Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ni hao!

It's been a long, long time, but I've decided to blow the dust off this blog and click away the keys once more. I'm back in China with the family, and back in love with the travel. I arrived last Monday evening in Shenzhen, after another long but uneventful commute. I dozed about 20 minutes during my 26 hours in transit, so I was ready to lay my head on my pillow in my China room when I arrived. My first 8 days here have been lovely. I've visited the tailor in Luo hou, watched a few $1.50 DVD's, and made a couple trips into Hong Kong.

This past Friday, Mom and I went to Lantau Island, an outlying island from the main island of Hong Kong. We took the ferry to Hong Kong, a subway to the island, and finally a bus ride up to the Big Buddha at Po Lin Monastery of Lantau. I didn't make it to see the Big Buddha on my last trip, so I was excited for the chance to visit the 79 foot Buddha.

This bronze statue is absolutely enormous. On clear days you can see it from miles away, and it's visible as you're landing in Hong Kong's airport in the daytime too (Lantau Island is home to Hong Kong's airport)

Incense sticks burning at the Po Lin Monastery

My favorite part of any outing-culinary adventures. Adjacent to the temple at Po Lin Monastery there is a vegetarian restaurant that offers a delectable set lunch. I've had several "real" Chinese food experiences at this point, and this meal was by far my favorite. The spread was served family style, enough food for 4 people although just Mom and I were at the table. It consisted of hot tea, mushroom soup, a tofu/peppers/zucchini dish, a corn/peas/tofu dish, mushrooms and greens, rice, and perfectly freshly fried spring rolls. YUM. The interesting thing about the meal was that buying a meal ticket got you entrance to the museum located beneath/within the Buddha statue. I appreciated that they wanted you to share a meal in the monastery to gain access to the displays. We wandered through and read about the beginning of Buddhism and Chinese Buddhism. With our meal access tickets, we were able to see a relic of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha.

Beyond seeing the Big Buddha, it was really interesting to see the rest of Lantau Island, albeit from the window of a bus. While Hong Kong Island is densely populated and filled with high rises and honking cars, Lantau has green hills, hiking trails, beaches and and ancient fishing villages. The airport of course has brought some hustle and bustle to one corner of the large island, but overall it has maintained a sense of peacefulness that honestly, is hard to come by in the Hong Kong and Shenzhen I see in the day to day here.

Exhibit A...Enter Hong Kong craziness!

Yesterday Em and I ventured out to Mong Kok-a bustling, jostling, lively neighborhood of mainland Hong Kong. It is rumored to be the most densely populated place in the world, with shops and restaurants occupying the first floor or two of high rises, but pure residential space 3rd floor and up with basically no hotels. Above, you can see that not only people live here...TONS of signage is found here too...Seriously ads and store signs hang 20 feet out into the road and at places it looks like the signs hanging out from the left and right buildings on either side will meet each other in the middle. Mong Kok also has a "Ladies Market" with clothes and purses and jewelry that stretches for blocks down a wide street. "Copy watch handbag Missy ? Gucci, Prada, Missy?" There's also a Sneaker's Market, Men's Market, Pet Market, apparently even a Wedding Market, and of course a Night Market with lots of local food choices.

The line outside of Gucci. Because each customer must wait for their personal shopper to attend to them. Hong Kong, you're ridiculous.

And the grand finale! This is a burger, fries and a milkshake Emily and Erin style. This was our 3rd time sharing this meal (twice last winter break), and wow...never fails to please. This winning combo includes a Veggie falafel burger, tomato, avocado, lettuce and this delicous salsa all on a wheat bun with sweet potato fries and a milkshake. This is not just any milkshake though. This milkshake is spiked, with Kahlua and Bailey's. Yep, made with coffee ice cream, topped with delectable whipped cream. BLT Burger, I salute you.

But we split everything, so that makes it okay, right?

Well, suitcases are packed for the Philippines...I'll report back in a week :)