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Last Few Days in Asia

2008 June 29
by rob

June 15, 2008

My first day back in Hong Kong was extremely uneventful. Serene was on a short trip to Bangkok so we had the flat to ourselves (and the cats). We got back from the airport past midnight the night before, so we enjoyed sleeping in. Will had to spend most of the day hanging out with an old family friend, but I stayed behind. I spent the whole day in the flat, except for a couple short walks to the laundromat and grocery store. It was just a quiet rest day for me.

June 16, 2008

Will and I went shopping in Mung Kok (the big shopping area in Kowloon) today. My shoes were pretty well wrecked after heavy use and it was time to buy new ones. There was an area of about two city blocks that contained about fifty shoe stores. We walked around to find myself a pair of really good walking shoes and then find the cheapest store that sold them. It took a long time and stretched the limits of my shopping ability. I eventually got a pair of (what I hoped to be) a really good walking shoes from Merrell for HK$479 (CA$63).

Aside: I’m writing this blog post two weeks later, and the shoes are still holding up. Looks like I found some winners!

We got some street food, too. Will had been hyping this kind of street food he called “stinky tofu.” It was a kind of fermented and deep fried tofu that they sold for HK$7 (CA$0.90) from street-side stalls. The stinky tofu lived up to its name. I did not enjoy it. It had a very strong and unpleasant flavour. Will said it was an acquired taste. I guess I hadn’t acquired it yet!

I think this is a picture of the stall where we got the stinky tofu from. Even if its not the same stall, then the stall in the photo is pretty representative of food vendor stalls in Mung Kok.

After getting some tea to wash away the foul taste of stinky tofu we continued walking around Mung Kok for a while looking for t-shirts. We didn’t find anything good, so we got on the MTR and went a few stops away to a place where they sold lots of electronics. I guess it was Hong Kong’s equivalent of Tokyo’s Akihabara (except for all the anime stuff you can buy in Akihabara). It was very cramped and had a LOT of people. It was hard to browse and shop when you kept getting pulled along with a flood of people. If you wanted to stop and look at something, then the whole flood of people would crash to a stop since there was no where else for them to go. Eventually though I found myself a new pair of headphones (my old ones died) and Will found a micro memory card and reader for really cheap. Sadly, the next day the card reader died. Doh.

June 17, 2008

Will and I wanted to go to Macau today, but it was raining a LOT. We waited at the bus stop in front of the condo to get a ride down Central Station. We didn’t want to walk down all the way in the rain. Sadly, no one else wanted to either, and the first bus that went by was full. We looked at each other and decided that going to Macau in the rain would not be fun. Tomorrow was my last day in Hong Kong, so we postponed the trip and returned to the flat.

We then spent the whole day playing Nintendo DS, watching anime, listening to (and downloading) music, and generally doing nothing of consequence. Even though we didn’t go to Macau, we still had a good day! I had very few Hong Kong Dollars left, so our options for entertainment were limited. I had to save what I had left for Macau the next day!

Serene came back from Bangkok that night. We got to tell each other about our separate trips and show each other pictures. My pictures were the best, of course.

June 18, 2008

Today was my last full day in Asia. Tomorrow I was flying back to Australia. However, first, I had one more day of sightseeing left! It wasn’t raining (though the sky was gray), so we enthusiastically headed down to the ferry dock to get to Macau.

Even though both Hong Kong and Macau are part of China, they have separate immigration controls. Even though I was taking the ferry for one hour to another part of China, I still had to get my passport stamped to exit Hong Kong and enter Macau. Later that day, of course, I’d get stamped out of Macau and back into Hong Kong. Crazy. Will didn’t need to get his passport stamped at all since he had ID Cards for Hong Kong.

As we boarded the fast ferry, the first drops of rain fell. It would rain for almost the entire day. We had umbrellas and tried to make the best of it.

We had originally planned to meet Mike Micacchi (Chris’ brother) in Macau. He had been working in Mainland China, just across the border from Macau, on and off for about a year. However, he had run into complications with his visa and would not be able to cross the border into Macau. Actually, to be more correct, he could enter Macau on his Canadian passport, but would not be able to return to China. Because of the upcoming Summer Olympic games, China was tightening the rules on visas for foreigners and Mike was temporarily left out in the cold.

Nevertheless, even though we couldn’t meet up with Mike, and even though it was pouring rain, we still tried to make the best of our day in Macau.

After clearing immigration at the ferry terminal we found a free hotel bus to hitch a ride closer to the city centre. It was only about a ten minute ride on the bus, but we drove past a LOT of casinos in those ten minutes. Macau is the centre of gambling in Asia, and it showed. Will and I have no interest in gambling (we both actually greatly dislike it), so the casinos had very little pull for us. We did, however, get some photographs of the Casino Lisboa since the bus did drop us off right there!

After gawking at the casino, we walked up to the city centre. Macau was an old Portuguese colony. In fact, Macau is one of the oldest European colonies in Asia, since it was founded more than 400 years ago. The Portuguese influence was clearly visible in many places. The sidewalks and town squares were tiled with the same wavey patterns that I saw in Lisbon two years ago. There were many Roman Catholic churches with Portuguese names, and Portuguese foods and pastries (including the fantastic egg tarts) were available everywhere. Even with all the Portuguese influence, Macau was still clearly Chinese. The city centre was filled with Chinese jewelry, food, and antique shops. The place was a product of all of its influences.

Macau is much smaller than Hong Kong and was easily walkable (as long as we clung to our umbrellas to protect us, and our cameras, from the rain). We followed the walking tour suggested by Will’s Lonely Planet guidebook. We ended up walking for about six hours. Our only respites from the rain were when we entered churches to look around.

Its a good thing, though, that Macau had a lot of churches!

The first one is located very close to the town square. The second one is the cathedral.

We were getting hungry, but didn’t want to spend too much money on food. Macau had its own currency (the pataca — which trades almost one-to-one with the Hong Kong Dollar) and we could spend our Hong Kong Dollars there, but would receive change in the patacas. Since the Macanese currency wasn’t very useful to us in Hong Kong, we just decided to spend very little in Macau itself. The only food we had was a few pastries, including some delicious Portuguese egg tarts.

There are many more photos from our daytrip to Macau on my Picasa Web Albums, of course. I won’t write much more about it here since it was just a day of sightseeing and I think the photos tell the tale.

We got back to Hong Kong around 7:30 PM and met Serene in IFC. Since it was my last night in Asia (and Will was leaving in only a few more days), she wanted to take us out for dinner. We went out for Thai food in Soho. Oh man, it was so good. We had Khao Soy (the Chiang-Mai style noodles and curry), Tom Yam soup, and CRAB! The crab was prepared with lots of chilis and garlic. Since, of course, you have to eat crab with your hands, we made a huge greasy mess. Our fingers were covered with the chili and garlic sauce and we literally licked our fingers clean. I’m now officially a big fan of crab. Do you hear that, you lobster lovers? ROB LOVES CRABS!

Will and I stayed up late that night in the flat. I had to pack and we still had a lot of beer to finish, so it took a while. It would be my last night hanging out with one of my Toronto friends until September, so we had to have fun. It was very important. I would be spending the entire next day in airports and airplanes, so it didn’t matter how tired I was, dammit!

June 19, 2008

My last day in Asia. By midnight, I would be in a plane back to Australia. I had spent just over one hundred days in Asia. What’s my impression of the place? It’s hard to say. I know I’ve left lots of little impressions in this blog. Some of them are positive. Some of them are negative. Overall, I would say that my experience was a really positive one and I’m happy I went. I wasn’t the best sightseer (but even just opening your eyes and going for a walk is sightseeing). I wasn’t the best at befriending the locals (it happened sometimes, but not nearly as much some people I know). One of the only times I had a meaningful conversation with one of the monks, all I did was play him Arcade Fire from my iPod.

That’s okay! It’s my trip, and I did it my way!

I had to wake up early, throw my stuff together and make my way down to Hong Kong Station. It was my last ride on the escalators. Since it was early in the morning, the escalators were actually running downwards, so the trip was much faster than usual. I said bye to Will in the station and got on the Airport Express train. No tears were shed (unless Will cried after he went home), but we did hug!

I needed to take three flights to get to my destination Melbourne. Sure, I could have gone in one direct flight, but I had time, and the three flights were much cheaper. I think my three flights were about CA$450. A direct flight was over CA$700, I think.

The first flight was three hours from Hong Kong back to Singapore Changi Airport. Changi is, by far, the best airport I’ve ever been in. I was there for seven hours, but that’s okay. There’s lots of ways to entertain yourself at Changi. I spent the last of the Singapore Dollars I had stashed on some tasty ramen (not the instant kind!) and soy ice cream (tastier than it sounds). I spent about two hours watching TV in chairs with built-in speakers. If I had wanted to, I could have watched movies, played XBOX, or gotten a massage (if I paid for it).

My next flight was about three or four more hours to Darwin in Australia. Luckily, I got to sit in an emergency exit row. I landed at about 4 AM, local time. Ugh. I cleared customs and quarantine (after my bag was searched) and slept in the waiting room until my next flight left at 6 AM. Again, I got a window seat in the emergency exit row. We took off shortly before sunrise and I got to watch the sunrise over The Outback.

The flight, again, was about three hours. I landed in Melbourne at around 10 AM.

Australia. Rob is back!

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