you had to pay taxes if you lived in the government housing.  Many people chose to stay in the stilt houses and pay no taxes.  But, there was a fire a few years ago which burnt down many of the houses.    We walked through the small market (which was basically an alleyway), and saw a lot of live seafood.  The shrimp looked more like an ancient bug than the shrimp that I’m used to.  The Hong Kong lady said that they’re supposed to be related to the ancient fossils.

Ngong Ping - Buddha - Tai-O 2009-03-12 151 Ngong Ping - Buddha - Tai-O 2009-03-12 120 Ngong Ping - Buddha - Tai-O 2009-03-12 119

Over the next few days, Tenille attended the church conferences while I worked throughout the morning and set out for food with the kids in the afternoon.  One day, I went out to Victoria Park with the kids.  There we saw what looked like a kiddie pool, but it was designated for R/C boats.  We stuck around for a while, and boy was I glad we did.  There I saw the fastest R/C boat I’ve ever seen in my life.  It sprayed a rooster tail behind it that was probably taller than I was.  I was a bit concerned that it might come flying out of the pool and hit one of my kids which would definitely result in a hospital visit…   But, that’s me.  Always thinking about the worst possible case scenario…

Hong Kong Don Camera 059

In the evening, we went to see the Hong Kong light show.  The lights on the biggest buildings in Hong Kong are synchronized to music that is playing across the bay.  Honestly, I was expecting fireworks when I heard about the light show.  It was interesting to see, but a little too long for my taste. 

Hong Kong 049 Hong Kong 039

Tenille and I took turns attending the Temple.  The Temple in Hong Kong is  intimate and can probably accommodate about 30 members.  If you have a party of more than 10, you’re supposed to make an appointment.  I have to admit, I love to see the church in the nooks and crannies of the world – to see how they worship and to see the small differences to accommodate local circumstances and culture.  With that said, the church building in Hong Kong was enormous.  It was about 11 stories tall.  I counted 3 chapels in there.  We ended up going to the Philipino branch which was made entirely up of women.  There were 3 men that made up the Presidency, and 2 men + 2 missionaries that passed the sacrament.  From the talks that were given, it seems like the women all left their families in the Phillipines to make money in Hong Kong.  Several of them spoke of how much they missed their husband and families.  It made me appreciate that I’ve lived all of my married life with Tenille and we’ve hardly ever been apart.  We shouldn’t take that for granted.

Hong Kong 023Hong Kong 019

On the last day, we went on a tram to the Peak in Hong Kong.  The tram was fun because it went up a very steep incline, sometimes feeling as steep as 45 degrees!  The view from the top was pretty nice, but a bit hazy. 

Hong Kong 110 Hong Kong 115 Hong Kong 123

Finally, I was impressed with how the airport works in Hong Kong.  There’s a train that you can take from the city to the airport which takes about 30 minutes.  The train is faster than the taxi.  The best part is that you can check your bags at the train stop in the city, then just board your plane at the airport.  Next time we saw our bags was in Beijing! 

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