Stories from Hong Kong! (written by Brian)

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Tuesday, September 24th - Late

We arrived into Hong Kong in the middle of the evening. After a bit of a hassle finding our bus outside the Hong Kong airport, we made it back to the ship. By the time we got through ship security and talked to the appropriate people about our little incident, we were definitely exhausted and ready for bed! However, we did make a quick trip up to the top deck on the ship to check out the Hong Kong skyline. Hong Kong at night is a sight to be seen! While it's not as massive as Shanghai, the concentration of huge buildings is amazing. At night, they are all lit-up in every color. We stayed up on the ship until midnight to welcome in Shelley's 30th birthday!

Wednesday, September 25

Well, it came! Shelley turned 30 years old today! Although she tried to postpone it by saying she wasn't born for a few more hours, she was 30! I decided to let Shell sleep-in since I figured this is her favorite thing to do. :) We got going around 10:30 am and headed out to Hong Kong Island. Hong Kong is actually made up Hong Kong island (which everyone knows) and a portion of land actually on Mainland China. Kowloon, where we docked, is on the Mainland China part but it is similar to Hong Kong island with high-rise buildings and fancy hotels (although the more extravagant buildings are on HK island). The ship docked next to a huge shopping mall that had every expensive store in it you can imagine.

To get to Hong Kong Island, we traveled by ferry that took less than ten minutes. We were headed to a place called SoHo in Hong Kong that is known for it's great restaurants. After walking around for a while checking out the restaurants, we decided to eat at "Fat Angelos", an Italian restaurant (we needed a break from Chinese food, and Hong Kong is known for its variety of cuisine). We enjoyed a very good Italian lunch, a bottle of wine and a Tiramisu dessert brought out by the waitress with a candle in the middle. On top of that, Shelley brought along all of her birthday cards sent to her, which really made her birthday that much more special.

(Note from Shelley: I can't thank all of you enough for my beautiful and heartwarming birthday cards I received for my 30th birthday! They meant soooo much to me, especially being so far away from home!! All of them brought smiles, laughter and tears to my eyes!! Thank you to the following people who sent their love: Mom and Dad, Jill & Eddie, Pat and Don, Grandma, Aunt Janele & Uncle Larry, Aunt Nancy & Uncle Bob, Jim & Jo Ann, Trista & Jason, Helen & Bob and Julie & David. And a huge thanks to Margie for the absolutely gorgeous bouquet of roses & Lillies!! And for all of you who sent email birthday cards/letters…thanks so much! Your love on this day really meant so much!! )

After lunch we walked around the streets of SoHo. I guess fate played its hand next because as soon as we walked out of the restaurant and down the street, Shelley exclaimed, "no way, look up!"…the street sign overhead said "Shelley Street"!! We got a kick out of that! Then on the way down the street, an older woman walking next to Shell told her how pretty she was. I think this only added to her wonderful day. Since Hong Kong is known for its jewelry, I told her that her B-day present was to buy whatever she wanted (within budget!). We tried to find some stores but didn't really have a lot of extra time for shopping (don't worry, that would come tomorrow though). We wound up just walking around the city for a while which turned out to be pretty fun. The side streets in Hong Kong are very small and are not designed for cars. They are lined with all kinds of vendors from retail, food, clothing and everything else you can imagine. The streets are so narrow that sometimes two people cannot walk side by side down it with all of the vendors.

It was mid afternoon by now and we decided to go back across the bay as I had reserved us a room for the night at the Shangri-La Hotel in Kowloon. We had been recommended this hotel by several people and Shelley was eager to see if they had massage services, which I told her could be part of her present. We rode the ferry over to Kowloon and went directly to the hotel. The room was beautiful! They had tea waiting for us, and the nightstand even had a general control center for the entire room (lights, TV, etc). And wouldn't you know, the hotel even had a spa! The spa itself was busy during this time, so Shelley "had to" have the massage done in our room. So, Shelley got ready for her massage and I went to the bar for a drink.

After Shell's massage we headed back to the ship to grab our stuff for the next day and to meet all of our friends for dinner. We were kind of celebrating many birthdays that night as our friend Sunny (Resident Director) had her birthday about a week ago, Sarah (the Librarian) had her birthday a few days earlier and Heather's (one of the Campus Store Manager) birthday was the next day. We got a group of about 15 of the staff to go out. We decided on an Irish Pub that was close to the ship (I told you we were tired of "cultural" food). The pub was basically dead except for a few guys watching a two-week old college football game so we became the activity of the pub. We all had a great time eating and drinking some good Irish beer. As the evening progressed, a few shots were even consumed. After a few hours at dinner, a smaller group of us decided to find a nightclub. We hopped on the subway and crossed back over to the Hong Kong side and managed to find our way to the club area. After walking around for a while trying to find a happening spot, Bill (whom my cousin Lynee actually remembers from college!) said someone had suggested the "The Groovy Mule". We found the joint and decided to "start" our evening there. The place was pretty cool and it was ladies night so they got 2 for 1 drinks (and it was five women and two of us men). We wound up hanging out at this place the entire night, as it was one of the more popular places on a Wednesday evening. Our little staff party was joined by several of the students who happened to be at the bar. We even took over the dance floor…well; we actually just kind of made one. Shell had a few more drinks but actually stayed pretty tame for her 30th B-day (Note: those of you back in Denver will have to remedy that when we get back!). Shell did cut out of the bar around 10:45 or so to find a pay phone. Shelley's mom always calls her on her exact time of birth (Shell thinks this is about 8:50 am) every birthday, so Shelley really wanted to call her mom at work. Shelley said her mom was so surprised and so excited to talk to her…her mom had actually just been finishing an email birthday message to her!

Around 1:00 am, we decided to head back to the hotel. I think all in all, Shell had a pretty good birthday (but definitely missed her family and friends back home)!!

Thursday September 26th

We slept in a little this morning but wanted to get up in enough time to catch the complimentary breakfast. After we checked out, we went back to the ship and dropped our stuff off. Shelley was extremely surprised and thrilled to see a beautiful bouquet of roses and lilies sitting on the bed (which, unfortunately, were not from me this time)! Margie had sent them! What a wonderful gift for Shell…she really loved them! We then called our parents for a few minutes and then were off to shop for Shell's present.

Now you would think that letting a woman shop freely in Hong Kong would be a relaxing experience, but that would be assuming a lot. While the people in Hong Kong were much friendlier about shopping, there was still a lot of pressure. We would walk into a store and immediately have three to four people hovering over you. If your eyes happen to look at something for more than a second they would ask you if you liked it, they could give you a "good price". After about an hour of not seeing much to buy it and being just slightly overwhelmed, we finally found a place that was relaxed and enjoyable. It was ironic too because we basically stopped in the store to ask directions to other places. The woman at the store was very helpful about giving us directions and then we just started looking around. We finally found Shell's present (a beautiful diamond necklace) and she was very happy! Although I think from now on I'm just going to buy something myself and give it to her. :)

After shopping, we continued to walk around the Kowloon side and exploring its many markets and stores. Whereas in China it was postcards and bottled water that everyone was trying to sell you, in Hong Kong it was fake Rolex's and suits. At least the people would leave you alone if you said no! We walked around and bought a few souvenirs and enjoyed the city. By the time we were done it was time to get back on the ship and we still had not eaten. We ended up having to do something that I'm not very proud of… we grabbed a quick lunch at the "Hard Rock Café". It was the only restaurant around the ship that didn't have pig intestines as a specialty (I'm being serious) so we just grabbed a quick burger (it was actually quite good) and headed back to the ship.

As the ship was sailing away, we were standing on the top deck looking back at the lights of Hong Kong. We both agreed that Hong Kong was a great place (as huge cities go) and that we wished we had more time there. It was amazing how different Hong Kong was than Mainland China. Besides the obvious differences of freedom and capitalism, there was just a different vibe about the place. People seemed to be more relaxed and there was easiness about the city that we did not find in Mainland China. I think it's a good contrast as to the two systems that are in place. The only drawback to Hong Kong is that is it EXPENSIVE! Its probably good we didn't have more time there or we may have gone broke. If you plan to live there, you had better be making some serious cash!