China · Uncategorized

The 37- Hour Saturday

Originally published on 1 December 2015.

Now for the second half of our whirlwind trip!

Here’s another tip for you: the ticket machines for the metro only take cash, unless you have a special reloadable pass (which tourists don’t typically have), and they only take small bills. But what did we get from the ATM? A couple of $100 bills (in Hong Kong Dollars). We had already used the smaller bills. So off we went in search of a small purchase to make big change! Fortunately, there was a 7/11 nearby, so we bought some little red bean-filled cakes (one of my favorite Asian treats!), made change, and bought our tickets. Another hurdle crossed!

As you might imagine in Asia, the metro was quite clean. There was even a person walking through with a trash picker-upper grabbing the little pieces of food or trash that had fallen to the floor. It was a pretty simple system to figure out, thank goodness, and everything was labeled in both Chinese and English! When we got off the metro, we still had to navigate underground for a couple of blocks, which was fine by us. The alternative was trying to navigate through congested roads and tons of people—no thanks!

Hong Kong is quite small, but what it lacks in square footage, it makes up for both underground and above the roads with an elaborate system of walkways—all with plenty of shops scattered about as well! It’s really pretty genius, but you sort of have to know where you’re going so you don’t get lost.

We made it to the hotel by early afternoon, checked in with what was probably the longest check-in process I’ve ever experienced (they took us on a tour of the hotel and our room), and set out again. This time, to The Peak!

But first, here’s a pretty rare unobstructed view of Victoria Harbor:

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I was already starting to fade, but I refused to give in to the sleepiness! Thankfully Steve knew generally where we were going, or I would have been so very lost. We wound our way through the streets and above the streets and across some streets and then we were there! This time we got to go straight to the ticket counter and only stood in line about 40 minutes total to board the funicular up the mountain to Victoria Peak (“The Peak”). This line was not too bad. There was a museum there for people to look at while they waited, so that made the time pass a little faster.

Nothing could have prepared me for the next part, however…

So there we were, first in line (mob, line, it’s all the same) for the funicular ride to the top. Steve told me to get ready for a scrum. Wait, what? What’s a scrum you ask? You know that terrible mass-wrestling thing they do in rugby to get the ball? That’s a scrum. Sort of like Black Friday at Wal-Mart. Anyway, get ready. As soon as the doors opened, everyone started shoving! And not just shoving, I mean really pushing hard! Thankfully Steve had warned me and positioned me right at the door to get in, so I fumbled in as best I could, sat in the first seat I came to, and looked around for Steve. He actually had to stick his arm out and stop a whole family so he could get on!

That was intense! We took the historic funicular up the steep incline to the top, departed as ferociously as we’d gotten on, and found our way to the shops and restaurants up there. We got some authentic-enough noodles for lunch, walked around inside for a bit, then decided to take in the views from outside! It was a very nice day, and sunshine would help us stay awake the rest of the day. We found a 3-mile paved path that would take us around The Peak and give us some lovely views.

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We stopped over at the touristy view points on the roof of one of the department stores as well, then decided to get back in line to go down.

The line wasn’t quite as long, but the pushing and shoving was just as forceful! Thankfully Steve was right behind me this time. Down and down and down we went, back to the hotel. We had considered going to the Star Ferry, but I was starting to get a sore throat and an earache, and I truly didn’t have it in me. We stopped at a grocery store for some food to take back to the room, and we were taking it easy by 6:00pm with that view of the harbor. We wanted to see the light show, but it doesn’t start until 8:00pm every night, and we were already asleep by then!

And what time do you think we were up on Saturday morning? Yep, around 4:00am, ready and raring to go! So up we got, had some coffee, and hit the gym!

My sore throat was not going away, despite my efforts to pump vitamin C into myself the day before, so I called down for some salt so I could gargle with some salt water. There was a tea maker in our room as well as a coffee maker, so I heated some water, dumped in a bunch of salt, stirred it up, and wouldn’t you know I burned my mouth! So I let it cool down a bit and gargled a little later. Not sure if it worked, but I did what I could!

We checked out of the hotel around 7:00 or so, went in search of a Starbucks so we could get a mug for our collection, and finally found one at the train station. We got a Hong Kong mug and a China mug, and much to our delight, they gave us two free espressos! So we sipped our coffee and went to figure out how to take the airport express train.

Much to our delight, you can check in for your flight, have boarding passes printed, and check your bags (if you check bags, which we don’t) all at the train station! There were two United representatives there, one at the regular check-in counter and one at her own kiosk. The one at her own kiosk waved us over, which she totally didn’t have to do, and checked us in right there. She even attached a slip of paper to our boarding pass that told us when to catch the last recommended train to prevent us from missing our flight! We were there a few hours ahead of that, but we planned to take advantage of the lounge at the Hong Kong airport, especially since we’d be flying in economy on the way to San Francisco—fill up on food and beverages before you board!

And that’s exactly what we did. We ate both breakfast and lunch in the lounge, used their wi-fi, and drank plenty of water before going to the gate. When going from Hong Kong to the US, no one is allowed to take any water or other liquid on the plane. It doesn’t matter if you filled your water bottle inside security, you have to dump it all out before you board—they even have about 10 guys checking carry-ons plane-side! Steve and I knew about this little rule, so we were prepared for it, but other people had no idea and were sorely disappointed! We did discover, however, that most large planes have water stations aboard. I can’t believe neither of us had noticed them before!

So we boarded the plane, flew 11 hours to San Francisco and landed before we left Hong Kong (we left Hong Kong at 12:30pm, then landed in San Francisco at 8:15am the same day!). Steve slept through most of that flight, but I mostly talked to the guy next to us (who, ironically, was also next to us on the cable car on Launtau Island the day before!), read, blogged, and tried to rest my eyes. I got up a few times to ask the flight attendants to fill my travel mug with hot water for tea, which they never seemed to mind doing. That is one of my strategies for staying hydrated throughout the flight. I have a 20-ounce travel mug that packs well, so I just kept asking for more hot water! Because seriously, how can those tiny 4-6 ounce cups possibly be enough? They don’t come by to refill those or offer more nearly enough for this girl!

Our final leg took us from San Fran to DC, landing around 7:00pm Saturday DC time (which would have been 8:00am Sunday in Hong Kong). That’s where we got our 37-hour Saturday!

 

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