Well this is my official good bye. For now at least. Since I’m no longer residing in Hong Kong this blog is going into retirement and this is the send off party.
3 weeks ago I was walking around Hong Kong, taking the green line transferring to the red line, getting Dim Sum, haggling with crooked toothed locals, dodging bright red taxis, hauling my ass up hills and stairs, waiting in line for midnight sushi, avoiding the drips of condensation from ac units, and falling asleep to the symphony of cars, buses, street hawkers, people shouting, basketball, soccer, karaoke, night concerts, life.
Now I am “home”. I am in America. Orlando, Florida to be exact. The neon signs of Mong Kok are absent and once the sun sets, everything is starkly dark. Apparently I forgot what night looked like. And now my night time lullaby is the hum that comes from the digital television converter. I did not even own a television in Hong Kong.
The days drag on. People strut and stroll over crosswalks. Here honking is a sign of aggression, not friendly or sometimes not so friendly communication. Instead of bumping shoulders in the streets and occasionally getting jostled and checking your pocket or purse for your wallet and phone, I exchange glances at strangers through windshields.
There I lived on the 13th floor of a 21 story building. Here I climb two or three flights of stairs and I’m on the roof. On the rare occasion that I enter elevators, people give me strange looks as I furiously jab the elevator buttons. Apparently how fast the door closes has nothing to do with the tenacity of hitting the buttons on the control panel. Who knew? I’m used to a different standard of elevator etiquette. Ferocious jabbing always works.
My body knows this routine. I may have forgotten the names of some streets, but I still know the roads, what books are on what shelf, where I stashed things in whichever drawer, how to jimmy the bathroom doorknob because the lock sometimes gets stuck. Driving on the right side of the road was easy enough, but I still catch myself looking at the wrong side before I cross.
Without intending to, I slipped on the coat of my old life as soon as I stepped off the plane and turned my phone on.
But I am living a double life. My other life just happens to be a ghost. I cannot sneak off to Hong Kong on a lunch break, at night, on a weekend, on a break, or holiday. I can only reminisce. I have a pile of belongings left in a suitcase shoved in a corner of my room. I did not know where to put them because they simply had no place in the life that I have here.
I no longer blend in with the crowd. I cannot disappear if I want to in a sea of people. No longer part of the norm, I stick out. People tower over me instead of being eye level with me. My identity is now placed in the difference in my appearance.
Even though this is my old life, my own life. Even though I know the routine and could do half the things I do with my eyes clothed and without a coherent thought in my mind. I sometimes snap in or out of reality, I really can’t tell any more, and wonder what the hell am I doing? I feel like a fish out of water even though I’m swimming in my own ocean.
I feel like a foreign body in my motherland.
In due time I will sort through that suitcase. I will see what has use, what I can bring from there to here. I will reconcile the life I had before with the life I have now. And then I will make room on the shelves and drawers.
Today is the day that Hong Kong was given back to China from the U.K. It’s also commonly referred to either as Establishment Day or Hong Kong Day. There’s not a huge fuss over it. I thought the metro would be flooded and people would be shopping like crazy. But nope. I just saw one giant line for a big sale at an electronics store in the mall. Today is also Canada Day. What that means exactly I’m not sure. I asked Jason (he’s from Alberta I think?) when their independence day was and he gave me this weird look and said “You mean Canada Day? We don’t have an independence day.” And he said it like Independence Day sounded more absurd than Canada Day. But speaking of Independence Day, I come home July 3rd. Just in time for burgers, sunshine, and fireworks. Hopefully I won’t be jet lagged out of my mind to enjoy it.
4.17 Gigs of new music, 6 hours of stand up, and 50 podcasts.
BRING IT ON 16 HOUR PLANE RIDE TO NEWARK. BRING IT ON.
As you have read already. I went to Beijing for the week. I’m back in HK for the next few days and then back to the U.S. Which doesn’t really feel like it’s real. It’s all very strange. Normally i’d be counting down the days. But I’m completely unfazed at the moment. Anywho. Highlights of Beijing!
Now for the last bits and pieces of the S.E Asia sampling. Sabah!
The overnight bus ride was awful. I remember waking up mid air, head slamming against the window, arm dead asleep because Anneka had fallen on top on me some time in the middle of the night. We were just super duper happy to get to our hostel by the time we got off the bus. After getting settled in, Anneka and I go for a walk and grab a nice deliciously cheap lunch. We book transport through our hostel to the Niah caves and that made life a ton easier.
The trek to the caves is about 3 km, then to the cave paintings is another 4km. or something. I can’t remember. It’s a four hour shindig there and back basically. Anneka and I rent some torches, as the Brits call them, that we strap onto our heads. Really hot accessories basically. The caves are beautiful though, and incredibly dark as well. There are parts of the cave where there are huge openings that allow these intense shafts of biblical proportions of light come through. I may or may not have felt like Indiana Jones for a moment or two. When we finally reach the cave paintings… well.. It’s pretty anti climatic. The paintings are very faint and sparse. Still cool because they’re cave paintings and super old. But just anticlimactic because we were expecting so much more.
The next day is spent on the day bus to Kota Kinabalu. The first half of the trip is spent being carted through a billion borders. First we exit Borneo Sarawak, then we enter Brunei, exit Brunei, enter Borneo again, exit Borneo, enter Brunei, exit Brunei, enter Malaysia, then get another special stamp because we are entering Sabah. Sabah and Sarawak are both parts of Malaysia but you need separate stamps to get in. Like if I took a flight from Sarawak to Sabah I would have to go through immigration again and get a new stamp in my passport. There’s a lot of red tape in Sabah because the government really wants to preserve the cultural significance of it. Well Anneka and I arrive in KK in the evening and it’s way more developed than we thought it would be. It also has LOADS of backpackers. Probably the first time we’ve seen young travelers or the amount of travelers in ages. Kuching’s crowds were in the 30’s to 50’s, with a few late twenty something sprinkled in there. We check into our hostel and get dinner downstairs. We don’t really know what the heck even happened. We just sat at a table, they asked us if pork was okay, we say yes, and next thing we know we have this plate of unknown food plopped down in front of us. It wasn’t the best meal, but food is food. The next day was Sunday and on Sunday mornings the street our hostel is on is over taken by this HUGE market. It was a lot of fun walking it and seeing all the handicrafts and goods they had to sell. Anneka and I were pretty shopped out by the end of it. We decide to treat ourselves to a massage seeing as how we have been running around the last week with backpacks that weigh over 20 kilos. The end of the day is spent with me roaming the night markets and parts of KK solo because Anneka was feeling sick. I really liked exploring the city on my own. I didn’t even get lost. I know I was shocked too.
That’s the end for S.E Asia!
Koh Phi Phi - Thailand
My 21 hour train ride somehow morphed into a 28 hour one. These are its highlights
After pulling an all nighter because we had a 5am flight and basically getting no real sleep, we arrive in Kuala Lumpur for our transit flight, only to realize, we’re in the wrong airport. KL has two airports and our next flight was in the other airport. So Anneka and I haul ass and manage to get to the other airport and then AirAsia dicks us over again and claims that our credit card has been denied. Anneka and I are used to this song and dance by now and know the drill. We get our ghetto printer receipt tickets and get through security and make it onto our flight. Hooray! The flight to Kuching is pretty uneventful. After landing we get into the city and stop at a place for lunch. Kuching is nothing like what we thought it would be. We we’re expecting something more along the lines of Melaka. But it’s very clean, developed, and urban. It starts POURING, so Anneka and I are stranded at the restaurant for a while before we could go hunt for a hostel. We find the lovely Threehouse owned by a charming Swede name Bindi. We’re greeted by Ricky an endearing local who works at the hostel. He’s incredibly adorable and helpful. Once he found out I was Chinese he kept practicing his Mandarin with me. I don’t think he realized that he spoke better Mando than I did. Anneka and I then take over the common room watching crappy movies and recouping from running around all day. Evening rolls around and we finally go explore Kuching. Kuching has a beautiful riverside and lots of vendors and restaurants that line it.
Bako National Park
Bako was an exhausting but fun day. Anneka and I went for a hike which she finished out but I decided not to because I was literally dying and it was just way too intense for me in the heat. My favorite part was definitely the boat ride over to the actual park. We get back to the dorms after the hike and grab some snacks with our nice British roommates. When the evening rolls around, I decide to join the English roomies for a guided night tour. We saw lots of bugs mostly. A few bearded pigs, as usual, those things were all over the place, snakes, spiders, fish, and loads of other things that creep and crawl. The next morning Anneka and I head back to Kuching and walk around the city before boarding our overnight bus to Miri.
Since when did China start liking Tumblr? When I was here in February I couldn’t access tumblr, but now I can. But yay! So I know I’m behind on updating on my latest travels, but now I’m in China again. I’m in Guangzhou and headed for Beijing tomorrow. And I’m spending a week exploring the capital. I’m actually looking forward to the 24 hour train ride up. I’ll post about the end of my 3 week rampage across S.E Asia within the next day or so. Until then, be easy.
Well Jakarta doesn’t have a great reputation. It’s also not the most well kept city nor the cleanest. However, Anneka and I had a pretty decent time in J-kart. We were supremely lucky to have another generous person host us, Arthur Busche. Basically an old family acquaintance of Annekas. Basically this super nice guy adopted Anneka and I as his grand daughters for the weekend and fed us delicious food and gave us a roof to stay under. Anneka and I bummed for a day and then explored Jakarta for a bit. We went to the colonial district where you can see all the Dutch influenced architecture, or what’s left of it. Parts of the city have been well preserved and other parts are just falling apart. There are many buildings that were destroyed during the riots and they haven’t been touched since. And Jakarta doesn’t smell particularly nice. The cool parts of Jakarta all remain within the culture. As the economic and political capital of Indonesia, Jakarta attracts many domestic immigrants who bring their various languages, dialects, foods and customs. Jakarta also has a sizeable Chinese population. We ended the day at Café Bitavia, a swanky restaurant where you can find most westerners. Next stop: Borneo!
Well after landing and getting our visas on arrival (which was quite easy actually) we get outside and Marit and Hannes are waiting there to greet us. I was definitely excited to see them both. Hannes and Marit are friends of mine from Germany that were in my exchange program. It was so great to spend our time together in Bali. We land in Denpensar and mosey our way to Kuta. Which is the most touristy part of Bali. Not gonna lie. I was not a fan of Kuta. Thankfully we were only there for a day. And the day we spent in Kuta was mostly spent in cabs traveling around to different beaches.
Our second full day in Bali was spent in Ubed. I freaking loved Ubed. It was a great day to spend my birthday. We arrived in Ubed, got a nice cozy homestay, and then rented motor bikes. Driving on the left side of the road is TERRIFYING. Not to mention I’m driving in Indofreakingnesia. So I spent half of the drive in constant prayer and thanking the good lord that we were still alive and unharmed. But the ride was wonderful, and the scenery was beautiful. We drove to the beach and saw some temples.
Then we got some tickets to see Balinese dancers. It was an interesting experience and definitely nothing like what I had expected. I thought it would be more dancing, but it’s more like an opera. There’s quite a bit of story going on, unfortunately you have no idea what the hell is going on. After the dance we go get dinner at a restaurant nearby with a nice view of some rice paddies. The third full day in Bali we booked a tour to the surrounding areas of Ubed. Our first stop was to the rice terraces. I think this was my favorite stop at the tour. They’re huge, majestic, green, luscious, and beautiful.
The next two stops are Hindu temples. The first one was my favorite. It had lots of rice fields you walked past first, and then you reach the temple. If you walk past the temple and brave the muddy paths (which Hannes and I both wiped out on) you get the treat of seeing more beautiful scenery and the waterfalls. The second temple was cool because it had these holy spring water where people were immersed in. After the temples we got to see this great view of the mountain.
And yes this is the same one you see in Eat, Pray, Love. [Insert eye roll here] We got lunch at the restaurant here and enjoyed a great view of the mountain. Our tour ended with visiting a coffee plantation where they brew the famous Indonesian Kopi Luwak also known as civet coffee. First they feed this funny looking animal called the Asian Palm Civet the coffee beans. But the animal can’t digest the coffee beans. Instead their digestive acids give the coffee beans more antioxidants or something.
Here read all about it. The beans are then roasted for two hours and voila. This stuff sells for around 300 dollars a kilo. Ridiculous. We then got to try some great teas and coffee. Our group opted not to try the coffee. Which I kind of regret. But oh well. After the tour, the girls and I went shopping. I got some sick pants and shorts. They’re absolutely ridiculous. And when you see me in them, you will know that they are my Bali pants.
The next day Anneka and I said goodbye to Hannes and Marit and began our journey to the next destination: Jakarta!