29 April 2015

Our 1-Day Hong Kong Vacation

We had a day off from school on Wednesday and decided to head into Hong Kong for a day of fun and frivolity. The following is a detailed account of our adventures, including my conversations with a bus attendant and immigration official, and the complication process of trying to buy Angel a new pair of shoes.

6:30 a.m.

We leave the apartment, and wait at the bus stop. After we board the bus, the attendant (who charges you based on how far you're going) comes up to me. This conversation (in Mandarin) ensues:

Me: "JiXiang Metro Station"
Attendant: "We don't stop there."
Me: "Oh, sorry, HongJi Garden" {the next closest bus stop to the metro station}
Attendant: "Hey, you're not Chinese, are you?"
Me: "Nope."
Attendant (to the bus driver): "Hey, Driver, these two aren't Chinese, they're foreigners!"
Bus Driver: "Yeah!"
Attendant (to me): "So, do you like China?"
Me: "Yes, we like living in China very much."
Attendant: "That's good!"
Attendant: "You know, we do stop at AiLian Metro Stop, you could get off there instead."
Me: "HongJi Garden will be okay."

This is why I'm glad I speak Mandarin. I may not be able to have deep philosophical conversations, but everyday encounters go pretty smoothly and I like being able to understand what's going on around me.

We eventually make it to the metro, ride it all the way to the Hong Kong border, pass immigration smoothly (standing in line next to a group of Americans who sound very Midwestern and for a moment I think I'm back in Michigan--a quick vision of home!).

We board a double decker bus and head for our first destination of the day: Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden!

Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden
We arrived just after they opened, at about 9:40 a.m., buy our tickets and begin wandering the farm. They have a little museum about the history of the farm, and I became very impressed with Mr. Kadoorie and the other founders of the farm, who took a practical interest in building up the local community and held classes on farming skills and donated livestock and equipment to help give local villagers a way to earn a viable living in the mid-later 1900s. These days, the Kadoorie Farm is more of a tourist attraction and has a message about organic and sustainable farming, as well as animal and forest conservation. It is a working farm and they sell produce and eggs--and they have a cafe on the grounds where we shared a chocolate muffin.

Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden
Angel's favorite place was probably the air-conditioned building where you could sit and watch the wild boar through the window. Because it was air-conditioned. How predictable.

Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden

Did ya see what I did there?

Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden

They had a gorgeous collection of orchids and several other greenhouses with flowers and veggies, and other animal enclosures, mostly housing species non-native to Hong Kong which were rescued from the illegal exotic pet trade or from illegal shipments of exotic animals that were intended to be eaten or used as ingredients in traditional medicines.

We wandered the lower part of the farm until it was time to board our shuttle which would take us up the mountain to the highest viewing platform--stopping at about five different gardens and viewing stations along the way. The road was extremly steep and had lots of hairpin turns--riding the bus felt a little like riding a roller coaster (which I thought was very fun!).

Angel found a bees' nest in one of the gardens we visited, so he was excited about that. We enjoyed quick hikes along the trails and lookouts during the 10-15 minutes allotted to us at each shuttle bus stop.

We were exploring one garden, and stumbled across the cutest little secluded nook. I exclaimed, "Isn't this so romantic! You should propose to me here." Angel said, "All right" and this very solemn proposal is the result of become overcome by the romance of the garden. Since we have no pictures of the actual proposal that took place almost 5 years ago, I'm thinking we can just show this one to our kids instead.

The shuttle bus trip took about 1 hour and a half, and was well worth the 10HKD (less than $2 USD) additional tickets. Tickets for the farm were 30HKD (less than $5 USD).

Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden

Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden

When we'd seen all there was to see, we headed back to the MTR via bus and went on to our next stop of the day: New Town Plaza Mall!

Normally, a mall might not be the most attractive place to go on a short vacation, but while Kadoorie Farm had been my main destination for the day, Angel's goal was to watch The Avengers 2. We stood in a long line to buy our tickets, then ate a late lunch of burgers and fries (but not McDonald' can judge if you want to, but if you lived in China you might very well order french fries when in Hong Kong, too).

Then, we embarked on the as yet never-ending quest to find some new running shoes for Angel. He's a loyal fan of Asics Gel-Kayanos. His current pair has lived through last spring's series of races and many many months of walking long distances in ShenZhen, but they are deteriorating and we've been searching for a suitable substitute for weeks. We've found that discounted Asics Gel-Kayanos are practically impossible to find around here, and that makes the quest a little more challenging.

I have a feeling that shopping with someone else for her wedding dress would require less patience than shopping with Angel for the perfect pair of running shoes. We have been to 4 different shopping malls in China with no luck. His shoe has to have the perfect colors, as well as be comfortable for both running and walking, look good with both jeans and shorts...and certain brand names (ahem *New Balance* *Adidas*) are automatically excluded because he hates them unreasonably.

He found a pair of $300 (yes, USD) Nikes he really likes but I didn't give the approval on that one...We're just not $300 shoes kind of people.

You can probably guess that we were also unsuccessful in finding a new pair of shoes at New Town Plaza. He actual found a model of Reeboks that he really liked--which surprised me immensely as he normally turns up his nose at Reeboks....but though we checked several stores, no one had his size, only half a size too big and half a size too small. Where are all the 9s?


This entire quest is slightly confusing to a non-athlete who last bought a pair of tennis shoes in 2010. Guess what--they're still in nearly mint condition! That tells you how I feel about tennis shoes...

The good news is--I've also been on a shoe quest for some time now, look for open-toed comfy sandals that are not sport sandals (i.e. not my beloved Chacos) and can be worn with dresses or other non sporty outfits. They need to have support, as I can't tolerate those sandals that are completely flat and un-cushioned for long, but they also needed to not be clunky.

I found the perfect pair at Clarks that were 50% off and after long last, decided that, yes, orange matches everything. Aren't they cute?

After much shoe shopping (we both like shoes, and throughout our marriage, shoe quests have become a regular phenomenon), it was time for our movie. Angel's favorite Avenger is Thor, mine is Captain America, though I don't think either of them really shone in this movie.

After the movie, the long day was beginning to wear on us, and we had to make it home before the trains stopped running for the night, so we headed back for the border. At the immigration counter, I was very shocked when the immigration official pointed to my passport picture and asked:

"Is this you?"

I said, "Yes." and he stamped my passport. But isn't that what everyone would say, even if the photo wasn't of them? I think I look identical to my passport photo--however, my hair is down in the photo and I was wearing it back yesterday. I'm not wearing glasses in the photo and I was wearing my normal glasses (not the sunglasses I wore in the morning) for the movie and the trip home. Was it a good enough disguise that I didn't even look like myself? Maybe I should remember to wear my hair down when crossing borders in the future.

We stumbled off of the no-longer crowded metro at our home stop, just 2 stops away from the end of the line, grabbed a lemon ice tea from our favorite drink place, and walked home, finally ascending the last flight of stairs at 10:00pm.

It was a vacation just the way we like them--slightly exhausting.
Melanie @ Life's Sweet Words said...

What an awesome trip! I have never thought that Hong Kong would be on my travel list, but I may have to add to it.

Tayler Morrell said...

That's how I felt in Wales...there was one place where the menu was in Welsh (and English) but I ordered in Welsh...then the cashier asked something else super fast with words I didn't know, so I asked her, in my American English, what she had said, and she was shocked I was American and said I had a good accent in my Welsh and couldn't tell I wasn't Welsh! What a compliment!

Suzanne said...

LOL What a little trip! You always manage to squeeze in so much to a small amount of time.

Kudos on the shoes!

I like that you took another photo of Angel proposing. I need to get my husband to do that next time we are somewhere really romantic. Totally stealing this idea from you.


Elegance and Mommyhood said...

Looks like you are enjoying Asia and that little trip sounds amazing. Gorgeous photos and so well-written, Rachel. =)

Have a great weekend!

Natalie said...

That sounds like an awesome little getaway! I wish I knew more than very, very basic French and Spanish so I could talk to people while I'm abroad (or at least feel confident in getting directions!). I loved the re-proposal pic and those new shoes--as someone who went to Clemson University (where the school's main color is orange), I can assure you that orange does indeed go with everything! :)

Sarah Wissinger said...

The shoes are adorable!


Julia said...

How fun! We love doing little getaways like that! Love your new shoes, those are so cute!

Unknown said...

I love this! So fun! I actually feature travels just like this on my adventure blog at I'd love to share any of your travels with my audience :)

Moonofsilver said...

I love your orange shoes :) so cuteeeee. I would have bought those too! I hope Angel is able to find some he likes. I really only shoe shop online now-a-days...and haven't bought new shoes in over a year...or maybe two years? said...

You made it to Hong Kong!!! I'm so happy for you!
Melanie @

Miss Angie said...

Looks like a really fun trip! Man, I need to go somewhere!

Daisy @ Simplicity Relished said...

GREAT shoes.

Also... "You aren't Chinese, are you?" -- hahahahah...

Brianna Wachter said...

Sounds like such a fun trip! The gardens are just beautiful and shoe quests are the best. Orange definitely goes with everything! My favorite bag and watch are both orange and they match everything wonderfully...or at least I wear them with everything and like to think they match :)

Alexandria said...

I love finding unique pieces on my travels. I have so many pieces from around the world, and they mean so much more to me. The gardens are beautiful, I'm glad you finally got your picture.

Charlene Maugeri said...

Sounds like a lot of fun. Besides Thor and Cap not shining in the movie, how did you like it? We're gonna see it this weekend and I'm so excited! I hope it's great. We've spent the last week watching all the Marvel movies getting ready for it.

Miranda said...

Sounds like such a fun trip! Those sandals are so cute!

shelleystirs said...

The wedding dress comment made me laugh, since that's my job! Shopping with my husband requires a lot of my patience since he is very particular when it comes to clothes and shoes. I have a totally different shopping style!

Unknown said...

The "solemn" proposal--ha! Lots of beauty all around in those photos, how fun! And those shoes were definitely worth photographing. Very cute :)
p.s. I wish I could speak Mandarin...

Barefoot Hippie Girl said...

Shopping for running shoes is an endeavor. I also only wear Asics, because they fit my feet the best. Running shoes are ridiculously expensive also. Even more so when you consider the (limited) amount of miles you are suppose to log in them before the support starts deteriorating.

Catherine Gacad said...

it is so awesome that you speak mandarin!