Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Looking back...

Can't believe this 5 month adventure has come to an end.  Can't believe I'm back in Canada, it kind of feels like I've never left but there's this unfamiliar feeling to this place. 

It's hard to sum up the last 5 months.  The first few weeks were pretty tough; it was hard for me to adjust to the new environment, new transportation and just not knowing anyone.  I remember going to Queen Mary Hospital and eating dinner by myself every night for a week... it was rather lonely.

Things picked up though.  After the first week we had an organized tour around HK and I got to meet tons of people there - my first Waterloo friend Karen, my first photographer friend Wei Png, the first guy I met from their to-be-boy-band Christian.  Soon after we had Karen's birthday dinner where I met fellow food enthusiasts John and Danny where we exploded over food topics during dinner.

I also remember during the first month, I explored quite a bit by myself.  I would take the minibus randomly to Central or Causeway Bay (because I didn't know how to call out the stops or tell where I was) and my adventure would be to find a bus that would bring me home.  Now if you ask me I can name TONS of buses and bus stops that can bring me home from both places, but during that month I would literally walk almost all the way home before I found a familiar bus.  Fun for the first 2 hours but tiring and frustrating by the 3rd... haha.

Chinese New Year in HK was a really good experience.  The atmosphere is really exciting and there`s lots of things to see like the parade, the huge night market and of course crazy fireworks!  It was nice to spend it with my family in Hong Kong. :)

Can't forget our Thailand trip... got to get to know people alot better and had lots of fun too!  Rode an elephant, banana boating, parasailing, 2 hour massage, insane eating.  Also got to venture off on our own during the last day and took a boat ride with the locals to the main city, saw the Grand Palace and some other main attractions.  Interestingly that day was the first day of those Thailand protests and we had no idea... glad we got home safe and sound :P

Also can't forget my Taiwan trip with Soyeon and Wendy.  Insanely fun, insanely packed itinerary, hotsprings, teahouses and tons of amazing food and scenery.  By the last night our feet hurt so much from walking that they were actually numb, we were limping back to our hostel and it took about 20 mins of lying on our beds for us to feel our feet again.  Pretty brutal but so worth it... it was such a memorable trip!

March and April were littered with shopping trips, trying to find boots, eating tons of froyo, bubble tea at Gong Cha, and just eating eating eating.  I think in March, Wendy and I was just breathing shopping and BBT during every minute of spare time.  It was intense I tell ya =P

Also just remembered volunteering at Worship Central with Jacq, The Ageless Melody CD release at The Vine and just going to The Vine Church in general.  I had such an amazing time there and it was really eye opening.  Can't wait to go back =)

Oh and at school, I took squash lessons which was apparently difficult with my short pinky, aerobics class which was super fun (think dance & exercise!), and was an English tutor for a couple kids at King's College.  Good experience overall, the boys were pretty funny :P

Although April got really busy with exams, the huge gang still got to go out to eat some good food (thanks Openrice!) and have a couple adventures.  We had an epic "final" exchange students dinner with over 30 people and we called every dinner and outing our "last" after that lol.  The most adventures came after exams though... We went to 3 or 4 destinations per day to make the most of our remaining time in HK.  We ate awesome things like High Tea at the Mandarin Oriental hotel ($50CAD for 2!), went hiking at Time Magazine's best urban hike in Asia (Dragon's Back) and chilled at some beautiful beaches.  Oh and can't forget the multiple times we had epic Mcdonalds Delivery, especially with Louise at 5am in front of the Library =D

Some other random memories:  First meeting CK and Danny during the Infernal Affairs photoshoot, Kathy and froyo/food adventures, Carmen and Chinese class, Fiona, Laura, Jenny and all the girls in our lil Monday prayer group, Connie and Louise aka Amy and Anita the A-team, 11 hours (minus 2) of Kareoke with the girls on the 2nd floor, constant attempts to go 3am dim sum with Swee Lee and Karen, Milktop ice cream obsessions - especially sesame, milk, cookies and hazelnut flavours *drool*, awesome Marketing group and our awesome presentation, and honestly the list keeps going on...

I never thought I would meet such amazing people and have such an amazing time in HK.  In the beginning I thought I would have a terrible time, with all the rude people, polluted air and stuffy humid weather, but in the end it was more than I could ask for.  I feel like I've learned alot from my time here, my Chinese reading improved (unfortunately not so much my speaking) and even my tolerance for bugs rose! =P  Glad the Internet makes it easy for us to keep in touch, just hoping that we will all see each other again soon =)

Side note: I'll probably be publishing a couple more posts on some thoughts I still have on HK.. hopefully soon!  And... even if I didn't give you a shoutout I'm still thinking of you :)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Things I'll Miss About HK (Part 2 - Gong Cha)

My favourite bubble tea chain Gong Cha: always consistent, always delicious :)  I have quite the sweet tooth so I enjoy the sweet creamy taste of Gong Cha even though most people complain that it's too sweet (you can always ask for less sweet/less ice).  There's always huge lines in front of every GC store but they're super efficient so you get your drink within 5 mins.  I'm gonna miss the cheapness of drinks in HK so much - pearl milk tea is only $12HKD ($1.6CAD) for a LARGE (not like they have small or medium sizes anyway).  My favourites are the original pearl milk tea, earl gray milk tea, and earl gray 三兄弟 (3 brothers) milk tea which includes tapioca, pudding pieces and black jelly.  -sigh-  I think I drink on average 2 per week...on top of all the milk tea I drink at restaurants lol.

I'll miss all the times that we grabbed a BBT before going home from Causeway.  I'll miss yelling "GONG CHA!!!" every time we spot a store on the bus or while walking around. I'll miss calling Wendy everytime I see one before going home to see if she wants one (and vice versa).

Gong Cha, you have a special place in my heart....... but I'm slightly bitter at you opening a location in Sheung Wan right when I have to leave!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Things I'll Miss About HK (Part 1 - Caf Food)

I can't believe I'm leaving in less than 2 weeks. Everyday as I try to study for my exams I'm constantly distracted by things I want to eat, things I still want to see and do and thinking about all the friends I've made and how much I'll miss them.  To painfully remind me of these things, here's a blogging series on things I'll miss about Hong Kong where I can reminisce on the best parts of this exchange :)

One thing that I'll really miss is the cafeteria/canteen food. You heard me right. Yes I do get sick of it after a while but some of this canteen food is better than what you can get at home (at least Waterloo or maybe Ottawa :P). Here are some of the regulars that I'll miss sooo much:

The $10.50HKD lunch special. Comes out to about $1.40CAD, you get a bowl of sauce with some type of meat and some type of veggie with a big scoop of rice (different every day). I look forward to this all the time, sometimes I go late to class on purpose so I can eat this, lol. I really like saucy foods :P Some of the combos that I can recall are - tomato with beef and potato, cream with chicken, tomato-y sauce with pumpkin and beef, Portuguese sauce with chicken/beef, etc. Yum =)

Fried fish fillet tea time set, with sausage, toast, tartar sauce and a choice of soup macaroni. My favourite is the soup macaroni with tomato/minced meat sauce. About $20HKD or $2.50CAD. Always look forward to this around 3pm =)

Baked pork chop rice. Huge slab (or 2) of pork chop covered in tomato sauce, tomatoes and pineapple. My favorite comfort food... hehe. About $30HKD or $4CAD.

Sigh.. this blogging series is going to make me so depressed!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Exchange Students' Farewell Dinner

22.04.10, Thanks Laurent for taking the pic

It's becoming more and more real.  As more and more friends leave Hong Kong, reality begins to hit and yes... exchange is almost over...

A couple of my friends organized a farewell dinner for a bunch of exchange students that we have met (and stayed in contact with) during the past 4 months.  If you thought Chinese people were loud, having 30+ English speaking friends in the corner of a Chinese restaurant is something else... haha.

(left) In front of Patrick Manson, oh how I will not miss living there. (right) Making fun of my fobbiness...

Canadians doing the moose and the beaver... haha

Had some really delicious food at this Shanghai restaurant, all for about $120HKD ($16CAD)!

Above is this "tofu pocket" dish - tofu stuffed with cabbage.  Had to order this one day in advance!

After dinner we just chilled in the area, loitered around and went to admire the Hong Kong skyline, even though many of the buildings turned off their lights by that time.  Still nice to reminisce about the good times we've had so far :)

Food buddies... thanks for getting fat with me... haha

Alter egos:  Agnes, Amy, Anita... :)

Taken on the way down an escalator.. lol!

 Near Avenue of Stars, TST

We stayed out until 2am and it was kinda hard to find a way home, especially when not all the taxis go across to Hong Kong Island where we all live.  We've heard of a 24-hour minibus from Mong Kok which is supposed to be one of the craziest minibus routes in Hong Kong (someone read it from somewhere, very reliable ya?  Unfortunately in this aspect the ride was a complete letdown - it takes the same route I take every week to MK haha.).  Ended up taking a taxi to Mong Kok and found the bus stop with a huge line, even at 2am.  Our party pretty much filled the whole minibus and the driver had to tell us to be quiet... haha!  We all got home safely in the end in our fancy clothes and sore feet :)

Really really REALLY going to miss everyone here.  I met so many awesome people and it's just unreal that we'll be leaving in a few weeks and may never see each other again.  I really think that the best part of this exchange was all the friendships that I've made... sigh... Reunion in 3 years right guys?  :)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Hiking Dragon's Back

Wikipedia:  The Dragon's Back (Traditional Chinese: 龍脊) is a ridge in southeastern Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong, between Wan Cham Shan  and Shek O Peak. It lies within the Shek O Country Park. In 2004 the Dragon's Back Trail was selected by TIMEasia as the best urban hiking trail.

360° Panorama at the peak of the Dragon's Back trail :)

Went to check this out last week and it was absolutely breathtaking!  It was super fun with super great company, all in all a wonderful time and more good memories to add to the list =)  Prepare for a photo intensive post!

The route that we were to take; us on the MTR to Shau Kei Wan station on the Island line

Taking a minibus to Cape Collision road/Shek O road, another option is to take the #9 bus.  Oh, we saw 2 cut up pigs (and its innards on the ground) while waiting for the bus to go.... lol.  Fun times...

Start of the hike =)

Most of the hike was paved or at least had a distinct path.  Pretty easy as long as you watch where you walk.

Our first amazing view!  Yes we took ALOT of pics :P

More pics along the way...

Taking some boy-band style pics... haha

...and some jumping pics of course!

Got to the peak of this hike after about 1-2 hours!  Lovely view along the way.. we were now actually on the back of the dragon.  We actually get to walk along the 'humps' of the dragon's back.  So cool!!

Went exploring a little off the road and found this nice spot to take a break :)  Actually we took many breaks to enjoy the view :)  On the way back down to the main road I sprained my ankle and could barely walk.  Still healing one week later :(

After getting back down to Shek O road, we caught the minibus to Shek O village.  #9 also goes there.  We had lunch at this extremely local noodle place, it was quite the experience.  I found a bug in my soup... I was surprised how immune I was to these things after being here for so long. haha.

Explored the village a bit and checked out the beach.  Would be nice to come on a nice warm day :)

I really really recommend this hike!  It took about 3-4 hours total but mainly because we stopped sooo many times for pictures and just to enjoy the view.  It really didn't feel like we were in Hong Kong during the hike, even though this park was only 10 mins away from the city.

Directions:  Take the MTR to Shau Kei Wan station, exit to the bus terminus (exit A3) and take bus #9 to Cape Collision road (near a prison) or take a red minibus near the terminus.  About half way through the hike there's a path that leads you back to the main road (Shek O road I think) if you don't want to hike the whole trail.  At the end, take the #9 or minibus back to Shau Kei Wan station or continue on its route to Shek O village.