It's been a little while since I checked in over here on the blog - and WHEW, I am BEAT! Here in Arizona, we have a little something called "modified year round school." What's that mean? Well basically, our kids get a minimum of 2 weeks off every 45-ish days. It's fun. It's tragic. And everything in between. Having the opportunity and ability to travel around the world - we figured, WHAT THE HECK, let's go on a biiiiiig, super huge adventure. Let's take ALL FOUR heifer-kids to Hong Kong. Why not? It's just a little 14 hour flight. What could possibly go wrong?
Buckle up, heifers, this is a long blog post.... get ready!
So.... off we went. I decided this would be #heiferBelle's world debut. (to get yours, click here) So, we packed up the kids, each getting a backpack (hey, we're seasoned travelers- we don't need no stinkin' luggage!), and off we went. First, we flew out to San Francisco, where #heiferBelle met up with some football fans (I think it's football? i don't do sports-balls, so yeah, not really sure, but look at those faces, they are CERTAINLY fans of SOMETHING sporty and colorful...) they were kind enough to rep the heifer for me - so here they are! If you know who these crazy ball fans are, hit me up, I will shout out to them for being awesome!
All six of us board the really HUGE 747 and get buckled in for a long 14 hour ride over to Hong Kong. Y'all know me. I'm a bad flier. I mean I'm a XANAX flier, I can't lie. I don't measure flights in terms of hours typically, I measure them in terms of how many meds I will need to get through. This was a 3X flight. Nobody bothered to tell me (maybe they did that on purpose?) that the Asia-Pacific route tends to be ... uh, shall we say, a little BUMPY? Not just a little. I'm talkin' "shaken not stirred" bumpy. I'm talking WHITE KNUCKLE bumpy. I digress. This blog post isn't about turbulence, although really that could be its own post) Anyhoo...... we board. We're all set and situated, each kid with their own iDevice, and me on wifi (because, wifi!).... and off we go. Twenty minutes into the flight, the lovely flight attendants come and hand out these "specimens" hahaha I loved it. I really love how the English translation carries through. So #heiferBelle had to photobomb the specimen, of course. Trifling little heifer....
Being the heifer that I am, with food issues, I want to take a moment to discuss airline food. Now, typically, if first class is open and available, you'll find my heifer-*ss sitting in it. No holds barred. I will beg, bribe, and whine my way up into the front of that plane no matter what. This trip, though - we had a different opportunity. It was a pretty empty flight so we each got our own ROW. Our very own 32 A,B,C and 33 D,E,F,G and 33 H,I,J etc.. you get the idea. This is great. We had a whole alphabet. You get your own space to spread out, hyperventilate, be afraid, play on wifi, etc... First class gets pretty amazing food. We were in coach and the food wasn't nearly as bad as I anticipated. They bring you a few meals, snacks, etc to keep you happy for, oh, the fourteen hours of bumping around. This was our first meal. We were given two options.... fried noodles (hey, it was a flight to China, it's cool) or "pasta." My son, who has a few food trepidations, asks "what kind of pasta" and was met with a blank stare from a tired flight attendant, who was like, "listen dude, you want fried noodles or Italian noodles, JUST PICK NOW BRO!).... so he got the 'Italian' variety. Think of a Lean Cuisine but....with an attached salad. I'm not even sure WHAT was IN that salad, but actually it tasted pretty decent. Way to go United Airlines! #heiferBelle was pretty stoked to be invited to the food party too. That little heifer ate the bun though. Whatever.
Mooooving along, we get to Hong Kong, 6 VERY tired people. Did I mention tired? We were so very tired. We landed, arrived to the hotel for a long-awaited amazing night of sleep, and then hit the ground running in the morning. I wasn't sure if i was jet-lagged, if my contacts were fuzzy, or what - but everywhere we went, we kept seeing Hello Kitty things. I'm talkin' EVERYWHERE. I asked a few people - nobody knew, or they pretended to not speak English. Either way, I got no answers. Only Hello Kitties. Everywhere.
Next up, let's talk a little bit about the creature comforts of home, when you're far away. China qualifies for "far away" from home, I think, when you live in Arizona. It's reaaaaaaaally far. So yeah. When your drop-dead tired, exhausted, cranky kids brighten up at the sight of a 7-11, you're stuck. You HAVE to go in and get them Doritos. It's just some unwritten law. So, we did. 7-11 stores are literally on every corner in Hong Kong. In every train station, at every bus stop, probably one in every stilted fishing village house if you ask me. They're EVERYWHERE. Like Pit Bull and his international love. We felt the international love every time we walked by one. And we had to stop. Here's the thing - they might have ONE or two flavors from home (ie Lays potato chips, thank the good lord).... but the rest of the stuff? Yeah. Not even close to being familiar. They had dried duck intestines. They had fricassee'd cat whiskers. They had every crazy thing you could image. But not chapstick or waterless soap. I digress. A few days into my trip I was so glad to see 7-11 carried crustless, prepackaged white bread. I got sick from eating at a Korean BBQ place that touted its "Stone pot BBQ chicken bowl." I'm pretty sure that's Mandarin for "we got the stupid American chick to eat a cat!" More on that later.
Ahem, anyway - 7-11s are everywhere. As are KFC, Subway, McDonalds, and Circle K stores. Don't ask. I have no idea. They just are. And it's a beautiful sight when you've got four teenagers who are afraid to try new things (and can't blame them, you'll see why if you keep reading).
Next up, let's talk about school kids in Hong Kong. I can't speak for the ones without uniforms (if there ARE any....) but it seemed like EVERY school-aged kid we saw was wearing a uniform. And I'm not talkin' something super-trendy ... these poor girls have to wear dresses reminiscent of the dress Alice wore in the Brady Bunch. These poor girls. Seriously. Right down the black Mary Janes and the white bobby socks. Every outfit was EXACTLY the same for each grade. I felt kind of bad for them - I don't mind uniforms, but at least maybe something a little more up to date. In case any Hong Kong school officials are reading this - i just wanted to let you guys know, maybe spruce up that situation, ok? A little bling or maybe some color. Anyhooooo.... I loved this random moment caught between two school-aged kids on the street. Who knows. Maybe they'll grow up and get married. Or maybe he'll dump her to date her younger sister, either way, for the moment it's a cute young-love shot so just enjoy it. :-)
In case you're wondering if a typical street in Hong Kong looks like it does in every post card, let me assure you, it does. Every street looks like this - except even more crowded. It's INSANELY crowded. I believe the population in HK is 7.15 million. And most of them were in our hotel elevator, every time. No really. There are more people there than ... than I don't know where. There's just TONS of people everywhere you look. You don't cross the street there - you kind of get whoooooshed along with the crowd, like a school of fish. It's an ebb and flow like no other city I've seen, including Times Square in NYC. It's its own flavaaaah of nuts. And bbq goose. But here's the thing - these people - they have process management DOWN. There are rarely lines - and if there are, nobody pushes, huffs, puffs, and gets obnoxious. (I think they kill you there if you do, but I could be wrong). To give you an example, we shipped a few (ok, like 12) boxes of our most coveted "made in China" items home...souveniers, Jimmy Choo, etc... don't judge).... and the first box arrived 3(!) days after we did. You cannot ship a box from LA to DC and have it arrive in under 8 days. Are you kidding me? Hong Kong folks know the deal. They get stuff DONE!!! Kudos, HK process managers, kudos.
Here's something I discovered there in HK, too. People can sleep ANYWHERE.... I mean anywhere. I think I grabbed this quick shot at maybe 8pm, on the street (obviously). I'm not sure if she was a vendor (if so, I hope nobody stole anything while she was getting her shut-eye)... or just waiting for her kids to shop for souveniers...but she was OUT like a light, baby. OUT! Gotta give her credit for being able to sleep there. Then again, I think there's like .32% crime there, so it's not like she would worry someone would steal her Jimmy Choo handbag, because, like I said, I think they kill you there for that. (i'm only kidding, for the record, guys, please nobody message me telling me I'm ignorant, obnoxious, and stupid, I get that all the time, so that'd be overkill, mmmkay?)
I want to take a minute here to discuss something near and dear to my heart. SHOPPING! Hong Kong is THE best place to shop. Our hotel was attached to a huge high-end mall (think: Hermes, Rolex, Breitling, etc....) There were NO shabby stores there, no KMart, no Wally World (nothing against those places, I shop at them, too!).. but MAN OH MAN!! Holy shopping, Batman! The markets in Hong Kong are nothing short of newsworthy. Thousands of little stall-shops back to back (to back to back) lining many streets, for miles at a time. It is a shopper's dream come true. All the stuff we buy here in the USA that says "made in China" is available, at these little stalls. I mean EVERYTHING. Here's a view from the Ladies Market, where I may or may not have left some of our yearly salary... whatevs)..... They have everything from cheesy "I heart HK" tshirts, to socks, to USB ports shaped like a Bart Simpson, and everything in between. Pokemon is seemingly very popular there so my daughter did come home with her fair share of Pikachu crap to share with her friends. The exchange rate was $1USD = $7.7ish HKD. So eating out was always fun when our bill came to something like $500. We had a good laugh and a heart attack before doing the math in our heads only to realize we'd spent less. ;) We tried to save money and eat street food but.......
Uh yeah, about that street food....so, no. I wanted to. I really REALLY did. For realsies. i went to China thinking that I'd TRY the street food. Til it squirmed, wiggled, and winked at me. I had to pull the plug. That's just more squid for the other 7.1 million folks there. You're welcome.
This is the kind of street food I can get into..... right there in every other major train station, proudly on display as "Product of the USA" and I gotta admit, I was all over this ...... a taste of home. I took one for our country, guys. G-d bless America and for sure G-d please bless those two (dozen) Mrs. Fields Cookies I may have eaten in the sheer name of SURVIVAL.
Speaking of USA --- it almost felt like we never left home. Village People must have prepared the way for us... we saw a few of these around town, too. I gotta admit, it was fun counting the "home" things we found abroad. This was one we thought was cool. We'd have maybe gone to workout there, but we walked something like 27,000 steps per day so yeah, we figured we got in our exercise and steps each day.
Another fun food fact about Hong Kong. They love Vegans! Who knew? Gluten free? No problem. Vegan? Even better. All kinds of foods available for the pickiest and most limited eater! I can't say how it tasted, because I was busy carb-loading with a handful of Mrs. Fields .... but I thought this was noteworthy. What they lack in school-girl fashion, they more than make up for in serving the most limited eater. Kudos again, Hong Kong!
While we're on the topic of food (well, really, it's me, I'm kind of ALWAYS on the topic of food), let's talk about bread in Hong Kong, again. They serve it crustless, too, not just at 7-11, but at restaurants. Every picky child in America would LOVE this. Do your kids whine and beg that you "cut off the crust" every.single.time you make them a PB&J masterpiece? (mine did when they were little). This is a parent's dream come true. I ordered toast (don't judge, the Korean 'not chicken' chicken made me sick, I needed something like bread)... and it was served just like this. Crustless Bread. Once again, I say GOOD ON YA Hong Kong! Making kids happy since at least 2005.
Aaaaand, this one needs no comment really, does it? They seem to have a little English issue over there, so we played a game that we called "Duck, Duck, Goose?!" And basically, it was just a question. What are we eating? They seem to use the terms interchangeably. So I'm not really sure what we ended up eating, but we all got up to chase each other around the table, in keeping with the spirit of the game. This is not recommended, fyi. It gets you some strange looks.
I'll move away from the food topic briefly (shocking, I know, but don't worry, it'll all come back to food, I promise).... I want to talk about one of the actual cool things we did see in Hong Kong (aside from the Hello Kitty colonies). There's this place where you walk up 43,202 stairs while viewing 10,000 buddhas. It's actually a really cool sight to visit - great exercise and really diverse buddhas. As you can see from the pic below - Hong Kong buddhas are very progressive. This guy even had his cell phone on him. (no buddhas were hurt during this photo opportunity, and we made amends with the head buddha later in the day).
And this one here? Just good advice. Never trust a fake monk. Ever. Especially in Hong Kong.
See, I told you I'm going back to food again. Check this out, you guys. This is a pic from the FroYo shop in the mall that our hotel was a part of. This is soft serve Greek froyo that tastes even better than it looks (and hey, when you've been eating unidentified fowl meat for days, this stuff looks even MORE appealing than it normally would). Every night (don't judge, you know I was hungry!) I ordered the number B special (yeah, I just said number B). It was the banana split one. I think it's pictured here somewhere. It was aaaaaahmazing. Rivals sweet potato casserole from Ruth's Chris SteakHouse. Ok, well, almost. It was delicious. Fresh fruit atop Greek yogurt. Plus, fruit. So it was totally healthy. If you find yourself at Moko Mall in Hong Kong, you definitely want to check this place out. Two thumbs way up, Smile Cafe! You guys are the best remedy for weary, leary, and queasy travelers abroad.
Ok ok, enough about food for a second. We actually did do some cool things while there. One of my favorite days was when we went to the Tai O Fishing Village on the island of Lantau. This is a village that used to be home to about 30,000 people. The population is down to about 2,000 people and the industry has shifted from fishing to tourism, as alot of the younger people have moved into the city to pursue education, better opportunities, etc. We spent a day touring the village and happened upon this sale. On husbands. Mine wasn't particularly amused. I laughed for hours .. tried to bargain and sell him for $20HKD. No dice, so we brought him home. He's good in the kitchen, so we'll keep him around until a better offer comes (just kidding honey, I love you!)
Here's another shot from the fishing village. The homes are built on stilts. Didn't appear to be any air conditioning, and trust me the humidity was about 32,008% (that's the official number from Al Roker). Gives you a little something to be thankful for.
Another view of the fishing village at Tai O. I really wish I'd have brought my real camera with me - these are all iPhone captures. I couldn't keep track of 4 kids though, and enjoy the sights as much, so you'll have to deal with my crappy iPhone shots. Sorry.
Let's shift for a moment and talk about the fun-loving nature of the people we met in Hong Kong. They are a fun people. We laughed with them, left our salary in their country, and asked them to take awkward photos with #heiferBelle ... you know you want one. Anyway - everyone we met was happy to oblige. So, I present to you, a photo essay of #heiferBelle goes to Hong Kong:
You might find it weird (I prefer to call it quirky, but whatevs) that all these people were so excited to take their pic with #heiferBelle - BUT...check out how this country loves their cows. Cows, everywhere. See below:
Winding down the blog post (for anyone who is still reading!).... it was a great trip. I've spared you the typical touristy photos of the Big Buddha, the skyline, etc., in hopes of giving you a behind the scenes, quirky tour from my own perspective. It's an amazing city to visit and let me leave you with a few more images that you just don't see round these parts. :-)
And finally, a shot from the airplane on the flight home. It's hard to tell but the clouds were vertically stacked, creating that beautful light in between, during sunset. Thanks for reading along and hope you enjoyed this crazy perspective of a great city.