Sunday, May 26, 2013

July 8: Welcome to Japan! irashaimase!

Day 1 in Japan; Day 153 in Asia

When I was twelve I made it my dream/life goal, to go to Japan. It started with a love for anime and video games. That soon spread for a love for Japanese pop culture, and eventually a love for the country. Nine years later, my love for the pop culture wore out however, I still felt like I was destined to go there. And whattaya know, found out dreams do come true. :)

At 8:30 a.m, we were en route to Japan. However, before we could reach Japan, we had a transfer on the mainland. We were once again back in Beijing. Mixed feelings about this, but I admit... Beijing was sort of missed. 
Airplane food: seafood noodles for breakfast
Lunch was gross and not picture worthy.

We finally arrived at 5:00 p.m. Those first steps off the plane and first breathe of Japanese air will forever be remembered. The Narita International airport was located about an hour away from our hostel, which we later found was tucked away pretty damn well.  We had our first taste of the amazing subway system and it was helluva confusing! The actual subway stations, platforms, transfers, and there were stops that weren't even on the map.
Tokyo Subway System
To throw us off even more, we had to decode addresses with 3 separate numbers in front of the street name (ex: 32-78-38 Maple Steet). After a while of traveling, searching, and asking we checked into our hostels.
We were greeted by the manager and two other hostel stayers. We found our rooms to, literally, be a floor separated by walls and a door. While some of us were provided with futons, others had a mattress.
Here's a look at my place when I went in:
Oh, where did the luxury go?
After rearranging our "rooms", we went on the hunt for food. We found a place not too far from the hostel.
Fried Rice = 420 Yen (~$4.25 CND)
Angel in Tokyo!
Photo Cred: Cat
Although it was super late out and our hostel was tucked away in a small street, I had no fear of criminal activities, for Japan has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. yay Japan! Back at the hostel, I talked to one of the two hostel stayers. It's always fun to hear what others think in regards of age and ethnicity. This time around, he thought I was Korean and 16. 

Final thought:
I am pleased to say that my Japanese is finally was coming in use!
Can't believe I'm finally here! Ahhhhhhh-

Sunday, May 19, 2013

July 7; Avenue of Stars, Dragon Boats, and Hong Kong edibles with J

Day 152

On our 3rd day in Hong Kong, we met up with a friend from our uni. J was kind enough to show us around and introduced us to Chinese fusion food at a place called Satay King.  We tried something called white curry (not curry made by white people, rather the curry was white in colour) and that was just so freakin fantastic.  Fusion food = amazing.

Satay King for lunch
After lunch, J took us to K11 another one of Hong Kong's many malls. This mall had a little more to offer as it was an  art concept mall, meaning there  were sculptures and other artsy things in addition to stores.
The coolest thing there was definitely the Mona Lisa portrait made completely of toast.
There was a neat little candy store that made candy with pictures of different things on each piece by using different layers of colour to make the design. 
Panda candy
rolling it out to bite size pieces
After wandering around in the wonderful air conditioned buildings, we braced ourselves for the hot Hong Kong heat. Another major tourist attraction in Hong Kong is the Avenue of Stars. Located right by the waterfront, here you can find the hand prints of many famous Chinese stars imprinted on the ground. It's like Hollywood stars for the East. The actual attraction is definitely more interesting if you actually know the Chinese stars that imprinted their hands on the boardwalk, but the waterfront view is pretty nice too. 
more wedding pictures
Clock tower
Photo Cred: Cat
just look at those clouds!
Here we are, the avenue of the stars
One of the few stars I recognized.
The famous Bruce Lee statue that stands in front of the river that runs between HK island and Kowloon
Photo Cred: Cat
We were lucky enough to catch the last day of the dragon boat races. It was really cool to see the large number of international teams, even saw the University of Waterloo team.

To wrap up our lovely outing with J, she took us to a cool dessert place where they were serving up delectable mango desserts. We tried mango glutinous rice balls filled with mango puree, mango and coconut milk pudding, and mango ice cream cake.
mango glutinous rice balls filled with mango puree, courtesy of J
Once we parted ways, we headed off to the airport for our early morning departure to JAPAN. SO EXCITED! The airport bus was so nice. My first time on a double decker and  It even had wifi!
wi-fi makes me happy.
Airport bus = $33 HKD
It'll be nice to explore Hong Kong the second the time around, but for now land of the rising sun, here I come!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

July 6; lifestyle of the rich and famous

Day 151

Kowloon (connected to the mainland) and Hong Kong Island are conveniently connected and made easily accessible by the amazing subway system and ferry.  We took the subway to Hong Kong Island today where we first, we found lunch at a local authentic Chinese restaurant. Hong Kong people are always on the go and the restaurant we went to reflected this type of fast pace lifestyle. People were crammed into tables, ordered food quickly, scoffed down their meal, and then moved on right after.
eating wonton soup woo
Photo Cred: Cat
After lunch we explored Central, the business area.
ah silverstein! amazing!
sexist for hire ad.

We walked and walked and ended up a few subway stops down in Causeway Bay, another major shopping center in Hong Kong. Here, the streets are filled with designer stores and pedestrians stirring about. Shopping seems to be a favourite past time for some Hong Kongers.
Fact: To make space for new stores, movie theatres get changed into designer stores.
another mall
We met up with Kristie's friend's uncle whom we met at a cool bar area called Lan Kwai Fong.
There was some sort of business event going on that we were kindly invited too. Despite feeling young, under dressed and nonfinancial-ly (it was a business-y social gathering), Uncle D was great company/so funny, and welcoming. He treated us to drinks and dinner then took us on a tour of the area. Apparently the area was founded and developed by a Canadian so most of the bars and restaurants were once or still are owned by Canadians! Pretty cool. The area used to have a garbage dump as well... It sure has come a long way. As Uncle D was giving us the tour, he got waved at and called into a few bars. We went to Muse (where I actually wanted to go to since my app recommended it) when one of the people called him in,  then we made our way to dragon-I. Dragon-i was the it place for Hollywood stars, models and professional athletes to hangout during their off time. Apparently, when Ronaldo (soccer star) was there last, he was in the VIP room receiving a few unholy favours.
Ya, definitely exclusive.
This was definitely a taste of the good life. Definitely one of my favourite areas in Hong Kong thus far. Thank you for spoiling us Uncle D!
coerced into taking touristy photos.
More things I learned about HK:
1) Generalization, but materialism has taken over HK. Saving face and designer goods plays a huge part of Hong Kong culture.
2)  Hong Kong people like to eat and shop. In the malls, there are no designated sitting areas. There are stores to shop in and then restaurants/cafes to sit and eat in. There's no space to do nothing.