Did you miss me? So it’s been almost 6 months since my last post. Sorry, but I was too busy living life the last half of the year to actually do a good job of documenting it. A lot has changed, but that’s no surprise. Change is the only constant in our lives, isn’t it? Luckily for me they have been good changes. Don’t think I haven’t thought about my blog at all while I was away living life. I’ve pondered quite a bit what to do with this space here. While I was more likely to write about my life for all to read without a second thought in my early twenties, part of me feels less comfortable sharing so much with potential strangers now. Is it because I’m getting older and more cautious? Possibly. The intent of this blog was never meant to be a personal journal anyway, so I’m thinking I’ll try to focus on the things that interest me the most, which most of you know include travel.
During the last half of the year, I had (by some serendipitous chance) the incredible opportunity to go to Hong Kong on business (I wasn’t supposed to go on this trip originally, but a co-worker was unable to go, so I was asked to step up to the plate–and well, who says no to something like that?!). Naturally, I jumped at the shot even though I knew it was a very long trip to make completely alone.
As someone who has done her fair share of traveling, I felt prepared to do this but I was still nervous about finding myself across the globe all by my lonesome. What if I got lost? Or sick? Or couldn’t find someone who spoke English (this wasn’t the case as I happily realized as soon as I arrived that most Hong Kong residents speak pretty good English; I had been told this was true prior to getting there, but for some reason I had this ‘seeing is believing’ train of thought on this one…)?
On November 1st, I left Newark Airport on a Monday evening and arrived in Hong Kong 16 hours later on Tuesday night. Funny how crossing the international date line makes you feel like you’ve traveled through time! I had no idea how I’d survive such a long flight. Up to that point, the most I’d ever endured in the air had been 8 hours to Milan en route to Athens a few years ago. But 16 hours? I remember gazing up at the flight map on the back of the seat in front of me and seeing 12 hours left, thinking “FML!” I couldn’t sleep. They kept feeding us all the time and passing out water. There was even a section where you could move around a little on the plane and “exercise” to keep the blood flowing and avoid deep vein thrombosis. Fun stuff, let me tell you! Even more fun was listening to a crying baby over and over again. So yes, like I said, there was no sleep. Just an endless string of bad movies and trying to manage my water intake so as to not get dehydrated but not have to pee every 10 minutes either.
The other thing about being on such a long flight is figuring out whether you should speak to your seat neighbors. Remember, you’re stuck sitting next to them for 16 hours. This could end up really badly if you make the wrong choice. Luckily, the dude next to me didn’t seem to speak much English so I just kept to myself. I had an aisle seat, which isn’t usually my favorite (I prefer the window), but it was good for how many times I did end up having to get up and stretch. Anyway, fast forward to landing in Hong Kong. It feels very unnatural for me to be landing and not seeing where the plane is (like I said, I normally am in the window seat), to the point that it freaked me out when we finally hit the ground because I didn’t know when to expect it. Once I got off the plane, I saw the comforting albeit somewhat disturbing Burger King and other American fast food chains in the airport. Thankfully the Hong Kong Trade Commission, which was kind enough to sponsor my trip so I could attend the Hong Kong Optical Fair, had set up my transportation to the hotel (and what a nice hotel it was–conveniently located right next to the convention center, which meant I didn’t even have to leave the hotel to get there, but don’t worry–I did eventually go outside!).
The time difference and jet lag hit me like a ton of bricks or a mack truck–whichever weighs most. Traveling to London and Greece had been my previous experiences with this, and they were a breeze compared to Hong Kong. I was there for a total of 6 days and it wasn’t until Saturday (remember, I arrived on Tuesday night) that I finally felt somewhat accustomed to eating at the appropriate time and wanting/needing to sleep nocturnally.
To spare you the boring details of the trade show (I’ve been to way too many of those things to find them exciting), I’ll fast forward to my last three days, which is when I had some free time to do some sightseeing and shopping. Since I was alone and afraid to venture off too far by myself, I opted to take a couple of guided bus tours of Hong Kong. This is the ultimate American tourist trap/sin. Sure, you don’t have to worry about how to get around an familiar place, but usually the experience is so bland and the guides are so cheesy if you can even understand their English. This was no exception. On top of that, it rained like the world was ending that weekend, which ruined the trek to the highest point on the island–the most talked about attraction in all of Hong Kong. Once we reached the peak, clouds and fog were all I could see amid vague skyscraper tops. Oh, well… so much for that. The most interesting thing on that tour was meeting a retired older American gentleman who dedicated his life to traveling the world. Richard… I’m pretty sure that was his name. He was from LA and would be meeting some friends in Beijing on his next stop. Good for him, I thought. A seemingly fearless, open-minded American traveler. Very cool.
The next day I treated myself to a full day of shopping in probably the tallest mall I’ve ever been to. Eight floors of shopping and four of dining–that’s what you get at Times Square in Hong Kong. I was on a mission. My boyfriend, a sneaker head to the core, had asked me to try to find him some Jordans that were only available in Asia; except, he didn’t have a specific pair in mind–I had to find out from the sales people what they had that might not be sold in the U.S. Getting this message across at about 5 or 6 different stores was an interesting feat, but sadly, my hunt was unsuccessful.
Sunday was my final day to sightsee, as I would be boarding the plane back home early Monday morning. I guess I subconsciously left the best for last. Until then, my impression of Hong Kong was that it was a more crowded version of NYC with tons more Chinese people… in essence, a gigantic Chinatown. What I mean is, I didn’t feel like I had really gone to China because everything seemed so much like home. A high-tech metropolitan city with tall buildings… Been there, done that. But Sunday’s tour took me on a bit of trek out to another island in Hong Kong where I rode a 30-minute cable ride over gorgeous mountains and water to see the largest sitting outdoor bronze Buddha in the world. I spent some time inside a Buddhist monastery, and it wasn’t until I arrived there that I truly felt I had gone somewhere. I’m not a terribly spiritual person, but this place stopped me in my tracks. Maybe it was the Buddha. Maybe it was the chanting and the fact that I probably inhaled too much incense in one day. But in that moment, I felt a little sad to be leaving the next day because I finally really appreciated this trip of a lifetime.
And that was my first trip to Asia. I leave you with a few of my photos (there are so many! narrowing this down was hard.)