Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hello Hong Kong!

On November 11th we arrived in Hong Kong. While it wasn’t a three hour trip up the Saigon River the approach was still pretty neat, just the contrast we have experiences in the ports alone has been a neat part of the voyage. The skyscrapers, flashing lights, huge video screens engulfed us as we tied down at the dock. The port terminal was out of control, while we had been just outside a mall in South Africa the terminal in Hong Kong was a mall! We walked off the ship and into a shoe store.

Once the clearning process was done we were ready to get off the ship even though we had just left Vietnam two days prior. It has been great to see the confidence that many of us have developed for travel though this process. I remember when our first and second ports, Spain and Morocco, were just one day apart people were pretty nervous and struggling to prepare after just returning. But now it is old hat and we hit the ground running in whatever country we wake up in. Anyway, the regular crew and I made our way to the ATMs and money exchange and decided to go to the Big Buddha.

The Tian Tan Buddha Statue is the world's largest, seated, outdoor, bronze Big Buddha statue. Constructed from 202 bronze pieces, the Tian Tan Buddha Statue weighs over 250 tons and soars 34 meters into the air. Sitting atop 268 steps, the Tian Tan Buddha Statue is positioned on a lotus throne, surrounded by eight smaller bronze statues representative of the gods, or immortals. The statue is so named as its base is a model of Tian Tan, the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. The Buddha Statue's right hand is raised, representing the removal of affliction; his left hand rests on his knee, signifying human happiness.

We also decided to spend a little extra money and take the Crystal Cabin cable car up to the Buddha. It is a 25min 3.5-mile ride one way and we really enjoyed it. It was rather scary at first but after a while we were all laying on the floor for photos and just enjoying the views.
Once we made it to the top there was a kite festival going on and we watched as a team launched a huge octopus kite. The high winds seemed to be a challenge for the 3 person flying team and the kite eventually crashed into a tree. With that we continued walking to the temples at the base of the Buddha. As many of the other temples we have seen on this journey they were beautiful. Bright colors, amazing details.

Finally we began the climb to the Buddha. We walked around for a while went inside and saw what I believed to be prayer cards for people and took plenty of photos. It was much colder at the Buddha than it was back in town and the clouds were rolling in so I was ready to go after a while. Back down we went in our crystal cabin and back to the port. E and G ran back to the ship for dinner while A, A, and I decided to treat ourselves to some Pizza Hut. This place was the classiest pizza hut I have ever seen. Seriously, it looked more like a nice restaurant in West Hollywood than a pizza place in a mall. We had a nice dinner and went back to the ship were I packed for my trip to Beijing that left the next morning before going out on the town.

The subways were a bit of a challenge but we eventually figured it our and got to the bars. We happily avoided students for most of the evening until the very end when we walked out to catch a cab and I saw one of our students in bad shape across the street. I went to the group and told them to take her back to the ship and the medical staff and LLC on duty will take care of her. Their faces lit up and then I realized that the rest of the group was not actually SASers but random people being nice and helping out the student. I thanked them and they went on their way. I sat with the student for a while before getting her into a cab and taking her back to the ship. While the night ended rather poorly I still had a great time and was excited to go hike the Great Wall in the coming days.

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