This is my newish phone, a Motorola Milestone. After I was accepted to come to Hong Kong back in February, I began to do some research on what to expect once here. I stumbled upon this video produced by Richard Lai of Engadget. I knew that my Palm Pre wouldn't work abroad, so I set my sights on a nice albeit second-hand phone to use while I was here.
When I arrived in Hong Kong I was jet-lagged and impatient so just settled on buying a new and cheap LG-A170 flip phone in Sha Tin. Unfortunately, I quickly realized how spoiled I was by my Pre and decided that I really needed a smartphone. After struggling for a week with the chintzy LG, I mustered up my bargaining skills and headed to Mong Kok to buy something better. I ended up with an immaculate Motorola Milestone (back in the states it's known as Verizon's Droid) and it's wonderful. The Milestone brings back fond memories of my Motorola Razr, a phone I carried for 4 years until I reluctantly traded up. The tight build quality, the metal, the glass and heft of the phone all add up to a device that looks as good in the hand as it feels in the hand. Battery life, screen and call quality are all excellent and I love the phone so far.Read More
This past Saturday was the final excursion arranged by the OAL. That morning we piled into two tour buses and headed over to Lantau Island. Apparently the destinations we were going had step, narrow and winding roads which required a bus with a special permit, so we had to transfer buses at the base of the mountain up to Big Buddha. A 45 minute trek up the mountain and dropped us off at the base of Buddha's park. After about an hour of exploring the tallest outdoor bronze Buddha in the world and an adjacent temple, our group was treated to a vegetarian lunch. It was an appropriate meal consdering the non-violent (and thus non-meat-eating) teachings of Buddha. And I was impressed with the variety of dishes served, in all I think we were served about 8 distinct dishes free of animal or dairy products.
Before heading back to the university we took another 20 minute bus ride down the mountain and over to the Tai O fishing village. Today the town serves as both a tourist attraction and a working fishing village, if you can believe such a thing. On the bus over our tour guide encouraged us to "support the local economy" and do a little bit of shopping while we were there--when in Rome I guess! I found a shop with a grill set out front and a woman who was grilling oysters, scallops and muscles all in their shells. She sold me a delicious baked oyster which contained cheese, bacon and onions baked into the shell (and meat) of the oyster. Naturally it was delicious. A little bit more walking around and picture taking built up my appetite some more so I stood in line to buy a very fresh Tai O style doughnut. The doughnuts were fried to order, so it took a little while to make but eventually I was delivered a hot, sugar coated and delectable treat.Read More
Last Saturday I had the opportunity to travel the Ping Shan Heritage Trail with some of my fellow exchange students. This was the trip that almost wasn’t: I was late signing up for the OAL-organized trip and by the time I handed in the necessary paperwork the trip was full and I was put on the waiting list. I never actually got off the waiting list. Instead, I was able to locate someone who secured a spot but was no longer interested in going and took his place.
As always, I brought my camera along, so check out my photo album of the trip. The Ping Shan Heritage Trail is up in the New Territories and our trek began at a colonial police station-turned museum. Over the next five hours a tour guide took us on the trail around the village, stopping at historical sites along the way. We saw an old study hall, a guesthouse, and a couple of temples and shrines until we reached the pagoda—our final destination. Along the way we stopped for lunch and had an old-fashioned communal pot meal. It was a fun, albeit hot, day filled with some great sight seeing and lots of history.Read More
Following the museum tour, my friends and I headed off to Tai Po Market where we found a vegan restaurant, Loving Hut. I have since discovered that this place is not a niche in Hong Kong cuisine but rather a worldwide chain. I had a lunch of spaghetti with chili sauce and a slice meat-substitute. It was good, but I like meat. My vegan lunch was a vacation from my normal eating habits, nothing more. My friend Clara ordered this delicious looking Strawberry cocktail-smoothie, complete with a heart-shaped straw, this was the Loving Hut after all. Unfortunately she said it looked better than it tasted.
Later that evening, we met up with another group of exchange students from Singapore and had dinner together at an outdoor... let's call it a restaurant, in Fo Tan. The beer was cheap, the food was cheap and oily and the company was great so we had a fun evening. One of the hosts of the evening was a CUHK student who had spent a considerable amount of time in Singapore. Naturally he wanted to introduce us to some local food, so he ordered for the table. Among the dishes I had was a delicious dish with vermicelli, beef and chili. Oh, and I also ate quite a few fried chicken knuckles complete with cartilage/soft bones. The were the same size and shape as popcorn chicken and were very easy to just keep popping away. I also ate what I believed-at-the-time to be duck, but found out it was pigeon after the fact. Our host said this was a well known late night hangout for CUHK students, so I may find myself there again.
I'm embarrassed, nearly another post-free week has gone by. Anyway one of the great things about being an exchange student, or perhaps a foreigner in general, is that the locals are very enthusiastic about exposing you to their country and culture. In that spirit, the Office of Academic Links (OAL), the department which manages the exchange students here at CUHK, has set up a series of weekend trips to experience some of what Hong Kong has to offer.
Last Saturday the OAL arranged a group trip to the Hong Kong Museum of History (which is much better than it's website would lead you to believe). The museum is quite impressive and has one large permanent exhibit which meanders through history from prehistoric rock displays to Hong Kong's modern financial presence and the British handover to China. There is so much to see and read, and the exhibits are fairly interactive. There are several boats one can walk onto and a bus you can walk through--there's even a period street with shops and buildings to explore. I could have easily spent the entire day there, reading and seeing everything--but didn't as we had other plans for the day.
Ok, so I know that I haven't written a post in about a week--but I've been compiling a (mental) list of things I want to write about and will slowly start chopping away at it over the next few days.
I am a car guru and am keenly observant of my surroundings. These two things have led me to notice that predictably, a majority of the cars on the road in Hong Kong are form local makes: Toyota, Honda, Nissan etc. With the abundance of wealth in Hong Kong there is also a healthy supply of executive and luxury cars from the Germans (Audi, BMW, Mercedes).
It's expensive to have a car in Hong Kong, so most of the cars I see on the road look to be good value for money. Toyota, Honda and Nissan dominate the streets with 5-door hatchbacks, station wagons, boxy minivans and crossovers--likely due to the fact that Hong Kongers can pack a lot of people and stuff into their conservative footprints. As far as Scandanavia is from Hong Kong, I have found that there are a disproportionately high number of Volvos here, particularly Volvo XC90s. And I guess it makes sense,: the XC90 is a large crossover which will seat 5 people with loads of luggage or 7 people in a pinch. It's luxurious, safe and will shuttle the kids to and from their private school without fuss. I expect that their popularity may grow after the Chinese acquisition of Volvo. The picture above is one that I saw parked on campus, but I see them out and about off campus every day.Read More
The Chinese University of Hong Kong is in the New Territories in a neighborhood called Sha Tin. Sha Tin is also the home of one of the busiest malls in Hong Kong, New Town Plaza. It just so happens that this mall is just two stops from the university on the MTR (the local train/subway service). I've been here a lot recently, I'm going to guess about 6 times in the past week. And it seems that I am not the only one that goes so frequently, most of my class mates here go to the mall about once a day. With university students and locals flowing in and out, the mall is quite crowded. I had hoped to capture a picture of the mall at peak hours, however all I got was a photo of one area of the mall during one of its lighter periods.
It's really no wonder why so many people flock to this mall, there is literally every store under the sun, from luxury name brands to electronics stores and discount clothing outlets. Just off the top of my head I remember seeing 4 different supermarkets and at least 50 different sit down restaurants. I bought my cell phone from an electronic chain store called Fortress located on the 6th floor of the mall. I then passed by another Fortress nearby on the 4th floor of the mall. This place is packed with stores and people and I literally spent an entire day there on Sunday. I didn't really buy anything, but I was with people who were shopping or looking for something. Shopping is quite the social gathering in Hong Kong. Not only that, but it seems as if people have just come to expect them to be everywhere--remember the mall on top of the mountain?Read More
Last Saturday, the Office of Academic links arranged a tour of Hong Kong Island for the international students. All 500 of us boarded buses (complete with tour guides) at 1:00 that afternoon and first headed off to Victoria Peak. If you're interested, I'm sure its Wikipedia page can give you a lot more information that I can. What I can tell you however is that there are some amazing views from up there. Victoria Peak looks down onto Central (the business district with the skyscrapers), Victoria Harbour and Kowloon. And that's just on one side. When I turned my head about 90 degrees to the left I found myself looking out onto the sparkling South China Sea. There are a couple patios and observation posts to take in the view, and one of the main ones is on the roof of a mall. Yes, there is a mall at the very top of a Hong Kong mountain. The more time I spend here, the less shocking this seems. And it's a pretty nice mall too, with restaurants and shops galore. They've even got a wine pantry up there, for those who would rather not buy their wine at the mall's 7-Eleven.
Afterward we boarded the buses to head over the Stanley Market. The market itself was nice, with open air stalls but it really wasn't more than a shopping area for tourists. What was incredible though was the drive to the market. We drove though some beautiful and upscale neighborhoods like Repulse Bay. This is the part of the tour where our guide Kathy was emphasizing how expensive real estate is in Hong Kong. If I remember correctly, 3-bedroom homes in the area start at around USD $10 million. Naturally I could see myself living there. This part of Hong Kong Island felt like it was straight out of the Mediterranean, complete with weather, yachting and beach-side cafés.Read More
..and have been for some days now. I've only recently had time to start updating the blog again. What you see above (in a poorly cropped box--sorry about that) is my side/corner of the room. Go ahead and click the image to expand it. I am living in room 130 which is a triple room in Chih Hsing Hall. This is technically the first time that I've had to share a room with two other people, but so far it hasn't been too bad. The room is long and somewhat narrow which aids in making it feel larger than it actually is.
I probably haven't mentioned how warm it is here in Hong Kong. Yahoo weather shows that the average temperature is in the high 80s and low 90s. If I were back in LA I wouldn't have too much to complain about, as the air is nice and dry. However, here in Hong Kong we're living in humidity levels which hover around 80%--which is gross. Air conditioning here isn't really an option, particularly if you're the type of individual who enjoys sleeping on dry sheets. Luckily the hostels are all air conditioned--sort of. CUHK has A/C units installed in all sleeping rooms, however they must be paid for by the hour. During those other hours of the day when I'm feeling cheap or not in the room, there's an oscilating fan installed on the ceiling, and it's FREE. But when I need a dry cool living environment, air conditioning costs HKD $1 per hour. So 7 hours of A/C costs a cool HKD $7 or about USD $1. I've been paying for this necessary luxury so far, but we'll see if the roomies start to chip in soon.Read More
Hey there! I just wanted to take a few minutes and pass some notes onto you, the reader:
- For the sake of aesthetics and readability, I will make every effort to keep the blog posts short and sweet. However, most of the time I'll probably have a lot more to say than you might care to read. So here's what's going to happen: the first two paragraphs of each post will be visible on the blog's front page. If you care to read beyond the first two paragraphs, please click the "Read More" button on the bottom left of each post. That said, if you see a post that breaks this rule, then it's probably pretty important.
- I will try to include a photo with every post. This may become more difficult in the future and I cannot guarantee that the photo will always be mine. For example, the image above is stock photography. Regardless, I will try to give the reader some eye candy.